How to Talk to Trump Evangelicals at Christmas | Stephen Mucher
Commentary | December 20th, 2016
Many Americans remain discouraged or angry about the presidential election. Those gathering around the tree this holiday season with Evangelical family may feel particularly bewildered. No demographic played a more central role in the election outcome. Over 80 percent of self-described Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. I grew up in the Evangelical movement of the 1970s. I was raised in the Southern churches that gave birth to the Moral Majority. I had a front row seat as Christian conservatives, initially agitating from outside mainstream politics, eventually reshaped and emboldened the Republican Party. I have some advice. And even some good news.
Is Communism Dead, and Can Spirituality Revive It? | Paul Tritschler
Commentary | November 23rd, 2016
"Every cultural transformation in history has reached into the most intimate sphere of human motivation." The devil's finest trick is to persuade you he doesn't exist. This oft-quoted phrase from Baudelaire's short story, The Generous Gambler, could well apply to the antagonistic relationship between capitalism and communism. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, capitalism assumed a position of unparalleled power, and its ideology became entrenched as common sense. No viable alternative exists. It might need to be tweaked here and there, but capitalism is now the only deal on the table.
How to Go On: Do We Have the Stomach for What's Required | Luke Bretherton
Commentary | November 23rd, 2016
Watching the election results come in, and as the dawning realization of what was happening began to become apparent, the following quotation from Henry James came to me: Evil is insolent and strong; beauty enchanting but rare; goodness very apt to be weak; folly ever apt to be defiant; wickedness to carry the day; imbeciles to be in great places, people of sense in small, and mankind generally unhappy. But the world as it stands is no narrow illusion … we can neither forget it nor deny it nor dispense with it.
Beyond Clean: Syringe Exchange and the Role of the Church | Hillary Brownsmith
Commentary | March 16th, 2016
In April of 2015, Indiana's Governor Mike Pence declared a state-wide public health emergency in response to a rapid increase in new HIV and hepatitis C infections. The rise in infection rates, initially recognized in Scott County, was linked to syringe sharing among folks injecting a prescription opioid. As a result of Pence's declaration, counties that could prove that they were being affected by the emergency were permitted to open temporary syringe exchange programs (SEPs), a harm reduction service that furnishes drug users with sterile syringes in exchange for their used syringes. Indiana's fourth SEP opened last month.
Religion and the Russian Revolution | Joshua Hatala
History | February 26th, 2016
Lenin lays out a dichotomous proposition for the proletariat and the party: the choice to struggle either for heaven or earth; one must accept materialism and "scientific socialism" or religion. Many within the church's hierarchy and among the parish clergy similarly framed these two competing worldviews as incompatible. Naturally, these churchmen rejected materialism and socialism, favoring secular and religious traditionalism and the promotion of charity while typically stopping short of endorsing structural reforms to address urban exploitation or solve the problems of land reform that had plagued Russia for decades.
Peace in Sapelo: On Black Islam and Black Christianity | Ashon Crawley
Commentary | February 26th, 2016
On Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011, I parked my car on "the mainland" at the Sapelo Island Visitors Center. Grabbing my suitcase, waiting in the hot sun for its arrival, I finally took one of the daily trips - the 3:30pm ferry - to the island, right off the coast of Georgia. Arriving on the other side, I was greeted by Miss Yvonne. Only 55 people were living in Hog Hammock at the time - a small community on the island with a general store, and lots of chickens, cows and mosquitos - so she spotted me easily, Miss Yvonne, the woman whose flat I rented. I stood out because I was the only one arriving so late in the day that wasn't one of the 55. When we spoke on the phone the week previous, she told me to bring food because the general store didn't sell much of anything.
The Mythology of Fundamentalism | Jeriah Bowser
Commentary | February 15th, 2016
There are fewer words in the english language as cloaked in ambiguity and steeped in power as fundamentalism. It is a word which completely dominates social discourse, public opinion, and political rhetoric, yet remains undefinable and enigmatic. When pressed to explain what one means by this word, most pundits will allude to "literal interpretations of religious texts," "religious extremism," or "a strict adherence to a set of beliefs," but fail to give any further context or description of what exactly makes one a fundamentalist, why fundamentalism exists, or why fundamentalists of all creeds seem to share so much in common.
Islamophobia and the Rise of Trump | Joshua Hatala
Commentary | December 7th, 2015
Since the November 13 Paris attacks, right wing terrorism and support for the demagogues who fuel it has intensified in the US as largely unreported acts of violence against Muslims and Muslim communities grow both in number and intensity. Despite the fact that white extremists kill more Americans in the US than "jihadists", the right-wing media juggernaut and certain Republican presidential candidates have tapped into the fears of dispossessed whites to ramp up and exploit a Muslim-as-terrorist narrative. The recent attacks in San Bernardino will, of course, reinforce this narrative, being framed as another case illustrating the need for white, Christian Americans to protect themselves from the Muslim "other" through vigilante justice, suspicion, and the expansion of the security state.
The New American Popery | Joaquin A. Pedroso
Commentary | October 8th, 2015
Here in the U.S., it was not long ago that Republicans were concerned about whether the Pope would direct U.S. policy from the Vatican should Irish Catholic John F. Kennedy be elected president. It seems the potential for such a divided loyalty still unnerves some on the right wing of the political spectrum. Indeed, the persecution of those "popish" priests and bishops in seventeenth century England has a curious symmetry with current outrage on the part of some in the G.O.P. It is difficult to imagine, but the so-called conservative party in the U.S. increasingly seems to be denouncing the religious traditions of over sixty million Americans.
Apologetics Over Liberation: Same-Sex Marriage, Trans* Death, and the Role of Queer Clergy | Hillary Brownsmith
Commentary | September 4th, 2015
I met Ash* when I was working as a caseworker in a large men's homeless shelter and referral agency in Atlanta. Ash came to get a referral to another service agency for homeless people in town. I initially assumed she lived in a women's shelter or slept on the street. But she told me during our first meeting that she slept in a bunk upstairs, surrounded, any given night, by between 700 and 1000 men. As an adult trans woman, this was Ash's only option. Ash's situation was unbelievable. New to Atlanta and to homeless services, I couldn't trust that this men's drop-in shelter with minimal security and poorly trained staff was Ash's only possible placement. So I called around. I talked to staff at other shelters. I talked to housed trans women. I read public accommodation ordinances. I contacted a transgender right's attorney. But Ash had, of course, been right.
Reclaiming Our Prophetic Fire: From Personal Faith to Communal Transformation | Joshua Hatala
Analysis | July 8th, 2015
Pope Francis' call for action on climate change and his biting moral critique of late capitalism have been met with dismissiveness by self-professed Christian Republicans. Beyond mere political expediency and old-fashioned anti-popery, Republican leaders' responses to the Pope's encyclical are characteristic of an individualistic brand of American Christianity that has its roots in 19th-century religious revivalism and the early 20th-century triumph of consumer capitalism.
Yale Divinity Threatens to Withhold Degree from Pro-Palestinian Protestor | Hillary Brownsmith
Commentary | June 9th, 2015
On May 12, 2015, Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) held their first women's luncheon at Temple Israel in Westport, Connecticut. The Westchester/Connecticut chapter of FIDF reports that annually, it raises $2.5 million for Israel's soldiers. Not only did luncheon attendee's $54 ticket price contribute to this multi-million dollar gift, women in attendance were treated to a keynote speech by IDF Brig. Gen. (Res.) Gila Klifi-Amir. According to the group's website, Amir, former IDF Chief of Staff's Advisor on Women's Affairs, celebrated Israel as "a world leader in integrating women into the armed forces".
What is Man? | Ali Ahmed
Analysis | May 5th, 2015
Some would say that religions come about from an observation of the world. Earlier societies, bewildered by the majesty of the natural world, turned their fascination into reverence and devotion. Others believe religions are divine revelations. Either way, I think most would say that religion serves as a heuristic device; an interpretive tool or a model. In other words: on the one hand we have the world of men and animals ("creation," should you accept that). The world is complete and fixed. On the other hand we have all these religions that talk about the world. Lately (I mean since the Scientific Revolution), we've held the view that the world, in all its functioning, could be understood in its totality. Reason could make sense of all.
Violence is Violence?: Inter-Generational Strife, Self-Defense, and the Black Lives Matter Movement | Hillary Brownsmith
Commentary | March 12th, 2015
The Bible is brimming with instances of people waiting for a prophet or movement only to have that person or mobilization arrive and go unrecognized or, worse yet, be violently suppressed because it doesn't conform to the expectations of the waiting masses. Since I started working and/or living in radical Christian settings seven years ago, I have heard elders wax nostalgic about the civil rights movement. I have watched older folks who lived during the end of the Jim Crow era weep when discussing their own recognition of that important historical and cultural shift. I have also watched elders chastise young folks, sometimes rightfully, for failing to care about this history; the nonviolent tactics employed; and the ways hearts, minds, and institutions were forever altered.
What is Liberation Theology? | Michael Orion Deschamps (Powell)
Commentary | March 5th, 2015
The left and right wing political paradigm is a very convenient one and has served political discourse since the French Revolution, when it was coined to describe the various sides of that conflict. In the religious world, especially the Christian world, the terms do not go away. In the Catholic world especially, the terms may be at their most potent and most accurate. There is a clear chasm between the Left and Right in the Catholic world and has been for quite a while. While many American Protestant churches offer a moderate, liberal or conservative interpretation of the gospel (depending on if you're a Baptist, which leans more conservative, or, say, a Methodist, who lean more progressive), the Catholic Church pushes towards extremes. Catholicism, with its drastic and sometimes intense traditions, is much more a hotbed of political radicalism than most Protestant sects.
Martyr Romero, Francis Ascendant | Michael Orion Deschamps (Powell)
Commentary | February 20th, 2015
Something very important happened a few weeks ago. Pope Francis declared Oscar Romero, the archdiocese of El Salvador who was murdered by El Salvadorian fascists in 1980, to be a "martyr of the faith." He has been put in the forefront of the beatification process - the process in which a figure becomes recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. Romero is a bit of an icon in Latin America. For El Salvadorians, he could be compared to a Catholic Che Guevera - and has long been seen as a martyr for his faith, even if the Vatican only recently sees it that way. Murals with his face adorn Ciudad Barrios, where fireworks were set off after Francis' announcement. T-shirts are sold with his visage on them, just as there are of Che. There have been several films made about him, the most impressive being the documentary "Monsenor," which featured a full soundtrack.
Thomas Merton and the Synergy of Christianity and Buddhism | Michael Orion Deschamps (Powell)
Commentary | December 20th, 2014
I had a very interesting conversation with a good friend recently. My friend is a lifelong Catholic who has attracted more recently to evangelical faiths of the "personal savior" variety. I mentioned to him Thomas Merton, who he had never heard of, much to both my surprise and his. My friend is more on the fundamentalist spectrum of things, which is okay - unlike many progressive Christians, I don't think fundamentalism is completely out of bounds. I told my friend about the parallels between Buddhism and Christianity, and he began to say he was "worried" that Merton was trying to equivocate the two faiths when Christianity is the "ultimate truth." As a whole, however, my friend was receptive and was very interested in the idea that Buddhism, founded in a much different part of the world at a much different time, formed very similar theological practices and outlooks.
Lessons from The Brothers Karamazov: Doubt, Freedom, and the Organic Nature of Religious Truth | Ali Ahmed
Analysis | November 5th, 2014
If you have read Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, you will agree that it is one of a select few treasure-houses of literature. A classic novel of ideas, it is singular in that unlike many classics, Dostoevsky's magnum opus has only one group of readers: admirers. (There might admittedly be some dissidents here and there but, to me, they have not really read the novel) It is certainly one of the most powerful works I have ever read. While it is not as long as Tolstoy's War and Peace, it is still however good and lengthy. And if you haven't read it, yet, then in this two-part series, by exploring a little of the profound depths of the novel and drawing out some of its lessons, I intend to persuade you that you are worth it.
Economics According to the New Testament | Kevin Daugherty
Commentary | October 31st, 2014
Growing up, I was often exposed to the idea that capitalism and Christianity go together. Profit and wealth were not simply compatible with Christianity, but were a sign of God's blessing or your personal piety. I remember going to the Christian bookstore once or twice and seeing large piles of books with that topic specifically in mind, usually by Dave Ramsey, who was recently on the 700 Club for a new book of his. In that interview, one of the first things mentioned is how Ramsey and Robertson agree that wealth is a good thing, and that those who see wealth as bad are wrong, even "gnostic." I don't think the heretics here are the "gnostics" who believe that wealth is wrong; rather, I think the heretics here are Ramsey, Robertson, and others in their camp, who seem to have forgotten what the New Testament and early church taught concerning economics.
Is the Watchtower Society a Part of the Religious Right? | Chris Stevenson
Commentary | September 3rd, 2014
The religious or Christian Right's theology is really a concept called Dominion Theology (pushed first during the '80s), a scriptural mandate for Christian stewardship in civic or secular matters. They believe God told them in Genesis - as indicated by its name - to dominate and promote religious supremacy. Of course, this has racial undercurrents. Just about any and every movement led by whites in the United States prefixed or suffixed with the word "supremacy" can safely be considered to be pointing in the direction of race. The Watchtower's theology is based on something not far from Dominion Theology - something they call the "New Order"; there was a time it was known as the New World Order (NWO).
Out of Empire and into the Margins: Exploring the Gospel of Mark | Kevin Burgess
Analysis | June 11th, 2014
Our church decided to 'start again' by going back to the basics of our faith through the exploration of the most simple and direct of the four gospels. So many of the basic teachings of Jesus are never truly heard by more casual church-goers, or perhaps they have been heard so many times that much of the meaning falls on deaf ears. It is my intention here to explore my own reactions to the gospel, as well as summarize what we are reading. To be honest, I am writing this for myself in order to clarify my own thoughts through a deeper exploration of the texts, as well as to be reminded that in the most basic teachings of Jesus we can find the inspiration and renewal to 'turn around,' and explore how those teachings can be embodied in our ordinary lives. I hope that others might be interested in hearing about this gospel that feels quite like a manifesto for repentance, resistance, and hope.