Kenneth L.

Stories by Kenneth L. Woodward

  • More Chicken Soup For Barnes &Amp; Noble

    DYING TO WRITE A BEST seller? Just put "soul" somewhere in the title. Since 1994, when Thomas Moore's "Care of the Soul" began its 150-week run on The New York Times best-seller list, there have been nearly 800 books published on the soul of this and the soul of that. The granddaddy of them all is Aristotle's "De Anima" ("Treatise on the Soul"), out in a new English translation but not yet booked for "Oprah." The really hot reads are books by the therapy industry's reigning household gods. To name a few that are coming soon to bookstores everywhere: "Denial of the Soul," by the well-traveled M. Scott Peck; "Buddha Nature: Death of the Soul," by the Dalai Lama, who says we don't really have one, and "The Soul Is Here for Its Own Joy: Sacred Poems From Many Cultures," by Robert Bly, who says we do. They'll be competing with "Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul," the current No. 1 paperback on The New York Times list in the "advice" category. That's not to be confused with the five...
  • Christmas Wasn't Born Here, Just Invented

    SOCIOLOGICALLY, T. S. ELIOT GOT IT wrong. For many Americans December is the cruelest month, Christmas the season that mixes "memory and desire." A holy day for some, a holiday for all, Christmas is above all an anxiety-producing amalgam of family intimacy and rank consumerism that too often fails to wholly satisfy the spirit or the senses. Jolly it often isn't. ...
  • The Art Of Dying Well

    IT WAS A HUMID NIGHT IN AUGUST, AND 200 members of Congregation B'Nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim were gathered in the leafy Chicago suburb of Glenview for Friday services. Rabbi Mark Shapiro began the Me sh'bayrach, the prayer for healing, then asked the congregation to offer names of those in need. ""Cardinal Joseph Bernardin,'' someone said, and suddenly an agitated murmur ran through the congregation. Not everyone there had seen the press conference, televised that afternoon, where Bernardin had calmly announced that his cancer had returned, invading his liver, and that he hadn't long to live. Bernardin was not of their faith, but he was, for many of them, their cardinal: ""I am Joseph, your brother,'' the Archbishop of Chicago liked to say. ""Each one of us was being punched in the stomach,'' recalls Sandee Holleb, a schoolteacher who was in the congregation that night. ""We were reaching out to embrace a man who had reached out to embrace the world--and us.'' ...
  • In The Beginning

    RAPE, INCEST, MURDER, ADULTERY, JEALOUSY, GREED, betrayal--this is the stuff of tabloid journalism. It is also the stuff of Genesis, the first and best-known book of the Bible. Trouble is, most Americans know Genesis only from the sanitized ""Bible stories'' they read as children; few have bothered to study the actual texts. But the Bible is a book written by adults, for adults. And, like all great literature, Genesis yields its subtle complexities only to the mature mind and imagination. Its cast of characters is rich: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham and Sarah, Esau and Jacob--two by two they have entered the ark of Western consciousness. ...
  • An Unholy Alliance

    HE IS THE FIRST POPE TO SEE HIS OWN life story. turned into a movie, the first to publish an international best seller, the first to answer questions from working journalists. Now, in the last phase of his pontificate, comes the parade of biographies: one last year, one just published and at least two more scheduled to appear as the millennium approaches. John Paul II, this is your life, your life, your life, your life. ...
  • Catechism Lessons

    WHEN NEW YORK CITY'S TROUBLED public schools reopened this month, thousands of students arrived to find they had no seats. There were stories of classes meeting in locker rooms and counselors working out of closets. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani responded with what seemed like a radical proposal: transfer some of the city's 91,000 surplus students to Roman Catholic schools, which he himself had attended. ...
  • In Praise Of Footnotes

    MOST PEOPLE REMEMBER THEIR first kiss, their wedding night, the birth of a child. I -- like most writers -- also remember the day I first became a footnote. There, at the bottom of a page, was my name, preceded by a tiny number and followed by the title of my book and the page cited. And lo! a few pages later I appeared again, this time folded neatly into a discreet op.cit.1 ...
  • Come In, Mars

    SINCE HUMAN BEINGS FIRST LOOKED into the face of the universe and saw only infinite night, we have wondered who was out there. Not what -- that was clear enough. Stars, maybe rocks like the one under our feet. But did anything laugh and cry, have children, build monuments? Was anything looking back wondering the same things about us? Those questions remain unanswered, but last week a team of scientists announced that after two years of staring into a 4.3-pound meteorite from our neighbor planet Mars, they had found indications of life. The microscopic organisms they say they found never experienced life the way we do. But if they're right, then more than 3 billion years ago they lived -- fed, reproduced, died. And the simple fact of their existence radically improves the odds that we are not alone in the universe. ...
  • The Low To The Mighty

    HOW DID CHRISTIANITY, A TINY AND obscure messianic movement from the fringe of the Roman Empire, dislodge paganism and become the dominant religion of Western civilization? And how could this be accomplished in less than 400 years? Believers, of course, credit the Holy Spirit, but even he has to work through human agents. Evangelists stress the public preaching of the apostle Paul and other missionaries. Some intellectuals -- Karl Marx was one -- believe that Christianity was the triumph of a proletarian revolution. And many historians point to Emperor Constantine, whose Edict of Milan in 313 led to the establishment of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire. ...
  • Soul Searching

    JEAN HOUSTON -- philosopher, self-described ""sacred psychologist'' and, of late, private tutor to Hillary Rodham Clinton -- was pacing around her darkened house in suburban New York, surrounded by statues of Greek and Egyptian mythological figures. She was in high dudgeon: a friend had just called from Austria to say that he thought more highly of the American president and First Lady after reading of how Houston had taught the Clintons to communicate with spirits. ""Of course, my friend is an occultist,'' Houston explained to NEWSWEEK with the grimmest of smiles. ""And in England, my friends tell me, the buzz is that I'm running the White House. Now Australia's on the line. I'm ruined. Thirty years of work -- just ruined. I've lost face.''This wasn't the way she wanted to become famous. What brought Houston, 57, to the world's attention were excerpts (published in NEWSWEEK and The Washington Post) from Bob Woodward's new book, ""The Choice.'' Woodward described how Houston had led...
  • Hallowed Be Thy Name

    THESE ARE TOUGH TIMES TO BE A FAther. The media are full of stories about abusive fathers, fatherless children and deadbeat dads -- and about New Fathers who are trying to do better. But in general this is an age when fathers get little respect, and you don't have to look farther than the biggest father figure of them all, God. ...
  • Soul Voyeurs Invade The House Of God

    EVERY SUNDAY AT HARlem's Mount Moriah Baptist Church, the huge old sanctuary is Jammed to the doors. But 80 percent of the folks inside aren't there to pray. As at dozens of other Harlem churches, most of these visitors are dressed down in T shirts, V-neck sweaters, blue jeans and sneakers-a sure sign that they're not from the churchgoing Harlem community. Few, in fact, are African-Americans. They're tourists from Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, bused in from New York City's midtown hotels to sample the rhythmic gospel music of Harlem's fabled choirs. And they rarely stay around to hear the sermon. At Mount Moriah, pastor Edward-Earl Johnson Sr. stops to thank Jesus "for our friends who have come from afar just to praise your name." But the tourists' whirring camcorders and popping camera flashes suggest that they've really come to watch a show. "It's something exotic," says Nelson Motta, a Brazillian journalist who promotes visits to Mount Moriah in his native country. "Seeing the...
  • Rethinking The Resurrection

    IF CHRIST IS NOT RAISED, SAINT Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, "then our preaching is in vain and so is your faith." This is the week Christians round the world gather to remember the passion and death of Jesus on a criminal's cross. Once again, the familiar story will be relived in liturgy, sermon and song: the somberness of Good Friday, the tomblike silence of Holy Saturday, followed by the radiance of Easter Sunday proclaiming Christ's resurrection to new life by the power of God. As the Apostle Paul insisted, the Risen Christ is the center of the Christian faith, the mystery without which there would be no church, no hope of eternal life, no living Christ to encounter in eucharistic bread and wine. By any measure, the resurrection of Jesus is the most radical of Christian doctrines. His teachings, his compassion for others, even his martyr's death--all find parallels in other stories and religious traditions. But of no other historical figure has the claim...
  • The Spiritual Surfer

    Bill Moyers is television's most accomplished practitioner of acolyte journalism. The technique is simple. Find an intellectual guru, sit at his feet and never interrupt wit a challenging question. Moyers has been doing this for years on public television, most notably in his hugely popular series with the late Joseph Campbell. This week Moyers resumes his on-camera spiritual education with a new five-part series, "The Wisdom of Faith," that runs right through Passover and the Christian Holy Week. This time, his seat is at the feet of Houston Smith, 76, a genial, white-bearded pioneer in the study of world religions. ...
  • Heard Any Good Sermons Lately?

    FROM THE JEREMIADS OF THE Puritan divines to the mountain-striding rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr., Americans have been a people awash in a sea of sermons. Every Sunday more than 400,000 Christian preachers mount the pulpit to interpret the ways of God to man. Hundreds more are heard on radio and television. Among preachers themselves, good sermons are prized like good poems, collected like baseball cards, critiqued like the latest films and novels. For many Prot-estants -- Baptists in particular--preaching isn't everything: it's the only thing. ...
  • Hymns, Hers And Theirs

    For many american protestants, the best-loved church book is not the Bible but their hymnal. A sermon may instruct, but a hymn from an inspired writer speaks directly to the soul. At least it used to. ...
  • After 29 Years, Donahue Pulls The Plug

    PHIL DONAHUE, THE first talk-show host to invite the audience into the act, is calling it quits. It's hard to remember now amid all the cacophony, but Donahue was a pioneer. Until the mid-'80s, his was the only talk-back show on television, a mixture of earnest public-affairs chat with the strange-but-true confessions of ordinary women who loved too much. Unfortunately for Phil, his format was easily copied. Oprah, his first national competitor, knocked him off his top-rated perch in 1987. ...
  • In The Beginning. . .

    IT WASN'T YOUR TYPICAL SUNDAY-school class. When New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine announced a public Bible reading last month, 2,500 showed up to hear celebrities like Norman Mailer, Jesse Jackson, James Earl Jones, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson read the familiar stories of Noah and the Deluge, Yaakov's Ladder, the baby Moshe floating down the Nile in his ark, and YHWH issuing his Ten Words on Mount Sinai. Obviously, it wasn't your typical Bible, either. The literati were reading from a new translation of The Five Books of Moses (1,024 pages. Schoeken. $50), a serious, astonishing and sometimes discomforting effort to join the warp and woof of ancient Hebrew to modern English. The work, 27 years in the making by Everett Fox, has produced the oddest of reactions to a Biblical translation: public attention. ...
  • Apocalypse Later

    The third millennium is just four years away, and you'd think that Jehovah's Witnesses would be ecstatic. Ever since the movement's inception in the 1870s, the Witnesses have insisted that the world as we know it is about to end. According to their unique Biblical calculations, the countdown to Armageddon commenced in 1914 -- the first world war was a major sign-and Christ would establish his millennial kingdom on earth "before the generation who saw the events of 1914 passes away." For countless Witnesses, this prediction was good reason not to save money, start a career or make burial plans. As one of their leaders famously preached in 1918: "Millions now living will never die." ...
  • The Advent Of Kwanzaa

    For African-Americans,- There's more to celebrate at the end of December that. Christmas and New Year's Eve. This year, an estimated 10 million black Americans will set the week aside for Kwanzaa, a festival of family, roots and community that is rapidly winning a place on the nation's holiday calendar alongside Chanukah and Christmas. But like all things that succeed in America, Kwanzaa (a word that derives from the Swahili meaning "first fruits of the harvest") has become big business. What was conceived 29 years ago in California as a low-key, low-cost ritual centered on table and hearth is now beginning to look a lot like, well. . . Christmas. ...
  • Do We Need Satan?

    He is the evil one, the adversary, the prince of darkness, the Father of Lies. Among his many proper names are Satan, Lucifer and Mephistopheles. Skeptics dismiss him as "Old Scratch"; the Rolling Stones knew him as "a man of wealth and taste." But in every language he answers to his generic title: Diabolos, El Diablo, the Devil. ...
  • To Abuse Is Human, To Repent Is Rare

    VICTOR SALVA IS THE DIRECTOR OF A new Disney film, "Powder," about a telekinetic teenager with skin like baking powder. Salva, 37, is also a convicted child-molester. In 1988 he confessed to having had oral sex with 12-year-old Nathan Winters, who had acted in two of Salva's earlier films. Salva later served 15 months of a three-year prison term. "I paid for my mistakes, dearly," he says. But Winters, now 20, doesn't think Salva has paid nearly enough. Last week he picketed an industry screening of the $25 million film in Los Angeles, causing considerable embarrassment for Disney executives. As a result of the sexual abuse, Winters's mother claims, her son had been "suicidal." Nathan is adamant: "I don't think a year and one half [in prison] compares to my life sentence." ...
  • The Pope Comes Calling

    Pope John Paul II is a man with an almost superstitious belief in historical coincidence. He is bedazzled by dates. This week, on his fourth-and quite likely last-visit to the United States, the pope will address the United Nations on its 50th anniversary. It will also be 80 years to the day that Paul VI became the first pope to visit the United States-and to address the United Nations. Back then, the United Nations had only 117 member states, China was still an outlaw nation and Paul's chief concern was the threat of nuclear war. The world is very different now. There is no Iron Curtain in Europe. China sits on the U.N. Security Council. In Cuba, the pope has installed a cardinal in Havana--the first under Castro-and the Vatican has opened an office for human rights. In return, the church has funneled $18 million in humanitarian aid to Cuba and even raised prospects of a papal visit. ...
  • Religion: God Gets The He-Ho

    Readers who find the Bible sexist, racist, elitist and insensitive to the physically challenged, take heart. Oxford University Press's new "inclusive language version" of the New Testament and Psalms has cleaned up God's act. In this version, God is no longer "Father" and Jesus is no longer "Son." The hierarchical title of "Lord" is excised as an archaic way to address God. Nor does God (male pronouns for the deity have been abolished) rule a "kingdom"; as the editors explain, the word has a "blatantly androcentric and patriarchal character." Darkness has been banished in connection with evil because the editors fear it may remind some readers of "darkies." Even God's metaphorical "right hand" has been amputated out of deference to the left-handed. Some examples. ...
  • Linking Siblings And Scholars

    Margaret Callaghan Guest has enough younger brothers and sisters to field two baseball teams--and nearly enough of her own kids (seven) to field another. With so many relatives, Margaret and her mother put out a family newsletter to keep the Detroit-area clan informed. The news is remarkably good. Margaret and her 17 siblings all put themselves through Catholic high school and college. Several have advanced degrees and one is a millionaire. Six of Guest's own children are college graduates, and the seventh just finished his first year.Few families can claim as much academic success. But according to a recent study by Ohio State University sociologist Douglas Downey, the Callaghans might have achieved even more. Drawing on data collected in 1988 from 24,599 eighth graders in 1,550 schools, Downey concludes, "Children in larger families don't do as well in school as children in smaller families." And this holds true, he says, regardless of race, class and socioeconomic standing. The...
  • Who's Sorry Now?

    It isn't often that a pope apologizes. But in an unusual personal letter addressed to "every woman" in the world this week, John Paul II does just that. Acknowledging that women "have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude," the pope offers a brief, somewhat stilted mea culpa for the church's complicity in their oppression. "If objective blame, especially in particular historical contexts, has belonged to not just a few members of the Church," the pope writes, "for this I am truly sorry. May this regret be transformed, on the part of the whole Church, into a renewed commitment of fidelity to the Gospel vision."Zen Buddhists may savor the sound of one hand clapping, but for Christians no sound is sweeter than the beating of breasts. This year in particular, church leaders and groups have produced a veritable chorus of apologies for sins past and present. Last month the Southern Baptist Convention formally apologized to African-Americans for...
  • Thou Shalt Not Patent!

    There are more than 50,000 human genes, and scientists are working as rapidly as they can to identify the functions of each one. Right behind them are the biotechnology companies, and they are working as fast they can to patent those genetic processes that show commercial promise. Since 1981, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has approved 11,815 patents for genetically engineered substances. The human gene pool is vast, but limited. And by the time today's children see their grandchildren it is possible that every gene will be mapped and open for commercial exploitation. ...
  • The Stages Of Grief

    The rescue squads have pulled out of Oklahoma City. Already the attention of the national media has turned elsewhere--to Africa, to O.J., to the hunt for John Doe No. 2. Eventually, what's left of the shambles of the federal building will come down and a memorial of some sort will be constructed. But while the rest of America gets on with its affairs, the hard part has only just begun for the families of victims. "Let the healing begin," said evangelist Billy Graham four weeks ago at the memorial service televised throughout the nation. His call was wildly premature. Throughout the city, the aftershocks of the homemade bomb that took 168 lives and wounded more than 400 others are still being felt. One family that lost a child continues to set an extra place at the dinner table. A rescue worker keeps splashing his face with cologne yet still can't rid himself of the stench of rotting bodies. A woman who lost all her children in the blast asks, numbly: "Am I still a mother?" ...
  • Life, Death, And The Pope

    EVERY POPE LEAVES HIS MARK ON THE CHURCH. JOHN XXIII IS remembered for "Pacem in Teryis," his magnificent invitation to world peace. Paul VI will forever be associated with "Humanae Vitae," the agonized encyclical condemning contraception. The prolific John Paul 11 has already published 10 papal letters. But in "Evangelium Vitae"-"Gospel of Life"-released last week, he has at last produced his signature statement. It is the clearest, most impassioned and most commanding encyclical of his 16-year reign. As a summons to the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics to "resist crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize," it may also be his most controversial.The pope's pronouncement addresses some of the most incendiary moral issues of the moment: abortion, euthanasia (mercy killing of the aged or infirm), use of human embryos for medical research, and capital punishment. All are, for the pope, signs of an encroaching "culture of death" that threatens human dignity and freedom. Indeed, ...
  • The Mantle Of Prophecy Comes Only In Gray

    When the apostles who govern the Mormon Church appointed their 15th ""president, prophet, seer and revelator'' last week, their choice was no surprise. By tradition, the prophet's mantle falls automatically on the apostle who has served longest as a member of the church's Council of the Twelve -- in this case, 84-year-old Gordon B. Hinckley. But among many Mormons, there was also considerable relief. The last two prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been so infirm that Hinckley, as one of the president's two counselors, has functioned as the de facto head of the church. When president Howard W. Hunter -- the first Mormon prophet born in the 20th century -- died three weeks ago at the age of 87, he finished the shortest term in the church's history: nine months. Already gravely ill with cancer when he took office, Hunter had replaced Ezra Taft Benson, who was mentally feeble throughout his eight-year presidency. ...
  • Q. When Is A Marriage Not Really A Marriage?

    Frank Sinatra has one. So does former Chrysler Corp. chairman Lee Iacocca. New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato may need one; Sen. Ted Kennedy reportedly got one, and his nephew Joseph P. Kennedy II, a congressman from Massachusetts, hopes to get one. Four of these men are divorced and remarried -- Sinatra several times over. What each man has or is seeking is a marriage annulment from the Roman Catholic Church. ...
  • The Giggles Are For God

    On a recent weeknight in Toronto, 1,500 worshipers gathered in the Vineyard Christian Church and had a good laugh. It began when a dozen pilgrims from Oregon got up to introduce themselves and then began to fall to the floor, laughing uncontrollably. An hour later, the huge new church looked like a field hospital. Dozens of men and women of all ages were lying on the floor: some were jerking spasmodically; others closed their eyes in silent ecstasy. A middle-aged woman kicked off her pumps and began whooping and trilling in a delicate dance. Scores of others proclaimed deliverance from emotional and physical pains. "I've been living in my spirit," said a woman from Long Island, N.Y., still giggling after 20 minutes on the floor. ...