Kenneth L.

Stories by Kenneth L. Woodward

  • Faith Is More Than A Feeling

    Skeptics used to argue that anyone with half a brain should realize there is no God. Now scientists are telling us that one half of the brain, or a portion thereof, is "wired" for religious experiences. But whether this evolving "neurotheology" is theology at all is doubtful. It tells us new things about the circuits of the brain, perhaps, but nothing new about God. ...
  • The Changing Face Of The Church

    It is Sunday morning in Agbor, a remote village in southwest Nigeria, where chickens peck at rutted roads and bicycles outnumber cars. All morning long women in brightly colored dresses, wide-eyed children holding hands, men in white Sunday shirts and dark pants stream toward the churches. There are more than 20 of them within a square kilometer. Some are clearly Roman Catholic, Anglican and evangelical Protestant--the fruit of Western missionaries. But most are of purely African origin like the Celestial Church of Christ, Miracle Apostolic Church and The Winners Chapel. And so it goes all across the African subcontinent, where Christianity is a 24/7 experience. On decaying asphalt highways the backs of trucks and buses proclaim Christian slogans: IN HIS NAME, ABIDE WITH ME, and GOD IS GOOD. Inside urban malls, the lilting pop music carries an upbeat Christian message in Ibo, Twi or Swahili. Even the signs above storefronts bear public witness: THY WILL BE DONE HAIR SALON, THE LORD...
  • The Next Pope?

    If God answers the constant prayers of the people of Onitsha, Nigeria, the city will soon be known as the town that gave the Roman Catholic Church its first black pope. It was here that Francis Arinze presided as archbishop for 18 years, before he arrived at the Vatican in 1985 and became Nigeria's first cardinal. And it is where, every year, Arinze returns to worship in the Holy Trinity Cathedral. "No one wants to talk about his chances--to do so could work against him," says Father Martin Omikumls, the cathedral's pastor. "But everyone is praying that it be God's will." ...
  • When Saints Go Marching In

    Shortly after John Paul II returned from his historic visit to Israel last April, Vatican officials quietly exhumed the body of another pope from a crypt in Rome. Their purpose was to verify the remains of Pius IX, who has been dead for 122 years. The identification was easy, the Vatican newspaper reported, because the pope's body was "almost perfectly preserved," and his face still exuded "striking serenity"--a sign, it was suggested, of his sanctity.Next Sunday in Rome, John Paul will beatify Pius IX together with Pope John XXIII as part of the church's Jubilee celebration. That John (who reigned from 1958 to 1963) was a saint, few Roman Catholics doubt. Pius (1846 to 1878, the longest reign in papal history) is a very different story. Even within the Vatican, there are officials who think that the beatification of Pio Nono, as Pius was popularly called, will merely exhume old memories and conflicts from a troubled era in the church. Already Jewish leaders have asked that his...
  • A City That Echoes Eternity

    One man, Jesus warned, cannot serve two masters. Yet Jerusalem is sacred stone and soil to Jew and Christian and Muslim alike. A place on the map like any other city, Jerusalem exists more vividly, more powerfully, more dangerously within the longitude and latitude of the religious imagination. In that fertile region of the mind, what has already occurred in time past--the building of Solomon's temple, the crucifixion of Christ, the ascension of the Prophet Muhammad--is also promise of what is to come, "when time shall be no more." Among all the cities of the earth, only Jerusalem is seen as the locus of redemption and final judgment. For that reason alone, it inspires the fanatic. It is a burden no merely civil administration should ever have to bear. But short of that eschatological moment, Jerusalem seems to be always searching for respite from political tension, that it might live up to the meaning of its name: City of Peace.To know what Jerusalem means to the three great...
  • The Vatican's 'Dream Man'

    When ailing Cardinal John O'Connor visited the pope last February, he didn't come just to say goodbye. Though both men knew it would likely be the last time they'd see each other, there was business to discuss: who would succeed O'Connor as Archbishop of New York. In their 15 minutes together, O'Connor lobbied hard for one of his own proteges from New York--reportedly, Bishop Henry Mansell of Buffalo. But John Paul II had already made his own choice. And so, just two days after O'Connor was buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral last week, the pope announced what by then had become an open secret. Bishop Edward M. Egan of Bridgeport, Conn., will be the new Archbishop of New York.It was not the first time that Egan, a native of Chicago and veteran Vatican official, had been thrust upon an unwilling O'Connor. In 1985, when John Paul II decided to make Egan a bishop, he had some difficulty placing him in a diocese. Cardinal Joseph Bernardin did not want Egan back in Chicago, where he had...
  • What Miracles Mean

    Does God answer prayers? Do miracles--extraordinary events that are the result of special acts of God--really happen? Last week Christians and Jews around the globe celebrated the miracle stories central to each faith: the resurrection of Jesus at Easter and the deliverance of the Israelites at Passover. But are miracles now merely stories from long ago and--intellectually--very far away?Not to millions of believers worldwide. Every week of the year, somewhere in the world, believers gather to celebrate the miraculous deeds that God or the gods, a saint or a sage, worked on behalf of the faithful. Many Jews and Buddhists, as well as Christians, Hindus and Muslims, still look for--and, by their own accounts, experience--miraculous interventions in their lives. True, many people consider stories like Bernadette's hopeless superstition, or mere coincidence. But many others allow for the possibility of the miraculous. According to a new NEWSWEEK Poll, 84 percent of adult Americans say...
  • The Other Jesus

    To Christians, He Is The Son Of God. But The World's Other Great Religions Have Their Own Visions Of A Legendary Figure.
  • Finding God

    In Washington, Eugene McCarthy once observed, only two kinds of religion are tolerated: vague beliefs strongly affirmed and strong beliefs vaguely expressed. His witticism bespoke the genial religiosity of presidents like Eisenhower (vague expression) and Reagan (vague beliefs)--not to mention the benign and undiscriminating White House chaplaincy of Billy Graham. The lesson for candidates seems to be: if you want to be president of all the people, invoke a generic deity everyone can salute.But in Campaign 2000, vague is out--at least among the two front runners. George W. Bush, with a Christian right to consider, has let the world know that his heart belongs to Jesus. Al Gore, after intellectually sojourning among New Age mystics, talks about his faith, declaring to one audience that he is "a child of the Kingdom and a person of strong faith." In separate interviews, John McCain asserted his deep Christian beliefs, and even the reticent Bill Bradley reluctantly went on record: "The...
  • The Way The World Ends

    The Christian Bible begins with the creation of the world, before time itself began. It closes with a harrowing vision of the world's end, when time will be no more. For most of Western history, when the world began has been a matter of curiosity. But predicting when the world will end has been an all-consuming passion.Of all the books of the Bible, none has fired the imagination of the West more than the last: the mysterious Apocalypse. The four horsemen of the apocalypse, the heavenly book with seven seals, the beast with the mark of 666, the Whore of Babylon, the deceitful Antichrist--these are just a few of the powerful and troubling images that Revelation injected into Western art and consciousness. Its prophecies have been of even greater consequence: the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, the millennial kingdom of Christ on earth, the Battle of Armageddon and the promise of a new heaven and earth have justified numerous wars and revolutions and inspired utopias and...
  • The Case Against Pius Xii

    Like attacking a toothache that refuses to go away, historians continue to probe the character of Pope Pius XII and his refusal to issue an unambiguous condemnation of the Nazis' "final solution." What did the pope know about the Holocaust and when did he know it? Was his caution warranted? How many lives--Jewish and Christian--did he save by relying on diplomacy rather than moral rhetoric? Such questions require care in using archives, intellectual skill in interpreting documents and dispassionate judgment in assessing the peculiar circumstances of European politics in the dark age of Adolph Hitler. Unfortunately, none of these virtues are evident in "Hitler's Pope," a scalding new biography of the wartime pope by British journalist John Cornwell.First excerpted in the glitzy pages of Vanity Fair, and serialized in the Sunday Times of London, Cornwell's unrelieved attack on the wartime leader of the Roman Catholic Church has provoked heated headlines and sharp rejoinders in the...
  • A Lama To The Globe

    In a small yellow temple off a rutted mountain road in northern India, a simple image of the Buddha gazes north, over the Himalayas, toward Tibet. It is dawn and across the courtyard of what was once a British colonial cantonment, the Dalai Lama is meditating on his eventual death and passage to rebirth. The entire compound--the temple, the concrete monastery for 200 monks and the Dalai Lama's matching yellow bungalow called The Heavenly Abode--has the provisional look of a summer camp at the end of the season. For 40 years Upper Dharmsala has been the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. But if the Chinese government would let him, the Dalai Lama would dissolve his "Little Lhasa" like a mandala made of sand, and return to Tibet tomorrow.To Buddhists, of course, life itself is inherently impermanent: a brief karmic interlude between successive rebirths from which they seek final liberation. But for Tenzin Gyatso, liberation has also come to include freedom in this life from his...
  • Sainthood For A Pope?

    In the last 900 years, the Roman Catholic Church has found only three popes worthy of veneration as saints. As part of the church's millennial celebration next year, however, John Paul II would like to beatify three 20th- century popes, the last step before canonization. The candidates are Pius XII, who guided the church throughout World War II and into the cold war with communism; John XXIII, the smiling pope who charmed the world with his wit and convoked Vatican Council II, the first church council in 100 years, and Paul VI, who brought the council to a close and reaffirmed the church's ban on contraception. But even a pope doesn't always get what he wants; he is bound by the decades-long process of making saints. Unless he intervenes directly in the beatification process, only John XXIII is likely to make the grade by next year. ...
  • The Making Of A Martyr

    Evangelical christians have been urging teens for years to just say no to drugs and sex. During the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., 17-year-old Cassie Bernall said yes when asked if she believed in God--and instantly became an evangelical saint. The day she walked into the Columbine killing field she was just one of 12 ordinary students who would be cut down by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. But because of her last words, she is now being hailed in evangelical circles as an authentic martyr for the faith--a crown of Christian witness that eluded even Martin Luther King Jr., who died a victim of racial, not religious, hatred. ...
  • 2000 Years Of Jesus

    Historians did not record his birth. Nor, for 30 years, did anyone pay him much heed. A Jew from the Galilean hill country with a reputation for teaching and healing, he showed up at the age of 33 in Jerusalem during Passover. In three days, he was arrested, tried and convicted of treason, then executed like the commonest of criminals. His followers said that God raised him from the dead. Except among those who believed in him, the event passed without notice.Two thousand years later, the centuries themselves are measured from the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. At the end of this year, calendars in India and China, like those in Europe, America and the Middle East, will register the dawn of the third millennium. It is a convention, of course:a fiction and function of Western cultural hegemony that allows the birth of Jesus to number the days for Christians and non-Christians alike. For Christians, Jesus is the hinge on which the door of history swings, the point at which eternity...
  • 2000 Years Of Jesus

    Historians did not record his birth. Nor, for 30 years, did anyone pay him much heed. A Jew from the Galilean hill country with a reputation for teaching and healing, he showed up at the age of 33 in Jerusalem during Passover. In three days, he was arrested, tried and convicted of treason, then executed like the commonest of criminals. His followers said that God raised him from the dead. Except among those who believed in him, the event passed without notice.Two thousand years later, the centuries themselves are measured from the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. At the end of this year, calendars in India and China, like those in Europe, America and the Middle East, will register the dawn of the third millennium. It is a convention, of course: a fiction and function of Western cultural hegemony that allows the birth of Jesus to number the days for Christians and non-Christians alike. For Christians, Jesus is the hinge on which the door of history swings, the point at which eternity...
  • Talking Shop At Oscar Time

    The Academy Award race is on. NEWSWEEK's Jeff Giles and Yahlin Chang talk to five of the year's most celebrated screenwriters about bright lights, dim movie executives--and the pleasures and perils of their trade. Fade in. ...
  • The Holy Grandfather

    John Paul'S VISIT TO ST. Louis last week seemed for all the world like a last papal hurrah. Bent, shuffling and slurry of speech, the pope these days is not at all the athletic figure whose vigor transformed the image of the Holy Father. But earlier in his six-day pilgrimage to the Americas, the palpable joy with which millions of Mexicans had welcomed him seemed to energize the 78-year-old pontiff, who suffers from Parkinson's disease. When his plane arrived in the United States, he shooed away a forklift platform and descended the 19 steps himself. ...
  • Friends, Brothers, Heretics

    FOR THE LAST 30 YEARS, representatives of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have been trying to repair the breach between the world's two largest bodies of Christian believers. But last week, at the beginning of a month-long pilgrimage to the United States, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual spokesman for the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians, put any hopes of reunion on indefinite hold.A millennium ago, Christians of the East and West were united in one faith despite differences in culture, liturgy and tradition. Today they are separated by organization, outlook and 1,000 years of animosity. In the pope, Catholics have a single figure who speaks for a church of 1 billion members. But the Orthodox are split into 15 independent churches, all sharing a common faith and worship but divided by national, ethnic and intrachurch rivalries. For historical reasons, pride of place belongs to Bartholomew as Archbishop of Constantinople. Two years ago the pope and...
  • Requiem For A Saint

    WITH A LONG sigh from the vast Asian Subcontinent, Mother India last week bade goodbye to Mother Teresa, her most celebrated adopted daughter. As the world watched live on television, the body of the woman revered as the ""saint of the gutters'' was borne through the sultry morning streets of Calcutta on the same military gun carriage that had once transported Mahatma Gandhi and India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to their funerals. The image was incongruous. All her life Mother Teresa had devoted herself to the innocent victims of violence--those dying in the streets, the children of war, people afflicted with AIDS or leprosy, prisoners on death row, the unborn. ...
  • The Ritual Solution

    I WAS INTRODUCED TO DEATH EARLY IN LIFE. IN THE Roman Catholic grade schools of my youth, funerals were part of the informal curriculum. When a classmate's parent died, we all assembled for the funeral mass, passing by the (usually) open casket and sharing--as best we could--the sorrow of the grieving family. Occasionally, it was a fellow pupil lying in the casket, snatched from life by an accident or--like my closest fifth-grade friend--from an illness, in his case a fatal epileptic seizure. What brought us together, young and old, was sacred ritual. ...
  • Little Sister Of The Poor

    SHE WAS BORN AGNES GONXHA BOJAXHIU, daughter of an Albanian building contractor in what is now Macedonia, but when she died last week in Calcutta--just days after her 87th birthday--she was known the world over simply as Mother Teresa. Frail and bent, she had been hospitalized for numerous ailments over the last two years and outfitted with a pacemaker. After finishing dinner and her prayers, Mother Teresa complained of a pain in her back. ""I cannot breathe,'' she told a doctor summoned to her side. Moments later, she died. Shortly after, her nuns tolled a huge metal bell and some 4,000 people gathered in the rain outside, many of them the street people she had served. Inside Mother Teresa's body was dressed and laid on a bed of ice. One by one the nuns filed past, touching her bare feet in the traditional Indian gesture of respect. ""Her heart, which held up for all those years, suddenly gave out,'' said her personal physician in Rome, Dr. Vincenzo Bilotta. ...
  • Gift Horses With Reins

    THE WANTS OF OUR UNIVERSITIES Increase with the development of the country,'' Andrew Carnegie wrote in ""The Gospel of Wealth.'' Indeed they do. In Carnegie's day, a man of wealth could build a whole new university for less than what some schools are now seeking in capital campaigns. Columbia is trying to raise $2.2 billion, Harvard $2.1 billion and UCLA $1.2 billion. Given fund-raising goals of this size, universities must rely on large gifts from wealthy donors. Increasingly, however, there are conflicts between universities and wealthy individuals and foundations who demand a role in how their gifts are spent. ...
  • Hail, Mary

    THIS WEEK A LARGE BOX SHIPPED from California and addressed to ""His Holiness, John Paul II'' will arrive at the Vatican. The shipping label lists a dozen countries--from every continent but Antarctica--plus a number, 40,383, indicating the quantity of signatures inside. Each signature is attached to a petition asking the pope to exercise the power of papal infallibility to proclaim a new dogma of the Roman Catholic faith: that the Virgin Mary is ""Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate for the People of God.''Such a move would elevate Mary's status dramatically beyond what most Christians profess. But in the last four years, the pope has received 4,340,429 signatures from 157 countries--an average of 100,000 a month--supporting the proposed dogma. Among the notable supporters are Mother Teresa of Calcutta, nearly 500 bishops and 42 cardinals, including John O'Connor of New York, Joseph Glemp of Poland and half a dozen cardinals at the Vatican itself. Nothing like this...
  • Uh-Oh, Maybe We Missed The Big Day

    THE MILLENNIUM IS ABOUT to end, as everyone who reads this page knows well. What's less widely understood is that the counting to the year 2000 began with the birth of Jesus. But what scholars are quick to say - not intending to dampen millennial fever - is that the count is simply wrong: the millennium actually turned several years ago. Sorry, but we all missed it. ...
  • Sex, Morality And The Protestant Minister

    ALTHOUGH HE WASN'T MARRIED himself, Jesus had some rather clear teachings on the subject. Adultery was sin, he declared, and that included even lustful looks at another woman. He was tough on divorce, too, saying that anyone who divorces and marries another also commits adultery. But the authority of Scripture isn't what it used to be - even for those who preach it from the pulpit. In recent years the divorce rate for Protestant clergy has risen to match the general population's. Now the question is, Are the Scriptures condemning adultery and fornication to be modified as well? ...
  • Was The Pope Wrong?

    POPES HAVE A MOTTO: ROMA LOCUTA, causa finita--"Rome has spoken, the case is closed." Three years ago Joha Paul II issued an apostolic letter in which he declared flatly that "the Catholic Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faith." Rome had spoken, but the case wasn't closed. Many bishops and theologians wondered whether the pope was saying that this teaching is infallible- meaning no future pope or ecumenical council of the church could ever change it. In 1995 the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) took up that question and issued an official response. It was, the congregation concluded, a matter of faith "set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal" authority of the church, not just an exercise of papal authority. It was irreformable. Case closed. ...
  • Christ And Comets

    I give you my solemn word, in the new age when the Son of Man takes his seat upon a throne befitting his glory, you who have followed me shall likewise take your places. . . .Everyone who has given up home, brothers or sisters, father or mother, wife or children or property for my sake will. . .inherit life everlasting. ...
  • Is God Listening?

    Mimi rumpp stopped praying for a winning lottery ticket years ago. With a husband, two kids and a full-time job, she didn't have time for trivial pursuits. But after a doctor told her sister Miki last year that she needed a kidney transplant, the family began praying for a donor. This, Mimi thought, was a prize worth praying for. Less than a year later, Miki has a new kidney, courtesy of a bank teller in Napa, Calif., to whom she had told her story. The teller was the donor; she was so moved by Miki's plight she had herself tested and discovered she was a perfect match. ...
  • Today The Sheep...

    TWENTY YEARS AGO, WHEN only the lowly tadpole had been cloned, bioethicists raised the possibility that scientists might someday advance the technology to include human beings as well. They wanted the issue discussed. But scientists assailed the moralists' concerns as alarmist. Let the research go forward, the scientists argued, because cloning human beings would serve no discernible scientific purpose. Now the cloning of humans is within reach, and society as a whole is caught with its ethical pants down. ...
  • From The Glass House To The White House

    THEY BOTH ROSE FROM HUMBLE, small-town boyhoods to achieve extraordinary success. Both are tall and telegenic, quick to smile, quicker yet to tear. Both command influential pulpits--one in the White House, the other in a shimmering, $20 million cathedral made of unstained glass. And lordy, how the two can talk! In his search for spiritual inspiration, therefore, what could be more natural for President Clinton than to turn to the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, the always upbeat preacher of self-esteem, author of 31 books and pastor of the Crys- tal Cathedral in Orange County, California? Where could the world's most powerful political leader find a shrewder soulmate than in a pastor who is seen each week by 20 million around the world through a television program called ""The Hour of Power''? ...
  • A Grandparent's Role

    AT BIRTH, A CHILD ENTERS THE mysterious world of its parents. At the same time, the child also enters the wider, even more mysterious world of its grandparents. Grandparents can, if they choose, remain aloof, becoming merely titular family figures in a grandchild's life, like the wooden image on the top of a totem. Or they can enrich that child's life-and their own-as a powerful and irreplaceable presence. ...