A Thanksgiving IHOP run and my complicity in the failure of capitalism


I don't go shopping on Black Friday, not because I'm a virtuous person, but because it's the one day when I get to wag my finger self-righteously at the concept of responsible consumerism, i.e. things like doing your homework, writing lists, making plans, comparing prices, and making responsible adult decisions, basically all the things I've always sucked at which the girls in my middle school class with the color-coded binders were always so good at. But there's nothing virtuous about my … [Read more...]

Six ways that capitalism fails the church

The religion blog forum Patheos is hosting a Public Square conversation called "Has Capitalism Failed?" largely in response to Pope Francis' scathing critique of capitalism in his Evangelii Gaudium. One blogger made the point that the answer to the question depends on what we call "capitalism." There's a difference between the free market system itself and what might be called the worship of the market. It's possible to navigate the free market system without worshiping the market. The problem … [Read more...]

The three “family values” behind Black Friday

As I was reading several interviews with people standing in line for this year's Black Friday, it hit me that we're misdiagnosing Black Friday if we think that it's merely a reflection of America's greed. Greedy people don't need to put the dishes in the sink after a Thanksgiving lunch and rush over to Best Buy. They can be greedy any day of the year and spend as much money as they need doing it. The problem with Black Friday is that it feels like something you're supposed to do to show that … [Read more...]

David Brooks on America’s abandonment of #Biblical values

In David Brooks' New York Times Thursday column, he shares the story of Walter Judd, who paid his way through college at the beginning of the 20th century by washing dishes. His father had refused to pay his tuition since he thought that the manual labor would be good for his character. Brooks shares that "people then were more likely to assume that jobs at the bottom of the status ladder were ennobling and that jobs at the top were morally perilous" since they presumed that "the working classes … [Read more...]

Is private philanthropy more efficient than the state at helping the poor?

CNN today features an article talking about the corruption in America's charity industrial complex. One of the things that has happened most recently is that many charities are funneling most of their donation money to the for-profit fundraising firms they use to solicit people. CNN gives the example of the Kids Wish Network foundation which gives 3 cents out of every dollar to the kids that it raises money for, the rest going to consultants and for-profit fundraisers. One of the basic … [Read more...]

How did Jesus come to love guns and hate sex?

If I were a non-Christian looking from the outside in, I don't think it would be unreasonable to think that American Christians' two highest priorities right now are keeping the government from taking away our guns and stopping gay people from getting married. And I don't think it would be too far-fetched to assume that Jesus sure must love guns and hate sex. But should these really be our priorities as Christians? And if not, how did they rise to the place of prominence they have? … [Read more...]

Amazon and the Soviet Consumerism of 21st Century Capitalism

When I was a child in the eighties, I remember having a conversation with my father about communism. He explained to me that kids in the Soviet Union had crappy toys because the people who made toys had no reason to try hard to make good toys since there was no competition. In our country, if you made crappy toys, somebody else would make better toys and everybody would buy theirs (in theory anyway). I think that we have entered a time thirty years later when our experience as consumers under a … [Read more...]

James KA Smith summarizes the battle of the 21st century

I've just started reading James KA Smith's new book Imagining the Kingdom. Smith's basic argument is that our actions are not really based on conscious rational choices but rather on how ritual behaviors have caused us to imagine the world around us. Most Christian thinkers from the beginning have unconsciously bought into a Platonic "rationalist" conception of human nature in which our behavior is supposed to be regulated by our conscious rationality, and the fact that it isn't reflects our … [Read more...]

Lust, patriarchy, and capitalism: a response to Dianna Anderson

I had an interesting twitter conversation today with a Christian feminist blogger named Dianna Anderson about lust. Rachel Held Evans had tweeted a link from Anderson with the quote, "Lust is not about sexuality, but about power and control." I wrote to Anderson to express some disagreement, because power and control are volitional words, and it isn't honest to my first-hand experience as a man to describe lust as a willed act. Anderson wanted to make a distinction between sexual attraction and … [Read more...]

Looking Back on 2012: Oct-Dec

Since it's the last day of 2012, I have to cover three months in this final post of looking back so I'm going to give myself 12 posts from the past three months instead of just 10. This fall, we experienced two alternatives for responding to an election season: preachers endorsing political candidates from the pulpit or Christians coming together across the political spectrum to celebrate communion. Jerry Sandusky got convicted for his crimes, so I asked what would need to happen for him to … [Read more...]