Category: Blog Posts

Canceling “Chosenness”

This is the second of four sermon starters for the 4th of July weekend. I’m taking common Christian religious claims about the U.S. and re-examining them. Last week was “In God We Trust.” Next week will be “God bless America.” Readers are free to use these ideas. In each sermon starter, I endeavor to interpret […]

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In God We (Don’t) Trust

This is the first of 4 sermon starters for July 4th weekend. Preachers are free to use them. In each sermon, I endeavor to interpret this moment in the nation’s life in light of both the nation’s value claims and Christian scriptures. I ran for the cross country team my first year in college, until […]

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As Sick as Our Secrets

There is a true truism among family therapists and recovery groups: a family is as sick as its secrets. In this week during which the eyes of national reporters, and beyond, have turned to Tulsa, the insight about families is being employed to reflect on Tulsa’s history of keeping secrets, of nearly complete silence, for […]

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Creating Hell One Punishment at a Time

We live in a punishing society. We are a society that supports and tolerates a great deal of inflicting pain for moral reasons. Lots of us feel justified in pronouncing “I need to teach you a lesson,” and we’re not talking about math or grammar. If a system is organized to get the results it […]

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Will Finding Our Roots Change Us?

“Finding Your Roots” is a PBS series hosted by Harvard historian Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. In each episode, Gates interviews celebrities while he presents to them always-revealing information about their families. Somewhere in every interview, after a new reveal, Gates asks: “How does knowing this change how you understand yourself?” This is exactly the […]

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Disappointing Civil Religion

In researching a book on campus ministry at the beginning of my academic career, the lead author (the Rev. Dr. Sam Portaro) thought about calling the book The Dis-appointment of Campus Ministry. For, to “disappoint” can mean “to lose an appointment, to be set aside.” In that vein, I believe civil religion has been dis-appointed. […]

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Mind the Virtue Gap

These attributes distinguish a democracy from a mob—at least according to the American defenders of democracy around the time of the nation’s founding: Respect demonstrated by the majority for the rights of political minorities A well-informed, virtuous public. Now, as is evident in today’s “we live in separate universes of facts and meaning” polarization, the […]

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When We Take Off the Masks

On Easter Sunday morning, shortly before sunrise, I attended an in-person worship service for the first time since the March 2020 shutdown. The service was outside. Everyone masked. It was lovely to be around people I’d not seen in a year, except on Zoom. During the service, an imaginary scene briefly passed through my mind. […]

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Which Myth Comes After a City on a Hill

In religious studies, “myth” does not mean “not true.” A myth is not history, as today’s historians try to write history. Names, dates, an observable sequence of events. Rather, to say it paradoxically: myth is about the meaning of life that plays out again and again, that makes sense of the data of our lives. […]

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Consider Who Lives Downstream

Recently, two weeks after my second vaccination dose, I spent time with relatives in the Chicago area I’d not seen since before my dad died a year ago. Driving around my old haunts often stirs up the silt from the bottom of my soul. This time, perhaps even more so. When I was starting the […]

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