Slice another pie and mix up more stuffing. The religious festivals tramp on like salivating cholesterol monsters. The Feast of St. Stephens comes on December 26th, the same date as Boxing Day in the former British Empire and Wren’s Day in Ireland. It’s also the Second Day of Christmas (remember the thirteen-day season) and Rummage-through-the-leftovers Day. Because we can.
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September 30, 2014
Haleh Esfandiari is the Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She describes how the so-called “Islamic State” fills its coffers by sex trafficking, among other things.
August 2, 2014
It’s a verified fact: Anyone signing up for the professional ministry is nuts. Don’t waste time on those psychological tests. If they apply, they’re cracked. That would be me. I’ve been throwing myself into the kind of work that lands people on the operating table for 25 years. It’s American Anxiety Employment on steroids. I’m loopy.
April 19, 2014
Perhaps not surprisingly, I find thinkers from previous ages more gripping than the moderns. Three especially shine: Augustine, Martin Luther, and Karl Barth. Each made colossal mistakes – with Luther’s chilling essay against the Jews the most inexcusable – but each understood that theology was a discipline offered to the Church at large, not merely to academia. What’s more, each wrestles with God. They’ve glimpsed transcendence. They’re doing theology on their knees. They’re imperfect because they see things through a glass dimly, but at least they’ve tried. I tried finding what each said about Good Friday. It’s allowed me to gaze at the day through their insights.
October 27, 2013
… they’re given a volatility license because their ministries are bloated and loaded. Hats off to them for drawing those crowds and their indisputable communication and organizational skills, but there’s more to Christian success than fund-raising and reaching a target audience. Otherwise, we’d be scolding Jesus for losing his following as he hung on the cross. Christian success would at least embrace Proverbs 14:17: “A quick-tempered man does foolish things” as well as James 1:19-20: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
March 24, 2012
Cue the off-key organ grinder monkey music. The postmodern circus has come to town, with Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich enrolled as the unlikely ring leaders. Step right up and watch them assert “traditional values” while twisting and bending the truth until it snaps. The political Left tries to join the circus but is no good at it, and journalists, truth’s supposed watch dogs, sleep at the door.
Postmodernism is a vague, multi-layered worldview born in the rubble of World War 2 and nurtured in the iconoclasm of the 1960’s. Many of its adherents shun labels – including “postmodernism” – before arguing that our cultural and personal biases so cloud our vision that we cannot see reality. Our concept of “logic” is tethered to a Western-centered saga, or “meta-narrative,” and is really an excuse for our quest for world domination. Objective truth, if it exists at all, is unknowable. We grope with psychological and cultural cataracts. We’re like Clint Eastwood wandering through Alice’s Wonderland while reading the script for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. We can’t even interpret our interpretations – so please, let’s do away with religion’s moral absolutes. As Stanley Fish once said, “The trouble with principle is, first, it does not exist, and second, that nowadays many bad things are done in its name.”
Apparently, principled leaders like Frederick Douglass, Winston Churchill, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Desmond Tutu don’t count.
October 15, 2011
Faith leaders have joined the “Occupy Wall Street” throngs and and have given us their thoughts. Some samples …
September 23, 2011
A question: Does “pro-Israel” equal “anti-Palestinian”? Must we always bow before the blustering Benjamin Netanyahu, bent as he is on “creating facts” by building more Israeli settlements? It seems the answer for one presidential candidate, Rick Perry, is an unequivocal yes: “As a Christian, I have a clear directive to support Israel. So from my perspective, it’s pretty easy. Both as an American, and as a Christian, I am going to stand with Israel.” Israel is always right; the Palestinians are always wrong. It goes without saying that the United States should veto any Palestinian application for statehood in the UN. Perry is echoing the theology of Christian Zionist John Hagee, the head of Christians United for Israel.
How intriguing. One survey suggests that Perry is more “Zionist” than most Israeli’s, 70 percent of whom believe their nation should accept the decision if the UN recognizes a Palestinian state. Perhaps they remember that modern Zionism began as a secular movement and that the United Nations foresaw both Palestinian and Jewish nations in the 1940’s. Perhaps they see the impracticality and immorality of oppressing legitimate Palestinian rights. Perhaps they remember that their own forefather, Abraham, was once a “stranger” in the Promised Land.
September 14, 2011
I’ve been in e-mail contact with Jennifer Bryson after she found my obscure internet rants when Terry Jones threatened to burn the Qur’an. I soon discovered that her education makes mine look like glorified day care: she got a BA after studying political science at Stamford, an MA in European intellectual history at Yale, and a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and civilizations — again at Yale. She also did a stint at Karl Marx University during the 1980’s in the old East Germany (I’ve been meaning to ask her what that was like), before they ripped down the wall. She’s worked at the Defense Department and she now directs the Islam and Civil Society Project at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey. And she likes dogs. And cats. And gardening. She’s a veritable advertisement for gentleness.
Imagine my near out-of-body shock when I learned a little detail about her DOD stint: She was a Guantanamo interrogator. Whuh? “Our” Jennifer?
September 11, 2011
’m remembering the descent into the surreal. Radio reports told of crashing planes and dropping towers, of Pentagon flames and building evacuations, of stranded passengers in isolated airports – and, behind it all, there was the leering face of a would-be Messiah-like figure, invoking religion, polluting its name, and wrapping faith in veils of smoke and fireballs. I’m remembering my own rage, my own lust for revenge, and my own recovery. I remember reconciling two streams of thinking and emerging wiser.
As usual, many fingers have wagged during this commemorative week: “We should have done this; we should have done that …” I’ll spare us that and simply reflect: How should a follower of Christ respond to such events? What is the role of a people with dual citizenship in Heaven, which bonds us to those of many nationalities, and an Earthly country? How do we work through our understandable emotions in light of the Gospel? How does our heavenly citizenship play out in in our national citizenship?