What Did Karl Marx Really Think About Religion?

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I took a Sociology of Religion final yesterday, but rather than the usual post-exam attempt to purge everything I learned over the semester, I’ve actually just been thinking about Karl Marx a whole lot. I’m sure this is something everybody does, right?

We all know about Marxism and its relationship with religion, or at least we think we do. Communism and socialism are all about atheism and the removal of religion. Billy Graham really rose to national fame by establishing the dualistic relationship between us God-fearing democratic Americans and the godless freedom-hating communists.  That quote from Marx about religion as the “opium of the masses” gets bandied about all the time. But, I think we mis-read him a bit.

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Bob’s Burgers, Clifford Geertz, and the Complexities of “Religion”

BobsBurgers-617_Aquaticism_09A_10_previewFor those who don’t know, I’ve spent this semester working as a TA for an undergraduate course in American religious history. The professor has been gracious enough to allow me to lecture on occasion, and today was one of those times. We spent last week talking about new trends in religion in the US, with the class reaching the conclusion that it was difficult to say what was and wasn’t a religion. In the back of my head during that class, I was thinking about an episode of a tv show I had seen a few weeks before, but I figured I wouldn’t be able to do anything with it. But, thanks to an unforeseen problem with the syllabus and a learning module that had failed to upload to the Blackboard site, we found ourselves needing new material. So, that’s how I came to spend this afternoon giving a lecture based on a cartoon and a renowned sociologist. Here’s what that looked like.

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Will You Be the Repairers of the Breach? A Lenten Reflection on Isaiah 58

Note: I’m a little late getting this posted, but I wanted to pass along my sermon for Ash Wednesday at Oakhurst Baptist Church here in Decatur, GA.

On Ash Wednesday, we pause here on the front end of Lent to reflect and repent and recognize where we have gone wrong and where we can still go right. And I think that moment of reflection necessitates a discussion of sin. Because, as progressive as I am, and as many central doctrines of the Christian faith as I’ve attempted to throw to the wayside, I’ve held onto sin, and I’ve done so for a reason. What I would like to do, and what I think most progressives seek to do is to broaden the conception of what sin is. In your bulletins, you saw a quote from James Cone, the renowned theologian, in which he describes sin as a state of falling short of what we ought to be as Christians. In his words, sin is “a condition of human existence in which we deny the essence of God’s liberating activity as revealed in Jesus Christ.”[i] It’s living according to one’s own interests instead of the interest of the greater community.

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“American Culture,” Burqa Bans, and the Need to Embrace the Other

screenshot-2016-12-08-09-06-26What I should’ve been doing this morning was preparing for the meeting I have in an hour, or working on my paper that’s due tomorrow, or studying for the Hebrew exam I have tomorrow. I did none of these things. Instead I decided to read the paper, and, as has happened before, I came across something which pissed me off. Maybe my problem is just that I read the Letters to the Editor, or maybe the problem is on the editors’ end over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, because some of these letters are just real winners. This particular letter, which expressed support for burqa bans as a means of promoting American identity and freedom, really just pushed one too many buttons, and I know the author of the letter is not the only person harboring these views (in America or abroad), so I’d like to address the flawed thinking behind it.

Mr. Watkins writes responding to opposition expressed by Soumaya Khalifa of the Islamic Speakers Bureau over a bill proposed in the GA legislature which would have banned the wearing of any face covering. The bill has already been withdrawn, but Mr. Watkins seems to think that was a mistake. Whereas Khalifa argued that the bill was “un-American,” Mr. Watkins disagrees, claiming that Khalifa simply “misunderstands American culture.” The wearing of a veil covering the face is “of a completely different cultural tradition,” because “Americans do not cover their face in public.” Americans “do not subjugate women.” American is “an open society.” Covering your face amounts to rejecting American culture and expresses a “desire to remain unassimilated.”

Where to start…

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The Walking Dead/Night of the Living Evangelicals

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Evangelicals actually denounced the GOP candidate this cycle, and yet the evangelical voting bloc elected Donald Trump. Trump had more support from white evangelicals than John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012. Trump garnered five times as much support from evangelicals as Clinton, with 78% of the white evangelical vote.

This isn’t an evangelical voting bloc, this is a zombie evangelical voting bloc. The heart and soul of the evangelical bloc, the actual evangelicals, have left. What remains is a group of angry white people who couch their anger in religious language about fighting for their faith. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission took a stand and called out Trump as antithetical to Christian values. Trump still won evangelicals by a commanding margin.

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