ReadTheSpirit Planner for Week of June 2: Bono, Blair and Awakening the Spiritual Power of the Brain

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 2:

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




Christians are moving through the Easter-related holidays later than
Western Christians this year. On Thursday, they’re celebrating The Ascension of our Lord
with Orthodox Pentecost coming on June 15. The Ascension is one of the
12 Great Feasts of the Orthodox year. (That first link jumps to a Greek
Orthodox overview with icon illustrations. Or, there’s a fairly good comparison of East and West at Wikipedia.)


    Thursday also is World Environment Day, created by the United Nations in 1972. The global host this year is New Zealand. The current slogan is: “CO2, Kick the Habit!”


    And, many who lived through World War II will solemnly recall D-Day in 1944 on Friday. If you’re not familiar with this, watch “Saving Private Ryan,” “The Longest Day” or the haunting British film “Overlord,” recently released on DVD with real D-Day footage.



“How Can I Keep Up With Our Rapidly Changing Culture?”  

This week, we’ll explore this question from various perspectives. And, please, tell us where you’re seeing this question emerge!

I don’t mean to
boast, but unless you’re regularly reading a cutting-edge publication
like ReadTheSpirit, it’s almost impossible to keep the rapidly changing
players straight in the spiritual drama that’s unfolding around us.

What am I talking about specifically? Well, simply consider the news items in today’s Planner.

Or, check out today’s top story on our Web site
— about stem-cell research and a new documentary film that explores
emerging religious and moral issues in this promising area of research.





Two Notable Religious Moves

At ReadTheSpirit, we
don’t want to take sides. But I do predict that people will remember
two religious moves that popped up in weekend headlines. (You can add
your own commentary to these news items.)

First, I’m sure
people are going to remember a remark made at Furman University on
Saturday by President Bush, telling graduates about his own life:
“There was a time in my life when alcohol competed for my affections,
but I found salvation in my family and in my faith. There is no shame
in recognizing your failings or getting help if you need it. The
tragedy comes when we fail to take responsibility for our weaknesses
and surrender to them.”

Then, second, I’m
sure we’re also going to recall that in the heat of the 2008
presidential race, we reached the point that two leading candidates had
to back away from religious connections. Sen. Barack Obama resigned
from his Chicago congregation. Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain also was in
headlines this weekend for rejecting some religious links to his
campaign, as well.



But All That Pales in Comparison to …

Here’s what we mean
about needing a program to make sense of the rapidly changing global
drama. You may have considered the political moves I just mentioned to
be the biggest stories about faith and politics at the moment.

They’re not.

The most important
faith-and-politics news breaking right now is captured in Time
Magazine’s profile of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his
new “Faith Foundation.” This story appears in the current issue and also is available online.

Time calls Blair the
most “openly devout political leader” in Britain in more than a century
— and this lengthy story describes Blair’s new foundation as tackling
an enormous religious challenge.

According to Time’s
reporting, Blair’s colleagues in this new effort range from U2’s Bono,
who helped to nudge Blair toward his conversion to Catholicism, to
Saddleback Church’s Rick Warren, who serves on Blair’s advisory board.

What’s most amazing
about this effort — with this kind of international partnership behind
it — is that Blair is openly attempting to work with leaders of six
faiths: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs.

The issues he’s targeting are part of the Millennium Development Goals, including a dramatic reduction in malaria.

The vision shared by
Blair and his friends (and this includes Rick Warren, an evangelical
mega-star) is that the world’s future depends upon religious
cooperation, not competition.

In the Time story,
Bono says of his friend Blair: “I think he wants to dedicate the rest
of his life to denying the concept of ‘a clash of civilizations.'”

Now, that’s Big News.


Want to Share Readers and Links?

We do this all the time at ReadTheSpirit. In fact, cooperation is one of Founding Principles, too. We often share links
to other Web sites, Blogs, author-pages, group hubs. We’re as
hospitable as possible. If you’ve got your own online presence — and
you’d like to occasionally share a post, an article, a Web link, a
comment with our readers, then please just Email us and let’s talk about it.


“Awakening” the Healing Powers

If you still think
the storyline concerning faith and science is a tragedy, then think
again! It’s shaping up as more of an adventure story.

Exciting things are happening, even though there are many tough questions we all need to sort out in this arena.

For instance, I’ve already mentioned our story today about stem-cell research.

Just as exciting as
that, there was the news out of New York City yesterday about the
famous neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, the author of “Awakenings,”
kicking off this week’s World Science Festival in New York City with a
cooperative concert at Harlem’s world-famous Abyssinian Baptist Church!

This wasn’t a publicity stunt. Sacks’ latest book is “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.”

Sacks says he’s well
aware of the central power of music in most religious traditions. Faith
and science have a whole lot to share in exploring why, for example,
hymns are among the deepest and most soothing memories for many
Alzheimers patients.

But that’s just one small example in this rich field of study.



Whose “Footprints” Are They?

A couple of words of warning here!

If you love
“Footprints in the Sand,” the poem about God carrying us along a
troubling section of life’s shifting sands, then you’re likely to find
Hank Stuever’s front-page story in the Washington Post a little too
caustic. It’s true. He’s got a very sharp pen … er, keyboard.

Second warning: It’s a long story, so read it over a coffee or lunch break.

But, read it! I
learned a lot from Hank on Sunday about this poem we’ve seen a zillion
places! As Hank points out, that poem is everywhere from coffee mugs
and garden stones to greeting cards and even ash trays.

Hank’s story is
about a new legal challenge — from one more person trying to muscle
his way into the crowd of people who claim to have written that poem.

Read his story and I guarantee that you’ll want to tell a friend about it.


This Week Inside ReadTheSpirit

 We’re going to be exploring …

TODAY (Monday), we’re exploring the spiritual side of stem-cell research
in our overview of a fascinating new documentary film, shot mainly
around Northwestern University in Chicago. (And please note the comment
today from Brian McLaren, because next week we’ll share with you a
special in-depth interview with Brian about his latest publishing
project, which connects back to some of the themes we’re talking about

Tuesday, our
weekly Quiz returns. (We’ve got a new “Share This” feature on our pages
that makes it easier than ever for you to share these popular quizzes
with friends.)

you’ll meet one of the global pioneers in promoting and distributing
films with spiritual themes. That’s in our Conversation With the
Spiritual Cinema Circle’s founder and guiding light, Stephen Simon.
Don’t miss it.

Thursday, we will introduce a special guest.

And, Friday, we’ll have more surprises and we’ll likely share more of your terrific reader comments. We’re always eager to hear from readers!

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