Once again, the epic drama of slavery and freedom is upon us. No, I’m not referring to Ferguson, although others have written extensively on links there to the nation’s history of bondage, legal violence, and avoidance of justice. While others protest, this weekend millions of moviegoers will behold Exodus: Gods and Kings. “Let my people go” will square off against law and order. The fish will die; so will the first born males. The Red Sea will separate, for a time, and then its crashing waters will destroy an army. Exodus has been with Americans since the nation’s birth.
Then & Now
Religious historians take on the present
Thanksgiving is over in post-Ferguson America, and it can’t come too soon. A national celebration of country, family and freedom from want follows on the heels of protests, frenzied media, and the deployment of the National Guard over the failure of a grand jury to indict a police officer over the shooting of 18-year old Michael Brown. In an America deeply divided over race and debate over individual character vs. systems, bad apples vs. rigged games, the long dawn of Advent has begun. Thank God.
A recent meeting of the Conference on Faith and History featured a paper session titled “20th century evangelicalism.” Surprisingly, all three papers focused on conservative Protestant gender ideologies in the years since World War II. Just a few years ago, I would have expected studies of evangelicalism to emphasize political influence. Is gender the hot new topic?
The United States is back at war—that didn’t take very long. One might argue we never really stopped fighting, or, frankly, that the country has been in a perpetual state of war since World War II. Religious as well as the more generic popular responses to America’s various wars often boils down to a tension between revulsion and obligation. Not surprisingly, that dualism relates directly to the simple formula presidents have used over the years (and through every war) to justify military actions in strategic and moral terms. The threats change—fascism, communism, terrorism—as do the locations, but the moral rationale rarely does.
The Ebola outbreak is centered in three West African countries where almost 4,500 people have died; 17 people have been treated for the disease in Europe and North America, most of whom are health and aid workers who contracted the disease in West Africa. Americans are vigorously debating whether to place a travel ban on anyone trying to enter the nation from affected regions. Advocates of interreligious engagement—through their willingness to move across dangerous boundaries—show us how exchange does not necessarily beget vulnerability; it can bolster our humanity.
Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. At 7 p.m., thousands of individuals will gently sway lit candles to remember those lost girls and boys. The day came from one of Ronald Reagan’s last acts as president.
Recently Victoria Osteen, wife of pastor Joel Osteen, made some comments that concerned many Christians. Apparently, she stated that worship was not for God but for the worshiper, that when people obey God, they should do it for themselves (although she later revised some of these comments). For many evangelicals, the Osteens are on the periphery of Christianity.