‘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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Postcards from the class & culture wars (2.21.17)

“I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” [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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Don’t know a soul who’s not been battered

President Donald Trump held a press conference today. It was bonkers. Plus: Elizabeth Drew provides an overview of the first three weeks of Trump’s presidency; a Barton-ite Republican announces his candidacy; and Reverend Bruiser vs. Dr. Viper. [Read more…]

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‘Under a spell’: Bonhoeffer on folly

“It is a moral rather than an intellectual defect. … Folly can be overcome, not by instruction, but only by an act of liberation; and so we have come to terms with the fact that in the great majority of cases inward liberation must be preceded by outward liberation, and that until that has taken place, we may as well abandon all attempts to convince the fool.” [Read more…]

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Smart people saying smart things (2.14.17)

It’s never a bad time to re-read George Washington’s letter to the Hebrew congregation at Newport, but now seems like an especially good time. Plus: HIAS on religious liberty; David Blight on Frederick Douglass; and Austin Channing Brown on “identity politics.” [Read more…]

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