June 16 Sample ReadTheSpirit Planner: Green Bibles, Slavery’s Legacy and Counting Muslims

The following is a “sample” of our Monday-morning “ReadTheSpirit
Planner” — a free e-mail service that starts your week with a lively
slice of news about spirituality and media …

    IF YOU’D LIKE TO RECEIVE our Planner each Monday morning (it’s free and you can un-subscribe anytime) — then, send a quick Email to ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm — and we’ll get our next edition to you on the next Monday morning!

ReadTheSpirit Planner for the week of June 16:

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




The biggest observance this week is the Solstice
on Friday. For most of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the longest
day of the year, when we turn the cosmic corner and nights grow longer
again. Global traditions include Midsummer.

Today (Monday), Sikhs will mark the Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev.


Since two of our
stories this week at ReadTheSpirit focus on the legacy of slavery, we
also want to point out a lesser-known holiday: Many African Americans
will mark Juneteenth on Thursday. It’s a commemoration that started in 1865 with the end of slavery in Texas.


Thursday also is New Church Day, which celebrates the foundations of the small but still vibrant religious movement founded in the 18th Century by Emanuel Swedenborg.

Across Canada, some calendars still list Saturday as “First Nations Day,” but now the official name is “National Aboriginal Day.” This is an intriguing approach to honoring native peoples — and some churches will have special liturgies this weekend.



“How can we see the world more clearly?”

I was hearing this
question raised early last week, after more dire rumors about the
collapse of American newspapers — and then Tim Russert
died. If you’re not familiar with his role as a pillar of American news
media, then click on his name and you’ll jump to his Wikipedia
biography. (Please note on that page how fast Wikipedia moves! Already,
his biography includes a chapter covering his death and some of the
tributes paid to him.)

And that’s nothing compared to NBC’s online messageboard
set up to honor Tim, which by Sunday evening as I’m finalizing this
Planner had more than 17,000 notes from appreciative men and women!
(This is a sad time, but it’s also a sign of the power of online
communities to emerge around spiritual themes.)

Still curious about
our Question of the Week? Well, consider this: We’re in the heat of an
American presidential race with crises simmering all around the world
— and traditional American news media has fallen from its once
powerful role in helping us to understand these urgent issues.

Today on ReadTheSpirit, we’re diving into the spiritual side of this question by looking at what may seem like an unlikely subject: slavery.

Take a good look at
today’s story and you’ll understand why we view this question as
spiritual — and where we see signs of hope in all of this.




Green, Green — It’s Green They Say

on the Far Side of the Hill …

As Editor of
ReadTheSpirit, I make sure I’m personally visiting communities every
week — including regular trips through leading retailers to see what
consumers are buying. If you’ve looked closely yourself, then you’ve
already seen the almost absurd lengths to which marketers are going to
paint our purchases green. Have you seen the new candy bars that
promise a “carbon offset” if we chow down on milk chocolate?

On Friday, I was
stopped cold at a huge newsstand where a magazine screamed at me with
an entirely neon-lime-green cover. The magazine is “Airliners: The
World’s Airline Magazine,” and the story is “Going Green” — all about
the search for more nature-friendly marketing in jets.

As we move into the
fall of 2008, it feels like we’ve reached the Emerald City in “The
Wizard of Oz” and we’re all putting on green glasses to view the world.

Some of this is very serious. We’ve already published many stories on this theme — including a popular series we produced with the IHM Sisters.

But there’s much
more green just over the hill! For example, over the past week, I’ve
heard news that at least two major publishers are thinking about
releasing new “Green Bibles” in coming months.

Watch our pages, because we’ll continue covering this trend — and we want to know what you think about these ideas.

Is an ideal “Green
Bible” a book that’s published with recycled materials? Or is a “Green
Bible” all about the content — perhaps providing a built-in
study-guide to the Bible’s helpful lessons about nature? Or, perhaps
it’s a bad idea to invite us all to buy yet another Bible?


Bibles Aren’t Just Going Green …

They’re Morphing into Entirely New Shapes

We’ve been reporting
on new digital formats in religious publishing and, last week, we
reported on the CEV Bible finally landing on Amazon’s Kindle (the new
hand-held, digital book reader that’s one of the hottest new formats in

Well, that earlier news item in our Planner sparked some Emails from the International Bible Society pointing out that another Bible format also is available now for Kindle — and it’s an unusual new format, called Books of the Bible, which we wrote about at some length in March.
Spearheaded by the Rev. Dr. Christopher Smith and other Bible scholars,
this new format removes all the verse and chapter numbers, which can be
visually annoying while trying to enjoy the meaning of longer
scriptural passages. Smith and IBS now have segments of this
verse-free, TNIV Bible available for Kindle. Plus, they’re only 99
cents each.

If you own a Kindle,
check it out. Because the Kindle (and other emerging digital formats)
make old page-and-chapter numbering systems obsolete, it may be that
Chris Smith and his team turn out to be visionaries in pushing for this
new number-free format.


Coming to a Theater Near …

… well, Near at Least Some of Us

One of our readers alerted us to the SilverDocs film festival, starting today in Washington D.C.

We’ve heard loud and
clear from many readers that you appreciate our recommendations of
unusual and independent films — as well as important TV programs that
you might otherwise miss.

Well, if you live in
the Washington area, check out the impressive array of documentary
films showing throughout this week-long festival. Many contain
spiritual themes.

If you don’t live in
Washington, look over the festival Web site — and think about
organizing at least a fledgling film festival in your own town.

If that’s too ambitious, but you’d like to organize a small group of friends talk about spiritual cinema, then check out our recent Conversation With Stephen Simon. His “Spiritual Cinema Circle” may be your answer.


An Important Step for American Muslims

and All Americans Interested in Diversity

Almost lost in the
flurry of news in recent days was an important announcement by the
Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North

The announcement
was: “A coalition of Islamic and research groups (are launching) a
nationwide census project, the first comprehensive survey of its kind,
intended to collect accurate data about America’s mosques.”

We know that the
readership of this weekly Planner includes many journalists, religious
leaders and activists. With that in mind, we urge our readers to
encourage a detailed and accurate completion in this ambitious project.

There are many
reasons that such a study, if properly conducted, will benefit all of
us — Muslim and non-Muslim. Here’s one example: For many years, one of
the biggest points of conflict in news coverage of Islam in America is
the widely divergent claims about the number of Muslims living in the
U.S. Because there has been no detailed census of American Muslims
conducted by scholars, some Muslim leaders have reported huge
population estimates while some scholars and journalists have reported
far smaller numbers.

The deadline for the new study is 2009. We encourage a thorough and accurate census, which will be in everyone’s best interest.


Step 1. Grab July’s Esquire.

2. Ignore the 4-letter words.

3. Read all about ‘the 6-Letter Word.’

In these “Hot Read”
recommendations, we’re on the lookout for provocative, timely spiritual
reading — usually discovered in unexpected places. This proves our
central thesis that the most interesting spiritual movements in the
world today aren’t taking place in houses of worship and often don’t
even involve our typical religious leaders.

Case in Point: Many
religious readers may find themselves puzzled or outright offended by
the July issue of Esquire. There’s a very long story about men who love
cars — and a way-too-long story about popular “swearwords,” which is
peppered with profanity.

But here’s what
makes the Esquire issue with Mike Myers on the cover a ReadTheSpirit
“Hot Read”: Tom Junod’s challenging story about American solders sent
to Iraq as snipers, later accused of “murder” — (that’s the 6-letter

This is a
mesmerizing look at the complex morality of modern warfare. When I read
this piece, I found my own assumptions pulled in several directions.
You might even think about discussing this story in a small group.



Can You See These Images Clearly?

Here’s a perfect online recommendation for this week’s theme.

Portfolio has
published a clever, interactive version of photographer Chris Jordan’s
famous images that are designed to turn abstract global statistics into
unforgettable visual messages.

Or, you can jump immediately to the interactive pages where you can dramatically expand and contract Jordan’s images to see his underlying themes.

This Week Inside ReadTheSpirit

We’re going to be exploring …

TODAY (Monday), don’t miss our review of an upcoming PBS documentary
on one family’s confrontation with the legacy of American slavery.
We’ve got many preachers, teachers, students and active members of
congregations among our readers — and I can guarantee you that there’s
strong spiritual material in this 90-minute film. We’re telling you
about the film early to give you plenty of opportunity to plan for a
small-group discussion, based on “Traces of the Trade” on PBS.

Tuesday — we
go one step further in helping you explore the legacy of slavery. Our
weekly Quiz asks about modern slavery around the world — and what we
can do about it, today. This Quiz is a great tool to start your group
discussion about the PBS film.

Wednesday —
we continue raising the question, “How can we see the world more
clearly?” But we jump half way around the world from the U.S. for a
Conversation With one of the world’s leading scholars on emerging
religious movements in China. This is a rare opportunity to hear from
an expert about this critically important issue.

Thursday and Friday —
we’ve got some surprises in store as we continue exploring our theme.
You’ll hear from a guest writer who grew up viewing the challenge of
diversity from an unusual perspective. She will share her story with
us. And we’ll also tell you about a surprising group of volunteers
building new kinds of urban temples dedicated to breaking down cultural

Very soon — we plan to publish another Reader Roundup page, so keep your comments, ideas and personal reflections coming our way!


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