Tag Christianity

A star in the East: The enduring myth of Prester John


The first world map to include the Western Hemisphere was drawn in 1507 by an Alsatian cartographer named Martin Waldseemuller. Its initial printing ran a thousand copies, of which only one complete version—purchased recently by the Library of Congress for $10 million—is known to exist. Even in the tantalizingly low-resolution copies available on the Internet, Waldseemüller’s map is a thing of beauty, brilliantly illustrated and full of written descriptions and details about seas and cities and rivers.

The heart of the pathetic: V.S. Naipaul’s religious journeys

cc Shahram Sharif/flickr

Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, by V.S. Naipaul (Random House, 1982), 430 pp.
A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage, 1990), 307 pp.

One of the advantages of getting your reading material from public libraries is finding handwritten notes and comments from your fellow readers in the pages of a borrowed book. Usually these are limited to inscrutable underlining and earnest corrections of minor facts. Occasionally, though, the comments are more entertaining: angry little essays scrawled in the margins. These protestations are, I would submit, one of the more gratifying forms of vandalism: a reminder to the solitary reader that he is but one of a league of citizens through whose hands, over the course of decades, this particular book will pass.

Omission impossible: Why we need enemies

photoshop/library of congress

He smiled and nodded: I know why it is better to be shot at on a Sunday afternoon than not be shot at. Because it means maybe there is an enemy after all. If there is no enemy, then I am either mad or living in a madhouse. Peace is only better than war if peace is not hell, too. War being hell makes sense.
—Walker Percy, The Second Coming

Sometimes an enemy can be the best sort of news. In a landscape defined by popular whim, consumer desire, and political spin, the appearance of a real, honest-to-God enemy is nothing short of a miracle: like coming upon something solid in a world of shifting sands. Which is why, despite the blood and bruises, a good, reliable enemy is always worth uncovering. And why it’s never really a relief to see a supposed enemy vanish before our eyes. All this could be the beginning of an ironic skewering of one of humanity’s basest instincts. People who see enemies as good news are, after all, the very sorts who show up on the evening news torching American flags in foreign capitals or picketing the local gay pride parade with those “God hates fags” posters.

Roaring Lambs or bleating lions?

cc Roger Davies/flickr

By Andy Crouch and Nate Barksdale

Dream with us of an America transformed. At a sold-out concert at the Las Vegas House of Blues, hundreds of fans of the hottest pop sensation of the year sing along to lyrics that unabashedly proclaim dependence on God. On national television, an innovative and much-lauded musical artist reads from Scripture. The major media, no longer bastions of anti-Christian prejudice, take faith seriously, and novels written by Christian authors and dealing with explicitly Christian themes hold several slots on the New York Times best-seller lists. Meanwhile, the nation’s highest political leader repeatedly and publicly acknowledges his need for God and his reliance on faith. This is a world in which Christians are no longer second-class hangers-on in a secular culture. It is a world in which the gospel is presented on MTV, ABC, ESPN, and the highest-profile Internet sites. It is a world in which believers no longer feel ashamed.