By Todd Leopold, CNN
(CNN) – Nathan Englander’s characters are always looking over their shoulders.
They’re Jews, mostly, often of an intensely devout stripe, but whether they’re Israeli settlers, Orthodox youngsters or thoroughly assimilated middle-class New Yorkers, they’re waiting for judgment, either from history, a disappointed God or their next-door neighbors. They’re straddling worlds and don’t want to put a wrong foot in either.
Englander, author of a new book of short stories called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” has roots in many of these worlds. He was raised in an Orthodox community in Long Island, New York, and then entered the secular world when he went to college. He’s spent time in Iowa – at the famed Iowa Writers Workshop – and has lived in Israel. He now lives in Brooklyn and describes himself as “culturally Jewish.”
The concept of identity and its burdens is close to his heart.
Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
We now know the name of the man accused of leaving his combat unit in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province on March 11, walking into two Afghan villages and murdering 16 innocent people, including 9 children.
The narratives we are supposed to follow here are clear, and each absolves the rest of us of any sin. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was mentally unstable and went off the deep end. Or perhaps he was a cold-blooded killer all along. Either way, he deserves to be separated from the rest of us by life in prison, or worse.
But why is this 38-year-old husband and father of two sitting today in solitary confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas?
I do not know. I suspect, however, that the answer is more complicated than the simple stories we tell ourselves in these circumstances.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.