Travels with the battling baroness

ATLANTA -- As so often happens during her risky flights into Southern Sudan, Baroness Caroline Cox returned to England with a photograph that spoke volumes - even if she could not remember precisely when and where she took it.It shows a naked, starving boy holding a tall cross, during an illegal rendezvous with older tribesmen. There are many demolished villages, since raiders serving the Khartoum regime keep trying to crush resistance in Christian and animist tribes. Cox and her Christian … [Read more...]

Mysterious echoes of gunshots

It's hard to read any of the sermons that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached about death and heaven without hearing echoes of gunshots."The minute you conquer the fear of death, at that moment you are free," he said, in 1963. "I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live."Decades later, these words still inspire faith and courage, said social activist Johann Christoph Arnold, who marched with King in the Civil Rights Movement. That's … [Read more...]

Generation J

As the child of a devoutly secular Jewish home, the last place Lisa Schiffman expected to be on Rosh Hashanah was sitting in worship with her parents and her self-avowed "lapsed Unitarian" husband.It was a highly unorthodox service. The leaders of Aquarian Minyan - a "Jewish renewal" flock near the University of California at Berkeley - spread pillows on the floor and asked worshippers to bring drums. While the Hebrew prayers remained safely foreign, Schiffman noted that an awkward word - "God" … [Read more...]

Light a candle for Y2K

Researchers who study America's "civil religion" usually end up studying sound bites by pious politicians, the on-camera prayers of victorious athletes and other displays of lowest-common-denominator faith.Now, the American Banking Association has added a strange text to the public canon, circulating a Y2K sermon that it hopes will calm nerves in pulpits and pews."We want to go into the new millennium with hope, eagerness and faith in this new century of promise," says the speech, which was … [Read more...]

Journalism — an awkward calling

CHICHESTER, England -- Terry Anderson walked through refugee camps in Lebanon, filling his eyes, ears, nostrils and memory with death, disease and destruction.He counted bodies. He interviewed evil people and innocent people. He wrote it all down, because that's what journalists do. Sometimes, he was able to give a suffering mother his water bottle or share food with a child. Then he had to go back to his desk and write."As a Christian, that's not enough. I want to do more for these people," … [Read more...]

God is in the church-state details

Vice President Al Gore has faith in the power of faith, as long as faith-based groups that take government money are willing to forgo asking people to embrace any particular faith.Hopefully, details of this generic, non-sectarian, yet life-changing brand of faith -- faith in faith itself -- will emerge later in the race for the White House.Meanwhile, Texas Gov. George W. Bush wants government agencies to be free to financially support all kinds of faith-based groups, without discriminating - … [Read more...]

Chechen bandits with empty souls

Dimitri Petrov quickly realized that the men who shot out the tires on his humanitarian-aid truck weren't fighting for the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya.The situation was worse than that. The gunmen were bandits. They weren't interested in politics or religion or debates about freedom and international law. They didn't care if the food and medicine was destined for Moslems or Christians or anyone else in the village of Aki-Yurt, on the border of Ingushetia and Chechnya, back on Sept. … [Read more...]

Caught in the Columbine crossfire

Heidi Johnson didn't volunteer to fight in America's culture wars, she got caught in the crossfire in the Columbine High School library.A crowd of preachers, political activists, rock musicians and boisterous teens became extremely quiet last week when the willowy 16-year-old spoke at a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington. She is one of several survivors who has spoken at religious rallies and conventions and faced waves of media interviews. Still, she seemed poignantly out of place in the … [Read more...]