Take a Small Step in Learning about Our Neighbors—and You Can Make a Huge Difference

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

MSU School of Journalism

The newest Bias Busters guide is a lesson in how small can be huge.

Bias Busters are cultural competence guides published by the Michigan State University School of Journalism.

The guides are small—just 100 questions with answers—but the series has become big: 14 guides in just five years. Several have won awards and they are used by universities, businesses and interfaith groups.

But the really big small thing about our latest book, 100 Questions and Answers About Sexual Orientation, is that it was published by just three students. It usually takes a whole class, as many as 20 people, to publish one guide. The three students on this guide—Caitlin Taylor, Alexis Stark and Rebecca Fadler—were in a class that produced the earlier 100 Questions and Answers About Gender Identity. They decided a companion volume was needed—and they were concerned about the delay in publishing the Sexual Orientation volume if they let that project wait until it fit into our regular School of Journalism course schedule.

So, the three created an independent study project and began work immediately.

The guide answers questions including:
• Are bisexual and pansexual the same?
• Are drag queens and kings gay?
• What is conversion therapy?
• Are people born gay?


Pew Research continues to track our changing attitudes as Americans. The latest report by Pew research analyst Anna Brown shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans now tell pollsters that they believe LGBT people and homosexuality in general should be accepted. That’s a dramatic increase over the past decade. In 2006, only half of Americans told pollsters that they favored acceptance.

As a result, Pew found, millions of people now feel comfortable being open about their sexual orientation. More than 10 million Americans now identify as LGBT—up from 8.3 million as recently as 2012.

Bottom line: American acceptance is growing every year—making more and more LGBT people feel safe in letting others know about their orientation.

Right now, questions are buzzing in living rooms, small groups, coffee shops and around water coolers at work.That means: We need accurate answers now!


Click the book’s back cover to see it enlarged.

As our MSU teams prepare each guide, we always invite a nationwide array of blue-ribbon advisors to help us ensure accuracy.

Allies for this guide included Dr. David P. Gushee and Susan Horowitz, who wrote introductory essays for the new book. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University. He is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of 22 books including Changing Our Mind, which has been read by individuals and small groups around the world. Susan Horowitz is editor and publisher of Between The Lines/Pride Source. She founded Pride Publishing, Inc., a graphic arts and publishing company and the publisher of the New York City Pride Guide from 1983 to 1999.

The three student authors echoed the actions of another small group of Michigan State students who advocated for tolerance of gay people almost 50 years ago. In the fall of 1971, they asked the East Lansing City Council for an ordinance banning discrimination in hiring. The following March it passed, 3-2.

That made East Lansing the nation’s first community to enact civil rights protections for gay and lesbian people. Small group, big impact.


You can use these small guides, whether they are about gender identity or sexual orientation or race, ethnicity or culture, to make a big difference, too.

We’d like to suggest that you make a New Year’s resolution to read at least a couple of our MSU guides. You can find them indexed on Amazon and on the Front Edge Publishing website. This effort takes little time. By getting clear, accurate answers to our questions about each other, we can start conversations with neighbors, co-workers or new relatives we wanted to have but were reluctant to try. Perhaps we didn’t want to ask questions that might be harmful. Maybe we felt these were things people just expect us to know.

Now, you can those little conversations. And that is really big!

Joe Grimm is editor of the Bias Busters series and visiting editor in residence in the Michigan State University School of Journalism.

Comments: (1)
Categories: Uncategorized

Seeking True Christmas Spirit? Consider Diving Deeper This Year

ReadTheSpirit Contributing Columnist

Hold on! Just a minute! I gotta check …

Now take another minute! Did you ever think: Our daily social media fixes are really weapons of mass distraction?

Has this ever happened to you? Be honest. You are cooking something on the stove when you hear a ping from your smartphone. You say, “Okay, while that’s cooking, I’ll go see what that notification is about.” You look. “Oh, no, that high school classmate is totally wrong!  I have to reply.” Or: “Ha, that cat picture is so silly!” Or: “What a cool video!” Or, “Wow! This Wikipedia article has a lot of cool information.”

Meanwhile, in the kitchen: Five-alarm fire.

Journalist Shankar Vedantam, who you’ve probably heard on National Public Radio, knows that most of us react to the beeps and buzzes of our phones with great urgency—like parents responding to a baby’s cry. But now, research is showing that we really should make an effort to avoid such distractions. When we become lost in this digital media, we lose our ability to focus.

In his Hidden Brain Podcast, Vedantam profiles Cal Newport, a computer scientist at Georgetown University and author of a book called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Newport believes that we underestimate the problems created by constant interruptions, and he insists that the situation is “more urgent than people realize.”

Here’s the danger: When we let emails or Facebook messages guide our workday, we are weakening our ability to do the most challenging kind of work—what Newport calls “deep work.” This is work that requires sustained attention: Writing a report, solving an engineering problem, or doing significant research.

So, what should we do about it? 

Newport recommends that we set aside long portions of the day to focus on deeper thinking. This means no social media, limited email, and strict limits on appointments. The result is a life that is richer and more human than a life of automatically responding to emails and clicking on websites, which is what many of us end up doing all day.

As we enter the hectic holiday season, our distractions are going to increase with the addition of activities such as parties, concerts, shopping trips, travel to see family and friends, and the giving and receiving of gifts. These activities may be wonderful—but there also is a cost to a jam-packed holiday season. We are distracted us from the deep work that is at the heart of this spiritually significant season.

It is important, I believe, for each of us to carve out time for reflection during this busy time of the year.

Practical Ideas: One Page at a Time

Keeping a journal is one way to practice deep work. Making the time to write a single page each day about the significance of your experiences can lead to discoveries about your relationships with God and the people around you. Shirley Showalter is a Mennonite scholar and author who is an expert in memoir, and her website has a blog called “Magical Memoir Moments” that offers a series of meditations and reflections on life and spirituality. Her short entries are excellent examples of the kind of deep work that can be done through journaling, and her website invites us all to “discover the power of writing your story.”

Slowing down long enough to experience art can also be beneficial. Many religious traditions understand God to be the creator of all that is, and God’s creative work can be reflected in music or visual art that is made by human beings—people who are “co-creators with God” in bringing something out of nothing. My church will begin the Advent season with a sing-a-long performance of Handel’s Messiah, which inspires deep thought about the significance of the coming of Jesus Christ.

Taking the time to serve others can also help us to go deep, especially if service includes the opportunity to develop relationships with people in need. Yes, there are certainly many charities asking for donations at the end of the year, but the making of an online contribution does little to slow us down and enrich our lives. More significant are those efforts that connect us with our neighbors, such as the hypothermia prevention program that my congregation will be offering for a week in December, as part of an interfaith effort that continues through the winter. We will be providing food and shelter to our homeless neighbors on cold winter nights, but even more importantly we will have an opportunity to sit down with our guests each evening, have conversation, and make a human connection.

In her new book White Picket Fences, Amy Julia Becker writes about the transformative power of organizing her day around intentional practices of writing, reflecting and intentionally spending lots of time with people who are in need. In the process, Amy describes how she has learned to do what I would describe as “the deep work” of faith, family and community.

You know what she discovers as she makes the necessary “sacrifices”?

In the end, she writes: “We are giving ourselves to people we otherwise never would have met. But it doesn’t feel like sacrifice. It feels like what we want to do.”

May you dare to discover such freedom during this hectic final month of 2018!


More about Henry

HENRY G. BRINTON is pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church in Virginia, and has written on religion and culture for The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and Huffington Post.

A frequent speaker at workshops and conferences, he is the author or co-author of five books including The Welcoming Congregation: Roots and Fruits of Christian Hospitality.

Married with two adult children, he enjoys boating on the Potomac River and competing in endurance sports such as marathons, triathlons and century bike rides, one of which landed him in the hospital for 11 days.

Comments: (0)
Categories: Uncategorized

Like Mister Rogers before her, Amy Julia Becker is opening doors through our neighborhood’s ‘White Picket Fences’

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Editor of ReadTheSpirit

Everyone knows that America is politically, economically and racially divided—and most popular religious writers are tapping away at their computer keyboards, lamenting these divisions. The problem is: Few of these writers have practical spiritual advice that makes sense to ordinary Americans—for example, the millions of anxious Moms and Dads with kids at home.

This is the Mister Rogers dilemma. He’s gone, and millions of us are yearning for him to reappear like he did in other dark chapters of our history. We want him to give us just a little more of his down-to-earth spiritual advice about healing the painful divisions we have placed between our neighbors. How much do we miss Mister Rogers’ reassuring voice? A documentary about Fred Rogers’ life was a big hit this year—and, next summer, Tom Hanks will appear as Mister Rogers in an eagerly awaited feature film.

The highest praise we can give to Amy Julia Becker’s White Picket Fences: Turning toward Love in a World Divided by Privilege, is to say: Fred Rogers would have loved this book! In fact, it’s the kind of book Fred might have written in his kind, engaging style with truths that pierced like laser light.

The heart and soul of this book is the way Amy Julia describes—in the midst of ordinary family life—how she reaches startling moments of spiritual awareness about the world’s unjust divisions. She describes this through events that any parent will recognize as absolutely true. What’s so helpful about her memoir is the way she regards these moments as doorways. Stepping through such a doorway suddenly reveals the wall (or the fence) in which the door is set. Many times, these are high walls that families and neighbors and congregations have thrown up over many years—and still defend in countless small ways, each day.


Just one example:  As a good Mom who loves her kids, she reads stories at bedtime. Then, one day, she notices that there are very few black people in her family’s collection of beloved stories. What’s important is that she doesn’t dismiss this new awareness—tossing it aside as an issue far beyond her control. She recognizes it as a doorway—and she steps through it.

And, wow! She begins to look back over her family’s generations of sharing stories with children. Standing on the other side of this doorway, she’s suddenly aware of the huge walls in children’s literature that exclude people who “don’t look like us”—or, even worse, turn those “others” into villains and monsters.

That’s just one example from everyday life that she shares in this book. These are experiences Moms and Dads everywhere will recognize—and, with Amy Julia’s prompting, may come to recognize as defining moments in family life.

Here’s a passage early in her book where she lays out what sounds like a Fred Rogers approach to the challenges we all face. Amy Julia writes:

This book tells a story of my growing awareness not only that I have received unwarranted benefits by virtue of my white skin, Protestant heritage, and able body, but also that these unwarranted benefits have done harm to me and to others. In an era of political division, concerns over the plight of immigrants and the working class, movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, and news reports about police brutality against people of color, I am not alone in confronting my place within these systems and seeing pain there. I join these other voices with hope that exposing the pain can lead to healing.

Amy Julia means what she says—and she remains true to that pledge for 200 pages. This is not a book that aims to shame readers or demonize opponents. Amy Julia simply describes, step by step, this adventure in awareness that takes her through the length and breadth of her family life. She is inviting us, as readers, to join her in this search for doorways through walls that can lead toward healthier communities for all of us.


One reason to order a copy of Amy Julia’s book right now is that this is a perfect book to read in the Christian season of Advent. Most Christians summarize Advent as “preparing for Christmas,” but there is a far deeper tradition we can embrace today. Observant Eastern Christians still observe a strict Nativity Fast for many weeks as they reflect and pray on the lessons of the Christmas story. Chief among those stories is Mary’s soaring Magnificat. Catholics instantly recognize the first few lines of Mary’s song, but the real heart of the ancient song comes later, when Mary glimpses an astonishing vision of a transformed world—toppling injustice and lifting up the vulnerable.

From the middle of Amy Julia’s book, here is her Magnificat:

Perhaps the reason knocking down the wall of privilege is so hard for me to envision is because it would require more sacrifice than I am willing to bear. Perhaps all I am willing to do is name the wall for what it is—a many-centuries-long creation that offers protection and opportunity while also cutting us off from the richness, diversity, and fullness of life. Still, I can hope—even with the tenuous offering of these words—to participate both in the work of eroding the wall and of building something new.

Want to spark a great small-group discussion in your congregation during Advent? Start by reading the Magnificat and then this passage from Amy Julia’s book. Ask group participants to take a moment and write a few lines of “your own contemporary Magnificat.” What walls do you dream, one day, will fall? You’ll spark some spirited discussion!

Want more? Amy Julia’s book closes with a 7-page Discussion Guide. Her guide doesn’t include the questions we’ve just shared—but it does have two dozen other guaranteed discussion starters.

And, here’s another tip: Is this suggestion too late for your Advent season? Consider this also as a Lenten small-group discussion early in 2019.


Amy Julia Becker

Like many of the other Christian writers we publish in our online magazine and in our own publishing house—writers like David Gushee and Ken Wilson—Amy Julia is a devout Christian whose faith is the key to her vision of a compassionate world. However—much like David, Ken and other Christian writers we have featured over the years—Amy Julia is now no longer interested in trying to defend the old “evangelical” label.

“I describe myself as a Christian, today,” Amy Julia said in an interview this week. “I wrote a piece for The Washington Post that described why I am walking away from the term ‘evangelical’.”

Why is she abandoning the label? “In addition to becoming a politicized term, evangelical also describes a predominantly white population,” she wrote in her Post column. ” ‘Evangelical’ to many people primarily conjures white Republican, not first ‘a bearer of good news.’ ”

At the core of her new book, Amy Julia is trying to share good news with us as readers.

“On one level, I am talking about real injustices that hurt people. And, I am asking people to do the difficult work of looking deeply into the structures and patterns that have allowed racism to become such a deeply entrenched part of the world our families inhabit,” she said in our interview.

“But the good news here is that, in the process, we come to realize how these walls we’ve built actually impoverish us and our communities,” she said in the interview. “What I’m describing is a process that is freeing! We recognize that our communities can be so much larger, so much richer, if we take down the walls. This process of finding the doorways—and stepping through—is life giving.”

In her book, she distills the underlying spiritual lesson into a single sentence: “We deface the image of God every time we disdain or abuse another human being.”

That’s a lofty religious line of reasoning that may resonate with readers—but Amy Julia also spells this out in down-to-earth terms. She tells us that this process of toppling walls leads us toward freedom, clarity and a deeper faith in God and in the community around us. In the simplest terms, she describes this whole journey as moving “toward Love.”

‘Do You Want to Get Well?’

Ultimately, Amy Julia leaves us with a question Jesus asks in the Gospels: “Do you want to get well?”

The answer is not obvious. In 200 pages, Amy Julia describes how the fits and starts of her own journey wound up shining light into lots of uncomfortable corners of her life. The goal may be noble, but she honestly wonders, along the way: Is this worth the effort?

In the end, her answer is a resounding: Yes! Much like the transformative journey Mary glimpses in her Magnificat, this spiritual pilgrimage holds such an exciting potential that we find ourselves daring to accept the invitation. In Advent, millions of Christians around the world are reflecting on their own repentance—and their response to God’s calling. (And, Christians will do so, again, in early 2019 during Lent.)

If you follow Amy Julia through her new book, you will discover that she closes with this promise—and this question. She writes:

Repentance is not about feeling terrible for wrongdoing, but about turning away from everything—including wrongdoing—that prevents us from seeing and participating in the good work that God is about. Repentance is an invitation to fullness of life, to a connected life, to a life of hope. When we turn away from ourselves—away from the allure of tribalism, away from the temptation of self-justification—and turn toward Love, we begin to construct a vision of the future formed and shaped by hope, by the possibilities of unexpected connections, of mutual blessing, of a world made right.

Do you want to get well?


Care to Learn More?

GET AMY JULIA’S BOOK—You can order a copy of the book, right now, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or other online retailers.

LEARN ABOUT AMY JULIA’S OTHER BOOKS—Here’s a direct link to her Amazon Author Page, where you will find the other books she has published.

LEARN MORE ABOUT AMY JULIA—Her website is simply www.AmyJuliaBecker.com and offers many more insights into her life and work and writing. You’ll find other columns she has written, including direct links to her pieces in major newspapers and magazines. Her “Contact” link also is a gateway to learn more about her work as a speaker.

EXPLORE OTHER RELATED WRITERSOur own Front Edge Publishing bookstore has listings of books by other authors that share Amy Julia’s spiritual mission of breaking down barriers. Since our founding, our motto has been: “Good media builds healthier communities.”

Comments: (0)
Categories: Uncategorized

Judith Valente on ‘How to Live’: What St. Benedict’s 6th Century Text Can Teach Us About Our Communities Today

EDITOR’S NOTE—Judith Valente’s new book, How to Live, is so timely that we invited her to write our Cover Story, this week, focusing in particular on wisdom from the 6th Century Rule of St. Benedict about leadership. In this column, she is drawing on just one of the nearly two dozen reflections in her new book. This is a terrific choice for holiday gift giving. You—or someone you love—may want to read a chapter a day for several weeks.

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.


“He or she must not be excitable, anxious, extreme, obstinate, jealous or overly-suspicious. Such a leader is never at rest.”

That observation could have come from any number of today’s political commentators. Instead, the words appear in a 6th Century text called The Rule of St. Benedict. The work of Benedict of Nursia, founder of western monasticism, The Rule originally addressed people living in monasteries. Its insights call to us from across the centuries and remain surprisingly relevant. The qualities Benedict outlines for monastic leaders reflect many of the leadership gaps we face today.

The U.S mid-term elections are over, but the debate continues about the kind of leader our country desires—and needs. Benedict’s description of effective abbots, written 1,600 years ago, is remarkably similar to the conclusions historian Doris Kearns Goodwin draws about successful political leaders in her new book, Leadership in Troubled Times.

Humility is not something we learn in MBA and public administration courses. In fact, the opposite of humility—the hard-charging executive or politician—often wins attention and approval. In contrast, both Benedict and Kearns Goodwin place humility at the top of their lists of essential leadership qualities.

“Only in this are we distinguished—if we are found better than others in good works and humility,” Benedict writes.

Kearns Goodwin’s book explores how some of America’s greatest presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, evolved as leaders over time. In a recent interview on  The PBS NewsHour, Kearns Goodwin explained why humility is an important leadership trait.

“It means an awareness of your limitations so that you can learn from them,” she said. She cites the early political career of Theodore Roosevelt. “He had a swelled head when he was in the (New York) state legislature. He was just blistering, running around, saying terrible things about his opponents. And he was getting nowhere. He couldn’t get anything through the legislature.”

Eventually, Roosevelt learned the value of collaboration and compromise. “That’s the humility of learning from your errors,” Kearns Goodwin says.

Empathy is also high on her list. “You can develop empathy even if you’re not born with it,” she notes.

Along with humility and empathy, she adds resilience and self-reflection.

“Self-reflection—being able to acknowledge errors, build a team that you can share credit with and you can shoulder blame if something goes wrong. Learning how to communicate with people,” she says.

As a longtime student of the Benedictine Rule, I am amazed to see how many of Kearns Goodwin’s ideas dovetail with those of St. Benedict. He thought of the concept of servant leadership centuries before the idea entered the corporate lexicon. In the years I covered businesses for The Wall Street Journal, I heard many CEOs tout “servant leadership.” Rarely did I see any executives who actually behaved like servants of their employees, shareholders, and customers.

In a Benedictine world view, true leaders don’t place their personal interests above all else. Winning isn’t everything. Working for the good of all is. The best leaders, Benedict says, are teachers, not dictators. They are expected to lead not merely with stirring words, but by “living example.”

Benedict reminds us that leaders mustn’t become so obsessed with results or coming out on top that they neglect the well-being of those around them. Whether one’s arena is politics, business, academia, the not-for-profit sector, or a monastery, a leader’s foremost concern must be people. Or, as Benedict puts it so beautifully, the care of souls.

“Above all, they must not show too great concern for the fleeting and temporal things of this world, neglecting or treating lightly the welfare of those entrusted to them,” he writes. “Rather they should keep in mind that they have undertaken the care of souls for whom they must give account.”

At some point, Kearns Goodwin says, great leaders become willing to allow personal ambition to give way to “ambition for something larger.” In other words, for the common good.

The best leaders I’ve worked with in my journalism career are those who cared as much about my personal development as my professional output. They are the editors and news directors who understand that people aren’t interchangeable parts. They give assignments that play to their employees’ particular strengths. They give us the leeway to do our best work.

Far ahead of his time, Benedict recognized that human beings are complex creatures who don’t all respond to the same prompts. The most effective leaders “must know what a difficult and demanding burden they have undertaken … serving a variety of temperaments, coaxing, reproving and encouraging them as appropriate,” he says.

Above all, he emphasizes kindness and notes, “A kind word is better than the best gift.”

Perhaps Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership in Troubled Times and The Rule of St. Benedict should be required reading for every elected official and for all who seek to lead a corporation, agency or organization. Perhaps then kindness will replace incivility in our public discourse. Consensus will overtake conflict. The desire to serve will out-weigh our need for self-promotion and aggrandizement. Dignity and decorum will redefine our democratic process.

One can hope.


Judith Valente

Care to learn more?

JUDITH VALENTE worked for many years as a staff writer for The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post and was a correspondent for the national PBS-TV program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

She is the author of four spirituality books, including The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed. The full title of her new book is, How To Live: What The Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community.

She speaks and writes frequently on work and faith.

Visit her website www.judithvalente.com




Comments: (2)
Categories: Uncategorized

Meet Blessed Solanus Casey, who the Vatican could name as the first American-born male saint

Click on the cover to jump to the Amazon page.

EDITOR’S NOTE from David Crumm—We are thrilled to share this timely news from Patricia Montemurri who was known for years to readers nationwide as a staff writer for The Detroit Free Press. Now that she has left the newspaper, she works on special projects, including this remarkable new book we are featuring today.

As our readers know, nearly all of the world’s faith traditions honor great spiritual sages with titles similar to the Christian concept of “sainthood.” Even though these people no longer walk the earth, their spirits continue to inspire us. Americans are most familiar with the Catholic process of canonization, which is sometimes mistaken as a procedure for making a saint. In fact, the Catholic church teaches that there are already untold numbers of saints. The years-long process of canonization is actually one of careful discernment to see whether officially lifting up a particular man or woman as a recommended “saint” would truly strengthen our faith.

WHAT’S UP WITH AMAZON? During the 2018 holiday season, Amazon is making dramatic changes in its delivery system, which affects the automatic notices about availability on its book pages. Visit the Amazon page for Blessed Solanus Casey and you may see a note that says it won’t arrive until 2019. We urge you to order anyway. The book is on sale and should ship soon.

WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT NOW? The greatest spiritual gift of Father Solanus was his humble hospitality. Humility and hospitality are in perilously short supply in today’s dangerously contentious world. That’s why we are so proud that Patricia wrote this column to share with our readers …


MEET BLESSED SOLANUS CASEY—A Humble Example for Our Time

Author of Blessed Solanus Casey

In a magnificent ceremony in a Detroit football stadium one year ago, the Roman Catholic Church declared a Capuchin friar a miracle worker and declared the Rev. Solanus Casey beatified or “Blessed,” propelling him one step closer to sainthood.

Blessed Solanus Casey was a Wisconsin-born priest who served as a monastery doorkeeper in New York, Michigan and Indiana, and whose prayers brought comfort and healing to others before he died at age 86 in 1957. More than 60,000 followers of the Capuchin friar, who co-founded a legendary Detroit soup kitchen, crowded into Detroit’s Ford Field for Casey’s Beatification Mass, only the third time such a ceremony has been held on American soil and by far the largest to date.

In the stadium that day was a retired Panamanian school teacher, whose diseased skin had fallen away in sheets after she had prayed at Casey’s tomb. Her healing, the Catholic Church declared, was a miracle by God through the intercession of prayer to Solanus. If the Catholic Church determines that prayers to the Capuchin friar bring about another miraculous healing, Casey could be declared a saint. No other American-born male has ever been declared a Catholic saint. Already, the Capuchins say they’re looking into recent, reported “favors” of healing from folks who prayed to Blessed Solanus and say they were cured.

As a longtime journalist for the Detroit Free Press, I covered the decades-long effort to bring about an official declaration of sainthood for Solanus Casey. I wrote about the remarkable day when his body was exhumed in 1987, because Catholic authorities could consider well-preserved remains a sign of divine intervention. I wrote stories about the notes the faithful left at his tomb, asking for healing and guidance or giving thanks. In Rome, I met with Capuchin friars who promoted his cause to the Vatican’s official body that oversees canonization. And the Detroit Free Press called me back out of retirement to write stories in the days before his Beatification Mass.

Faithful from around the U.S., and around the world, braved harsh winds and rain to attend the beatification. I talked to many people that day, and even months later, who told me how deeply they were touched by the ceremony, and the testimony by Catholic officials to Solanus’ piety, selflessness and kindness. That was the inspiration behind my new book, Blessed Solanus Casey, which showcases some 200 photos that trace the arc of the Capuchin’s life and ministry. Through photos, the book illustrates Solanus’ family life, his work in Capuchin monasteries, those he comforted through prayer, the woman whose skin disease was miraculously cured after she prayed at his Detroit tomb, and touching moments from his Beatification Mass. Many of the book’s photos come from the Franciscan Capuchin Province of St. Joseph archives and staff.

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

This is my second book through Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series. A year ago, I wrote Detroit Gesu Catholic Church and School, about one of the most historic parishes in the city. My husband’s grandfather was the architect of the church, and his father renovated the church. His mother’s side of the family designed the stain glass windows because they operated Detroit Stained Glass Works in Detroit for more than a century. Gesu was home to four Detroit mayors and it’s where now-retired, legendary U.S. Rep. John Dingell Jr. grew up. Gesu’s history illustrates Detroit’s boom and bust years, and its resilience and renewal in the face of many urban struggles. Gesu School is one of only four Catholic elementary schools left in Detroit, compared to 108 in the mid-1960s. Book sales have raised about $10,000 for Gesu. The book will resonate with anyone who grew up attending Catholic schools in the last century.

My new book’s release coincides with the one-year anniversary of Blessed Solanus Casey’s beatification and with his birthday. Nov. 25 marks the 148th anniversary of Casey’s birth.

Care to help the Capuchins directly?

If you purchase the book through this link (or at the Solanus Casey Center/St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit), proceeds help Capuchin ministries.


Comments: (0)
Categories: Uncategorized

As We Head to the Ballot Box: Discerning Our Ultimate Concerns

Prophet Micah from the Ghent Altarpiece by brothers Jan and Henry van Eyck, 1432.


EDITOR’S NOTESince 2007, ReadTheSpirit has covered important new voices in books and films with a focus on cultural and religious diversity. Our audience is global with many of our readers clustered in Canada, the UK, India, Australia and other regions of Europe and Asia. But most of our readers live in the U.S., where an important election is looming. So, we invited columnist Henry Brinton to share a bit of wisdom with us, this week, that may refocus our concerns on the larger vision of our faith traditions.


ReadTheSpirit Contributing Columnist

Americans will be taking their most passionate concerns to the ballot box on November 6. On both sides of the aisle, voters are approaching Election Day with religious fervor.

Two years ago, evangelical voters supported Trump in overwhelming numbers, sometimes overlooking his personal behavior to focus on his promise to promote conservative social beliefs—especially through Supreme Court nominations. Today, progressive religious leaders are getting involved in politics to oppose Trump’s policies on immigration, health care and the environment.

In addition, religiously unaffiliated voters are going to rallies and donating to political causes as well. According to The Atlantic, the voters who are most fired up about the 2018 elections are “Democrats, college-educated, and largely secular.” Politics appears to be “the new religion” for Progressive Democrats.

Supreme Court nominations, immigration, health care, and the environment—all are serious concerns, to be sure. But should any of these be ultimate concerns? Should politics ever become—for people of faith or no faith—a “new religion”?

For the Protestant theologian Paul Tillich, “faith is the state of being ultimately concerned.” The “ultimate” is the thing that demands our complete surrender, and for some people this will be politics or money or sex or success. But for Jews, Christians and Muslims, the ultimate is God, the one who is most important and most real. Our faith in God is what Tillich calls “the act of unconditional, infinite and ultimate concern.”

In my reading of the New Testament, I see that Jesus resisted the temptation to have ultimate concern for anything but God. “You cannot serve God and wealth” he said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:24). After Pontius Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” he answered, “My kingdom is not from this world” (John 18:33-36). And when people called him good, Jesus said, “No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18). Like Tillich, Jesus knew that when things like wealth or political power or even goodness become ultimate, they become false idols.

A challenge for people of faith is to live in “the state of being ultimately concerned.” But this is not a pie-in-the-sky, otherworldly orientation. In fact, this state of ultimate concern often addresses many lesser concerns, because faith can inspire us to build a healthier and more just society. It is no coincidence that the historical social movements that built hospitals, eliminated slavery, and expanded civil rights were all grounded in faith communities. People who have ultimate concern for God are often deeply concerned about making the world a better place.

So what does God want us to do? Our scriptures give us excellent guidance.

God “has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19).

“The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:34).

“Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place.” (Jeremiah 22:3).

“Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor who is your relative, the neighbor who is not a relative, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess.” (Quran 4:36).

Similar teachings run through a host of readings from Eastern religious traditions as well.

I’m convinced that those of us who are people of faith should, indeed, take our concerns to the ballot box on November 6. But as we do, let’s not lose sight of our ultimate concern.

Let’s remember God’s call to act with justice and righteousness—for all.


More about Henry

HENRY G. BRINTON is pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church in Virginia, and has written on religion and culture for The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and Huffington Post.

A frequent speaker at workshops and conferences, he is the author or co-author of five books including The Welcoming Congregation: Roots and Fruits of Christian Hospitality.

Married with two adult children, he enjoys boating on the Potomac River and competing in endurance sports such as marathons, triathlons and century bike rides, one of which landed him in the hospital for 11 days.

Comments: (4)
Categories: Uncategorized

In Your Holiday Shopping, Support Our Authors Trying to Make the World a Little Better


… Hanukkah and New Year’s Giving

READ ALONG WITH SOMEONE YOU LOVE—For more than a decade, our motto has been, “Good media builds healthy communities.” We have welcomed dozens of authors who feel the same way. As November begins this week, please consider placing an order for books that, first, we know will make perfect gifts and, second, will spread the values of healthy communities a bit further.

Order our books wherever you care to shop: Our books are available around the world via retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google and Apple bookstores. Want to browse all of our books in one display? Check out our Front Edge Publishing Bookstore, which also includes links to order books directly. Have you ever checked Amazon and found a book that seems to be out of stock? Our Front Edge bookstore comes directly from the industry’s largest wholesaler of books, Ingram, and is never out of stock.

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.


This unique children’s book is far more than a one-time reading experience. Two veteran educators wrote and illustrated this children’s book in an innovative way. The story is about Penny, a little girl who begins to ignore her beloved dog Sadie, when Penny becomes obsessed with electronic devices. We bet you know some children who have a similar fascination with digital screens! The feel-good story is all about Sadie winning back the attention of young Penny.

But, wait! There’s much more! The book is colored with substances you can find in your home, including fresh berries, drips of coffee, a bit of mustard and even grass from your lawn. Plus, you can download free coloring pages from our special Sadie Sees Trouble resource page.

This is a terrific holiday gift! You can read the story, then you can begin to explore the colors in the book—and around your home. Print out the free coloring pages and you’ve got an entire afternoon of activities with children you love—all in one book. Want to see kids enjoying this book? This story and photos show how students at one school had fun creating their own picture pages.

Sadie books are available both in hardback and in paperback, as well. Prefer another bookseller? Here’s a link to Amazon. And, here’s the Barnes & Noble book page.

Click the cover to learn more about this book and others by Jewish authors.

Jewish Stories for Everyone

At the Jewish High Holidays this year, we published this special overview of books by our Jewish authors. Each year, lots of gifts exchange hands at Hanukkah, as well.

If you check out that overview, you will discover books for nearly every stage in life from a wide range of authors. There’s humor, inspiration, timeless wisdom and terrific storytelling as well.

Tree of World Religions

Got someone on your list who is fascinated by the whole array of world religions? They’re not alone. Millions of Americans are fascinated by global spirituality. The perfect gift is Tree of World Religions, a colorful introduction to the world’s great spiritual traditions by educator John Bellaimey. It’s available from Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble.

Readers will meet great sages from Jesus and Socrates to the Hebrew prophets and Asian masters. All the well-known traditions are covered, plus you’ll learn about lesser-known groups including the Mayan, Sikh and Rastafarian traditions. This is the kind of book people enjoy keeping handy, perhaps on a coffee table, and reading sections over time.

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Friendship & Faith

A guaranteed smile is the response from readers of this delightful series of true stories by more than 50 women from eight different religious traditions. Each real-life story involves summoning the courage to cross a barrier—religion, culture or race—and discovering friendship on the other side.

This is a book about making friends, which may be the most important thing you can do to make the world a better place, and transform your own life in the process. Making a new friend often is tricky, as you’ll discover in these dozens of real-life stories by women from many religious and ethnic backgrounds. But, crossing lines of religion, race and culture is worth the effort, often forming some of life’s deepest friendships, these women have found. In Friendship and Faith, you’ll discover how we really can change the world one friend at a time.

Available from Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble.

Take a Moment and Lend a Hand

By ordering these books, you’re not only purchasing gifts we know your loved ones will enjoy. Speaking for our entire family of authors: We all hope you’ll join us in encouraging Peace on Earth!

Take a moment to explore our Front Edge Publishing bookstore. Remember: All of these books are available via our bookstore—but they also can be ordered from Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble and other online retailers, as well.

Comments: (0)
Categories: Uncategorized