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That one time Muhammad Ali met with Billy Graham demonstrates, yet again, the huge change in white evangelicalism as it shifted from Billy Graham mode into Franklin Graham mode. And it reminds us of how disastrously awful that change has been. Plus: Franklin loses a fight with Bella Abzug; Elihu as proto-Calvinist; and a literal re-enactment of Matthew 12:11. [Read more…]

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Paris and Beirut and …

After calamity, we seem to wish that someone, somewhere, would say something else, something more. We want to hear someone explain this, explain how to correct it somehow, how to prevent it from ever happening again (or, less nobly, how to prevent it from ever happening to us). And there can be a pressure, or a temptation, to try to be the person who says all of that. Our desperate need to hear something that will make sense of it all can lead us to try to say something that might appear to make sense of it all. [Read more…]

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Just watching myself in some play

A great magician reveals a trick; the end of the season and the End of the World; standing athwart algebra, yelling Stop; coherent theodicies; “How to Get a Drink at a Crowded Bar;” and the twilight of the answering-machine song. [Read more…]

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The politics and theology of Superman

Basically there are only two limits on Superman’s use/abuse of his power: 1. His benevolence; and 2. A couple of eccentric billionaires have green rocks hidden in caves under their mansions, just in case. Neither of those seems quite satisfactory. [Read more…]

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Abraham wasn’t like us, but we’re also not like Abraham

The idea that God speaks directly and unambiguously to humans is a given in the story of Abraham. The idea that God speaks directly and unambiguously to humans now is simply false. When that story is invoked today in support of the claim that we have precisely the same kind of direct and unambiguous access to divine command as Abraham had, then something dangerously wrong is going on. [Read more…]

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Just take everything down to Highway 61: Obedience is always about epistemology

No, no, no, the “pastors and apologists” say — that violates the spirit of the story. It’s about obedience, not epistemology. For the sake of the story, you must accept that you receive this command from God as an unambiguous revelation: You know with certainty it is a command from God. But that just restates the problem, it doesn’t solve it. Obedience is always about epistemology. [Read more…]

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USC hires a good guy as a humanist chaplain, and you’ll never believe the surprising way that RNS chose to report it

I hope that’s sarcasm, because if it’s not, then Jonathan Merritt is pointing to the facile Bildadism of a Sunday school teacher’s white-knuckled just-world fallacy — God “allowed” the torture of a 9-year-old — and rechristening it as an orthodox representation of the “the sovereignty of God” while further suggesting that any disagreement with that view is a rejection of a “cornerstone Christian belief” that puts one “substantially outside the evangelical fold.” Whether or not it’s meant ironically, that’s one of the harshest criticism’s I’ve ever read of white evangelicalism. [Read more…]

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You think I built this for me?

A few things: Flooding and train derailments are not acts of divine intervention sent to punish the sinful. Thanks a lot, Senate Republicans, for blocking a vote on giving me a raise. “Most Americans still believe that race invented racism, when in fact the reverse is true.” They are coming for your birth control. [Read more…]

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