Sample RTS Planner from week of June 9: Diversity, New Directions for the Bible and a Wurd for URB

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




    I’m tempted to
write that this is a spiritual season of fear — given global headlines
over the past week — but that’s not where we’re focused as people of
faith, are we? We’re the people whose lives point toward compassion and
connection. In today’s Planner, you’ll find notes of hope and help.


   Wish Jewish friends a wonderful Shavuot
today. The festival began at sundown on Sunday and is observed either
for one or two days. It’s a first-fruits festival, but it also
celebrates the gift of the Torah to Moses.


    Later this week, many Hindus will celebrate the divine nature of the Ganges River in the festival of Ganga Dussehra.


    For those of you
who mark your summer by blockbuster movie releases, Friday brings the
latest incarnation of “The Incredible Hulk,” played by Edward Norton
this time.


    On Sunday, it’s not only Father’s Day — it’s the centennial
of Father’s Day, if you mark its origin as West Virginia in 1908.
(Wikpedia’s article has a cool chart of Father’s Days around the world.)



“Must our diversity lead to conflict?”  

This question has
been bubbling to the surface for days — with rumors in the news of
possible attacks on Iran in coming months, fears of skyrocketing
unemployment and oil prices. Even our confidence in top leaders is
shaken when, for instance, we just learned that America’s two top U.S.
Air Force officials were fired for misplacing parts to nuclear missiles.

This is precisely
the kind of stormy sea in which people of faith — people with
spiritual insight — are called to do our best swimming. All this week
at ReadTheSpirit, our stories will talk, first, about some of the
dangers we face — but mainly we’ll offer you several remarkable
reflections on the path ahead of us.

Including: We’ll
have an in-depth Conversation With Brian McLaren, who has just
published a major new book on “Finding Our Way Again.”




Let’s Start With Some Good News!

News from NY that “Interfaith” Works

The Jewish scholar
and writer Joe Lewis (who also is one of the guiding lights behind the
Ford Motor Co. Interfaith Network) reported to us Live from NY from the
Network and Affinity Leadership Congress via Email.

At first, Joe was a
little uncertain that he was in the right place. Only a half dozen of
the 300 conferees were representing “active interfaith networks,” Joe
said. “But I learned something that made me happy: Both American
Express and Fannie Mae said they have modeled their Interfaith Networks
on the Ford Interfaith Network. Now, I don’t know to what extent they
tried to replicate our organization, and perhaps they simply took
inspiration from the fact that the Ford network exists, but it’s a
great compliment to Ford.

“I met some
organizations like PepsiCo that are considering interfaith networks but
are very hesitant to take this step. I also heard that AOL and Intel
now both have active interfaith networks … and American Express has
active Jewish, Muslim and Christian groups.”


Kindle-ing Interest in Scriptures

Bible Society Dives into Amazon’s Gizmo

We’ve been reporting
on the challenges of delivering spiritual media in the huge array of
digital formats swirling around us now — especially the Kindle,
Amazon’s remarkable hand-held book reader.

Bravo to the
American Bible Society for delivering their CEV Bible to the Kindle
this week! I was among the first purchasers of this $3.99 version of

As a Religion Writer for
Knight-Ridder newspapers, I reported nationally on the launch of the
CEV in 1995. In short: I can assure you that this is an accurate and highly readable translation.
Kindle version is searchable, and I “test drove” the Kindle-CEV in a
Bible-study class this week, flipping to passages with ease sometimes
quicker than friends with traditional paper-and-leather Bibles.

It’s also easy to
buy this new Bible. Just type in “CEV” in your Kindle search box, click
once to pay the $3.99 and you’ll have it in your hands within moments.

Until now, the
tech-savvy folks at Zondervan have been leaders in getting evangelical
materials onto the Kindle. It’s nice to see more choices.


And Speaking of Unusual Bible News!

“Uncensored Bible” Is … uhhh Unveiled

OK, so we know that readers had mixed reactions to our “Sex and the Bible” quiz this past week — but what we hope you didn’t miss is that a book we previewed many months ago as great for small-group study is finally hitting bookstores this week.

It sounds funny —
and the authors definitely have a sense of humor in calling their book,
“The Uncensored Bible: How Bible Scholars Wrestle with Even the Naughty
Bits of the Good Book.” But there’s also real substance here.

OK, so add your own
wry comments here — but I’m betting this book flies out of stores to
preachers, teachers, students and anyone else who wants to wake up
ho-hum groups.


“Finding Our Way Again”

A Jesuit’s Pilgrimage in CyberSpace

In this headline
we’re making spiritual connections with a number of important and
timely themes. Brian McLaren’s new book is called “Finding Our Way
Again,” plus “Pilgrimage” is one of the ancient practices shared by
many faiths that Brian is recommending — plus one of our favorite
Catholic writers, Father James Martin, SJ, just made a cool “CyberSpace

That’s right. Father Martin deliberately made a pilgrimage through Catholic Web sites.

It’s tough to trace
his steps on the Web — hey, it was a pilgrimage, after all! But if you
want to glimpse his footprints remaining on one site, check out how Sister Julie greeted her Jesuit guest at A Nun’s Life.

If you don’t recall Father Martin and his latest book, we reviewed it at the request of a reader who found it very helpful.

Now it’s your turn!
Tell us what ideas this news item sparks in your mind. Online
Pilgrimages? Centuries ago, someone dreamed up Labyrinth Pilgrimages —
and now we’re discovering people working on Web-based Pilgrimages.

Combating Slavery

Mark Your Calendar for PBS Documentary

Related to the whole rebirth of interest in William Wilberforce and the release of the film “Amazing Grace,”
a sprawling network of activists combating modern slavery expanded and
reached into countless congregations around the world — and found lots
of receptive men and women. After all, the anti-slavery crusade has
deep roots in British and American religious movements.

If you’re among the
millions now interested in this issue, mark your calendars to watch or
record PBS at 10 p.m. on June 24 (check local listings in case of
regional time changes).

The highly respected
“P.O.V.” documentary series kicks off its 21st season with “Traces of
the Trade,” a documentary about one family’s attempt to uncover the
truth of the slave trade within its own ranks.

Also — watch ReadTheSpirit before June 24 for coverage and a review of this important film.



Just a Quick Wurd in Praise of URB

We look high and low
for spiritual connections — and, in the “hot read” category this week,
a word of praise goes to “URB” — the California-based magazine
covering urban music. In the midst of the R-rated language and all the
other raw edges in this slick slice of news about city sound — the
editors have devoted most of this issue to spiritual reflections. Pick
up a copy on the newsstand — it’s the magazine cover bathed in scarlet
with two angry men glaring out at us and a prominent headline about

Yeah. Yeah, I know.

But, inside? There’s a heart of gold.


This Week Inside ReadTheSpirit

We’re going to be exploring …

TODAY (Monday), we report on the problem we’re facing with ugly stereotypes bubbling to the surface in many forms — from Asian stereotypes to anti-Muslim diatribes. We’re not even sure what to make of the “Zohan”?! Tell us, hmmm?

Tuesday, our
weekly Quiz returns. This one’s great for groups and focuses on
“Pilgrimage” — one of the ancient spiritual practices shared by nearly
all of the world’s great faiths. (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 Brian McLaren in an in-depth Conversation, talking about
this milestone in religious publishing that he and Phyllis Tickle are
launching through Thomas Nelson. Brian also talks about the huge
challenges we’re facing in an increasingly diverse world.

Thursday, you’ll hear from Phyllis with her perspective on this memorable new series of books Nelson is launching.

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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