My Friend

By Jacob Glatstein

Translated from the Yiddish by Peter Manseau

My friend lives a satisfied life.
He has a wife who loves him,
three blond children,
a winter house, a summer home,
money tucked away for times of need,
and ready aphorisms about the certainty
of easy living for decades to come.

And I am devoured by jealousy day in, day out.
My only certainty is a paper bridge over the years,
my lonely life leads me always to a pit of doom.

Often when I’ve had a bit to drink,
I drunkenly seduce my friend’s woman,
becoming a father to their children,
surrounding myself with stolen love and warmth.
And when I sober up, still in my friend’s bed,
I kiss my friend’s wife with savage passion,
kisses full of envy and vengeance. Continue Reading →

I Love You, I Do.

We asked our Near and Dear to tell us something about today, the day when we celebrate love–or loss or absence or grief or joy or chocolate or the color red.  Valentine’s Day is one of those not-so-holy (or so-holiday) holidays we bump into on the annual calendar, on our way to spring, rebirth and Easter rising.  We didn’t really know what we’d get for our asking.

It’s an odd and fascinating assortment of reflections and observations from some of our favorite loves–our regular contributors, family and friends.  Happy Valentine’s Day!  We love you, we do!


“Month of Valentines” by Stacy Doris

“#MyGrownUpValentine” by Ashley Baxstrom with image by Angela Zito

“A Buddhist Valentine” by S. Brent Plate

“My Friend” by Jacob Glatstein, translated from the Yiddish by Peter Manseau

“A Valentine Offering” by Genevieve Yue

“My Wish this Valentine’s Day” by George González

“A Simple Dinner” by Anthea Butler

“St. Valentine’s Fallen Face” by David Metcalfe

“Heart in the Snow” by Mary Valle

“A Red Bagel” by Adam Becker

“The Gospel of Sacred Candy Hearts” by Amy Levin

“Be Mine” by Jeremy Walton


image: “Heart to Heart” by Angela Zito Continue Reading →

Playing Religion

From Peter Manseau’s review at Bookforum of Robert Bellah’s new book, Religion in Human Evolution:

Bellah searches for a commonality that may give some indication of where and when the uniquely human activity of religion was born. What he finds is as intriguing as it is unexpected: They all like to play.

All animals of a certain level of complexity, Bellah explains, engage in forms of “useful uselessness,” the developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik’s term for behaviors that do not contribute to short-term survival yet do ensure long-term flourishing. In the play of animals, we can see a number of interesting elements: The action of play has limited immediate function; it is done for its own sake; it seems to alter existing social hierarchies; it is done again and again; and it is done within a “relaxed field,” during periods of calm and safety. Put another way: Play is time within time. It suggests to its participants the existence of multiple realities—one in which survival is the only measure of success, and another in which a different logic seems to apply.

Continue Reading →

Our Daily Links, Back in the Saddle Edition!

Whew! It was a long, hot, wet, ground shakin’ August here in New York.  But we’re back!

See our fall reading schedule here!

Tonight and this weekend at Dorothy Strelsin Theater, 312 West 36th Street at 8 pm, see two plays, Dictionary of the Khazars and Dirty Paki Lingerie, followed by a panel of journalists and academics in discussion.  Panelists include Jeremy Walton, Jo Piazza, Orit Avishai, and Cantor Elizabeth Sacks. Here’s information about the theater.

Abu Dhabi Gallup asked around and found that “Religion does Not Color Views About Violence.”  A particular gem from the poll: nearly half of those in the US and Canada see military attacks on civilians as sometimes justified.

Mel Gibson’s penance for years of anti-Semitism?  Producing a movie about the Jewish hero Judah Maccabee.  (h/t Angela Zito)

I can’t wait to see what Frequencies, a “collaborative geneology of spirituality” curated by Kathryn Lofton and John Lardas Modern (and produced by The Immanent Frame and Killing the Buddha) are going to come up with for 9/11!  The project  offers a new piece of writing and artwork each day and has so far featured, among others, Peter Manseau on “This American Life,” and Amy Hollywood on “Enthusiasm.”  Collect all 100 here.


More evidence that the organized religious world is splitting across the LGBT rights divide. Continue Reading →

Killing the Buddha Tin Anniversary Spectacular, Dec. 7

It’s a Tin Anniversary Spectacular!  Our sister site, Killing the Buddha, will celebrate their tenth year of Buddha-killing on December 7th.  Meet founders Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet (also founder of The Revealer) and the whole extended family.  Music, performances, silent auction and more.

8:30 – 11:30 p.m. (doors at 8:15)
Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO
16 Main Street, Brooklyn, New York
Suggested donation $5 – $50
Ages 21+ Continue Reading →

The Meaning of Relics

If the Pope says it’s real… Pope Benedict XVI has declared the Shroud of Turin authentic. Writes Chris Armstrong at Grateful to the Dead:

This also seems a bold move by a pope–to declare something authentic that it is well within the realm of science to later declare a fraud (though so far no conclusive proof has been given).

I pulled out my copy of Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World’s Holy Dead by Peter Manseau, co-founder with Jeff Sharlet of our sister site, Killing the Buddha, to find this quote:

Even if an object is not genuinely what believers profess it to be — such as Chaucer’s feather of the angel Gabriel — it becomes the locus of belief for centuries. And it is in this belief that faith is made. For the faithful, to pray to a relic displayed in its reliquary — even to a blackened and shriveled tongue — is like shining sunlight through a magnifying glass. A relic concentrates the beliefs surrounding it until they can be seen: it is faith so intense it has, at times, set the world on fire.

Continue Reading →

The Family

By Jeff Sharlet

The Revealer is on summer hiatus, but I’m currently blogging at, an online literary magazine about religion I created with novelist Peter Manseau back in 2000. Read more about that here. has just published a new book of which I’m co-editor, Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith. I hope you’ll check it out. But I’m guessing Revealer traffic today will be driven by NPR’s “Fresh Air,” on which I discuss my book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, and the Family’s connections to Senator John Ensign’s and Governor Mark Sanford’s public confessions of adultery.

The Family is just out in paperback this month. Here are some of the responses to its hardcover publication last year:

Continue Reading →

What Happened to The Revealer?

The Revealer has become awfully opaque of late, a static page of rarely renewed writing. That’s because I’ve turned my energies back toward my first internet love, I hope Revealer readers will join me there. It’s like The Revealer-plus, and then some.

I’ll continue to occasionally blog about religion and media, along with KtBlogger Nathan Schneider, but the main attractions are feature essays and stories, published every Monday and Thursday (and sometimes Saturday), by writers, artists, and photographers covering the religious, political, and aesthetic spectrums. Michael Muhammad Knight writes on the man he calls Allah; Nina Burleigh investigates the unholy world of the Israeli antiquities trade; Meera Subramanian reports on the “100 Unspoken Rules” of a Hindu mangili pondu ceremony; Nathan Schneider compares Al Qaeda recruitment imagery with Donald Rumsfeld’s “Full Armor of God”; Revealer editor Kathryn Joyce accepts the 2009 “Vulgaria Child Catcher of the Year Award”; novelist Ilana Stanger-Ross investigates the “Perfect Breasts” of orthodox Brooklyn; and I chip in with “Naked and Guilty,” on the eros of evangelicalism and a hell house in Texas.

There’ll be more news on the future of The Revealer soon. In the meantime, why don’t you read a book, for chrissakes.

Hey, here’s an affordable one: my NYT bestseller, The Family, out in paperback this week! So is its lovely review in the Journal of American History, which breaks from academic form to declare that The Family “does for fundamentalism what Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century did for punk.”

And here’s an even better book: erstwhile Revealer editor Peter Manseau’s Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter, also out in paperback this week! It’s a beautiful novel about pogroms, poetry, and the death of print — literally — but what makes it really unique is that it won the National Jewish Book Award for fiction.. Peter is the first goy to take the prize in half a century.

Back in 2004, Peter and made a book together called Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible. Amazon apparently loved it so much that lately they’ve been attributing all sorts of books to the Manseau & Sharlet team. Our latest collaboration is a book we traveled back in time to write, Calvin and the Reformation, published in 1962 by “Peter and Sharlet, Jeff Manseau.” But that’s really kind of a specialized work. For the general reader, we recommend our other latest collaboration. Here’s the premise: An elven witch, a bar mitzvah cheater, and a Bible camp saboteur walk into a bar… and nine years later they walk out with a book: Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith, an anthology of coming from Beacon Press on July 1.

Believer, Beware

The advance reviews are in:


STARRED REVIEW Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith. Beacon, dist. by Houghton. Jul. 2009. 263p. ed. by Jeff Sharlet & others. ISBN 978-0-8070-7739-9. $16.

From Beacon comes a book that, if not a beacon, is certainly a message from the vanguard of popular spirituality. This extremely diverse set of essays is the second to come from Killing the Buddha, an online religion magazine “for people made anxious by churches” and the ideal home for the “spiritual but not religious” and all the other great unchurched believers in America. Here you’ll find a Jewish adolescent who hopes she is the promised Messiah, an elven witch, a Zen A.A. memoir, and much more. Shocking, exhilarating, and never dull, these essays sometimes give off the self-conscious, twee air of modern memoirs Continue Reading →