At its worst, Protestantism has long been deeply suspicious of all holy things, of the very notion that a physical object can carry anything of the sacred. At its best, such a suspicion is aimed instead at the notion of holier things—of an elite, rarefied sacrality that sets a few things utterly apart.
I was trying to write a provocative article for a readership that includes many people who a) oppose the death penalty for faith-based reasons, and b) take for granted that replacing it with LWOP is a fairly straightforward good. But I should have done more to anticipate how others might see a one-sided article where I saw a narrowly focused one.
It’s Monday, so it must be time for everyone to share last night’s main John Oliver segment and talk about how correct and funny and amazing he is. To be clear, I generally agree with this left-of-center consensus: Oliver’s longform takes on the old Daily Show template are informative, impassioned, and hilarious.
I had a mixed response, however, to last night’s segment.
My article in the current issue examines an ongoing challenge for death-penalty opponents: abolishing the death penalty in a given state has generally meant sentencing a lot more people to life without parole, a sentence just as hopeless and final.
In May, a federal jury sentenced the surviving Boston Marathon bomber to death. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers had acknowledged his guilt and focused on humanizing him in hopes of avoiding a death sentence and getting instead a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The jury went the other way—a decision that met a lukewarm response on the streets of Boston.
The Koch brothers have grown wary of being perceived as a pro-rich people lobby, so they’re working on it. Matea Gold and James Hohmann report that “the theme of helping the lower class was echoed throughout the weekend conference.”
“The theme of helping the lower class”—that’s a well-worded summary, because whatever shifts in tone or even substance exist here, it’s important to recognize that the subject of the sentence remains: uncommonly rich, powerful people.
The aftermath of the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision included some thoughtful responses from evangelicals who don’t support it. Mark Galli’s is pretty good. So is this piece by Carey Nieuwhof, a useful list of things for anti-SSM church leaders to keep in mind.
I do think Nieuwhof oversells his first point, “the church has always been countercultural.”
Take the question in isolation—given that we’re going to identify our church’s allegiances with these two flags, which one should be higher?—and I absolutely agree with Rit Varriale that it should be the Christian one.
But the question didn't arise in isolation, of course.
It starts off as a standard writeup of a protest and counter-protest of a mosque’s Friday prayers. An accompanying video portrays the two sides as polarized not just in rhetoric but in various cultural markers, starting with the fact that one side is packing the kind of firepower that would have shocked people not so long ago (and would still if the heat-packers weren’t so white).
You know, just a slice of 21st-century American life.