Category: History

Watching the Washington Redskins during Native American Heritage Month

Football has been on my mind recently, as the debate over the Washington Redskins name rages on. California recently became the first state to ban the use of the “R-word” for public school mascots, while earlier this year a federal judge upheld a decision to cancel six trademarks held by the NFL team because they “may disparage” Native Americans. I understand that the team’s branding…  [more]

The Blacklist and our need for sin-eaters

“I am a sin-eater. I absorb the misdeeds of others, darkening my soul to keep theirs pure.” So confessed Raymond Reddington (James Spader) in the season two finale of NBC's The Blacklist. With Thursday’s premiere of season three, it seems appropriate to cast light on this little phrase once again. The Blacklist prides itself on showcasing the blurred lines between right and wrong, as it…  [more]

Vox’s Victorian couple and living with authenticity

A fun feature of our information age is how easy it is to access documents, ideas and even objects from other times. Even a few years ago someone might have combed antique stores for years to find something that is now available for purchase (or maybe several!) on eBay or Etsy. Researching at a distant archive can be done through an online database. There is something delightful about using cutting-edge technology to…  [more]

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]

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