In the World
Steve Thorngate on public life and culture
The controversy over Rodney Kennedy’s decision to baptize a baby has been fascinating. The prominent American Baptist pastor told RNS that he is “no longer interested whether confession of faith comes before or after baptism,” given the larger issues facing the church. Many other Baptists, especially Southern Baptists, very much disagree. “The Christian community needs to have a conversation about baptism,” said Kennedy. We’ve had one, actually.
There’s little for us mainliners to celebrate in this new Pew study. We’re losing people, and fast. I appreciate Heidi Haverkamp’s realistic-yet-hopeful words here and Rob Rynders’ there. But, like them, I’m not interested in spinning an argument that the numbers are somehow lying. The numbers are clearer, however, than the reasons for them.
Weeks ago, the recycling carts disappeared from our alley. We live in a Chicago three-flat, and the City is supposed to provide single-stream blue carts for all residential buildings with four or fewer units. It hasn’t replaced them yet. Larger buildings are required to provide recycling services themselves, but this doesn’t always happen, either.
I’m just back from Toronto, where I attended the annual gathering of the Associated Church Press. The event was capped by an awards ceremony for work published in 2014, at which the Century was given the “award of merit” (i.e., second place) in the best in class category for national and international magazines. We also won seven additional awards honoring specific work from last year.
So Obama and the Republicans hope to fast-track a couple of international trade deals, and some Democrats aren’t pleased. This “has scrambled the usual political alignment in Washington,” says NPR’s Scott Horsley, “putting the president at odds with many of his usual allies in organized labor.” It has “all made for dizzying change of tone,” adds Jonathan Weisman of the Times. I suppose it’s a little unusual, if your lens on politics is pure partisan math, all red votes here and blue votes there. Dizzying it is not.
There’s a stereotype that we more progressive Christians tend to downplay this stuff: that our interest in Jesus is mostly about his teaching, that if we do talk about something like the resurrection it’s only to debate whether it’s historically plausible. But I’m a lot less interested in evidence for the resurrection than I am in what the thing means. And I have learned, to my surprise and delight, that it actually means more to me now than it once did—before my faith took a bit of a leftward turn.
While I happen to think that refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding that isn’t even happening at your own church is a distortion of what it means to follow Jesus, this is more lament than argument. It makes me sad; and our religious freedom tradition, quite rightly, isn’t particularly concerned about my sadness. What’s far more frustrating than pro-RFRA sentiment itself is the lack of empathy displayed by some who hold it.
In assigning pieces to writers, I’ve found that I make a lot of assumptions about how people use the Revised Common Lectionary, how they observe the church calendar, etc. I’d like to have better information about this.
So much of the debate over Indiana’s new religious freedom law revolves around the gap between the letter of the law and the politics behind it. Supporters note that the law doesn’t mention gays and lesbians, and that similar laws (though not identical ones) have been on the books in other jurisdictions for years. Opponents point to the fact that the law’s advocates organized support for it with arguments about protecting business owners who object to being vendors for same-sex weddings. They're both right, just about different things.