Showing Deference to the Rich: ‘Affluenza’ and “The House I Live In”

I recently watched Eugene Jarecki's remarkable documentary, The House I Live In, which is about the American 'war on drugs' and the burgeoning prison population it engendered and continues to engender.Rarely do I find myself murmuring and tsk-tsking during a movie, but this one was highly affecting; an intimate look at how history, racism, economics, and politics have created a system that no one is proud of and no one really likes. Even the cops and prison guards who claim to love their … [Read more...]

It’s OK To Say “Happy Holidays” To Me.

I'm only dimly aware of the ongoing 'debate' and (largely manufactured?) outrage over supposed 'wars on Christmas,' which is possibly the least-endangered of holidays celebrated in America, but my friend Michelle Van Loon's excellent post, "Sexy 'n Spiritual Tees For Jesus" (doesn't the title just make you want to click?) reminded me that that's a thing. She writes:"purchasing Jesus-y fan swag isn’t too far removed from more familiar consumer expressions of Christian team loyalty: boycotting … [Read more...]

Pontifex Says: Neglecting the Elderly = Covert Euthanasia. The Justice Issue We Ignore.

It was not without reason my friend John rebelled at the thought of going into a nursing home: the majority (60%) of nursing home residents have no visitors, which isn’t surprising when you consider that more than 50% of nursing home residents have no close relatives and an incredible 46% have no living children. When you compound those numbers with the astounding estimate that as many as nine out of 10 U.S. nursing homes are understaffed (and many of those staff are underpaid), you can begin to … [Read more...]

When We Are More Interested in Evangelical In-Fighting Than Serious Issues of Justice

My dad used to tell a joke from the pulpit, back when "damn" was a much stronger word in evangelical/fundamentalist circles than it is now.It went roughly like this:"Millions of people die every day from preventable causes without ever having heard about Jesus' love, and most of you don't give a damn, and most of you are probably more worried about the fact that I said 'damn' than about the fact that millions of people die daily from preventable causes without ever having heard about … [Read more...]

“Absolution can be Disconcerting; Gimme Some Fire ‘n’ Brimstone!”

I'm delighted to point you to another good review of my book, this time in The Christian Century, by Valerie Weaver-Zercher.Early in the review she talks about the general readiness we all have to be screamed at about our many and varied food woes, but how my book, even though it gets into some sordid details, doesn't deal in fire 'n' brimstone.I come by that honest: my Daddy may be a Baptist preacher, but he ain't never been the screaming kind, not even when that's what people … [Read more...]

Whining about Writing, Writing about Whining

May I whine for a moment, please?I shouldn't pay attention to my stats, I know that. I shouldn't even look at them, because I will write what I'm going to write no matter how popular or unpopular that's going to be. One of my favorite authors, Beverly Cleary (yes, the creator of Ramona!) early decided that she"would ignore all the trends...and would not let money influence any decisions about my books."Sage advice from one of the most popular and acclaimed children's book authors of … [Read more...]

Plagues and Famines: better not to know? (part 1)

Have you wondered if maybe it's better not to know about great suffering? After all, does knowing help?Maybe it's happened to you: you read an eyewitness account of famine, perhaps visit a developing country and see firsthand what extreme poverty looks like, and, turning back to your own life, you're not sure how to go on as you have been.You have a fridge. And it's big. And full.And not only do you have shoes, but you have more than one pair. And they fit you properly and are in … [Read more...]

These are a Few of Life’s Crappiest Things! (Reading Ecclesiastes)

Did you know that this blog got its name more-or-less straight out of a Bible verse?Don't feel bad if you didn't catch that; it comes from Ecclesiastes, which, being a frequently-neglected book of the Bible, is, naturally, one of my favorite books. (I enjoy rooting for underdogs.)While some writers and preachers like to say that Ecclesiastes is all about how bleak life is without Jesus, it seems to me that the little book pretty well sums up many of the crappiest things about life:1. … [Read more...]

Weekend Eating Reading: The More-with-Less Cookbook

Oh, the More-with-Less Cookbook! How I love this book! "Green" and globally aware before it was trendy, really simple way before Real Simple; a Christian response to global hunger that involved so much more than writing a check to a relief organization.Commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee in 1976 "in response to world food needs," this cookbook was ahead of its time in its awareness of how personal food consumption is connected deeply to poverty and want in other places:"we are … [Read more...]

It’s Labor Day!

It’s Labor Day!The last hurrah of summer; the last day to wear white--a day for boating, beach-going, and barbecuing.And, you, know, plenty of eating.Labor Day is supposed to be lots of fun. It originated as a day to celebrate “the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”In other words, a day to celebrate--and remember--the people whose hard work has made beloved American celebrations--like barbecuing, beach-going, and boati … [Read more...]