The Gospel of Authenticity

In last Saturday’s New York Times, Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster critique the “pursuit of authenticity” that has pervaded American spirituality in the past few decades. Titling their piece, “The Gospel According to ‘Me’,” Critchley and Webster describe America’s transition from a society rooted in Judeo-Christian morals to one characterized by “a weak but all-pervasive idea of spirituality tied to a personal ethic of authenticity and a liturgy of inwardness.” Spirituality has become an “eat-pray-love” sense of peace with oneself,… Read more

Politics and the Bible as Narrative

From Oliver O’Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations: If political theologians are to treat ancient Israel’s political tradition as normative, they must observe the discipline of treating it as history. They may not plunder the Old Testament as though it were so much raw material to be consumed, in any order and in any variety of proportions, in the manufacture of their own theological artefact. They are dealing with a disclosure which took form in a succession of political developments,… Read more

Faith, Fiction, and Reason

T.M. Luhrmann is a Stanford anthropologist famous for her research on evangelical devotional life, studying the mechanics of God’s presence in their lives. A few days ago, in a NY Times article, she asked and answered the following question: “Why is C.S. still a rock star for evangelicals?”  In her view, it boils down to his fiction, particularly his Narnia series, which paints a complex picture of God that is “insulated from human doubt about religion.” The series, she argues,… Read more

The Summer Pop Culture Found Religion

Behold the summer where pop culture (or at least its high priests) found religion. Two of the biggest, most influential albums to drop this summer place religious questions and symbols at their core. More importantly, both promise to be memorable works. One, Modern Vampires of the City, marks the critical and commercial highwater mark of indie-rock impresarios Vampire Weekend. The other, Kanye West’s Yeezus, has received rave reviews and, given the artist’s current pop culture ascendance (cf. “Kimye”), is already… Read more

What Does It Mean to Be Successful?

A recent article by Genevieve Smith, published in April by Elle magazine, raises the question of what it means to young people to truly be successful. Smith describes her youthful pursuit of a “creative” job at a magazine for which she earned less money than she could have at the financial magazine where she first worked. She agrees, at the beginning, with a friend who told her: “I cared about career success. I didn’t care about security.” But, says Smith,… Read more

The Theo-Logic of Costly Adoption

The New York Times recently ran an article entitled “Eager to Adopt, Evangelicals Find Children, and Pitfalls, Abroad.”  These pitfalls include local corruption and poor communication to the birth families about the terms of the adoption, among other things. The international adoption process, moreover, is notoriously expensive, laborious, and emotionally draining. In light of these difficulties, it might seem that the safe course of action would be to adopt domestically or even to forego adopting altogether. Yet evangelicals continue on… Read more

How Should We Spend Our Goodwill?

The New York Times reports on the controversy over the presence of Christian religious symbols on Euro coins: It therefore came as a rude surprise when, late last year, the National Bank of Slovakia announced that the European Commission, the union’s executive arm, had ordered it to remove halos and crosses from special commemorative euro coins due to be minted this summer. The decision has been reversed and Slovakia is going ahead with its plan to print the coins with… Read more

Unequal Conversation Partners

In a recent post over at NPR, Adam Frank reviews Religion without God, Ronald Dworkin’s posthumously published book on religion. In his book, Dworkin attempts to expand the definition of religion beyond its traditional boundaries, arguing that you can be religious even if you don’t believe in God. For Frank, this innovative thesis shifts the ground on which science/religion debates take place.  A broader definition overcomes the apparent cultural rift between “evangelical vs. scientist, believer vs. atheist”: since we’re all… Read more

The Spirit and the Letter

As director of The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann made a controversial choice in choosing to depict the parties of the Roaring Twenties with music featuring today’s top artists and styles. In one sense, this made the movie a less “true” depiction of what life during the Jazz Age was life. The minor allusions to that era, the droning trumpets and hints of blues, are authentic twenties, but the rap styling and rapid beats would have been foreign to those alive during that era…. Read more

Cynicism, Passion, and The Onion

I’ve sworn off reading The Onion. It’s not that I don’t appreciate its sardonic wit or comedic genius. On the contrary, I think its writers are often some of the most apt cultural critics currently writing. But their analysis of the world has become so acute as to blur in my mind the line between reality and fiction. I vividly remember once clicking through the website and laughing at its startlingly accurate social comedy couched in the blackest of black… Read more


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