Cover Story: Remembering 6 spiritual heroes who touched our lives

In Memoriam … 


RAM DASS—He turned a generation’s religious assumptions head over heels with the circular message on the square cover of his 1971 classic, Be Here Now. That was back when trying daily meditation could spark charges of cult-like behavior. How our hearts and minds have changed! Today, Pew tells us, 40 percent of Americans proudly say they meditate weekly, including half of evangelical Protestants. The Religion News Service obituary begins, “Ram Dass, a spiritual pied piper who introduced a generation of young Americans to Hindu meditation, died Sunday (Dec. 23) in Maui, Hawaii, where he lived and taught. He was 88.” And, here’s The New York Times obituary. As a journalist covering religious diversity for 45 years, David Crumm interviewed Ram Dass at various stages of his life. Here’s David’s last interview with Ram Dass from 2013.


A SPIRITUAL STORYTELLER—Our community of writers recognized Rachel Held Evans as a saint with remarkable talents for welcoming people into a Christian fellowship who might never have found their way through a church door. Our last interview with her was in 2015, focusing on her book Searching for Sunday. Of course, like most true saints, Rachel’s influence on this world continues long after her death. Here is a November column we published about her posthumously released column on LGBTQ inclusion. That column also includes links to other stories by and about Rachel, including the New York Times obituary.


A BRIGHT SPIRIT AND LOVER OF ANIMALS—Since our online magazine was founded in 2007, Doris Day has popped up regularly in many different contexts. Here’s a 2008 religion quiz about Christian Science where she makes a cameo. Rodney Curtis includes her in his delightful Spiritual Wanderer memoir. She also sent us a brief “thank you” note after we published Every Living Thingreligious reflections on caring for animals. Religion writers nationwide were puzzled that The New York Times obituary never mentioned her many active years in Christian Science. Fortunately, the Get Religion column did explore that part of her life in more depth for us.


ALWAYS SURPRISING US—When the poet died this year, at age 91, those of us who loved his work visited his world once again. Our contributing columnist Martin Davis collaborated with David Crumm on this reflection called A Spring Walk and an Old Oak Pew. Although many obituaries described him as Buddhist, The Los Angeles Times came closest to his lover’s quarrel with religion when it described him as “a post-Presbyterian Zen poet and channeler of ancient paradoxes.”


‘SAVIOR OF PEOPLE ON THE MARGINS’—When Jean Vanier died, The New York Times obituary used that phrase in its headline. Like Doris Day and Merwin, Vanier was a touchpoint for so many of our writers and readers over the years that our home office received a flurry of emails after his death. One place we referred our friends was this Ed McNulty review praising the film about Vanier: Summer in the Forest. Perhaps you might want to see the film in honor of Vanier. Ed writes, “At a time when our news media are full of stories of political folly and corruption, this film can help keep alive faith in humanity and a hopeful future.”


WE ALL FELT THIS LOSS—Our entire publishing house team felt the loss of U.S. Rep. John Dingell earlier this year—because Dingell and his wife Debbie had labored over a Foreword for Clifford Worthy’s inspiring memoir, The Black Knight. Dingell’s father had played a crucial role in Worthy’s life, sending him to West Point. We published this story about a major event in Detroit honoring both Worthy and Dingell’s role in the book. Today, Worthy is the oldest living black graduate of the famous military academy. If you haven’t already, please order a copy of The Black Knightand you will find that Dingell’s affirmation of the American spirit in his Foreword is a stirring call to remember our core values in these troubled times.


Holiday Cheer 

Kwanzaa: Celebrating African-American Values

WINDING DOWN THIS WEEK—Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration of African-American culture that was first celebrated half a century ago in 1966. Please, read Stephanie Fenton’s column on the festival, which includes inspiring quotes from a couple of Karenga’s messages.

Welcoming the New Year 2020

THE HOLIDAY STORYHolidays & Festivals columnist Stephanie Fenton has our 2020 New Year’s story with cameos from around the world and links to resources you can use.

AND, A FAMILY STORY—Contributing columnist Judy Gruen, who first appeared in our online magazine in 2008, has returned with a heart-warming story about New Year’s customs that united her family and friends for many years. The story involves a “surprise” birthday party and— Please, enjoy!


Care to see all the holidays? It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances—just remember the address



Click this image from Little Women to read Ed McNulty’s review.

Faith & Film

Click on the image to learn about the December issue of Visual Parables Journal.

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns are:








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