Here’s a new rule: you may not criticize radical Muslims if you will not also call out crazy, violent Christians.
We are on dangerous ground.
In an op/ed piece published in The New York Times on November 11, 2009, David Brooks takes the American media to task for their initial reticence to portray Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan as a radical Muslim terrorist. Maj. Hasan, in case you haven’t been following the news, is the man who murdered thirteen of his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas last week. According to witnesses, he shouted “God is great” in Arabic before pulling out his pistol and killing people. Continue reading
I should begin my review of Frank Schaeffer’s latest book, Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism)(Da Capo Press, $25.00, hardcover), with a disclaimer: I have an indirect financial interest in Mr. Schaeffer’s success as a writer. Frank Schaeffer wrote a beautifully-crafted, thoughtful, and gracious foreword for my forthcoming, yet-to-be-named book on American Christianity’s response to undocumented (or “illegal”) immigration. His name will appear next to mine on the cover of my book because my publisher, Westminster John Knox Press, hopes Frank Schaeffer’s fame will rub off on me in a way that is profitable for everyone involved.
I asked Frank Schaeffer to write the forward to my book because I admire his work. The wit displayed in Frank’s writing has made me laugh out loud in inconvenient places (I first read his novel Portofino in the close quarters of a transatlantic flight) and I have wept at the beauty of Frank’s non-fiction prose, in the silence that descends upon my house when everyone but me is asleep. Reading Patience With God confirmed what I suspected to be the truth: I asked the right guy to pen the foreword to my book. More than ever I want to be on Frank Schaeffer’s team. Continue reading
For those who seem so distraught over the fact that Barack Obama is now a Nobel Laureate I have an history lesson.
When, on December 10, 1964, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, he began his speech with the following words:
I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice. I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered. And only yesterday more than 40 houses of worship in the State of Mississippi alone were bombed or burned because they offered a sanctuary to those who would not accept segregation. I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.
Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize.
I wasn’t around at the time, but I rather suspect Dr. King was addressing his American critics who must certainly have suggested that he really hadn’t yet achieved anything worthy of a Peace Prize. Continue reading
I’ve finished my book (which doesn’t yet have a title), and I’ll be back on my blog soon. Meanwhile, check out this clip from a recent Rachel Maddow Show on which my named is dropped (it’s about 5:45 into the clip):
Thanks to Jeff Sharlet for the name drop! By the way, his book is excellent. Go buy it.
And congratulations to President Obama for winning the Peace Prize. Regardless of political persuasion and regardless of how much we think he may or may not deserve the prize, now is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of a fellow American and to urge him on to greater acts of peacemaking.
I just found out that on July 16th I was quoted by Jeff Sharlet on the Rachel Maddow Show. He didn’t say my name, and the quote wasn’t exact, but hey, thanks Jeff! The quote in question comes from a piece I wrote for Beliefnet. Beliefnet shelved the piece, but I’m glad to see its having an impact anyway.
More importantly, my thanks to Jeff Sharlet and to Rachael Maddow for covering the story of the misogyny in the Family/Fellowship.
Watch the whole thing or catch the quote at four minutes and fifty seconds into the video.
A note to my readers: At the end of last week I accepted an offer from Westminster John Knox, a division of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, to publish a book I am writing about immigration and the church. I’ve been working on the book for several months now (I expect to be just about half done with my first draft by the end of this week), which is why my blogging has been somewhat sporadic of late. But now that my book has a publisher I am officially setting aside my blog until the Fall, when I have promised my editor a completed manuscript. Look for my book in the Fall of 2010, and look for the return of my blog after the World Series, or maybe a little before that if the Giants’ offense doesn’t pick up soon.
The following column is an edited transcript of a talk I gave on June 27, 2009, in Palo Alto, CA. I gave the talk as part of a panel discussion looking at torture as a moral issue.
For several years now I’ve lived with a double-vocational identity. I am a Presbyterian minister and I am a writer of left-leaning, faith-based social and political commentary. Because of this identity my life can get compartmentalized in such a way that I think about certain issues as a writer and other issues as a pastor. This is how I started to think about torture.
When I found out that the United States was using waterboarding and other forms of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” in the execution of the so-called “war on terror”, my initial response was to address the issue as a writer of progressive political commentary. I wrote a couple of pieces for my regular UPI column and for my blog, but addressing the issue of torture as a writer proved problematic—and ultimately unsatisfying—because the torture issue was bringing out the liberal commentator in lots of folk, and I was having a hard time finding new, fresh, and creative things to say about torture, things that weren’t already being said better by others.
This was a good problem. People were challenging the idea that it is legal to use torture, they were debunking the idea that torture is a useful tool for gathering reliable information, and they were pointing out that torture does little to keep Americans safe. The fact that no one on Pennsylvania Avenue was listening didn’t change the fact that people were talking in great numbers, saying all the right things. It became apparent to me that the national dialogue on torture probably didn’t need another liberal, northern Californian, child of a granola-baking-Birkenstock-wearing-Stanford-educated-in-the-sixties mother to weigh in on the debate.
Here’s the sermon I preached on June 7, 2009. In this sermon I tell a story from my recent trip to Geneva. I hope you enjoy hearing this sermon as much as I enjoyed preaching it.
I first heard about James K. Hoffmeier’s book The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens and the Bible when a friend of mine, who knows my interest in issues surrounding immigration, emailed a brief review of the book that appeared in an April 30th edition of Publishers Weekly. I knew I had to read to book after the final sentences of the review made me laugh:
The book offers little in the way of sociological, political or economic insight into the circumstances surrounding modern-day illegal immigration, beyond advocating for a law-and-order approach. Missing from this analysis is an understanding of the Bible as a prophetic document more concerned with larger issues of justice. Still, Christians looking for a biblical justification for strict federal enforcement of immigration laws may find much to like.
First, let me say what I like about The Immigration Crisis. It’s short, easy to read, and intelligently written. While I remain steadfastly unconvinced by his arguments, Hoffmeier is a first-rate biblical scholar who has articulated a cogent challenge to the assumption that the God revealed in Jewish and Christian scriptures has a special place in the Divine Heart for immigrants, even if they cross international borders without proper documentation. Continue reading
At the end of this month, I will be traveling to Geneva to celebrate John Calvin’s 500th birthday, and I suppose the occasion of my pilgrimage to that city on a hill above the place where the Rhone leaves Lac Léman and begins its journey to Provence is as good a time as any to say what I like so much about John Calvin, a man remembered primarily for his stern demeanor, his commitment to the doctrine of predestination, and his abiding ability to make people feel guilty.