The New Yorker

'Cheap Grace' and Climate Change

Farm landscape, dvoevnore /

Farm landscape, dvoevnore /

Novelist Jonathan Franzen was getting hammered earlier this month. He recently wrote a piece delving into his ornithological passion in The New Yorker entitled “Carbon Capture: Has climate change made it harder for people to care about conservation?”

The Audubon Society has accused him of “extreme intellectual dishonesty,”Grist has labeled him “confused,” and Think Progress held nothing back and called his recent article “bird brained.” (My favorite so far might be the Washington Post saying that the Audubon has “flipped Franzen the bird.”)

Some of this criticism, in my opinion, is justified. Franzen set up an option between treating the planet with “disfiguring aggression” to try and mitigate climate change related emissions or “with palliation and sympathy” since the battle has already been lost. This choice, as the pieces above point out, is a false one.

Unfortunately, those controversial statements have covered over what I found to be the core argument of the article, and his most compelling case.

Pope Francis Brings Religion to the Newsstand

The New Yorker cover art. Photo courtesy The New Yorker website. Via RNS

To paraphrase Shakespeare’s musing on a name, “What’s in a cover?”

In the past week, we’ve seen Pope Francis on the cover of Time as the magazine’s “2013 Person of the Year,” followed by The New Yorker’s whimsical cover of the pope as a snow angel. Now, most improbably, he’s on the cover of The Advocate, the magazine for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people, that put the message “NO H8″ (No hate) on his cheek. What’s next? Sports IllustratedJack and Jill?

If you ever wanted to show that someone reaches across all segments of society, this flurry of magazine covers may be it.

Farrakhan Waxes Anti-Semitic (Again) at NOI's "Saviors' Day" Celebration

Farrakhan speaking in Chicago, 2008. Photo via Getty Images.

Farrakhan speaking in Chicago, 2008. Photo via Getty Images.

Jewish leaders on Monday denounced Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan after he delivered a four-hour speech on Sunday that was laced with anti-Semitic statements about Jewish control of the media. 

Speaking to thousands of supporters during the 82nd annual Saviors' Day celebration in Chicago, Farrakhan accused "Zionists" of trying to push America into war with Iran and dubbed Al-Jazeera, the Dubai-based news channel, as "Al Jew-zeera."

"I'm not anti-Semitic, I'm just telling the truth," Farrakhan asserted, alleging that Jews were responsible for a controversial 2008 cover of The New Yorker that depicted President Obama in Muslim garb.

The Morning News: Monday Nov. 21, 2011

Obama At Church: The Tricky, Exciting, Distracting Business Of Worshipping With A President. OpEd: Should A President Be Intelligent? Archbishop Rowan Williams Backs Revolt Against Coalition's Welfare Cuts. Taking It To The Streets. Are Christians To Blame For White House Shooter Linking Obama, Antichrist? Voices Of The Near Poor. What Occupy Harvard Should Tell Liberal Elite Parents On Thanksgiving. Democrats To Protest Immigration Crackdowns. And Hispanic Churches Fight Alabama Crackdown On Immigration.

What is an Evangelical, anyway?

evangelicals-cartoonMost of my friends knew evangelicalism only through the big, bellicose voices of TV preachers and religio-political activists such as Pat Robertson, the late Jerry Falwell and James Dobson. Not surprisingly, my friends hadn't experienced an evangelicalism that sounded particularly loving, accepting or open-minded.

After eschewing the descriptor because I hadn't wanted to be associated with a faith tradition known more for harsh judgmentalism and fearmongering than the revolutionary love and freedom that Jesus taught, I began publicly referring to myself again as an evangelical. By speaking up, I hoped I might help reclaim "evangelical" for what it is supposed to mean.

The Problem With Christian Labels

A week or two after the 2004 election, I was dining with some friends in New York when the conversation turned to religion and politics -- the two things that you're never supposed to discuss in polite company.

George W. Bush had just been re-elected with the help of what was described in the media as "evangelical voters." And knowing that I am an evangelical Christian, my friends were terribly curious.

"What, exactly, is an evangelical?" one gentleman asked, as if he were inquiring about my time living among the lowland gorillas of Cameroon.

I suddenly found myself as cultural translator for the evangelical mind.

"As I understand it," I began, "what 'evangelical' really means is that a person believes in Jesus Christ, has a personal relationship with him and because of that relationship feels compelled to share their experience of God's love with other people. "How they choose to share that 'good news' with others is entirely up to the individual. Beyond that, the rest is details and style."