david and goliath

Jim Crow Again: Lessons for Fighting this Giant

Photo via sakhorn / Shutterstock.com

Photo via sakhorn / Shutterstock.com

One in thirty-one. That’s how many Americans are in in jail, in prison, on probation, or on parole. In the U.S., our incarceration rate is 10 times higher than that of other countries while our actual crime rate is lower than those same countries. Citing a 600% increase in the prison population since the 1960’s, with no correlating increase in crime, Michelle Alexander has called mass incarceration “the new Jim Crow.” When people of color represent 30% of the U.S. population, but 60% of those incarcerated, we are in league with David, staring at a towering giant, armed with a prayer and a handful of stones.

While the work before us is daunting, people of faith are called to fight giants. The Spirit who we remember in Pentecost, the Spirit who set the world on fire, has trusted us with this work. We are giant slayers, by God’s grace. For this reason, it is fitting that we revisit the story of the first giant slayer, a young boy who tended sheep and fought off bears and lions.

Survey Finds British Children and Adults Are Biblically Illiterate

A man reading the Bible in church. Photo courtesy of Magdalena Kucova via Shutterstock

Three out of 10 British children have next to no understanding of the Bible and their parents aren’t that knowledgeable, either.

survey released Friday by the Bible Society, founded in 1804 to spread knowledge about the Scriptures, said most boys and girls aged 8 to 15 years old did not know that Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, or Jesus’ birth were rooted in the Bible.

More than a third of the 800 children surveyed did not know that David and Goliath and the story of the Good Samaritan were Bible tales.

Malcolm Gladwell on His Return to Faith While Writing 'David and Goliath'

Malcolm Gladwell speaks at PopTech! 2008 conference. Photo via RNS/courtesy Kris Krüg via Wikimedia Commons

Author Malcolm Gladwell may not be known for writing on religion. His New York Times best-selling books “The Tipping Point,” “Outliers,” “Blink” and “What the Dog Saw” deal with the unexpected twists in social science research. But his newest book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” also includes underlying faith-related themes, and not just in the title.

Gladwell said that while researching the book, he began rediscovering his own faith after having drifted away. Here, he speaks with RNS about his Mennonite family, how Jesus perfectly illustrates the point in his new book and how Gladwell’s return to faith changed the way he wrote the book. 

No Room at the Inn: Women's Facility Loses Battle With Fortune 500 Company

Protest in support of the Anna Louise Inn

Protest in support of the Anna Louise Inn

It’s a hard truth that, in the real world, Goliath sometimes beats David.

In the July issue of Sojourners, I wrote about the battle to save the Anna Louise Inn and how Cincinnati’s faith community has come together for the fight. Run by Cincinnati Union Bethel, a small non-profit, the Inn has provided safe and affordable housing for women in the city for 104 years and is one of Cincinnati’s most revered institutions.

But last Monday, Cincinnati Union Bethel announced it was selling the Anna Louise Inn to Western and & Southern Financial Group after a two-year legal battle.

“The needed resources, time and energy to this litigation has diverted focus from our other successful programs,” they wrote on their website. “This settlement and purchase agreement allow us to dedicate ourselves to our mission of serving women and children.”

Cincinnati Union Bethel owns both the Inn and the land on which it sits, but Western & Southern – a Fortune 500 company located across the street – wanted the property to build high-end real estate. So, when Cincinnati Union Bethel received $13 million in federal tax credits to renovate the Inn, Western & Southern sued them and the city of Cincinnati.

'The Bible' Series: An Invitation to 'Change the World' (VIDEO)

The Burning Bush episode of 'The Bible,' series, The History Channel

The Burning Bush episode of 'The Bible,' series, The History Channel

The Bible. Just the phrase sends messages, signals, and feelings to our hearts and minds, and around the world. It’s the best-selling book in human history, and one that the majority of humanity (including me), believes to have been inspired by God, with myriad interpretations of what that means.

I grew up on Bible stories, some of the best stories in human and divine history. We learned them as kids, were amazed at the images and lessons, and they were ingrained into our thinking and acting. So I watched with great delight as my sons, Luke and Jack, saw the first episode of “The Bible,” a History Channel special series that began this past Sunday and runs the five weeks through Easter. Film and television personalities Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are behind this, with a legion of others. They expect it to eventually be seen by 1 billion people.

The first Sunday show was a very dramatic depiction of the creation story, Noah’s Ark, Abraham’s call to come out to a new land, the birth of Ishmael and Isaac, the almost sacrifice of Isaac, Hebrew slavery in Egypt, Moses' call at the burning bush, and the Exodus through the Red Sea — all in two hours! I loved watching my 9-year-old Jack watch the stories with such excitement. “I know this story!” he would say and tell us what was about to happen. “I don’t know this one,” he would then comment, and we would discuss it. We had a conversation about the scary sacrifice of Isaac before bedtime, trying to figure that one out. I told him I couldn’t have been as obedient as Abraham was.

David’s Sling: Israel, Hezbollah, and the Path to Peace

Photo: David and Goliath image, © Malgorzata Kistryn / Shutterstock.com

Photo: David and Goliath image, © Malgorzata Kistryn / Shutterstock.com

Israel reported last week that it successfully tested its latest missile defense system. Known as “David’s Sling,” it is designed to shoot down midrange missiles from Hezbollah rockets originating from Lebanon.

I don’t want to get bogged down in a discussion about Israel’s right to defend itself. What I want to do is explore the biblical reference to “David’s Sling” and what it might mean for us. The name is an obvious allusion to the story of David’s victory over Goliath. It’s a favorite biblical story for many Sunday school teachers, but a conundrum for those teachers who take mimetic theory seriously. Mimetic theory claims that violence belongs to humans, not to God. It also states that the Bible progressively reveals this message about violence to us. And yet, the connection between God and violence permeates the Bible, with God apparently sanctioning violence against God’s enemies. 

So we rightly ask, “What about all the violence in the Bible?”

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