Lisa Miller

Stories by Lisa Miller

  • A Legal Challenge to the Vatican's Immunity Claim

    The Catholic Church has settled hundreds of alleged cases of sexual abuse by priests. But the Vatican—a walled corner of Rome commonly recognized as a sovereign nation—has remained immune from lawsuits. Now that “sovereign immunity” protection may be in jeopardy. Federal appeals courts in Kentucky and Oregon ruled recently that the Vatican may be vulnerable. And last month, in a separate action, the plaintiff’s lawyer in the Oregon case sued the Holy See in a Wisconsin court for, among other things, access to the Vatican’s private files on sex offenders.
  • The Christian Mystery of Physical Resurrection

    It's Easter—that most pleasant of springtime holidays—when children stuff themselves with marshmallows and stain their fingers with pastel dyes. In reality, of course, Easter is about something darker and more fantastic. It's a celebration of the final act of the Passion, in which Jesus rose from his tomb in his body three days after his execution, to reside in heaven with God. The Gospels insist on the veracity of this supernatural event. The risen Lord "ate barbecued fish [Luke] and walked through doors [John]," is how a friend of mine, an Episcopalian priest, puts it. This rising—the Resurrection—remains at the center of the Christian faith, the narrative climax of every creed. Jesus died and rose again so that all his followers could, eventually, do the same. This story has strained the credulity of even the most devoted believer. For, truly, it's unbelievable.Resurrection—the physical reality, not the metaphorical interpretation—puts everything we imagine about heaven to the...
  • Movies: Denzel Rescues the Bible

    In the post-apocalyptic world of The Book of Eli, the most precious things on earth are a trial-size bottle of shampoo; a cache of hand wipes, individually wrapped; and the last existing copy of the King James Bible. Denzel Washington, cast as the cowboy-monk Eli, is on a mission from God. He has to carry that Bible through a landscape populated by murderous, illiterate, cannibalistic roughnecks to a safe place he saw in a dream. Eli may not be Jesus, exactly—the Christian Lord would never have been so deft with a machete—but he is in possession of some God-given magic. This protects him, his puppyish girl companion (Mila Kunis), and the book during their long journey.An honorable prophet guarding the word of God for the future of humankind would seem an overblown premise for an action-buddy movie, but Washington is more than cartoonish. The Book of Eli provokes us to imagine all our values turned upside down. "We had more than we needed," remembers Eli of the time before the war. ...
  • Heaven on Film

    Heaven, according to polls, is a place nearly everyone wants to go to, so why don't movies ever remotely capture that yearning? We all carry inchoate visions of heaven around in our heads, but we don't realize how bruising another's interpretation can be until we see it in celluloid. The most recent attempt—the heaven in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones—looks more like Barbie dropping acid and entering her playhouse. Our (deceased) teenage heroine, Susie Salmon, plays disco dress-up with her heavenly BFF. Platform shoes! Purple glitter! Meanwhile, the topography of her world is, in-explicably, constantly in flux—now it's forest, now it's ice. Spend two minutes in Jackson's interpretation of Susie's personal heaven and your teeth start to itch. I, for one, would rather be at the mall.No wonder directors have such difficulty with heaven. It is, by tradition and in the popular imagination, a place of supernatural hyperbole. It represents what's most beautiful, most just, most perfect,...