This is not a religion story

This was the 12th time that Linda Gibbons had violated the 18-meter "bubble zone" that surrounds Canadian abortion clinics, so all the players in the scene knew their roles.The tiny grandmother sat down and silently began to pray as Toronto police moved in. Sue Careless and two other journalists maneuvered to record the arrest. Careless concentrated on Gibbons, framing her in the camera's viewfinder between a church steeple and the clinic door. She heard an officer reading the familiar … [Read more...]

Prophets and politicos in the public square

In the summer of 1964, President Lyndon Johnson sent his right-hand man to visit Fannie Lou Hamer of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.It was a high-stakes trip, because Hamer and her flock were challenging the state's all-white slate of delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Johnson feared an ugly floor fight and hoped that Hubert Humphrey could convince Hamer to back down.The future vice president opened the negotiations by asking what she wanted."The beginning of a New … [Read more...]

The confessions of Harry Stein

Life was simpler back when journalist Harry Stein knew his place.If asked to define "politically correct," he could quickly answer: "A term used by the right to smear decent people working hard for social change." The religious right? "A bunch of crazed zealots out to impose their repressive, intolerant theocratic values on the rest of us."That was the old Harry Stein, a hipper-than-thou child of the 1960s and '70s. Everyone he knew believed the world's problems could be solved with liberal … [Read more...]

The Episcopalians vs. the Anglicans

The voices on the telephone sound angry and anxious and they keep calling Charles Nalls at the Canon Law Institute and telling him sad stories that he has heard many times before.They have been faithful. They have filled their pew for decades. They receive Holy Communion on kneelers covered with their own needlepoint and the prayer books are dedicated to their loved ones. They have washed altar cloths and signed checks. Now they're asking hard questions because they aren't sure what their church … [Read more...]

The man who didn’t disappear

NEW YORK -- The formal interview was over, so Richard Nixon propped his feet on his desk while the journalist lingered in the former vice president's Manhattan office."He just wanted to shoot the breeze a bit," recalled John McCandlish Phillips, who was the New York Times reporter on the other side of the notebook that day. This was during the mid-1960s, when political consultants were creating the "New Nixon" who would reach the White House.Nixon talked about TV, the press and much more. But … [Read more...]

Ted Turner, meet John Paul II

Pope John Paul II, this is Ted Turner.Ted Turner, will you please introduce yourself to Pope John Paul II?What? Yes, surely he has heard your joke about the Polish mine detector. But the pope needs to hear more about your Aug. 29 sermon at the United Nations. That was the one in which you warned that faiths that claim exclusive truths about heaven and hell are preaching hate and intolerance and that their doctrines could cause a global nuclear holocaust.Turner and John Paul would have a lot to … [Read more...]

Prayers in Catholic schools?

It was a Catholic campus, so the history professor was free to voice a prayer before every test on behalf of his nervous students."Father," he always said, "we pray for your assistance this morning for each student in keeping with his level of preparation. Amen."So meditate on that, undergraduates, while you grip your No. 2 pencils. The students knew their professor's goal was to communicate a sobering message to each of them, as opposed to reaching an Academic Authority on high. It was not a … [Read more...]

Meet the new Barbie, same as…..

American youth culture doesn't get much safer than Britney Spears.The former "Mickey Mouse Club" diva has sold about 20 million copies of "...Baby One More Time" and "Oops ... I Did It Again," mostly to pre-teen girls. The music is upbeat and the lyrics are flirty. The music videos are rather slinky and, come to think of it, Spears is being marketed as a PG-13 fantasy doll.Surely nobody out there in Culture Wars territory is worried about Britney Spears? After all, she's a born-again Bible Belt … [Read more...]