I'm on the road today, working on a story and planning to enjoy an authentic Philadelphia Cheesesteak.
Since I'm in a hurry, I thought this would be a good time to provide quick links — with limited commentary — to a handful of stories from my GetReligion guilt folder.
These days, you can see those lumbering, blood-drenched corpses with vacant eyes coming straight at you just about anywhere or anytime — not just at Halloween.
Zombie walks, as they are called, have become the most popular form of the grotesque genre. Folks dress up as the "undead" and stream down the street by the thousands. Such gory gangs periodically invade urban centers from Rio to Rome, Tokyo to Toronto and Sydney to Salt Lake City.
Zombies are even featured in their own wildly popular TV series, AMC’s "Walking Dead," which highlights the dilemma of a group of people facing enemies who had been their friends and neighbors.
Fascination with death and reanimation is not new, of course, but coming to life again has, in the past, been seen as a more, well, hopeful possibility.
This dark and fearsome image reflects a reversal of what Christians believe about resurrection, says John Morehead, a Utah-based scholar of religion and pop culture.
Next up: St. Louis Post-Dispatch Godbeat pro Lilly Fowler profiles a white female pastor who stands out in a predominantly black denomination and has been at the center of the Ferguson protests:
The first time the public heard the name Renita Lamkin in the same sentence as Ferguson was probably the day she was shot.
In early August, four days after Michael Brown was killed by Officer Darren Wilson, Lamkin, a pastor, stood with Ferguson protesters, attempting to mediate. Police had warned the crowd to disperse and in an effort to buy a little time, Lamkin shouted, “They’re leaving!”
“That’s when I felt a pop in the stomach,” Lamkin says now of the rubber pellet that hit her. The pellet left a ghastly wound — large, deep and purplish — and created a social media frenzy. Tweet after tweet showed Lamkin, 44, with short, light-brown hair and a wide smile. She wore a T-shirt with an image of a cross that she lifted up just slightly to show off the ugly bruise. In the coming days, critics said police had already managed to shoot a white Christian lady.
Lamkin says that she didn’t really have a plan when she ventured out to Ferguson but that “the whole being shot thing was probably the best thing that could have happened.” The injury had cemented Lamkin in the struggle for racial equality.
“They say, ‘You took a bullet for us.’ I have no sense of taking a bullet for someone. My sense is that I’m in the struggle. I’m in it. We’re in this together, and I was playing my role,” Lamkin says.
Fast forward nearly three months and Lamkin continues to deliver the same message of defiance as pastor of an African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Charles. The AME denomination is a religious movement born out of the resistance to slavery with approximately 2.5 million members, most of them African-American, today.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has a fascinating interview with an American who spent six months in jail for leaving a Bible in a North Korea nightclub:
MIAMISBURG, Ohio — The plan was always to leave behind a copy of the Bible, in the hope it would find its way to someone in North Korea who needed its inspiration.
Jeffrey Fowle, a 56-year-old road-maintenance worker and father of three from Ohio, had done the same thing once before in a communist country, he said in an interview on Friday at his lawyer’s office in Lebanon, Ohio, with his wife and children at his side. That was in Turkmenistan, in 1989.
When he was planning a trip to North Korea in the spring, he went on Amazon.com to buy Korean language books so he could pick up a few key phrases before the trip.
He also purchased a Korean-English study Bible, which he said he planned to leave behind so that a member of North Korea’s underground Christian community would find it.
“It’s only one Bible, but I thought I’d put that in the hands of the underground church to give them something to pass around and help them with their faith,” Mr. Fowle said.
Elsewhere, the Tampa Tribune reports on a Florida church funding construction of the first Catholic Church to be built in Cuba in 55 years:
TAMPA — For the first time since Cuba embraced Communism in 1959, a Catholic Church will be built on the island and a Tampa parish is responsible for the fundraising.
St. Lawrence Catholic Church of Tampa, through parishioner donations, has raised $45,000 — half of the $90,000 needed to complete the church but enough for Cuba to approve the start of construction.
The church will be located in Sandino, a municipality in the Pinar del Río province of Cuba that has never had a church. Catholics there have long been congregating in homes.
“They already started holding Mass on the property,” said Luisa Long, coordinator of Hispanic ministries for St. Lawrence church, 5225 N. Himes Ave. “The first rock was put on the property location just this past September and blessed.”
Fidel Castro's revolution brought an end to the open practice of religion as the government officially declared Cuba an atheist nation, in line with Marxist teachings. Church properties were nationalized, forcing Catholics to congregate in homes.
And finally, USA Today highlights efforts by Jews in Middle America to attract millennials:
DES MOINES, Iowa — Before she visited Drake University, Lilianna Bernstein never had set foot here, let alone imagined that she would one day settle down in this city of more than 200,000 residents.
But a job offer in 2006 to be a Drake admissions counselor led the Chicago-area native to put down roots in Iowa's capital. And one of those roots was joining a synagogue.
"Once I decided to stay in Des Moines, it was a no-brainer that of course I was going to stay involved in the Jewish community," Bernstein said.
Now, Des Moines' Jewish community is hoping more Drake students will do the same.
The area's Jewish federation recently bought and renovated a 1910 craftsman-style house near Drake to become a gathering space for Hillel, the Jewish student organization found on campuses around the world. Bernstein is Drake's Hillel adviser.
The goal is to make Drake so attractive to incoming Jewish students, that they'll stay in Des Moines after graduation and help fill in a widening age gap among participants in Jewish life here, community leaders say.
TGIF and happy reading.
Now, about that cheesesteak ...