What Is a Christian?

5602081913_30b82fc2e8_mAccording to recent survey by the Pew Research Center, the number of U.S. adults who identify themselves as Christians has declined—a lot—since the last such survey Pew did in 2007. This information comes out just as I’m in the middle of reading Rachel Held Evans’s latest book, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, a book about Evans’s own frustrations with and hopes for the church and what it means to be or identify as “Christian.”

Though Evans is mostly known as a voice for the generation often referred to as the Millennials, and I am solidly Gen-X, I’ve found myself much in sympathy with her experiences and opinions. Like her, I grew up in an evangelical setting, and in adulthood have struggled with how to categorize, prioritize, and examine (or surrender) my doubts. In a passage that describes almost exactly a process I’ve been through myself, Evans writes:

Evangelicalism gave me many gifts, but the ability to distinguish between foundational, orthodox beliefs and peripheral ones was not among them, so as I conducted this massive inventory of my faith, tearing every doctrine from the cupboard and turning each one over in my hand, the Nicene Creed was subjected to the same scrutiny as Young Earth creationism and Republican politics, for all had been presented to me as essential components to a biblical world view. [Read more...]

What Will Pass for Mercy

By Brian Volck

2986260634_9a443c432e_m“Do not say God is just. Justice has not been evident in God’s dealings with you.”
—Isaac of Syria

Among the habits I’ve lately tried living without are reading online comment boxes (Good Letters being an exception) and making predictions. I bypass comments because I encounter enough wrath, ridicule, and unreason without wallowing in still more online. As for prophecy, my ability to predict the future isn’t what it used to be.

Parents routinely ask me, a pediatrician, what’s in store for their children. I offer probabilities and guesses. Harder still to predict “the fate of the nation.” I don’t know where the United States, with an armada of oncoming problems and a conspicuous dearth of creative proposals in response, is heading.

Maybe it’s just a passing foul mood, a temporary crisis of confidence, but decline—perhaps precipitous—in America’s global economic and political influence seems likely. Who knows what shape that may take? [Read more...]

Never Again: Netanyahu’s Holocaust Cliché

16072485443_38e6ec0e06_oIn the air, on the air, tunneling through cables, conquering newsrooms, occupying the mouths of pundits, settling in the vacuous chambers of the minds of senators and congressmen, securing and challenging the border of church and state, opening the addled heart and vault of Las Vegas: Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.

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I could tell you how uncomfortable—appalled, sickened—I was as I watched the short man enter the once hallowed halls of Congress and inch his way, from handshake to handshake, down the aisle to take his stand where democracy should stand, where truth should stand. But I won’t.

*

As I write this, it’s been two weeks since the speech, which, in the temporal context of news, is an eternity. As I write this, it’s election day in Israel. You already know, if you follow Israeli politics, the outcome. [Read more...]

The Courage of Men

By Suzanne M. Wolfe

Twenty one men dressed in orange jump-suits are kneeling in a line on a beach. The ocean is at their backs like eternity waiting. Behind each one stands the angel of death. Not one of them weeps, not one begs. Some lower their heads as if in prayer; most are looking at something far away or something impossibly near, as near perhaps as the knowledge that this, of all moments, is their final one, that all their acts—some good, some bad—have led to this one last moment here on this beach with the sea at their backs and the wind in their faces. [Read more...]

#BlackLivesMatter to Poets

15776028730_4963de50d0_zPoets are rising to the cause, hands raised (“Don’t shoot!”) but hands also holding pencils and paper or at the computer keys, writing poems.

The cause I refer to is clear to anyone who has lived in this country since August 9, 2014, the date of Michael Brown’s murder. It’s not a new cause, alas; racial injustice has never been absent from our land.

But what’s new—and hopeful—is the depth and breadth of public outcry. It had actually begun a couple weeks earlier, with the caught-on-camera police choking of Eric Garner, then swelled as Michael Brown’s dead body lay for four and a half hours in the street.

Then in late November-early December, the swell became a roar of indignation, as black Americans felt slap after slap after slap on the face of their worth as human beings: on November 22, the police killing (“when will they ever learn?”) of twelve-year old Tamir Rice, playing in a public park; on November 24, the non-indictment of the police officer who killed Brown; on December 3, the non-indictment of the police officer who had choked Eric Garner to death. [Read more...]


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