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The Bishop’s Daughter

August 24, 2010

Speaking of super-cool young adults, Eliza Griswold, daughter of former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold, has written–according to the New York Times Book Review–“a beautifully written book [called The Tenth Parallel] full of arresting stories woven around a provocative issue — whether fundamentalism leads to violence —[that is] a fascinating journey along the latitude line in Africa and Asia where Christianity and Islam often meet and clash.”

And in so doing, she reveals her own personal experiences and reflections on religion and faith. Here’s the Times:

Griswold’s journey is made all the more interesting because of her personal motivations. The daughter of a leading liberal Episcopal bishop, she recalls being spooked by the consecration ceremony in which he lay facedown on the floor of the cathedral in Chicago with his legs and arms stretched out in the shape of a cross. As a young girl she saw the Bible “as a book of spells, one whose extravagant metaphors, whose terrible and powerful parables were ways to call God down to earth.” And as a teenager she feared that God would ask her to be a nun. “I spent those years wondering how it was that smart people could believe in God,” she writes.

In 2003 [the year she turned 30] Griswold traveled to Sudan with Billy Graham’s son Franklin, who attempted to convert her by inviting her to pray with him. She could not find a logical reason to decline, since, as a good ecumenical Episcopalian, she had prayed with Sunnis and Sufi Muslims. She returned to Sudan five years later, after its leader was indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide. The war-torn country’s Christian south is preparing for a 2011 vote on whether to split from the Muslim north, which would break Africa’s largest country in half. Griswold also reports from Somalia at great personal risk, vividly describing in 30 pages the religious violence and ill-informed policies that America has pursued since its failed attempts to corral the murderous Aidid clan (members of which she meets with).

The Tenth Parallel sounds like a fascinating book and she sounds like a fascinating person.

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