September 17, 2019

An item popped up on my Facebook news feed a couple of days ago reporting that Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird had recently been pulled from a junior-high reading list in a Mississippi school district. Lee’s novel has raised controversy ever since its publication for racist language and dated racial stereotypes, but in this case the explanation for banning the book was straightforward. The school board president reported simply that the book “makes people uncomfortable.” As a… Read more

September 15, 2019

The best argument in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story. Richard Powers Although the name of this blog is “Freelance Christianity,” and it is published on Patheos’ “Progressive Christian” channel, I regularly attract comments from readers who do not fit those categories by any stretch of the imagination. Occasionally, someone using arguments and language I recognize from my evangelical Protestant upbringing will respond to my “liberal” or “non-Christian”… Read more

September 13, 2019

We should read the New Testament as saying that how we treat each other on earth matters a great deal more than the outcome of debate concerning the existence or nature of another world. Richard Rorty, “Failed Prophecies, Glorious Hopes” One of the many things I enjoy about teaching philosophy is that I regularly get to engage with students in studying the texts of thinkers labelled as “dangerous” or worse by various authority figures in my youth. Darwin . . …. Read more

September 11, 2019

Everyone beyond a certain age can remember clearly what they were doing eighteen years ago when they heard the news. I was in my college’s main cafeteria getting coffee and noticed something weird happening on the Today Show broadcast on a television hanging from the ceiling in the corner. At that point all they knew was that one of the Twin Towers was on fire, apparently because an airplane had crashed into it. I had scheduled office hours that morning, so… Read more

September 10, 2019

I have grown weary of trying to understand the unquestioning support that Donald Trump receives from thirty-five to forty percent of the American electorate, and continue to find certain aspects of that support both frustrating and fascinating. Trump supporters often say things like “He’s saying things that many of us have been thinking for years but have, for any number of reasons, not been able to say. He speaks for us.” Which raises the question—How much of what we believe to… Read more

September 8, 2019

A few days ago, Pete Buttigeig, mayor of South Bend and candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, was interviewed on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” One of the many things that has made Mayor Pete an unusual candidate is his willingness to talk openly about how his Christian faith has shaped him, both as a public servant and as a person. In answer to Joe Scarborough’s wondering whether Buttigeig believed that Jesus Christ was his “Lord and personal Savior,” Mayor Pete… Read more

September 5, 2019

Pardons are in the news, particularly Presidential pardons. Presidential pardons are nothing new, and most people apparently believe that the President’s power to pardon is unlimited. Last week, the Washington Post reported that President Trump instructed aides to “aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules,” as part of an apparent effort to get them to build his border wall in time for reelection. Trump has reportedly offered pardons when aides object that such directives are illegal. Trump angrily called… Read more

September 3, 2019

In Lies We Believe Abut God, Wm. Paul Young (author of The Shack) tells the story of how one of his friends reacted to his speculation that we have the opportunity to choose God even after physical death (just one of many interesting non-orthodox ideas in this fascinating book). His friend’s viscerally negative response let Young know that he “had entered waters that were considered sacred. My intention made no difference. I had stepped on a land mine . . . [Later]… Read more

September 1, 2019

There are a couple of sayings attributed to Jesus that Christians often use when attempting to show that following Jesus and a commitment to capitalism are compatible with each other–I’ve encountered each of them over the past few days. In a Facebook thread, a person noted that since Jesus said that “God helps those who helps themselves,” clearly he would endorse the capitalist work ethic of competition and self-promotion. Then yesterday on Twitter someone quoted Jesus as saying that “If… Read more

August 29, 2019

It’s the first week of the new academic year, which is always a good time to reflect on what I am privileged to do for a living. A few years ago, I read a Huffington Post article summarizing the results of what a bunch of anthropologists found out concerning the daily work habits of university faculty. What Do Professors Do All Day? After spending two weeks with a non-random sample of sixteen faculty of different ranks at Boise State University, the researchers found… Read more

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