Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things May 7, 2014

Rachel Held Evans, “Should Jesus inform our Christianity? (A response to Sarah Palin, Al Mohler, & Me)”

It is ironic that [Al] Mohler, who has been a tireless advocate for young earth creationism on the basis that the straightforward and direct reading of [Genesis] describes seven 24-hour days,” does not seem to think that a straightforward and direct reading of Jesus’ teachings regarding violence is necessary. …

Funny how it’s easy to favor a “straightforward reading” of the text until the text says “love your enemies.”

Dahlia Lithwick, “Majority Rules”

The court also did a massive disservice to religions that are neither old, nor traditional, and even to the old, traditional religions thatcringe at the watering down of their religious beliefs in a public forum. Instead the court practically invited local legislators to make judgments about which “traditions” are sufficiently lofty and universal to warrant offering them meaningful speech and religious protections. Whatever the First Amendment was or was not intended to do, creating a class of respectable, “traditional” religions and another class of lesser religions shouldn’t have been the object. As Thomas Jefferson put it in a letter to Elbridge Gerry on Jan. 26, 1799, “I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.” The real worry after Town of Greece is that we get to pick, apparently by popular acclaim, which are the American religions and which are the un-American ones.

William Lindsey, “The Supreme Court on Christian-Specific ‘Ceremonial Prayer’ in the Public Square”

Essentially, this Supreme Court ruling also sends a very clear signal to all of us that the Supreme Court intends to keep upholding the rights and privileges of straight white males in the American cultural context, since, behind the “ceremonial” religion being defended by “Christians” who take heart in yesterday’s ruling, is the never-to-be-ignored outsized power and presence of heterosexual white men in all institutions that count in American culture.

Jane Mayer, “Ronald Reagan’s Benghazi”

Around dawn on October 23, 1983, I was in Beirut, Lebanon, when a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with the equivalent of twenty-one thousand pounds of TNT into the heart of a U.S. Marine compound, killing two hundred and forty-one servicemen. The U.S. military command, which regarded the Marines’ presence as a non-combative, “peace-keeping mission,” had left a vehicle gate wide open, and ordered the sentries to keep their weapons unloaded. The only real resistance the suicide bomber had encountered was a scrim of concertina wire. When I arrived on the scene a short while later to report on it for the Wall Street Journal, the Marine barracks were flattened. From beneath the dusty, smoking slabs of collapsed concrete, piteous American voices could be heard, begging for help. Thirteen more American servicemen later died from injuries, making it the single deadliest attack on American Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Six months earlier, militants had bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, too, killing sixty-three more people, including seventeen Americans. Among the dead were seven C.I.A. officers, including the agency’s top analyst in the Middle East, an immensely valuable intelligence asset, and the Beirut station chief.

Kathryn Joyce, “By Grace Alone”

Common threads run through the stories: authoritarian settings where rule-following and obedience reign supreme; counseling techniques that emphasize victims’ own culpability; male leaders with few checks on their power; and, in the eyes of many Christians including Tchividjian, a perversion of the Bible to justify all three. “When you have this motley group of many denominations, this independent environment, and then this distortion of scripture, that’s an environment where abuse can flourish,” Tchividjian says.


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