“So who were Saints Philip and James?” The question involved the namesakes of a local Catholic parish, and I couldn’t be sure of the answer. There were quite a few saints that shared those names. But I suspect we can narrow down the list, because naming a church after the wrong one of those Philips would just be asking for trouble. [Read more…]
Every facet of white evangelical Christianity as it exists in America today is based on this unspoken belief. It is the bold claim that defines the tradition, the bedrock of everything that white evangelical Christianity is and strives to be. That claim is this: Hundreds of years of slavery and a century of Jim Crow oppression had no effect on the shape of American Christianity.
That’s what Jesus is saying. “The poor will always be with you” because you are disobedient, hardhearted, exploitative and devious. The presence of poverty is not some inevitable law of the universe, it’s the consequence of sin — your sin, the sin of the wealthy, not the sin of the poor. The fact that the poor are with us is a rebuke. It is evidence of our guilt and failure and wicked thinking. [Read more…]
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…]
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…]
Romans 8 contains both a passage of beautiful comfort that should always be read at funerals and a sorely abused passage that has been twisted into a cruelly glib slogan that should never, ever, be read at funerals. Please don’t get those two passages confused. [Read more…]
The difference is justice. Justice is the necessary ingredient without which no worship, prayer, assembly, offering or other form of religious expression will be regarded as legitimate by God Almighty. Injustice delegitimizes all religion. It turns that which God has commanded into something that God detests. [Read more…]