Violent Lessons

Children are not exposed to enough violence. Yes, I know the grim statistics, how a child who enters middle school has already witnessed 8,000 murders and 100,000 other violent acts on TV. As he and his friends enter adolescence, they take up first-person shooter video games. In college, he becomes . . . . Continue Reading »

Heaven in Ohio?

A book by Donald Ray Pollock is always an entertaining ride, by turns riveting, hilarious, revolting, and poignant. But reading Pollock can be surreal if you grew up a mile down the road from him in Knockemstiff, Ohio. Continue Reading »

​Sibling Rivals

Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violenceby jonathan sacksschocken, 320 pages, $28.95 Love can be a problem. To love is to have a beloved, a favorite, someone treasured above others. So love means not treating everyone the same. It is not justice. In politics, it means favoritism, . . . . Continue Reading »

Nostra Aetate Fifty Years On

It was, on the face of it, a minor theological gesture, yet it brought about one of the greatest revolutions in religious history. Nostra Aetate, the Catholic Church’s 1965 statement of relationships with non-Christian faiths, declared that “the Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or . . . . Continue Reading »

The Most Objectionable Part of the Bible

We all hear about the supposed “God of Wrath” in the Hebrew Bible, and the supposed “God of Love” of the New Testament. Those who draw that distinction don’t know their Bibles very well. For the Hebrew Bible celebrates human sexual love, underwritten by the Hebrew Bible’s God, in its . . . . Continue Reading »

Seeking Justice in the Wake of Tragedy

A horrible tragedy occurred earlier this week, when a young white male walked into Emanuel A.M.E. church in historic Charleston, South Carolina, and killed nine congregation members. Unfortunately, many common responses to the massacre threaten to undermine efforts to seek real, substantive . . . . Continue Reading »

Faith, Fatalism, and Freddie Gray

One recent day at the Baltimore clinic where I care for the homeless, I spoke with a patient about the death of Freddie Gray. He prefaced his thoughts—as many people do when they discuss police brutality—with the caveat that there are good police officers, those who honor the law as they work diligently to enforce it in neighborhoods like Sandtown-Winchester, where Gray was injured. He then showed me scars on his body from his encounters with the police over the years— some of which had occurred after he was already in custody. He described how officers would raid his home and take half of his drugs and his money, then charge and arrest him for the remainder. “They’re a necessary evil,” he said. “If they weren’t out there, it would be total chaos.” Continue Reading »

A Throne in the Grave

Last Sunday, Western Christians celebrated Easter, and in a few days Eastern churches will observe Pascha. Over the course of eight days, most of the world’s two billion Christians will have sung of Jesus’s resurrection, listened again as the glad apostles see their Lord, and heard bold talk of new life and new creation. Continue Reading »