A Star's-Eye View of Faith; Book Explores Spirituality in Celebrities

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 6, 2006 | Go to article overview

A Star's-Eye View of Faith; Book Explores Spirituality in Celebrities


Byline: Josh Rutledge, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

It's not surprising nowadays to hear public figures give credence to their faith, their spirituality or God. But what do their words mean?In her debut book, "The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People," Cathleen Falsani, religion writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, took on the task of finding out just that. What exactly does spirituality mean to pop-culture icons like rock musician Bono, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner or lesbian pop star Melissa Etheridge?

"Contrary to what people might think, I believe pop culture is a great place to go looking for God," Ms. Falsani says. "God shows up in places where people least expect God to be."

After several peers convinced her that the idea warranted a book, Ms. Falsani began a journey through a theme park of spiritual roller coasters. From the Playboy Mansion to Lower Manhattan, she talked with a variety of figures not known for their religiosity, allowing them to express themselves freely.

"The book was intentionally written in a nonconfrontational sort of way," the reporter says. "Typically when public figures are asked about their faith, it is generally a way to judge them in one way or another. So, as a result, they usually aren't very candid.

"I wanted to offer them a place where they could really tell me what they believe without fear of being denounced."

Traveling the country to piece together a puzzle of opinion and belief enriched her own life, Ms. Falsani says.

"Even though on paper many of their views don't look like mine, hearing their stories and their ideas enlivened my own faith," says the author, a 1992 graduate of the evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois.

After graduation, the author worked as an assistant editor for Daughters of Sarah, a Christian feminist magazine. She left a couple of years later to pursue two master's degrees: one in journalism from Northwestern University and one in theological studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, both in Evanston, Ill.

Ms. Falsani, 35, who has been at the Sun-Times since 2000, says that out of hundreds of quotes in the book, a few stand out.

"Mancow Muller saying, 'Trying to prove you're a Christian is like trying to prove you're not a pedophile,' and Russell Simmons saying, 'If you're going to be a Christian, be a practicing Christian. If you're going to be a Muslim, be a practicing Muslim,' are two very memorable quotes," she says. …

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