I can’t forget the glamour

Today is the centennial of the birth of Ella Fitzgerald, and thus a day worth celebrating. Also: The Temple of Knowledge; the trash-can-as-trash problem; literal navel-gazing with creationists; and Orrin Hatch refers to Native Americans as “far-left special interests.” [Read more…]

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Money, Hell, and ‘Kirk Drift’

That engagement may initially be hostile, but that hostility compels me to pay attention. It gets me to the point of, “Oh yeah? Well, we’ll see about that!” And, as embarrassing as that misplaced hostility may later prove to be, it has the salutary effect of compelling me to see about that, which means it can render me, perhaps for the first time, capable of seeing about that. [Read more…]

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Captain Kirk, the Green Woman, and the Bible

She must have been one of Kirk’s romantic conquests, right? If you had asked me that, I’d have told you, yes, of course, everyone knows that. J.J. Abrams even included a funny reference to it in the 2009 movie reboot. But as Horáková points out, that’s wrong. James T. Kirk never even met that green woman. The text doesn’t always say what we are sure it says. [Read more…]

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I’m guessing it’s named after the other Philip

“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…]

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The audacious claim that we are not shaped by history

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.

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Ignorant jerks abusing ‘the poor will always be with you’ will always be with you

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…]

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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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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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