Parents, circumcision and the law

At first, it seems strange for Christians to jump into the firestorm surrounding the Nov. 8 ballot initiative in San Francisco to ban circumcisions. After all, the issue of whether gentiles had to be circumcised when converting to Christianity was -- literally -- settled in the age of the apostles. Nevertheless, the Catholic archbishop of San Francisco quickly went public with his views on this hot-button issue. "As a religious leader I can only view with alarm the prospect that this misguided … [Read more...]

Dershowitz visits Oslo (sort of)

Ask Orthodox Jews in Norway where one can find a fresh shoulder of kosher beef and they will give the same answer -- nowhere. There is more to this obscure fact than a clash between Jewish tradition and the concerns of animal-rights activists in today's Europe, Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz told a Jewish forum in Oslo. This is a symbolic fact about tensions that surround Jews in Norway. "You live in the only country in the world today that does not permit kosher shechita," he … [Read more...]

Congregating with Jon Stewart Leibowitz

In the beginning, there was the multimedia superstar Glenn Beck summoning his Tea Party congregation to a faith-friendly "Restoring Honor" rally on the National Mall. And behold, two postmodern prophets witnessed this media storm and decided that it was good. In response, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central organized their pre-election "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear." Colbert, a progressive Catholic Sunday school teacher who pretends to be a right-wing blowhard, provided … [Read more...]

Synagogue for Jewish seekers

For centuries, Jews have watched their rabbis show reverence to God during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur rites by doing a prostration at the front of the synagogue. This symbolic act takes place during the "Aleinu" prayer that reminds worshipers of their duty to "bend our knees, and bow down, and give thanks, before the Ruler, the Ruler of Rulers, the Holy One, Blessed is God." Rabbi Shira Stutman isn't sure how many people will accept her invitation to exit the pews and perform this … [Read more...]

A rabbi, a preacher and a journalist

Mitch Albom has seen plenty of extremely large men, which isn't surprising after a quarter century as one of America's top sports writers. But he wasn't ready for the giant who met him outside the Pilgrim Church's dilapidated Gothic sanctuary near downtown Detroit. The Rev. Henry Covington was as tall as a basketball player, but weighed 400 pounds or more. "His body seemed to unroll in layers, a broad slab of a chest cascading into a huge belly that hung like a pillow over the belt of his … [Read more...]

Pew gap continues on abortion

If researchers want to uncover the roots of America's bitter divisions on abortion, the first thing they should do is ask millions of citizens this question: How often do you attend worship services? This has been a consistent pattern in recent surveys and it can be seen in most pews, from conservative evangelicals to liberal mainline Protestants, said Greg Smith, senior researcher at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. This pattern is especially clear among American Catholics. "The … [Read more...]

Passover 2009, minus God

Passover is almost here, which means Jewish families are preparing once again to taste familiar tastes, ask familiar questions and hear the familiar answers that have united them through the ages. Why is matzoh the only bread at Passover? Because the Hebrews had no time to bake leavened bread as they fled Egypt. Why dip bitter herbs into chopped apples, dates, nuts and wine? Because this paste resembles the clay they used in slavery to make bricks. Why dip parsley into salt water? The parsley … [Read more...]

What, me worry? Whatever II

EDITOR'S NOTE: Second of two columns on teens and ethics. When pollsters ask Americans the Eternal Question they almost always say, "I believe in God." Ask young Americans about faith and the response is something like, "I believe in God and stuff." Finding the doctrinal meaning of "and stuff" is tricky. "God made us and if you ask him for something I believe he gives it to you. Yeah, he hasn't let me down yet," said a 14-year-old Catholic from Pennsylvania, when researchers Christian Smith … [Read more...]

Food and the basic faith groups

It's Yom Kippur. Will your Jewish grandmother serve shrimp-and-bacon hordeurves when the family breaks the fast?It's Ramadan. Will your devout Muslim parents smile if you serve dinner several hours before sundown?It's Good Friday. Will the Catholic college cafeteria serve hamburgers?It's Thanksgiving. Can you predict the foods that will be on your mother's table? Will the German grandmothers bake Christmas cookies at the Lutheran church? Is the tuna casserole served at potluck dinners at rural … [Read more...]

Hot 50 American rabbis

For those marking their calendars far in advance, the next celebration of Passover will begin at sundown on April 19, 2008.This means well-connected American Jews have almost a full year to lobby for their favorite rabbi to make the unofficial, but totally buzz-worthy, list of the nation's 50 top rabbis. The pre-Passover list in Newsweek was such a hit that the film-industry players who created it are already gearing up for the sequel.The goal was to jump start discussions about what it means to … [Read more...]