Sept 15 2008 Sample of weekly ReadTheSpirit Planner

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




Some Chinese communities are celebrating the Mid-Autumn or Mooncake Festival. But, practices vary, traditional stories vary and customs vary. If you’re near a Chinese community, though—enjoy a Mooncake.


Ramadan, the fasting month in Islam, continues this week for more than 1 billion Muslims around the world. ReadTheSpirit is celebrating with—a first-ever series of stories by Muslim men, women and young people.


On Wednesday,
September 17, pause a moment in wonderment at the pace of change in our
world. This is the 100th anniversary of the first death in a powered
aircraft. Orville Wright was the pilot. Thomas Selfridge was the passenger who died when Orville’s plane crashed.


Appropriately, the very next day—Thursday, September 18—is the feast day of St. Joseph of Cupertino,
an unusual saint who supposedly had a miraculous power to levitate.
That’s why he’s the Patron of aviators and astronauts, among others.

Please, tell us about your own experience with any of these observances.


“What fresh voices are emerging this fall?”

We’re spiritually restless people, always looking for the hottest new voices.

In network television circles this week, everybody’s raving about the impact of FOX’s new “Fringe,”
a cool blend of mystery and mysticism described as
“X-Files”-meets-“Twilight Zone” or Dr. Frankenstein-meets-Albert
Einstein. The series was created by professionals with credits like
“Lost” and “Alias.” And, if you thought the reviews couldn’t get any
better—FOX is getting super feedback from advertisers who like the
impact of their commercials during “Fringe.”

“Fringe” is wrapped up in so much mythical-mystical gobbledygook that
I’d argue it’s also part of our fascination with the spiritual!

“Fringe” is hardly a substantive offering of spiritual insight that can
sustain us through a typical week. So, all this week, ReadTheSpirit is exploring Fresh Voices with real religious substance.




It’s a Tough Time to Pass the Hat,

But Congregations Have No Choice

We published a significant commentary on this question late last month:
How can religious leaders talk about their fund-raising campaigns this
autumn with integrity—and a chance of success—in such frightening
economic times?

And I don’t mean to
cause our readers any more anxiety, but I’ve been watching the mounting
number of stories in publications that keep a close watch on these
issues, such as the Philanthropy News Digest. The PND tracks news reports around the country about trends in giving.

In the past week,
PND has published two grim summaries. The first one cited a fresh
national survey showing 1 in 3 Americans say they’re cutting back on
giving this year—and 1 in 4 Americans say they’re “done” for the year,

Then, yesterday, PND
summarized New York Times reporting on the pinch at Salvation Army and
Goodwill stores. While both charitable chains have seen increasing
needs from shoppers—donations are shrinking as Americans use their old
stuff longer or try to make a few bucks on it rather than giving it

This is a time for fresh approaches and straight talk with parishioners. Check out our earlier commentary — and tell us how these issues look in your part of the country. We’d like to hear your reflections on this major challenge.

Partisans in the Religious Debate

Over Inclusion of Gays, Please Note:

Embrace of Ellen Is Warm and Welcoming

We know that our
readers have a wide range of viewpoints on this long-standing,
hot-button issue in American religious life. However, I’ve covered
religion news for more than 20 years—and I know that one of the most
common arguments against inclusion in mainline religious groups is that
a move toward inclusion would alienate too many Americans.

Well, the culture is
rapidly changing and has changed entirely for the vast majority of
younger Americans. Advertising Age reports that Ellen DeGeneres, who
just graced the cover of People magazine with her wedding photos, is
one of the most popular and beloved of American celebrities at the
moment. According to Ad Age, she even topped Oprah in one recent wave
of American responses.

Of course, that’s
just one woman and one personal story that Americans are warmly
embracing, but the indicators are piling up: American religious groups
that continue to maintain strict exclusionary teachings are finding
themselves in a righteous minority within the larger American culture.


Easily Leaps Great Distances—

But We Can Help With the Heavy Lifting

We reported on Friday (in the second news item of the day) that the new Interfaith Passport
idea is taking off in several parts of the country. A number of
institutions coast to coast are considering using these colorful little
folders to encourage greater exploration in culturally diverse

PLEASE NOTE: We designed this idea for super-easy, grassroots distribution. We even provide free downloads of the two high-res images needed to print them.

HOWEVER, we also immediately received an inquiry about bulk printing of Interfaith Passports
from a reader. Yes, we can order and ship directly to you beautifully
printed Passports in bulk quantities for reasonable rates. Simply send us an Email inquiry.
By “bulk” we’re talking about quantities in the hundreds or in the
thousands, suitable for congregations, schools or community groups. Just drop us a note to find out more.


Hot Read:

If You Don’t Own One Already,

Go Grab a Copy of the October Esquire.

No, You Can’t Miss It …

Why? Because it’s
the only magazine on the newsstand with an animated, battery-powered
E-Ink cover. In fact, Esquire proudly proclaims this is the “World’s
First E-Ink Cover.”

We’re Kindle fans at ReadTheSpirit, not because we think the Kindle is the supreme evolution of electronic readers (clearly it isn’t, as we discussed with Phyllis Tickle just a few days ago)—but
anyone seriously interested in new media needs to be vigorously
exploring these new formats (plus, you won’t get your fingers dirty
with E-Ink).

THE BEST PART in this new issue of Esquire! The best part is Esquire’s
list of “The 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century.” You’ll
recognize many of the names, but a big effort has been made here to
include dozens of virtually unknown names from Asia and other emerging
regions around the globe. Clearly, this is further evidence piling up for Fareed Zakaria when he’s ready to write his next book.


New Online:

USC’s Knight Chair in Media and Religion

Tracks Palin Pentecostal Issue

This issue is so hot that Dr. Wayne Baker explores it today at (see the next item in our Planner to read more on that).

For a quick
backgrounding on this issue, the USC team has done an excellent job
collecting links to significant stories. The Web gurus for the Knight
Chair’s Web site site tell me the two best links to check for updates
on this subject are:

Nice work, USC team!


Are You Troubled by

Some of the Voices in Politics This Season?

Dr. Wayne Baker
invites readers to talk about their reactions to some of the unusual
and occasionally angry voices we’ve heard in the presidential campaign.
Why do some of these words sting? What’s fair in the public square? Are
there any boundaries when debating the future of our country and the

Don’t miss the important conversation throughout this week on Dr. Baker’s Web page. He’s starting today with questions about Sarah Palin’s Pentecostal values.

ALSO, there’s still
time to sign up for the two waves in a major survey that Dr. Baker will
invite OurValues readers to complete this fall. This survey will help
Baker develop new tools to accurately and fairly take the pulse of
Americans’ attitudes as they relate to our heartfelt values.

It’s easy to sign up to take part in the surveys—see the sign-up box at the top of Dr. Baker’s page.

Check it out over at OurValues and, please, add your comments to the discussion.


This Week Inside ReadTheSpirit

We’re exploring the week’s Big Question:

“What Fresh Voices are emerging this fall?”

TODAY (Monday), we’re kicking off the week with news from LIFT (YOUR CITY) IN PRAYER:
It’s an idea designed to let every person, wherever you live, voice a
prayer for your community—and on Sunday, the idea drew a huge crowd to
downtown Detroit. Empowering people to raise their own voices is a
crucial part of what’s happening today in spirituality.

Tuesday: Our popular Tuesday Quiz returns! (We apologize to anyone who had trouble reading all the answers to last week’s quiz about beloved TV commercials. Drop us a line if you had trouble seeing that day’s story.)

We’ve got a Conversation With Christine Falsani, a columnist for the
Chicago Sun-Times. Outside the Chicago area, she’s a fresh voice in
spiritual writing. She’s also a funny, wise and inspirational voice, so
come read what she has to say about her work.

Thursday: We’re
sharing a fresh voice from Asia. Brother Yun, whose earlier
autobiography sold more than 1 million copies, is touring the U.S.
right now with a brand new book.

Friday: We’ll have another Reader Roundup page, because you keep sending us so many wonderful notes, reflections and fresh ideas.


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