A monthly column by Ann Neumann about issues at the intersection of religion and medicine. Continue Reading →
From Pakistan, Umar Farooq looks at the diminishing political role of Sufi saints and shrines in a rapidly urbanizing Pakistan. Continue Reading →
By Ed Simon A review of Afterlives of Saints, in which author Colin Dickey examines that borderland where saints and sinners alone exist, oftentimes within the same person. Continue Reading →
From “On the Religious Roots of Celebrity Worship” at Philly.com (Philadephia Inquirer/Daily News):
“There’s a kind of cultural fascination with special people who are marked out for greatness but who die young and often in tragic or violent circumstances,” says Geary, author of Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages (Princeton University Press, 2008).
Just look at celebrity funerals, says Laderman, who traces today’s cult of the famous back to Rudolph Valentino’s 1926 funeral. The crowds, Laderman says, were in a collective hysteria one usually associates with religious states.
Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Lynn Vincent, Colton Burpo (Thomas Nelson, 2010)
by Mary Valle
Perhaps all you really need to know about this book is that it is for sale at my local discount supermarket, the un-mellifluously named Industrial Food Product Outlet, a place I only visit when it’s absolutely necessary, if I need some generic famotidine for the dog (sensitive stomach!), long fireplace matches, or pineapple juice for making Huli-Huli Tofu (Trader Joe’s doesn’t have it and it’s way too expensive at Whole Foods). The IFPO, or the ‘Po as they’ve tried to rebrand themselves, is one of the circles of hell; naturally it has a swivel-mounted book rack of “inspirational” tomes. ‘Cause we humans didn’t build florescent-lighted boxes of doom or synthesize plastic-wrapped carcinogenic food products or make a world where you have to burn petroleum just to get to said ‘Po. Oh no. It’s all part of God’s plan.
The cover of Heaven is for Real depicts a small boy, smiling, in a flattop and an extremely ill-fitting short-sleeved white shirt, baggy yellow sweater vest, and dark, baggy pants. I can feel the squeaky acrylic of the small boy’s vest just by looking at the photo. It’s probably already in a landfill. Continue Reading →
Colin Dickey writes about cities and the dead for Lapham’s Quarterly. From “Necropolis”:
Throughout early Christendom, bishops consolidated power around the tomb. The cemetery where St. Peter was buried was well outside of Rome’s city walls in a distant plot of land named Vatican Hill. But it was here, not in the city itself, that his followers built his basilica. The religious power base—in Tébessa, Nola, Rome, and elsewhere—had shifted to the periphery, creating an imbalance that could not last. One way or another, the saint would have to come inside the city.
Actually, the Vatican abolished that office — also known as the “devil’s advocate” — 20 years ago, but when it came time to beatify Mother Teresa, the Church turned to Christopher Hitchens, Continue Reading →