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St. John Paul II and the “Tyranny of the Possible”

The reputations of the great often diminish over time. Ten years after his holy death on April 2, 2005, Karol Wojtyla, Pope St. John Paul II, looms even larger than he did when the world figuratively gathered at his bedside a decade ago: tens of millions of men and women around the world who felt impelled, and privileged, to pray with him through what he called his “Passover”—his liberation through death into a new life of freedom in the blazing glory of the Thrice-Holy God. Continue Reading »

A Time for Testing

We’re in a moment of mass hysteria, one that vindicates Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s decision to sign his state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This law establishes a strong standard for religious liberty: A person’s free exercise of religious can be “substantially burdened” by a law only if that law advances a “compelling government interest” in a way that involves “the least restrictive means.” Continue Reading »

Minecraft over Marriage

I don’t often write book reviews, because it’s not often that this sociologist digests a readable academic book that begs wider discussion. Some books have compelling ideas that deserve promotion, but require too much slogging along the way to commend. Others seem too parochial to promote a wider reading. Still others deal too much in “dialogues,” “diasporas,” and “intersectionalities” ever to merit a second look. Continue Reading »

The Role of Religion

Well, the influence of religion on political life has pretty much disappeared from the world in the past couple of decades. At least that’s what you would have assumed if you relied on an important scholarly work released in 1993 by Blackwell, a distinguished Oxford-based publisher. The book in question bore the title A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy. Almost 700 pages in length, it featured helpful essays on a variety of political topics. But there was almost nothing to be found in the volume on the relationship between religion and politics. And the omission was intentional. The editors told us that they deliberately avoided any treatment of such things as “theism, monarchism, [and] fascism” because “whatever impact they once had on public life, they would seem to play only a marginal role in the contemporary world.” Continue Reading »

Does Windsor Strengthen or Weaken Religious Pluralism? A Debate

Legal disputes over the definition of marriage, such as the recent case U.S. v. Windsor striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, raise urgent questions about religious liberty rights in a pluralistic society. Windsor relies implicitly upon the “public reason” philosophy of John Rawls when considering such questions.

Every Sunday Is Palm Sunday

When Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, everything changes. As Mark tells it, Jesus has been moving about in secret, teaching in private, refusing to draw attention to his miracles, and speaking in coded parables. He cleanses a leper but then warns, “See that you say nothing to anyone” (Mark 1:44). Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, but Jesus instructs him “to tell no one about it” (8:30), and after the transfiguration he “gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man should rise from the dead” (9:9). It’s an anti-PR campaign. Continue Reading »

Hyping Gay Marriage Deep in the Heart of Texas

Texas is a big place, and as Robert Wuthnow has recently reminded us in Rough Country: How Texas Became America’s Most Powerful Bible-Belt State, it has an oversized role in matters of religion and politics. That is one reason why the recent Texas Monthly cover story falling head over heels for gay marriage struck me as significant. Now, a month later, the reviews are in. The April “Roar of the Crowd” letters section describes a “voluminous inrush of response” often including the magazine itself, returned in protest. The staff seems likely, however, to take the rebuke as a badge of honor. Continue Reading »

John Wesley and Religious Liberty

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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