Cover Story: What religion stories do we need to hear in 2017?

From Journalists Around the World

th the Blue Marble Earth from spaceCOVER STORY—What religion stories are most important to lift up in 2017? What stories are under-covered in the media? Two of us at ReadTheSpirit participated in a global online forum sponsored by the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) asking for responses to those important questions. You’ll be intrigued and inspired to discover what reporters from the six continents had to say. This week our Cover Story is based at the website of the IARJ.

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WELCOMING SPRING

spring-tree-equinox (1)ALL THE HOLIDAYS—Check out www.InterfaithHolidays.org.

EQUINOX, OSTARA, NOROUZ—It’s spring! That’s the simplest way to describe this cluster of holidays known by many names: Equinox, Ostara or in various traditions with origins in the Middle East and Asia—Norouz, Nowruz or Naw-Ruz. Stephanie Fenton has the story about these global responses to the changing of seasons in the Northern Hemisphere.

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PASSOVER—Jewish families around the world mark the ancient festival of freedom starting at sunset on April 10. Stephanie Fenton has the story about this observance, which involves recalling the story of freedom from slavery—and always prompts questions about the need to respond to injustice in our contemporary world, as well.

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wpid-0322th_Palm_Sunday.jpgEASTER and PALM SUNDAY—As Stephanie Fenton reports, this is one of those rare years when Eastern and Western Christians converge on the same date for Easter, the most important holiday in the Christian year. Before that, though, comes the colorful festival of Palm Sunday.

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African cooking story (1)FEED THE SPIRIT

AFRICAN COOKING—This week, FeedTheSpirit Editor Bobbie Lewis brings us a guest column by Detroit-based artist and writer Sarah Rose Sharp about a community partnership involving a Catholic church and two regional nonprofits presenting classes called “A Taste of African Heritage”—a nutritional education effort that explores the intersection of healthy eating practices and African heritage.

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Cover Blue Ocean Faith book by Dave Schmelzer (1)A New Jesus Movement

DIVE INTO BLUE OCEAN—Recently, we introduced Dave Schmelzer, head of a daring new religious movement launching nationwide this spring: Blue Ocean Faith. The book, and the movement is taking off coast to coast!

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FILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

March 2017 Visual Parables Journal thumbED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org. For many years, the one publication Ed asks subscribers to pay for is the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with complete study guides to films and other news about multi-media resources for discussion. The March 2017 issue now is online! Please, consider subscribing—or giving a gift subscription to someone you know. It’s great for clergy, teachers and anyone who enjoys movies as a springboard to spiritual reflection.

Among Ed’s latest free movie reviews are:

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Cover Story: A spiritual pilgrimage through chronic depression

A SPIRITUAL STRUGGLE FOR MILLIONS

Crossing Myself by Greg GarrettCOVER STORY—Our regular readers are familiar with the inspirational writing of Greg Garrett, who we have featured in this magazine many times over the years. This week, Greg talks about his life-long experience of depression.

A decade ago, Greg first published a spiritual memoir about the depths of his struggle with this common and deeply troubling disorder. Now, he has extensively updated that memoir and talks with us about depression from the perspective of someone who has survived its most lethal challenges. He also highlights the difficulty of getting people to talk about this problem, a gap that can leave sufferers feeling even more isolated. Finally, Greg talks about the role religious communities can play in recovery. This is an interview you’ll want to read and, almost certainly, will want to share with a friend.

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LOSSES: Where do you find delight?

Benjamin Pratt little red truck (1)IT ISN’T EASY—We’re facing so many losses this year, aren’t we? That’s the question raised by popular columnist and author Benjamin Pratt this week. We might experience these losses from the process of aging—but that’s not all to this little story. Plus, Ben welcomes readers to share this column with others to spark discussion. Got a class or small group that enjoys discussing questions like this? You’re free to print out this column and pass it around.

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HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS

CHECK OUT ALL OF 2017’s SPECIAL DAYS—It’s as simple as visiting www.InterfaithHolidays.org

St Patrick in stained glassONE EASTER—This is one of the unusual years when the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity converge on a single date for Easter: April 16. Currently, the entire Christian world is in the midst of Lent.

ST. PATRICK’S DAY—Oh my! What’s a good Irish Catholic to do this year as St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday in Lent! To fast or not to fast? That’s just one of the holiday-related questions Stephanie Fenton answers in her salute to the Irish saint. And, yes, she’s also got links to recipes if you’re planning a festive meal. Her column also includes links to Patrick’s most famous prayer: The Breastplate.

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6 siblingsGod Signs

SUZY FARBMAN—Each week, Suzy brings us a story about the remarkable ways our lives intertwine—sometimes in the way we remember loved ones we have lost. This week, she tells the story of a woman who fondly remembered her father through a clunk on the head. No kidding. What helps you to recall those you’ve lost?

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Launching a New Jesus Movement

Cover Blue Ocean Faith book by Dave Schmelzer (1)500 YEARS AFTER LUTHERMeet Dave Schmelzer, head of a daring new religious movement launching nationwide this spring: Blue Ocean Faith. Plus, we’ve got easy links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble if you want to learn more about this launch.

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FILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

ED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org. Among Ed’s latest free movie reviews are:

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Cover Story: Discover the revolutionary new Blue Ocean Faith

Launching a New Jesus Movement

Cover Blue Ocean Faith book by Dave Schmelzer (1)500 YEARS AFTER LUTHER—Meet Dave Schmelzer, head of a daring new religious movement launching nationwide this spring: Blue Ocean Faith. That’s also the name of the debut book by Schmelzer explaining the founding principles of this new Christian denomination. Those principles begin with a clean slate—removing all the barriers that have bedeviled churches nationwide over the past century and have touched off internal civil wars over racism, women’s rights and the inclusion of LGBT Christians. This new Blue Ocean movement sweeps all of those barriers aside in its quest for a fresh relationship with Jesus. Editor David Crumm interviews Schmelzer and explains the historic milestones that pave the pathway for these Christian reformers. Plus, we’ve got easy links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble if you want to learn more about this launch.

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And speaking of fresh ideas …

Argus-Farm-Stop-Ann-Arbor (1)ALL-LOCAL GROCERIES—Our FeedTheSpirit writer and editor Bobbie Lewis brings us a guest column this week about a fresh trend in Michigan: all-local groceries that are a hybrid of farmers’ markets and commercial food stores. And, as always, she includes a delicious recipe: Amish Cabbage Casserole.

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SLEEPING IN A HOBIT HOLE

5 NEW VISIONS FROM DOWN UNDER—Author, photographer and world traveler Rodney Curtis brings us five—Count ’em, 5!—striking photographs and short stories from a journey with his family to explore the wonders of New Zealand. You can find an overview of the first 4 at Rodney’s homepage. But there’s so much more to see here! Here are direct links to each of the five illustrated stories: Hot Water Beach, then Hobbiton, and Kerosene Creek, plus Wild Horses & Strawberry, and Penguin Parade.

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Wendy Palmer dancing with her father (1)GOD SIGNS

SUZY FARBMAN, this week, brings us the story of Wendy Palmer who lost her father but now recalls him fondly through their shared love of birds.

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HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS

CHECK OUT ALL OF 2017’s SPECIAL DAYS—It’s as simple as visiting www.InterfaithHolidays.org

Hamentaschen-4 (1)PURIM—Jewish families celebrate with lively readings of the ancient story of Esther. Treats include triangle-shaped cookies. Want to know how to make Hamentaschen? Bobbie Lewis has her own perspective on the holiday—a yummy recipe.

ONE EASTER! This is one of the unusual years when the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity converge on a single date for Easter: April 16. That means the entire Christian world of more than 2 billion souls is in the midst of Lent.

Holi-colorful-two-men-womans-hand (1)HOLIColorful powders fill the air in Holi festivals and Stephanie Fenton has our story about this tradition that comes from India. Once, this fun spring festival was largely unknown outside of India, but today it is celebrated on American college campuses and in many communities where immigrant families have settled. Stephanie’s column also notes that Sikh families mark this occasion in a different way in a festival known as Hola Mohalla.

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FILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

Movie Still of Oscar winner The Salesman (1)ED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org. Among Ed’s latest free movie reviews are:

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Cover Story: 2 billion Christians share Lenten season

GET SPIRITUALLY ‘GROUNDED’

Diana Butler Bass GroundedLENTEN COVER STORY—Just in time for the season, Diana Butler Bass’s Grounded is available in a less-expensive paperback edition. Regular readers know that we have been recommending this important book over the past year. This week, Christian educator Debbie Houghton writes about why the message of Grounded is more important than ever.

Of course, we also welcome our readers to consider books by our own authors, as well, which you can explore in our ReadTheSpirit Bookstore, including Editor David Crumm’s own signature book for the season, OurLent.

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HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS

CHECK OUT ALL OF 2017’s SPECIAL DAYS—It’s as simple as visiting www.InterfaithHolidays.org where you’ll find all of 2017’s major observances listed. Please, alert us if you spot an occasion we’ve missed.

ONE EASTER! 
This is one of the unusual years when the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity converge on a single date for Easter: April 16. As of Wednesday, March 1, the entire Christian world of more than 2 billion souls will be in the midst of Lent.

Mardi-Gras-Ash-Wednesday (1)FAT TUESDAY / ASH WEDNESDAY—While Eastern Christians begin their Lenten season with Clean Monday on February 27, Western Christians start Lent on Ash Wednesday March 1. Unlike their Eastern brothers and sisters in the faith, most Western Christians don’t observe traditional fasting customs during Lent. However, that older tradition remains alive in the customs of festivities before Lent begins. Stephanie Fenton has the story about Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, including some fascinating links to holiday resources.

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April Glasco at her Second Chance Last Opportunity in Florida (1)HARD-EARNED LESSONS

GOD SIGNS—This week, Suzy Farbman brings us the inspiring story of April Glasco—who nearly died as a victim of domestic abuse. After a series of tragedies early in her adult life, April transformed herself and developed a shoestring program that today trains men and women in a wide range of life skills. You’ll be inspired by April’s amazing journey.

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Bobbie Lewis in Puerto Rico (1)BOBBIE IN PUERTO RICO!

FEED THE SPIRITBobbie Lewis reports from Puerto Rico this week about her culinary and cultural adventures. And, yes, she’s got a delicious recipe! But this one will surprise you. It’s Turkish!

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SEE YA LATER, GRANDMA

RODNEY CURTIS—Author, columnist and photographer Rodney Curtis offers this heart-felt note to his beloved grandmother. Go on—read the story. You’ll be glad you did.

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COVERING RELIGION FAIRLY

Elisa Di Benedetto of Italy from International Association of Religion JournalistsIMPORTANT RESOURCE—Many ReadTheSpirit readers are asking us: “What can we do to defend the importance of journalism in this era when there seems to be a war aimed at traditional media?” There are many things you can do: Subscribe to a newspaper or news magazine, contribute to public radio and TV, and share responsible journalism across social media. Here’s another important resource: The International Association of Religion Journalists is making experts available to talk with students about the basic principles of covering religious diversity. Here is a new column by IARJ’s Elisa DiBenedetto about helping to teach a university class in Ohio via Skype.

 

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th-msu-journalism-students-who-published-to-my-professorMSU STUDENTS, AGAIN!

‘TO MY PROFESSOR’—Last week, we thanked MediaShift magazine for covering Michigan State University Journalism students’ popular book about interactions between students and teachers. This week, EdSurge adds more news coverage of this innovative bookEdSurge is a six-year-old online magazine serving the growing “EdTech” community of educators and innovators. Care to learn more about the book? Here is a description of this unique book.

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FILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

Movie still I Am Not Your Negro (4)ED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org. Among Ed’s latest free movie reviews are:

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Cover Story: Inspiration for both old and young!

HONESTY ABOUT AGING
(AND DOING GOOD IN THE WORLD)

Spirit Boosters by Missy BuchananMEET MISSY—“As an older adult, you have a responsibility to younger people. They are watching and learning about aging from you. Think of what you are teaching them about God’s faithfulness,” writes the popular author Missy Buchanan in her eighth major project: a 365-day calendar-bound inspirational reader. If you haven’t met Missy in our earlier coverage of her work over the past decade, then you’re in for a treat today! As millions of American Christians prepare for spiritual reading during the season of Lent, we are naturally hoping you will check out our own Bookstore. In addition, we urge our readers to consider books and films from a host of other sources. This week, we have a fresh interview with Missy about the creation of this new calendar that is packed with what she callsSpirit BoostersWe bet there’s someone you love who would enjoy this calendar during Lent—and then throughout the year.

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AND FOR THE YOUNG AMONG US …

Cover of Golden Legacy book about history of Little Golden Books (2)HAPPY 75TH BIRTHDAY! Did you know that The Poky Little Puppy—at 15 million copies sold—is one of the world’s top bestsellers for children surpassing even the mega-bestseller The Cat in the Hat? That’s because, in 1942, it was the first book in a revolutionary wave of publishing known as Little Golden Books. This year marks the 75th birthday, or diamond anniversary, of this project that radically democratized early-childhood literacy. Read our story about the birth and mission of Golden Books.

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Kate Carter behind her camera (1)LASTING MEMORIES

GodSigns—This week, columnist Suzy Farbman brings us the story of Kate Carter who uses her camera to tell the life stories of people who are dying. She does it on a shoestring, and now has captured the legacy of 1,500 men and women.

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Dove Ascending (KarlaHuber) (1)INTERFAITH ‘RESILIENCY’

FROM KARLA HUBER—Long-time ReadTheSpirit friend Karla Huber joins with many of our colleagues in Michigan in occasional regional gatherings to talk about cooperation in our work as media professionals. She recently wrote this column about the Michigan-based call for Commitment to Resiliency in the rising tide of right-wing groups in America. Please, take a moment to read Karla’s column on her website—and, yes, she includes links to learn more about this Commitment.

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th-msu-journalism-students-who-published-to-my-professorCONGRATS, MSU STUDENTS!

‘TO MY PROFESSOR’Thanks to MediaShift magazine for this in-depth story about the Michigan State University School of Journalism book called To My Professor. (This link takes you to the story on the MediaShift website.) Care to learn more about the book? Here is a description of this unique guide to interactions between students and teachers.

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HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS

CHECK OUT ALL OF 2017’s SPECIAL DAYS—It’s as simple as visiting www.InterfaithHolidays.org where you’ll find all of 2017’s major observances listed. Please, alert us if you spot an occasion we’ve missed.

th ukrainian Easter-egg-pysanki-Karen-LarsenONE EASTER THIS YEAR! 
This is one of the unusual years when the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity converge on a single date for Easter: April 16. That means Eastern Orthodox Great Lent begins with Clean Monday on February 27; and Western Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on March 1.

MEATFARE / CHEESEFAREStephanie Fenton reports on Eastern Orthodox preparations for fasting during Lent—and she includes links to some delicious recipes as Eastern Christians prepare to give up meat and then cheese. Cheesefare Sunday is February 26 this year.

Mardi-Gras-Ash-Wednesday (1)FAT TUESDAY / ASH WEDNESDAY—While Eastern Christians begin their Lenten season with Clean Monday on February 27, more than a billion Western Christians start Lent on Ash Wednesday (March 1 this year). Unlike their Eastern brothers and sisters in the faith, most Western Christians don’t observe traditional fasting customs during Lent. However, that older tradition remains alive in the custom of festivities and the consumption of “fats” before Lent begins. Stephanie Fenton has the story about Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, including some fascinating links to holiday resources.

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Vadakkumnathan-Temple-Shiva (3)MAHA SHIVARATRIHolidays columnist Stephanie Fenton covers the Hindu festival honoring Lord Shiva. For many devotees, a day of fasting is followed by a nighttime vigil in honor of Lord Shiva.

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FILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

Visual Parables Journal 2017 February issue thumbnailED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org. And please, consider subscribing to the one resource that supports Ed’s ongoing work—and is enjoyed by individuals and small groups nationwide: Visual Parables Journal. Each monthly issue is packed with complete study guides to current films. The new February issue is now available to subscribers.

Among Ed’s latest free movie reviews are:

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Cover Story: Plan for your Spring or Lenten reading now

GREAT INSPIRATIONAL READING

Ashes on a forehead and Our Lent by David CrummFOR SPRING/LENT—For a decade, our online magazine has recommended the best in books and films that inspire readers and celebrate our diverse lives. Each year, one of the biggest reading seasons is spring—and, in particular, the 40-day period of Lent when millions of Christians make a point of deepening their spiritual reflections. Now is the time to plan for that reading. In an ongoing way, we recommend books from a wide range of authors and publishing houses, so please scroll through our home page to see some of the titles and authors we have recommended recently. And, please, we also ask that you help encourage and support our own ReadTheSpirit authors by considering one of these books in 2017:

 

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th-Changing-Our-Mind-cover-with-author-David-P-Gushee‘DISINVITED AGAIN’

DR. DAVID GUSHEE—Have you been stung by unexpected divisions among friends in this deeply divided era in American culture? Well, you’re not alone! Author David Gushee, who is celebrated nationwide for his pioneering book Changing Our Mindhas paid a price for his courageous and inspirational writing about Christian inclusion. In this column for Religion News Service, he tells the story.

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HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS

CHECK OUT ALL OF 2017’s SPECIAL DAYS—It’s as simple as visiting www.InterfaithHolidays.org where you’ll find all of 2017’s major observances listed. Please, alert us if you spot an occasion we’ve missed.

wpid-0213_thumb_candy_hearts_for_Valentines_Day.jpgVALENTINE’S DAYStephanie Fenton has the story about this very popular holiday and its ancient roots.

THERE’S ONE EASTER THIS YEAR! 
This is one of the unusual years when the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity converge on a single date for Easter: April 16. That means Eastern Orthodox Great Lent begins with Clean Monday on February 27; and Western Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on March 1.

MEATFARE / CHEESEFAREStephanie Fenton reports on Eastern Orthodox preparations for fasting during Lent—and she includes links to some delicious recipes as Eastern Christians prepare to give up meat and then cheese.

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FILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

Visual Parables Journal 2017 February issue thumbnailED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org. And please, consider subscribing to the one resource that supports Ed’s ongoing work—and is enjoyed by individuals and small groups nationwide: Visual Parables Journal. Each monthly issue is packed with complete study guides to current films. The new February issue is now available to subscribers.

Among Ed’s latest free movie reviews are:

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Cover Story: Enough! Remembering that Greed is a Deadly Sin

SHARING PARABLES OF VICE—AND VIRTUE

Goldfinger movie still (2)COVER STORY—Here at ReadTheSpirit we are journalists and storytellers. We try to bring you, each week, the best news about books and films that uplift the spirit while celebrating our world’s diversity. This week, one of our most popular authors, Benjamin Pratt, begins an occasional series reminding us that the world’s great religions have always been a moral guide to avoiding vices (or “evils” or some would say “deadly sins”) and encouraging virtues. Given headlines in recent weeks, we asked Ben to start with “Greed” and its counter-virtue “Charity” (or some would say generosity). We invite you to reflect on this thought-provoking column and, please, share it with friends. Ben calls this first column: “Enough!

Donizetti painting of Greed Avarice (1)AND THERE’S MORE—Ben also is a firm believer that deeper reflections may be prompted by visual meditations. So, this week, he also borrows an idea from the late Phyllis Tickle and invites you—and your friends—to reflect on a disturbing painting by Mario Donizetti.

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A GENEROUS LIFE

Marti and Wayne Huizenga talk about the year of the rat craze (1)GodSigns—Columnist Suzy Farbman profiles the late Marti Huizenga. She and her husband are known nationally for many things, including businesses and professional sports teams they have owned. But Suzy focuses on the natural generosity that flowed from Marti throughout her life to family, friends and important causes including the Humane Society. Here’s a look at a larger-than-life woman—and also the remarkable funeral she planned for herself.

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PBS: EXPLORING AMERICAN EXTREMISM

FOUR DOCUMENTARIES—PBS is airing four documentaries in February that explore the rise of American extremism—and the life of Civil Rights hero John Lewis. David Crumm reviews the first of these films, ‘Birth of a Movement,’ about the first case—a century ago—of a U.S. president welcoming extremists into the White House to celebrate white supremacy. We also list all the other documentaries with air dates and links to learn more.

 

 

HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS

CHECK OUT ALL OF 2017’s SPECIAL DAYS—It’s as simple as visiting www.InterfaithHolidays.org where you’ll find all of 2017’s major observances listed. Please, alert us if you spot an occasion we’ve missed.

wpid-0213_thumb_candy_hearts_for_Valentines_Day.jpgVALENTINE’S DAYStephanie Fenton has the story about this very popular holiday and its ancient roots.

TU B’SHEVATAnd, did you know the Jewish agricultural festival that’s also known as “The New Year of the Trees” is coming soon? Stephanie Fenton has the story.

PLAN AHEAD FOR LENT! 
Cover Edward McNulty Jesus Christ Movie Star (1)This is one of the unusual years when the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity converge on a single date for Easter: April 16. That means Eastern Orthodox Great Lent begins with Clean Monday on February 27; and Western Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on March 1. Plan ahead with an unusual choice in inspirational reading this year: Enjoy Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film guide to thought-provoking movies about Jesus, called Jesus Christ Movie Star. This is a great choice for individual reflection, a common practice during Lent for millions of Christians, or for discussion in small groups, another popular custom during Lent.

MEATFARE / CHEESEFAREStephanie Fenton reports on Eastern Orthodox preparations for fasting during Lent—and she includes links to some delicious recipes as Eastern Christians prepare to give up meat and then cheese.

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FILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

The Founder movie still with Michael Keaton (1)ED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org.

Among Ed’s latest free movie reviews are:

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