Lisa Miller

Stories by Lisa Miller

  • An Evangelical Identity Crisis

    It was a cold Halloween in Colorado Springs--The high barely hit 27 degrees--as Dr. James Dobson went about his work last week on the sprawling Focus on the Family campus he built in the shadows of the Rockies. From the evangelical organization's lofty perch (the city sits 6,035 feet above sea level), in the spirit of a day devoted to ghosts and goblins, Dobson's radio show, which reaches 220 million people worldwide, evoked what he hoped would be dark and scary visions for his fellow evangelical Christians: a nation filled with married gay couples. With same-sex-marriage initiatives on ballots in eight states, Dobson told his flock in a taped broadcast, they could not afford to stay home on Election Day. If they did, "we could ... begin to have same-sex marriage in places all over the country."Meanwhile, in Leawood, Kans., a suburb near the Missouri border, a 42-year-old evangelical pastor named Adam Hamilton was preaching an entirely different message. He was helping his 14,000...
  • BeliefWatch: Spirit Filled

    What does it mean to speak in tongues? And who has the right, or the privilege, to do so? These questions, largely theological, have lingered at the fringes of American Protestantism. Now, as charismatic Christianity sweeps the country and the world, speaking in tongues has become as divisive as it is popular.Earlier this fall, in a sermon at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, a pastor named Wm. Dwight McKissic mentioned that he sometimes speaks in tongues while privately praying to God. "I did it this morning," he told NEWSWEEK. After that sermon, Southwestern's president, Paige Patterson, took the extraordinary step of removing the video of McKissic's speech from the seminary's Web site. Then, after a vote by the school's board, Patterson issued a controversial statement saying that Southwestern would not hire anyone who advocated the use of tongues in prayer. Although Southern Baptists have no official policy against it, speaking in tongues is...
  • Beliefwatch: The Atheist

    At lunch with Sam Harris, one is struck by how personable, how familiar he seems--a soft-spoken, thoughtful man with pleasant manners, a man who wrote two best-selling books while pursuing a degree in neuroscience. He is, in other words, an unlikely infidel.But as infidels go, Harris is an astonishingly successful one. The son of a Jewish mother and a Quaker father, he has ?written one of two books currently on The New York Times best-seller list that debunk belief in God, any belief in God, as ir-rational at best and destructive to human society at worst. This week "Letter to a Christian Nation" sits at 6 on the hard-cover nonfiction list, up from 11 from last week; the other, Richard Dawkins's "The God Delusion," is number 8, up from 12. In spite of his appearance, Harris is very angry, and "Letter" is a readable, exhortatory screed, a response to all the Scripture-quoting e-mail he received from Christians who read his first book. Religion, he writes in "Letter," is "obscene"-...
  • Beliefwatch: On Purpose

    Time was, not so long ago, that no one ever said a bad word about Pastor Rick Warren. He was the genius grower of churches, the California whiz who found a magic formula for marketing Christianity to the masses, who hit the jackpot with his book "The Purpose Driven Life," by some accounts the best-selling nonfiction book ever. The newsweeklies noticed him, The New Yorker profiled him, members of Billy Graham's family lauded him and Bill Gates himself hobnobbed with him.In recent weeks he hasn't seemed so bulletproof, and one has to wonder why. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have put him on their front pages in not wholly flattering lights: the former for helping push a tax break for clergy through Congress, the latter for selling a church-revitalization strategy that some pastors say doesn't work. In her blog, syndicated Christian-radio talk-show host and producer Ingrid Schlueter has devoted herself to critiquing megachurches in general and Warren in particular; she...
  • Tradition of Suffering

    During the third century, in Egypt and throughout the Middle East, men and women fled the cities into the desert, following the example of St. Anthony. They wore simple clothes, ate simple food. They turned their backs on the temptations of urban life, on commerce and innovation—preferring to live alone or in small groups of like-minded people. Their ideal was, through discipline and restraint, to be like angels and to live as closely as possible to God.Men and women have chosen to live ascetic lives for centuries both before and since the Desert Fathers, but it wasn’t until this week, when a gunman shot 10 girls in a one-room schoolhouse, killing five, that the most visible ascetics among us gained the spotlight. The Amish are a conservative Christian sect with more than 200,000 members in the United States, 28,000 of whom live in Lancaster County, Pa., where the shooting occurred. Until this week, they were a tourist attraction, an oddity, but on Monday many were instantly struck...
  • An Awkward Outing

    In the days leading up to the High Holidays, the holiest time of the year in Judaism, a senator running for re-election and a potential Republican candidate for president, announced that, yes, his mother was born Jewish. Here’s what Sen. George Allen said: “I embrace and take great pride in every aspect of my diverse heritage, including my Lumbroso family line’s Jewish heritage, which I learned about from a recent magazine article and my mother confirmed.”Enough said. Except he couldn’t stop talking. That same day, in an interview with a Richmond, Va., paper, Allen said his Jewish ancestry was “just an interesting nuance to my background.” And then he added this: “I still had a ham sandwich for lunch. And my mother made great pork chops.” Being an eater of ham sandwiches and pork chops may go along with Allen’s Red State, cowboy-boot-wearing, Confederate-flag-waving image, but many observers were unnerved by the flippancy of these remarks, and pundits began to debate whether Allen’s...
  • Public Life: 'St. Jack' Examines His Conscience--And Party

    Jack Danforth once stood at the intersection of religion and politics. He was a moderate Re-publican, three-term senator, diplomat. He is also an Episcopal priest, so pious that his Senate colleagues called him "St. Jack." With his new book "Faith and Politics," in stores next week, Danforth--now 70 and retired--positions himself as an outsider. He takes his own beloved party to task for allowing itself to be hijacked by the Christian right.This conviction took hold the spring of 2005 as he watched the coverage of the Terri Schiavo case on TV. "The idea that religious groups were having rallies and that the members of Congress were considering legislation and that the president was very much involved--I remember watching that and thinking, This is just wrong," he told NEWSWEEK. Danforth quickly wrote two controversial opinion pieces for The New York Times, rebuking his party for adopting the agenda of the religious right and for using wedge issues--Schiavo, but also stem-cell...
  • A Man and His Myths

    In 1949, the year he finished writing "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," C. S. Lewis was leading at least four different lives. His reputation as a Christian apologist had already been launched with several books and a series of BBC radio speeches. He was a charismatic Oxford professor, an expert in Milton and Spenser. He was a generous host who presided over long, drunken nights of bawdy talk and badinage. And he was the head of a household that, even by today's standards, would be considered unconventional. His domestic partner for nearly three decades was a woman 25 years his senior, whom he called "my mother," but who was not, in fact, his mother. In 1949, Janie Moore was in declining health and crankier than ever. "I am," wrote Lewis at the time, "a man in chains."Biographers suggest that Lewis's foray into children's literature was an attempt to escape, to recover his own boyhood and, through myth and metaphor, dive more deeply into his faith. Whatever the impulse, his...
  • LIFE IN SOLITARY

    In the photo, Agnes Long looks drop-dead gorgeous. She's on vacation at the Jersey shore with her husband. He is tall, tan and trim; she wears a zebra-stripe bikini, a floppy hat and sunglasses. The sea breeze has blown her platinum hair across her face and she is smiling. The picture says it all. In the mid-1970s, Agnes Long was a happily married, affluent, middle-aged woman with three children and a weakness for expensive clothes.Today, Agnes Long is a Roman Catholic hermit. She lives alone in a thickly wooded section of Madeline Island, in northern Wisconsin. Her beloved husband is dead; she hasn't seen her children in years. She wakes before dawn, prays throughout the day, eats small meals, works outside, makes religious paintings, and rises in the middle of the night to pray. Although she sees people when she drives her little truck to the grocery store or to mass, she has no one you might call a friend. And though she answers her phone when it rings, she doesn't often engage...
  • GETTING FIT WITH HARRY AND CHRIS

    What can you say about a 70-year-old guy who can kick your butt in spin class? Outdoors, it's below freezing, and, though technically morning, still dark as night. But there he is, bouncing along on his stationary bike like a jack rabbit and grinning happily at his heart-rate monitor, while I, nearly 30 years younger, manage to keep up only by visualizing coffee. "Just 20 minutes till coffee, just 12 minutes till coffee..."When the class is over, he places one leg up on the bike seat as if it were a ballet barre and gracefully touches his nose to his knee. Back at his apartment, over a bowl of oatmeal and bananas, he chats nonstop about fitness. The coffee arrives quickly, thank God.Meet Chris Crowley, who, together with his doctor, Harry Lodge, is on a mission to change your life. Their fast-selling new book, "Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You're 80 and Beyond," is a wisecracking but scientifically serious guide to health for middle-aged men who may be looking...
  • Revelation Revealed

    One day, sometime around A.D. 90, a man named John climbed the spiny ridge that runs across the small Aegean island of Patmos. There, as legend has it, he found a cave, crawled inside and had a vision that would change the world. "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day," John wrote, signaling to his audience that he was having a sacred experience, out of time and space.John's dream became the Book of Revelation, the final book of the Christian Bible, a vision of heaven and the end of the world that is probably the most scrutinized yet inscrutable piece of literature in history. Heaven's pearly gates and gold-paved streets, found everywhere from Negro spirituals to New Yorker cartoons, have their roots in Revelation. The work, which has formed the West's understanding of the afterlife, must be read with care. Passages taken out of historical or literary context can make Christianity appear violent and vengeful, when the book is in fact rich in images of mercy and, like the Old...
  • Road Test: Earth Shoes

    "Don't hate me because my shoes are ugly." That's what I felt like telling people who leered at my Heritage 2 model Earth Shoes as I lumbered around NYC. They look like the ones I had in 1975--wide and lumpish, with that trademarked Negative Heel Technology that makes you feel like you're always walking uphill. But amid today's sleek, high-tech sport shoes, an Earth Shoe looks as stylish--and feels as comfortable--as a brick. "Are they orthopedic?" asked a friend. Earth Footwear is re-releasing the old brand for fall, hoping to capitalize on 1970s nostalgia the way VW did with the Beetle. The styles in stores are much lighter than the early pair I tested, though a rep says the shoes do "take getting used to." Kids like 'em, she adds. Maybe it's an age thing.Tip: You have to ease into Earth Shoes; break them in just a few hours at a time.To suggest a Road Test, go to Newsweek.MSNBC.com and click on Tip Sheet.
  • Why We Need Heaven

    In Troubled Times, The Afterlife Beckons With Visions Of Dark-Eyed Virgins, Gardens And Palaces, The Bliss Of God's Eternal Presence And The Joy Of Uniting With Loved Ones. How Can The Promise Of Paradise Inspire So Many To Goodness, And Few To Murder?
  • Sins Of The Father

    For Years, Boston's Cardinal Kept On Priests Who Had Been Accused Of Molesting Children. Now Catholics Across America Are Confronting Similar Scandals And Questioning The Secretive Culture Of The Church.