the Web Editors 01-05-2012

Huffington Post: An Interview with United States 39th President Jimmy Carter, Religion News Service: Romney’s Evangelical Problem Starts with Theology, Huffington Post: On Scripture: Mark 1:4-11: Does Baptism Make for Better Presidents?, Huffington Post: Obama Fails on Minimum Wage Pledge, Slate: NAACP Condemns Rick Santorum’s “Black People” Gaffe, TPM: Defense Secretary Panetta: Defense Cuts Come With ‘Additional But Acceptable Risk’, CNN: Controversial Catholic program for gays begins in Connecticut, CNN: What happens when candidates called by God drop out?

Annie Deppe 01-01-2012

There were two sets of stairs: the front ones curving and formal while the backstairs rose steep as a canyon wall. As a girl, I used to fly from their heights when I wasn’t falling.

Julie Polter 01-01-2012

Free South Africa, To Love More Deeply, When Disaster Strikes, Wrestling with Tradition.

Gareth Higgins 01-01-2012

Roland Emmerich is known for making the kind of disaster movies that fans of quality filmmaking love to hate.

Christopher Smith 01-01-2012

War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity, by Stanley Hauerwas.

Robert Hirschfield 01-01-2012

Orange Alert: Essays on Poetry, Art, and the Architecture of Silence. And, Fasting For Ramadan: Notes from a Spiritual Practice.

Ed Spivey Jr. 01-01-2012

At first, I thought I had the flu because I didn't get a flu shot this year and naturally had to be punished by the medical community.

Michaela Bruzzese 01-01-2012

Multigenerational households are becoming more common, by choice or by necessity -- and these expanded family circles have both benefits and perils.

Jason Storbakken 01-01-2012

Activist pastor Gardener C. Taylor on lessons learned in a long life of faithfully taking the side of the oppressed.

Timothy King 12-28-2011
Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Image by Tim King

Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Image by Tim King

“Marley was dead, to begin with.”

So begins the classic tale of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It is a story that has been told and re-told through various mediums since the novella was published December 19, 1843.

I sat down recently to watch the new Disney version of the tale. It features a CGI rendition of Scrooge with the voice of Jim Carrey.

After 15 minutes I shut it off.

It wasn’t that it was particularly bad. I didn’t give the movie enough of a chance even to figure whether it was worth watching. What I realized is that I wasn’t much interested in hearing the same story again from a secular perspective.

A Christmas Carol, I would argue, is not ultimately about Christmas, but conversion.

Christmas is the stage and the catalyst through which transformation occurs. It is a leading character to be sure. But, it is the radical change that occurs in Ebenezer Scrooge that most compels me.

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.

Jack Palmer 12-23-2011
Christmas lights in London's Trafalgar Square, St. Martin's in the Field behind.

Christmas lights in London's Trafalgar Square, St. Martin's in the Field behind. Via

I’m not sure we can quite get our heads around the latest ‘war’ being waged in the United States – the ‘war on Christmas’.

Visions of the 101st Airborne heading towards the North Pole abound. Anti-reindeer defense weapons, covert elf anti-merriment operatives and a unilateral ban on all copies of A Christmas Carol (in its various media iterations)? Is that what we have come to?

Surely — and thankfully — not, but given some of the rhetoric that is thrown around in the media at this time of year, you might be forgiven for thinking so!

Given that most reporting about religion in the UK and Europe usually includes the phrase “an increasingly secular country," you might think that the "war on Christmas" back on the old sod is even more sustained and sophisticated than in the United States.

Picture heavily fortified nativity scenes being assaulted by atheist flash mobs chanting “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” if you will.

Well, I’m sorry to tell you that I’ve yet to witness such a terrifying scene on the streets of London.

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.


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...



Joshua Witchger 12-21-2011

Whether it's variations on familiar holiday tunes, cartoons prancing around on screen, or watching kids open terrible presents, treat yourself to a break from the day to take in a little holiday cheer.

Carrie Adams 12-21-2011
My Cleaning Trolley. Labeled "Girls Only" on the box.

My Cleaning Trolley. Labeled "Girls Only" on the box.

Everyone out there, let’s try giving our girls something positive this Christmas.

One gift at a time, we can foster their intellect.

One gift at a time, we can affirm their worth as contributors and not just bystanders.

We can give them value beyond their curls and big brown eyes, which are beautiful, yes, but what about giving them a book that doesn’t have a princess as the main character?

What about that science kit that you were looking at for your nephew? Would your niece like it too?

Cathleen Falsani 12-20-2011
Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. Image via

Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. Image via

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....


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.

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

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.
Jack Palmer 12-20-2011

New Law Aims To Shine Light on Conflict Metals; Immigration Effort Mistakenly Holds U.S. Citizens; North Korea’s Persecution of Christians Expected to Continue After Kim Jon Il’s Death; Muslims push Lowe’s boycott over reality series; Two Muslim religious leaders sue airlines for discrimination; Christianity goes global as world’s largest religion; (Opinion) Obama’s simplistic view of income inequality.

Cathleen Falsani 12-19-2011
The seal of Lancaster, Penn. Via Wiki Commons

The seal of Lancaster, Penn. Via Wiki Commons

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...