Baptist Anti-American Civil Religion

I’ve written and thought on American civil religion for some time now. Inevitably, our American presidential politics lifts up one form of civil religion or another. Politics and religion, as I always say to my students, are inevitably twinned. Religion partners, serves and/or resists power. It is always in relationship to power; it always wants more power. In fact I’ve defined religion as the social desire for the ultimate. And this definition can easily be transferred into the political realm. … [Read more...]

Apocalypse Now: The New History of American Fundamentalists–A Review

Matthew Sutton’s American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism is beautifully written, thoroughly documented and, in many ways, a deliciously wicked look at a highly successful religious movement—radical apocalyptic evangelicals—a movement that remains strong despite its endless predictive failures. One of my favorite lines in the book is “They [radical evangelicals] had a knack for picking losing battles” (p. 182). This is an understatement. Sutton writes on the beginnings of early Ame … [Read more...]

Haunted Houses and the Ability to Mourn

The irony of the Orlando massacre is that it was done only a mile away from the happiest place on earth—Disney World. Americans, most of the time, live in this world—a world where we can be happy, or that we can hope to be happy. And yet, in the midst of this dream comes nightmares. The irony, of course, is that on the face of it, America seems like a place of dreams—you can do anything if you just work hard enough, if you apply yourself, if you believe enough in your dreams. And it's true, Ameri … [Read more...]

‘Don’t be codependent’ or ‘I’d rather go skiing’ (Or ‘If you’re codependent, I’m outta here’)

A few years ago in speaking to a group of Pentecostal preachers, at one point, I said, “Stop being codependent! Don’t ask how you can help your congregants be more comfortable. Ask, what are your people doing for the church and for others?” And then I said, “If they aren't doing anything for the body of Christ tell them to leave!”Well, I got some bemused smiles and some grins of agreement.Admittedly, every once in a while, I get a little riled up in my talks and teaching, and I think I so … [Read more...]

My White Tribe: The Unmarked Group

I asked my Jackson School International Studies class called, "Cultural Interactions in an Interdependent World," to give their tribal descriptions and share them with each other. The results, from 200+ student versions, were breath-taking. I can't disclose those, but I do offer you my own below. I suppose, I would wonder in return, what is your tribe?I grew up unaware of my race or ethnicity, and with the privilege of being a white male in America, an objective observer, a strange, opaque bl … [Read more...]

We’re Winning Against ISIS: Religious Violence and Occupation

I’ve been thinking and writing about religious violence for some time now. Along with many people, I wonder: Is religion inherently violent? Is religion actually the problem in our modern world? And more particularly—is Islam intrinsically violent? (Quick answer: NO, at least no more than any of the major world religions).I’ve argued in the past that mixing religion and violence is not new. Every religion has done it and will continue to do it. This begs the question—for what reason? … [Read more...]