Sacred Places, Evangelical Crackups, and Religion in the News


Here’s some notes from the news world…

First, check out the series “Sacred Places” in U.S. News and World Report. Articles examine the sacred features of Karnak, the Dome of the Rock, and the Golden Temple, just to name a few locations. An article on the Cathedral of Sandiago de Compestela caught my attention because I’m temporarily overseeing a study abroad program that is located southwestern France, near one of the principal pilgrimage routes to Compestela. Pilgrimages were all the rage in the Middle Ages, and Compestela became one of the “big three” destinations, alongside Rome and Jerusalem. In the years following the Protestant Reformation, travel to Compestela decreased; but in recent decades, due in large part to a vigorous tourism industry, pilgrims have returned, seeking everything from spiritual renewal to physical exercise.
In my program, students take a course on religious pilgrimages. Nancy Louise Frey’s ethnographic study of the Compestela pilgrimage, Pilgrim Stories, is required reading. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested. Another article from “Sacred Places” discusses the evolution of American worship centers, and shows an image of a prototypical New England Puritan church. Seeing this prompted me to recall a conversation with a colleague about religious aesthetics. He speculated that the Puritan attention to visual sterility is something of a funhouse mirror image of the Catholic fascination with grandeur. He may have had a point. Ken Burns’s documentary on the Shakers convinced me that simplicity is hard work. Their spiral staircases reveal the complicated nature of plain design. And Shaker chairs, while a far cry from a La-Z-Boy, are, as Thomas Merton wrote, “made by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and sit on it.” I’m no angel (just a lowly demigod), but I wouldn’t mind having a Shaker chair on my porch.

Second, in light of recent posts on the “evangelical crackup,” blog readers may be interested in Jim Wallis’s appearance on NPR’s Speaking of Faith. Here’s the description…

“The first in a two-part series on influential leaders who are reshaping Evangelical Christianity from within progressive and conservative circles. Jim Wallis founded Sojourners and now advises presidential candidates and world leaders in what he calls the ‘post-Religious Right’ era. He is determined to put poverty at the top of America's ‘moral values’ agenda.”

Finally, I just noticed that a new issue of
Religion in the News is available.

For those who don’t know, the journal is edited by Mark Silk, director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College. From Atheism to South Park, this issue promises to be another good one. Here’s the table of contents…

Beating Up on the New Atheists Journalists are skeptical of the atheist offensive. by Bernard Lightman

Science Education & Secular Values

Potterdämmerung by Mark Silk

Romney and the Mormon Moment Mitt Romney's candidacy puts pressure on the church to open up. by Jan Shipps

The Democrats Get Religion But, journalists ask, are the candidates religious enough? by Mark Silk

No More Mr. Nice Pope Pope Benedict's conservative proclivities emerge. by Andrew Walsh

Establishing Religion by Executive Order The Supreme Court defends the Bush faith-based initiative. by John Cosgriff

The Gospel According to South Park A cartoon series takes on religion in America. by Abe Silk

People Who Loved Tammy Faye In the end, the gay community returned her embrace. by Christine McCarthy McMorris


Kelly J. Baker said…
In the sacred places issue, they also focus on New Mexico. Surprise, surprise :)

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