When President Obama argued for U.S. strikes on Syria, he used a familiar trope:
When, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.
Yet his proposed Syria policy put him in new political territory: against the views of a majority of African Americans.
We continue to bask in memories, tributes and outright celebrations of the day, 50 years ago, when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his most lauded speech. We embrace the March on Washington as a singular national event, we marvel at the many thousands who filled the National Mall as heroes, and we nearly worship King’s “Dream” unequivocally.
When scholars of religion are feeling provocative, they like to point out that there is no such thing as “religion”—only “religions.”Like language, religion cannot be merely an abstraction; it must always be expressed in a particular way.
Finitude, contingency, transience. These three linked words signal basic elements of what it is to be a human—and especially to be a historian. David Tracy, noted theologian and next door study-neighbor, taught me this connection, and I’ve let it color my life and scholarly preoccupations.
The closing of the doors of Exodus International earlier this summer doesn’t just signal a sea change in evangelical thinking about homosexuality. It also highlights some evangelicals’ dubious claims of adherence to immutable convictions.
Here’s one thing Presidents Bush and Obama have in common: both had the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” featured at key points in their presidencies. But how did a song with such clear sectional roots become an “American hymn”? As we commemorate the Civil War, the song’s history sheds light on key aspects of who we are as Americans.
When Barack Obama addressed the “Trayvon Martin ruling” Friday, he did more than offer his “thought and prayers” to the family of Martin, applaud them for their “incredible grace and dignity,” and narrate a history of racial surveillance that often leaves African Americans frustrated and even afraid. The president did more than acknowledge that the democratic judicial system had done its work, urge demonstrations to be peaceful, and call for close evaluations of “stand your ground” laws.
Obama took a moment where the nation was viciously debating its most cherished values through the death of a child and cast a vision for a better future through other children.