The common good is taking a beating. Economic inequality has accelerated dramatically since the early 1980s, and many think nothing can be done about it. But that verdict is a nonstarter for Christian morality.
Longtime advocates of single-payer insurance like me are thrilled, anxious and deflated simultaneously by the state of the debate on health-care reform. The debate that we wanted has finally come, and it is coming with a legislative rush, but the plan that we wanted is being excluded from consideration. Should we hold out for the real thing, or get behind the best politically possible thing?
I am for doing both: Standing up for single-payer without holding out for it exclusively; supporting a public option without denying its limitations; and hoping that a good public plan will lead eventually to real national health insurance.
The current meltdown is just a bigger version of the dot-com bust of the 1990s, with the usual lessons about financial bubbles. But this crisis is harder to swallow, because it starts with people who were just trying to buy a house, who usually had no understanding of predatory lending or derivatives schemes. It was a mystery how the banks did it, but you trusted that they knew what they were doing. Your bank resold the mortgage to an aggregator who bunched it up with thousands of other subprime mortgages, chopped the package into small pieces, and sold them as corporate bonds to parties looking for extra yield. Your mortgage payments paid for the interest on the bonds.
In the 1880s Walter Rauschenbusch was a Baptist pastor in the Hell’s Kitchen district of New York City, where he served a poor, hurting, immigrant congregation and where he converted to the social gospel. His searing encounter with urban poverty, especially the funerals that he performed for children, drove him to political activism and a social-progressive understanding of Christianity.
The weekly death tolls in Iraq have recently decreased—for four reasons: The U.S. troop “surge” has restricted the flow of explosives into Baghdad; ethnic cleansing has been completed in many areas; the Mahdi Army has suspended its attacks; and the U.S. is co-opting Sunni insurgents.
The Obama phenomenon is hurtling past the best analogies that we have for it. Three years ago Barack Obama shot onto the national political scene with a sensational speech at the Democratic National Convention. Two years ago he joined the U.S. Senate as its only African-American member.
Many blame Rumsfeld and the neoconservative idealogues for the disaster in Iraq. But the current foreign-policy crisis vastly exceeds their mistakes. President Bush is still talking about “winning in Iraq” and “fulfilling the mission,” and his administration is still loaded with people who want him to stake his legacy on doing so. The neoconservative ideology of his administration is merely an exaggerated version of the normal politics of American empire. Before a significant change for the better is possible, Americans must reckon with the costs of the nation's perpetual war and military empire.
In the 1950s, the CIA invented the term blowback as a marker for the ricochet effect of its covert actions. Since then the term has come to signify the backlash and other unintended consequences of intervening in foreign countries. For three years the U.S. has coped with a blowback nightmare in Iraq; now it is teetering on the edge of something even worse. Meanwhile the architects of the war still want to attack Iran and Syria, but find themselves enmeshed in the grim consequences of invading Iraq.
How does one define “modern theology”? Does “modern” refer to a historical period, a particular mode of thinking, or a conflation of both factors? Is “modern theology” a confessional discipline, a public enterprise that eschews sectarian claims, or any form of “first order” religious discourse?
The intellectuals and policymakers who want America to maintain its “unipolar” dominance in the world agreed that the U.S. needed to overthrow the Baathist regime in Iraq. For the most part, they emphasized the threat of Saddam’s (alleged) weapons of mass destruction and their own hope of transforming Middle East.
Many critics of the U.S. plans for going to war in Iraq point to oil as a motive. If that is true, it is worrisome indeed. But the policymakers who have long demanded this war are more concerned with ideological and strategic considerations than economic factors. The Bush administration is loaded with policymakers who have long maintained that the U.S.
Long before Bill Clinton trashed his presidency by lying about his adulterous relationship with Monica Lewinsky, the political right heaped scurrilous accusations upon him and sought to expel him from office.
Postliberal theology has affirmed the decisive significance and the integrity of the biblical narrative. But in what way do postliberals affirm the truth of Christianity? Are they merely saying that the Bible is true in the way that a work of fiction is true?
No theological perspective has a commanding place or an especially impressive following these days. Various theologies compete for attention in a highly pluralized field, and no theology has made much of a public impact.