Tom Krattenmaker is a writer specializing in religion and values in public life. His most recent book is Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower. Follow him on Twitter at @tkrattenmaker.
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The Cultural Significance of Taking a Knee
“NO KNEELING!” So tweets our “dominate-the-streets” president in response to white football star Drew Brees voicing support for fellow players who take a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence. This, while demonstrations swell across the country in response to the murder of George Floyd by an officer who drilled his knee into Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes while the man lay face down on the ground, defenseless and dying.
Reflecting on the Ethic of Imago Dei
A crisis like the coronavirus pandemic reveals who we are as individuals and society. When push comes to shove, as the saying goes, which side of us will have the final say?
The Ethics of Health Care: Am I My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper?
If you don’t need or want insurance, some ask, why should you have to pay for other people’s coverage?
I know people who think this way, and they resent having the government obligate them to pay into the system.
Understanding that many Americans struggle and pay a high cost under the Affordable Care Act, we cannot really blame some for holding this position. But responsible citizenship compels us to take a broader view.
A Christian Should Lead Christians
Is the pope Catholic? Is the president of the Christian student club Christian?
These questions might seem equal in their wry obviousness. They’re not. In the massive California State University system, as at some other universities, new anti-discrimination rules for student groups mean it can no longer be required that the president of the Christian student fellowship is Christian, or that the head of the Muslim association is Muslim, or that the officers of any group buy into the interests and commitments of that group.
Student clubs that refuse to accept the new rules will find themselves on the sidelines when it comes to meeting space, recruitment opportunities and other valuable perks that go with being an officially recognized group.
Such is the fate that has befallen InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a national campus ministry that finds itself “derecognized” in the 450,000-student Cal State system for insisting that student leaders of its campus chapters affirm the basic tenets of evangelical belief.
Pope Francis Is Not a Standard Bearer for the Right or the Left
It’s one thing to say kind words about gay people and atheists while admonishing those who would bury them in stones.
It’s one thing to walk humbly and call the Catholic Church to compassion for the poor.
It’s one thing to kiss a horribly disfigured man from whom most people would run in disgust.
But apparently, it’s quite another to start calling out growing economic inequality and naive faith in capitalism. By doing just that in his recent encyclical, Pope Francis has touched a third rail in conservative American politics. So begins the backlash.
Yet in the new round of skirmishing around Francis and his supposedly “liberal” views, U.S. political pundits and news media wags — both progressive and conservative — are missing the point about the pope and what he’s up to. Their mistake? They see his words and deeds through the lens of American politics and ideology. What Francis is doing is prophetic, not political, and we should recognize that he’s playing, to his credit, in a whole different arena.
COMMENTARY: A New Evangelical Engagement with Public Schools
Why would evangelical Christians want anything to do with public schools? Judging from decades of culture war rhetoric, these are bastions of secular humanism where God and his fearers are unwelcome. School prayers — not allowed. Teaching creationism — verboten. Abstinence-only sex education — few to be found. Sharing the gospel openly — forget about it.
Little wonder, then, that many evangelicals withhold their support, and kids. And through their support of conservative politicians and policies, evangelicals have been, broadly speaking, part of a political dynamic that has shrunk support, financial and otherwise, for public schools.
But there is a serious problem with this flight from public education. Evangelicals are realizing there are real human beings in those left-behind schools who are struggling to teach and learn against difficult odds, and the future well-being of those kids and our communities depends on their success. Shouldn’t Christians with hearts full of love and compassion be helping them?
Culture Wars: Blood on the Hands of All Sides
Thank you, Family Research Council, for now conceding what conservative groups have been loath to acknowledge in recent years: the truth that incendiary rhetoric indeed does contribute to a climate conducive to politically motivated violence.
Never has the moment seemed more opportune to forge consensus around an overdue new rule in the culture wars. Starting now, can we all please watch our words?
Most likely, you're aware of the incident that ignited this renewed debate about rhetoric and violence. On Aug. 15, a volunteer from a Washington, D.C., community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people walked into the headquarters of the Family Research Council, an influential conservative Christian organization, with a gun, a box of ammunition and a burning grudge against the group and its anti-gay politics and rhetoric, authorities said. The suspect, according to court documents, shot a security guard in the arm before he was subdued by that same guard and taken into custody.
Thank goodness no one was killed and that the security guard acted so heroically to prevent the incident from getting far worse. The group's fiercest opponents in the ongoing national arguments — organizations representing ardent secularists and gay-rights advocates — were quick to condemn the shooting, and rightly so. Conservatives have likewise been clear, for the most part, in their denunciations of violence committed against liberal figures over the years.
Here's where the plot gets thicker.