Why Jews Pray

It was Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Prayer is arguably the most fundamental, intimate, and unique element of a life of faith. The way a person of faith is called to prayer, what words they articulate during prayer, and their thoughts and intentions while praying speak volumes about their particular faith… . Continue Reading »

Obama and the Lama

The received wisdom has it that only Nixon could have gone to China, and I imagine that in this case the received wisdom is right. By the same token, though, I hope it will one day be recognized that only Barack Obama could go to China by stabbing the Dalai Lama in the back. That day will be long in coming, no doubt… . Continue Reading »

The Greatest Grassroots Movement of Our Times

When I received a letter from Dr. Wanda Franz telling me about the “Proudly Pro-Life Award,” I was, quite simply, overcome with emotion. There is no honor or award that could mean more to me than one from my fellow members of what my friend the late Richard John Neuhaus always called “the greatest grassroots movement of our times.” At the same time, I can’t help but be humbled at the thought of the great men and women to whom you have given this honor in the past… . Continue Reading »

Conrad Black and Judaism

In the Tuesday, September 29 edition of the National Post (Toronto), long time columnist Conrad Black wrote “Why I Became a Catholic.” I was intrigued by Lord Black’s story of his spiritual journey to a more intense Christianity, yet I began to recoil when reading his dismissal of Judaism as a real spiritual option for himself (or for anyone else like him)… . Continue Reading »

Roman Polanski, Hollywood, and the Mystery of the Missing Outrage

The arrest in Switzerland of Roman Polanski, and his possible extradition to the United States to stand trial for the rape of a minor, has stirred a surprising public controversy. While many commentators have expressed satisfaction that he might be called to account for his crime, others, especially those in Hollywood, have come to Polanski’s defense. The controversy itself is not so surprising as the character of the defense… . Continue Reading »

Do the Catholic Bishops Really Mean What They Say?

The public opposition of more than eighty Catholic bishops to the University of Notre Dame’s decision to honor pro-abortion President Barack Obama represented an unprecedented public expression of episcopal sentiment on a controversial moral issue. The bishops normally draw back”“prudently,” as they see it”from calling attention to themselves and to the Church. For so many of them to enter into the lists in this particular case surely suggests an enhanced understanding of the seriousness of the central moral issue of our time… . Continue Reading »

The Music of Eternity

A famously cultured friend of mine, now sadly deceased, used to express polite amazement at my ability to enjoy the music of Richard Wagner, despite my almost idolatrous devotion to Bach; apparently this struck him as a combination of tastes as improbable as a successful alloy of fire and water. And, on the one occasion that I touched upon the topic of Anton Bruckner in his presence, he merely arched an eyebrow and directed me to the table where the drinks were being served. Consequently, I never quite learned his opinion of the old Austrian schoolmaster, but I suspect it fell somewhat short of rapt veneration… . Continue Reading »

A 2009 Ranking of Graduate Programs in Theology

A few years ago, I made a crude and impressionistic ranking of graduate programs in theology in North America. Recently, I mused in a more general way about what makes for a really good program in theology, and, in response, a couple of friends asked me if my old opinions still hold true. It’s a good question, and one I’ll try to answer… . Continue Reading »

Women Orthodox Rabbis: Heresy or Possibility?

At an Orthodox synagogue in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, on March 22, Jewish history was made. Sara Hurwitz, a learned and devout Orthodox Jewish woman was conferred the new title of MaHaRa’T, an acronym for Manhigah Hilkhatit, Ruhanit, Toranit (for a halakhic spiritual and Torah leader) by Rabbi Avi Weiss, senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. Some Jewish pundits ridiculed the invention of a new title… . Continue Reading »

Secularization or Exodus?

For many evangelicals today, secular means something very close to godless. The termsecularization describes the impulse that drives the ACLU and other groups to expunge prayer from schools, to take down the Ten Commandments from courthouse walls, to pressure Christians to keep their beliefs private, to muzzle all religiously motivated efforts to curb abortion. And yet, some Christians and many historians and sociologists view secularization as the genius of public Christianity, especially public Protestantism… . Continue Reading »