“I don’t do goals,” I say when it’s my turn to introduce myself. A thin blanket beneath me, my legs folded, I am sitting in a circle of women at my local yoga studio. We are at a workshop “setting intentions for the New Year” with “a feminine approach to goal setting.” I am skeptical. I am more of a “let the destination find you” kind of person. I am better at beginnings.
In the latest issue of the Century, Philip Jenkins writes about how the veneration of Mary cuts across religious difference in Egypt. Egypt was the place where Mary first lit up the imaginations of Christians, but apparently her appeal is not limited by culture or religious heritage. Lately I’ve come across a couple of enchanting books that illuminate this for me.
Mary Miller’s The Last Days of California exactly captures an important aspect of the sort of rapture-ready Christianity I was raised and educated in: the unwillingness to face mortality that’s probably at the root of many people’s eager embrace of an imminent apocalyptic eschatology.
Glorybound takes place in a dying West Virginia town amidst people who are snake-handlers and prophets, to whom biblical language is as natural as breathing, and who cast their lives into exaggerated dramas.
Comparisons between C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters and Thomas Davis’s The Devil Likes to Sing are inevitable, but I can’t go there. When I tried reading Screwtape years ago, I just couldn’t get into it. (Let me assure the Lewis fans who just gasped in horror that I have read many of his other books.)
I recently interviewed cultural anthropologist and New York Times columnist Tanya Luhrmann about prayer and religious experience. After the interview, I asked her for some recommendations of books on prayer that are not "how-tos." What are some books that can help me understand prayer more conceptually and experientially?
Rahila Muska, a teenage girl, lived in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, a Taliban stronghold. Muska was known for regularly calling into a radio program on which women share landays, a traditional Pashtun form of poetry. Like most women who do this, Muska shared other people’s poems, not her own—to acknowledge authorship would have endangered her life.