July 19, 2012
"As a devoted Christian, you need to ask forgiveness for this grievous lack of judgment and reckless behavior."

GOP strategist Ed Rollins, Michelle Bachmann’s former campaign manager

On Michele Bachmann’s letter to the Department of State’s Inspector General, demanding an investigation of imagined ties of Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin to the Muslim Brotherhood.


Read Sarah Posner’s coverage for Religion Dispatches here

July 16, 2012
Dear Common Grounders, Religious Progressives, and Ecumenical Seminaries...

From the editors over at Religion Dispatches:

Dear Common Grounders, Religious Progressives, and Ecumenical Seminaries, 

  • A close read of historian David Hollinger’s fascinating interview with The Christian Century may help with a question that so often plagues religious progressive leaders: Why is the religious right so much more politically effective? (Hint: it’s not just messaging.)

    In addition to giving credit to 20th-century mainline (or “ecumenical”) protestants for leadership in “antiracist, anti-imperialist, feminist and multicultural [initiatives],” and tweaking the conventional wisdom of “mainline decline,” Hollinger questions whether today’s liberal protestant leaders aren’t pulling a few too many punches with their conservative evangelical brothers and sisters:

    The ongoing accommodation between ecumenical and evangelical Protestants may well continue, but if it does, I fear that it will be at the cost of an opposite accommodation that deserves more attention than it has received. Perhaps voices like that of the Christian Century and the intellectual leaders of the ecumenical seminaries and denominations should more aggressively criticize the religious ideas proclaimed by the most visible of the evangelicals in American life today.

    To be sure, secular intellectuals and journalists comment on these ideas inThe New Yorker and now and then on the op-ed pages of the New York Times, but believing Protestants have an authority with the faith-affirming public that the rest of us do not have.

    A more vigorous attack on obscurantist versions of the faith, a more insistent discussion of the latest in biblical scholarship, a yet more widespread commentary on the tendency of many of today’s evangelical leaders to focus on tiny segments of scripture—this might be a valuable service. And might it cement an accommodation not with the evangelicals, but with secular intellectuals? That might be a good thing. The salient solidarity today may not be with the community of faith but among those who accept Enlightenment-generated standards for cognitive plausibility.


June 21, 2012
Southern Baptists: Gay Rights Not Civil Rights

Way to go, Southern Baptists - the DAY AFTER you elect your first black president, you pass a resolution that marriage is “the exclusive union of one man and one woman” and that “all sexual behavior outside of marriage is sinful.”

You pat yourselves on the back for shrugging off one shame, while cloaking yourselves in another.

History will tell, it always does.

June 20, 2012
In Jesus' Name - Right Hook!

My post today for The Revealer, on the upcoming documentaryFight Churchabout Christian MMA clubs.

The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club.

The second rule of Fight Club is, you talk about Jesus at Fight Club.

No, Brad Pitt didn’t change the script. Welcome to Fight Church, the upcoming documentary about young Christian mixed martial arts fighters.

What does that mean? According to the film’s Kickstarter fundraising page, the documentary “follows several pastors and fighters in a quest to reconcile their faith with a sport that some consider violent and barbaric,” or in the words of one participant, “Can you love your neighbor as yourself and at the same time knee him in the face as hard as you can?” It’s an exploration of the increasing presence of MMA in evangelical Christian communities and the tension that arises.

Read my full post here.

June 14, 2012
Cooking the Books

A review of “The Revisionaries,” new at The Revealer by Nathan Schradle.

Hovering behind this frustration was my fellow teachers’ common assumption that, in spite of the words “California Edition,” emblazoned along the top of each book, the content of the textbooks had actually been decided in settings far removed from the one in which we taught. Teachers didn’t feel enabled by the textbooks—we felt hamstrung. So I came to “The Revisionaries” with certain expectations. I expected it to give me a deeper and better-informed loathing of the way that the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has managed tooverhaul high school curricula to conform to the standards of a particular brand of hard-line Creationism and political conservatism shared by a small fraction of the population, even in traditionally conservative Texas. It is a testament to the film’s quality and the filmmakers’ perceptiveness that it gave me my anticipated dose of horror, but not at all in the way I’d expected.

Don McLeroy,

Texas State Board of Education member.

Read the full article here.

June 5, 2012
Race and Radical Welcome << The Revealer

Becky Garrison’s latest post for The Revealer: An interview with Rev. Oliver White, pastor of the only predominantly African American Congregational Church in Minnesota, on his support for same-sex marriage–and what it’s cost.

A media landscape that relies primarily on the voices of those with the microphone tends to miss out on the smaller, quieter voices for justice, such as the Rev. Oliver White, a United Church of Christ pastor and social studies teacher based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At present, his church is facing foreclosure–a result, many say, of his decision to speak out in favor of same sex marriage at the 2005 UCC General Synod.

Read the full article here.

June 4, 2012
He Winketh with His Eyes, He Speaketh with His Feet « The Revealer

Our new intern/writer/buddy at The Revealer has done it again! He’s learning fast. I think we’ll keep him.

Joe McKnight: Walter Wink was, among other things, an outspoken critic of the “biblically-based” homophobia that has long plagued Christianity. Through editing “Homosexuality and the Christian Faith,” and authoring numerous articles on the same matter, Wink showed that by approaching the subject, “from the point of view of love, rather than that of law, the issue is at once transformed.” He continued, “There is no biblical sex ethic. The Bible knows only a love ethic, which is constantly being brought to bear on whatever sexual mores are dominant in any given country, or culture, or period.”  (The italics are Wink’s.)  Statements of this nature had no small part in making Wink unpopular in the 1980s and 1990s, during the rise of the Moral Majority.

The loss of Walter Wink on May 10th, 2012 was significant not only for the liberation theology to which his life was devoted, but for the declining number of clergy committed to the kind of activism not seen since the days of the Civil rights and anti-war movements five or six decades ago.

Read the full post here.

May 17, 2012
The Bishops, The Sisters, and Religious Freedom >> The Immanent Frame

Elizabeth Castelli discusses ‘the narrow framing of “religious freedom” as the freedom to ignore the Affordable Care Act viz contraception, but precious little else.’

At its March 2012 meeting, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty,” a document drafted by the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. Publicly announced on April 12, 2012, the statement offers a brief sketch of purported threats to religious freedom in the U.S., a highly compressed and partial history of the U.S. in relationship to religious freedom, a sober call to disobedience of “an unjust law” (never explicitly named, but almost certainly the 2009 Affordable Care Act [ACA] and its attendant administrative regulations concerning contraceptive coverage), and an exhortation to U.S. Catholics to participate in “A Fortnight of Freedom” from June 21 through July 4 of this year—a period of prayer and activism during a period of time when “both our civil year and liturgical year point us…to our heritage of freedom.”

The rhetoric of the bishops’ statement is familiar to anyone who has followed conservative Christian activism around the cause of religious freedom in the United States over the last two decades or so, though the recourse of Catholic officials to such language is a relatively recent innovation. Meanwhile, their definition of “religious freedom” or “religious liberty” remains both opaque and expansive—again, in imitation of conservative Christian activism tout court. The bishops note the priority of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the priority of (“our first…liberty”) religious freedom among the freedoms guaranteed by that amendment. Acknowledging that Americans are not alone in their claims concerning freedom (“freedom is not only for Americans”), they nevertheless see the United States as exceptional in its relationship to it (“we think of it as something of our special inheritance”), seeing Americans as the particular guardians of freedom (“we are stewards of this gift, not only for ourselves but for all nations and peoples who yearn to be free”).

Read the full article here.

May 16, 2012
"The early church had no specific rite for marriage. This was left up to the secular authorities of the Roman Empire, since marriage is a legal concern for the legitimacy of heirs. When the Empire became Christian under Constantine, Christian emperors continued the imperial control of marriage, as the Code of Justinian makes clear. When the Empire faltered in the West, church courts took up the role of legal adjudicator of valid marriages. But there was still no special religious meaning to the institution. As the best scholar of sacramental history, Joseph Martos, puts it: “Before the eleventh century there was no such thing as a Christian wedding ceremony in the Latin church, and throughout the Middle Ages there was no single church ritual for solemnizing marriage between Christians.”"

From Gary Wills’ new article at New York Review of Books

Originally posted at The Revealer 5/14

May 4, 2012
Generation Squared « The Revealer

Jeff Sharlet reviews the new book “God On the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America” for The Revealer:

If you rely for your understanding of American academe on Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, or William Bennett, you may be inclined to think that today’s colleges and universities are cesspits of numbing drugs, lust, and gross materialism — as it happens, the favored vices of those three pundits, respectively. Naomi Schaefer Riley might be expected to present a more nuanced portrait of college life, since she was only three years removed from Harvard when she set out on a tour of religious colleges and universities in September of 2001. But in God on the Quad, she contrasts these schools – “red through and through,” she gushes, in apparent ignorance of the complexities of theological politics — with a caricature of secular higher education I’ll call “Blue State U.”

Continue reading…

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