They call me ..."God Girl."*
And I'll be your new tour guide here at God's Politics.
Some of you may know me by my more official byline, Cathleen Falsani. I've been a contributing editor and columnist for Sojourners Magazine for several years now, writing a column every other month called "Godstuff" and also have contributed from time to time to this'a'here blog.
For the better part of 20 years now, I've worked as a professional journalist. I was the religion writer for the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper from 2000-2010 and have also been a longtime columnist for Religion News Service in Washington, D.C., which makes my work available nationwide via its wire service. My very first job in journalism, which I secured just after graduating from Wheaton College in Illinois in 1992, was as assistant editor for Daughters of Sarah magazine, that vanguard quarterly journal of Christian feminist thought that is, sadly, no longer with us.
I'm also the author of four nonfiction books: The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People (2006), Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace (2008), The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers (2009), and my latest, published this month, BELIEBER!: Fame, Faith and the Heart of Justin Bieber (2011).
Since 2004, I also have run a blog titled "The Dude Abides," which I describe as "an existential crossing guard at the busy intersection of spirituality and popular culture." I'm a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, where I earned a master's in print journalism in 1996, and of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., where I earned a master of theological studies in 1997. I've been a Gralla fellow in Jewish studies at Brandeis University as well as a Media Fellow at Duke Divinity School.
As for my personal particulars:
I am the granddaughter of Irish and Italian immigrants, and was born and raised in southern Connecticut. In 1988, I moved to the midwest to attend Wheaton College (of Billy Graham not New England fame), and stayed in the Chicago area for more than 20 years, attending graduate school, seminary, meeting and marrying my husband, Maurice Possley, and forging my career as a newspaper reporter and columnist.
As for my spiritual pedigree, I was raised Roman Catholic until I was in fifth grade, when my parents became born-again Christians and began attending a Southern Baptist church in Connecticut, which was odd, to say the least. I gave my heart to Jesus when I was 10 years old and have spent the bulk of the last 30 years trying, to borrow a phrase from one of my heroes, Annie Lamott, "not to horrify Jesus." In college I worshiped, variously, with the groovy folks at Jesus People in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood, at a nondenominational "college" church, and with the artsy/literary denizens of a couple of Episcopal parishes. I remain more-or-less a freelance Christian, but I'm quite comfortable with Episcopalian if pressed for a "Hello My Name Is..." label answer. Fred Buechner is my favorite writer and my favorite theologian. My friends and I like to call him "St. Freddie of Rupert."
In Laguna Beach, Calif., where I've lived for the last two years or so, my family worships at a funky Evangelical Free congregation with a decidedly artsy-surfer-the-pastors-wear-flip-flops kind of a vibe where LOVE is the priority followed closely by prayerfulness. I like it. It's called Little Church By the Sea.
In 2009, Maury and I were blessed to welcome a son into our family, Vasco Fitzmaurice Mark David Possley. Vasco turns 12 next month. He was born in and spent the first nine years of his life in Malawi, Africa, where we met him back in 2007 while traveling on holiday. (We'd won a two-week trip to Africa in a raffle. Really.) Vasco was an orphan-- both of his biological parents had died when he was quite young, presumably from AIDS complications -- and he had spent a period of time living on the streets of Blantyre, one of Malawi's two major city centers. Vasco was born with a heart defect and when we met him, by "accident" if you believe in such things, he was dying. We tried to arrange medical care for him in Malawi but he needed open-heart surgery and there was none available to him. So in April 2009, Vasco arrived in Chicago and in June 2009 underwent wildly successful surgery to mend the large ventricular septal defect (i.e. hole) in his heart.
Today he is perfectly healthy, flourishing, full of life and joy and energy. Last summer we traveled back to Malawi with Vasco for our adoption hearing, which, blessedly, was approved on June 1, 2010, making us -- legally and in every other sense of the word -- a forever family.
So that's me. Well, at least those are the highlights of "me."
What brings you to Sojourners, Cath?
Thanks for asking. I've been a fan of Sojourners since I first stumbled upon copies of the magazine in a corner of the Wheaton College library (next to copies of the Wittenburg Door, in fact) when I was 18 years old. I believe in the mission of the organization and have long been impressed by SoJo's persistence, perseverance and vision for what our world could be. With more love, more grace, more faith, more mercy.
God's Politics is fast becoming a go-to place for faith-and-politics content, with some of the best and brightest writers and thinkers around today lending their voices to what I like to think of, spiritually speaking, as The Great Conversation.
I aim to keep that conversation going robustly and to add more chairs to the table, if you will.
In the coming weeks and months, you will see a change in the format of the blog postings, the addition of more cultural content and even some humor. I think we Christians would do well to take a cue from our Jewish brothers and sisters and learn to not take ourselves quite so seriously. Let's laugh more. It's good for our collective soul.
You will also notice more multimedia -- video, photography, interactive polls and even audio -- which all will contribute to making God's Politics a dynamic, vibrant and compelling place to hang out online.
I'd love to hear your ideas about what you'd like to see more of, less of, not at all, etc. on the blog. In other words, we're polling the room to see what color we should paint the narthex. (No mauve, please.)
It's my honor and great pleasure to shepherd God's Politics into Sojourners' next 40 years. Thank you for your warm welcome, support, feedback, and prayers.
Grace and every good thing,
*"God Girl" is a nickname given to me about 10 years ago by a famous Chicago journalist who shouted it at me -- as in, "Hey, God Girl! Great column today!" -- over the crowd at a popular after-work tavern. I laughed and so did many of my colleagues. And it stuck. I'm not sure how much longer I can get away with the "Girl" portion of the monicker, but I still embrace it.