My own grandparents came to the United States as immigrants in 1912, and they lived for some years in Italian ghettos in New York. Most immigrant groups start in ghettos somewhere, and many of them never get out.
What I'm trying to argue, as passionately as I can, is that the Jesus story isn't worth dying for, it's worth living for. Jesus presents a third way, a way of being in the worth that embraces the Sermon on the Mount, with its challenge to violence and greed.
The gospels were, in fact, written anywhere from forty to a hundred years after Jesus, and their authors attempted to demonstrate that Jesus could be seen to fulfill various Old Testament pronouncements.
As with all great works of literature, 'Of Mice and Men' moves with the inexorability of a huge river, and it pours itself, exhausts itself, in the sea of our unconscious. Having read it, we carry the book inside us forever.
Beginning in the late 18th century, some German scholars began to regard Holy Scripture not as a single revelation but a sequence of inspired texts that occurred in specific times and places and were subject to varied and multiple meanings.
I still have deep respect for the evangelical tradition and feel, in many ways, close to the Baptist roots of my childhood, although I've been an Episcopalian throughout my adult life and a regular churchgoer.
Obviously, you're trying to peel through 20 centuries of theology, speculations, church doctrine and storytelling. I'm trying to get back to the absolute basic story of who was Jesus, what did he say, what was he teaching, and what did he do.
We are a nation of immigrants, a quilt of many colors, and we've managed over more than two centuries to create a way of life that allows for a reasonable degree of upward mobility, that prizes individual liberty, promotes freedom of religion and genuinely values equal rights for all citizens.
Fundamentalism takes different forms in different religions, but there is one striking similarity in all forms of fundamentalist thought. Each wishes dearly to hold in check all varieties of 'modern' or 'decadent' thinking.
To bolster his right flank and attract women voters, John McCain had cynically opted for a running mate who was, by any stretch of the imagination, unqualified for a position a heartbeat away from the presidency.
I've been teaching full-time for 41 years at small colleges, and I can't imagine what it would mean for me or my colleagues to be armed with handguns or rifles instead of books and a thorough knowledge of our chosen disciplines.
The United States is truly remarkable, a nation founded on a set of Enlightenment ideals so beautifully expressed by the Declaration of Independence and codified in the U.S. Constitution. We should feel good about our ideals, even when we don't quite manage to live up to them.
We should never forget that Americans continue to advocate for individual liberty, equality and self-governance. We often step in when it's necessary to help countries in need. But our history needs no whitewashing. To attempt this does us a terrible disservice.
The U.S. invaded Vietnam because many in our government - Lyndon Johnson's best and brightest - imagined it could impose a government on that country that would provide a buffer against China and stop the supposedly rolling dominos of Communism.
Whether we're looking at the burial box of St. James, a fragment of the True Cross, the Shroud of Turin, or some bones supposedly belonging to John the Baptist, there is always excitement and distrust, faith and doubt.
I came to know Gore Vidal in the mid-1980s, when I was living in southern Italy, virtually a neighbour, and our friendship lasted until his death in 2012. Needless to say, he was a complicated and often combative man.