Louisiana On My Mind

This column was the featured commentary on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on September 24, 2007. 

This much is certain: the state of Louisiana needs our prayers. Even as the folks of New Orleans continue to dig themselves out of Katrina’s muddy mess, the small town of Jena has captured our nation’s attention and imagination by reminding us that the racial tensions and injustices that marked our past still abide and are capable of dividing us even in these latter days we’d like to consider an epoch of fully reconstructed enlightenment.

Continue reading

Overweighty Matters

This column was the featured commentary on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum and was linked on the UPI home page on September 17, 2007.

There is an obesity epidemic in the United States. A quick peruse of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website paints a disturbing picture: the populations of every state have increased in average girth. Children, in particular, are increasingly obese. The Centers for Disease control reports that since 1976 obesity in children has grown from 5.0% to 13.9% among children between two and five years old. For those aged 6–11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5% to 18.8%; and for those aged 12–19 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 17.4%.

There are many culprits in the rise in American weight: we’re not getting enough exercise (in part because we watch too much TV), we’re eating junk by the mega calorie, and we’re sloughing off these bad habits onto our children, particularly if our children are poor and must rely upon school meals subsidized by the United States Farm Bill—an unhealthy bit of legislation that ensures our nation’s school children will be fed a diet high in fat and carbohydrates comprised of highly processed corn and soy byproducts (chicken nuggets and pop-tarts show up with alarming frequency on the menu at my daughter’s inner-city elementary school).

Meanwhile, the only person whose weight has caught the national attention is Britney Spears. Continue reading

One from the archives: Dysfunction in the Fellowship Family

A few years back, I wrote an article for Beliefnet on the Fellowship, a well connected Christian organization based in Washington D.C.  Initially, my editors at Beliefnet were enthusiastic about the piece, but eventually their excitement waned, and Beliefnet never published my piece. But the Fellowship is starting to be a hot topic again, with the publication in Mother Jones of a piece by Jeff Sharlet and Kathryn Joyce (former editors of mine at the Revealer), so it seemed like a good time to publish this piece. Since Beliefnet killed the piece it has had a good life as a PDF file on my church’s website. Now, for the first time, you can read it on a regular web-site. Enjoy!

Continue reading

A Modesty Proposal

This column was the featured commentary on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on September 10, 2007.

As the summer of 2007 drew to a close I started hearing and reading a lot about a return to modesty in women’s fashion, which, evidently, is all the rage among the back to school shopping crowd. As far as I can tell this modesty trend hasn’t yet reached my fair city, where women’s fashion still tends to favor garments designed with maximum upper body ventilation in mind; but if we are to trust the pundits and talking heads a critical mass of young women has grown weary of donning garments that expose, to complete strangers, vast expanses of skin, and have demanded alternatives to the peep-show outfits being sold at the local mall. Apparently, the fashion industry is listening.

And I, the father of two girls (aged three and five), am breathing a sigh of relief. I think.
Continue reading

Labor Day at Home

This column was the featured commentary on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on Monday, September 3, 2007.
Picture me, if you will, wearing an apron, holding a broom and dustpan, standing in the middle of my kitchen. The kids are screaming. My three year old daughter, having just thrown a bowl of pita chips across the kitchen floor (thus the afore-mentioned broom and dustpan), has delivered unto her younger brother a body slam that would make Stone Cold Steve Austin proud. The kids, all three of them, are going nuts and I’m not far behind. It has taken me five minutes—five minutes!—to cut up one head of an heirloom cauliflower, purchased that morning at a Farmer’s Market. It is a venerable vegetable that none of my children will eat, even though I will marinade it nicely in oil, vinegar, and fresh herbs and will roast it slowly out on the barbeque.

This, gentle reader, is why Ritalin is over-prescribed in these United States. Continue reading