Madonna in her Confessions Tour, hanging from a mirrored cross in 2006. Photo: RNS/courtesy Oscar Rohena via Wikimedia Commons

The Christian cross has become little more than a piece of jewelry worn around the necks of celebrities, said Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

In the foreword to a new book about Christianity, the head of the world’s 85 million Anglicans presents the symbol of Roman torture upon which Jesus died as “the moment of deepest encounter with radical change.”

And he regrets that after 2000 years, the cross has become trivialized.

Still photograph of “Lost Faces of the Bible” Title Graphic. Photo courtesy of AP Faces Ltd.

Many artistic renderings of biblical figures hang in churches and museums, but no one really knows what they and their contemporaries looked like.

Now, an international team of archeologists, forensic anthropologists, and facial reconstruction experts has tried to answer this question by recreating the faces of three adults and a newborn whose skeletal remains date back to biblical times.

A new four-part TV seriesLost Faces of the Bible (airing on the National Geographic Channel beginning Monday), follows the experts as they recreate long-gone faces utilizing the same state-of-the art technology used by police investigators.

Ryan Herring 11-22-2013

Russell Crowe as Noah. Courtesy © 2012 Paramount Pictures

Following the success of the History Channel's mini-series, The Bible, which appeared weekly last March, Hollywood seems to have renewed an avenue in which Biblical adaptations are allowed to enjoy a significant amount of limelight.

Two blockbuster titles are to set to be released in 2014: Paramount Picture's Noah and 21st Century Fox's Exodus. These two films both boast a star-studded cast as directors Darren Aronofsky and Ridley Scott hope to astonish audiences by combining stunning visualizations with two of the most popular accounts from the Old Testament, the Great Flood and the Exodus out of Egypt.

As a Christian and an avid movie-goer, I was thrilled to read that these two films were in production. However, once I saw the actors cast to play the leading roles in these two films, my excitement quickly turned to disdain. Not a single one of the leading roles in either movie was given to a person of Middle Eastern descent.

Cathleen Falsani 11-19-2013

Mary J. Blige performs during a scene from the movie “Black Nativity.” Photo courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

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.

Katherine Burgess 11-18-2013

Promotional poster photo courtesy Rave Ministries, via RNS.

As countless men grow mustaches this month to raise money and awareness for men's health issues, women and girls of all ages have put away their blush and mascara, seeking to remember they are beautifully made by God — even without the makeup.

"I think a lot of times we get so caught up in 'God made the world and the trees and the beauty and nature' and we see God's handiwork in the leaves changing in the fall, or we see his handiwork at the beach," said Becca Daniel, team leader at Rave Ministries.

"What we forget is we're told in all those other Scriptures that God made us, down to the last detail too."

Women and girls from 37 states and seven countries are participating in "No Makeup November," which is coordinated by Rave Ministries, a Christian girls ministry associated with the Churches of Christ.

An IMAX camera films the Western Wall during Pesach. Photo: Nicolas Ruel, courtesy Jerusalem US LP/National Geographic Society

It may be as close as a person can get to praying at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Western Wall, without actually going there.

The newly released movie “Jerusalem,” filmed in 2D and 3D and playing on IMAX and other giant-screen theaters across the U.S. and the world, gives viewers grand, hallmark panoramas, at once awe-inspiring and intimate.

For years filmmakers had sought the rights to capture the city from the air, but never before had permission been granted, in part because the holy city is a no-fly zone.

Still, before filming began in 2010, producer Taran Davies came up with an extensive wish list of all the sites and rituals he wanted in the film, and presented it to advisers familiar with the spectrum of religious and secular officials who would have to approve.

“They all laughed and said forget about it,” Davies said. “They said, ‘It’s impossible and you’re not going to get half of what you’re looking for.’”

Jana Riess summarized every chapter of the Bible in witty tweets. “The Twible” is the full collection. Photo courtesy Jana Riess

Nearly every home has at least one Bible, although few read it.

But 16 percent of Americans log on to Twitter every day. And that’s where author Jana Riess takes the word of God. A popular Mormon blogger at Religion News Service and author of “Flunking Sainthood,” Riess spent four years tweeting every book of the Old and New Testaments with pith and wit.

Now, the complete collection — each chapter condensed to 140 characters — is on sale as “The Twible,” (rhymes with Bible)  with added cartoons and zippy summaries for each biblical book.

Her tweets mix theology with pop-culture inside jokes on sources as varied as ”Pride and Prejudice,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and digital acronyms such as LYAS (love you as a sister). To save on precious character count, God is simply “G.”

Tripp Hudgins 11-14-2013
Monkik / Shutterstock

A Christmas card. Monkik / Shutterstock

It's started.

I was following the Twitter feed for the conversation between Nadia Bolz-Weber and Amy Butler at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. (#nadiaandamy) about the present realities and possible futures of Christianity in the United States, and it happened. I was happily dividing my cognitive attentions between Twitter and the television when it happened.

There was a Christmas ad.

Ben Sutter 11-13-2013

Album art for Shad's "Flying Colours."

There is no mistaking it: Shad Kabango's music is authentic and tenacious. With incredible humility, he speaks from his heart, with no fear of calling out the inconsistencies he sees in the world.

In the recent release of his 4th studio album, Flying Colours, the critically acclaimed Canadian emcee, better known as simply "Shad," hopes his music speaks for itself.

"It’s not easy to summarize or convey, I don’t think," Shad said of the theme of the album, in a recent interview with Sojourners. "Some sort of … feeling of hope, I guess, but hope within the complexity of real life and the challenges of real life."

Ed Spivey Jr. 11-05-2013

Illustration by Ken Davis

Sorry, kids, but Santa has some bad news.

Philip Metres 11-05-2013

Image by K. J. Snoes

If Advent is a time / of waiting, of joyful anticipation, why are we / so often troubled?

Julie Polter 11-05-2013

Books that can be interesting, grounding, and inspiring companions for a complicated time of year.

Debbie McLeod 11-05-2013

Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic. Knopf.

Elizabeth Palmberg 11-05-2013

The Fatherless series (book one and two). FaithWords.

Tobias Winright 11-05-2013

Where Justice and Mercy Meet: Catholic Opposition to the Death Penalty. Liturgical Press.

Gareth Higgins 11-05-2013

About Time is funny, beguiling, and even profound.

Danny Duncan Collum 11-05-2013

The Post's credible voice for corporate centrism is a large part of what Bezos wants for his $250 million.

Julie Polter 11-05-2013

A blog by David Hilfiker / Sing to the Moon by Laure Mvula / High Rise Stories:Voices from Chicago Public Houses by Audrey Petty / Walk with Me by Tanisha Christie and Ellie Walton 



Andrea Ferich 11-05-2013

Monsignor Michael Doyle of Sacred Heart Church in Camden, N.J.

Bury the Dead: Stories of Death and Dying, Resistance and Discipleship, edited by Laurel Dykstra

Brandon Hook 10-31-2013
Photo by Peter Larson

Lucius' debut album, Wildewoman, was released earlier this month. Photo by Peter Larson

It seems rare these days to find an album where each song is valuable both individually and as part of the collective whole that makes up the record. Musicians are always telling us that they “don’t want to make just a few good singles with filler,” but few are able to fulfill those lofty intentions. Wilco did it on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, where the songs were different from themselves and anything Wilco had ever done in the past, and Animal Collective did it more recently on the 2009 album Merriweather Post Pavilion with the opposite approach: each song was unified by a cohesive and consistent sonic palette. Many point to Fleetwood Mac’s 11th studio album Rumours as another example, and there are surely others depending on one’s musical tastes.

But I think a newer, much lesser known group has entered that conversation, and they’ve done it on their first studio release, nonetheless. Brooklyn-based Lucius have managed to craft an album with diverse songs, catchy hooks, and really powerful vocals and harmonies stick in your head for days. There isn’t a song on their debut, Wildewoman, I want to skip through. Bob Boilen of NPR’s ‘All Songs Considered’ perhaps says it best when describing their EP: “If it were possible to wear out a digital file, then my copy of Lucius' self-titled 2012 EP would now be scattered digital bits.”