Posts Tagged With: falsani

Cry of a Tiny Baby: Merry Christmas, Everyone!

“The idea that there’s a force of love and logic behind the universe is overwhelming to start with, if you believe it,” he told me in his raspy brogue, sipping black coffee out of a Styrofoam cup. “But the idea that the same love and logic would choose to describe itself as a baby born in shit and straw and poverty is genius. And it brings me to my knees, literally. To me, as a poet, I’m just in awe of that. It makes some sort of poetic sense. It’s the thing that makes me a believer, although it didn’t dawn on me for many years.”

- Bono on Christmas and the Incarnation from The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People (p. 10) by Cathleen Falsani. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. Kindle Edition.

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Join GG for Girls Night Out in Irvine, California TONITE!

Hey Y’all:

I’ve been MIA for weeks – slammed with family obligations, work and a much-needed vacation. So distracted, in fact, that I forgot to tell you that I’ll be speaking tonite at Mariners Church in Irvine, Calif., for its Girls Night Out. The topic of my talk is “Gracespotting.” I’ll be sharing the best story I know and a few others from my time on the “God Beat.”

Here are the deets:
7 to 8:30 p.m.

Friday, April 27, 2012
Mariners Church, the Upper Room
5001 Newport Coast Dr.
Irvine California 92603-0164
949.769.8100

For more information (it’s only $5, cuz I’m a cheap date, apparently) please click HERE.

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GODSTUFF: The mirror has two faces

Six years ago, I sat down with a young Illinois state senator for a lengthy interview about his faith. At the time, the fresh-faced politician with an unusual name was still toiling in relative obscurity in Chicago.

When my “spiritual profile” of Barack Obama ran in the Chicago Sun-Times, it was greeted with modest interest, mostly for the novelty of a Democratic candidate speaking at length about religion.

That all changed a few months later, when Obama, by then a candidate for the U.S. Senate, delivered an electrifying keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention and began an international meteoric rise.

Ever since Obama’s keynote address, scarcely a day has gone by when I haven’t received at least a couple of e-mails from curious readers asking about my interview with Obama. I thought such interest had reached its zenith during the 2008 presidential race when Obama was subjected to a religious litmus test by both the far right and the far left.

Silly me.

With the release of a Pew poll showing that nearly one in five Americans believes Obama is a Muslim (rather than the Christian he professes to be), and the president’s comments affirming the right of Muslims to build an Islamic center near Ground Zero, I’ve seen a virtual tidal wave of renewed interest in that old interview.

To date, it remains the longest and most-exhaustive interview Obama has ever granted on the subject of his faith. Although Obama talked honestly about his “Christian faith and a personal relationship with Jesus,” he didn’t give pat, easy answers.

Thousands of pundits, from loud-hailers like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to average-Joe armchair political enthusiasts, have unearthed the transcript of my 2004 interview. Hundreds have e-mailed me directly to share their conclusions about the president’s spiritual predilections.

And this is where it gets interesting.

Depending on who is doing the reading, two polar-opposite portraits of Obama as a man of faith have emerged. Many conclude he is, in fact, a spiritual charlatan who says he is a Christian but who is actually something wholly “other.” A Muslim. A Universalist. A secular humanist. Perhaps even, as more than a few have suggested, the Anti-Christ.

Still others look at that old interview and see the portrait of a man of complex, complicated, and a modern, modest Christian faith. They see a person of faith much like themselves, for whom traditional labels of “liberal,” “conservative,” “progressive,” and “devout” do not apply — at least not neatly.

“I’m rooted in the Christian tradition,” Obama told me. “I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”

My interview with Obama has elicited more response than anything else I’ve written in more than 15 years as a journalist. Why? That’s a question that persists for me as a journalist and, more poignantly, as a person of faith.

Why are we so fascinated with the faith of celebrities in general, and politicians in particular? It goes far beyond an interest in what religious beliefs might tell us about the moral character of the leader of the free world. And it surpasses our national pastime of celebrity voyeurism.

In the case of President Obama, it is, to me, a wholly spiritual phenomenon.

The Obama interview is a mirror that readers hold up to themselves. What they see in it, and the conclusions they draw from it, say far more about the condition of their souls than the president’s.

The curious and the malicious alike see themselves reflected in Obama’s statements about his faith. Either they find a kindred spirit or a supernatural enemy, depending on the preconceived political and spiritual notions established long before they began reading the interview transcript.

They do not take the president — who has never publicly claimed to be anything other than a simple Christian — at face value. They believe their own faces, reflected brilliantly or grotesquely in the mirror of Obama’s naked words, to be the gospel truth (pun intended.)

They see only what they want to see.

As I read some of the thousands of new responses to Obama’s interview about his faith (and doubts) that were sent my way in recent days, I am reminded of something another Christian Chicagoan, evangelist Dwight L. Moody, said more than a century ago.

“Of 100 men, one will read the Bible,” Moody said. “The 99 will read the Christian.”

Moody meant it as a caution, not an endorsement.

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See the thing is …

Before I went on CNN live this afternoon to talk about the current debate about President Obama’s faith, one of my best friends handed me a cool bottle of water and a copy of Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation, which she had marked with a post-it note on the chapter titled, “Faith.”

I had hoped (alas) that the anchor would ask good questions and that I could, at some point, make reference to the following quotes:

First of all, faith is not an emotion, not a feeling. It is not a blind subconscious urge toward something vaguely supernatural. It is not simply an elemental need in man’s spirit. It is not a feeling that God exists. It is not a conviction that one is somehow saved or ‘justified’ for not special reason except that one happens to feel that way. It is not something entirely interior and subjective, with no reference to any external motive. It is not just ‘soul force.’ It is not something that bubbles up out of the recesses of your soul and fills you with an indefinable ‘sense’ that everything is all right. It is not something so purely yours that its content is incommunicable. It is not some personal myth of your own that you cannot share with anyone else, and the objective validity of which does not matter either to your or God or anybody else.

But also it is not an opinion. It is not a conviction based on rational analysis. It is not the fruit of scientific evidence. You can only believe what you do not know. As soon as you know it, you no longer believe it, at least not in the same way as you know it.

AND

Too often our notion of faith is falsified by our emphasis on the statements about God which faith believes, and by our forgetfulness of the fact that faith is a communion with God’s own light and truth. Actually, the statements, the propositions which faith accepts on the divine authority are simply media through which one passes in order to reach the divine Truth. Faith terminates not in a statement, not in a formula of words, but in God.

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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.

RSVP HERE

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Bolivar, Missouri – here I come.

This week, I’ll be spending some quality time in the Heartland, as a guest speaker at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO.

If you find yourself in that part of the world, I’ll be speaking at chapel Monday and Wednesday mornings, and delivering a lecture (on spirituality and pop culture) at 7 p.m. Monday in Pike Auditorium. At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, also in Pike Auditorium, the university will be screening the Coens’ “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and I’ll be hosting a Q&A session immediately following the film.

Both evening sessions are free and open to the public.

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