“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 The bill has already been withdrawn, but Mr.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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Book Review: Reimagining Zion

51eVSlnaslL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The book I’m looking at today is Reimagining Zion: A History of the Alliance of Baptists, by Andrew Gardner. This is the first book-length history of the Alliance of Baptists, and represents the fulfillment of a promise to Alan Neely made prior to his death by Mahan Siler that a history of the group would be completed.

The book is divided into three sections: Leaving Zion, Reimagining Zion, and Living Zion. Leaving Zion (Pt. 1) provides a broad historical overview of the Alliance of Baptists. This is done by first placing the Alliance within the context of Baptist history through an examination of the earliest Baptist movements. Particular emphasis is placed on the values and characteristics of those groups, whose identity as religious dissenters with a passion for liberty was central to the formation of the Alliance. The overview then turns to an examination of the Southern Baptist Convention and the string of controversies leading to the eventual decision to form the Southern Baptist Alliance in 1987. The discussion next focuses on the history of the Alliance since its formation and into the present day. Reimagining Zion (Pt. 2), presents a more in-depth look at the work and ministry of the Alliance since its founding. This is done through first examining the drafting of the Alliance Covenant. The seven chapters which follow each focus on a specific tenet addressed in the Covenant and the ways in which the Alliance has worked to embody these principles as an organization through descriptions of the group’s efforts in ecumenism, education, gender and sexual equality, social justice, religious liberty, and missions, to name a few. Finally, Living Zion (Pt. 3) turns to an ethnographic analysis of eight Alliance churches. Each chapter in this section presents a brief history of the church being addressed, a description of the congregational makeup and worship space, and an account of the worship experience at that church. This analysis, while brief, provides insight into the diverse congregational makeup of the Alliance.

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New Post at Baptist News Global: “The G.O.P. Created Donald Trump”

I had a new post up on BNG (who just completely overhauled their site, go check it out, it looks great) and wanted to pass it along. It’s particularly appropriate today as everyone heads to the polls for Super Tuesday. You can find the original here.

“The G.O.P. Created Donald Trump”

Thus read the headline in the New York Times opinion piece bemoaning the rise of the current Republican frontrunner for the presidency. The article was spot-on to an extent, with its discussion of Donald Trump’s success coming in part as a result of Nixon’s Southern Strategem.

The author is not alone in blaming the Republican establishment for Trump’s rise. However, I think it’s possible to be more specific in who helped foster our current state of Trumpism. The G.O.P. may have carved out the niche for Trump, but evangelicals provided the force to thrust him into his current position as a legitimate candidate. Continue reading “New Post at Baptist News Global: “The G.O.P. Created Donald Trump””

Heretics On A Quest For Truth

The_Burning_of_Master_John_RogersI’d like to take a few moments to talk to you about everyone’s favorite subject: heresy. It’s not a term we hear all that often anymore, but the meaning behind it still appears every once in a while. Christians in America today seem to spend half their time debating who’s right and who’s heretical. As Baptists, the idea of heresy should seem completely foreign to us. To accuse someone of heresy would be utterly hypocritical on our parts. Continue reading “Heretics On A Quest For Truth”

“Religion” and Christianity

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The latter part of James 1 from Codex Sinaiticus

So, I’ve got a question for you: What is religion? I know that, for most of you, it probably doesn’t seem to be a hard question at all, you have a pretty good idea of what you think it means. As someone who just completed a degree in Religious Studies at Wake Forest, I can tell you that the only thing I personally know for certain about “religion” is that I have no idea what the word actually means (hence the quotes you’re going to see around the word through most of this discussion).

You see, here’s the thing that most people don’t really think about: the concept of “religion” as we know and love it is a construct. Some Christians balk at this, saying, “But wait, ‘religion’ is right there in the Bible! Look at James!” And they’re right, James 1.27 says it pretty clearly, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Says it right there, religion. Or, well, the NRSV, and most other English translations, say it right there. What’s interesting, well, to me at least, is to look at the Greek text behind this.
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