Moving from New York City to Raleigh, North Carolina upon ordination was my first serious foray out of a somewhat insular northeastern cocoon and into “real” America. I was not exactly sheltered until then. I grew up in an ethnically diverse Queens neighborhood, and the inner city public high school I attended was a testing ground for class and racial coexistence. Still, I thought I knew what difference was until I discovered how different difference could be in the same country, less than five hundred miles south of where I grew up. The Raleigh and East Carolinas that I remember from the early nineteen nineties were a study in contrasts. The city is part of an urban powerhouse of cosmopolitanism that attracts people and businesses from all over the world. Yet it also boasts some of the world’s most rigidly conservative churches and it sits in the midst of the American tobacco farming industry, a very traditionalist, hierarchical culture.
Do “angels” exist? If so, are they heaven-sent or products of the human brain? After the publication of the bestseller The Third Man Factor, which examined the phenomenon of explorers who found themselves at the edge of death and experienced a benevolent presence that led them out of the impossible, John Geiger was inundated with firsthand accounts from people who had the same experience—a vivid presence that aided them as they faced crises ranging from physical and sexual assaults to automobile accidents, airplane crashes, serious illness, childbirth, and depression.
His new book, The Angel Effect, examines this phenomenon, and Geiger argues that it has the potential to aid us, even to save us, and asks whether it is a trainable skill.
Religious news figured prominently in the headlines during 2013. The world was shocked in February 2013, when Benedict became the first pope to resign in almost 600 years. Fast forward nine months: Benedict's successor, the Argentine Pope Francis, was named Time Magazine's "person of the year." Not bad for a fellow who once upon at time worked as a bouncer!
In Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright, we learn about Scientology’s complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church’s goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church’s clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract.
The Roundabout Theatre Company’s Roundabout Underground program gives productions to emerging playwrights. Last year, they had a hit with Bad Jews - a play by Joshua Harmon, directed by Daniel Aukin.
The show did so well in their 62-seat Black Box Theatre, in fact, that they brought it back to run in the Laura Pels Theatre (their bigger-small space) as part of their season this year - where it continues to earn excellent reviews and enthusiastic response from audiences.
In the play a young Jewish woman, Diana (played by Tracee Chimo, she prefers to be called by her Hebrew name, Daphna) fights with her cousin, Liam, to get a religious relic left behind by their recently deceased grandfather - who had kept it safe during his years in a concentration camp by holding it beneath his tongue. Liam’s brother (Jonah, played by Philip Ettinger) and girlfriend (Melody, played by Molly Ranson) observe and reluctantly weigh-in as Daphna and Liam argue and insult-sling as only family can.
Michael Zegen plays Liam in Bad Jews. Zegen attended Skidmore College and his other Off-Broadway credits include Liz Meriwether’s Oliver Parker! and Greg Moss’ punkplay. On television he’s been featured in recurring roles on The Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire, How to Make It in America, Rescue Me, and he’ll appear in the upcoming season of the HBO hit, Girls. His film credits include Adventureland, Taking Woodstock, and Frances Ha.
Over centuries, Christianity has accomplished much which is deserving of praise. Its institutions have fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, and advocated for the poor. Christian faith has sustained people through crisis and inspired many works for social justice. Although the word "christian" implicates the epitome of goodness, the actual story is much more complex.
That story is explored in Paul Kivel’s new book Living in the Shadow of the Cross- which reveals the ongoing everyday impact of Christian power and privilege on beliefs, behaviors, and public policy.
Religious history was made over the weekend in Albany when the city's first "woman priest" was ordained.
On Sunday, Mary Theresa Streck of Albany was ordained a woman priest in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. A former Sister of St. Joseph, Streck is an artist and peace activist who is cofounder and director of the Ark Community Charter School in Troy.
Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal by Michael D'Antonio is an explosive, sweeping account of the scandal that has sent the Catholic Church into a tailspin -- and the brave few who fought for justice.