The Second Seal: How can a permanent fixture be a prediction of the future?


But whatever you make of the rest of the book, I just can’t see how Revelation 6:3-4 can be read as a foretelling of the future. The rider on the red horse — war — isn’t some dreaded figure whose arrival will come in the distant future. He lives here. He’s always lived here. [Read more...]

Smart people saying smart things (9.25)


Lt. Col. William J. Astore (USAF, ret.) on the American cult of bombing; James Woods (not that one) responds to an anti-abortion survey; Amy-Jill Levine on the parable of the son who refused to be taken in; Josh Marshall reminds us that the Reformation was a bloody mess; and Rachel Held Evans on the big sins crippling the white evangelical church. [Read more...]

Smart people saying smart things (8.28)

Rebecca Mead profiles Mary Beard, “The Troll Slayer.” A rabbi and an imam on Gaza. Caroline Schleier Cutler on a story so important the Bible includes it three times. Stephen Eric Bronner on “The Bigot.” And Robin McKie on the slow, inevitable doom of Miami. [Read more...]

War: Because, hey, what’s the worst that could happen?

"What's the harm ...?"

As jaw-droppingly awful as it is to realize that Bill Kristol hasn’t learned anything from his complicity in the biggest, deadliest blunder of a generation, it’s just as awful to realize that many others haven’t learned anything from that mistake either. [Read more...]

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

Confederate soldiers slain during their attack on the United States. These men did not fight and die for freedom.

Memorial Day is one time during the year when American civil religion imitates one of my least favorite aspects of the white evangelical Christianity that I was raised in. It takes the kernel of an idea of something right and honorable and spins it into a defensive, sanctimonious, performative ritual — one which makes sincerity and truth-telling almost impossible. [Read more...]

‘Option is not a failure’ and aiding Syrian refugees


I don’t know that aiding these refugees really amounts to an alternative to military intervention in that it addresses a different set of problems — problems that military intervention does not and cannot address, and that military intervention would likely make worse. But aiding refugees would certainly be an alternative to doing nothing — and it stands as a clear alternative to the notion that “doing nothing” and military action are the only possible options. Aiding refugees — and accepting more refugees here in America — might not directly address the goal of ending the conflict, but military intervention is unlikely to advance that goal either. [Read more...]

On Syria and finding ways to make the world ‘less horrible’


Mention someone like Gene Sharp and you’ll often encounter a hostile reaction dismissing him (and you, for mentioning him) as a feckless, irrelevant hippie. This is often expressed in a mocking tone, “So, what? You want us to go over there with daisies singing ‘Kumbaya’?” That mocking caricature confirms the problem: A lack of imagination that has ossified into a determined ignorance — an ignorance that clings tightly to remaining ignorant. It confirms that we are unable to find other solutions and other approaches because we have given up looking for them. [Read more...]

It is happening again.


“Something terrible happens somewhere — and what is happening in Syria is not just terrible but atrocious in the literal meaning of that term. Americans naturally feel we must ‘do something.’ The easiest something to do involves bombers, drones, and cruise missiles, all of which are promised to be precise and to keep our forces and people at a safe remove from the battle zone. …” [Read more...]