The fourth of July joins Memorial Day and Veterans day as the three times a year I feel out of step with the rest of American culture. While I’m grateful for my country’s freedoms and opportunities, and I want to mourn with those who mourn the losses of war, I cannot participate in rituals that glorify war.
Last week was a momentous one for gay and lesbian issues. On Sunday Vice President Biden said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he is “absolutely comfortable with the fact that men [are] marrying men, women marrying women,” and he thinks they “are entitled to … all the civil rights” of heterosexual couples.
On Tuesday the electorate in North Carolina voted overwhelmingly for a constitutional amendment that proscribes same-sex marriage and civil unions, despite the fact that the state already has a law against it.
Most momentous of all, President Obama told ABC’s Robin Roberts on Wednesday “that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
When I was doing my taxes this year, it occurred to me that the process is a bit like praying the prayer of examen. This Ignatian prayer is used at the end of the day to think back on what happened that day, to ponder where God was in it and to think ahead to the next day. In doing my taxes, I was forced to think back on the events of my life in 2011, both the good and the bad.
I know some people who refuse to sit on church committees
because they think it's a waste of time. I've known some church committees that
prove them correct. In one case, the chair has become something of an
establishment. She's rather undisciplined, drags meetings out needlessly and
talks excessively herself.
About 15 years
ago I was a guest at the annual meeting of theAssociation of Christians Teaching Sociology. In one session a professor reported on a
student's project. Taking the Century as a barometer of mainline Protestantism and Christianity Today as a barometer of evangelicalism, his student
compared the respective responses to the civil rights movement. The student
found that the Century was very hospitable toward the movement and that CT was critical of
it. (Full disclosure: At the time of this ACTS meeting, I was working for
Since ACTS is comprised
largely of evangelical scholars, there was some hanging of heads in the room.
Evangelicals, they agreed, had been on the wrong side of history, not to speak
of the wrong side of justice.
If my pastor got up some Sunday and said,
"I am not a pastor. I'm just a regular person," I'd respond like this: "Well, we
hired you to be a pastor, and if you have a problem with it you should find
another line of work."
Rock the Casbah
Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World
By Robin Wright
We Meant Well
How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People
By Peter Van Buren
By Jonathan Steinberg
What It Is Like to Go to War
By Karl Marlantes
In the Plex
How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes our Lives
By Steve Levy
All the Devils are Here
The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis
By Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera
Henry Luce and His American Century
By Alan Brinkley
The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America
Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World, by Robin Wright. The West's myopic preoccupation with the war on terror has kept it from seeing the ferment in the Middle East, says Wright.
As soon as I heard that Steve Jobs had died I went on Facebook and posted, “RIP, Steve Jobs.” There were many responses, some that surprised me. A few people talked in glowing terms about how Jobs had transformed their lives, as though he were a spiritual guru.
Right now I'm
reading In the Garden of Beasts, by
master storyteller Erik Larson. It is the captivating story of William E. Dodd,
U.S. ambassador to Germany during Hitler's rise to power. Dodd's young adult
daughter Martha, a socialite who had affairs with the head of the Gestapo and a
Russian spy, steals the show. Next I plan to read Stephen Ozment's sweeping
survey A Mighty Fortress: A New History
of the German People.
If you're like me, you have a list of books in your head or on scraps of paper that you think you should read sometime. Somewhere, sometime, a teacher or a writer urged these books on me, but I haven't gotten around to reading them.
In 1831-32 two
young Frenchmen, Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont, traveled
through the United States, ostensibly to study the prison system on behalf of
the French government. But the prisons bored and often appalled them--Quaker-inspired
prisons in Philadelphia being the exception--so they spent very little time in
Every few years a fringe Christian leader
or group predicts when Jesus Christ is coming back to earth. The latest date,
announced on billboards in some mid-sized American cities, is May 21 of this
I appreciate when other people recommend
favorite CDs. In that spirit, I share with you some of my favorite Christmas
CDs. (A warning: I tend to favor the less familiar over tried and true
Christmas carols. I also prefer vocal music to instrumental and a cappella to