Compassion in the Face of Force

  For Simone Weil, justice is primarily an act of paying attention, which protects the sacred cry in every human being not to be hurt.  “It would seem that man is born a slave and that servitude is his natural condition.” So concludes Simone Weil’s Analysis of Oppression. The essay is a study of political history,  but throughout her short life, Weil also encountered human slavery far more immediately. Born in Paris in 1909 to an agnostic French-Jewish middle-class family, she was, in… Read more

The Evangelicals You Don’t Know

  Any reportage on American Evangelicals that cautions its audience not “to dismiss these people as… zealots who have surrendered their ability to think rationally” immediately stands apart from most religious journalism. So Tom Krattenmaker’s The Evangelicals You Don’t Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians is a welcome work by that standard alone. Unsatisfied with the attitude that “not only insults these Christians but also mocks what is supposed to be a hallmark of the progressive, secular train of… Read more

Blessed Are the Homesick: Hospitality for Mobile Millennials

The independent rootlessness of emerging adults presents potent opportunities for the practice of hospitality.  Shana Tovah! It was Rosh Hashanah in Washington, D.C. I unexpectedly found myself on my neighbor’s patio, ringing in the lunar New Year with a small gathering of his Jewish friends. Everyone was in his or her twenties, a bipartisan collection of government staffers, advocacy workers, and writers. California. Georgia. New Jersey. Everyone was from somewhere else. Our host interrupted the lively conversation to sing a… Read more

Privilege, Repentance, Forgiveness

Identifying privilege offers insight into grace and allows us to take responsibility for both our own responses and the needs of others. Since graduating from college, I have received countless emails asking alumni for donations, most of which I have ignored. After the umpteenth solicitation, I started to think about why I should “give back” and reflect more deeply. “What benefits had I received from my elite education?” There were some obvious answers: social prestige, higher income, intellectual capital, and an influential network…. Read more

The End of Our Exploring

  “We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers,” Rachel Held Evans explained in her viral blog post “Why Millenials Are Leaving the Church.” Matthew Lee Anderson offers a response of sorts to Evan’s crie de coeur in his latest book, The End of Our Exploring: A Book About Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Unfortunately, it’s one unlikely to satisfy people like Evans. As a former atheist who became a Christian in college largely though the process… Read more

The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat

  Politics, meet the water’s edge. One sense of the old phrase “politics stops at the water’s edge” is that it’s one thing for foreign affairs to impact politics and it is another thing entirely for political considerations to dictate strategy. The foolishness of politics-as-strategy is the central theme of Vali Nasr’s The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat. Formerly special advisor to the late Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Nasr laments America’s current vision… Read more

The New Privacy: How the NSA Protects Our Right to Be Isolationists

    Constant surveillance by an impersonal power preserves a modern society more autonomous and secretive than any that came before.  You have never been watched more than you were today. The parking meter you paid with a credit card, the camera at the café’s door, the gift card you used to buy your coffee, the emails you sent from your laptop, and the status you posted on Facebook have tracked you, tagged you, placed you, recorded you, spotted you…. Read more

Breaking News: Pope Francis is a Christian

  Some of the headlines about Pope Francis’ recently-released Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium would have you believe that the Pope’s central message is about decentralizing the Church, affirming populism, denouncing libertarian economics, or condemning capitalism as tyrannical. The Pope himself seemed to anticipate such reactions when he said in the Exhortation, “In today’s world of instant communication and occasionally biased media coverage, the message we preach runs greater risk of being distorted or reduced to some of its secondary aspects.” He anticipated correctly: the media has, by… Read more

The Juvenilization of American Christianity

  This book review originally appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of Fare Forward.   There is ample evidence that American churches are failing to spiritually train mature Christians. Surveys reveal that Christians in America are just as likely as their non-Christian peers to engage in premarital sex, give a meager 3 percent of their income to charity, and are perceived by nonbelievers as more judgmental than loving. The prevailing theology among American Christians might best be described as Moral… Read more

On Yeezus and Jesus

  My morning devotional the day of the Kanye West concert came from the eleventh chapter of Matthew where Jesus asks the crowds, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?” As odd as it may seem this might be a good question to ask yourself before attending a date on the Yeezus Tour. What are you setting out to hear? Merely a rapper? A genius? A conflicted egotistical moron who happens to make good music? Or as… Read more