Last week, I told my colleagues that I never struggle to write these introductions. As you can predict, that meant this week’s introduction became extremely hard to write — as I deserve. The job of this introduction is to briefly whet your appetite, give you some connecting thread for our recommended stories, and maybe say something profound. I'm learning, however, that not every story needs a moral.
We've long argued that budgets — including our federal budgets — are moral documents. As Christians, we see this as a principle deeply rooted in scripture, including Luke's gospel, which explains that the two greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbors (Luke 10:27). In that same passage, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, a story about how our love for God and neighbor will be tested when our neighbors need us the most.
As a post-evangelical, I have no interest in rehabilitating Calvin’s ideas about double predestination or his justification for the execution of Michael Servetus. Nonetheless, I’m unwilling to cast Calvin and his theological legacy in exclusively negative terms; I believe that confronting racial injustice today actually requires recuperating Calvin’s infamous doctrine of “total depravity,” or a spiritual condition staining humanity from birth. Doing so can help us better understand why both progressive and reactionary heirs to Calvinist thought fall short — and how we might work to transform our fallen world instead.
“Trying to make our lives meaningful all the time is so stupid,” says Kate Bowler. “We can’t make every minute into a moment. Sometimes you just have to pay bills and show up for your friend and listen to her talk again about whether she should dump her boyfriend — and she should — and be in a faculty meeting and be in traffic.”
Democrats had hoped to include a provision in President Joe Biden’s proposed $3.5 trillion budget that would have given citizenship to millions, including Dreamer immigrants, brought to the United States as children, who are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. But on Sept. 19, Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough — a nonpartisan, unelected staff member who advises lawmakers about what is acceptable under the chamber's rules and precedents — advised against adding a provision for citizenship in the budget reconciliation process.
While living on a farm in Georgia, I signed up to take care of the goats. It was the only farm chore that allowed me to sleep in. The duties were odd and specific: I had to check their butts for signs of dysentery and their eyes — which, like sheep, can see in every direction at the same time — for infection. For weeks, I fed one goat a whole head of molasses-soaked garlic every day to cure her of mastitis. But mainly, I just counted them. Which is harder to do than you might imagine.
As a pastor I don’t ask, in this holy space of in between, when death is drawing near, theological questions about personhood or ensoulment. Neither do medical definitions of what marks life’s margins — heartbeats, breath, or brain function — occupy my concern. These are the gray edges of life.
I have always been fascinated by heists. Maybe it was a youthful desire to sneak out and trick my parents (a desire that led me to failure every single time). Maybe is was the bravado and beauty of Neal Caffrey (played by Matt Bomer) on White Collar. Whatever it was, it was a fascination I put to rest as I matured to value integrity and simplicity.
A biopic about Tammy Faye Messner, better known as Tammy Faye Bakker, is ripe for caricature. That face, covered with a rainbow of lipstick, eyeliner, and mascara. That voice, with its exaggerated Upper Midwest accent. Those televangelism broadcasts, where puppet shows and hymns were followed by direct pleas for money from Tammy Faye and her first husband, Jim Bakker. She’s an easy figure to ridicule. But The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a new biopic that shares its name with Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s 2000 documentary, blessedly avoids this trap.
Religious leaders should stop saying things like, “We must be good stewards of Creation” or “Our faith teaches us to protect the Earth” and instead getting comfortable saying things like: “ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, and other oil and gas companies are systematically destroying the planet — and financial giants like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, BlackRock, and Vanguard are bankrolling the destruction.”