Amanpour on ‘God’s Warriors’

I didn’t get to watch the first part of CNN’s “three-parter”: on religious fundamentalism last night. And it’s looking like I won’t see part-two tonight.

I’ll probably have to watch it all over the weekend.

The Chicago Tribune made me less anxious to do so with this lukewarm “review.”:,0,1911912.story?coll=mmx-television_heds

But here’s a story by David Bauder, the AP’s television writer, about what Christiane Amanpour set out to do (she worked on the project for eight months):

NEW YORK (AP) — Christiane Amanpour’s work on the documentary series “God’s Warriors� took her directly to intersections of extreme religious and secular thinking.
She watched, fascinated, as demonstrators in San Francisco accused teenagers in the fundamentalist Christian group BattleCry of intolerance in a clash of two cultures that will probably never understand each other.
Understanding is what Amanpour is trying to promote in “God’s Warriors,� which takes up six prime-time hours on CNN this week. The series on religious fundamentalism among Christians, Muslims and Jews airs in three parts, 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday through Thursday.
Many people know only stereotypes of these true believers, even the ones in their own country, she said.
Yet it’s vital to be familiar with their thinking given the growing importance of these movements in the war on terrorism, the never-ending conflicts surrounding Israel and conservative politics in the United States.
“I’m not interested in drumming up false fears, or falsely allaying fears,� CNN’s chief international correspondent told The Associated Press by phone from France, where she added last-minute touches to the series. “I just want people to know what’s going on.� Continue reading

Tales of parental bliss

It’s not about religion, but…

iwearthematernitypantscov2.gifI wanted to point out that Croton-on-Hudson’s “Susan Konig,”: who co-hosts a show with her husband, Dave, on the Catholic Channel on SIRIUS Satellite Radio, has a new book out.

It’s called I Wear the Maternity Pants in this Family.

Publishers Weekly calls it “A witty collection of motherhood tales . . . in the great tradition of Erma Bombeck.�

Susan and Dave are both sharp and funny and love to talk on their radio show about raising their four kids in the iPod/cellphone world. I’m sure a lot of those recognizable suburban tales will be in the book.

Fundamentalists on CNN (for 3 nights)

CNN tonight begins a three-night, six-hour documentary on “God’s Warriors”: — or religious fundamentalists.

All three nights, it’s on from 9 to 11 p.m.

Tonight, we get God’s Jewish warriors. Tomorrow, it’s Muslims. And Thursday, Christians.

09.jpgChristine Amanpour reports the whole thing. (In the photo, she is talking in Cairo, Egypt, with Fawaz Gerges, an expert on the Muslim world and a prof at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers.)

In a statement, she says: “There are millions of people around the world who feel that their faith is being ignored — pushed aside — and they are certain they know how to make the world right. We cannot and should not ignore them. And, with this report, we’ve tried to explain them.”

The title “God’s Warriors” of course brings to mind the threat of terrorism. But most fundamentalists are not terrorists. I’m mighty curious to see if CNN makes the case that all fundamentalists are crazy, would-be terrorists and if Amanpour implies that there is a fine line between Islamist terrorists and other fundamentalists.

Who’s 2 holy?

While I’m thinking about it, I was at the supermarket yesterday and noticed a parked car with this license plate:


I couldn’t help laughing. What message, I wondered, is this person trying to convey to his or her fellow drivers?

It could mean a lot of things, I suppose. The driver could be proclaiming his or her own irreligious nature — or commenting on the holier-than-thou-ness of others.

Part of me wants to track them down and ask…

Goodbye to a Jewish paper

Going through tons of mail this morning, I came across my copy of the Westchester Jewish Chronicle, a monthly newspaper that I look forward to receiving.

I was really bummed to see that the August issue is the last one.

cover_image.jpg“Unfortunately, the costs associated with producing and distributing the paper have become unsustainable,” explains a note to readers.

It’s a shame. The Chronicle has done a really professional job of looking at Jewish life in Westchester, particularly at how larger trends in Judaism affect local congregations. I remember a story, for instance, about the growing role of assistant rabbis in large synagogues that I had wished I had written.

The Chronicle evolved from the Yonkers Jewish Chronicle, which was founded nearly 40 years ago by the Yonkers Jewish Federation. So there’s a long lineage here.

People often ask me about the challenges of covering different religious communities. They’re often surprised when I tell them that one of the hard parts of covering the Jewish world is finding stories that haven’t already been covered to death by the Jewish press.

At the Westchester level, the Chronicle covered a lot of ground — big ideas and the small stuff. As they say, it will be missed.

Thankful for the time to read

I’m back from the beach.

Today is about killing out emails. It must be how everyone spends their first day back at work these days.

Fun it isn’t.

I read several good books on the Maine sand: David Maraniss’ terrific biography of Vince Lombardi, “When Pride Still Mattered;” Ian McEwan’s most recent novel, “Saturday;” Elie Wiesel’s “Messengers of God;” and (most of) historian James McPherson’s 900-page history of the Civil War, “Battle Cry of Freedom.”

Wiesel’s book, a collection of musings about Old Testament heroes, was pithy and insightful. I especially liked his chapter on Job, who he calls “Our contemporary.”

But religion also played a significant role in the other three books.

Vince Lombardi went to Mass every day. His life was very much driven by routine. That’s how he liked it. Football and religion. Practice the sweep and go to the Mass. Every day.

McEwan writes a sentence about as well as anyone I’ve ever read. “Saturday” was so good I may have to read it again. It’s about one day in the life of a brain surgeon, who is struggling to come to terms with changes in his family, society and the world. He is not a believer and represents well the modern, practical, science-driven, secular person.

The battle over slavery before and during the Civil War was, of course, often couched in religious terms. Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists split along pro-slavery and anti-slavery lines. Even today, I found it chilling to read quotations from southern clergy who insisted that dark-skinned men and women were genetically and spiritually inferior to their slaveholders.

I’ve got a couple of hundred pages left in the Civil War book. I hope I can find the time to finish it.

Listen to the Man

Cleaning out some old magazines, I came across the Jan. 15 issue of The New Yorker, which featured a personal history by Shalom Auslander, who was raised an Orthodox Jew in Monsey (he no longer appears to be Orthodox).

I laughed when I read the opening, so here it is:

When I was a child, my parents and teachers told me about a man who was very strong. They told me that he could lift mountains. They told me that he could part the sea. They told me that it was important to keep this man happy: when we obeyed what the man had commanded, he liked us. He liked us so much that he killed anyone who didn’t like us. But when we didn’t obey what he had commanded that man didn’t like us at all. He hated us. Some days he hated us so much that he killed us; other days he let other people kill us. We call these days ‘holidays.’ On Purim, we remember how the Persians tried to kill us. On Passover, we remember how the Egyptians tried to kill us. On Hanukkah, we remember how the Greeks tried to kill us.

“Blessed is He,” we prayed.

The rest of the article dealt with his pangs of guilt over watching his beloved Rangers play — on their way to the Stanley Cup — on Shabbos.

The spiritual side of the King

Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Elvis.

elvis.jpgI was 13 and had started to understand that the guy with the big hair and ridiculous clothes had played a big role in jump-starting the whole rock ‘n’ roll thing. But I was surprised how taken back my parents were — and they were far more partial to Gershwin and the Fifth Dimension.

I didn’t know until much later that Elvis recorded a lot of Gospel and Gospel-influenced music.

This week, a new book, The Gospel Side of Elvis, comes out. Written by Joe Moscheo, an Elvis buddy and backup singer, the book looks at the spirituality of the King.

Elvis won only three Grammys — all for Gospel recordings.

A day for Catholic learning at the Westchester County Center

On Sept. 29, Catholics from across the 10-county Archdiocese of New York will come to the Westchester County Center in White Plains for a big catechetical get-together.

It’s part of the ongoing celebration of the archdiocese’s 200th birthday next spring.

The Bicentennial Catechetical Convocation will feature some top Catholic teachers talking about the faith. Father James Martin, for instance, the associate editor of America magazine, will explain “How to become a saint (in about an hour).”

Sister Marlene Halpin will talk about praying from Scripture.

Father James Hurley of the Paulist North American Office for Reconciliation, will talk about “forming disciples for a new age.”

And plenty more…

Cardinal Egan will open things up with a 10 a.m. Mass.

Get all the information right “here.”:

“People sometimes think that religious education is for just children and youth,” said Sister Joan Curtin, director of the archdiocese’s catechetical office. “Actually, the Church tell us that adult faith formation should be at the center of the catechetical mission. The Bicentennial Catechetical Convocation provides many opportunities for adults to rediscover and learn more about their Catholic heritage.”

A (Christian) Harvard man

I recently came across the May/June issue of 02138, a Harvard magazine, which “profiled”: Philip E. Johnson, one of the designers of the idea of “intelligent design.”

philipjohnson.jpgThe focus of the feature was that Johnson was a Harvard student from 57 to 61 and, well, how the heck did Harvard produce a guy like him?

“Some observers might find it surprising that Harvard could have served as an incubator, albeit inadvertently, of conservative Christian thought,” the article says.

Johnson was a liberal Dem back then and a Kennedy man. But after he became a big-time lawyer, he also became a big-time Christian. And he began to focus on the irreligious idea of random mutation. In 1991, he published Darwin on Trial, a scripture for the intelligent design movement.

It all adds up to another famous alum for H.