Daily Archives: May 14, 2016

(NYT Beliefs) Christopher Hitchens Was Shaky in His Atheism, New Book Suggests

…in an article by the Religion News Service last month, friends of Mr. Hitchens took exception with the book’s conclusions.

Steve Wasserman, a literary agent and editor, and an executor of Mr. Hitchens’s estate, described the book as “a shabby business” in which “unverifiable conversations” are made to “contradict everything Christopher Hitchens ever said or stood for.”

Having evangelical friends is a testament to Mr. Hitchens’s “intellectual tolerance and largeness of heart, not to any covert religiosity,” Benjamin Schwarz, his former editor at The Atlantic, was quoted as saying.

In an interview, Mr. Taunton said that his rather modest claims were being misunderstood.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Books, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

PBS Religion+Ethics Newsweekly: Faith Films

Professional filmmakers, many in Nashville, Tennessee, are beginning to make big profits on faith-based low-budget feature films. The production values are high, and the Christian stories are appealing to large audiences, especially when the movies marketed through churches. Correspondent Dan Lothian says Hollywood is paying attention.

Read or watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

Saturday Mental Health Break–Cute pandas playing on the slide

Posted in * General Interest, Animals, Photos/Photography

(Philip Jenkins) Shadows of a saint: Charles Williams’s magical Christianity

Many contemporaries regarded Williams (1886”“1945) as an unalloyed genius and polymath. He was at once theologian, mystic, poet, novelist, editor, playwright, and critic, not to mention being an esteemed spiritual mentor and (possibly) a living Anglican saint. Lewis was deeply influenced by him to the point that the figure of Aslan in the Narnia Chronicles was borrowed intact from the angelic archetypal figure of Williams’s novel The Place of the Lion. Meanwhile, Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength is often regarded as more Williams’s work than Lewis’s. Some of us would quibble about relegating Williams to the rank of merely third among Inklings.

T. S. Eliot also fell under his spell. The better you know Williams’s all too seldom read dramas, the more startled you might be at the numerous clear echoes of his work throughout Four Quartets. Auden himself said he owed his Christian conversion in part to contact with Williams.

Many other far lesser figures, including the present reviewer, attribute their own original religious commitment to the overwhelming power of Williams’s writings. It helps, in my case, to imagine the years around 1970, when interest in spirituality of all kinds was running very high and all manner of options were on the table””the occult and kabbalism, neopaganism and Arthurian mythology. For many of us, at least in Britain, Christianity was nowhere near being a serious option. Perhaps unfairly, it seemed at the time as if the mainstream churches were irretrievably lost in the Secular City.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Books, Church History, England / UK, History, Poetry & Literature, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Saint Augustine

O God, our Father, we are exceedingly frail, and indisposed to every virtuous and gallant undertaking: Strengthen our weakness, we beseech thee, that we may do valiantly in this spiritual war; help us against our own negligence and cowardice, and defend us from the treachery of our unfaithful hearts; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

–Ephesians 6:10-12

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Harvard Law Professor Mark Tushnet on the Current situation in Constitutional Law

The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. Remember, they were the ones who characterized constitutional disputes as culture wars (see Justice Scalia in Romer v. Evans, and the Wikipedia entry for culture wars, which describes conservative activists, not liberals, using the term.) And they had opportunities to reach a cease fire, but rejected them in favor of a scorched earth policy. The earth that was scorched, though, was their own. (No conservatives demonstrated any interest in trading off recognition of LGBT rights for “religious liberty” protections. Only now that they’ve lost the battle over LGBT rights, have they made those protections central ”“ seeing them, I suppose, as a new front in the culture wars. But, again, they’ve already lost the war.). For liberals, the question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. That’s mostly a question of tactics. My own judgment is that taking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers, who ”“ remember ”“ defended, and are defending, positions that liberals regard as having no normative pull at all. Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War, nor after Brown. (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.) I should note that LGBT activists in particular seem to have settled on the hard-line approach, while some liberal academics defend more accommodating approaches. When specific battles in the culture wars were being fought, it might have made sense to try to be accommodating after a local victory, because other related fights were going on, and a hard line might have stiffened the opposition in those fights. But the war’s over, and we won.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Theology

(WSJ) A Methodist Culture-War Showdown

Methodists have debated Christian sexual ethics at every General Conference since 1972, but delegates have repeatedly affirmed traditional teachings. The church prohibits same-sex rites, and clergy must be celibate if single and monogamous if married. For decades what made the difference was Methodism’s large evangelical subculture. But recently the decisive factor has been the church’s growing membership in Africa.

While other mainline denominations shrank, United Methodism grew, thanks to its overseas membership. Since the 1960s the church has lost four million Americans but gained five million new members in Africa, mainly in former French, Belgian and Portuguese colonies, where early 20th-century missionaries didn’t have to compete with British Methodism.

Africans, who are in general theologically conservative, now account for 40% of members and will soon become a majority. This leaves liberal Methodists frustrated. The church’s General Conference has long included colorful protests against traditional sexual standards. These have become more heated: One LGBT activist suggested that protesters show up to this year’s convention with “gallons of piss and vinegar,” adding “just think of the trouble we can cause.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture