The scene at the Church of the Reformation several weeks ago—just a couple blocks from the U. S. Capitol—was a mixture of resolve and celebration, equal parts political rally and family reunion. People milled about on the front steps posing for photographs, greeting old friends and making new acquaintances.
The digital age is changing not only the words we use but also their meanings. Have you noticed, for instance, that “Christ follower” is replacing “born again” and “evangelical”? Take a moment to peruse the list of who Rick Warren follows on Twitter.
At CNN’s Belief Blog, John Blake offers four warning signs of when religious beliefs become evil. These include absolutism, charismatic leaders, apocalypticism, and the end justifying the means. He notes that “the line between good religion and evil religion is thin, and it’s easy to make self-righteous assumptions.”
Pope Francis has garnered headlines with his simplicity, as well as with his calls for a “Church for the poor.” The surprise his actions have met reflects, among other things, this: that when it comes to the matter of the haves and have nots, Christians these days tend not to rock the boat.
On July 11, 1804, in Weehawken, New Jersey—just across the Hudson River from Manhattan—two longtime political adversaries faced off in a duel. The result: Vice President Aaron Burr shot and mortally wounded the former secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton. (No, Dick Cheney was not the first vice president to shoot someone!)
Dueling, which Benjamin Franklin characterized as a “murderous practice,” was technically illegal in most states.
The Bible miniseries finished this Easter with the grand finale of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Overall it drew more than 30 million viewers, the History Channel’s largest-ever audience. It’s considered a triumph for “in your face” faith films. With a possible sequel (and the current batch of Bible-based films currently in production), The Bible may represent a modern resurrection of Bible-oriented cinema.
The fervent desire to place the Bible on film dates to the very beginning of the Hollywood industry.
Nearly 50 years ago, Bob Dylan romped through a century of American warfare in his song “With God on Our Side.” From killing Indians to developing nuclear weapons, in Dylan’s view Americans acted with the hubris of knowing they had divine approval. After all, “You never ask questions / When God’s on your side.”
Dylan’s verses didn’t mention the Revolutionary War, but they just as well could have.
Americans have always believed that the devil likes to play politics. Colonial leader Henry Hugh Brackenridge claimed in 1778 that Satan inspired George III’s allegedly ruthless policy toward the colonies. Two decades later, Federalists claimed that the nascent Democratic Party had put forward the antichrist as a presidential candidate in the form of Thomas Jefferson. Later Jedidiah Morse, inventor of Morse code and end-times enthusiast, explained to audiences the Devil’s role in Jeffersonianism. He even claimed to have a list of Democrats who belonged to the Illuminati (though like Joe McCarthy, Morse never showed anyone his proof).
The History Channel miniseries The Bible has been alleged to continue this trend.
Through the off-again, on-again plans for the Saturday mail, religious leaders and organizations remained quiet. Perhaps they had too many other pressing concerns. What was missed was any discussion of the postal service’s importance in American religious history, a history that has been marked by religious frustration and innovation.