"A real Christian prays," Karl Barth wrote, "with the Bible in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other." I have never been able to forget that image. There is something about the insight that rings true. After all, if what we learn about the mind of God, the heart of Jesus, in Scripture has nothing to do with the way we live, then the spiritual life is at best an exercise designed to make God a private devotion.
From Where I Stand
After the violent rampage at Virginia Tech in April, after the dead had been counted and the wounded tended to in hospitals, and after the parents of the young students who matriculated at that campus had finally been assured that it was safe to send their children back to school, the conversation about gun control in our country emerged again. And, as we can see, the idea of gun control is being vigorously rejected.
Some things are not over when they're over. It's important not to forget that.
Everything that can be written about the behavior and fate of Don Imus has already been said. As host of a radio-television talk show, he reduced the Rutger's women's basketball finalists to "nappy-headed ho's." It never even crossed his mind, apparently, that there might be something wrong with that. There's nothing to be gained by piling on -- and I don't intend to. In fact, strange as it may seem, I almost feel sorry for the man because there is a great deal more to be concerned about in terms of the Imus issue than Imus alone.
There's an old monastic quatrain that fascinates me. It reads:
I and Pangur Ban my cat,
T'is a like task we are at.
Hunting mice is his delight.
Hunting words I sit all night.
Editor's Note: A few days after this column was posted, Trocaire and the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland worked out a compromise. The broadcasting commission agreed that if Trocaire removed the words "Lenten Campaign" from the advertisements, they could run on commercial television.
Here's a tip: If you want to know before your friends do what may well be one of the major questions of the 21st century, keep your eye on two new documents. The first is the Berlin Declaration to be released by E.U. President Angela Merkel within the month. The second is the Brussels Declaration, a statement by prominent European academicians, community leaders, and national and European politicians, which disagrees with the tenets included in the Berlin Declaration and which has already been released in response to it.
A series of rotating dinner parties is an institution in rural Ireland. With nowhere much to go, people go regularly to one another's houses "for a grand chat" over a good long meal and a couple bottles of wine. They come at seven o'clock and leave at 1 a.m. Then they drive back through the tiny mountain roads in deep dark night to rest up to do it again. Regularly.
Perhaps there is no better window for an American citizen to have on the United States than to see it at a distance. Being in Europe is particularly fascinating because, except for the architecture in the old cities, we all look so much alike.
There are moments in life when the details of an event become largely irrelevant. What particular incident started World War II is hardly as important anymore as the millions of people who were killed in it. Whether or not cigarette smoking is a "benign" addiction -- one of the kind easily handled by "just saying no" -- is a meaningless conversation. The fact is that more than 400,000 people die every year from the effects of cigarettes.
I found myself staring at a picture on a friend's mantlepiece this week. There they were, seated on a low ridge along an outside wall of a cobblestone street. They looked casual enough.
There were two women, three teenage girls, one child, all of them huddled together, no man in sight. Their bodies were swathed in heavy black abayas, their faces circled in hijabs, veils that covered everything but their eyes, nose and mouth. Underneath each of the long black skirts, in a kind of playful, mocking way, their toes snuck out through the straps of their sandals.