Why Gay Rights Are Not The New Civil Rights

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Supporters of same-sex marriage love to make analogies to the African American Civil Rights Movement. Analogies are rhetorical devices that require careful scrutiny. While I do not find the attempt to connect bans on gay marriage to miscegenation laws persuasive, nevertheless there is nothing inherently wrong in trying to find parallels between these two social movements. In that spirit, let me offer my own reflections on what we can learn by comparing them. Continue Reading »

Don’t Joke About Sports

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Sports are what men talk about when they really want to talk. Or at least that seems to be the case for many men, whose emotional lives are played out on big screen TVs and twenty-four hour media coverage of everything athletic. Whether it’s the suburbs, cities, or small towns, if you want to get personal with another man, you share commiserations about the home team over a communion of wings and beer. Continue Reading »

In Praise of Praise Music

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Praise music gets no respect, even among Christians. It is not hard to figure out why the unchurched don’t care for it. They can sing “Stairway to Heaven” with gusto because they don’t believe that the stairs are really going anywhere, while it is hard to sing “Here I Am to Worship” without doing exactly that. But Christians are people of praise. That’s what we do. So why do so many Christians have such a condescending attitude toward praise music? Continue Reading »

Can Christian Music Be Real Rock and Roll?

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Christopher Partridge’s new book, The Lyre of Orpheus, provides an amazing wealth of information about religion and popular music. It should be read while sitting at a computer, since you will want to search YouTube or Spotify for the songs that he so passionately discusses. Unfortunately, his larger theory is not nearly as interesting as his close reading of individual artists. Continue Reading »

Bob Dylan Must Get Stoned

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Journalists have always been puzzled by Bob Dylan, but the confusion is of their own making. The pattern of treating him as a trickster whose words cannot be taken at face value was established in the sixties, when the rock intelligentsia wanted Dylan to be a political as well as musical revolutionary. He was neither, of course. His radicalness came from a deeply conservative understanding of musical history: He was reading Civil War era newspapers while everyone else was reading Norman O. Brown and listening to Gospel and Blues when music was becoming “pop” in the fifties. Continue Reading »

How to Tell Time in Heaven

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Heaven is hard to conceptualize in terms of space and time. For instance: What kind of memories will we retain? Given that our lives are riddled with sin, the bad things we have done, as well as the bad things that have been done to us, are a large part of who we are. That is true even when we accept God’s free offer of forgiveness, since we cannot simply eliminate our memories without falsifying our identities. Continue Reading »

Backing Down from Gregory of Nyssa’s Ascent

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The early Church’s appropriation of Greek philosophy is easily caricatured as an exchange that left Christianity intellectually enriched but spiritually impoverished. In reality, the Church Fathers converted Plato before they baptized him. That is, they found Greek metaphysics useful, but they used it for their own purposes. Still, the question remains: Christians changed Plato, but how much did Plato change Christianity? Continue Reading »

Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet

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Music can move us in ways that reach beyond discursive speech. That does not mean that notes have no relation to words. Music is not a literal language, but it is more than a metaphorical one. The best music hints at a universal language that can redeem the cultural and geographical barriers of . . . . Continue Reading »