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...]

Trillions of Stars and ‘Stardust Becoming Aware of Itself’

As I scanned my Facebook  news feed this morning, my attention was drawn to an article posted by a friend titled, "Astronomers Find Triple the Number of Stars Hiding in the Universe." Then I saw an expanded version of the same story on NPR, "'Trillions Of Earths' Could Be Orbiting 300 Sextillion Stars."I was reminded immediately of one of my favorite quotes from Michael Dowd's book Thank God for Evolution: "We are stardust now evolved to the place that the stardust can think about … [Read more...]

AIDS Victim’s Art Censored on World AIDS Day

An important angle was missing from The Washington Post's article titled, "Ant-covered Jesus video removed from Smithsonian after Catholic League complains." The dateline read today, "December 1, 2010," but the article failed to make the ironic and disturbing correlation that today -- and every first day of December -- is World AIDS Day. David Wojnarowicz, the artist whose work has been censored, died of AIDS in 1992 at the age of 37.The allegedly-offensive segment -- I say "allegedly" … [Read more...]

Bring Your Hybrid to Church: The Case of the First Catholic-Protestant Senator

Florida’s new senator-elect, Marco Rubio, is officially on the roles of the Roman Catholic Church. He, further, claims both in interviews and on his website that he is a Roman Catholic. However, as reported in The New York Times, besides attending mass on occasion, “he regularly worships at an evangelical megachurch whose theology is plainly at odds with Catholic teaching.”Conservative theologians, both Catholic and evangelical, would likely balk at Rubio’s audacity. But life is messy, and of … [Read more...]