Edgeman: Rob Bell in LA

I just watched a beautiful film piece on Rob Bell in The New Yorker Presents, Amazon Series, #8 (the part on Bell starts at around 15 minutes into the film). It interviews Bell and describes the building of his ministry, his leaving the church, and the continuing progress of his ministry in LA. I loved it. I have described Bell as an "Edgeman." In my book, Rob Bell and a New American Christianity, I wrote:The quality of Bell’s consciousness and his experience of this sense of timelessness a … [Read more...]

God Kick: Terror in Cinque Terre (written with Brooke Wellman)

Trips of a lifetime are etched into our memories, this one for different reasons than we had hoped. Even so, it has changed my life, and my leg, forever. With the plays of London, the Scottish mist and prayers from Iona lingering on our tongue and the wine of Siena and Florence still on our lips, my wife, Brooke and I, headed for the Cinque Terre, to stay in the southernmost village of Riomaggiore on the Italian Riviera coastline.Our train chugged through the underbelly of the mountain … [Read more...]

Lament and Prayer for a Nation

The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning.  The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned! Because of this our hearts are sick, because of these things our eyes have grown dim:  because of Mount Zion, which lies desolate; jackals prowl over it.But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations. Why have you forgotten us completely? Why have you forsaken us these many days? Restore us to yourself, O Lord, tha … [Read more...]

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...]