Author Archives: fepeters

Professor Emeritus of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, History and Religion, New York University

Altar Boy Credits — A Pelagian Pipedream? 1937-2010

I was an altar boy, an All-Star, All-Pro altar boy. Smartly togged out in cassock, surplice, collar and ribbon-bow tie, I paid my dues to the Lord in the sanctuary of the Our Lady of the Assumption church. I served crack of dawn 7 weekday Masses, and on Sunday I was assigned everything thing from […]

Last Dance: The Disco Year 1979

Most of my Middle Eastern colleagues, whose confidence has been sapped by the gospel of doubt broadcast in Edward Said’s Orientalism, no longer think they have the skill or the right to explain what Islam is all about. But I think I do —what did a Christian Palestinian expert on Comparative Literature know about it […]

A Dig at Raqqa 1979

Father Flanagan, the cleric portrayed by Spencer Tracy in “Boystown,” reportedly said that there was no such thing as a bad boy. I don’t know about boys, even though I’m still myself one even at this advanced age, but I know a lot about ideas since I’ve had a few, and I can attest that […]

A Day in the Country 1956

Part of every Jesuit’s training was teaching for two or three years in one of the many high schools run by the Society of Jesus. In the New York Province, to which I then belonged, the schools were all conveniently located in the New York metropolitan area, a happy prospect for me after four years […]

Holy War, Holy Terror

The New York Times lies before me. Thin wisps of smoke rise from its front page with its vivid accounts of murder and mayhem committed in the name of Allah. The Children of Abraham explains that Allah is one and the same deity as the Yahweh worshipped by the Jews and the God the Father […]

Mini-Movies: Brief Encounter

Celia: Do you come here often? Trevor: You mean to the third class lounge of the discontinued Grumbling to Firth of Forth line? Celia: The one where they forgot to lock the bar? Trevor: Hush, Madam. Don’t want to spoil a good thing. Celia: Rather! Trevor: you talk ever so strangely. Are you English then? […]

Mini-Movie: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

(The opening credits roll over the first strains of the Morricone score, a suite for whistle, flute and tom-tom.). A two minute tight close-up of Eli Wallach’s eyes. A one minute tight close-up of Eli Wallach’s mouthful of ugly gold teeth, followed by another even tighter two minute closeup of Wallach’s eyes, with deafening flute, […]

Mini-Movie: La Dolce Vita

Fellini: Anita, Marcello, this is a crucial scene in the film and it must be played exactly. When you, Marcello go off getting milk for the kitten, I want you, Anita, to climb, come fa niente, into the Trevi Fountain. Ekberg: What? That wasn’t in the script! Fellini: It is now. We did a rewrite […]

Mini-Movie: Song of Bernadette

Jennifer Jones (as Bernadette Soubirous, kneeling on studio grass in front of a rear projection of a Kentucky cave) “This hurts. Can I get a pillow here?” Asst. Director (shouting) “Somebody! A pillow for Jennifer.” Jennifer; “How old is this person supposed to be?” Henry King (Director): “Holy Mary? I don’t know. 30, 40. Doesn’t […]

Mini-Movie: Lawrence of Arabia

Lean: Action! Lauruns: The Arabs were once a great people, Hussein; Yeth, I often dream of the gardens of Andaluth Lauruns: Yeth, but Andaluth is far from Damathcus David Lean: Hold on! Cut! Alex, lose the lisp. You’re not Olivier and this isn’t Khartoum. Guiness: Olivier is a poof hack. Lean: And you Peter, what […]