July 7 2008 “Sample” of our Weekly Planner from ReadTheSpirit (July 7-13)

The ReadTheSpirit weekly Planner has become a popular Email newsletter for people who want to start their week with insights into spiritual seasons — and issues that are likely to arise in the news. It arrives on Monday morning. It’s free of advertisements. You can discontinue the Planner at any time.

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At a glance, here’s what you need to navigate the world of faith this week …




Americans, passing through July 4 means that we’re in the second half
of summer now. Millions plan to travel, despite sky-rocketing gas
prices — many of us on faith-related journeys. Tell us about a spiritual journey you’re taking.

On Wednesday, Baha’is mark the Martyrdom of the Bab.


Since the pope now bears his name, more Catholics may want to explore the life of St. Benedict, a famous organizer of monastic life whose feast day falls on Friday.


This coming weekend, many Buddhists especially in China and Japan will observe Ullambana, sometimes described as an “all souls day.” In Japan, it’s called Bon or Obon. (Dates of regional observances vary. The photo above is from last year’s festival.)


“Where can I roll up my sleeves and make a difference?”

Countless Americans
pack their faith along with their luggage each summer — traveling on
mission trips, pilgrimages or simply including spiritual reflections
along their way. Some stay close to home and organize summer programs
for kids.

One way you can make a difference this summer is in the grassroots movement to combat slavery. We’ve already reported on one major TV documentary on slavery.
This week, there’s a second major examination of slavery — this time a
report on modern slavery on ABC Nightline Tuesday night. On Tuesday
morning, we’ll publish a review of the TV program — and, on Wednesday,
our Conversation with David Batstone is a chance to meet one of the
most innovative of the modern abolitionsts.

Of course, we’d also love to have you roll up your sleeves and visit www.OurValues.org
along with Dr. Wayne Baker of the University of Michigan’s prestigious
Institute for Social Research. It’s true — you can make a difference
by helping Dr. Baker with his research.




News about the world of the Bible

that made the NYTimes front page!

If July 4 weekend travels kept you from checking out the Sunday New York Times, then you’ll want to read our overview today of the news about a 2,000-year-old stone slab with an inscription that may relate to Jesus’ life and death.
We know that many of our readers will have questions about this Times
article. So, today’s ReadTheSpirit story provides context — and links
to everything else you’ll want to know related to this intriguing stone

Whether You’re Jewish — or Not —

You’ll Want This Study of Younger Singles

Anyone who is
familiar with serious research into American religious life knows that
if Steven M. Cohen’s name is on the cover of a report — it’s probably
a report on Jewish life and it’s certainly worth reading, whether
you’re Jewish or not.

Cohen has done it
again with a study of single, Jewish adults aged 25 to 39, a segment of
the population that he and his research colleagues regard as “swing
voters” who will determine the future of the Jewish community in

report just became available this past week in PDF format. And, as
usual, Cohen reaches out to draw parallels to the larger religious

the headline from this report: Contrary to myths about young adults not
caring about religious affiliation — these Jewish adults
overwhelmingly identify themselves with Judaism. The problem is:
American religious life (Jewish and Christian as well) is geared toward
the dwindling portion of nuclear families in our population. This is
not a world that feels comfortable to single younger adults.

properly understood, Cohen’s report is a pointed challenge to mainline
Jewish and non-Jewish religious leaders who continue to structure their
communities around Mom, Pop and the kids.


If You’ve Never Heard of a Quaker Pagan,

Then You Should Meet One Here …

A special thanks to Dr. Wayne Baker, who is producing the daily stories and questions over at www.OurValues.org
— for pointing out to me that there are, indeed, a small but growing
number of Quaker Pagans in the U.S. Stay tuned to Wayne’s Web site this
week, where you’ll read more about them in an upcoming story.

However, to give you
an advance peek at this group, here is an example of the kind of
interesting online writing you’ll find from this little spiritual
movement. Check out: http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/

Hot Read: Foreign Policy

Putting Olympic Myths into Perspective

Grab the July-August
2008 Foreign Policy magazine: the one with “Asia’s New Miracle” on the
front cover. Here’s why we’re calling it this week’s “Hot Read” — John
Hoberman’s “Think Again: The Olympics.” I won’t steal Hoberman’s
thunder by listing his seven myths about the Olympics, but I will share
one example: “The Olympics Promote Human Rights.” Quite the contrary,
Hoberman reports: “Olympic diplomacy has always been rooted in a
doublespeak that exploits the world’s sentimental attachment to the
spirit of the games.”

Overall, Hoberman’s
“Think Again” piece slams the Olympics a little too harshly, I think,
but it is a sobering dose of historical balance in the gung-ho American
anticipation of the games.

No question, there’s a dark underside to the games that more of us should consider in the midst of the televised glee.

(Another great
reason to buy this issue of FP: It includes the 2008 Foreign Policy
Failed States Index, an annual “must read” for people who care about
the health of our world.)


More news from China —

Pre-Olympic Religious Crackdowns

Have you
checked out online broadcasting? Vibrant new formats are blossoming
everywhere — and we are especially interested in reports on
tough-to-cover subjects related to spirituality and culture.

In last
week’s Planner, we highlighted a Wall Street Journal report by Andy
Jordan on efforts to save traditional Chinese neighborhoods.

week, mark your calendars for 5 PM (Eastern Time in the U.S.) on July
18 for a special report on religious persecution in China related to
the looming Olympic games. The reporter is Gary Baumgarten, who had a
long career with CBS and CNN, but now reports online. Check out his
Blog: The Gary Baumgarten Report.
On the 18th, you can click on the link from his site to hear this
report concerning China. Or, check out his work anytime before that.

This Week Inside ReadTheSpirit

We’re going to be exploring …

TODAY (Monday), we’re helping you make sense of the somewhat puzzling New York Times front-page story on Sunday
about a 2,000-year-old stone inscription that could be related to
Jesus’ life and death. In putting that story into a broader context,
we’ve also got cool links to “read more” about the significance of this

Tuesday: We’ll share with you news about an ABC special report on modern slavery.

We’ll introduce you to Dr. David Batstone, currently one of the world’s
leading abolitionists. Batstone is a scholar from California who once
ran Sojourners Magazine but found his life transformed by researching the book, “Not for Sale.”
Now, he’s trying to build a grassroots movement around the world using
innovative new-media strategies. You’ll find inspiring news and some
intriguing ideas in this story.

Thursday: You’ll meet an old friend setting off in fresh directions inspired by new media. She’s Lynne Schreiber, who we last heard from during Passover.

Friday: We’re planning a special reader-feedback page.


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