America’s conversation about race has, like all of our public conversations, come to consist largely of a running commentary on viral spectacles. Recent weeks have been rife with them—the Oklahoma University SAE video chant and the dreadful scene of the double shooting of police in Ferguson; the awesome images of a sitting and a former president crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, heading a massive multiracial and multigenerational crowd; the face of University of Virginia student Martese Johnson, bloodied by Alcohol Board of Control officers.
Last fall, our congregation presented Bibles to some of our elementary school kids. This is a longstanding tradition here, to provide each child of reading age with their very own grown-up Bible.
When we hand out the Bibles, I always call the kids forward and tell them that it is a special gift from their church family, because we think it's important that everyone have a Bible to read for themselves.
Among the hearty New Englanders with whom I serve and pastor, there are a few souls who refuse to close church on account of bad weather, ever. The Lord God created shovels and road salt and boots and wool socks as sure signs of the Almighty’s intention that we go to church. Some of these pastors hold deep theological convictions that the people of God should gather for worship every Sunday in rain, snow, sleet, or hail. Others are just defiant Yankee curmudgeons who would rather be assigned to eternal damnation than admit defeat by a winter storm.
Whatever the motivation, I love this stubborn streak within the church.
WASHINGTON (RNS) American presidents need wisdom, integrity, good judgment and humility. They should, if they are inclined, be free to draw strength from belief in and devotion to God. What’s more, Americans prefer their presidents to have religious faith.
Early last summer, the Obama administration opened a detention center in the remote town of Artesia, New Mexico, in order to detain Central American women who cross the southern border with their children. The facility was a centerpiece of the administration’s policy of family detention, which aims to “send a message,” as Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson said, that asylum seekers from these countries are not welcome.
A few weeks ago, I was feeling nostalgic. It was the fifth anniversary of my family’s pilgrimage from Southern California to suburban Chicago for my interview weekend at First Congregational Church of Western Springs. It feels odd to call it that, though; it wasn't so much an interview as a time of holy conversation, prayer, worship, laughter, feasting, and fellowship. The terms of my call were unofficially worked out at a kitchen table while the Super Bowl droned on in the other room.
With an authorization looming in Congress for our ongoing war against the so-called Islamic State, a muddled conversation has sprung up about the group’s relationship to mainstream Islam, its relationship to American and European policy in the region, and the military and political measures needed to counter it. Graeme Wood interviewed scholars and activists to shed light on what ISIS is trying to accomplish and why. His resulting story—a long tour through the theology, history, and practice of this particularly brutal offshoot of Salafist Islam—is alarming, not least to Wood himself.