Laura Turner, Religion News Service

Laura Turner is a writer and editor living in San Francisco. She writes regularly for Christianity Today's Her.meneutics website and Religion News Service.

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Starbucks' Red Cups and the Internet Outrage Machine

Image via Starbucks / RNS

When it comes to outrage, the Internet abhors a vacuum.

The latest missives in the continuing culture wars have come from different sides of Christianity over, of all things, the new design of the Starbucks red cup. This year’s rollout saw a plain red cup, rather than the decorated cups of Christmas past, and one guy got mad.

Joshua Feuerstein is an “American evangelist, Internet and social media personality.” He used to be a pastor, but has had some success now as a maker of YouTube videos, which put his raspy voice and confrontational manner to good use.

A few days ago, Feuerstein went to a local Starbucks wearing his Jesus shirt and carrying a gun (because Starbucks hates the Second Amendment, he claimed). He told some unwitting barista that his name was “Merry Christmas,” so that they would have to write that Christian message on his cup, and then uploaded a video to Facebook encouraging his followers to do the same: “I think in the age of political correctness we’ve become so open-minded our brains have literally fallen out of our head,” he said. 

Meryl Streep, 'Suffragette,' and Feminism's Sin of Erasure

Image via @IrishTimesCultr / Twitter / RNS

The actresses behind Suffragette, the new Meryl Streep-Carey Mulligan film about the struggle to get women the vote in early 20th-century Britain, have landed themselves in hot water.

When asked if she would consider herself a feminist in an interview with Time Out London, Streep declined to take the label, saying instead, “I am a humanist, I am for nice easy balance.” That is one thing you can say when you are doing publicity for your feminist movie, but it has upset plenty of people — probably the very same people who would have been excited to see the movie when it is released on Oct. 23.

A Consistently Pro-Life Ethic Should Include Gun Control

Image via RNS

There have been two very different sets of responses to last week’s mass shooting in Roseburg, Ore. The shooter killed nine people before taking his own life during a shootout with police, in what was the 142nd school shooting since Sandy Hook, in December 2012, when six teachers and 20 children were killed.

Gun rights advocates and gun control supporters alike have used the opportunity to politicize the tragedy. That isn’t, in itself, a bad thing. If politics is the business of governing a diverse body of people, and guns are both used and governed, then our response to repeated mass shootings ought to be, at least in part, a political one.

To “politicize” something that is inherently political isn’t a dirty thing. In fact, to keep ignoring mass shootings, to refuse to change gun control policy because of the power of the National Rifle Association lobby, to let 20 children die and take no national action to restrict gun access in this country — indeed, to vote against an assault-weapons ban — that is the dirty thing.

Anna Duggar and the Dangers of Facile Forgiveness

Image via RNS.

Earlier this week, word got out that Josh Duggar of the TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting had two accounts with Ashley Madison, the website where married people go to look for sexual partners to cheat on their spouses.

The site, whose tagline is “Life is short. Have an affair,” was the target of an enormous hack, which exposed the email addresses and some credit card information of its nearly 37 million users.

Duggar is not the only famous name to be associated with the site, and as people continue to sift through the expanding database, he surely won’t be the last.

But this column isn’t about Josh Duggar. It’s about Josh’s wife, Anna, and the misguided notions of forgiveness that some Christians subscribe to.

Arian Foster: Can You Be an Atheist in the NFL?

REUTERS / Tim Sharp / RNS

Houston Texans running back Arian Foster celebrates after scoring a touchdown. Photo REUTERS / Tim Sharp / RNS

Professional football isn’t known for being a place that encourages deep intellectual reflection. With its history of silence on head injuries, locker-room harassment, and macho culture, the NFL would be the last place you would expect to find a philosopher and a poet — and an atheist to boot.

But all of those things come together in Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, who is the subject of a feature in ESPN The Magazine’s Aug. 18 College Football Preview Issue, published late last week. He revealed that he didn’t believe in God. That’s unusual in a league where players regularly point to the sky (never mind the questionable theology behind the assumption that heaven is somewhere up in the sky) and meet for regular Bible studies.

Instapray App Puts Our Best (and Worst) Prayer Impulses on Display

Photo via LDprod /

Photo via LDprod /

As long as people have been praying, they have also been asking for prayer from one another. In the Bible, the New Testament is full of requests from Paul and others to pray for them; contemporary places of worship often offer time in their services to pray for the specific needs of their parishioners.

A new app called Instapray makes sense as a digital heir to that tradition.

A ‘Christian’ Tinder: Do Christians Want or Need It?

Screenshot of the app’s interface. Image via RNS

Screenshot of the app’s interface. Image via RNS

The first thing I had to do is enter my favorite Bible verse.

I debated for a while, thinking I could go the easy route and say it was John 3:16 or Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,”) but I was feeling cheeky so I entered Ecclesiastes 1:2 (“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.'”).

Then I entered my denomination — Protestant — and said that I’m looking for men. I allowed it to integrate with my Facebook account and I was in.

Welcome to Collide, a new app being billed as “Tinder for Christians.” It is one of many in the dubious tradition of (fill-in-the-blank) for Christians (Netflixyoga clothes), and as I went through the motions of joining, I wondered what good this was going to do, what perceived need it was filling.

The idea behind the wildly popular Tinder app is to go on dates with your match, of course, but it’s also to make split-second judgments based on your level of physical attraction to the person on the screen in front of you — and then maybe go have sex with them.

What I know of Christian culture — the kind of evangelical subculture that would spawn something like this, at least — would be pretty well set against the idea of a Christian Tinder.

How to 'Defy the World:' An Interview with 'Wanted' Author Chris Hoke

'Wanted' cover art via

'Wanted' cover art via

Wanted: A Spiritual Pursuit Through Jail, Among Outlaws, and Across Borders is non-fiction, but I read it like it was one of the latest blockbuster novels, this time with gorgeous writing. I couldn’t put it down, and I didn’t want the journey to end, following Chris Hoke through jails and streams and farms of Washington’s Skagit Valley as he grew from a young man interested in faith outside the walls of the church to a pastor to the “homies” of the area, as they called themselves—men whose criminal past or undocumented status have caused them to be among the most marginalized in our society. This book is imbued with dignity, prayer, and an understanding that relationships require forgiveness, on both sides. Wanted is a beautiful reflection on what the life of faith looks like in action.

Hoke grew up in southern California but was drawn to the dimmer corners of the Christian faith. He made his way to northwest Washington state to work with Tierra Nueva, a ministry that “seeks to share the good news of God’s freedom in Jesus Christ with people on the margins (immigrant, inmates, ex-offenders, the homeless).” We recently chatted about his work with Tierra Nueva, the value of a good metaphor, and how reading the Scriptures in prison can make them new.

Seattle Pacific Shooting: Communal Wounds

The clock tower at Seattle Pacific University | Photo by tigerzombie via Flickr.

Not one more” was the sentiment and catchphrase of the community in Isla Vista, the town near Santa Barbara where Elliot Rodger shot and killed six people. Christopher Michaels-Martinez, a 20 year-old man, was among the victims and it was his father, Richard, who has passionately enjoined citizens and politicians to enact gun reform.

But it seems inevitable that, when we talk about gun reform, it will always be too little, too late. Yesterday, a gunman opened fire at Seattle Pacific University, a Christian liberal arts college, killing one person and injuring three others. A student named John Meis was working as a building monitor nearby and took advantage of the pause while the shooter reloaded his gun to pepper spray him. Other students and faculty members joined Meis in restraining the shooter until police arrived. The shooter, a 26 year-old man named Aaron Yberra, was armed with a shotgun, a knife, and extra ammunition. He is now in custody.