Lisa Miller

Stories by Lisa Miller

  • Books: How-To Help for Atheist Parents

    Parenting books are the most useless and irresistible kind of literature. Designed to prey on parents' insecurities, they draw you in with expert claims and then disappoint with their know-it-all tone and their failure to solve even a single one of the profound struggles of family life. Same with atheism books: the authors are supersmart and their arguments engaging, but they don't ultimately resolve doubt and you are left with the feeling of having failed to get with the program. The kids are wide awake at 10 p.m. and you're still not so sure you can rule God out completely.Here, then, is the last word in the useless and irresistible: a parenting book for atheists. "Parenting Beyond Belief," published in April by Amacom, a wing of the American Management Association, aims to help folks who are raising their kids without religion deal with the sticky questions that come up about Santa Claus and heaven, and it raises more serious concerns about how to bring up ethical, confident,...
  • BeliefWatch: Ground Zero's 'Shrine'

    Carole Pizzolante, from Ontario, Canada, is standing in a historic church in New York City, and she is trying not to cry. Before her is a wall, plastered with the faces of people killed on 9/11. "It's all so bloody senseless, I can't get through it," she says with a wave of her hand, and then her composure falters. She pauses and says, through tears, "What could anyone gain from doing something like this?"For years, St. Paul's Chapel was an important but overlooked tourist attraction. What St. Paul's had to offer was its history—it was built in 1766—and a pew, located at the side of the church where George Washington sat and worshiped after his Inaugural in 1789. Almost no one went there, in other words, and those who did were mostly financial-district office workers who liked to eat their lunches under the shade trees in the chapel's ancient cemetery. For years and years, six people, on average, attended Sunday-morning services there, says the Rev. Stuart Hoke, staff chaplain at St...
  • BeliefWatch: An Atheist Uproar

    It may not be fair to call what's happening in the atheist community a backlash, since atheists have always been and continue to be one of the smallest, most derided groups in the country. In a recent NEWSWEEK Poll, only 3 percent of respondents called themselves atheists and only 30 percent said they'd ever vote for an atheist. No, what's happening in the "atheist, humanist, freethinkers" community is more like what happens to any ideological or political group as it matures: the hard-liners knock heads with the folks who want to just get along, and the cracks are beginning to show.At the center of this controversy is the humanist chaplain of Harvard University, a 30-year-old "secular rabbi" named Greg Epstein. In March, in remarks to the Associated Press, Epstein called the popular writers Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins "atheist fundamentalists." He accused the best-selling authors—he now includes Christopher Hitchens among them—of being more interested in polemics, in tearing...
  • Remembering Ruth Bell Graham

    Mornings were chaos. “Four full-blooded little Grahams,” the young mother wrote in her journal. “ I feel this a.m. it’s gotten quite beyond me. They fight, they yell, they answer back. Breakfast is dreadful ... Now they’ve gone off to school looking nice enough (for once) and with a good breakfast but with the scrappiest of family prayers ... Grumbling, interrupting, slurring one another, impudent to me. So now they’re off, I’m in bed with my Bible thinking it through—or rather, trying to.”Ruth Bell Graham wrote this in 1957 while her husband Billy Graham was off crusading in New York City, a reminder that behind public lives—for no one has lived more publicly than Billy Graham—are extraordinary lives lived in private. The passage also makes the poignant point that with her death on June 14 at age 87, the Graham family has lost its heart. “I am so grateful to the Lord that He gave me Ruth,” Billy Graham said in a statement issued after her death. “Especially for these last few years...
  • BeliefWatch: Budding Buddhists

    The Beliefnet.com post is typical teenage angst, but with a twist. Mother is a zealous new convert to Roman Catholicism. Father is along for the ride. "Silentmist" wants an answer to this question: "How should I go about telling [my mother] about my Buddhism?"We should have seen this coming. The baby boomers experimented with everything; they left their childhood faiths for other faiths or nothing at all; they intermarried and raised their children to be "spiritual but not religious." Now a small but growing number find themselves in the uncomfortable but not necessarily unhappy position of driving their high-school-age kids to Buddhist retreats. Diana Winston, the author of "Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide for Teens," has been teaching Buddhism to youth for more than a decade, and she says she's seen it change from a fringe practice to something normal and accepted, especially on the coasts. (In the middle of the country, Winston says, kids sometimes practice Buddhism in secret; they...
  • BeliefWatch: Bible-Based Edutainment

    This summer, tourists who want attractions with a Christian flavor have at least two new options to choose from. The first, opening to the public June 5, is the Billy Graham Library, situated on 63 acres in Charlotte, N.C. For historians, the draw is the archives: the personal papers, drafts of sermons and correspondence of the man who for 60 years has been the most prominent and popular evangelist in the world. For children and families, it may be the cold milk and cookies in the café, or the replica of the dairy farm that was Graham's childhood home and the animatronic (i.e., "talking") cow, which invites them on a scavenger hunt.Far more controversial is the Creation Museum, the brainchild of an Australian evangelist named Ken Ham. Opening this week in northern Kentucky not far from the Cincinnati airport, the museum is devoted to the idea that the creation story in Genesis is literally true and that the Earth is just 6,000 years old. (Scientists put the age of the Earth at 4.5...
  • BeliefWatch: Jehovah's Witnesses

    With a presidential candidate, a recent television special and 13 million adherents worldwide, the Mormons have gotten an extra dose of media attention lately. But there's another indigenous American religion that is now making a bid for the spotlight. Formed in the 19th century, four decades after the Latter-day Saints, it, too, emphasizes a bizarre-seeming afterlife, attracts clean-cut and socially conservative adherents, encourages its members to evangelize and raises the ire of more-mainstream believers suspicious of its claims to Christianity. With "Knocking," a documentary airing this week on PBS, director Joel Engardio draws back the curtain on America's million Jehovah's Witnesses.People know of Witnesses, if they know of them at all, as the folks who refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance. They also don't celebrate birthdays or Christmas, they don't vote, they don't fight in wars and they refuse to accept blood transfusions, even in life-threatening circumstances.They...
  • BeliefWatch: Entombed

    In interviews with NEWSWEEK in the days before the announcement of the "Jesus family tomb" (the suburban Jerusalem cave said to contain the bones of Jesus and his relatives, a claim that later turned out to be overblown), publishers and publicists worried aloud that the public might be suffering from what they called "ossuary fatigue." What they meant was this: how many first-century bone boxes can archeologists boast of finding before people stop caring about first-century bone boxes? (Especially, one might ask in retrospect, when those discoveries often tend to be not so historically important.) The answer is: a lot. It's always cool when someone digs up a relic related to the Biblical past, and last week's alleged discovery of the tomb of King Herod is no different.This time around, it was the archeologist Ehud Netzer, a respected Israeli scholar whose lifelong dream had been to find Herod's grave. He has been excavating Herodium, the palace complex Herod built near Jerusalem,...
  • Pope's Book: A Lifetime of Learning

    Who was Jesus, really? It has become acceptable, even fashionable, lately to speak of the Christian Lord in casual terms, as though he were an acquaintance with a mysterious past. Pope Benedict's trip to Brazil last week revived an old retelling of the Christian story in which Jesus is cast as a social revolutionary determined to overthrow the established order. The massive success of "The Da Vinci Code" reflected the hunger of millions to see Jesus as a regular person—a man with a wife and a child, a popular teacher whose true life story was subverted by the corporate self-interest of the early church. A look at any best-seller list reveals a thriving subcategory of readable scholarly and pseudo-scholarly books about the "real" Jesus: he was, they claim, a sage, a mystic, a rabbi, a boyfriend. He was a father, a pacifist, an ascetic, a prophet. In some parts of the Christian world, the aspects of Jesus' story that most strain credibility—the virgin birth and the physical...
  • BeliefWatch: Drinkers Vs. Drivers

    Who are you for? The cabbies or the airport commission? In Minneapolis, that most open-minded of American cities, the debate has gotten vicious. This week the airport will begin imposing strict sanctions on cabdrivers who refuse to pick up passengers carrying alcohol. After two offenses, a driver can have his license—his livelihood, in other words—revoked for two years.Of the 900 drivers who service the airport at Minneapolis-St. Paul, three quarters are Somali immigrants, and most of these are observant Muslims who believe that carrying, selling or imbibing alcohol is sinful. Several years ago some drivers began turning down passengers who visibly carried alcohol—a bottle from the duty-free shop, for example. According to the airport authority, passengers were refused nearly 5,000 times over the past four years. In those cases, a dispatcher would send the driver to the back of the line and the passenger would get the next available cab.Early this year the whole thing blew up. After...
  • God, War and the Presidency

    During his tour in Vietnam, Angelo Charles Liteky, a Roman Catholic chaplain, often traveled with the forward line because he thought it was important to know what the boys out front were feeling. That way, when they broke down, he would be better able to persuade them to soldier on. On Dec. 6, 1967, Liteky was near the village of Phuoc Lac when his battalion came under heavy fire. Walking upright through raining bullets, Liteky singlehandedly dragged 20 wounded soldiers to a landing strip so they could be evacuated. "It was strictly compassion," he tells NEWSWEEK. "We are supposed to grow in love, and when I saw these guys just getting killed all around me, there was nothing for me to do but go and help them." The next year, President Lyndon Johnson gave Liteky the congressional Medal of Honor.History's battlefields have almost always held a place for men and women of God—someone to inspire and give comfort, give parents and fiancées the bad news, file forms, educate, pray for...
  • BeliefWatch: Circumcision Debate

    Poor "Misha." Caught in a terrible custody war, this 12-year-old boy from Washington state has become a cause célèbre for a diverse group of activists. Here are the facts, in brief: Misha lives with his father, who has sole custody and who recently converted to Judaism. The father wants Misha to convert as well, and so he wants Misha circumcised. The boy's mother, who is Russian Orthodox, is against it. Doctors Opposing Circumcision, an activist group, started circulating Misha's story online, asking for donations for Misha's defense. A lower court affirmed the father's right to circumcise his son but has allowed the mother to exhaust her legal options before he does so; now the mother hopes that her case will be taken up by the Oregon Supreme Court. The boy's own desires remain unclear.Two weeks ago, Richard Dawkins, the Oxford don, noted atheist and author of "The God Delusion," posted Misha's story on his Web site. Dawkins was irate, calling Misha's father's intentions ...
  • BeliefWatch: Strong Reaction to Chocolate Jesus

    Last Monday, as Christians around the globe prepared for Holy Week and Easter, the Italian-American artist Cosimo Cavallaro was leading a car chase through the streets of New York City. With reporters trailing close behind, Cavallaro drove a refrigerated truck through narrow, clogged streets until he finally lost his pursuers and came to rest at an undisclosed—but large, cool and accommodating—location. There, he unloaded his masterpiece: a life-size sculpture of Jesus Christ, totally nude and made entirely of dark chocolate.The week before, plans to display the sculpture at a Manhattan gallery were scrapped when Christian groups protested the upcoming exhibition. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League called it "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever." Newspapers and blogs from Winnipeg to Romania picked up the story and, as a sign of how tense things have become on both sides of the culture wars, the artist and his wife began receiving death threats on their...
  • BeliefWatch: Islam and Interfaith Marriage

    Unlike Judaism, Islam is passed down through the father. The Qur'an even grants a Muslim man permission to marry a Jewish or Christian woman, so long as she is chaste. "A believing maid is better than an idolatrous woman," the holy text says. Thus it was for centuries: Muslim men married other women of the Book, who were permitted to practice their own religion but were absorbed into their husband's family along with their Muslim children.Fast-forward to modern-day America. An entire generation of American Muslims, whose parents emigrated here in the 1970s, is coming of age. They've been to elite colleges, they're in the professions and they're ready to settle down. And so the cycle of hand-wringing over intermarriage begins again. For assimilated Muslim men, intermarriage doesn't present too big a dilemma because the tradition endorses it. "I'm actually a big proponent of intermarriage," says Arsalan Iftikhar, national legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. ...
  • GodTube: What Would Jesus Download?

    What would Jesus download? One of the hottest sites on the Internet is GodTube.com, the Christian answer to YouTube. It's a goofy, fascinating window into the world of Christian youth. There's a clip of Ray Comfort, the popular evangelical preacher, demonstrating the perfection of God's creation with an actual banana. It's hard—OK, impossible—not to see it as an (unintentional?) dirty joke. Another clip sends up the hip-hop anthem "Baby Got Back": This version is called "Baby Got Bible" and contains hilarious lyrics like "Bless me, bless me and teach me about John Wesley."GodTube is the brainchild of Chris Wyatt, an excitable 38-year-old student at the Dallas Theological Seminary and former television producer and Internet entrepreneur. In 1999, he says, he "hit a bump in the road, and my mother told me I had to get to know the Lord." Within six weeks he had found Jesus, and in the years that followed, he tried his hand at various Christian enterprises, including a Christian version...
  • BeliefWatch: Evangelical Split Over Environment

    What has Rich Cizik done to make Jim Dobson so mad? Cizik has, for 26 years, been the Washington-based lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals, a job one would hardly call high profile. Over the past year, though, he has become something of a celebrity: the evangelical leader who speaks for the cause of environmentalism.Last week Dobson, the paterfamilias of Focus on the Family and the religious right's standard-bearer and junkyard dog, signed a letter with two dozen others, excoriating Cizik for his environmental activism. Cizik is out of his depth on the issue, the letter argued, and assumes a consensus where there is none. "If [Cizik] cannot be trusted to articulate the views of American evangelicals on environmental issues," said the letter, "then we respectfully suggest that he be encouraged to resign his post." To an outsider, the irate tone of the letter seemed odd. What had Cizik really done? Why would Dobson, arguably the most powerful evangelical in politics,...
  • Are Americans Ignorant About Religion?

    Steve Prothero is the kind of professor who makes you want to go back to college. During an hour lecture of his Boston University course "Death and Immortality," 200 students sat rapt last week as his train of thought led him from the Docetics (early Christians who believed that Jesus was all-God, not flesh), to reincarnation, to Disney World, to Hindu cremation rituals, to Plato's account of Socrates' trial (the day's assigned reading), to "Beauty and the Beast," to a hypothetical suicidal bunny, to a discussion of the merits of exile versus death for a man such as Socrates. To describe Prothero as "quick-witted" or his interests as "interdisciplinary" wouldn't quite do him justice. Prothero is a world-religions scholar with the soul of a late-night television comic.This month, HarperSanFrancisco will publish Prothero's new book "Religious Literacy," a work whose message is far more sober than its author's affect. In spite of the fact that more than 90 percent of Americans say they...
  • BeliefWatch: Refocusing Faith on Service

    On the day of John F. Kennedy's funeral, Robert Kennedy wrote his eldest child, who was 12, a short note: "Dear Kathleen," it said, "you seemed to understand that Jack died and was buried today. As the oldest of the Kennedy grandchildren—you have a particular responsibility now—a special responsibility to John and Joe. Be kind to others and work for your country. Love, Daddy."Kathleen Kennedy Townsend grew up in that kind of Roman Catholic family, the kind that—in spite of the imperfections of individual members—put country and duty above personal pain, the kind that put the suffering of those with less above the suffering of those with more. In a new book, "Failing America's Faithful," Kennedy Townsend joins former senator Jack Danforth and other "old school" politicians in mourning a world in which being Christian meant caring for others and making sacrifices to solve problems.And so she suggests reforms that she believes will revitalize her beloved Catholic Church and refocus the...
  • BeliefWatch: Reporting on America's Muslims

    In the aftermath of 9/11, when the offices of The Wall Street Journal were temporarily moved from Ground Zero to SoHo, a young journalist sat at his desk and edited one story after another about the Muslim world abroad. Jihad this, fatwah that, Sunni, Shia, how do you spell hijab? "It occurred to me that I was almost entirely ignorant about Muslims in this country," he says, and like any good reporter, he was moved to find out more. So Paul Barrett picked up his laptop and hit the road, hoping to bring his investigative chops to a subject that few had ever approached with care: American Muslims.Happily for us, the result is the book "American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion," out this month from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Through seven profiles, including an inner-city imam, a philosopher and a feminist—Barrett (formerly a Wall Street Journal colleague of mine) paints a picture of Muslims that is, as he put it last week at a talk in Los Angeles, "no less diverse...
  • Slave Trade

    Once there was a Christian, a man from a wealthy family. He had conservative values, and he crusaded his whole life for social justice. In the end, he changed history. His name was William Wilberforce, and in 1807 he finally succeeded in abolishing the British slave trade.It is no wonder, then, that a new movie about his life, "Amazing Grace," directed by Michael Apted and opening this week, has its biggest boosters among evangelical Christians. The movie is, by most accounts, problematical entertainment: it's a worthy but lengthy costume drama about parliamentary politics--centered on a Tory most Americans have never heard of. One executive who worked closely on the film calls it "more interesting than good." Its marketing and outreach effort, on the other hand, is inspired. It shows a deep understanding of the new life being breathed into the evangelical community by Bono, Rick Warren and others--people who are making social causes (Africa, poverty, HIV/AIDS) the centerpiece of...
  • Beliefwatch: Interfaith

    Christian pastors do it with Muslim imams. High-school seniors do it with each other. Actors and authors do it, as do comedians and combat pilots. It's interfaith dialogue, and in the world of religion, it's very much in vogue.In the modern times, "interfaith dialogue" has come to mean both negotiating the crisis in the Middle East and holding a Passover Seder at the local church, and since 9/11, such efforts have exploded. A Nexis search of the words "interfaith dialogue" in the headlines of major national newspapers and magazines came up with 173 entries since 1977; more than 100 were in the past five years alone. All of which may lead a skeptic to wonder, What good does all this well-intentioned talking do?Well, a lot. It was interfaith dialogue that led Pope John Paul II to reach out to the world's Jewish population in 1987, to condemn the Holocaust and give his support to the state of Israel, saying "the Church experiences ever more deeply her common bond with the Jewish people...
  • Beliefwatch: Surf's Up!

    There is at least one moment in every religious person's life where commitment to faith collides, inconveniently, with desire. For Zeena Altalib, that moment occurred last year at the local swimming pool. An American Muslim of Iraqi descent, Altalib wanted to take her baby son, Yusif, for a swim. But what to do about the fact that her religion requires her to wear hijab , to cover herself from head to toe? A commercially available swimsuit was out of the question--not modest enough--but the makeshift options available to her were, as she puts it, "yucky." Tights and a long T shirt? Yuck. Some kind of lightweight tracksuit? Yuckier. So Altahib decided to take matters into her own hands. Today the swimsuit she designed is available online through her company, Primo Moda. It's a strikingly unsexy two-piece: a neck-to-ankle Lycra body stocking with a loose vest that goes on top. After years of swimming in her clothes, donning an actual swimsuit, says Altalib, "was an amazing feeling....
  • Beliefwatch: Ivy League

    In your prayers tonight, you might want to thank God that no one has put you in charge of the Task Force on General Education at Harvard.The job wasn't going to be easy. Harvard has been looking at revising its core curriculum--established in 1978 to ensure that all undergraduates are educated in certain subject areas--for years. Committees were convened and disbanded, defeated by internal politics and conceptual stalemates. The most recent iteration, the aforementioned task force, is now drafting its final recommendations for a vote next month by the faculty. It will likely succeed, but not without sustaining considerable damage from the culture wars.In October, the task force issued an innocent-enough proposal. Given the prominence of religion in the world today, all students should be required to do coursework in an area called "Reason & Faith." "Religion is realpolitik , both nationally and internationally," the report said. "By providing [students] with a fuller...
  • Beliefwatch: Bookish

    When Julie Sandorf's daughter, Sarah, was 3 years old, she came home from nursery school and declared: "Mommy, I don't want to be a Jewish, I want to be a Christian." These words sent Sandorf, an assimilated Jew with almost no grounding in her own religion, running, aghast, to the first place she could think of: her local bookstore. "I decided at that moment that we were not going to repeat another generation of ignorance and semi-self-loathing," she says.Over the next 17 years, Sandorf reclaimed her Jewish identity for herself and her family by reading books. Among her favorites: "The Prophets" by Abraham Heschel and "Turbulent Souls" by Stephen Dubner. Now, with Nextbook.org, a literary-outreach effort, she hopes to inspire America's 6 million Jews to do the same. For consumers of highbrow culture, Nextbook looks familiar. Its Web site feels like a combination of Slate and Arts & Letters Daily--lively and full of essays, commentary and recommended reading. Its digest, sent...
  • Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

    By the standards of episcopal Church meetings, it was a thrilling and entirely unexpected outcome. When the governing body of the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion met in June to elect a new presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, wasn't high on anybody's shortlist. There were some moderates, and a conservative or two; all were men. In the 21st century, stories of "first women" are old hat--except in the case of the Anglican Church, whose 77 million members are still divided over female ordination. The United States approved it in 1976.Schori's election comes at a difficult time for America's 2 million Episcopalians, when some conservative dioceses are threatening to split from the U.S. church over the 2003 consecration of a gay bishop. But Schori is tough, and her apparent steadiness amid conflict helped win her the job. "I will bend over backwards to build good relations with those who do not agree with me," she said after her election. A former...
  • Religion: Holy Family Values

    The world into which Jesus was born and raised has shaped morals for two millennia. How Jewish mores became Christianity's customs.
  • Beliefwatch: Sacrifice

    Let's get right to the point, shall we? About halfway through Mel Gibson's movie "Apocalypto," which opens this week, viewers are treated to a stomach-turning scene of human sacrifice, set in a Mayan city around 1500. It's not revealing too much to say that the movie's hero is captured by a gang of marauders, bound, marched through the jungle, painted blue, and forced to the top of a pyramid where heads roll.In a smaller version of the outrage and skepticism that preceded the opening of "The Passion of the Christ"--is it historically accurate? is it anti-Semitic?--scholars who study the ancient Maya are concerned that Gibson's film will distort the great civilization and demean its descendents, six million of whom still live in Central America. Yes, the Maya sacrificed humans to the gods, but these rituals were part of a complex worldview: the Maya believed that their bodies, their blood, were created by the gods and that they occasionally needed to repay this debt with human life. ...
  • Beliefwatch: Good Books

    Noah's Ark is the perfect children's tale. You have animals, a big boat, bad weather, a happy ending (good luck, though, answering the question: why did God kill all those people?). It's not difficult to find a charming, well-written, nicely illustrated Noah's-ark book for children; even Lucy Cousins, the brains behind Maisy the mouse, has done a version.Beyond Noah, though, the world of Bible stories for children has been rather dreary. There are the predictable children's Bibles published by the denominations and religious publishers. Parents who want to teach the Bible to their children but don't have a close connection to a church or synagogue community, however, have been at a loss. "We hear all the time how cheesy children's Bibles are," says Craig Walker, an executive with Scholastic Books, which recently published one with the American Bible Society. All that is changing now as profit-seeking mainstream publishers eye the $400 million to $600 million Bible market.Earlier...
  • Beliefwatch: Sacrifice

    Let's get right to the point, shall we? About halfway through Mel Gibson's movie "Apocalypto," which opens this week, viewers are treated to a stomach-turning scene of human sacrifice, set in a Mayan city around 1500. It's not revealing too much to say that the movie's hero is captured by a gang of marauders, bound, marched through the jungle, painted blue, and forced to the top of a pyramid where heads roll.In a smaller version of the outrage and skepticism that preceded the opening of "The Passion of the Christ"--is it historically accurate? is it anti-Semitic?--scholars who study the ancient Maya are concerned that Gibson's film will distort the great civilization and demean its descendents, six million of whom still live in Central America. Yes, the Maya sacrificed humans to the gods, but these rituals were part of a complex worldview: the Maya believed that their bodies, their blood, were created by the gods and that they occasionally needed to repay this debt with human life. ...
  • Beliefwatch: The Bishops' Bottom Line

    The biggest surprise to come out of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' conference in Baltimore was not the bishops' statements on birth control (against it) or homosexuality (sympathetic, but against it). The biggest surprise last week was a dry, 36-page document, titled "Strategic Plan," which the bishops approved and which amounts to the biggest overhaul of the Catholic bureaucracy in America in more than 30 years.The Roman Catholic Church has been called the oldest corporation in the world, and now, after four years of sex scandals—and soul searching and mea culpas—the U.S. division has agreed to what business analysts would call a "course correction." Over the next year, the conference will trim its 350-person staff by about 20 percent. It will reduce its budget by nearly $2 million, with individual dioceses contributing 16 percent less to the national coffers. It will eliminate redundant functions in order to focus on these priorities: marriage, faith-formation, vocations, human...
  • Beliefwatch: Is It Kosher?

    In the beginning, God told the Jews what not to eat: the camel, the coney, the rabbit and the pig; the eagle, the vulture and "all creatures in the seas ... that do not have fins and scales" (Lev. 11). Most famously, God said: "Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk" (Deut. 14:21). From these and other verses, the rabbis developed the rules of kashrut (keeping kosher) that millions of Jews observe today.What would God say about pesticides and insecticides? About farm animals cooped up in tiny spaces? About fruits and vegetables picked by laborers who don't earn a living wage? These and other related questions are coming to the fore as modern rabbis ponder a new concept called "eco-kashrut," the idea that eating kosher means paying attention not just to what you eat but to how your food gets to your table. Yes, the term leaves the rabbis open to accusations of Talmudic hairsplitting, but consider this: sales of kosher food are growing at a rate of 15 percent a year, and ...