David Brooks in the New York Times  offers an interesting contrast between “myth” and “parable,” arguing that we may be in the midst of a “Fourth Great Awakening,” with this time a “mythic” religion. Looking at the superhero movies that dominate the pop culture, our adulation of sports heroes, and our current political values, Brooks notes the decline of parable-based religion, and the rise of a religious sensibility based around heroes and heroic achievements. From The Fourth Great Awakening: Myths… Read more

The Supreme Court has ruled that states may assess sales taxes on online purchases.  Previously, a business had to have a physical presence in a state before it could be assessed sales taxes.  But now, purchasers will have to pay the tax based on where they live. “Oh, no!” you may be thinking.  “Since I haven’t had to pay sales tax, I’ve been saving lots of money buying stuff online instead of going to the local shops.  This is going… Read more

A study of Americans who identify as part of the LGBTQ community reveals some surprises, including how religious they are. According to the study report, 4%-5% of the population belongs to this category.  Of these, most are women (55%).  Only 41% are men, with 4-5% claiming one of the “non-binary” sexes.  Only 51 of the 880 people surveyed said they were transgendered, which comes out to just over 5%. As for age, 34% are 18-29, with 23% aged 30-39. Now… Read more

Social media outrage has caused powerful executives to lose their jobs, brought down politicians, coerced prosecutions, shamed bad behavior, and provoked countless apologies. Perhaps our new information technology has brought back what some thought had died out:  communities exerting social pressure to enforce conformity to cultural norms.  In the past, social disapproval was expressed through gossip, dirty looks, and other means of public shaming, so that most individuals would be too embarrassed to go to an X-rated movie theater, lest… Read more

Who says liberal churches don’t exercise church discipline?  United Methodists have filed formal charges against Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his role in separating the children of illegal immigrants from their families.  And for saying that the practice is “Biblical” by citing Romans 13.  (UPDATE:  Pres. Trump has signed an executive order stopping that separation.) Sessions is an active Methodist, but he could be expelled from the denomination.  Such charges are almost never leveled at laypeople, but they are possible… Read more

President Trump has directed the Pentagon to create a sixth branch of the military:  the Space Force. Thus, in addition to the Army, Navy, Marines (though part of the Navy, considered a distinct “branch”), Coast Guard, and Air Force, we would have a Space Force, designed to carry out military operations in outer space. In addition to countering hostile satellites and other space-based weaponry such as China is developing, the Space Force would protect us from illegal aliens. Sorry.  I… Read more

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7).  I’ve heard discussions about what “the name of the Lord” means and what “in vain” means.  But what does “take” mean?  The Hebrew word means “bear,” as in “You shall not bear the name of the Lord your God in vain.” So says the learned Peter Leithart in his series of exegetical studies of the Ten Commandments at his Patheos blog.  In his post Bearing the Name, Dr…. Read more

President Trump had announced the imposition of tariffs on $50 billion worth of goods imported from China.  So China retaliated by imposing tariffs on $50 billion worth of American goods.  So now the President has upped the ante to $200 billion.  China is saying that they will respond in kind.  So the President is threatening that if they do, they will face tariffs on another $200 billion. This is President Trump’s style, which we have seen consistently in his rhetoric… Read more

We don’t hear much today about Hell or the prospect of eternal punishment, do we?  The popular culture seems fascinated by darkness, horror, and cosmic pessimism, but a realm of everlasting judgment is just too dark to consider.  People used to be afraid to sin, lest they incur God’s wrath.  But no more, it seems.  In the popular religious imagination, everybody goes to Heaven. This is the teaching of universalism, that everyone in the universe–including the devil–gets saved, one way… Read more

The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology has applied to the American Board of Medical Specialties to authorize a medical specialty in late term abortions. It won’t be called that, of course.  The certification will be in “Complex Family Planning.” From Briana Heldt: “Although contraception and abortion services for healthy women may be safely provided by general OB GYN clinicians,” the application reads, “subspecialists with special knowledge and skills are necessary for advanced gestations.” What does that special knowledge include,… Read more

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