How did a ‘heart for missions’ lead to contempt?

The “10/40 Window” used to be a big deal in mission conferences at white evangelical churches. Nowadays, white evangelicals seem to view these countries differently. The “10/40 Window” is the region from which white evangelicals want to ban refugees and immigrants. It’s the region white evangelicals want their chosen president to carpet bomb, invade, and steal oil from. [Read more…]

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‘Where I come from’ we claim universal generalities as our peculiar virtues

“Folks ’round here love their families,” the Very Nice man says. “We value hard work and honesty.” And the Very Nice man seems Very Nice, until you realize that what he’s actually saying is that he and his community imagine that other people in other places do NOT love their families and that “those people” do NOT value hard work and honesty. Once you realize this is what they want and need to believe about everyone else, the Very Nice man and his Very Nice community no longer seem quite so nice. [Read more…]

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The Pearly Gates are never, ever closed

The Pearly Gates of Heaven are a cliché image in popular culture. Every time a famous person dies, newspaper cartoonists churn out variations of the Famous Person at the Pearly Gates cartoon. The same Pearly Gates scene gets recycled endlessly in movies, TV shows, advertising, and more jokes than we could ever get written down. But in all of that pop-culture imagery and in all the religious folklore built around it, we tend to get one detail of John of Patmos’ vision completely backwards. [Read more…]

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Trump is the logical outcome of the white evangelical narrative of decline

Donald Trump is the end-product (so far) of the white evangelical narrative of decline — the product of generations of jeremiads bemoaning every small step of greater justice and greater equality for women, people of color, and religious and sexual minorities. That narrative has always condemned and rejected “Selma, Seneca Falls, and Stonewall” as — in Howe’s words — “American cultural decline” that is “moving the country farther from resembling [a] Christian society.” [Read more…]

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A super-massive black hole and why I don’t like worship music

Many of the songs and choruses that make up our “worship music” claim to be about God, but the language they use to describe God is indistinct from the language we might use to try to describe the super-massive black hole at the center of the galaxy. Many of these songs could be sung, without changing a word, by a Sagittarius A* death cult. [Read more…]

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Baptist identity means religious freedom for all (it’s not about dunking)

The defining distinctive for Baptists isn’t about how we baptize, but about why and when. Baptists get baptized when they choose to do so. Baptists get baptized because they choose to do so. And nobody else has any say in that choice. You’re free to choose — or not to choose — for yourself. This is why — as a matter of core identity and definition — you cannot be a Baptist without defending religious liberty for everyone. [Read more…]

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Go and learn what this means (part 6: patriotism)

The religion and religious expression condemned by the prophets was something that most of their listeners would have assumed was an obvious virtue. Worship, prayer, offerings, praise, sacrifices, holy days, hymn-singing, church-going — these were all assumed to be Good Things done by Good People as evidence and consequence of their goodness. “Patriotism” falls into the same sort of category. [Read more…]

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Go and learn what this means (part 5)

The prophets hated religion. More than that, the prophets insisted that God hated religion. This is a surprising thing to find in the Bible. And so we’ve developed several ways of pretending the Bible says something else. [Read more…]

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