Posts Tagged With: chicago

Reblogging from Dave McKinney: Why I left

Dave McKinney via

Dave McKinney via

Today one of the finest people I ever worked with as a reporter resigned from my former employer, The Chicago Sun-Times. Dave McKinney is a gentleman and an outstanding journalist who I was honored to work with for a decade in Chicago.

Dave didn’t deserve this. Journalism doesn’t deserve this. I mourn the Sun-Times of bygone years. I thought you should see what’s happening in too many quarters of the once great Fourth Estate.

Read Dave’s blog post, Why I left.

Read Robert Feder’s column about Dave’s resignation HERE.

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God Girl’s Got News: My Happy Return to Fourth Estate


Imgage via Wiki Commons:

It is with great delight that I share some (personal) breaking news: At the end of the month, I will be joining the staff of the Orange County Register as its Faith & Values Columnist.

I’ll be on sabbatical until then, but I am thrilled to be joining the Register in this new era, with a publisher, Aaron Kushner, who believes in the power and necessity of excellent newspaper journalism. In the last few months, the Register has hired more than 70 new reporters, columnists, editors,  and designers.

When I visited the Register offices in Santa Ana late last year, I found something I hadn’t seen in more than a decade and feared I might never see again: a thriving newsroom. Every seat filled. Humming with the sounds of reporters doing their thing. Bubbling with energy and excitement. Unnamed_CCI_EPS

I was beyond thrilled to meet astute and creative editors who understand the importance of covering issues of faith, religion, values, morals, ethics, and belief that are a vital part of the fabric, history, and future of Orange County.

During the 3.5 years since my family relocated from Chicago to Orange County, I have fallen head-over-heels in love with this magical place, its lively and diverse community, and the extraordinary people I’m blessed to call my neighbors.

I can’t wait to dig in, discover, and tell their stories.

It’s an unexpected new chapter in my life for which I am deeply grateful.

Thanks to all of you for walking with me these many years and for joining me on this new adventure.

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‘Why I Hate Religion But Love YouTube’

Early this year I visited the Episcopal parish outside Chicago where my family and I used to worship before we moved to California a few years ago. About a dozen 12-to-14-year-olds gathered in a classroom used for daycare during the rest of the week. They pulled out cushions and gathered in a circle on the floor, falling over each other like puppies and talking nonstop.

The lead teacher began with prayer and then asked the kids to share about the previous week. For the better part of 45 minutes, the kids shared their triumphs and trials—a Spanish skit due in the morning that several were dreading, a classmate who was injured during a lacrosse game, a sick neighbor, a good grade on a science test, an upcoming three-day weekend, etc.

As each of the young teens shared, the others attempted to listen with care, but their boundless energy (and ample hormones) often erupted into a cacophony of asides, flirty joking, and epic fidgeting. It was exactly how you’d imagine an assemblage of a dozen junior highers might look and sound. Barely controlled chaos.

That is, until the teacher pulled out his laptop computer and described a video he was about to play called “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The four-minute video was created by and features 22-year-old Jefferson Bethke, a spoken word artist, eloquently voicing his frustrations with organized religion. He says in part:

What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion? … I mean, if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars? Why does it build huge churches but fails to feed the poor? … See, the problem with religion is it never gets to the core. It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores …

As the video began to play via YouTube on the teacher’s laptop, the room grew still. The kids were absolutely rapt. You could have heard a pin drop.

After the video ended, the teacher opened up the floor for discussion, and the Sunday school students were chomping at the bit to share their responses. They politely took their turns, speaking and listening respectfully, and their feedback was fascinating.

A pudgy, bespectacled lad with obvious intelligence and a charming guilelessness as yet untouched by teenage self-consciousness said that, while he appreciated what Bethke had to say, in his experience religion had been a good thing. No one at his church would be unkind to anyone who walked through the door on Sunday morning, no matter what his or her race, sexual orientation, or cultural circumstances might be. He had no frame of reference for the kind of frustration Bethke expressed in his video.

Some of the kids nodded in agreement, while a few others pushed back, gently, saying that they understood what Bethke meant or knew people who felt the same way.

It was a fascinating interaction to witness, and, frankly, quite encouraging for me as an older believer. What struck me most, however, was the undeniable draw and power the video had on these members of whatever we decide the generation after Millennials will be called. The video spoke their language.

And this experience is not just anecdotal. At this writing, Bethke’s video had been viewed more than 19 million times and had spawned dozens of video responses, more than a few of them from kids the same age as the ones I hung out with in St. Mark’s Sunday school classroom.

The lesson for me, as the parent of a middle school child, was to pay closer attention. To popular culture and new media. To the music I can’t stand but my son can’t get enough of. To the trends and fads that seem utterly vapid to me but have meaning for kids my son’s age even though they might not yet have the language to articulate it. To the passions of children and their language, even—or perhaps especially—when it sounds foreign to me.

May we grown-ups remember that no one knows how the seeds planted in a young heart will grow, blossom, and transform our world.

Cathleen Falsani (@GodGrrl) is web editor and director of new media for Sojourners and author, most recently, of Belieber!: Fame, Faith, and the Heart of Justin Bieber. This column originally appeared in the April 2012 edition of Sojourners Magazine.

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GODSTUFF: 10 years after 9/11 the question remains the same

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was standing in the bathroom of my apartment outside Chicago, about to hop in the shower, when I heard the phone ring and then my husband call my name.

“It’s Roger from the desk,” he said, sleepily, invoking the name of the morning assignment editor at the Chicago Sun-Times where I was a reporter at the time.

I padded down the hallway in my pajamas to the living room and picked up the phone.

“How quickly can you get down here,” Roger asked.

“I dunno, an hour, maybe,” I said. “Why? What’s up?”

“A plane hit the World Trade Center in New York,” he said. “They think it’s a terrorist attack.”

“What?” I shouted.

“Turn on your TV and get down here as soon as you can.”

The hours that followed Roger’s phone call still play in my mind like a horrible slide presentation. Throwing on clothes and bolting out the door, screaming over my shoulder for my husband to please call my best friend in New York City to see if she was ok. Driving in a panic through the West Side of Chicago toward the newspaper offices downtown, while listening to reports from Manhattan on the car radio and scanning the sky over the city’s skyscrapers for airplanes. Praying for divine intervention, for the horror not to be true.

I vividly recall parking my car on the top level of the garage across from the Sun-Times building and stopping to stare at the Sears’ Tower a few blocks away. “Oh my God,” I prayed aloud. “Please protect us.”

When I arrived in the newsroom, my first assignment was to pitch in making calls to police, transportation departments, the FBI and other civil authorities to get logistical information about the immediate emergency. But soon, as the paper’s religion reporter, editors asked me to write something that would address the spiritual implications of the unthinkable disaster that was unfolding on the East Coast.

The only thing I could think to do was to phone a number of religious leaders of various faith traditions and ask them the question that I heard so many people asking that terrible Tuesday morning: Why would God allow this to happen?

My favorite answer came from William Persell, who was then the Episcopal bishop of Chicago. He said, “I see God operating through all the courage, the love and the support people are giving each other as they drag bodies from buildings and as they minister to the wounded and the bereaved across the nation. I ultimately believe that love is more powerful than the evil we have experienced, and it will prevail.”

In the end, yes, love wins. That is true.

But the truest answer I received came from the venerable scholar of American religion, Martin Marty, who told me, matter-of-factly, “I don’t know, and nobody does.” Ten years later, Marty’s answer remains the best.

In 2001, when I was the 30-year-old wife in a double-income-no-kids-one-cat family, the only person I had to answer that question for was myself. A decade later, however, as a mother, I am responsible for helping my son, who was six weeks shy of his second birthday and living in a village in sub-Saharan Africa at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, grapple with that same unanswerable question.

My son arrived in the United States a little more than two years ago, and while this year’s Sept. 11 anniversary is his third in our country, it is the first for which he’s actually been aware of what transpired at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania.

The issue first arose a week or so ago when we were watching television and a commercial aired for a forthcoming 10th anniversary special on the 9/11 attacks.

“What is that?” my son asked. “Did that really happen?”

Yes, I answered, explaining briefly what happened 10 years ago, not anticipating the logical question that followed.

“Why?” he said.

Although it seemed to placate my son’s curiosity at the time, my answer, in retrospect, was feeble at best.

The people who turned those airplanes into weapons of mass destruction were crazy. Sometimes people are so filled with hatred and fear that they do terrible things.

While true, those statements provide little wisdom or solace. And they really don’t get at the eternal problem of why — a question that is ultimately about the nature of good and evil and God.

I suppose I could have tried to explain to my child how the United States is viewed by some people in other parts of the world, about the power paradigms, religious zealotry, tribalism, foreign relations, economics, cultural perceptions, historical perspectives and so on.

But none of that truly gets at the heart of the matter. None of that explains on a soul level why bad things happen to good people, why the innocent suffer, why there is hatred in a world that my son and I believe was created and ordered by a loving God, a God who promises to be powerfully present in our suffering.

Still, none of those responses satisfactorily answer the WHY.

If I have learned anything in the decade that has passed since terror became a visceral part of our daily reality, it is to be comfortable and satisfied with not knowing.

When my family sits down to watch the 9/11 memorial specials that will air in the coming weeks, I hope to impart that difficult truth to my son. There are some things in this life that we never will understand.

“I don’t know,” is sometimes the only true response. That uncertainty is not only OK, it’s sacred.

Because the opposite of faith isn’t doubt. It’s certainty.

A version of this column originally appeared via Religion News Service.

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Welcome home. The Dude is in.

Hiya folks.

Welcome to The Dude’s new home and the official Headquarters of God Girl Escapades and the unofficial West Coast recruiting office of the Communion of Sinnerly Saints.

My previous Blogger blogs — The Dude Abides, Vasco’s Heart and Becoming Family — are now fully nested here. You can find older posts from those historical blogs under their eponymous “Categories” labels.

With the start of my boy Vasco’s new school year on September 7, I intend to be posting here regularly with furniture including my weekly (and/or bi-weekly) GODSTUFF columns for Religion News Service and Sojourners Magazine (among others), daily religion news roundups in the form of TODAY IN GOD posts, general merry-making quick hits a la A LITTLE HAPPY, as well as SWAG GRAB contests, TWO CENTS polls, and the occasional LURKING IN THE NARTHEX guest bloggers.

So while we get the rest of the boxes unpacked and figure out where we put the lime press and the potholders, have a look around and make yourselves at home.

Thanks for joining me on the journey (see: Long Strange Trip) so far and I hope to be an exemplary and entertaining tour guide as we move farther down the road in our little ship of fools.

I’ll leave you with this before I get back to recycling some cardboard and lining the cupboard shelves with non-slip padding:

Community has been on my mind a lot lately. For a long, looooong time, consummate individualist that I am, I didn’t think I needed it. (And God said: “Ha!”) Now I can’t imagine my life without it. Community. In real-time and real-life, and in this funky, sacred third space between the pixels.

Thomas Merton has a lot to say about community. My homeslice Jen Grant handed me one of his books, New Seeds of Contemplation, last week when I was bolting out the door to the CNN studio in Chicago, all sweaty and kerfuffled and feeling anything but contemplative.

Here’s what Tommy the Zen-Catholic Monk had to say:

One of the paradoxes of the mystical life is this: that a man cannot enter into the deepest center of himself and pass through that center into God, unles she is able to pass entirely out of himself and empty himself and give himself to other people in the purity of a selfless love.

And so one of the worst illusions in the life of contemplations would be to try to find God by barricading yourself inside your own soul, shutting out all external reality by sheer concentration and will-power, cutting yourself off from the world and other men by stuffing yourself inside your own mind and closing the door like a turtle.

Fortunately most of the men who try this sort of thing never succeed. For self-hypnotism is the exact opposite of contemplation. We enter into possession of God when He invades all our faculties with His light and His infinite fire. We do not ‘possess’ Him until He takes full possession of us. But this business of doping your mind and isolating yourself from everything that lives, merely deadens you. How can fire take possession of what is frozen?

The more I become identified with God, the more will I be identified with all the others who are identified with Him. His Love will live in all of us. His Spirit will be our One Life, the Life of all of us and Life of God. And we shall love one another and God with the same Love with shich He loves us and Himself. This is God Himself….

The ultimate perfection of the contemplative life is not a heaven of separate individuals, each one viewing his own private intuition of God; it is a sea of Love which flows through the One Body of all the elect, allt he angels and saints, and their contemplation would be incomplete if it were not shared, or if it were shared with fewer souls, or with spirits capable of less vision and less joy.

I will have more joy in heaven and in the contemplation of God, if you are also there to share it with me; and the more of us there will be to share it the greater will be the joy of all….So we all become doors and windows through which God shines back into His own house.

When the Love of God is in me, God is able to love you through me and you are able to love God through me. If my soul were closed to that love, God’s love for you and your love for God and God’s love for Himself in you and in me, would be denied the particular expression which it finds through me and through no other.

Because God’s love is in me, it can come to you from a different and special direction that would be closed if He did not live in me, and because His love is in you, it can come to me from a quarter from which it would not otherwise come. And because it is in both of us, God has greater glory. His love is expressed in two more ways in which it would not otherwise be expressed; that is, in two more joys that could not exist without Him.

Let us live in this love and this happiness, you and I and all of us…

Categories: BREAKING NEWS!, GODSTUFF, VASCO | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Sort of Homecoming:
God Girl returns to Chicago 4/29

Hey all in Chicago and environs:

Join me at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 29 at St. James Cathedral (Huron and Wabash in Chicago) for the inaugural address of the new “Consider This …” series, sponsored by the Sunday Evening Club, The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, Seabury-Western Seminary and St. James Cathedral.

I’ll be talking about grace and will be interviewed by my esteemed colleague and friend, Manya “The Seeker” Brachear of the Chicago Tribune.

A pre-reception begins at 5:15 p.m. Admission is free.


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