The Common Good

Blog Posts By Cathleen Falsani

Posted by Cathleen Falsani 17 weeks 1 hour ago
I’ll begin by cutting to the chase: Forget most of what you’ve read about Darren Aronofsky’s new film, Noah. It opens Friday. Go see it and decide for yourself.Having said that, in my opinion Aronofksy’s Noah is a beautiful, powerful, difficult film worthy of the “epic” label. A vivid, visually spectacular reimagining of an ancient story held as sacred by all three Abrahamic religious traditions, it also is the most spiritually nuanced, exquisitely articulated exploration of the ideas of justice and mercy I’ve ever seen on a movie screen.And despite what you may have heard elsewhere, Noah is deeply, passionately biblical.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 17 weeks 7 hours ago
Last Sunday in Los Angeles, Cathleen Falsani sat down with Ari Handel, a screenwriter and frequent collaborator with Noah director Darren Aronofsky, with whom he co-wrote the film and the graphic novel, Noah, upon which it was based, to discuss some of the extra-biblical elements of the $150 million movie.Longtime friends Handel and Aronofsky were suitemates at Harvard University. Before becoming a screenwriter and film producer, Handel was a neuroscientist. He holds a PhD in neurobiology from New York University. He was a producer on Aronofsky’s films Black Swan, The Wrestler, and The Fountain (which he co-wrote with Aronofsky), and had a small role as a Kabbalah scholar in the director’s debut film, 1998’s Pi.Editor’s Note: The following Q&A contains some spoilers about the film. It has been edited for length.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 19 weeks 2 days ago
To my mind, all of Wes Anderson’s films are masterpieces in the truest sense of that word. But his most recent creation, Grand Budapest Hotel, is, perhaps, his chef d’oeuvre.Anderson’s eighth feature-length film, which opened in limited release last week, Grand Budapest Hotel is a whimsical, hilarious, and surprisingly touching tale laden with nostalgia for a world and way of life most of us (including the 44-year-old director himself) never have experienced.Set in the fictional Eastern European mountain region known as the “Republic of Zubrowka,” the plot centers around the character and adventures of Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), the concierge of the eponymous Grand Budapest Hotel, one of Europe’s palatial “grand hotels. Gustave is something of a dandy, a throwback to a bygone era even in his heyday of the 1930s on the cusp of World War II.)
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 27 weeks 1 day ago
For a period in his younger life, the host of The Pete Holmes Show on TBS, which debuted late last year and follows Conan on late-night TV, was on a trajectory to become a youth pastor.“That’s why I went to Gordon,” Holmes said, referring to his alma mater — Gordon College in Massachusetts, an evangelical Christian school — during a conversation on my back porch in Laguna Beach earlier this month.“I wanted to be a pastor. I was going to be a youth pastor. I mean, I play guitar, I like to make people laugh. … The skill set of pastor and comedian are incredibly similar. You want to affect people. You’re good at reading rooms. You’re persuasive and you’re likable.”
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 35 weeks 1 day ago
In her book “The Funny Thing Is …,” Ellen DeGeneres describes being invited to God’s house for wine and cheese. When the Almighty walks into the room, Degeneres describes God this way:“I would say she was about 47, 48 years old, a beautiful, beautiful black woman. And we just immediately hugged.”When I think about the guardian angels who I’ve been told surround me like spiritual body guards, I picture the Angel In Charge as looking and sounding a lot like the Grammy-winning singer Mary J. Blige.How appropriate, then, that Blige portrays a character in the upcoming holiday film, Black Nativity, (based in part on the Langston Hughes play) who appears to be an angelic being with a huge platinum-blonde Afro, dressed head-to-toe in silver-colored leather.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 36 weeks 6 days ago
PASADENA, Calif. — The first thing most people mention when they talk about Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber is her tattoos. She has many — most of them religious in nature, including a large icon of Mary Magdalene covering her right forearm.Then they talk about how tall she is (6 foot 1), that she looks more like the lead singer of an all-girl punk rock band than a pastor and that she (unapologetically) swears a lot — even from the pulpit while preaching.All of the above is true and part of what makes Bolz-Weber unique among high-profile pastors and so-called “Christian authors.” (I hate that term. The word “Christian” is best used as a noun, not an adjective.)
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 37 weeks 2 days ago
Ann Romney is a gracious woman.Such is my first and lasting impression of Mitt Romney’s wife of 44 years and matriarch of a Romney clan that includes the couple’s five sons and more than 20 grandchildren.When I arrived at a Mormon bookstore on a recent Thursday evening, the line of fans waiting to get Romney’s autograph on her new book, The Romney Family Table: Sharing Home-Cooked Recipes and Favorite Traditions, extended around the block.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 38 weeks 3 days ago
Before I saw the new film 12 Years A Slave, I knew nothing about Solomon Northrop or his astounding story of courage, forbearance, and faith.I’d never heard of Northrop, an African-American freeman, who was born and reared in upstate New York in the early 1800s, well before the abolition of slavery in the rest of the nation. I’d not known of the historical practice of kidnapping freeborn black Americans in the North and selling them into slavery in the South.I’d never heard about how Northrop, an accomplished violinist, was bamboozled into traveling from his farm in Hebron, N.Y., where he lived a prosperous life with his wife and three children, to Washington, D.C., for work, but was drugged, kidnapped, and sold in Louisiana. I’d never heard how he remained for a dozen years before heroically regaining his freedom in 1853 — one of a very few kidnapped freemen and freewomen ever to regain their freedom.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 40 weeks 2 days ago
One morning each week, I ascend the outdoor staircase on the side of our little church and enter the Upper Room – a cozy, loftlike space above the pastors’ offices set apart for prayer.Once inside, I turn up the volume on my phone, choose “Taize” or “Gregorian Chants” from the iTunes playlists, pull out my knitting and begin to pray.The subject of my silent prayers is usually the person for whom I’m making the scarf or blanket or shawl. The prayers are as simple as the stitches and after a minute or two, they become as steady and unconscious as my breathing:“Lord, I lift to you your child.” And then I say his or her name.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 44 weeks 3 days ago
When I see him smiling on TV or on the cover of a magazine in the checkout line at the grocery store, I get the warm fuzzies.I follow him religiously on Twitter and have a Google news alert set up so I don’t miss a morsel of his latest awesomeness.The photo meme of him smiling gape-mouthed at a little girl accompanied by the words, “You love Jesus too?!” is my screensaver, and I wear a pendant with a tiny image of him on one side and of St. Francis on the other.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 45 weeks 1 day ago
If there were such a thing as “spiritual hazard pay” for columnists, I would be filing a claim after watching the first two episodes of the new series “Snake Salvation,” which debuts Tuesday, Sept. 10, on the National Geographic Channel.God, I hate snakes. I find them utterly repellent; always have. When I was a toddler, my parents had to carry me out of the snake house at the zoo so I would stop screaming as if someone were trying to kill me.Were it not for professional obligation — you’re welcome, by the way — you would sooner have found me shaving my head with a straight razor than watching a couple of hours of television dedicated to snake handling and its (alleged) spiritual import.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 46 weeks 7 hours ago
One of my favorite stories is about the interview I wanted most, but didn’t get.It was 2005 and I had just signed a contract to write what would be my first book — a collection of profiles of mostly well-known people about their spiritual lives. Artists. Writers. Thinkers. Scientists. The odd rock star.Sitting in my publisher’s office, she asked me to dream out loud: If I could interview anyone for the project, who was No. 1 on my wish list?I answered without hesitation: Seamus Heaney.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 46 weeks 2 days ago
This world is so beautifulFor no reason at allWhen life circles aroundAnd you can’t see straight– from “Can’t See Straight” by Sam Phillips"Push Any Button,” the first new physical album in five years from singer-songwriter Sam Phillips, is a blithe, fetching exploration of life’s flip side — after the flush of youth, after the heartbreak, after the bottom falls out and the road bends and you head in a wholly unexpected direction that turns out to be exactly where you need to be.“Push Any Button,” which dropped Aug. 13, looks to the future by examining the past, viewing both through a lens of stubborn (and optimistic) grace.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 48 weeks 3 days ago
Wither Walter White?How the morality tale of a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who transforms himself (first by desperation and then through sheer hubris) into a cold-blooded, Machiavellian drug kingpin will end is what legions of fans of AMC’s Emmy-winning Breaking Bad want to know.But after the first episode of the series’ final season aired on Aug. 11, the answer to what happens to Walter White (Bryan Cranston) remains a mystery — at least for another seven weeks.Since its debut in January 2008, Breaking Bad has taken its audience on a spiritual journey — following Walt’s soul on a slow, steady descent into a hell of his own creation.“Fleeting moments of possible restoration for Walter occur throughout the series,” Blake Atwood writes in the new book The Gospel According to Breaking Bad, which was released as an e-book to coincide with the season premiere.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 50 weeks 28 min ago
Don’t sing love songs, you’ll wake my motherShe’s sleeping here right by my sideAnd in her right hand a silver dagger,She says that I can’t be your bride.— from “Silver Dagger” by Joan BaezIt was their song — the young, winsome brunette and her silver-pated lover with the sparkly eyes.“All the love and all the death in me are at the moment wound up in Joan Baez’s ‘Silver Dagger,’” the man wrote to his lady love in 1966. “I can’t get it out of my head, day or night. I am obsessed with it. My whole being is saturated with it. The song is myself — and yourself for me, in a way.”He yearned for her. He was heartbroken. And he was Thomas Merton — the Trappist monk, celebrated author, and perhaps most influential American Catholic of the 20th century.It’s a chapter of the thoroughly modern mystic’s life that is no secret to his legions of fans, detractors, and scholars of his prolific work, including the best-selling autobiography, The Seven-Storey Mountain.Now Merton’s complex love life is the subject of a forthcoming feature film, The Divine Comedy of Thomas Merton.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 50 weeks 6 days ago
Rather than a Third Great Awakening I believe we are standing in the threshold of a Great Grace Awakening. It’s a move of the Holy Spirit drawing people away from legalistic and fear-based beliefs to a place some of us would call grace.On the surface, it may seem to fly in the face of some traditional Judeo-Christian ethics. But it is aligned with a broader, more universal ethic that seems to be developing around genuine Christian love and grace — the very essence of Jesus’ ministry and what makes it so revolutionary — as guiding principles.Grace is the reason for the incarnation. God became human and walked in our sandals because God knows us and wants us to be known.Grace says that there is nothing we could ever do that would make God love us less. And grace tells us that there’s nothing we could ever do that would make God love us more. You are loved simply because you are and for all of who you are. Full stop.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 3 weeks ago
The first thing I did when I read the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in the cases involving the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Prop 8 on Thursday morning was offer a silent prayer.It was short — just two words — completely heartfelt and probably far more eloquent than anything I’ll manage to write in this space today.“Thank you,” I told God. 
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 4 weeks ago
“Listen to the words,” the young woman behind me stage-whispered to her chatty date. “Are you listening?”He wasn’t. But I was and so was most of the rapt, standing-room-only crowd that crammed the Greek Theatre at UC Berkeley for the second of three sold-out Mumford & Sons concerts late last month.This is what I had come for — not just a concert, but a shared experience with a congregation of strangers (and a few friends).
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 8 weeks ago
Look for a billboard on the right and a sign on your left. There’s a dirt road. Turn there.In this part of the world, most of the streets have no names. So the directions we were given to find the new compound where my son’s Malawian relatives relocated a few months earlier were pretty specific given the circumstances.We had hoped to be able to visit with Vasco’s 16-year-old half-brother, Juma, his Aunt Esme, and a handful of cousins and other relations for a couple of hours. By the time we found the family’s new compound, we had less than an hour before we had to get back on the road, meet the rest of our traveling companions, and head north before the sun fell.I was heartbroken. But when we pulled up in our van, Vasco’s relatives were so happy to see us (and vice versa) that even the woefully short visit felt richly blessed. It had been three years since we’d seen each other. The last time was in May 2010 when Vasco, my husband, and I traveled from California to Blantyre for our adoption hearing. We spent a month in Blantyre and were able to get to know Vasco’s extended family (or, sadly, what remains of it) and begin piecing together our son’s complicated biography.Since our last visit, Vasco, now 13, has grown about a foot and then some. He’s also traded his close-cropped “Obama cut” for Bob Marley-esque locks. Vasco wasn’t the only one who’d changed – visibly and otherwise.Malawi is one of the poorest countries on the planet, with more than 9 million people living on about $1.25 a day. HIV/AIDS, which we believe claimed the lives of Vasco’s birth parents before he would have entered kindergarten, remains a critical health issue. Among 15- to 49-year-olds, the HIV/AIDS rate hovers above 10 percent despite widespread efforts to combat the fully preventable disease.Malaria, tuberculosis, and diarrhea-related fatalities remain high in Malawi. So does unemployment, particularly among younger workers in urban areas such as Blantyre, where it is approximately 70 percent.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 8 weeks ago
In his two months as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, Pope Francis has captured the imagination not only of his own flock, but that of the world at large.Many of us, Catholic or not, seem to hang on his every word both for spiritual guidance and clues to the personality of the man we collectively are getting to know as perhaps the most recognizable Christian on the planet.Two new books offer further insights into the heart and mind of the former Jorge Bergoglio through his own words. Both are fascinating reads for papal watchers and news junkies alike, painting a vivid portrait of the man, the leader, and the humble follower of Christ.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 10 weeks ago
In her 1968 poem, “The Speed of Darkness,” the late American poet Muriel Rukeyser penned the line, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”While the medium is different, a new feature-length documentary, Girl Rising, also bares witness to the same truth in poetic images and stories of girls from around the world.Through the vivid accounts of nine girls from the developing world — Cambodia, Nepal, Peru, Afghanistan, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Haiti, and India — and their valiant struggles for the right to be educated, Girl Rising articulates a universal truth: Educating girls ensures a safer, healthier and more prosperous world for all of us.The film, a project of the 10×10 Campaign to educate and empower girls, paired a girl in each locale with an accomplished writer — novelists, journalists, and screenwriters — from their own developing country to help craft and tell the stories in the girls’ own words.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 11 weeks ago
“I find hypocrisy all over our lives – especially mine – and certainly in the church. … I think Jesus loves everybody. Everybody. The second we call somebody a ‘nonbeliever,’ we have put a wall up between us and them. They are all children of God.”With a wink and a crazy-eyed smile, Shadyac was, ostensibly, calling the crowd on its own … uh … baloney.“Forgive me, I’m personally a little tired – God’s not, but I am – of khaki-wearing, Docker-delivering, Christianity,” he said. “If you’re out there in Dockers or khakis: God loves you, but I’m still a work in progress.”And, when given the chance, Shadyac gently corrected the tacit implication that Hollywood is Babylon.“You know what I would say to the church, to you guys, if I had to? ‘Come on. Let’s stop it,’” the director began. “We have become so whitewashed that when I literally say the word ‘ass’ – which is actually in the anatomical dictionary – because we are so born of the Puritan fear [you freak out]. Guess what? God made the ass. He made the ass.“You’ve just gotta get over that. I don’t believe the world is godless. Because if I believe in omnipresence and omniscience, and I take the Word at its word, that God is in EV-ERY-THING,” he said. “When another person is loving another person, God is all over their lives. I don’t need to judge them and to tell them where God is in or out or what words they need to say. That is not up to me.”
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 11 weeks ago
Class began at dusk in a dimly lit studio facing Pacific Coast Highway as the yoga teacher appeared, adjusting the shawl draped around his shoulders, and took his seat on a quilted meditation pillow.Because the sun was setting behind him, the teacher appeared in silhouette. I could only hear his voice as he guided us through the 90-minute Kundalini yoga class – a series of meditations, chanting, vigorous breathing exercises, and asanas (or postures).“I want you to know that this is a safe place,” the teacher, Cole “Raahi” Jacobs, told us midway through class. “You can feel whatever you need to feel. You are safe here.”I did. I was.At the beginning of the year, I embarked on a two-month sabbatical to recover from a rough 2012. I needed to recharge, and resolved to rest, spend time with the people I love most, and find some kind of physical practice that would be restorative.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 13 weeks ago
Many of today’s evangelical Christians seem to be taking to heart the words traditionally attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”Or at least they were at the recent Q Conference here, a gathering of more than a few of the most influential and innovative mover-shakers of the evangelical world.Over the course of two days in a format similar to the popular TED talks, the speakers spoke passionately more about what they were doing to make the world a better place than they did about getting more butts into pews on any given Sunday. 
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 16 weeks ago
Labels can be helpful when, for instance, applied to cans of soup or barrels of toxic waste. But they are less so when affixed to human beings – particularly when labels are meant to summarize, indelibly, one’s spiritual identity.In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Marcus Mumford, the 26-year-old lead singer of the wildly successful British band Mumford & Sons, raised the hackles of religious folks (in some quarters) when he declined to claim the “Christian” label as his own.You see, Marcus is the son of John and Eleanor Mumford, who are the national leaders of the Vineyard Church in the U.K. and Ireland, an arm of the international evangelical Christian Vineyard Movement. Last year, he married actress Carey Mulligan, whom he’d met years earlier at a Christian youth camp.And the music of Mumford & Sons, for which Mumford is the main lyricist, is laden with the themes and imagery of faith – often drawing specifically upon the Christian tradition. They explore relationships with God and others; fears and doubts; sin, redemption, and most of all, grace.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 21 weeks ago
This week, in the run-up to Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, we've been taking a look at each of the Best Picture nominees, the stories they tell, and the spiritual questions (and answers) they offer. In today's final installment, we turn our attention to Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 22 weeks ago
The fragility of life. The servanthood of love. The (im)morality of war. The fundamentals of mercy and justice. The power of grace and forgiveness. The oneness of creation. The personal (and spiritual) toll of climate change. The nature of God and faith. These are some of the spiritual themes explored in the mostly august field of nine contenders for the 2013 Academy Award for Best Picture — Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty.This week, in the run-up to Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, we're taking a look at each of the Best Picture nominees, the stories they tell, and the spiritual questions (and answers) they offer. Today we turn our attention to Django Unchained, Les Miserables, and Life of Pi.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 22 weeks ago
The fragility of life. The servanthood of love. The (im)morality of war. The fundamentals of mercy and justice. The power of grace and forgiveness. The oneness of creation. The personal (and spiritual) toll of climate change. The nature of God and faith.These are some of the spiritual themes explored in the mostly august field of nine contenders for the 2013 Academy Award for Best Picture -- Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty.2012 was an extraordinary year for film. This year's Best Picture field is perhaps stronger than it's been in recent memory, replete with nuance and substance, each film presenting a uniquely compelling and memorable tale that both informs and reflects our culture, sensibilities, and challenges.A few of the nominated films employ overtly religious ideas and language (Life of Pi, Les Miserables, Lincoln), while others tackle daunting ethical issues that speak to our deepest identities and values (Argo, Djano Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty), or explore the sacred landscape of friendship, family, and unconditional love (Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Silver Linings Playbook.)For the next three days, we'll look at each of the Best Picture nominees, the stories they tell, and the spiritual questions (and answers) they offer.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 24 weeks ago
There are two personality flaws that I consider to be more or less fatal: being cheap and being unkind to the wait staff.By “cheap,” I don’t mean frugal. I’m talking about the kind of economic stinginess that goes far beyond being a good steward of your budget and resources. Cheap is miserly, selfish, and, I believe, based in fear. And nothing good is wrought when fear is your motivation.Another word to describe this kind of cheap is more commonly employed in British English than in our own American lexicon: “mean.” Meanness connotes the habit of being ungenerous and petty. This meanness is what the first fatal flaw and the second have in common. If you are rude, condescending, or just plain nasty to your server in a restaurant, it is, in the immortal words of Liz Lemon who crossed over last week into the eternity of syndication, a deal breaker.The only thing worse than being cheap and nasty to the wait staff is invoking your religious beliefs to justify your actions. And that is, sadly, precisely what one pastor did when she attempted to stiff her waitress after church one recent Sunday night at a Missouri Applebee’s.On Jan. 25, Alois Bell, pastor of the tiny Word Deliverance Ministries church in St. Louis, headed to the local Applebee’s with nine of her congregants – four other adults and five children – for a post-worship dinner. When the unidentified server returned with the bill for $39.43 at the end of the meal, Bell crossed out the automatic 18 percent gratuity (added to parties of six or more), wrote in the tip amount of “0” and the following handwritten message: “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?” Then she signed the credit card receipt “Pastor Alois Bell.”
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 30 weeks ago
For a child has been born for us,    a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders;    and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.~ Isaiah 9:6On the flight home from Connecticut, where we’d buried my beloved father a few days before Thanksgiving, I watched the film Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and dissolved into a wailing heap of tears and snot.The premise of the uneven dramedy starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley is this: An massive asteroid named Matlilda is on a collision course with planet Earth and in three weeks’ time, the world will come to an end.  The main characters and others decide how – and with whom – they want to spend the last days of their lives.Given recent events, this led to some soul searching on my part. If I had three weeks to live, what would I do? Where would I go? Who would I want to make sure I saw?  With whom would I want to share my last breaths?For most of my life the answer has been the same: I’d want to be with my family and, in particular, with my father.Which is why I ended up bawling my eyes out for the last 90 minutes of the flight home to Los Angeles, much to the dismay of the fellow in the middle seat next to me.  If I had three weeks to live today, I wouldn’t be able to spend any of those moments with Daddy.He’s in the More, now. On the other side of the veil. In Heaven. Resting in peace. With Jesus.And I will have to wait until my earthly life ends to see him again face-to-face.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 31 weeks ago
Dear Sojourners friends,I have some news to share with you that is difficult (for me at least) but wanted you to hear it from the horse’s (or mama bear’s) mouth: Today is my last day as Sojourners' Web Editor and Director of New Media.Change is hard. There is always a certain lamenting that comes with it, even when the change is, on many levels, a good thing. This was a difficult decision but one I felt I had to make in order to follow the lead of the Spirit. Our CEO Jim Wallis received the news of my impending departure with great grace, love and support. For Jim's friendship, I am ever blessed and thankful.See the thing is, as many of you know, I didn’t become a mother until about four years ago when my husband, Maury, and I welcomed home our boy, Vasco, whom we adopted from Malawi. Vasco, is now 13 and, as any parent of teenagers will tell you, they need their mamas during these transitional boy-to-man/girl-to-woman years perhaps more than ever before, even as they are sprouting their independent wings and pulling away from their parental units.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 32 weeks ago
This Christmas, for the spirituality-and-pop-culture enthusiasts on your gifting list, consider the following: Be kind and rewind.Give them the gift that keeps on giving ... long after the series has been cancelled.Rev. The Vicar of Dibley. Saving Grace. Davey and Goliath. Pushing Daisies. Six Feet Under. The Book of Daniel. Lie to me. Lost. And Northern Exposure.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 34 weeks ago
When I think of weavers, what comes to my mind are the ladies in the back of the knitting store in my Southern California hometown, the ones who hang out on weekend afternoons with their handlooms – weaving cloth shawls, blankets, or the occasional modern tapestry.Here, weaving is, by and large, a pastime. Some would call it an art form. The ladies in the back of the knitting shop are craft weavers. We might consider them "artisans" and laud them for mastering the truly ancient craft.In the West, machines do most of the commercial weaving, not people. In Ethiopia, and elsewhere in the developing world, handloom weaving is most often an occupation for men and one that isn't usually heralded for its artistry. Weaving isn’t a prestigious job and, by and large, those who weave are the working poor.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 36 weeks ago
"Do you think he'll sing?" the girl in the row behind me wondered aloud."I hope so," the young fellow beside her said before continuing, "My dad would freak. He was a big fan of U2 when I was growing up. He used to play this one album, The Joshua Tree, over and over again."His father was a fan.I am a thousand years old, I thought to myself, as more Georgetown students filled the seats around me at the university's 111-year-old Gaston Hall, the main lecture hall on campus named after Georgetown's first student, William Gaston, who later served as a member of the U.S. Congress.The hall, decorated with stunning art-deco-era frescos and the crest of every Jesuit institute of higher learning, has hosted many dignitaries over the years, including Presidents Obama and Clinton, Vice-President Al Gore, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to name but a few."So if he's not going to sing, is he just going to talk," another student asked, with a distinct whiff of disappointment in his voice."I hear he's an awesome speaker, though," still another student said.The students who packed the auditorium, many of them from Georgetown's Global Social Enterprise Initiative at the McDonough School of Business and more than a few donning black t-shirts with the insignia of the ONE Campaign (of which Bono is a co-founder), weren't sure what to expect from the famous Irish rock star and humanitarian.A concert? A lecture? Another boring speech?I'm fairly certain none of the students present for Monday night's event, sponsored by the Bank of America and The Atlantic magazine, anticipated hearing Bono, the 52-year-old lead singer of U2, preach.But preach he did.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 36 weeks ago
Back home in California, we recently purchased one of those one-cup-at-a-time Kuerig coffee makers after running through two high-end traditional coffee machines in 18 months. (Two writers in one house equals a high rate of coffee consumption.) While I think it was the proper choice for us – we waste less coffee this way, and have bought one of those reusable pods so that we’re not always using recyclable-but-still-plastic-and-not-terribly-ethical disposable pods pre-filled with the coffee of our choice.I brought home a pound or so of ground coffee from Ethiopia and we’ve tried to get the amount of grounds and water pressure just right to replicate the drink I’d had in Africa.Nothing doing.Ethiopian coffee ceremony a la Keurig is too fast, too easy, and much too weak in myriad ways. In coffee ceremonies back in Africa, the beans were ground by hand with a mortar and pestle. They’d be uneven. Chunky. When steeped, the coffee needed to be sieved over and over to make the final product perfectly potable. It took time, patience, and a practiced hand. It also required a different kind of regard for the act itself: the woman preparing the coffee wasn't simply making a drink. She was presiding over something humble and holy.Even if I could replicate the grounds (I do have a Le Creuset mortar and pestle that mostly serves as decoration on my kitchen window sill), and sieved the elixir until it was just right, it still wouldn’t be.Why? No frankincense and all the sacred intention that comes with it.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 36 weeks ago
By the time President Obama walked off the stage at Chicago’s McCormick Place after delivering his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning, pundits already were screaming HERE COMES THE FISCAL CLIFF!And while it might have been a nice idea to take a collective breath after such a divisive election season before new screeching began, the pundits were not wrong.Be warned: The Fiscal Cliff approaches. On Jan. 2, 2013, to be exact.Now, I am many things, but an economist (or even a person remotely comfortable with numbers) is not one of them. So let me explain to those of you who are like me, in the simplest terms possible, what this proverbial cliff is all about.In the wake of the debt ceiling crisis last summer, Congress and President Obama agreed to enter into negotiations to enact a 10-year deficit reduction package in excess of $1.2 trillion.If an agreement could not be reached, a mandatory, across-the-board reduction in spending (also known as “sequester” or “sequestration”) would occur. All discretionary and entitlement spending -- with a few exceptions -- would be subject to sequestration....Under sequestration, the U.S. foreign aid that has made such a tremendous difference in Ethiopia and in the lives of countless millions of desperately poor Africans (and others) is in grave jeopardy.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 37 weeks ago
From the Man in Black to the Beastie Boys and everything in between -- we give you a little compilation of video salve to help you get through election night.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 38 weeks ago
For our brothers and sisters on the East Coast, in the path of the storm they call "Sandy," I've put together a little music for you to help pass the time. Sending you prayers of protection, peace, and grace (and, I hope, more than a bit of musical joy and solace) from the shores of the Pacific here in California at the SoJo West office.Inside the blog, there are 30 videos. For those of you with power (and an Internet connection), I hope it helps pass the time and maybe even gets you to get up and dance a little in your living rooms.Here's the song and video the playlist begins with: "No Storms Come" by our Sojo friends, The Innocence Mission:
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 38 weeks ago
God Girl's New Favorite Thing for Oct. 25, 2012: Two Irish boys cover Rihanna's "We Found Love (in a Hopeless Place)" who are these talented young lads?UPDATE: WE FOUND 'EM!More info from the singer's father inside the blog...
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 39 weeks ago
LALIBELA, Ethiopia -- You know the images you have in your mind of Ethiopia from 27 years ago? The ones from the nightly news reports on TV about the famine in the Horn of Africa as the death toll mounted and horror stories grew more unfathomable by the day.Scorched, cracked earth. The carcasses of ematiated, dead cattle lying in the baking sun. Hundreds of thousands of stick-thin refugees wandering in the dust, hoping to have enogh strength to make it to a camp that might have water and food. The babies and children with orange hair and distended stomachs -- indications that they were in the advanced stages of malnutrition and starvation.I am happy to report that the Ethiopia of 2012 is not the Ethiopia of 1985.Thanks to global efforts (Live Aid, etc., back in the day), foreign aid, and the very real efforts of the Ethiopian government and people themselves, the land I saw earlier this month looks nothing like those old images in my mind. In fact, parts of the country that we traveled through were so verdent and lush -- farmlands rolling out in various shades of green like a St. Patrick's Day quilt  -- that if you'd blindfolded me when I got on the plane and taken the blind of when I stepped of the bus in the rural area outside Bahir Dar near the Sudanese border, I might have thought I was in Ireland's County Kerry rather than Ethiopia's Amhara Region.Ethiopia is beautiful. In every way. It's people. It's resilience. It's ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. In the way it cares for its land and its people, and the way they care for each other and their visitors. There is a spirit in Ethiopia I've experienced only rarely elsewhere. In a word I'd call it HOPE. But it's a hope not based on daydreams and fairytales. It's a hope based in hard work, smart planning, and forward thinking.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 39 weeks ago
In an OpEd that appeared on POLITICO Monday, Mike Huckabee, the former Republican governor of Arkansas, and Blanche Lincoln, the former Democratic senator from Arkansas -- who together co-chair ONE Vote 2012, a non-partisan campaign to make global health and extreme poverty foreign policy priorities in the 2012 presidential election, wrote about the importance of maintaining U.S. foreign aid to the developing world that has helped make significant improvements in the health and sustainability of myriad nations, including many on the continent of Africa.They wrote, in part:It might come as a surprise to learn that less than one percent of the U.S. budget is spent on foreign assistance. It might even be shocking to discover that, despite this relatively small amount, these funds are literally saving millions of lives and improving the lives of many more millions of people. For example, American investments in cost-effective vaccines will help save nearly 4 million children’s lives from preventable diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea over the next five years. We’ve also helped to deliver 290 million mosquito nets to Malaria-stricken countries, and put 46 million children in school for the very first time. And thanks to the leadership of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, 8 million HIV/AIDS patients now have access to life-saving treatments, up from just 300,000 a decade ago, making an AIDS-free generation a real possibility within our lifetimes. 
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 39 weeks ago
More American Catholics believe their religious leaders should be focused on issues related to poverty and social justice during this election season, rather than spending time and energy on other issues such as abortion, according to a new survey released this week by the Public Religion Research Institute.The results of the 2012 American Values Survey demonstrate that American Catcholics -- and the "Catholic vote" -- is far from the monolith some politicians might like to believe they are."The survey confirms that there is no such thing as the 'Catholic vote,'" Robert P. Jones, CEO of PPRI and co-author of the report, told Reuters. "There are a number of critical divisions among Catholics, including an important divide between 'social justice' and "right to life' Catholics."For instance, on the question of the public engagement of the church, the 2012 American Values Survey found important divisions between Catholics who prefer a “social justice” emphasis that focuses on helping the poor and Catholics who prefer a “right to life” emphasis that focuses on issues such as abortion.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 40 weeks ago
LAKE TANA, Ethiopia — Spirituality imbues every corner of Ethiopian culture, from its music and dance, to its artwork and even its unrivaled rich-as-the-earth coffee. Home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world (having adopted Christianity as its official state religion in the 4th century), the sites and sounds of Christendom were ubiquitous wherever we traveled in country this month. Art and iconography — both ancient and modern — from Ethiopian Orthodoxy (also known as Tawahedo or "being made one" in the Ge'ez language that remains the official language of the Orthodox liturgy here) were ever-present — in shops, restaurants, and hotel lobbies as well as in the myriad churches and monasteries, and the sounds of ancient Christian prayers and the chants of monks filled the air from the capital city of Addis Ababa to the kebeles (or neighborhoods) on the outskirts of Bahir Dar, another major city about 60 km from the Sudanese border.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 40 weeks ago
God Girl's New Favorite Thing for Oct. 12, 2012:Ethiopian Pop StarTeddy AfroADDIS ABABA — Pretty much everywhere we've gone in Ethiopia this week, we've heard Teddy Afro's voice.The 36-year-old Ethiopian singer whose given name is Tewodros Kassahun or ቴዎድሮስ ካሳሁን in Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia, is sometimes referred to as the "Michael Jackson of Ethiopia." But, to my ear at least, he's more the equivalent of, say, Ethiopia's Usher (if he were more political, that is.)Afro's debut album, 2001's Abugida, spawned several hit singles, including "Halie Selassie" (his tribute to the late Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie I), and "Haile, Haile," which honored Ethiopian Olympic runner Haile Gebrselassie.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 40 weeks ago
BAHIR DAR, Ethiopia — When I posted this photograph of a beautiful little Ethiopian girl holding a daisy a few days ago, my friend and fellow God's Politics blogger Christian Piatt responded on Twitter with a four-word comment:"The Face of God."Christian's remark stopped me in my tracks ... because it's absolutely true.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 41 weeks ago
Speak out for those who cannot speak,for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously,defend the rights of the poor and needy.~ Proverbs 31:8-9ADDIS ABABA — These words of King Solomon have been running through my mind since our ONE Moms delegation — 13 mothers from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France — arrived in the Ethiopian capital on Sunday.I hear these verses as a clarion call to action. As someone who strives humbly to follow the Way of Jesus and be involved in The Work that God is doing in the world, I want to respond and do what these verses command.And as a believer who also happens to be a mother (a fairly novice one, still learning the ropes, if you will), I must do.Sunday afternoon, after us ONE Moms dropped our luggage at the hotel, piled into our chartered bus, and drove to the outskirts of the city to the Mary Joy Aid Through Development Association, we met our Ethiopian sisters who are speaking out for those who cannot; who are advocating on behalf of the destitute, judging with righteous wisdom, and defending the rights of the poor and the needy.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 41 weeks ago
In 2007, I boarded a plane bound for Africa for the first time.That trip took me to Kenya, Tanzania, the island of Zanzibar, and Malawi.And that trip changed me — heart, mind, soul — forever transforming my family and my world.Today, five years almost to the day since I flew to Nairobi to begin my first African adventure, I'm sitting in the international terminal of Dulles airport in Washington, D.C., waiting to board a 787 Dreamliner bound for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.An adventure lies ahead. And yet, so much more than that.I've been to Africa twice now (this is my third visit to continent), and each time the people I've met and experiences I've had on the journey — all of it dripping with a grace so palpable I could almost smell it like so much sandalwood smoke wafting from an incenser — have shaped me and recalibrated my spirit.I don't know specifically what Ethiopia has in store for me, but I am sure of one thing: The Spirit will be there.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 42 weeks ago
Maybe you've heard the buzz...On Sunday, Sojourners' CEO Jim Wallis appeared on WABC-TV's Up Close news program in New York City to debate Pamela Geller of the Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America, who put up ads in NYC subway stations that read, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."Like many other folks of good faith, we at Sojourners were horrified by the blatantly hate-filled ads. We decided to do something to counter hate and fear with love and affirmation for our Muslim brothers and sisters. Last week, we began raising funds to purchase our own ad campaign in NYC subways with a simple message: "Love your Muslim neighbors."Their debate got lively.See for yourself inside the blog ...
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 42 weeks ago
God Girl's New Favorite Thing for Sept. 27, 2012: Northern Ireland's Rend Collective ExperimentI love music. I love Jesus. And I love all things Irish.So when a friend introduced me to Rend Collective Experiment last year, chances were pretty good that I'd vibe with this band from the North of Ireland (Bangor, to be specific.)But ... and this was a BIG but ... my musical proclivities, while decidedly ecclectic, generally steer clear of contemporary Christian worship music (especially if it's billed as such.) When it comes to having a musical worship experience, give me Chris Martin and his bandmates, or those other four greying boyos from a little farther south in the Republic of Ireland.Without putting too fine a point on it, Rend Collective are very much a contemporary Christian worship band. But they aren't what you're thinking.Neither painfully earnest nor woefully twee. They're fun and funky — earthy, too, in a grab-your-banjo-and-trilby-hat kind of a way.
Posted by Cathleen Falsani 1 year 42 weeks ago
"High nigh br-eye-n, K-eye"? Come again? Rend Collective and Bart Millard (of the band MercyMe) give us a lesson in how to speak Northern Irish.http://youtu.be/-S9R6CspOvs