National Cathedral & Confederate Windows

From Web Exclusives

The Dean of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., which is an Episcopal Church institution but serves as a place for national religious pageantry, wants to remove two over sixty-year-old stained glass windows honoring Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.  “There is . . . . Continue Reading »

Burning Black Churches

From Web Exclusives

Media reports of the last week have speculated that recent fires at black churches are racist arsons somehow linked to the horrible murders at the historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. A July 1 headline in The Atlantic ominously declared: “Black Churches Are Burning Again . . . . Continue Reading »

Nelson Rockefeller as Social Gospel Christian

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Richard Norton Smith’s outstanding new biography of Nelson Rockefeller does not directly focus much on the religious beliefs of the wealthy scion and long-time presidential aspirant. But there are enough tidbits to imply that he was a Social Gospel Christian, very much the product of his family’s targeted philanthropy and devotion to liberal Protestantism.The grandson of America’s first billionaire, Rockefeller was born into a pious Baptist home where liquor, smoking and profanity were prohibited, family prayers were a daily ritual, and the Sabbath always sacred. His grandfather, John Sr., the builder of an oil empire, was a conventional but not very theologically minded Baptist. His father, John Jr., the heir and only son, was devout but committed to modernizing Christianity under the guidance of experts he would fund. His counsel for philanthropy was Raymond Fosdick, a backslidden Baptist who championed cautiously progressive causes. Fosdick was brother to the great liberal preacher Harry Emerson, a zealous foe of “fundamentalism” who had survived a Presbyterian heresy trial. Continue Reading »

John Wesley and Religious Liberty

From Web Exclusives

Last year I wrote for First Things on John Wesley's reaction to anti-Methodist riots in the mid-1700s as it relates to contemporary assaults on religious liberty. Recently a letter by John Wesley revealing his views about law enforcement and religious freedom was tweeted by its owner, the Wesley Hobart Museum of the Uniting Church in Tasmania, Australia. The letter, 
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Obama, Lincoln & Niebuhr

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There are numerous defenders of President Obama’s prayer breakfast appeal for Christians to not “get on our high horse” about criticizing Islamic violence and to recall the Crusades, Inquisition and American racial segregation. 
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Atticus Finch in a Skirt

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Harper Lee, now age eighty-eight and long out of the public eye, is the legendarily mysterious author of the iconic 1961 novel of southern racial injustice, To Kill a Mockingbird. It inspired an equally beloved film with Gregory Peck as heroic small town lawyer Atticus Finch, who defends an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. Continue Reading »

MOSLGBT

From Web Exclusives

Television industry insiders have a term for poignant segments of sitcoms that offer a brief, feel good, serious life lesson: “moment of sh-t,” or MOS. These MOSes are usually relatively lighthearted. But sitcoms with a social agenda, like Norman Lear’s groundbreaking sitcoms of the 1970s, often had heavier messages—some admirable, others not so much. Archie Bunker learns at his friend’s funeral that his friend with whom he shared anti-Semitic jokes for years was actually h Continue Reading »

John Wesley and Religious Freedom

From Web Exclusives

Lumping together the recently attempted Arizona religious freedom law with new criminal laws against homosexuality in Nigeria and Uganda, the United Methodist Church’s Capitol Hill lobby lamented that “legislation that denies the human rights of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and . . . . Continue Reading »