Cathleen Falsani

Cathleen Falsani is a veteran religion journalist and a longtime contributor to Sojourners. She is co-editor of the new book The End of Hunger: Renewed Hope for Feeding the World.

Posts By This Author

'Purim Drunk': L'Chaim!

by Cathleen Falsani 03-07-2012

http://youtu.be/q372pD1C2sA

When is it appropriate — nay, even encouraged, both socially and spiritually — to turn up at your house of worship in full costume, make a boisterous racket, and proceed to get drunk as a lord?

Well, if you're a Christian (or a Muslim or a Buddhist) the answer is never.

But if you're Jewish, it's Purim!

Lost in Translation: Eugene Peterson and His 'Message'

by Cathleen Falsani 03-01-2012
Eugene Peterson. Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners.

Eugene Peterson at the Q Practices gathering in NYC this week. Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners.

Eugene Peterson has written more than 30 books on theology and the life of faith in his 80 years, but he is perhaps best known for the one book he didn’t write: The Bible.

Peterson’s “para-translation” of the Bible, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, was published over a span of nine years, from 1993 to 2002. And even a decade after its completion, critics still are debating the merits and missteps of his translation of Holy Writ into idiomatic, sometimes colloquial, modern English.  To date there are more than 15 million copies of The Message in print.

During the two-day Q Practices gathering in New York City this week, Peterson talked about the epic translation project he says he still can’t believe he actually managed to complete.

“I didn’t feel it was anything special when I was doing it,” Peterson said. “I can’t believe I did this. Reading it now I think, ‘How did I do this?’ It truly was a work of the Holy Spirit.”

Eugene Peterson: The Pastor on Preaching, Women Clergy

by Cathleen Falsani 02-28-2012
Eugene Peterson speaking Tuesday at the Q Practices gathering in New York City.

Eugene Peterson speaking Tuesday at the Q Practices gathering in New York City. Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners.

NEW YORK CITY — Today and Wednesday, I have the privilege of attending a private gathering here in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan with Eugene Peterson, the 80-year-old theologian and prolific author best known for his para-translation of the Bible, The Message.

The two-day event, Q Practices, is part-retreat, part-seminar on the theme of how we might cultivate our inner lives in an age of epic distractions.

I'll be reporting more fully later, but wanted to share with you a few gems from Peterson, who recently published a marvelous memoir titled, simply, The Pastor, from this morning's sessions.

Peterson, who is a Presbyterian minister (now retired from the pastorate after 30 years), grew up in Montana in the Pentecostal Christian tradition. His mother, in fact, was a preacher who later founded and pastored her own church.

TRANSCRIPT: Barack Obama and The God Factor Interview

by Cathleen Falsani 02-21-2012
Obama at an April 4, 2004 Palm Sunday mass in Chicago. Via Getty Images.

Obama pictured at Palm Sunday mass in Chicago where Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke, April 4, 2004. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, 2004, when I was the religion reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, I met then-State Sen. Barack Obama at Café Baci, a small coffee shop at 330 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, for an interview about his faith. Our conversation took place a few days after he’d clinched the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat that he eventually won, and four months before he’d be formally introduced to the rest of the nation during his famous keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Conventio.

We spoke for more than an hour. He came alone. He answered everything I asked without notes or hesitation. The profile of Obama that grew from the interview at Cafe Baci became the first in a series in the
Sun-Times called “The God Factor,” which would eventually became my first book, The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People, in which Obama and 31 other high-profile “culture shapers” — including Bono of U2, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, the author Anne Rice and President George W. Bush's speechwriter Michael Gerson — are profiled.

Because of the seemingly evergreen interest in President Obama’s faith and spiritual predilections, and because that 2004 interview remains the longest and most in-depth he’s granted publicly about his faith, I thought it might be helpful to share the transcript of our conversation — uncut and in its entirety — here on
God’s Politics.

~ Cathleen Falsani


Just Say It: Be God's Love, Grace and Mercy Today

by Cathleen Falsani 02-14-2012
"Get Together in the Village." Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/z9esUG.

"Get Together in the Village." Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/z9esUG.

"You and I have the power to change someone’s day. And so I am going to challenge you, on this Valentine’s Day, to not only tell family members you love them, but also others whom you care for. 

"In a world where people are beat up and put down, God gives us the ability to completely turn negativity, criticism and rude opinions around. “Encourage one another and build each other up,” says 1 Thessalonians 5;11. That is one of the most significant verses in all the Bible because when we do this it sets off a chain reaction of blessing.” You become the voice of God’s mercy and grace in the lives of others."

Chocolate in the Baptismal Font: Things that Happen When Women Are Ordained

by Cathleen Falsani 02-14-2012

Chocolate fountain in the baptismal font at House For All, the church pastored by Nadia Bolz-Weber. Via www.houseforall.org.

The Vicar of Dibley's Mother Geraldine is one of my all-time favorite television characters. Apart from her various entertaining antics, she also has a beautiful pastoral touch and way of communicating the grace and mercy of the gospel with honesty, passion and great humor — not unlike many of the women clergy I am blessed to know and have known over the years.

While women clergy are a given part of the life of the church for many of us, their presence in the Great Conversation remains a point of contention and controversy for not a few of our brothers and sisters in Christ. I was reminded of this Monday while reading the latest blog entry from our God's Politics contributor Nadia Bolz-Weber, pastor of the House for All Saints and Sinners church in Denver.

On Sunday, Nadia, an ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Churchin America, received an email inquiry from a friend of a friend informing her of some less-than-love coming her way from her more conservative cousins in the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) who are aghast at something that went down at House for All's post-Easter Vigil party a while back.

As part of their celebration of Jesus' resurrection, House for All's Easter party included a three-tiered chocolate fountain set up in the church's baptismal font.

Whenever Two or More Are Gathered...Online

by Cathleen Falsani 02-09-2012
Digitally created illustration of the world wide web. Image via Getty Images.

Digitally created illustration of the world wide web. Image via Getty Images.

“There is no distance in the Spirit.”

After 30 years as a believer, I experienced the truth of that statement — powerfully and indelibly — in an unlikely place: online.

Like so many of more than 500 million (and growing) members, I signed up for Facebook, the social networking site, a few years ago out of pure curiosity -- to check in with old friends, boyfriends and former colleagues from a safe distance. With its plethora of personal photos, videos and regular “status updates” from members, it was a voyeuristic paradise, not to mention an excellent place to kill time.

I am by vocation a journalist, author and blogger and had grown accustomed to sharing glimpses of my life in print and online. Facebook was just another venue to do that, but little more.

That is, until early one morning in April 2008 when I signed on to my account, wiping sleep from my eyes with coffee in hand, and noticed the status update of a friend from college: “David is really sad that Mark died today.”

Afternoon Links of Awesomeness: Feb. 8, 2012

by Cathleen Falsani 02-08-2012

The Fray's Isaac Slade on life lessons from the president of Rwanda and Bono, who turns up in Timbuktu singing in French. (Really. We have video.)Who's your favorite on-screen Jesus? Why one author thinks the CCM should change it's name to "Caucasian Christian Music." Vintage Steve Carell. New The Lorax. A Supreme Court justice on Sesame Street. Madonna kicks off her world tour in Tel Aviv. (Natch.) And the First Lady kicks Jimmy Fallon's tush in a potato sack race. 

 

U.N. World Interfaith Harmony Week: Gracespotting

by Cathleen Falsani 02-05-2012

Rabbi Allen Secher at his synagogue in Whitefish, Montana. Image via www.thenakedrabbi.com.

Editor's Note: At the beginning of February, the United Nation celebrates World Interfaith Harmony Week. To mark the occasion the Tony Blair Faith Foundation asked people to share their stories of finding friendship and connection with someone of a different faith tradition. This is my story.

When it came time to read from the Torah — handwritten scrolls containing the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures that are kept in a special ark in every synagogue — something happened I’d never seen or experienced before. The Torah scrolls, which are kept in a blue velvet cover with gold embroidery, were taken down and passed to the congregation. I’d seen men in synagogue hold the scrolls, but I’d never seen them passed this way, from person to person, like the collection basket or the little trays of wine or bread in some of the churches I’d attended over the years.

I’m not Jewish, and in that little gathering of a dozen or so people, I think everyone there knew it. Still, when the scrolls got to me, the woman next to me, without a moment’s hesitation, placed them gently in my arms, like a newborn baby.

I’ve yet to conjure up the words to describe how that moment of inclusion felt. Sacred, yes. Grace-filled, absolutely. But also ancient — tying me to a whole history of a people whom I’d never before thought of as “mine.”

But they are. The Sechers are. The other people at the Bozeman synagogue were. The strangers at the supermarket where we bought matzo and wine were. The people who are reading these words are.

No. Tim Tebow Will Not Show You His Underpants.

by Cathleen Falsani 02-02-2012
Tebow on the sidelines (Broncos v Patriots) 1/12/12. Getty Images.

Tebow on the sidelines at the Divisional Playoffs (Broncos v Patriots) 1/12/12. Getty Images.

"The Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance ... for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'"

~ I Sam 16:7 (NRSV)


Now, this may come as a great disappointment to a few Tim Tebow fans out there, but apparently the star quarterback of the Denver Broncos will not, we repeat, will NOT be stripping down to his skivvies for one of those famous (or infamous, depending on your tastes) Jockey undewear ads.

Tebow is the new spokesman for Jockey. But unlike '70s baseball heartthrob Jim Palmer (the relatively hirsute gentleman in the white Jockey briefs to your right) or soccer god (and father of four) David Beckham in his smoldering Emporio Armani undergarment spreads, the quarterback known as much for his Christian faith as his agility on the grid iron will not be posing in his underwear for the, well, underwear company.

Happy 103rd Birthday, George Beverly Shea!

by Cathleen Falsani 02-02-2012

http://youtu.be/35FILs1qiVA

This week, George Beverly Shea, Gospel Music legend and longtime musical companion of Dr. Billy Graham on his many revival meetings around the world, celebrated his 103rd birthday!

A native of Canada, Shea, who now lives in Montreat, N.C., not far from that whipper-snapper Graham (who turned 93 just recently), is still going strong.

“Karlene and I rejoice in the Lord’s overwhelming grace to give me 103 years of life!” Shea gushed on Monday (his actual birthday) according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's website.

When Actions Speak Louder than Words: Bill and Melinda Gates

by Cathleen Falsani 02-02-2012
Bill and Melinda Gates via http://bit.ly/xO2DkP

Bill and Melinda Gates. Image via http://bit.ly/xO2DkP

"‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven.'"
~ Matthew 5:21 (NRSV)

Because it's never too late to say thank you, I didn't want to let the best news I heard out of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week go unnoticed or unacknowleged.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, announced during the forum that they would inject an additional $750 million into the United Nation's Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a public-private organization founded a decade ago to combat three of the world's most devastating diseases that have claimed millions of lives, particularly among the poorest of the poor in the developing world.

The Gates' new gift joins more than $650 million the couple already has given to the Global Fund since its inception. And their latest gesture of epic generosity couldn't come at a more opportune time, especially after news (a few days before the Gates' announcement at Davos) that the fund's executive director, Michel Kazatchkine, was stepping down from his post early, amidst allegations of misuse of funds and cutbacks in funding.

Waiting to Exhale

by Cathleen Falsani 02-01-2012

The apostle writes his letter to folks who are feeling anxious, worried, insecure, and unsettled. They don’t know what the future holds for their lives, the church, their well-being, their community. Sound familiar?

Mother Dolores Hart: God is Bigger than Elvis

by Cathleen Falsani 01-31-2012
Mother Dolores Hart, as Hollywood starlet and after. Photos by Getty Images.

Mother Dolores Hart, as Hollywood starlet and after. Photos by Getty Images.

During her brief career as star of stage and screen in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Dolores Hart won a Theater World Award, was nominated for a Tony Award and gave Elvis Presley his first on-screen kiss (in the 1957 film Loving You) when she was just 19 years old.

Now 73-year-old Hart — better known for most of the last 40 years as Mother Dolores, Prioress of the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn. — has a new claim to fame: Oscar nominee.

Last week, God is the Bigger Elvis, a short documentary film about her journey from Hollywood starlet to cloistered Catholic nun, received an Academy Award nomination for best short documentary film.

The Luck of the Irish: Occupy Ireland, The Gift and Punk Economics

by Cathleen Falsani 01-30-2012
View of the Shandon area of Cork City. Image via http://bit.ly/xb7NQz

View of the Shandon area of Cork City. Image via http://bit.ly/xb7NQz

Oh, how I love the Irish. Sure, I'm biased, being half a Celt myself with legion cousins still living on the old sod. (Shout out to the Bradys and Caffreys in Ballyjamesduff!)

As a self-confessed Gaelophile, I've been following the various Irish Occupy groups on Facebook for several months now, and they are endlessly entertaining — and interesting. The Occupy movement in the States is, largely at least, missing at least one key component: A sense of humor. The Irish Occupiers seem to understand that you can catch a few more flies with honey — and a good laugh — than you can with angry chants and somber rhetoric.

When I heard about a surprising turn of events at the County Cork occupation last month, I thought, That's brilliant. On Christmas Eve, members of the Occupy movement in the southern city of Cork found a present underneath the Christmas tree in their Peace Park encampment. It was a package containing a letter from "Santy" Claus, which read in part, "Dear people of Cork: Inside is a present, a gift from me to you, from all of us here at the North Pole."

The gift package also held the key to a padlocked, vacant, seven-story office building in the city center, and a list of instructions.

Soul Food

by Cathleen Falsani 01-26-2012
Author Annie Dillard, standing in her writing shed, 1987. By Getty Images.

Author Annie Dillard, standing in her writing shed, 1987. By Getty Images.

When Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis departed on his three-month sabbatical at the beginning of January, I sent him a list of books, films and music that I thought would nourish his mind and spirit in, perhaps, different ways than the media he normally consumes do.

Jim's sabbatical — a true Sabbath in the literal sense — is designed to be a time of rest and, more importantly, rejuvenation. It will also be a creative time when he will be working on a new book.

Jim is a creative. A writer. A visionary. He regularly digs deep into his heart and soul, breaks himself open and pours out his passion, hope and faith for the edification of others. If creatives aren't diligent, though, we can work ourselves into the ground. Our wells can run dry.

In sending Jim this list of what I like to think of as "soul food," I hoped to inspire his imagination and give him new fuel for the fire, if you will.

Gabby Giffords Says Goodbye to Congress (for Now)

by Cathleen Falsani 01-25-2012

On the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday afternoon, a year and 17 days after she was shot in the head by a would-be assassin's bullet, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords tendered her resignation as representative of Arizona's 8th Congressional District.

An unusually emotional scene unfolded in the House chamber, with many members of Congress struggling — and failing — to keep their composure as Gifford's close friend, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, tearfully read the resignation letter on Gifford's behalf.

"Helping One is Better than Helping None"

by Cathleen Falsani 01-24-2012
Roya Shams.  Toronto Star photo by Paul Watson.

Roya Shams spends the day at Ottawa's Ashbury College. She begins classes this week. Toronto Star photo by Paul Watson.

In the nearly 20 years I have been a working journalist, occasionally I have been tempted to intervene in the stories I have been assigned to cover. Most of the time, I have not, and that was probably the right choice. But once upon a time, about four years ago, I crossed the line. In a big way. I intervened because the life of another person was at stake and I knew that my calling was to be human, to react, to help, to do whatever I could to save a life. It's the best decision I've ever made. Hands down.

As I read a remarkable story in the Toronto Star newspaper, I wondered if the paper's veteran foreign correspondent, Paul Watson, now feels the same way.

Earlier this month, Watson, who is Canada's only Pulitzer Prize-winner, arrived in Toronto from Kandahar, Afghanistan with a very special package: a 17-year-old Afghan girl  forced to flee her homeland, in the reporter's care, to escape certain death at the hands of Taliban assassins.

Defining "Evangelical" and Other Unsolved Mysteries

by Cathleen Falsani 01-19-2012
Cathleen Falsani by Katrina Wittkamp.

Cathleen Falsani by Katrina Wittkamp.

As someone who self-identifies as an evangelical Christian, often I begin to feel like the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary, particularly in the midst of a heated presidential election cycle.

It’s Evangelical Week here on Discovery! Travel with us as our explorers track the elusive evangelical in its native habitats. Watch as evangelicals worship, work and play, all captured on film with the latest high definition technology. And follow our intrepid documentary team members as they bravely venture into the most dangerous of exotic evangelical locations — the voting booth!

I understand the interest in us evangelicals, I really do. The way much of the mainstream media covers our communities in the news can make us seem like a puzzling subspecies of the American population, not unlike the Rocky Mountain long-haired yeti. 

Are we really that difficult to comprehend?

In a word, yes.

Two-Thirds of Americans Say They're Both: "Pro-Life" AND "Pro-Choice"

by Cathleen Falsani 01-17-2012
Photo by Jenny Poole via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4752357353

"It's Complicated." Photo by Jenny Poole via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4752357353

A fascinating new study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that two-thirds of all Americans identify with both the "pro-life" and "pro-choice" labels simultaneously.

The PRRI reports that 7-in-10 Americans say the term “pro-choice” describes them "somewhat" or "very well," and nearly two-thirds simultaneously say the term “pro-life” describes them "somewhat" or "very well."

"This overlapping identity is present in virtually every demographic group," the report said.

In one of the largest public opinoin surveys ever conducted on the subject of abortion and religion, PRRI's study, "Millennials, Abortion and Religion Survey," uncovered "large generational differences on two issues that have often been linked in political discourse: abortion and same-sex marriage."

According to the survey, Americans ages 18-29 (a.k.a., "Millennials") strongly support legal access to abortion services in their local communities despite being conflicted about the morality of abortion itself.