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

Bono and Jeff Sachs on Foreign Aid: Ending Dependency

by Cathleen Falsani 01-17-2012

On a recent trip to the African nation of Ghana, Bono of U2 and economist Jeffrey Sachs spoke to the U.K. Guardian newspaper about their hopes for the future of foreign aid.

"There's one thing that might help with aid cynics. Because clearly no one likes the culture of dependency," Bono said. "No one's arguing for it. We're arguing to end it. I think there's something a bit funky about aid as it stands right now. The two most important parties involved in the transaction – the taxpayer who's providing the resources and the person who needs those resources to stay alive or keep their family alive – are the two people who know the least about what's going on. So that has to change."

The Naked Rabbi and Dr. King: 50 Years Later, A Freedom Rider Tells His Story

by Cathleen Falsani 01-13-2012

Fifty years ago, not long after his graduation from Brandeis University, Rabbi Allen Secher became a Freedom Rider, joining Dr. Martin Luther King's historic fight for equality in the South. In Albany, Georgia, Secher, who served congregations in Mexico City, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago before relocating to Whitefish, Mont., several years ago (where he was, for a time, the only resident rabbi in the entire state), was jailed for a week along with a number of other Freedom Riders.

Inside, watch Secher, aka "The Naked Rabbi," tell the story of the Freedom Rides and his encounter with King.

Robert Duvall: The Sojourners Interview

by Cathleen Falsani 01-13-2012
Robert Duvall at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival

Robert Duvall at the Toronto Film Festival, 2009. Photo by Josh Jensen via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/3920752942

Many cinephiles have a short list of virtuoso actors who are so graceful and true we'd watch them read a phone book. For me, the list includes Jeff Bridges, Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton, John Mahoney, Christopher Plummer and that great icon of American cinema, Oscar-winner Robert Duvall.

So when a publicist for Seven Days in Utopia contacted me recently about the Christian-themed film and asked whether I'd like to interview Duvall, I jumped at the chance. A loudhailer of a film, long on message and cliché but woefully short on subtlety or artistry (save for Duvall's charmingly folksy performance), Seven Days in Utopia — set in rural Texas, it's an exploration of redemption and golf — is not a flick I'm going to be urging you to run out and see or rent, unless you, like me, would watch Duvall read the proverbial White Pages.

In the film, which opened in theaters last fall and was released on DVD at the end of last year, Duval plays Johnny Crawford, a golf-pro-cum-cowboy who helps a young pro golfer, Luke Chisolm (Lucas Black), reclaim his game and his faith. Duvall's Johnny is like Yoda with a five iron and hearkens back to many of the archetypal characters the Oscar-winner (who turned 81 years old last week) has played throughout his storied career.

Duvall, who began his career on the New York stage in the early 1960s (as a struggling young actor at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, he roomed with fellow students Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman), has appeared in some of the most spiritually eloquent films of our time, often playing the role of ersatz sage and spiritual counselor. He is a workingman's working actor with about 150 performances in film and television productions under his belt buckle since his premiere in an episode of the Armstrong Circle Theater television series in 1959.

From "Boo Radley" in 1962's To Kill a Mockingbird and "Tom Hagen" in The Godfather (parts 1 and 2) or "Lieutenant Kilgore" in Apocalypse Now and "Bull Meechum" in The Great Santini, to "Mac Sledge" in Tender Mercies (for which he won the best actor Academy Award) and "Gus McCrae" in Lonesome Dove or "Wayne Cramer" in Crazy Heart and "Felix Bush" in Get Low, Duvall has created indelible characters who are authentic, honest and transcendent.

Justin Bieber's Ecce Homo

by Cathleen Falsani 01-11-2012
Bieber on the cover of the Spring 2012 issue of V Magazine.

Bieber on the cover of the Spring 2012 issue of V Magazine.

You might not have a clue who Bieber is. Or, if you are aware of the existence of the crown prince of Stratford, Ontario, you might not give two hoots about him. But I’m guessing that there is a young person in your life who does.

So, for the sake of the children, please hear me out....

He is, in a sense, laying the groundwork for an awareness of the social gospel for a generation that will, sooner than we realize, become leaders in our society and our world.

Romney and Huntsman Tie in First New Hampshire Votes

by Cathleen Falsani 01-10-2012
A 1913 post card of Dixville Notch, N.H. Image via http://bit.ly/xpf7Yi

A 1913 post card of Dixville Notch, N.H. Image via http://bit.ly/xpf7Yi

Just after midnight Tuesday at The Balsams, an historic, grand hotel nestled in the foothills of the White Mountains, the entire population of tiny unincorporated town of Dixville Notch, N.H., cast the very first votes in the 2012 New Hampshire primary — all nine of them.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tied former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman with two votes each, while Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich both received a single vote. President Obama also won his first votes — three.

Dear SoJo Commenters: "This Aggression Will Not Stand, Man."

by Cathleen Falsani 01-08-2012

The Great Conversation that we invite our readers to join here at Sojo.net must, by definition, be both civil and respectful. Our comments sections should be a safe harbor, different from the comments sections of any other websites and blogs that deal with the busy intersection of religion, politics and culture.

To that end, during the last few weeks Sojourners staff and management have had a great many discussions about how we might best address the issue of incivility in our comments sections and correct it. We are committed to preserving the comments sections as a vital part of our community and that Great Conversation, but not at the cost of hearts and minds that have been wounded by their experiences here.

We can disagree, and we must when our conscience so demands, but we must do it with kindness, open minds and open hearts.

God, PBS and Paul Simon, The "God Chronicler By Accident"

by Cathleen Falsani 01-06-2012
Paul Simon. Image via PaulSimon.com

Paul Simon. Image via PaulSimon.com

"How was all of this created? If the answer to that question is God created everything, there was a creator, than I say, great! What a great job. And I like the idea. I find it very, I don’t know, I find it comforting in some way. But if the answer to that is there is no God, I don’t feel like, well, what a jerk I’ve been. I feel, oh fine, so there’s another answer. I don’t know the answer. I’m just a speck of dust here for a nanosecond, and I’m very grateful." — Paul Simon in an interview that will air this weekend on the PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.

Watch the interview in its entirety inside ...

An Invitation to The Great Conversation

by Cathleen Falsani 01-05-2012

A California vicar I know likes to describe the life of faith — the Church — as “The Great Conversation.” It is a conversation to which we all (and what part of alldon’t you understand?) are invited. When followers of Christ share their faith with others, they are inviting them to join the sacred conversation.

This is evangelicalism in its truest sense. This is what we are called to do. By the One, by Emmanuel, “God with us.”

My dear friend, (and most recently my boss), Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis, said recently that the 2012 presidential election is expected to be the most mean-spirited and vitriolic we’ve ever seen.

That may be true, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it must be that way.

We can solve that problem one conversation at a time.

God Told Pat Robertson Who the Next President Will Be (But It's a Secret)

by Cathleen Falsani 01-04-2012
Pat Robertson. Screen capture from 1/4/12 700 Club broadcast.

Pat Robertson. Screen capture from 1/4/12 700 Club broadcast.

The Rev. Pat Robertson. Bless his heart.

In an appearance on his 700 Club program Tuesday, while Iowans were heading to their caucuses, Robertson, the 1988 Iowa Caucus runner up, told viewers that he had a long conversation with the Almighty recently about the 2012 presidential election and the state of affairs in these United States of America (God bless it) in general.

Apparently, God told Robertson, 81, who the 45th President of the United States will be. But it's a secret.

Hit the Hallelujah Button: With Clark W. Griswold et Famille

by Cathleen Falsani 12-24-2011
Clark and Ellen Griswold of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

Clark and Ellen Griswold of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

On this Christmas Eve, as you gather with "kith and kin" on the threshold of the Christ Child's birth, we give you a moment of familial rejoicing from the Clark W. Griswold family of Chicago's North Shore and the great Christmas light miracle of 1989.

JOY TO THE WORLD! (Drum roll, please...)

Hit the Hallelujah Button: With the Cathedral Choir from New Jersey

by Cathleen Falsani 12-23-2011

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's entry is a traditional orchestration and performance of Handel's famed chorus by The Cathedral Choir of New Jersey. The video is taken from the 66th rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" performed by the choir on Dec. 5, 2009 at Hawthorne Gospel Church in Hawthorne, NJ.

Hallelujah Chorus from RVR Video Productions on Vimeo.

Hit the Hallelujah Button: From the Junior High Lunch Table

by Cathleen Falsani 12-22-2011

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today Handel's "Hallelujah" is brought to you by the junior high students from Oostburg Christian School in Oostburg, Wisconsin.

Oost!

The OCS kids stated their own tween version of a "Hallelujah" flash mob in the school cafeteria. The resulting video of their impromptu-ish performance is heartwarmingly earnest and awkward. Just like junior high itself (in its best moments.)

Watch the video inside...

 

 

Hit the Hallelujah Button: Cathedral Style

by Cathleen Falsani 12-21-2011
Westminster Abbey 1749. Via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/tdg9GR

Westminster Abbey 1749. Via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/tdg9GR

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today, a classic, rousing rendition of Handel's chorus from the choir of Westminster Abbey from 1982.

Hit the Hallelujah Button: Kuwa na Krismasi njema!

by Cathleen Falsani 12-20-2011
Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. Image via www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4489992140

Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. Image via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4489992140

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's installment comes from the POTS Chorus of Kenya who performed Handel's famous chorus on the African choral music competition, Kwaya.

See them take "Hallelujah" for a spin inside....

 

The "War" on Christmas: And Then They Came for the Poinsettias

by Cathleen Falsani 12-20-2011

Forget about that creche on the town green or the menorah outside the public library that the nice folks from Lubavitch Chabad will light for the first time tonight.

Now the Special Ops Humbug Unit of the War on Christmas has come for ... our flowers. Well, our shrubbery, technically.

Christmas Favorites from SoJo's Christmas Favorites: Karen Peris of the Innocence Mission

by Cathleen Falsani 12-20-2011
Karen and Don Peris of The Innocence Mission. Image via www.theinnocencemission.

Karen and Don Peris of The Innocence Mission. Image via www.theinnocencemission.com

I can name any Innocence Mission in two notes or less. Half a second if the song begins with Karen Peris' voice. If you're a fan of the Innocence Mission, which is comprised of Karen Peris, her husband, Don Peris, and bassist Mike Bitts, you know precisely what I'm on about.
 
Karen Peris' voice is what I would imagine one of the Sirens (the nice one) might sound like, or perhaps the voice of a selkie — those mythological beings the Celts believed were seals who could shed their skins and become human for a time. Karen's voice is sweet, but never saccharine. Earnest, certainly, but never straining toward pathos or reaching for an emotional response.

It's light and full of delight. Simply (and it's simplicity is part of its great charms) beautiful.

The Innocence Mission's rendition of "Away in a Manger" is a prime example of what Karen Peris' voice can do. It's in high rotation in my Christmas 2011 mix on iTunes and rarely fails to put a lump in my throat or a tear in my eye — signs that the Holy is drawing nigh, according to the great sage of Vermont, Frederick Buechner.

Hit the Hallelujah Button: From the Bread Aisle

by Cathleen Falsani 12-19-2011
The seal of Lancaster, Penn. Via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/vH75i8

The seal of Lancaster, Penn. Via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/vH75i8

Shoppers at Lancaster, Pennsylvania's Central Market got a festive surprise Saturday when a flash mob of more than 125 people broke into the "Hallelujah Chorus" by the bread aisle.

And watch the flash mob from the heartland inside...

Rob Bell's Parting Epistle to Mars Hill: "Grace + Peace"

by Cathleen Falsani 12-19-2011
Rob Bell via MarsHill.org

Rob Bell via MarsHill.org

Editor's Note: Rob Bell, 41, the founding pastor of Mars Hill church in western Michigan, bid adieu to his congregation in a 5,000-word epistle about grace and peace, which he preached on Dec. 18 to thousands in the converted strip mall that has housed the "Jesus community" for a decade. He said, in part:

"this church, this place, this community, was once simply a

hunch. a dream. a vision. a picture in the mind of a new kind of church for the new world we find ourselves in. a church that was fearless in confronting the injustices and systems of oppression that lurk around every corner and at the very same time deeply committed to the personal, intimate experience of following Jesus, of experiencing the joy and peace that transcends space and time. a church that found the stale, old categories of liberal and conservative boring and irrelevant because we'd experienced resurrection, which includes and affirms anything and everything that brings liberating, new life wherever it's found irrespective of whatever labels and categories it's been given because of an abiding conviction that the

tomb is,

after all,

empty.

a church where the main thing was actually the main thing."

Christmas Favorites from SoJo's Christmas Favorites: Jason Harrod

by Cathleen Falsani 12-19-2011
Jason Harrod in concert, Raleigh NC 2010. Image via the artist.

Jason Harrod in concert, Raleigh NC 2010. Image via the artist.

The first time I heard Jason Harrod sing was more than 20 years ago at a coffee house at Wheaton College outside Chicago where we were both studends at the time. He sang Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain," and his tenor voice was so pure, so perfect and sweet and heartbreakingly earnest, I ended up crying in my mochachino.

We're both now in our 40s, Jason is stil singing like an angel, and I'm still listening (occasionally in tears) along with many other fans who have discovered the unique charm of Jason's Smokey-Mountains-meets-Brooklyn-subway sensibilities and ever soulful wordsmithery.

Jason and his former musical partner in crime, Brian Funck, recorded "Lion Song" on their self-titled second album, Harrod & Funck that, while not a Christmas song per se, has always felt like a winter tune and tale to me. Seeking shelter from the cold and finding it. Getting lost and being found. The great gift of grace in all of its myriad forms — in relationship, in a light in the darkness, a glimpse of the horizon in the storm, or in the first toddling steps taken by a baby boy sent as a gift (to ALL) to heal and reconcile the world.

Hit the Hallelujah Button: There's an App for That

by Cathleen Falsani 12-16-2011
Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's offering is a group effort that comes compliments of the clever folks at Pavone Advertising in Harrisburg, Penn., the even-more clever designers of the Melody Bell app for iPhone and iPad, and the cleverest of them all, the late great Steve Jobs (for it is he who blessed humanity with the iPhone in the first place.)

In its 2011 Holiday Greeting, Pavone employees perform Handel's timeless Christmas favorite — entirely using their iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Watch their epic peformance inside ...