December 4, 2019

I recently read John Wigger’s PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Evangelical Empire. It’s a gripping story which goes beyond one ministry to encompass the rise of televangelism–and the triumph of the prosperity gospel, which continues to resonate with Americans in spite of the fall of some of its most popular promoters. (For a good exploration of PTL’s religious roots, try the terrific review/essay where I discovered Wigger’s book.) Tammy was always a little more gritty,… Read more

December 4, 2019

at AmCon: James C. Scott, in 1992’s Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts, argues that behind the public face of every society there is a counternarrative written by the subordinate classes. This “hidden transcript” is in dialogue with the public face but always elusive, concealing its rebellion. “Parasite,” the new genre-bending comedy/horror/thriller from Bong Joon-ho (“The Host,” “Snowpiercer”), makes this “hidden transcript” literal in its tale of a hilltop mansion that hides the secrets of its household help…. Read more

December 3, 2019

LET’S DO THIS. The Lady Eve: Watched it again and loved it even more. Barbara Stanwyck’s a gem but honestly I’m not sure I’ve ever disliked a movie about a lonely grifter. Show me a con artist with an aching heart (she doesn’t even have to know she’s lonely! She can think she’s fine!) and I will want to just scoop both star and film up in my arms and carry them off to someplace where the cops will never… Read more

November 30, 2019

Perhaps the most famous statement in the American history of eugenics is Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s one-liner upholding forced sterilization in Buck v. Bell, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Carrie Buck was sterilized against her will because she, her mother, and her baby daughter were judged “feeble-minded”–though there’s no clear evidence that any woman of the Buck family was actually mentally-disabled, and some evidence that Carrie and her daughter were completely normal in mental ability–and because Carrie… Read more

November 22, 2019

Middle Passage is a knife-thin, knife-sharp novel of revolt on a slave ship returning from the African coast. Charles Johnson, a black American Buddhist for whom all life is in essence One and division is simply a destructive illusion, wrings a violent parable from slavery, the most extreme form of division from the Other. It’s Lovecraftian, with all Lovecraft’s genius for depicting the horror of the formless, ancient, divine, and Other; it’s drunk on the language of ships, the horrors… Read more

November 19, 2019

That’s what Carrie Frederick Frost hopes to provoke with her slender new book, Maternal Body: A Theology of Incarnation from the Christian East. Frost is an Orthodox theologian and mom of (checks dedication page) five, and her book is not a treatise but an attempt to suggest possible paths for future theological work. It’s introductory, but I in fact did need and want an introduction, and Frost makes several smart choices about how to begin. Many Christians East and West… Read more

November 12, 2019

…and other thoughts from my talk at Notre Dame. I was there to talk about “friendship in narratives of addiction and recovery” aka my ranting about “Drinking Song” and We Shall All Be Healed and Withnail & I. The only, how to put this delicately, book I treated in depth was Dan Barden’s 2012 neo-noir, The Next Right Thing. I’d read it in early sobriety and liked it quite a bit. I re-read it, finishing up on the plane to… Read more

November 8, 2019

with the Irish website, The Minimise Project: Ever wondered what crisis pregnancy centres do? How do they actually help women?  I did, so I interviewed Eve Tushnet, whose writing has appeared in a number of publications, including the Atlantic, and (online) the Washington Post, the New York Times, and now this blog. …She has also been volunteering in Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center since 2002 (and her views are, of course, her own and not the official position of the centre)…. Read more

November 4, 2019

I’m working on a piece for America magazine about the role of work in 12-Step/recovery culture, and how recovery movements can reshape a Christian theology of work. As part of this project, I would really love to talk to anyone who’s had a stereotypical “sober job”–that first low-status or minimum-wage job you held in early recovery, or the job which brought you back to the very beginning of your career in a kind of fresh start from the bottom, or… Read more

October 22, 2019

Recently watched The Interrupters, a PBS documentary about a group of Chicagoans who seek to prevent murders by “interrupting” the cycle of anger, vengeance, and despair which leads people to choose to do violence against others. These people, (almost?) all of whom have gnarly criminal histories themselves, find potential perpetrators at vulnerable moments–on probation, or after they’ve been shot, etc–and stick with them, doggedly making the arguments for peace. They can’t offer a whole lot in terms of practical incentives…. Read more

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