Colbert and the Cardinal (U.S. Catholics #1 and #2)

Timothy Cardinal Dolan kissed the hand of host Stephen Colbert on the Sept. 3 edition of “The Colbert Report.” Perhaps the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Archbishop of New York agreed with Colbert’s comment:

You’re the second most famous Catholic in America, next to myself.

Other revelations during the interview segment with U.S. Catholics #1 and #2:

Colbert said that when Dolan was not elected Pope, as some had expected, he lost 50 bucks in a bet. Dolan affirmed that no Ouija board or chicken bones were used in the papal voting.

More important, Colbert isn’t sure about Mass attendance after Pope Francis reportedly said that “even atheists are redeemed by Christ.”

“He’s too soft on sin for me,” said Colbert, adding: “If even atheists are redeemed by Christ, why have I been going to Mass on Sundays? I could have gotten another nine holes in.”

Posted in Blog, Quotable

Seamus Heaney’s Celtic Catholic Poetry (R.I.P.)

The world lost one of its greatest and most popular poets Saturday Aug. 31 when Seamus Heaney died in a Dublin hospital.


Born on a family farm named Mossbawn in County Derry Northern Ireland, Heaney often wrote about potatoes, peat and the power of rural tradition, as well as the Troubles that plagued his native land. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, his life and work were described in the Award Ceremony Speech:

Seamus Heaney comes from a humble, farming community, but at the same time we meet in him a learned poet who in the very microcosm of language cultivates and reveals the Celtic, pre-Christian and Catholic literary heritage.

His first collection of poems, published in 1966, included “Digging,” which paid homage to his rural roots:

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

Before describing his choice of a different calling:

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Ten more collections would follow, the last published in 2010.

His 1984 collection, Station Island, was inspired by Lough Derg, the penitential pilgrimage site that has attracted disciples for centuries:

Blurred swimmings as I faced the sun, my back
to the stone pillar and the iron cross,
ready to say the dream words I renounce

See his obituary here.

Posted in Blog, Quotable, Writing Life

Civil religion, “Sheilaism,” and Robert Bellah (R.I.P.)

Those of us who follow religion and culture lost a founding father last month. Robert Bellah, the Berkeley scholar, helped open the academy doors for the sociological study of religion.


He gave us the term “civil religion,” but was best known for his (and his co-authors’) 1985 book, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, which explored the ways that the American individualism that had been largely praised by de Tocqueville had, in more recent times, “grown cancerous.”

American cultural traditions define personality, achievement, and the purpose of human life in ways that leave the individual suspended in glorious, but terrifying, isolation.

Other Bellahisms:

For many, “freedom means being left alone,” or “freedom from the demands of others.”

“Sheilaism” is what we get when American-style individualism meets religion, as explained by Sheila Larson, one of the many Americans interviewed in habits:

My faith has carried me along way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice.

When the kind of “expressive individualism” pioneered by Walt Whitman collided with the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the result was a new kind of mysticism that tends to “radicalize and absolutize” religious individualism.

Bellah’s prescription for recovery includes a return to tradition and community:

Perhaps common worship, in which we express our gratitude and wonder in the face of the mystery of being itself, is the most important thing of all.

Thank you, Robert Bellah.

See the New York Times obit here.

Posted in Blog, Past Is Present, Quotable

Mindy Kaling: Kindness Rules

Funny but not mean. Honest but not vicious. That’s Mindy Kaling’s goal in her popular TV show, “The Kaling Project,” according to a recent profile in Entertainment Weekly.

“Mindy’s Rules for Writing,” a sidebar to the Aug. 9 cover story on Kaling and “The New Hollywood,” describes the ethos encoded in the “voice checklist” the show’s writers follow. Among the six rules:

1) Characters are helpful and kind.

2) No one is a moron.

4) Conflict should never come from a desire to be cruel or mean.


Posted in Blog, Quotable, Writing Life

Are We Searching or Being Searched?

“By the time you search, something’s already failed.”
– Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, quoted in New York Times story about a new generation of “Predictive Search” apps that anticipate what you need to know before you search for it and that are raising questions about privacy and other concerns.

Posted in Blog, Man&Machine, Quotable
A to Z

Steve's articles have appeared in these publications and outlets:

Akron Beacon Journal
Albany (NY) Times Union
The American Spectator
Ann Arbor News
Arizona Republic
Atlanta Journal/Constitution
Associated Press
Birmingham (AL) News
Bookstore Journal
Boulder Camera
Catholic Digest
CCM Update
Charlotte Observer
Christian Examiner
Christian Herald
Christian History
Christian Management Report
Christian Post
Christian Reader
Christian Research Journal
Christian Retailing
Christian Single (Southern Baptist Convention)
Christianity Today (since 1982, EPA Award)
Church Bookstore
Columbus Citizen-Journal (Sunday magazine features)
Columbus Dispatch
Compassion Update (Compassion International, editor)
Cincinnati Enquirer (Sunday magazine features)
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Current Thoughts & Trends
Daily Guardian, Wright State University, Dayton, OH (editor)
Dallas Morning News
Dayton (Ohio city magazine)
Dayton Business Journal (editor)
Dayton Daily News and Journal-Herald (news, features, stringer)
Devo'Zine (United Methodist)
The Disciple (Disciples of Christ)
Discipleship Journal
East Asia’s Millions (Overseas Missionary Fellowship)
English Journal (National Council of Teachers of English)
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Freedom Wire
The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO: Religion Editor, news, features)
Grand Rapids (MI) Press
Herald of Holiness (Nazarene)
HIS (InterVarsity)
Home Life (Southern Baptist Convention)
Houston Chronicle
Huntsville (AL) Times
Indianapolis Star
Kansas City Star
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service
Leadership Journal
Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader
Life@Work (EPA Award)
The Living Church (Anglican)
Los Angeles Times
The Lutheran (ELCA)
The Lutheran Witness (Missouri Synod)
The Magazine for Christian Youth! (United Methodist)
Media Update
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Missions Today
Mobile (AL) Register
National and International Religion Report
New Age
New Orleans Times-Picayune
New Sound
New York Times (Religion Journal, news, stringer)
New York Times Syndication Sales Corp.
Newark Star-Ledger
Omaha World-Herald
Orange County Register
Parents of Teenagers
Pastor's Family
Policy Review (Heritage Foundation)
Publishers Weekly
Pueblo Chieftain
Pulpit Helps
PW Religion Bookline
Re:generation Quarterly
Religion News Service (news and features)
Religious Broadcasting
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Saint Paul Pioneer Press
San Diego Union-Tribune
Shepherdess International (Seventh-day Adventist)
Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard
Tallahassee Democrat
Today’s Pentecostal Evangel (Assemblies of God)
Twin Circle Catholic Weekly
Vue (Wesleyan)
Washington Post
The Wittenburg Door
World Pulse
Worship Leader
Young Salvationist (Salvation Army)
Youthworker Journal (writer, columnist, editor)
Youthworker Update


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