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A death-denying holiday: 10-31-11

All right, so it's Halloween and Americans have gone simply bonkers in recent years for the spooky holiday, which has religious roots.

Death-halloweenAs the Boston Globe reported recently, "the National Retail Federation is predicting that Halloween spending will hit $6.9 billion this year.That’s up a stunning 18 percent from last year’s estimated $5.8 billion bonanza."

So what's going on?

I can't prove this, but I'll heave out my theory to see if you like it: Halloween (and horror movies) is popular and gaining in popularity precisely because we are a death-denying culture that doesn't know how to talk about death or what to do about the reality that we all will die one day.

So Halloween is our now-secular substitute for serious death conversations and rituals. It lets us spit in the face of Mr. Death. It allows us to laugh into the abyss instead of staring into it in dread.

As many of you know, Halloween once was (and here and there still is) the Christian holiday called All Hallow's Eve, which is the eve of All Saints' Day. It was the eve of the Celtic new year, when it was understood that the souls of the dead would revisit their homes. (Raising the question of what about homeless people, but maybe we should let that question go for now.)

The ancient Celts understood death and were much more williing than most modern Americans to accommodate its reality into their lives.

Us? We get Halloween. Yes, it can be a fun holiday. And I'm not making any arguments against having a fine time on Halloween. But if it's just our way of avoiding serious conversations about our own inevitable death, what does that say about us? Especially because, as I've argued before, if we don't understand our own deaths we'll never understand our own lives.

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Speaking of denying death, that's something you can't accuse the media of. Already there are stories surfacing about whether a slowing Pope Benedict XVI will retire or die in office. It's sort of a Vatican watchers' ghoulish game. And my money is on B-16 staying to the end. Now, can we get on to things less obvious but more meaningful than what is inevitable?

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Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor, by Jana Riess. As Anne LaMott says, we all need some grace eventually. And the author of this kicky little book describes why -- because we all fail at spiritual disciplines, no matter how hard we try. This book is the honest-to-badness account of the author's attempts to live a life of holiness, prayer, thanksgiving and all those other practices each of us knows is good for us. Of course she fails. She fails because she, like us, is merely human. Which means we'll never be perfect. But the story of her failures is engaging and it gives the rest of us hope along with a deeper understanding that, in the end, life does not require us to be untouchable saints. Near the end of the book Riess tells the moving story of how, on the eve of the death of the father she hadn't seen or heard from in 26 years, she got a call to come to his death bed. The man had hurt her and her family in countless ways she she was 14 and he walked out of her life. But having gone through a year of trying to be a saint, she discovered that she really did have the ability to forgive. It's an instructive story worth your time to read. (By the way, my friends over at have written about this book, too, and done a good interview with Jana Riess. To read that, click here.)

A church ponders economics: 10-29/30-11

When the Vatican recently released a report on the world economy and ways to fix it, it got some press coverage but not a lot.

Church-moneyAnd yet I think it's an intriguing document that deserves more attention than it's gotten.

It's no surprise that the best analysis of it came from John L. Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter, easily the best Vatican observer out there.

John suggested that the report from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, "Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Political Authority," is an indication that the growing voice of the church from the Southern Hemisphere is beginning to be heard more clearly in official documents.

As John noted, on economics, this voice is in harmony with more progressive voices in the U.S. while on such social issues as abortion and equal rights for gays, it's more in harmony with American conservative voices. That's an intriguing combination, and no doubt it will undergo some changes in the years ago.

What I think it's helpful to remember when the Vatican (or any faith community) issues statements about a particular topic is that it almost certainly is not the first time it has said something about the subject.

Economics, for instance, has been a Vatican concern for a long time. In modern times you'll find the subject addressed in the 1963 encyclical "Pacem in Terris" from Pope John XXIII. Indeed, that document contains a whole section called "Economic Rights," which begins this way: "In the economic sphere, it is evident that a man has the inherent right not only to be given the opportunity to work, but also to be allowed the exercise of personal initiative in the work he does." My guess is that you won't find anything like that declaration of an "inherent right" to be "given" a chance to work anywhere close to the next Republican Party national platform -- and maybe not even the Democratic platform.

In more recent times, a 2009 encyclical from Pope Benedict XVI called "Caritas in veritate" also deals some with economics, and even praises Pope Paul VI for his "keen sense of the importance of economic structures and institutions."

My point is that big institutions like churches and denominations usually speak from a sense of history so there is some continuity to what is being said. The evidence of change, thus, can be found when the latest statement seems to bend more than usual from the previous position. And that may well be what we have in this latest Vatican document.

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Speaking of economics, as I was above, it turns out that not every person who invokes the name of God when talking about money is trustworthy. An upstate New York man, for instance, used a lot of God talk to lure people into his ponzi scheme, for which he was just sentenced to serve 12 years in prison.

Is Islam really dying? 10-28-11

Without endorsing the conclusions, I introduce you today to some contrarian thinking about Islam and whether it's on the ascendancy or in decline.

It will be awhile before I can get to a new book called How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam is Dying Too), by David P. Goldman. But I want you to know about it and to have a chance to read and react to this review and commentary about the book.

How-Civs-dieThe book may well contain some insightful analysis that most other observers haven't yet called to our attention, but I'm always skeptical about huge claims that some major world religion "is dying."

Well, I suppose all world religions are dying in the sense that eventually the sun will burn out. But just because there is demographic information that looks problematic for Islam going forward is no reason to use the over-the-top term "dying" about a faith that has been around 1,400 years or so.

Part of the author's argument, as I get it, is that educated Muslim women around the world no longer are having babies at a rate that would sustain the growth of Islam. Such demographic information is interesting to ponder -- and may well foretell a less-vibrant future for any religion experiencing such dynamics. But religions grow and shrink, wax and wane, for many, many reasons, and I'd be reluctant to condemn Islam to death on the basis of this statistic alone.

Still, as I say, I haven't had a chance to read the book and the author may make a stronger case than I'm imagining.

At any rate, I wanted you to be aware of this contrarian thinking and to give some thought as to what it might mean not only for Islam but for other world faiths that might be affected by a rise or decline of the world's Muslim population.

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The Assisi interfaith gathering for peace this week was intriguing for several reasons. 1. Interfaith connections are to be encouraged in nearly all cases. 2. Pope Benedict XVI was there this time. As a cardinal he didn't show up at this event in 1986 because he disapproved of prayers from various traditions all being said in the same place and time. 3. Some atheists and agnostics were there, representing a growing segment of society. 4. Benedict's instincts about each faith maintaining its own integrity and not dissolving into a mushy syncretism are right. But unlike the pope, I see nothing wrong with members of various traditions being present for and experiencing the way people of different traditions pray. Indeed, I find that experience enlightening and strengthening of my own faith.

Studying Catholicism in U.S.: 10-27-11

I was pleased the other day when listening to substitute host Brian Ellison's conversation with John L. Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter on KCUR's "Up to Date" show that the discussion of Catholicism ranged beyond the priest sexual abuse scandal.

CIACoverOh, that scandal is plenty important -- especially in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph -- and deserves the attention it is getting.

But, in fact, there is much more going on the the Catholic world -- especially at the parish level -- and a new survey of Catholics in America brings that truth home. So does Allen's forthcoming book, A People of Hope. (Which I haven't had a chance to read.)

NCR's Tom Roberts this week introduced us to the survey -- the fifth in a series -- and offered some insight into how Catholics view their faith and their world.

I invite you to have a look at these many-faceted survey results and see not just what it says about Catholics but what it moves you to say about your own faith tradition, if you have one.

Every tradition should be looking at itself with a critical and studious eye from time to time to remind itself why it exists, what it believes and how it's behaving.

This new survey may not be perfect when it comes to methodology, but at least some Catholics are doing the important work of introspection. And, as I say, every faith community should be doing that on a regular basis.

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A Florida legal decision that allows a limited use of considering Shari'a, or Islamic law, looks like exactly the kind of thing that Raj Bhala had in mind in his excellent and exhaustive new book on Shari'a, which I wrote about here and then here recently. It's important to understand what Shari'a is and what it isn't and whether some of its provisions can, at the request of litigants, be invoked to settle disputes. To go ballistic over the use of Shari'a in certain cases is to display ignorance and prejudice.

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Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus, by John Eldredge. It says a lot about the endlessly engaging figure of Jesus Christ that each year half a zippity-zillion books about him get published. Some are deeply nuanced theological treatments, some efforts to turn Jesus into someone very much like the author. Eldredge's book is a mostly helpful effort to point out that if people view Jesus as a somber Puritan handing out rules and making sure no one in the world ever laughs or has fun, they've got Jesus all wrong. The intent of the book is worthy and the author often succeeds in giving us a revised vision of more playful, creative Jesus. And yet I found various things about the book to be problematic or to represent a fairly narrow theological view that, I suspect, might have troubled Jesus, too. Now and then Eldredge -- perhaps unintentionally -- paints with too broad a brush. In an early section on "the spirit of falsehood," for instance, he writes about "the blatant stuff -- the Inquisition, witch trials, televangelists." Thus he lumps every Christian preacher on TV, including Billy Graham, into the same pile as the people who instituted the Inquisition and the witch trials. Really? And although Eldredge spends considerable time helping readers understand that Jesus really was fully human (in the context of the Nicene Creed's affirmation that he was both fully human and fully divine), Eldredge also attributes to him at one point a beyond-human ability to know "what is about to unfold." Perhaps most troubling is Eldredge's willingness to fall into the old Christian habit of using the Pharisees as a foil to stand for all that is evil and wrong with religion without explaining that in their First Century Jewish context these same Pharisees would have been seen as the noble religious persons of their day and, beyond that, would have deserved that reputation. Certainly some of them failed their high calling and Jesus called them out for that, but no one was trying harder than the Pharisees, and by failing to note that, any author leaves on the table an implicit dismissal of Judaism even today. It is a tricky business to get this right, but Eldredge seems unaware of his responsibility to describe some of the nuances of that situation. Finally, any serious book about a serious subject like Jesus (even about how funny Jesus could be) deserves to have an index. This has none, and that will be a frustration to any reader.

Artistic offerings enrich us: 10-26-11

This past Sunday evening at my church, Second Presbyterian, my wife and I attended a fabulous choral concert by a relatively new group, the Ancora Community Choir.

Musical-notes-20The second link I've given you in the previous sentence is for Ancora's Facebook page announcement of the event.

Ancora is a volunteer chorus made up of Kansas City area residents who, as the group's own mission statement says, want "to perform accessible programs that can be appreciated and enjoyed by a wide arragy of audiences. Through the profound ministry and power of music, we strive to communicate messages of hope,  joy and fellowship."

This got me to thinking about all the artistic offerings that can be found in houses of worship around our community. And many of these events are free or quite reasonable in terms of cost.

Indeed, earlier Sunday afternoon there was a performance of "Lament for Jerusalem," as part of this year's Festival of Faiths, at Village Presbyterian Church. It will be offered again at 2 p.m. this Sunday at Redemptorist Catholic Church.

And it's hard to start listing artistic performances at area churches without thinking of the offerings at Kansas City's Visitation Catholic Church under its Venue Visitation program. The same with the Westport Center for the Arts, based and rooted in Westport Presbyterian Church.

Speaking of excellent performances, the East Hill Singers, made up of inmates from the Lansing Correctional Facility and community volunteers, will offer concerts of Handel's "Messiah" at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Shawnee and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13, at Grace United Methodist Church in Olathe.

And each Saturday in the Faith Calendar published by The Kansas City Star you'll find other opportunities for such events in other houses of worship.

It's just further proof that faith communities add a richness to our social fabric far beyond any specific religious message they may be offering.

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The failure (again) of Harold Camping's prediction that this time the world really will end on Oct. 21 has prompted lots of eye-rolling and guffaws. But this thoughtful piece suggests we might want to be careful about picking the speck out of someone else's eye. Plus, the author understands the biblical witness that God intends to redeem the whole creation, not just some disembodied souls.

Pondering a Saudi future: 10-25-11

Ever since I visited Saudi Arabia in 2002 and, with other journalists, interviewed then-Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah, I have followed developments in that fascinating and important kingdom.

Saudi-arabia-flagThe news a few days ago of the death of Crown Prince (meaning he'd be the next king) Sultan has led to speculation about what it may mean that Sultan's brother, Prince Naif (or Nayef), will now become Crown Prince and, perhaps, ultimately king. (Naturally, now that he's dead, Prince Sultan is being hailed as a fabulous man, though he certainly represented the interests of the status quo much more than the interests of needed reform.)

Naif's possible ascendancy is not good news for people interested in continuing the modest reforms the current king has instituted. Nor is it good news for people who would like Saudi Arabia to be even a bit more open religiously. (To be fair, nor is it good news for terrorists, whom Naif, to his credit, has pursued with determination.)

Naif is a member of the so-called Sudayri faction, or Sudayri Seven, in the royal House of Saud -- at one time seven full brothers who are considered deeply conservative and even corrupt by many outsiders who study the kingdom. Like the current king and Naif's full brothers, all these princes are sons of Saudi Arabia's founding king, Abdul Aziz al Saud.

Concern about the kingdom should Naif become king has been stirring up various news analyses on the kingdom's future. This one is by Reuters.

If Naif wants a long-term politically stable kingdom, he and his conservative (who in Saudi Arabia's ruling class isn't?) cohorts need to open up the political process even more than King Abdullah has begun to and to put some distance between the House of Saud and the Wahhabi clerics who oversee Islam in the kingdom. But it appears that King Abdullah has had almost no success in moving Naif in that direction.

So if Naif eventually becomes king (the current king is 87 and not particularly well), we can expect Saudi Arabia to move even further away from the Arab Spring we've seen in other countries this year. And that will not be good for either Saudi Arabia or Islam, though, of course, there's no telling what might result if Saudi Arabia were to experience a full-scale revolution. That, at least temporarily, might be even scarier.

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A time or two here on the blog in the past few weeks I've thought aloud about what role, if any, people of faith are or should be playing in the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Associated Press has done this pretty good compilation of religion's role in this -- both what it is doing and the problems of getting involved. Is your faith community, if any, tied into the OWS protests? Should it be?

Why Israel matters to me: 10-24-11

This past Friday evening I spoke at the Shabbat service of Temple Israel of Greater Kansas City at the request of Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn.

JerusalemJacques and I, along with Fr. Gar Demo, the priest at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in Overland Park, will be leading a Jewish-Christian study trip to Israel in April. So he asked Gar and me to talk about why Israel is important to us as Christians.

Because I think that's an important question whether you plan to go on our trip or not (and I hope you do), I want to share with you today what I told Jacques' congregation.

  • Israel matters to me, especially Jerusalem, because it’s one of several places I call my spiritual home. These homes include, as I say, Jerusalem but also Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown; Bethlehem, where the Bible says he was born, and Geneva, Switzerland, because as a Presbyterian I am a theological descendant of John Calvin, who fathered the Reformed Tradition of Christianity in Geneva, though for sure he didn’t get all his theological thinking right.
  • Israel matters to me because it’s where what I as a Christian believe to be history’s turning point occurred, and that is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • Israel matters to me because its land is sacred to all three of the Abrahamic faiths and therefore has the possibility of being the location of a model for how those and other neighboring faiths in other parts of the world can live in peace.
  • Israel matters to me because it is, of course, the location of nearly all the biblical stories that form the foundation of my own faith.
  • Israel matters to me because modern Israel has an important connection to a Kansas City area man whom I consider to be one of the top 10 presidents in American history, Harry S. Truman, who immediately recognized Israel as a free and sovereign state within hours of its May 1948 declaration that it was exactly that. Truman’s history in relationship to Israel, of course, includes a Jewish-Christian friendship between Truman and Eddie Jacobson at a time when such friendships were rare.
  • Israel matters to me because it also matters to my American Jewish friends and to my American Muslim friends, even if, for some of my fellow Christians, Israel matters for misguided theological reasons. I can talk more about that later if you’d like me to.
  • Israel matters to me because it stands as a democratic state in the midst of authoritarian regimes, and American should defend such places even as we encourage political freedom for all people.
  • Finally, Israel matters to me because it is about 1,600 square miles smaller than Vermont, and my wife grew up in Vermont and likes to talk about how small and lovely it is. I’m taking her on our April trip to Israel to give her some perspective on what 8,000 square miles of rockin’ life really looks like.

(The photo here today? It shows me as a kid in a shop in Jerusalem. That's my youngest sister, Mary, and my mother with me.)

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It may be a surprise to some folks, but words carry meaning. So when you call the pope a Nazi, as actress Susan Sarandon did recently, someone is likely to pay attention and denounce this for what it is -- destructive prejudice and nonsense. People of faith know perhaps more than anyone else how much words matter. It's why we take the words of our sacred writ so seriously while at the same time seeking to avoid worshipping the words themselves.

Unpacking a new Bible: 10-22/23-11

A few weeks ago here on the blog I took note of the recent publication of a new translation of the Bible called the Common English Bible.

CEBBut I had not yet had a chance to do much reading in it when I wrote that. Now that I have the Bible I want to tell you that I'm quite impressed with its ability to be faithful to the Greek (New Testament) and Hebrew (Hebrew Scriptures, which Christians have long called the Old Testament) while still rendering the words into English that can be easily understood by people living 400 years after the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. The edition I have contains the Apocrypha, those books that are considered non-canonical by most Protestant denominations but that are used by Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox adherents.

But what I find most remarkable about this and other recent translations is the evidence it gives to how seriously people still take the Bible.

No book (the Bible is actually a collection of books) in history has been so meticulously studied and loved. No book has been more important in faith formation, though some, such as the Upanishad of Hinduism, are older, and some, such as the Qur'an of Islam, are more often entirely committed to memory. And no book has had more translating committees arguing over the meaning of more words and phrases.

The preface to the CEB is fascinating as much for a listing of the translation issues and decisions the translators faced as for specifics of how they went about resolving them. And there always are translation issues and decisions, including choosing which original Hebrew or Greek text will be used or consulted when seeking to render Hebrew and Greek (and a little Aramaic) into English.

There is, for instance, a section in the preface that lays out the case for the translators choosing, in many cases, to refer to Jesus as "the Human One" instead of "the Son of Man," a term commonly used in many previous translations.

And there is an explanation of why translators choose to change other common wordings to something that readers today can grasp, such as abandoning the wording "Lord of hosts" and using, instead, this phrase: "Lord of heavenly forces." (After all, Lord of hosts sounds a little like the person in a restaurant who hires and oversees the people who greet you when you enter.)

The translation was sponsored by a committee of Mainline Protestant publishers: Presbyterian (PCUSA), Episcopalian, United Methodist, Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ. But the translators represented 24 separate bodies, including Catholics, Mennonites, Seventh-day Adventists and Reform Jews.

I haven't read every word of the new Bible yet but I like what I'm seeing. Well, except that a favorite passage of mine from Micah (6:8) gets stunted, I think. The part that the English Standard Version renders this way: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" the CEB has: "He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God."

Somehow "embrace faithful love" strikes me as mushier than "to love kindness" and seems less rhythmic. But maybe I'll get used to it on repeated readings.

My hope is that many Protestant churches that now used the New Revised Standard Version, including my own, will eventually move to the CEB.

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The recent news about an inner-Amish fight in Ohio has raised questions about how people view this religious group (groups, really; the Amish are not monolithic). And an Ohio English professor who has studied and written about the Amish has offered all of us help with this essay. The lesson here -- once more -- is that labels hide more than they reveal, even labels applied by groups to themselves.

A thoughtful new blog: 10-21-11

The Internet, as you know, is awash with useless information, soul-numbing blogs and other sites that are a colossal waste of time -- along with some high-quality offerings.

BoleWhenever I spend time on one of the former kinds of sites, I leave thinking, "I'm now (blank number of) minutes closer to my death."

So when I find an excellent site that really is helpful and thoughtful, I like to pass it along.

Which is why today I'm introducing you to a new blog called TheoPol by journalist William Bole (pictured here). In it, he covers the intersection of theology and politics, and does it in an enlightening and compelling way. You won't waste your time reading TheoPol, just as it won't be a waste of time to visit with my friends over at, headed by David Crumm, former religion writer for the Detroit Free Press.

In fact (I say with no modesty at all), you could stay pretty well up to speed on religion and ethics and how they connect with the rest of the world if you read nothing else but Crumm's, Bole's and my sites.

In recent posts Bole has written about economist John Maynard Keynes (Was it Richard Nixon who once said we're all Keynesians now? Yes and no.) , Ann Coulter and Satan (yes, there's a difference) and Abraham Joshua Heschel, a wonderful mind you should know about if you don't now.

At any rate, I commend Bole's blog to you. Just don't abandon mine for it.

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In this compilation of 20 distressing quotes from the now-dead Moammar Gaddafi, pay attention to No. 12, 13 and 17 if you want to know his misguided thoughts about Islam. Oh, Gaddafi, the world will miss you in the way it misses Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Stalin. . .

A religion-tech discussion: 10-20-11

I hope you're tuned in to the various aspects of this year's Festival of Faiths in Kansas City.  I especially want to invite you to a panel discussion I'll be moderating on Tuesday, Oct. 25, on "The Future of Faith: Religion in a Google World."

Jesus_on_a_Mac[1] (2)This free event will be in the Jewish Community Center's Lewis and Shirley White Theatre at 5801 W. 115th St. in Overland Park.

And the panelists will be Rabbi Laura A. Baum, Aziza Hasan and Dr. Robert K. Martin.

I've known Martin, who teaches at St. Paul School of Theology, for a number of years and I know him to be a wonderful thinker. The other two I'm looking forward to meeting.

A press release describing this event notes that Rabbi Baum was recently honored as one of the 50 most influential female rabbis in America and also was chosen as a rabbinic fellow of Rabbis Without Borders. She's based in Cincinnati and is the founding rabbi of

Hasan is from Los Angeles and serves as interfaith coordinator for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. She also co-directs NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change.

What will we kick around?

Well, in addition to your questions, we'll consider many aspects of how religion is affecting and being affected by technology. Feel free to Tweet our answers.

But to do that, you need to show up. I hope you will.

(The picture here today is of my friend Jesus learning about the laptop he just got when Steve Jobs arrived. Maybe.)

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Robert Jeffress, the Dallas pastor who, on behalf of Rick Perry, recently insulted Mormonism by calling it a cult, has written this piece for The Washington Post, and it's worth a read. He makes a few good points in it. He also, in the end, confirms his belief that Mormons are not Christians. And he notes that Martin Luther once said he "would rather be governed by a competent unbeliever than an incompetent Christian. Yet evangelicals should remember that the purpose of the primary process is to keep us from having to make such a choice." In other words, to Jeffress, the presidential primaries are about making sure that a competent Christian is nominated. What Jeffress is doing is contributing to the prejudice that I wrote about here yesterday -- a prejudice that rejects certain candidates solely on the basis of religion. To govern a religiously pluralistic nation requires, as Jeffress rightly notes, competence. But it does not require that a candidate adhere to any particular religion.

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A History of the Popes: From Peter to the Present, by Fr. John W. O'Malley. This is a paperback edition of the highly readable and engaging 2010 book by O'Malley, a Jesuit who teaches theology at Georgetown University. It's far from a simple listing or a series of encyclopedia-like entries. Rather, it's an explanation of the context in which the various popes served, including some of the history that, frankly, the church would much rather forget or at least ignore.  O'Malley, though clearly a committed Catholic, is willing to look at the obvious questions surrounding the idea that the Apostle Peter can be considered the first pope -- at a time when there was barely even a Christian church. Despite all the ups and downs, the great men and the knaves who have occupied the Vatican throne, "the papacy has proved to be a remarkably resilient institution," the author concludes. In fact, it has undergone many changes over the centuries and today it may be at (or just past) the peak of its power and reach. Whether it can survive in its current form and state is an unanswerable question, though the history O'Malley gives us suggests some kind of change eventually is inevitable.

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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it click here.