Category: History

The Voting Rights Act: have we overcome?

“But even if we pass this bill the battle will not be over… It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. Because … really it's all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.” President Lyndon Johnson, March 15, 1965 The Voting Rights Act of 1965…  [more]

Go Set a Watchman and “company manners”

"Company manners" is that set of cultural armor black people don as protection against racism. The breastplate is made of “Yes, ma’am” and “Yes, sir.” The shield is comprised of smiles and tips of the hat. The armor goes on in the presence of a person whose trustworthiness is questionable. In Harper Lee’s newly released novel, Go Set a Watchman, the…  [more]

California’s drought and a Christian ethic of water

A few miles from the town where I live on the San Francisco peninsula, there is a monument to water: the Pulgas Water Temple. It’s a Beaux Arts-style temple, with a reflecting pool set in a green, grassy lawn. The temple bears these words from Isaiah: “I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people.” The temple celebrates the 1934 completion of the Hetch Hetchy…  [more]

Jimmy Carter, at 90, on small churches, Bob Dylan and same-sex marriage

One of America’s most publicly Christian presidents, Jimmy Carter has continued to act in accordance with his faith since leaving the Oval Office in 1980. In his work with the Carter Center and Habitat for Humanity especially, he’s heeded the Bible’s call to meet the needs of the suffering. Carter recently gave an interview to The Atlantic on the occasion of his 27th book, A Full Life: Reflections…  [more]

Obama’s “Amazing Grace”

American political speech has long drawn on the Bible and Christian theology. President Barack Obama’s eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine people killed in a church shooting June 17, continued in that tradition. Obama drew on the depth of Christian experience primarily to make sense of a terrible event, but also to stir us to action. I’ve argued in my academic work that when speakers evoke…  [more]

The Confederate flag and Christian allegiance

Last week’s racially motivated massacre of nine African-Americans at a South Carolina church has renewed debate over the Confederate flag, which accused killer Dylann Storm Roof can be seen displaying in photos. While some point to this and the flag’s association with groups such as the Ku Klux Klan as evidence that it is an expression of hate, others have argued that it’s simply a symbol of their…  [more]

The new technology of social justice

In his seminal book The Prophets, Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel suggested that the Old Testament prophets saw justice as the supreme manifestation of God's presence. Heschel, a rabbi whose work carved out a place in both Jewish and Christian thought, was the sole survivor of a family who was killed by Nazis during World War II. "God's concern for justice grows out of His compassion for man,”…  [more]

Monica Lewinsky on the price of shame

In her well-received TED talk last week, Monica Lewinsky reminded her audience that many of today’s young adults were only children in 1998, when she became infamous overnight for her relationship with then-president Bill Clinton. She learned then what many have learned since: news travels fast and far in the digital age, especially when it’s mortifying. In her talk, “The Price of Shame,”…  [more]

The problem with Obama’s Crusades comment

Last week, President Barack Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast remarks about religious violence were not well-received. Noting the relationship between violence and religion in various times and places, he referenced Christianity’s connection with the Crusades, the Inquisition and American slavery and segregation. It’s true that Christians and the church have been complicit in violence –…  [more]

Why every Christian should care about nuclear disarmament

The Cold War ended decades ago, but since then the global conversation on nuclear weapons has been heating up. Yet the issue of nuclear arms is so complex and its stakes so high that most ordinary citizens are at a loss to formulate reasonably informed opinions. In fact, few outside a small number of specialists are knowledgeable about the topic. This is why the Nuclear Threat Initiative sponsored the attendance of…  [more]

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