Lisa Miller

Stories by Lisa Miller

  • Miller: Is Your Rabbi Hot or Not?

    Last spring, NEWSWEEK published a list of the 50 most influential rabbis in America, created and compiled by three nice (and rich and powerful) Jewish media big shots who, it seemed, didn't have quite enough to do. The aforementioned big shots (or machers, if you will) were Gary Ginsberg, an executive at NewsCorp.; Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures, and Jay Sanderson, CEO of JTN Productions. Triggered by their long friendship and mutual interest in the future of American Judaism, the three men had gotten their BlackBerrys together and come up with a completely subjective and nonscientific formula which they used to rank America's rabbis. The list ran the week before Passover, and before it came out, the machers conceded that they were having more than a little bit of wicked fun imagining the kind of storm that was about to rain down like so many frogs or locusts. Jews love traditions; the second annual list is published herewith.The fallout from last year was...
  • Pro-Choice Evangelicals?

    Adam Hamilton does not call himself "pro-choice." He prefers "pro-life with a heavy heart." What that means, as he explains in his new book "Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White," is that he believes abortion should be available and legal, that there are instances in which it might be necessary and that those instances should be very rare. Further, he says, the abortion debate has been too hot for too long, and that, as a Christian minister, his job is to try "to support people no matter what decision they make." As an evangelical megachurch pastor in Kansas, a man educated at Oral Roberts University, Hamilton speaks carefully, aware that he's staking out a controversial position.Or maybe not. About a third of white evangelicals say that abortion should sometimes or always be legal, according to the Pew Research Center—a number that hasn't changed in a decade. In recent election seasons, however, these moderate voices have been drowned out by hard-line shouting on both sides....
  • A Good Book in Camouflage

    There are more than 50,000 copies of 'Experiencing God, Day by Day' with the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • It’s Not Her. It’s That Marriage.

    I tried to watch John McCain as he made his victory speech last week, but really, I couldn't take my eyes off his wife. So thin, so blond, so beautiful in her swept-up hairdo—my husband, slouched on the couch next to me, muttered something along the lines of, "She is not ugly." I had to agree. Also, she played her part beautifully. She knew when to step out of the frame and give the stage over to her husband. "I think the American people truly still want a traditional family in the White House," she told The Arizona Republic last year. Cindy McCain is a grown-up woman who has suffered her share of personal and marital setbacks—including an addiction to prescription painkillers that she hid from her husband—but she knows that what America wants in a First Marriage is something more mythic than real. Like my 4-year-old daughter, deep into the second year of her infatuation with the Disney princesses, people want to believe that "husband" and "prince" are synonyms.Hillary suffers at...
  • BeliefWatch: Stop Your Sobbing

    When he climbs into his pulpit on Sundays, Bowen shouts 'God is good!' and the people shout back, in unison, 'All the time!'
  • Q&A: Chuck Colson on Faith

    Recent popular books by atheist authors have spawned a new generation of Christian apologists. The latest rebuttal is "The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It and Why It Matters," by Chuck Colson, the convicted Watergate felon turned prison reformer. Colson was Nixon's special counsel, a man so ruthless that, according to legend, he once said he'd kill his own grandmother for his boss; now he argues on behalf of Jesus. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Lisa Miller. ...
  • In Defense of Secularism

    'It's red meat for pundits,' concedes Harvard chaplain Greg Epstein, who prefers the word 'humanist.'
  • The Smart Shepherd

    A New York pastor who says he thinks too much wants to bring his Christian message to the world.
  • 4 Sale: Bones of the Saints

    On eBay last week, you could buy strands of hair from the head of Saint Thérèse. Bids started at $40.
  • Can Catholics Root for Rudy?

    Rudy Giuliani has a Catholic problem and it's not, strangely enough, that he was raised as a Roman Catholic, considered becoming a priest, then dumped his second of three wives on television and has been photographed in a dress. Rudy's Catholic problem is this: he is pro-choice, and 63 percent of white Catholics who go to mass weekly are not. This is a small activist group, yet they are determined, it seems, to see the former mayor fail. Before the Iowa straw poll in August, Fidelis—a Chicago-based conservative Catholic group—ran anti-Giuliani ads in Iowa pointing to the candidate's longstanding pro-choice record. A month earlier, the group's president, Joe Cella, stepped down to go work for Giuliani opponent Fred Thompson. Thomas Melady, former ambassador to the Vatican, recently announced that he'll support Mitt Romney. The bottom line: "In the primary election, Catholics cannot vote for Giuliani," says Fidelis treasurer Brian Burch.Can these orthodox Catholics really sink Rudy?...
  • The Authenticity Test

    Just 40% of Americans go to church weekly, but 70% want a president with strong religious faith.
  • "Scandalous": Gomes on God

    Discussing his new book, the Harvard minister calls for modesty in religious debate and decries the domestication of the Christian God.
  • On ‘Perfecting’ the Jews

    Nobody is perfect, least of all Ann Coulter—and I'm not going to worry about what she thinks about me.
  • Evangelicals: New Notions on Gays

    He is the nicest right-wing evangelical powerhouse you've never heard of. Jim Daly grew up the last of five children in what anyone would call a broken home. His mother died when he was 10 and he lived with, in turn, a stepfather, a foster family, his own alcoholic father and his divorced brother. He came to Jesus in high school, under the guidance of a football coach. His recent memoir, "Finding Home," has barely made a dent on the best-seller lists. Nevertheless, in 2005, Daly got the job of president and CEO of Focus on the Family, and although he denies this, it's clear that he was picked to be the yin to James Dobson's yang. While Dobson continues to threaten in the press, Daly chats amiably with a reporter about the fall weather. He sticks to the hard line on policy issues—gay marriage is bad for families, he says—but his presentation is all soft edges. "I'm sure there are wonderful gay parents out there; there's a poster child for everything." If one of his boys turned out to...
  • Beliefwatch: Heavenly

    It isn't every day that a Christian book--that is, a book written by a Christian author for a Christian audience and marketed by a Christian publisher--crosses over into the secular market and makes any kind of appearance on best-seller lists or gets noticed by the mainstream press. Rick Warren's "The Purpose-Driven Life" had been on The New York Times list for almost a year before The Economist discovered him with its November 2003 profile.A few months ago a thin book that has been in print for nearly three years arrived in the top 10 of The New York Times paperback nonfiction list. Last week it rested at No. 6. "90 Minutes in Heaven" is an extraordinary story. Written by a Southern Baptist minister named Don Piper and a coauthor, "90 Minutes" is a firsthand account of Piper's devastating 1989 car wreck (his red Escort was, essentially, run over by an 18-wheeler), his trip to heaven--and his miraculous return to earth and life, thanks to the prayers of a fellow pastor. The trip to...
  • Beliefwatch: Slaughter

    The ancient Jews did it. So did the Romans and the Aztecs. Sacrificing an animal to please or placate God or the gods has been commonplace for many thousands of years. Still, it's a little bit shocking when we see the practice in our own backyards.Last spring a Texan named Jose Merced, who also happens to be a Santeria priest, was at home preparing to kill a chicken as part of a religious ritual when the cops came to the door. According to a complaint filed in federal district court last month, the cops told Merced he couldn't sacrifice the chicken without permission from the city of Euless, a suburb near the Dallas airport; city officials, according to the complaint, later denied him a permit. Merced is suing the city for violating his First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, saying that blood sacrifice is essential to his religious expression. "There is ... no substitute for the spiritual energy contained in blood," he says in an affidavit. "Without animal sacrifice as taught...
  • Beliefwatch: Profane

    Some stories are best told straight. On Sept. 8, Kathy Griffin, a bawdy, foulmouthed comedian, accepted an Emmy Award for her reality show, "My Life on the D-List," and in her acceptance speech she explained that while other actors might thank Jesus for such an honor, she wouldn't consider it. "Suck it, Jesus," she exuberantly added, waving her statuette in the air. "This award is my God, now."Outrage from Christian groups predictably followed, led (also predictably) by William Donohue of the Catholic League, who went on CNN to complain that "Hollywood laughs when she says 'Suck it, Jesus,' but if she'd said 'Suck it, Jews,' or 'Suck it, Muhammad' … they wouldn't be laughing, would they?" Then, newspapers reported that E! Television would scrub the speech before airing it the following weekend, which triggered an equal and opposite outcry from liberal groups accusing E! of censorship. Around that same time, a group of college students in Hawaii, sitting around voraciously reading...