In the World

Church door from inside

Steve Thorngate on public life and culture

"Between now and Election Day," writes Peter Beinart, "anti-Mormonism is going to be the Democratic Party’s constant temptation for one simple reason: there are votes in it." I'm not sure I'd call it the party's "constant temptation," but Beinart is certainly right that bigotry against Mormons remains a politically potent force in the U.S., and that the Democrats aren't above exploiting it. But is Beinart right that the Democrats have a bigger religious bigotry problem here than the Republicans do?
April 27, 2012
Still haven't read Ross Douthat's book, which I anticipate having some problems with. I have, however, been following with interest his conversation with William Saletan. Saletan, skeptical about some but not all of Douthat's views, asks good questions, and Douthat gives thoughtful replies. I think this comment from Douthat is generally a wise one: A quick word on your “if it feels good, don’t do it” distillation of my message. We can dig into this more as we go, but for now I’d just point out that at various times, Christianity—and particularly my own Catholicism, the faith of carousing Irishmen, hedonistic Italians, and “give me chastity, Lord, but Lord not yet” sinners in every time and place—has been scolded for being altogether too worldly, too pleasure-loving, too forgiving of the weaknesses of the flesh.
April 18, 2012
So it turns out that the president and first lady's tax burden for last year was only 20.5 percent. Does this make Obama a hypocrite for criticizing Mitt Romney's low tax rate? Only if he blames Romney personally for not voluntarily paying more. As I said in Romney's defense a while back, the problem isn't that presidential candidates with plenty of money aren't willing to pay their taxes. The problem is that their taxes are too low.
April 13, 2012
Skimming the NYT over the weekend, I read the following in Ross Douthat's summary of his new book: Our president embodies [America's] uncentered spiritual landscape in three ways. First, like a growing share of Americans (44 percent), President Obama changed his religion as an adult, joining Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ in his 20s after a conversion experience brought him out of agnosticism into faith. Second, he was converted by a pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose highly politicized theology was self-consciously at odds with much of historic Christian practice and belief. Finally, since breaking with that pastor, Obama has become a believer without a denomination or a church, which makes him part of one of the country’s fastest-growing religious groups — what the Barna Group calls the “unchurched Christian” bloc, consisting of Americans who accept some tenets of Christian faith without participating in any specific religious community. The third point annoyed me.
April 12, 2012

Pages

In the magazine

Why and how I bless my children

Death-penalty abolition and life without parole

Review of Steven Brill's Obamacare book

Baptism and place

What I want to get/give for Christmas

Liturgy nerds and their weddings

What's funny on TV

Alternatives to the common lectionary

Should churches alter copyrighted worship texts?

Welcome to the middle class, population everyone.

It's not about the role of government.

Whither the Century's Amazon links?

Church music after the worship wars

A nontraditional church introduces member rolls

Pay your taxes; get a receipt.

The Democrats' proxy debate about abortion

Music reviews