Best Netflix DVDs Watched in 2010

Since I haven't had cable for years and detest commercials, you'll notice that I use my Netflix queue mostly to keep up on television shows I've missed (albeit we're always a season behind) and films that didn't always come to a theater nearby: 1. Winter's Bone 2. The Last Station 3. The Kids Are All Right 4. Dexter 5. Jericho 6. Supernatural 7. Grey’s Anatomy 8. Kings 9. Boston Legal 10. Gilmore Girls … [Read more...]

Best Books Read in 2010

1. JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James W. Douglas 2. Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent 3. The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice from the Civil Rights Movement to Today by Charles Marsh 4. Freedom: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen 5. Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus by Ched Myers 6. Perfect Martyr: The Stoning of Stephen and the Construction of Christian Identity by Shelly … [Read more...]

Favorite Podcasts

When I'm commuting, exercising, or cleaning, I'm usually also podcasting. I love being able to listen to what I want, when I want -- and being able to skip an episode if it is not interesting. In the spirit of New Year's "Top Ten" lists, the following are my top ten favorite podcasts of 2010: (1) NPR: Religion - Not long ago my car radio was almost always tuned to NPR. Recently I have taken to listening selectively to my favorite NPR segments. Since I'm a big religion nerd, I love being able to l … [Read more...]

Justice Stevens, Jesus, and the Death Penalty

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens recently wrote a review of a new book titled Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition by legal scholar David Garland. I haven't read Garland's book, but I appreciated Stevens' review. One highlight for me was "the death penalty represents 'the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes.'”While reading this article, my mind was flooded with the … [Read more...]

REVIEW: "The Rise and Fall of Prohibition"

I read Daniel Okrent's Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition as an extended reflection on the complexity, unpredictability, and (frequent) folly of seeking social change. I continue to support progressive politics, but reading the history of Prohibition is like drinking a cocktail that is equal parts bemusing, fascinating, and sobering. To quote George Eliot, "Certainly, the mistakes that we male and female mortals make when we have our own way might fairly raise some wonder that we're so f … [Read more...]

Secession Balls, White Power, and Beloved Community

The South Carolina "Secession Ball" will be held tomorrow night, December 20, 2010 in Charleston. I first heard about this event on The Daily Show, and for a sardonic introduction to the evening's proceedings, I encourage you to view the commentary from Senior Black Correspondent Larry Wilmore. Here's a preview: "Saying slavery was the cause of the South's secession during the Civil War isn't politically correct; it's correct correct."In the 21st century, more than a century after the Civil … [Read more...]

Afghanistan and the Irony of American History

The War in Afghanistan has been raging for more than nine years. Yet, we still regularly hear shocking remarks such as "If I had to choose sides today, I'd choose the Taliban" from figures as prominent as Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Such comments raise ever more sharply the question of “Why are we still in Afghanistan?”As for fodder for thinking theologically about conflicts like Afghanistan and Iraq, I find compelling the following reflection from Roman Catholic theologian Bill Cav … [Read more...]

What about "Saving the Adults" from Lying?

Yesterday, The New York Times reported on the evolving focus of Save the Children: Over the last year, Save the Children emerged as a leader in the push to tax sweetened soft drinks as a way to combat childhood obesity.... At the same time, executives at Save the Children were seeking a major grant from Coca-Cola to help finance the health and education programs that the charity conducts here and abroad, including its work on childhood obesity.... In October, Save the Children surprised … [Read more...]

Repeat after Me: "There Was Neither a Noah, Nor an Ark"

As reported in The New York Times, plans are underway in Kentucky to build an amusement park based on the story of Noah's Ark to supplement the state's already-existing "Creation Museum." I will leave it to others to focus on the obvious first amendment violation of using state money to fund a tourist attraction with the sole agenda of promoting fundamentalist Christianity: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Instead, I would like to say out loud and in public … [Read more...]

Contemplative Wise Men

My first impression of Brent Landau’s Revelation of the Magi was incredulity. The subtitle, “The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem,” caused me to wonder about the book’s legitimacy. My curiosity was piqued when I saw the HarperOne imprint (a top-shelf publisher of popular, accessible religious titles); accolades on the back cover from major scholars such as John Dominic Crossan, Marvin Meyer, and Karen King; and the biographical citation that the author completed his doctoral work … [Read more...]