GODSTUFF

These are columns from Cathleen’s regular gigs at Religion News Service and Sojourners Magazine. GODSTUFF posts from Jan 2010 and before also include her weekly columns from the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Americans Season Finale: Teach Your Parents Well

the-americans-season-3-570x294My latest is up at Religion Dispatches where I offer my take on the extraordinary third season of FX’s The Americans, which concludes tonight with the episode titled, “March 8, 1983.”

Here’s a taste:

It’d be a stretch to say Reagan’s “evil empire” rhetoric defined my faith, worldview, or burgeoning political sensibilities at the time, but the idea of the godless, Communist Russians being “evil” and us god-fearing evangelical Christian Americans being “blessed” or even “chosen” was a spoken and unspoken mantra throughout my teen years.

How I emerged from the 1980s with what I hope is a humble Christian faith, decidedly left-leaning politics, open-minded stance toward the world, and openhearted approach to “the other” is nothing short of miraculous. Well, that and some excellent parenting by a mother and father with a deep faith matched only by their curiosity and wanderlust who went through life cancelling out each others (political) votes, inhaling and debating the news of the day, teaching my brother and me to think for ourselves, and to lean hard into our educational pursuits.

So it’s been with great interest that I’ve watched season three of The Americans unfold.

Read the post in its entirety at Religion Dispatches HERE.

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God Girl’s Got News: Religion Dispatches and ‘Remapping’ Christianity

11075263_10152909550180819_5979026208049641961_nHiya folks,

Loooooong time no write (in this space at least.)

Well, I’m back. For realsies and when I’m not noodling in this longtime space (11 years!) you can find me over at my new gig on Religion Dispatches.

To wit: announcement time (via RD and our host family, the University of Southern California — Trojan Country) —

Cathleen Falsani, an award-winning religion journalist, will spearhead coverage of the changing landscape of American religious practice, identity and belief in Religion Dispatches.

As senior editor for the daily online magazine about religion, politics and culture, Falsani will lead the three-year “Remapping American Christianities” project. She will work alongside Lisa Webster and Evan Derkacz, the magazine’s co-editors.

Besides launching the new initiative, Falsani will work with students at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism who are interested in covering religion and spirituality.

The Christianities project is funded by a $1 million grant the Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded to USC Annenberg School in December. The magazine is overseen by Diane Winston, holder of the Knight Chair in Media and Religion.

Cathleen is one of the country’s leading religion journalists.

~ USC/Annenberg Knight Chair in Media & Religion, Diane Winston

“Cathleen is one of the country’s leading religion journalists,” Winston said. “She has an unerring sense of how people live out their spiritual commitments and find meaning in their daily lives.”

Papal coverage

Falsani was religion writer for the Chicago Sun Times from 2000-10 and most recently religion columnist for the Orange County Register, where she covered the election of Pope Francis in Rome and his first pontifical year. She served as Web editor and director of new media for Sojourners magazine and she has been a longtime contributor and columnist to Religion News Service.

Her writing has appeared on numerous media outlets, including Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune,Christianity Today, The Atlantic and TIME. Her sixth and most current work explores the spiritual, social, cultural, political and technological reasons for Pope Francis’ popularity.

“I am thrilled to be joining colleagues who are passionate about serious journalism at the intersection of faith and culture.” Falsani said. “The Remapping American Christianities project will explore the root questions behind shifting cultural expressions of identity, meaning and lived beliefs that are inextricably tied to the American experience.”

Falsani, who holds degrees from Northwestern University and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, was honored as the 2005 James O. Supple Religion Writer of the Year by the Religion Newswriters Association and twice has been a finalist for the Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year award.

Launched in 2008, Religion Dispatches has been nominated for a Webby Award three of the last four years. In 2014, it had 2.7 million unique views. The site moved to USC Annenberg in October 2013.

And all the people said SQUEE.

You can read the entirety of my first piece for RD, “The Gospel According to Frank Underwood,” HERE.
And you can read a few bars I hummed about the passing of the Rev. Robert H. Schuller HERE.
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‘I Don’t Buy It': The Gospel According to Frank Underwood

Originally appeared via Religion Dispatches

04-kevin-spacy-house-of-cards-1.w750.h560.2x-1050x700There are many things that Netflix’s House of Cards can do — and do well — because it is not a network television series, not the least of which is handle faith, spirituality, and religion with nuance, courage, and a certain alacrity that is virtually absent from traditional, commercial programming.

Throughout Season 3 of House of Cards, President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) continues his existential striptease unabated, revealing the depths of his moral declension and staggering spiritual torpor.

House of Cards gets away with showing and telling things about the harrowing intersection of faith and politics that it never would have had the award-winning series fallen into the hands of ABC, NBC, CBS, or even HBO. (Thanks be to God.)

Minor spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched the episode “Chapter 30″ (aka season 3, episode 4) or beyond of House of Cards.

To wit: a scene in the fourth episode of the new season that contained one of the greatest spiritual moments in “television” history followed immediately by one of the most disturbing.

In the episode, disquieted by a presidential decision he made that cost several Navy SEALs their lives, Frank seeks counsel from a military chaplain — the motorcycle-riding “Bishop Charles Eddis” played by John Doman — under cover of darkness, standing under a huge crucifix in the sanctuary of a church.

Continue reading at Religion Dispatches by clicking HERE.
And read the bonus 12 Quotes from the Underwood Bible HERE.
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Band Aid 30 Years On: Feed, Feel, Heal the World

U2 frontman Bono performs at the 1985 Live Aid concert in Wembley Arena, London.

U2 frontman Bono performs at the 1985 Live Aid concert in Wembley Arena, London.

Do you remember where you were on Saturday, July 13, 1985?

I do.

On that day in the summer of my 15th year, I sat in my pajamas all day glued to the television in my parents’ living room in Connecticut, watching the Live Aid concerts broadcast live from London and Philadelphia, determined not to miss a single second of my favorite bands’ performances.

While I watched the concerts unfold, something happened to me that, at the time, I could not have articulated the way I do now. But even then, I was cognizant of a change in my awareness of the world — a broadening of my horizon and expansion of what I understood my potential, as one person, to affect change globally could be. A seed of curiosity about my connection with and responsibility to fellow human beings on the other side of the world was planted and has continued to grow throughout my life and professional career.

Nine months before Live Aid, Boom Town Rats lead singer Bob Geldof — a few decades before he would earn his “Sir” — turned on the television one evening in October and watched the BBC’s Michael Buerk and Mohamed Amin deliver reports on the famine ravaging northern Ethiopia here below.

Outraged by what he saw in the BBC reports, a few days later Geldof hopped on a plane to Ethiopia determined to see for himself what was going on and what he and other Westerners could do to help alleviate the suffering.

A month after that, on Nov. 25, 1984, Geldof convened Band Aid — a gathering of some of the most popular UK and Irish pop/rock/new-wave musicians of the day — to record a song his journey to Ethiopia had inspired him to write: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

Four days later, on Nov. 28, 1984, the Band Aid single hit record store shelves. A few days after that, I bought my own copy in a suburban New England mall, took it back to the stereo in my bedroom, and played it nearly nonstop for the next six weeks.

Until I heard “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” I didn’t know anything about the famine in Ethiopia or where Eritrea even was. The music was the catalyst that led me to our Encyclopedia Britannica set in the family room where I read everything I could find about Ethiopia, Eritrea, and famines in Africa.

Thirty years later, I am a journalist who writes often about our collective spiritual, moral, and ethical responsibility to defend and support the poorest of the poor in Africa and elsewhere. As a journalist I have traveled to sub-Saharan Africa on several occasions to tell the stories of Africans who have and are continuing to lift themselves out of extreme poverty and disease. In 2012, I visited Ethiopia for the first time to witness some the progress it has made as a culture and a nation to combat the political, material, and cultural issues that led to that devastating famine in 1985.

I also am mother to Vasco, my 15-year-old son who was born into crippling poverty and disease in Malawi, Africa. He is almost the same age now that I was when Bono and Adam Clayton, Geldolf, Sting, George Michael, Midge Ure, Phil Collins, Bananarama, Paul Weller, Johnny Fingers, Boy George, Simon LeBon, John and Andy Taylor, Nick Rhodes, the guys from Kool and the Gang, and the rest headed into the studio in London in November 1984. And my lad is perhaps even more obsessed with music and world-changing than his mum was when she took the Band Aid LP from its plastic sleeve and popped it on her turntable for the first of thousands of times.

Now comes the scourge of the Ebola virus in West Africa and once again, American teenagers like my son are (re)learning their African geography, what being a citizen of the world actually means, and how it affects their responsibility to our neighbors — brothers and sisters, truly — from the other side of the globe.

Click HERE for 5 Questions about Ebola, answered with infographics

Were it not for the superstar recording sessions, the music, the concerts, and the pop culture icons who created them setting my life on the trajectory that they did all those years ago, I doubt whether I would be Vasco’s mother today. Words of gratitude to Band Aid and its cohorts, then and now, escape me.

But I can’t help wondering where the seeds planted in the hearts of teenagers who hear “Do They Know It’s Christmas? 2014″ will take root, how the might grow and bloom between now and 2044.

Thirty years from now, may poverty, preventable diseases, and all plagues natural or man-made be but a faint memory.

And may each of us do what we can to feed, feel, and heal the world.

Below are the lyrics to Band Aid 30′s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

It’s Christmas time – and there’s no need to be afraid

At Christmas time – we let in light – and banish shade

And in our world of plenty – we can spread a smile of joy

Throw your arms around the world

At Christmas time

 

But say a prayer – pray for the other ones

At Christmas time – it’s hard but while you’re having fun

There’s a world outside your window – and it’s a world of dread and fear

Where a kiss of love can kill you – and there’s death in every tear

And the Christmas bells that ring there – are the clanging chimes of doom

Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you

 

No peace and joy this Christmas in West Africa

The only hope they’ll have is being alive

Where to comfort is to fear

Where to touch is to be scared

How can they know it’s Christmas time at all

 

Here’s to you

Raise a glass to everyone

And here’s to them

And all their years to come

Let them know it’s Christmas after all

 

Feed the world – Let them know it’s Christmastime again

Feel the world – Let them know it’s Christmastime again

Heal the world – Let them know it’s Christmastime again

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You Go GRRL! The Rev. Sarah Heath Is My Hero Today (and Most Days, Actually)

The Rev. Sarah Heath. Photo by David Tosti, 2014.

The Rev. Sarah Heath. Photo by David Tosti, 2014.

I am so proud of Sarah Heath.

I am proud of and endlessly grateful for the friend we call “Mini Rev” all the time, really, but particularly so today.

Sarah contributed a chapter to Disquiet Time where she addresses scripture often used to argue against the ordination of women. Sarah is, if you already weren’t aware, an ordained United Methodist minister and pastor. And she’s a great one at that.

Frankly, Sarah has one of the most obvious pastoral gifts I’ve ever encountered (and I’ve gone to church for a living for the last 20 years or so.) She has a gift and she uses it with amazing grace, joy, and artistry.

This past Sunday, someone decided to lash out at her by posting an ersatz “theses” to the front door of the church she shepherds, castigating her and denouncing her flock as “apostate” for having a woman lead it.

Click HERE to read Sarah’s most excellent response.
You go GRRL!

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The Disquiet Time Blog Tour: Updated Links

GrantFalsani_DisquietTime_HC-2My latest book, DISQUIET TIME: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels, a collaborative effort co-edited by Jennifer Grant and myself containing essays by more than 40 of our friends and colleagues who opened their hearts (and a vein) to write honestly and (often) with great humor, about what most confounds them (for better and for worse) about the Bible, released yesterday 10/21.

I’m delighted to say the book has been received warmly, reviews are good, and the early (very early) sales numbers are encouraging.

Many of the contributing authors to DISQUIET TIME along with some of our supportive media friends are in the midst of rolling out a blog tour.

Below are the latest blog posts. I think you’ll enjoy them. They’ll definitely start some interesting conversations.

Ellen Painter Dollar Asks “Does the Bible Leave You Disquieted?”

From Jonathan Merritt: ‘Quiet Time’ — It’s Not Just For Conservative Christians Any More: A Q&A with Cathleen Falsani

From Mike McHargue: Disquiet Time Q & A with Cathleen Falsani

The Rev. Sarah Heath’s Disquieting Confession

From Susan E. Isaacs: Disquiet Time

How Revelation Ruined (And Saved) My Life by Christian Piatt

The Rev. Kenneth “Kenny Wayne” Tanner asks, Have You Had Your Disquiet Time With The Lord Today?

Tim King on Curiosity, Humility, and Disquiet Time

Ina Albert on Changing Faces of the Spirit

Katherine Willis Pershey: Celebrating Disquiet Time (And Ellen Painter Dollar)

AUDIO: Jennifer Grant and Cathleen Falsani in Conversation with Dr. Alvin Jones on Disquiet Time

Steve Beard on Wrestling Disquietly with the Bible

Linda Midgett’s Disquieting Showdown with the “Proverbs 31 Woman”

Gareth Higgins’ (Dis)Quiet Time

The blog tour continues through November. Check back daily for updates.

Order your copy of DISQUIET TIME here.

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