In the World

Church door from inside

Steve Thorngate on public life and culture

So, the Blunt amendment got killed in the Senate. And good riddance: you wouldn't know it from the L.A. Times's writeup, but the measure was a good bit broader than a reversal of the Obama administration's contraception mandate (which itself would have been nothing to celebrate). From the amendment text (pdf): A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package...on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because...providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan. In other words, essentially a line-item veto of whatever the boss is morally opposed to, based on church teaching or otherwise.
March 1, 2012
So Bloomberg talked to some rich Wall Street types about dealing with the impact of reduced bonuses. All populist eye-rolling aside, I think this quote from Michael Sonnenfeldt--founder of Tiger 21, a "peer-to-peer learning group for high-net-worth investors"--actually makes some sense: Sonnenfeldt said [Tiger 21] members, most with a net worth of at least $10 million, have been forced to “re-examine lots of assumptions about how grand their life would be.” While they aren’t asking for sympathy, “at their level, in a different way but in the same way, the rug got pulled out,” said Sonnenfeldt, 56. “For many people of wealth, they’ve had a crushing setback as well.” Sure--you don't have to be destitute to experience the disappointment of unmet financial expectations.
February 29, 2012
Like a lot of Protestants, I've never been one to take the fasting element of Lent all that literally. But while I never set out to intentionally do the opposite, it sometimes seems to happen. This morning, I ate half a bag of jelly beans. I haven't done that in years. Then, with my brain exploding with sugar and my mouth with fantastic artificial flavor, I remembered what day it is. It's as if I got the Fat Tuesday memo a day late, and also missed the part about using up perishable bad-for-you food, not junk you couldn't spoil if you tried.
February 22, 2012
The new Century editorial offers that if the Republicans nominate Rick Santorum for president, his regular rhetoric about poverty might challenge President Obama to engage him on it--giving voters a chance to hear two different analyses of the problem instead of, you know, not hearing about it all. Somewhat more quixotically, I've found myself wondering whether there's an opportunity as well in Santorum's recent claim that environmentalism amounts to a "phony theology." Stephen Prothero's reaction is to challenge Santorum's desire to draw who's-a-real-Christian lines; Rachel Tabachnick's is to trace the "phony theology" line to the influence of the Cornwall Alliance. Good points both, but what interests me here is that Santorum's comments point to one of the basic theological questions for Christian eco-engagement: Is the emphasis on human membership in the wider creation or on human responsibility for it?
February 21, 2012
"Not God bless America, God damn America!" bellowed Jeremiah Wright from his former pulpit. "That’s in the Bible for killing innocent people." This sermon quote--actually, usually just the "God damn America" part, stripped of any context whatsoever--created a media frenzy, earned death threats for Wright and jeopardized a then-parishioner's presidential campaign. "I don't think God will continue to bless America," said Rick Santorum the other day, "if we continue to kill 1.2 million children every year." Unlike Wright, Santorum is himself a candidate for president. Yet two days later Google offers mostly crickets.
February 17, 2012
Something foul is brewing in the small-town Midwest, where I grew up: A few years ago, hog farmers throughout the Midwest noticed foam building on top of their manure pits. Soon after, barns began exploding, killing thousands of hogs while farmers lost millions of dollars. Wow, okay, so explosive pig-manure foam is a thing.
February 15, 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