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Romance, Relationships and Religion: A Reading List

Emily's picks this weeks includes stories from Jewcy, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, and Religion News Service.
PUBLISHED: July 13, 2014

'He Has Baptized 66 Umpires, Calling Them Safe in the Only Way that Matters'

Jon Mooallem meets Pastor Dean, who uses religion to help baseball umpires deal with what can be an emotionally difficult job:

Every day is Judgment Day for an umpire. In the early days of organized baseball, team owners actually encouraged fans to harass umps who made questionable, or just unpopular, calls – throw beer bottles at them, or even the occasional brick. The sadism of Orioles fans was especially well-known, according to the 2008 book Death at the Ballpark. “They broke the spirits of some fine men,” one ump later remembered. By the end of the 1920s, at least 10 umpires had been killed or mortally wounded on the field – in one case, an umpire was punched so hard in the face that a fragment of his jaw ripped through his brain like a spear. In 1911, a semipro player in Georgia got so tired of insisting that the umpire had the score wrong that he walked off the bench with a pistol and shot the man.

PUBLISHED: June 20, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5120 words)


Ross Andersen explores the history and rituals of winemaking—including the current-day growth of "biodynamic wine":

I had come back to AmByth to help hasten the vines’ resurrection by taking part in a ritual. I’d been invited the month before, while dining with Philip Hart and his wife, Mary. We’d talked for several hours that night, around their fireplace, wine glasses in hand. They asked me why I was so interested in biodynamic wine. I told them it was the relationship between wine and mysticism that really interested me. The conversation drifted to religion, and Mary told me she was a Christian, and considered herself born again. Philip didn’t come out and say what he believed, but it was clear he took Steiner’s metaphysics quite seriously. A disagreement between them broke out at one point: Mary said, ‘as a Christian’, she was turned off by the pagan elements of biodynamics.

PUBLISHED: May 27, 2014
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6500 words)

Reading List: Religion Gone Extreme

This week's list by Emily includes stories from The New Republic, Philadelphia magazine, Susan J. Palmer, and Religion Dispatch Magazine.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 24, 2013

Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Grandparents' Lives

After his grandfather’s death, Samanth Subramanian attempts to piece together what he did not know about the man’s past—and understand why he hadn't sought out the information earlier:

Given all this, I now wonder, why did I fail to learn more about him? It is true that, for all the diligence my family has expended on passing down the rituals of our religion, it has never been as attentive to personal histories; I know absolutely nothing about my eight great-grandparents except for the name of one of them. Even so, my grandfather always felt like a special case — less a real person than a character pulled out of a fable, his abilities and his flaws both immensely larger than life, and his past obscured as much by my own ignorance as by the half-truths and legends that swirl around him.

PUBLISHED: Oct. 26, 2013
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2900 words)

The NYPD Division of Un-American Activities

An excerpt from Enemies Within, a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman on the NYPD's secret spying unit:

"Police collected the phone numbers and e-mail addresses from the website. One was for Agnes Johnson, a longtime activist based in the Bronx. 'We were women and mothers who said, "We’re going to hold our money in our pocketbooks," ' Johnson recalled years later. 'That’s all we called for.'

"Confirmation that the activities of the Demographics Unit went far beyond what federal agencies were permitted to do was provided by the FBI itself. Once, Sanchez tried to peddle the Demographics reports to the FBI. But when Bureau lawyers in New York learned about the reports, they refused. The Demographics detectives, the FBI concluded, were effectively acting as undercover officers, targeting businesses without cause and collecting information related to politics and religion. Accepting the NYPD’s reports would violate FBI rules."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 25, 2013
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5701 words)

Jahar's World

An investigation into Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's troubled past:

"Yet he 'never raised any red flags,' says one of his history teachers, who, like many, requested anonymity, given the sensitivity of the case. Her class, a perennial favorite among Rindge students, fosters heated debates about contemporary political issues like globalization and the crises in the Middle East, but Jahar, she says, never gave her any sense of his personal politics, 'even when he was asked to weigh in.' Alyssa, who loved the class, agrees: 'One of the questions we looked at was 'What is terrorism? How do we define it culturally as Americans? What is the motivation for it – can we ever justify it?' And I can say that Jahar never expressed to us that he was pro-terrorism at all, ever.'

"Except for once.

"'He kind of did, one time to me, express that he thought acts of terrorism were justified,' says Will. It was around their jun­ior year; the boys had been eating at a neighborhood joint called Izzy's and talking about religion. With certain friends – Will and Sam among them – Jahar opened up about Islam, confiding his hatred of people whose 'ignorance' equated Islam with terrorism, defending it as a religion of peace and describing jihad as a personal struggle, nothing more. This time, says Will, 'I remember telling him I thought certain aspects of religion were harmful, and I brought up the 9/11 attacks.'

"At which point Jahar, Will says, told him he didn't want to talk about it anymore."
PUBLISHED: July 17, 2013
LENGTH: 45 minutes (11415 words)

Reading List: Double Consciousness and Religion

Picks from Emily Perper, a freelance editor and reporter currently completing a service year in Baltimore with the Episcopal Service Corps.

Share your favorite stories in the comments.
PUBLISHED: June 2, 2013

Courage and Survival

The Legends of the Fall author and poet on aging:

"Obviously I need courage to deal with my current dysfunctional body. And religion? The bible says that the kingdom of God is within you. If so, I haven’t noticed it lately. I’m not making light of devotion or a mother praying to bring her baby back to life after it’s been cut out of the stomach of an anaconda in Venezuela. Human suffering has to be the largest of all question marks. You must beware of hope, a radically dangerous emotion. Hope can roll over and crush you. I went to a dozen doctors last winter in Tucson for shingles relief and each time I had a wide-eyed Midwestern hope and faith that was promptly smeared. Hope is a bourgeois Tinker Bell toy that can transform into a guard dog of the most vicious nature. You raise your expectations then are gutted like a deer. However, if you need to say a little prayer, go ahead and moisten your lips for the deaf gods, although it’s like fly fishing in a sewer: 'Raise your chin, o son of man, your doom is around the next corner on the left.'"
PUBLISHED: Nov. 26, 2012
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2391 words)