Faith

Tripp Hudgins' First Thoughts: Treasuring Sustainable Gratitude

Krumbine posited a question, a quandary about how we go on "when the honeymoon is over." How do we sustain love? What do we treasure and how do we sustain the affection and even the excitement? This morning's First Thoughts is about Gratitude. As usual, your video responses and comments are needed to flesh this thing out. I'm only starting a conversation.

Watch Tripp hash it out inside the blog ...

Manners and Morals

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer speaks to reporters in 2010. Photo via Getty Images.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer speaks to reporters in 2010. Photo via Getty Images.

When our parents teach us at a very young age to say the magic words — please and thank you — they give us our first lessons in morality. Manners are the first step to morality. Etiquette is the first gesture of ethics. Manner and morals derive from the mores of a society. Etiquette derives from the ethos and ethics of a society.

When Arizona Governor Jan Brewer wagged her finger in President Obama’s face upon his arrival in her state, she demonstrated not only a disregard for the Office of the President, but she simply displayed bad manners.

In the United States, we do not have a monarch that embodies the state in his or her person. In the United States, that person is the president of the United States. He and the vice president are the only two elected officials who are elected nationwide. Thus, the president is not only the head of the executive branch of government, but he is the representative of the entire country.

Governor Brewer’s demeanor toward the president was inappropriate. However, the deeper question is why would this woman think it is appropriate to put her finger in anyone’s face, president or not?

Occupy Breakfast

Scene from "Braveheart" is projected at the 2011 National Prayer Breakfast.

Scene from "Braveheart" is projected at the 2011 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Photo via Getty Images.

What does it mean to be a Christian when organizations such as The Family create a Jesus that does not hear the prayers of the poor? An organization that prays to the powerful in place of God? That participates in the global crucifixion of the poor by turning Jesus' cross into a social ladder for politicians to climb upwards, past the broken body of Christ? To cultivate relationships with dictators?

To cultivate the most powerful for political influence, to create an elite society for the elite, is that listening to the prayers of the people?

I ask you, was Jesus a political networker? Did he hobnob with the most powerful? Did he cultivate relationships with the dictators of his time, Herod and Pilate?

Our political class does not hear the prayers of the poor, they hear the "prayers" of corporate lobbyists who fund their campaigns. And they hear the prayers of Christians such as Doug Coe and The Family at the National Prayer Breakfast, because they offer connections, votes, and money.

Atheism 2.0

“You may not agree with religion, but at the end of the day, religions are so subtle, so complicated, so intelligent in many ways that they're not fit to be abandoned to the religious alone; they're for all of us.” — Alain de Botton in his "Atheism 2.0" TED Talk

Watch de Botton's "Atheism 2.0" talk inside the blog ...

Defining "Evangelical" and Other Unsolved Mysteries

Cathleen Falsani by Katrina Wittkamp.

Cathleen Falsani by Katrina Wittkamp.

As someone who self-identifies as an evangelical Christian, often I begin to feel like the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary, particularly in the midst of a heated presidential election cycle.

It’s Evangelical Week here on Discovery! Travel with us as our explorers track the elusive evangelical in its native habitats. Watch as evangelicals worship, work and play, all captured on film with the latest high definition technology. And follow our intrepid documentary team members as they bravely venture into the most dangerous of exotic evangelical locations — the voting booth!

I understand the interest in us evangelicals, I really do. The way much of the mainstream media covers our communities in the news can make us seem like a puzzling subspecies of the American population, not unlike the Rocky Mountain long-haired yeti. 

Are we really that difficult to comprehend?

In a word, yes.

Atheism: A Null Hypothesis on God

Atheist bumper stickers via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/xFqYIO

Atheist bumper stickers via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/xFqYIO

When I talk about myself in relationship to atheists I often sound like a post-civil-rights white person trying to minimize the gap between myself and another group.

I don’t have anything personally against atheists.

Some of my best friends are atheists.

I even like Ricky Gervais. He’s an atheist, you know.

All of this aside, I have tried in vain over the years to understand atheism. I’ve written about it several times, and whenever I do, I get a bucket of responses from atheists.

Gypsy History, Culture and Gospel Community

Gyspy church. Image courtesy of Jeff Winkowski.

Gyspy church. Image courtesy of Jeff Winkowski.

When I was a kid my summer job was to sell Kool-Aid to people at my mom’s rummage sales, which she and her girlfriends held several times each summer. 

I remember overhearing one of mom’s customers complaining, saying something about being able to “Jew down” at our neighbor’s yard sale. I wasn’t sure why but I knew at age six that this kind of talk was very wrong and it was very offensive. Yet I would have thought nothing about hearing someone say that they got “gypped” at a rummage sale, car dealership, or a candy store. In fact it was not for another twelve years before I learned that Gypsies were a race of people with over 1,000,000 people in the US, and 10,000,000 in Europe, making them Europe’s largest ethnic minority.

Robert Duvall: The Sojourners Interview

Robert Duvall at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival

Robert Duvall at the Toronto Film Festival, 2009. Photo by Josh Jensen via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/3920752942

Many cinephiles have a short list of virtuoso actors who are so graceful and true we'd watch them read a phone book. For me, the list includes Jeff Bridges, Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton, John Mahoney, Christopher Plummer and that great icon of American cinema, Oscar-winner Robert Duvall.

So when a publicist for Seven Days in Utopia contacted me recently about the Christian-themed film and asked whether I'd like to interview Duvall, I jumped at the chance. A loudhailer of a film, long on message and cliché but woefully short on subtlety or artistry (save for Duvall's charmingly folksy performance), Seven Days in Utopia — set in rural Texas, it's an exploration of redemption and golf — is not a flick I'm going to be urging you to run out and see or rent, unless you, like me, would watch Duvall read the proverbial White Pages.

In the film, which opened in theaters last fall and was released on DVD at the end of last year, Duval plays Johnny Crawford, a golf-pro-cum-cowboy who helps a young pro golfer, Luke Chisolm (Lucas Black), reclaim his game and his faith. Duvall's Johnny is like Yoda with a five iron and hearkens back to many of the archetypal characters the Oscar-winner (who turned 81 years old last week) has played throughout his storied career.

Duvall, who began his career on the New York stage in the early 1960s (as a struggling young actor at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, he roomed with fellow students Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman), has appeared in some of the most spiritually eloquent films of our time, often playing the role of ersatz sage and spiritual counselor. He is a workingman's working actor with about 150 performances in film and television productions under his belt buckle since his premiere in an episode of the Armstrong Circle Theater television series in 1959.

From "Boo Radley" in 1962's To Kill a Mockingbird and "Tom Hagen" in The Godfather (parts 1 and 2) or "Lieutenant Kilgore" in Apocalypse Now and "Bull Meechum" in The Great Santini, to "Mac Sledge" in Tender Mercies (for which he won the best actor Academy Award) and "Gus McCrae" in Lonesome Dove or "Wayne Cramer" in Crazy Heart and "Felix Bush" in Get Low, Duvall has created indelible characters who are authentic, honest and transcendent.

Mitt Romney and Moral Imagination

In 1884, Romney’s great-grandfather, Miles Parker Romney, fled to Mexico from Utah. Miles Parker Romney was a practicing polygamist and he wanted to protect his family from persecution. Mitt Romney’s father was born in Mexico, his family returned to the United States and took up residence in Michigan.

While Romney wouldn’t agree with his ancestor’s practice of polygamy, I am sure he understands his great-grandfather’s desire to do what he thought best for his family. Luckily for Miles Parker Romney, there was a country that allowed his family to settle and try and find a better life.

What is unfortunate is that candidate Romney doesn't seem to have that same kind of empathy for families today who are also in difficult positions.

Christians and Climate Change: What Would MLK Do?

The author visits with children in India, 2010. Image via Facebook.

The author visits with children in India, 2010. Image via Facebook.

The legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the reality of climate change are both victims of western culture’s remarkable capacity to accommodate and neutralize that which is most critical of it.

Early in the civil rights movement, Bayard Rustin said to King, “I have a feeling that the Lord had laid his hand upon you. And that is a dangerous, dangerous thing.” Similarly, the FBI once described Martin King as the “most dangerous man in America” – and yet, as Martin Luther King Jr day rolls around again in the United States, we are often presented with a figure that seems more like a cheerleader for the status quo rather than a prophetic challenge to it. Somehow, it seems we have made this dangerous figure very safe.

For instance, in a speech at the Pentagon commemorating King’s legacy, the Defense Department’s general counsel Jeh C. Johnson remarked, “I believe that if Dr King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack.”

But to claim that Dr King would be pro-war today is as likely as him being pro-segregation. After all, this is the Dr King who said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” And this is the same Dr King who said in his speech on 4 April 1967 (a speech that turned three quarters of American public opinion against him), “To me the relationship of the ministry [of Jesus Christ] to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I’m speaking against the war.” And this is the same Dr King who said, the night before he was murdered on 4 April 1968, “It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”

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