Exciting SBC Alternative Not Without Shortcomings

During the closing days of January, more than 15,000 Baptists from 30 different Baptist denominations gathered together at the Convention Center in Atlanta. Although all Baptist groups were invited to join in what was called The New Baptist Covenant, official representatives from the largest Baptist group in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention, were conspicuously absent. [...]

The Rev. Wright Effect; Rice on Race

We were never likely to get away with "transcending" race in this election as the early Obama campaign suggested to some. The demons of race in America simply run too deep and were bound to eventually rear their ugly heads. And so they did with the now infamous taped sound bites by Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the furious media response to them. I've said before that the constant replaying of the tapes has become a metaphor for the continual replaying of our old racial tapes in this country. [...]

Engaging with "A More Perfect Union"

Like many (I hope most) people, I was deeply moved and impressed by Senator Obama's speech on race. Almost as interesting as the speech itself have been the responses to it, which usually come in the form of opinions:the speech was good or bad or didn't go far enough or went too far, and so on.

Opinions often don't tell us much about the content of the speech - it's truth, beauty, or goodness - they tell us more about the perspective, bias, fears, hopes, and interests [...]

Healing the Wounds of Race

It has simmered throughout this campaign, and now race has exploded into the center of the media debate about the presidential race. Just when a black political leader is calling us all to a new level of responsibility, hope, and unity, the old and divisive rhetoric of race from both blacks and whites is rearing its ugly head to bring down the best chance we have had for years of finally moving forward.

And that is indeed the real issue here. A black man is closer to possibly becoming [...]

Good News for Southern Baptists

As the nation's second largest denomination (after the Roman Catholic Church), Southern Baptists have been given much, so their potential to do good is considerable - as is the danger of missing opportunities to do good. Sadly, until now, constituents and leaders of the 16-million-member Convention have tended to lag behind other large Christian communities when it comes to addressing the issue of environmental stewardship in general and climate change in particular. But that may be [...]

Is It Still a Wonderful Life?

For a very long time, I have believed that many of the old values that a new politics would seek to advance can be found in Frank Capra’s sturdy old Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Indeed I would make a large claim for this dear, schmaltzy movie: It tells politicians and religious leaders almost everything they need to know about how Americans think and feel about “moral values.” Watching it is a lot cheaper than paying for focus groups.

As I suspect many readers will know, It’s a Wonderful Life is the story of George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart. Bailey is a small-town guy desperate to leave and see the world. He never makes it. He stays in Bedford Falls and runs the family’s savings and loan while his brother wins glory in World War II. George marries his sweetheart and has a bunch of kids. Managing the S&L entails lending money to the town’s working people so they get to own their own tidy homes. In so doing, George faces down the town’s evil “big” banker, Mr. Potter, who doesn’t care a whit about working stiffs. At the end of the movie, George is close to killing himself when his bank is threatened with bankruptcy because his absent-minded uncle loses a deposit. His bank’s failure would give Mr. Potter a local monopoly.

Enter George’s guardian angel, Clarence. He shows George how much poorer the world would have been without him. George is convinced his life is wonderful. Call me a sap: I always get a tear in my eye at the closing scene, when George bursts into the Christmas celebration at his home, where all his neighbors have gathered to help him out of his jam.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2008
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