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Blog Archive/November 2005

November 23, 2005

The Pope Wears Prada, Too

After Pope John Paul II died last April, U2 singer Bono remembered the pontiff as a “street fighter and wily campaigner on behalf of the world’s poor.” He also said that the late pope “had mischief in his eyes as well as godliness.”

Bono recalled that when he met with the John Paul II in 1999, he noticed the pope staring at his powder-blue sunglasses. Bono asked him if he wanted them. “He not only nodded,” Bono told USA Today, “but he put them on and made the wickedest smile.”

“If the Catholic Church is the glam rock of religion,” Bono said, “this guy was just the most vivid of performers.”

And if JPII was glam rock of religion, then his successor, Benedict XVI, is the clotheshorse of religion, what with his penchant for wearing Prada shoes, baseball hats, and designer glasses and sunglasses. The pope’s wardrobe choices have sparked comment and debates this week everywhere from the fashion pages of the New York Post to CNN’s “Paula Zahn Now.”

SoMA’s own Mary Beth Crain loves the pope’s fashion sense, and says it’s greatly elevated her opinion of the pontiff. She writes: “I mean, how can you hate a pope who’s got the gumption not only to wear red Prada loafers but to raise his hemline in order to flaunt them to the world? It’s about time!” [Read Crain’s “Red Hot Papa” here.]

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 16, 2005

SoMA’s Sex Issue

I was tempted to call today’s four-article “package” SoMA’s “Family Values Issue,” because, really, each of these pieces has just as much to do with family—and how we define it, construct it, and how the church can muck it up—as it does sex. But sex, the spiritual connection of two people through physical intimacy (and how the church can muck it up), certainly lies at the heart of these essays. And, as they say, sex sells.

This series came about partly due to timing and luck. My friend Peter Manseau, the Buddha killer, just happens to have published an extraordinary new book this fall called “Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son.” Shortly after I assigned the book for review, Uta Ranke-Heinemann, a.k.a. the First Woman in the World to Hold a Chair of Catholic Theology, and the First Woman to Lose It, sent me an essay about the history of celibacy and homosexuality in the Church. Then, out of the blue, writer John Tyler Connoley submitted a personal essay on the same subject, minus the history.

The lead piece in the series, Mary Beth Crain’s gripping, must-read “Confessions of a Madonna/Whore: My Enlightening Experience as a Priest’s Backstreet Girl,” is a 100% God’s-honest true story that Mary Beth has wanted to get off her chest for as long as I’ve known her. She wanted to wait until the priest with whom she had the affair died. Earlier this year, Father Joe went to be with the Lord, as they say. (Publishers: This piece really should be expanded into a book. If you’re interested, write to Mary Beth here at the office:

Another reason for this series is the Vatican’s recent announcement that it has ordered an inspection of all Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States to look for “evidence of homosexuality.” Which, if you think about it, is almost as absurd as inspecting Catholic churches for evidence of Catholicism. Really, it’s like a friggin’ Monty Python skit. Anyway, three of these essays, all but the review of Vows, deal with the Church’s latest, stunningly successful, exercise in self-parody.

You’ll find the four essays listed in separate blog entries below. These will allow you to comment on each essay; without them, you can’t post comments (don’t ask).

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 16, 2005

Confessions of a Madonna/Whore

“I once had an affair with a priest. It wasn’t the brightest thing I’ve ever done, but my excuse was that I was 34, going through a divorce, and Jewish. All I knew from priests you could definitely fit on the head of a pin.

“He was 66, a lively little Italian with a soft, seductive laugh and a great sense of humor. We met three years earlier, when my husband and I were visiting San Francisco and a friend took us on a tour of the magnificent double-spired Saints Peter and Paul’s, the last of the great Romanesque churches in the old Italian district of North Beach.” [Read Mary Beth Crain’s essay here.]

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 16, 2005

God Save the Queens

“…Nearly 500 years later, [the Church] is still loudly upholding celibacy. Why? Because the Roman Catholic hierarchy has become predominantly homosexual, and celibacy has become its most effective smoke screen. No wonder the Catholic clergy clings to it with teeth and claws. Were Catholic priests allowed to marry, their cover would at last be blown wide open.

“At the center of the celibacy issue is, I believe, a deep fear of and disiniclination towards women, which went into high gear immediately following the Reformation….” [Read Uta Ranke-Heinemann’s essay here.]

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 16, 2005

Not Your Typical Love Story

“I once was a Jesuit pursuing ordination, until I fell in love with a woman and had to make the agonizing choice between marriage and my vocation. Leaving the Jesuits was probably the most difficult thing I have ever done; I was treated like an outcast by some of the men who had called me their “brother.” Yet even as I experienced the pain of condemnation and rejection, I rejoiced in the exhilaration of love and the sacred gift of intimacy with another human being.

“In his personal memoir “Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun and Their Son,” Peter Manseau has managed to capture the odd emotional cocktail of heartache, fear, and relief that comes with leaving celibate religious life.” [Read David Nantais’ review of “Vows” here.]

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 16, 2005

It's Not Okay to Say It's Not Okay

“The night my spouse and I first met, another couple in the room made bets on how long it would be before we were married. For me, it was one of those love-at-first-sight moments. He walked up to me at a Metropolitan Community Church event, smiled, and said, ‘Hi, my name's Rob,’ and I fell head over heels.

“For Rob it wasn't so quick. It's not that he wasn't attracted to me or didn't enjoy my company (we talked for three hours after church that night). But he was preparing for a three-year mission trip to Peru with a Roman Catholic organization. The mission organization required Rob to sign a pledge to refrain from all romantic and sexual attachments during his three-year term in Peru, and he intended to abide by their wishes.” [Read John Tyler Connoley’s essay here.]

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 15, 2005

SoMA's Book of the Year Award

Starting in 2005, SoMA will pick the best books of each year, and we’d like your help. What new title most inspired you, or most made you laugh or cry, or even changed the way you view the world?

We’re a religion site, so we are interested in overtly spiritual and religious titles, which may explain why our desk is buried under them. But we’re not looking specifically for “religion books,” at the exclusion of other genres. (Religion, as we like to repeat, is often the biggest obstacle to the sacred.) We are most interested in fiction and non-fiction titles that, to put it broadly, illuminate life or some human situation.

Nominate your favorite book or books by clicking here (or at the button in the left column on the homepage), and feel free to nominate as many as you’d like. Just list one title per post, and if you have a moment tell us what you like about each selection. You can also email your picks to

Note: All books must have been published for the first time in 2005.

We'll announce the winner and finalists in December.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 12, 2005

Searching for Peace at Dai Bosatsu

In the late ‘70s, SoMA contributor Roger Cox’s mother received a death sentence from her physician, and as her other children quickly retreated, Roger alone stepped forward to help her to the end. But first he sought the strength and peace he’d need by attending a Buddhist retreat at Dai Bosatsu Zen Monastery in the Catskills. In “Grace in the Golden Wind,” he writes:

We drove through the dramatic Hudson River Valley, up above West Point, way beyond Croton-On-Hudson. This far north, the sap had already gone to ground in the hardwood trees, and the fall leaves were brilliant in the late afternoon sun.

And as we drove through one American Revolutionary hamlet after another, I was thinking about my mom, and how damned funny she was. And how when I was really little, she was young with auburn hair done up in that World War II style. Peggy was a terrific dancer; she could Charleston up a storm with my Aunt Kathryn. And no matter how badly my father behaved, Peggy stayed in there showing her boys how to live.

And then I thought: Everybody is going to die, but nobody knows when. So, what is important? To love our death as we love our life is important. How awfully sad it would be to be bitter and unhappy at the end.

And when Peggy is near the end, will I have it? Will I have the loving kindness, the compassion to help her?

All of these words, no matter how kindly and heartfelt, were, of course, of little or no help. The truth was in the work, in the diligence of my zazen. If I learned to direct loving kindness toward myself, I would be able to direct it towards my mother. [Read Roger’s essay here.]

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 11, 2005

The Problem with I.D.? God... And Pat Robertson's No Help.

Pity the poor intelligent design folks! They’ve got a tough case to make: that creation science isn’t religion, but is science. And good science—at least as good as evolution, if not better, because evolution doesn’t posit a really, really smart “designer” (a.k.a. God) as responsible for the complex natural order. Science, on the other hand, insists that such a concept doesn’t belong in science because it’s not, you know, scientific. It’s religious.

The real problem with I.D., of course, is God. Creation science requires—even presupposes—a Creator—an omnipotent, intelligent, eternal, purposive being, beyond all scientific explanation, that is capable of creating something out of nothing and giving it harmony, design, sleek lines, and a plush interior. If you nix the idea of God, then I.D., creationism, is ridiculous. Assert God in a science class, however, and you’re going beyond terms set by the Constitution.

That’s why savvy creationists try not to make a big deal out of God. And it's also why they must be really pissed off at Pat Robertson.

This week the citizens of Dover, Penn., voted their school board out of office for trying to push I.D. into high school biology classes. And Pat Robertson responded yesterday by pushing God—that harsh, vindictive, evolution-hatin’ big ol’ Crackpot in the Sky—right back into the center of the debate.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson told his one million television viewers on "The 700 Club" yesterday, Reuters reported.

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin,” he continued. “I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there."

If I were a creationist, I’d be asking God to teach Pat Robertson how to keep a secret.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 9, 2005

Happy Birthday, SoMA!

November marks SoMA’s first birthday, and after 12 months of love and nurturing, we’re like most one-year-olds: We can walk holding on to furniture, indicate our wants in ways other than crying, and respond to simple commands without needing gestures. And, yes, we’re still breast-feeding.

But we’ve also achieved other milestones. And because birthday celebrations are all about self-indulgence, here are a few of them:

* Number of words “blogged”: 53,662 (In other words, SoMA is the book I didn’t write this year.)
* Number of articles published: 73
* Number of contributors: 40
* Total unique page views: 512,362

* The five most widely read articles:
1) The Most Famous Christian of the 20th Century? by Robert Flynn
2) Lauren Winner: Reformed Sinner or Canny Opportunist? by Astrid Storm
3) Beware the Scruples, by Mary Beth Crain
4) A Humble Intellect, by John D. Spalding
5) New Rules for Religion, by Bill Maher

* Our greatest groundbreaking journalistic achievement: Immediately after Pope John Paul II’s death in April, SoMA broke from the media pack and bravely declared itself “A Pope-Free Zone, All Week!”

The same month, SoMA was inducted into Beliefnet’s “Blog Heaven”—joining “the best blogs about religion and spirituality.”

Other additions and improvements included: an articles archive in January and an RSS feed in February. March saw the addition of a comments feature, allowing readers to sing our praises or rip us a new one. April showers and some fresh fertilizer brought May flowers: that month, my longtime friend and talented writer Mary Beth Crain joined SoMA as contributing editor. In June, we launched the “SoMA Poll.” In August, we stopped doing the SoMA Poll for some reason. (We should start that up again. It was a fun feature—though at times cruel. Last I checked, 80 or 90 percent of voters had determined writer Lauren Winner to be a “trend-sniffing opportunist.” You heartless bastards.)

SoMA has been featured, cited, or blogged at, among others:

* The Revealer (calling SoMA “one of our favorite religion magazines”)
* Killing the Buddha (praising us for publishing “one of the best pieces on the pontiff formerly known as Ratzinger that we've seen...”)
* The Salty Vicar (calling us “an erudite, entertaining webmagazine of remarkably high quality. This is one of the best, so I've put it in my regularly read column.”)

OK, I can tell all this praise is making you sick. I’ll spare you the kudos, and stick to a bare bones list of other places at which SoMA has been featured, blogged, mentioned, seen, or heard (if you find others, let me know):

Utne online
Real Live Preacher
The Wittenberg Door
Christian Century
Christianity Today
UU World
Science & Spirit
Los Angeles Times
Anglicans Online
The Week
Swami Uptown
Church Times
The Lesser of Two Weevils
“GodTalk,” CJOB 68 Radio, Winnipeg, Canada
Blue-State Resistance
Raving Atheist
No Beliefs
Holy Weblog
God & Consequences

Then there are our readers, whose sometimes enthusiastic, sometimes lambasting, and sometimes breathtakingly surreal observations continually remind us that there are no limits to the human intellect, or lack thereof. Some SoMA mailbag highlights:

Marsha, from Seattle, wrote:

“At a time when religion is constantly being twisted to manipulate and exploit, it’s so refreshing to finally come across SoMA—a magazine that fearlessly goes after our sacred cows, a magazine that’s not afraid to ask difficult questions and doesn’t settle for easy answers. Your publication is smart without being pretentious, critical without being cynical, hard-hitting yet self-deprecating. And it’s very, very funny (I especially love all the story photos and captions)…. Whatever your exact beliefs may be, you seem comfortable in your own skin, which can’t be said of all religious types… There’s no phoniness at SoMA, which may be because you seem beholden to no outside individuals or institutions. Stay that way!”

Mom, did you write this?... We’ll try to keep it real, Marsha. Until, that is, we get our own late show on NBC and an endorsement deal from McDonalds.

David C. Downing wrote:

"Someone sent me a link to SoMA, saying it was 'cutting edge analysis' on religion and culture. Well, I perused your pages, and I can certainly see the 'cutting' part...

“When I was a teenager, I was complaining to my dad about all the uptight, legalistic, hypocritical people in our utterly unhip EV Free Church. My dad replied, ‘Well, David, you've mastered the easy job—pointing out what disappointing ambassadors for the Kingdom so many other Christians are. Now I want you to start working on the difficult job—becoming yourself an effective ambassador for the Kingdom.’"
”That episode was several decades ago now, but I remember my dad's advice almost word for word. As to your SoMA crew, I would like to say, ‘Well, you've mastered the easy job . . .’"
Careful, Mr. Downing. You might fall off that high horse, and it’s a long, long drop before you hit the ground…. Nevertheless, we apologize. We didn’t realize we were ambassadors for you and your dad's Kingdom.

[The next email was addressed to no one and was written in response to Will Braun's article about the new “Christian Flag of the United States of America.” The flag’s creator, Marcia Thompson Eldreth, sent the email more than a month after the article appeared.]

Eldreth wrote:

“You still are not getting the intent of this flag. We are the army of God; the USA regiment. Canada has a regiment. Make a flag. While you are at it, try to keep men from marrying men there and teaching your little children it is OK. We have a fight on our hands to preserve the soul of our nation and improve upon the wrongs and rights. This is NOT A POLITICAL PARTY FLAG. You must have something better to do as a Christian than slam the brethren continuously...Satan is an accuser of the brethren. Slander seems to be your fun thing to do. Beware, lest you fall.
“If saying we are the army of God is offensive, then be offended at the Bible. By we, it is all Christians. Our weapons are not carnal but mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds. Emailing replies was not amongst the list of weapontry. I took the liberty.”

Lose your meds, dear?

Of the hundreds of comments posted at SoMA since March, here are two of our favorites:

[Poster “Ron Mexico” responded to “The Most Famous Christian of the 20th Century,” an article that compares the hypocritical Christian rhetoric of Hitler in the 1930s to the Christian posturing of conservative politicians today. For some strange reason, Mexico insisted that the comparison trivializes Hitler’s later atrocities.]

Mexico wrote:

“Whenever someone invokes a Hitler comparison in a political argument, it's a sign they have no ideas, no vision, no prospect of winning the argument. Hitler is sui generis, and to claim otherwise is to trivialize him, and to trivialize his victims…. Hitler and his Nazis should be forever banished from political discussion.”

But in a surprising (or not-so-surprising) twist, astute SoMA reader “Father Richard” did a Google search using the email address Mexico provided ( and found that Mexico himself had recently invoked Nazi Germany, at another website, in his criticism of the current White House, calling it the “warringest administration ever” and threatening to “become a citizen of another country—say Germany.”

Hmmm—“no ideas, no vision, no prospect of winning the argument.”

[The following comment was in response to Mary Beth Crain’s article about Yom Kippur]

Bradley writes:

“I liked the article. I would have preferred leaving the references to sex out so I could share the article with my young children. Thank you.”

Warning: Though just an infant itself, SoMA is not recommended for young children—or uptight adults. Beware especially Mary Beth’s forthcoming true account about her affair with a Catholic priest…

Indeed, what a year it’s been, and I’ve got so many people to thank. First, to Chuck Wyatt, our technical genius and all around web dude, and Michelle Lee, our peerless designer—SoMA wouldn’t exist without you guys (or, if it did exist, it would never work right and it would look like hell). To Mary Beth “Crank ‘Em Out” Crain—you took SoMA, a rough chunk of coal, and dragged it hundreds of miles below the earth’s surface, where you exposed it to extreme heat and pressure for millions of years, and then emerged with a dazzling, deep blue 112-carat gem that I like to think of as “the Hope diamond of religion magazines.” You know, minus the wretched 300-plus-year-old curse that presaged bad luck and death for all who touched it.

To our writers—you are the free-range meat and organic potatoes of this publication. I will forever be in your debt, literally. After all, SoMA’s policy is not to pay writers, because no one is paying me. (If there was ever any confusion about that, sorry. You should have read your contract.... Oh, that’s right. SoMA doesn’t issue contracts… Tell you what. If we ever create SoMA baseball caps or T-shirts, you’ll be the first to receive them. Promise.)

And finally, I’d like to thank you, our readers. I know we must give the impression that we’d do this even if you didn’t check in from time to time. And it’s true, we would. But just knowing that you do read us makes it all seem so less, well, pointless. We hope in the coming year that you’ll return over and over, again and again, 20 or 30 times a day, and that you’ll tell all your friends, family, co-workers, and former lovers about us.

And don’t forget, folks. Keep those cards and letters coming!

To comment on this blog—or to wish SoMA a happy birthday, or a slow, painful death—click here. Or click on the comments feature, below. Goes to the same page. 

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 7, 2005

Soul Searching at a Psychic College

In her new book, “Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife,” Mary Roach puts her finger on what’s so fishy about medium-channeled messages from the Great Beyond: “Dead people never seem to address the obvious—the things you’d think they’d be bursting to talk about, and the things all of us not-yet-dead are madly curious about. Such as: Hey, where are you now? What do you do all day? Can you see me? Even when I’m on the toilet? Would you cut that out?”

Roach describes her session with Allison DuBois, the medium upon whose life NBC’s “Medium” is based. DuBois contacted Roach's mother, but the author was skeptical. “Maybe that was my mother coming through,” she writes. “But what’s the meaning of it? Why would one of my brother’s hourglasses be the image she chose to present to me? Was she simply trying to prove she was there? Then why not deliver my birth date or the name of our street or any of a thousand things that would more clearly suggest to me that it was her?”

Roach allows that if she understood the mental processes of mediumship—“the methods and limitations of spirit communication”—she could answer these questions. “This,” she writes, “was what I was thinking when I committed the bold and ridiculous act of signing up for 'Fundamentals of Mediumship,' a three-day course at England’s ancient and stately Arthur Findlay College.”

Read "Soul in a Dunce Cap," Roach’s insightful and entertaining report on the seminar, here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 4, 2005

Catch SoMA on the Radio

If you’re in Canada this weekend (specifically, the Winnipeg area) tune into superstation CJOB 68 on Sunday night, from 9 to 9:30, central time. I’ll be on to discuss religion and humor—and whether the two should ever be allowed in the same room together if there are sharp objects lying around—with David Balzer, host of “GodTalk.”

CJOB, I’m told, is “the #1 news/talk station in Winnipeg, with a population base of 1.3 million.”

You can also listen to the show live online here, or later, through their show archive, here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 3, 2005

Did Bush Deliberately Mislead Us into War? Let's Find Out!

Jim Wallis (see yesterday’s entry) and Sojourners, a “nationwide network of progressive Christians working for peace and justice,” have dispatched the following “action alert,” enabling readers to petition Congress for an independent investigation to determine if and how the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to justify war in Iraq:

Following the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, "Scooter" Libby, last Friday, we asked you to e-mail your members of Congress, demanding they form an independent commission to investigate whether the Bush administration deliberately misled our nation into war. We believe that truth-telling is a religious and moral value, and that our government must—above all else—have a commitment to truth. The American people need to know whether intelligence information was knowingly manipulated leading up to the war in Iraq. Was the war an honest mistake, or were we deceived?

Nearly 60 years ago, President Harry Truman earned the slogan "Give 'Em Hell, Harry." During the 1948 presidential campaign, the story goes, he was giving a speech when someone shouted it from the crowd. Truman supposedly responded, "I don't give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell."

Yesterday afternoon, another Harry--Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid--told the truth by forcing the U.S. Senate into a closed session to demand answers about the intelligence information that led to the war in Iraq. Invoking a little-used rule allowing for such a session to discuss business that requires secrecy, Reid said, "The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really about: how the administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its action." He noted that more than a year and a half ago, the Senate Intelligence Committee had committed to examine questions about the war, but has so far done virtually nothing. "Time and time again, this Republican-controlled Congress has consistently chosen to put its political interests ahead of our national security," Reid said. "They have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, told The New York Times, "I have to say in all honesty that I am troubled by what I see as a concerted effort by this administration to use its influence to limit, delay, to frustrate, to deny the Intelligence Committee's oversight work into the intelligence reporting and activities leading up to the invasion of Iraq." And although Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) was furious at the tactic, after two hours of debate he agreed to appoint a bipartisan group to look into the Intelligence Committee's work.

We now know administration claims that Saddam Hussein had or was about to acquire nuclear weapons were not true. We know claims of Iraqi ties to al Qaeda were not true. We know administration and military officials who challenged the official line were silenced or forced to resign, and perhaps systematically attacked and undermined—as the facts around this new and serious indictment of a top Bush administration official suggests. Cheney and Libby, his chief of staff, were architects of both the arguments for war and the efforts to discredit those who questioned the war. What we do not yet know is whether and how intelligence information was misused or manipulated to produce these claims.

With the 2,000th American soldier's death last week, tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, and the criminal indictment of a top White House official for perjury and obstructing justice, it's time we are told the truth. It would be the best way to honor the dead and perhaps prevent the death of countless more lives than by simply staying the course. A bipartisan and independent commission, such as the 9/11 Commission, must be created and empowered to conduct a full investigation that can provide answers.

As of this morning, more than 20,000 of our readers have sent messages to Congress. It's time to keep the pressure on, and, indeed, to increase it. Help us reach--and exceed--our goal of 25,000 signers, and keep building momentum for the truth. For the first time, the Democrats are showing some courage on the war in Iraq, and that could be the first step in ending the tragic war. But this is not a partisan issue. We need Americans across the political spectrum to demand the truth about Iraq.

With the prophet Isaiah we cry out, "Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter" (Isaiah 59:14).

If you have not yet responded to our action alert, click here to ask Congress for an independent investigation to determine if and how the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to justify war in Iraq.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 2, 2005

Call to Conversion

Reading Jim Wallis’ powerful new book, “The Call to Conversion,” one can’t help but wonder if it’s possible for any American, except perhaps the most countercultural, to rightly consider himself or herself a Christian. Our materialistic culture is completely at odds with the teachings of Jesus. We value competition and success, and our social and economic system favors the wealthy over the poor. Jesus, of course, taught that the first shall be last and that the meek and the poor will inherit the earth. To really be his followers, we’d have to reject ambition, aggrandizement, and aggression—basically the American way of life.  

And as Wallis points out in his book (which is actually a revised and updated edition of his 1981 classic), our personal religious beliefs and experiences alone can’t save us, nor do they make us followers of Jesus. The gospel message is not about personal salvation, which most evangelical ministers preach, but about a wholeness that’s possible only in the realization of a new, radically egalitarian social order, a.k.a. the kingdom of God—“the integrating and central core of the gospel.”

Our only hope, Wallis says, is to convert—to change every aspect of our lives and commit ourselves unreservedly to the values of the kingdom of God, recognizing that it’s the sin rooted in our social institutions, as much as it is any personal sin, that “destroys others’ lives and eats away at our own humanity.”

The biblical call to conversion is daunting, and it’s not an end in itself. Conversion is a call to change the world. “No longer preoccupied with our private lives,” Wallis writes, “we are engaged in a vocation of the world. Our prayer becomes, ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ If we restrict our salvation to only inner concerns, we have yet to enter the kingdom.”  

To read “Betraying Jesus,” an excerpt from “The Call to Conversion,” click here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

November 2, 2005

Alito: More Conservative than Scalia?

“In his 15-year career as a judge,”  writes Michael Scherer at Salon,“Alito has argued unsuccessfully for a law that required women to notify their spouses before they had an abortion. He ruled that the federal government does not have the right to regulate the sale of machine guns. He tried to limit the application of a federal law requiring employers to offer maternity, paternity and sick leave for their workers. He showed little sympathy for death row inmates who are denied effective lawyers…”

Meanwhile, Robert Gordon at Slate says Alito is more conservative than Scalia. “When Antonin Scalia starts looking good,” he writes, “you know you're in trouble.”

If you’d like to see Alito’s nomination stopped, send your senator a petition here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

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