A Symbologist Speaks!

In my Religion Dispatches essay this week about Angels & Demons, I make a crack about the nonexistence of the hero’s stated academic discipline, “symbology.” But maybe I’m wrong. I think I’ve just found a symbologist. Trolling around on the Internet today, I found this Canadian Masonic website which denies the conventional wisdom that the…

Killing the Buddha

Very Special Forces

American political journalists tends to pooh-pooh generals on the way out and coo over them on the way in, much the same way business journalists persuade themselves that one Harvard MBA at the head of a company will somehow be different than the last Harvard MBA. So it’s gone with Obama’s new “Afpak” commander, Lt.…


Resounding through Manhattan

Today I had the great privilege to join members of Resonanda, Brown University’s medieval music ensemble, for their one-day, unannounced New York tour (before you continue, go to Resonanda’s MySpace page and put on one of their songs as you read). It began—where else—at The Cloisters, the museum in the form of a medieval monastery…


The Poem of Force

Some time ago, a dear friend shared with me a photocopy of some sections of Simone Weil’s essay The Iliad or The Poem of Force. I remember being haunted by those pages at the time, and I kept them in a safe and prominent place but never opened them again. Until, at least, the other…


The Good, The Bad and Bumping Uglys

Some thoughts on masturbation, Mailer, and the Good Book.

Killing the Buddha

Religion & Revisionism

There may be no right way to talk about the Holocaust, but there are certainly wrong ways — and the Catholic Church keeps finding them. Last month, an excommunicated bishop was let back in the fold despite his record of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. The Vatican claimed it didn’t know the worst of it, but…

Austria, 25,000 BCE

Who Are These Women?

Along the ramparts of the Brooklyn Museum’s Sackler Center for Feminist Art, there is a small exhibition of ancient female figurines, among them the oldest sculpture in the museum’s collection. What strange forms! Where are the supermodels, where are the Barbie dolls? At the confluence of second-wave feminism and post-Freudian psychohistory, the mid-twentieth century saw…

Icon of Saint Simeon the One-Eyed Tanner

Wayward Sheep

More schooled than churched, she wanted to try dying to the self, to grope for the Spirit under the water, and come up in grace. It was more awkward than that.

Mansur al-Hallaj hanged and stoned.

How to Make a Martyr

When a death becomes larger than life, memory hangs in the balance.

Shoah Memorial,  Jerusalem

Revising Night: Elie Wiesel and the Hazards of Holocaust Theology

Editors’ note: This essay was first published in April 2001, long before Oprah’s Book Club chose Night as its latest selection. Yet especially in light of doubts concerning the reliability of Oprah’s previous pick, the question raised here remains relevant: In making the Holocaust a matter of theological concern, does Elie Wiesel’s classic memoir court historical revisionism?

Jonathan Edwards

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Evangelical

Jonathan Edwards and the making of America.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Reading Niebuhr Instead

A Christian realist for the reality-based community.

"So what if you can't pin down the exact history of yoga..."

Yoga for Skeptics

Desperate for enlightenment, Westerners flock to India. But the modern yogis’ link to a mystical ancient lineage may be mere hocus pocus.

Page from the Gospel of Thomas, detail.

What It Is, What It Was

How many one true religions can dance on the head of a pin?

 An Easter service sponsored by US military chaplains, in the public plaza adjacent to the Imperial Palace, 1948.

Red Flags and Christian Soldiers

Operation Gospel – A primer from the last time the U.S. occupied foreign lands.

Scribes of an unfinished canon. Yiddish writers gathered in Vilna, Lithuania, 1919.

Canonizing Yiddish

Find me a find, catch me a catch, make me an anthology.

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection

Losing Their Religion?

The Salvation Army has been taking money from the government for years. But at what cost?

Artist's rendering of the proposed national German Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

An Immodest Proposal

The Berlin Holocaust memorial threatens closure for a wound the author wants to remain open.