As a kid in Missouri, I was a Baptist. In Missouri that meant not only that I belonged to an important church but that I was on the right side of the great eternal divide, ready to defend my salvation against the other contenders around me. When my family moved to Arizona, Baptists were perceived differently: we were the tail end of white evangelizers who hoped to bring faith and education to the Native American and Mexican laborer population. In southern California, our next stop, people thought we were from Texas and thought of us as one more exotic breed on the Pacific shores.
Leap of imagination: Christopher Herbert, the Anglican bishop of St. Alban’s, is troubled by strident Christian voices. “There is a noisy, almost angry, literalism around desires to define and codify who is, or who is not, a ‘real Christian,’ and what seems to accompany this is a plodding, narrow biblicism which is punitive in tone and joyless in character.” Apprehending the beauty and truth of God, which involves paradox and apparent contradiction, takes faith, but also playfulness and imagination (Anglican Theological Review, summer).
In their book, Off Center, political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson use statistics to prove that the Republicans have defied political gravity. Instead of trimming their sails to the moderate breezes of the American middle, the Republicans have lurched far to the right. “According to the conventional wisdom about American politics, this shouldn’t be possible,” write Hacker and Pierson.