The Soul Searchers: Four Moral Histories of Washington, DC

In preparation for this exhibit at the Anacostia Museum I've been reading about my hometown's long, hot summer--the years from 1968 through the late '90s--and its aftermath. These are really just notes.Ruben Castaneda, S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, And Redemption in DC: Four stories, mostly deftly woven together. First is our narrator, a reporter in LA who gets hooked on crack before moving to DC to be the night-shift crime reporter for the Washington Post. Our man straight-up interviews … [Read more...]

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“Moral Reconation Theory”: The Bizarre, Creepy Made-Up Religion Used to Re-Educate American Prisoners

like, the Scientology and Goldman Sachs stuff is not even the weirdest or most disturbing stuff in this piece: ...I wanted to find out more about this strange book that has been forced on a million people in the prison system, this book that uses terms and ideas from Scientology and tells people that their immoral personalities are responsible for their substance use, their incarceration and their unhappiness.But for an organization that purports to seek to help as many people as pos … [Read more...]

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A Principal, A Senator, And Two Stories of Second Chances

I'm esp struck by the role of Christian faith in both of these pieces.Nancy Hanks, "A Principal Met a Student She Expelled, And It Changed Her Approach to Discipline": ...I prayed for forgiveness for that time and any other time I betrayed the privilege given to me to be a steward and protector over the children I serve. For anytime I never just let my students just be kids. Goofy, carefree kids that make mistakes — sometimes big and sometimes small. For holding kids to standards that I d … [Read more...]

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“Out in the Fields with God”: I vvatch “The VVitch”

for AmCon: “What went we out into this wilderness to find?”With that resounding, iconic opening line, The Witch announces that it may not be what you were expecting. Writer/director Robert Eggers’s “New-England folktale” may have been marketed as a horror movie, but horror is only one of its genres–and not the most prominent. The Witch is a family tragedy and a religious drama, and these elements are even more successful than the horror-show aspect. more (and here is a... probably-drunk pos … [Read more...]

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The Three False Gods of Marriage, Freedom, And Morality

So I spent a long weekend in Holland, MI, the heart of Dutch Reform USA and home to Hope College. I was there to talk about Gay Catholic Whatnot, in a variety of settings--a mix of public and private, etc--organized by the St Benedict Forum, the college's small but growing papist posse. It was a fantastic experience. I'd esp like to note the way aesthetic concerns surfaced throughout the trip. Hope College people really care about sacred architecture and music; the chapel service I spoke at had … [Read more...]

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“Stephen King’s Doubt”: I review “Revival”

for AmCon: There’s a cheap rhetorical move you see a lot in religious debate, where the God-pusher retorts, “But don’t you ever doubt your doubt?” The hero of Revival, Stephen King’s 2014 novel of loss and obsession, could reply in tones of trembling horror: “All the time. God help me, I doubt my doubt all the time.”King has always loved to wring horror from Americana: the bad hot dog, the classic car, the prom. In Revival he takes on the Methodist Youth Fellowship, where, back in the mid-’6 … [Read more...]

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“‘Hamilton’ and the Romance of Government”: My take

for AmCon: I’ve finally heard “Hamilton,” the Broadway hip-hop musical about the first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, and I can say: It’s a brilliant, empathetic example of a genre I don’t believe in. more … [Read more...]

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