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Before Pope Francis, James Martin was perhaps the best-loved Jesuit in American life. He’s followed the calling of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, to “find God in all things” — and for him that means being a writer of books, an editor of America magazine, and a wise and witty presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. To delve into Fr. Martin’s way of being in the world is to discover the “spiritual exercises” St. Ignatius designed to be accessible to everyone more than six centuries ago.

There’s a kind of brilliance that flashes up in early adulthood: an ability to see the world whole. Nathan Schneider has been able to articulate and sustain that far-seeing eye of young adulthood. He’s also a gifted writer, chronicling the world he and his compatriots are helping to make — spiritual, technological, and communal. At the Chautauqua Institution, we explore the wisdom of a millennial generation public intellectual on the emerging fabric of human identity.

Something of a celebrity in Quaker circles, Carrie Newcomer is best known for her story-songs that get at the raw and redemptive edges of human reality. This week, a musical conversation with the Indiana-based and born folk singer-songwriter who’s been called a “prairie mystic.” She writes and sings about the grittiness of hope and the ease of cynicism.

She became a national figure as the face of the “Nuns on the Bus.” Sr. Simone Campbell is a lawyer, lobbyist, poet, and Zen contemplative working on issues such as “mending the wealth gap,” “enacting a living wage,” and “crafting a faithful budget that benefits the 100%.” She is a helpful voice for longings so many of us share, across differences, about how to engage with the well-being of our neighbors in this complicated age.

The idea of reciting an unchanging creed sounds suspicious to modern ears. But the late, great historian Jaroslav Pelikan illuminated ancient tradition in order to enliven faith in the present and the future. He insisted that strong statements of belief will be necessary if pluralism in the 21st century is to thrive. We take in his moving, provocative perspective on our enduring need for creeds.

The coming stage of evolution, Teilhard de Chardin said, won’t be driven by physical adaptation but by human consciousness, creativity, and spirit. We visit with his biographer Ursula King, and we experience his ideas energizing New York Times Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin and evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson.

Two Christian leaders are working to restore Christian engagement in the world. Gabe Lyons and Jim Daly discuss how they who are reshaping their part in common life, and the common good. This often surprising conversation addresses subjects like gay marriage, abortion, and the strident reputation that Christian evangelicals have earned in the past decade.

From The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to CNN, Joanna Brooks has become a go-to voice during our national inspection of Mormonism in this presidential campaign. As Mitt Romney makes history, we revisit our personal and revealing conversation with the Ask Mormon Girl blogger. She opens a window on Mormonism as an evolving and far from monolithic faith.

A look back at the closest thing the early 20th century may have had to Oprah Winfrey. The flamboyant Pentecostal preacher Aimee Semple McPherson was a multimedia sensation and a powerful female religious leader long before most of Christianity considered such a thing. The contradictions and passions of her life are a window into the world of global Pentecostalism that touches as many as half a billion lives today.

The current U.S. presidential election has illustrated how gender, race, and religion can become lightning rods, and may be seen as potential stumbling blocks to leadership. Vashti McKenzie is a pioneering figure on all these fronts. When she became the first woman bishop of the oldest historic black church in America, she declared, “The stained glass ceiling has been pierced and broken.” We offer her story, her wisdom, and her good humor as an edifying lens on the American past, present, and future.