The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Religious Freedom vs, Religious Privilege (or, Franklin vs. Penn)

    The version of "religious liberty" currently promoted by the American right, best exemplified by the Hobby Lobby decision and the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act," is not only a recipe for future religious disputes and persecution. It represents an approach to religious freedom that has already created trouble. It was tried and abandoned so early in the American Experiment that most of us don't learn it in school.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Religious Liberty vs. Hobby Lobby

    Let's start with one thing. It is not acceptable for my boss to make my religious decisions. It is not acceptable for your boss to make your religious decisions, or for somebody else's boss to make religious decisions for them. Your religious freedom is yours, alone. It does not belong to your employer, to your landlord, or to anybody else. The deepest stupidity of the inane Hobby Lobby decision is that it uses religious freedom to let your boss take away your religious freedom. That is not acceptable. And it is not sustainable.

    Ramona's picture

    Will the Real God Please Stand Up

    I don't know God personally, of course, but it's a good bet He isn't looking kindly upon His follower, Tristan Emmanuel, who was out there defending His Good Name by calling for the flogging or hanging of a comedian (a comedian) because this "pugnacious degenerate" made some jokes about God and the proven nature of His wrath. (Proven, I should mention, because the Old Testament is full of stories about a God who is just scary angry. It's all in there.)

    Ramona's picture

    The Story: Pentecostal Snake Handler refuses help and dies. My Reaction: Surprising, even to Me


    For days now, since I heard about the death of Jamie Coots, the snake-handling preacher from Middlesboro, Kentucky, I've been struggling with my own thoughts about it.  There is no reason in the world why I should be involved in any of it.  I didn't know him.  I had never before heard of his church.  And I didn't know before this weekend, when I read about his death, that he had been the star of a National Geographic Channel series called "Snake Salvation".

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Your Top Ten Anti-Christian Acts of 2013

    The title of this post comes from the subject line of an email that I received from Dr. Gary L. Cass, head of the "Christian Anti-Defamation Commission." If you read on, you'll notice that none of the "top ten anti-Christian acts of 2013" represent actual discrimination against Christians. Most of them are about Christians' "right" to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Sunrise and Sunset

    When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, Amy Winehouse was still alive and the launch of Apple's first iPad was a month away.  We are talking ancient history, here.  Yet, as I write this, we are less than 12 hours away from a government shutdown caused by a budget impasse caused by Republican insistence that the law now known as Obamacare be delayed and then defunded.  The Republican struggle to unpass the ACA has not ceased since it became law.  Along the way the name "Obamacare" changed from a term of derision to one that the President now owns.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Tribal Knowledge

    Fox News's hostile interview with Reza Aslan has lit up the internet. (See Michael Maiello and Historiann for two of the smarter takes.) Obviously, interviewer Lauren Green's insistence that something must be very wrong for a Muslim to write a book about Jesus, and that such a book must be wrong, is a problem.

    Ramona's picture

    Forcing Religion in Public Schools is not Frowned on in Mississippi. I'm Shocked.


    So one day somebody at Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, Mississippi came up with the idea to hold a series of mandatory Christian assemblies, where students would be required to watch a Christian video and listen to ministers (and fellow students) from the Pinelake Baptist Church preach to them about the importance of being a Christian. 

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Justice Roberts's Gay Marriage (and Mine)

    The Supreme Court spent Holy Week (or, as Jesus would call it, Passover) debating gay marriage, which Chief Justice John Roberts clearly opposes. Religious opponents of gay marriage like to argue that the purpose of marriage is to beget children, so that only heterosexual marriages are "real," because only biological fertility makes a marriage "real." By this standard John Roberts's own marriage is not real, and neither is mine. I do not believe that, and neither should he.

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Islam and Intolerance

    There is a touch of hypocrisy in Mitt Romney's strident defense of free speech. It is hard to imagine that "freedom of speech" would be the first words out of his mouth if Jesus Christ were the target of ridicule instead of Muhammad.

    Still, though Romney and his supporters would surely bristle at an offensive caricature of Jesus, the ambassadors of Muslim nations have nothing to fear from mobs of Christian fanatics. The United States has its fair share of religious zealots, but they are not prone to rioting and violence when their sacred symbols are profaned.

    Why is that? Why are the Middle East and Indian subcontinent so much more more susceptible to religious explosions of mob violence than Western countries?

    DF's picture

    Debate The Controversy!

    As we all know, there are two - and only two - sides to every story.  It's an article of faith in contemporary American political life.  He said one thing, she said another.  We must, of course, exhibit both sides in order to get a fair and balanced view of any issue.  After all, the truth will invariably be found somewhere in the middle.

    Ramona's picture

    Hatred in a Lovely Church

     As I watched that hideous video showing Pastor Charles Worley's recent headline-grabbing rants about penning gays and lesbians inside miles-long electrified corrals until they die, I couldn't help but notice his surroundings. (Okay, go and watch it if you haven't seen it.  But then come back and we'll talk.)

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    A Cardinal's Regret

    In 1975, the Catholic Church of Ireland sent Father Sean Brady to interview two teenage boys who had been abused by their priest, Brendan Smyth. Brady recorded their harrowing testimony and submitted it to his superiors, who transferred Smyth to a different parish, again and again. Twenty years later, Smyth was finally imprisoned after being convicted on 153 counts of child abuse in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

    Meanwhile, Father Sean Brady moved up the Church hierarchy. He is now Cardinal Sean Brady.

    After the BBC recently reported his role in Smyth's investigation, Brady publicly expressed regret. He regrets that his superiors dealt inappropriately with Smyth. He regrets that the Church had no "guidelines" for handling pedophilia by priests. He regrets that he and others did not understand the "full impact of abuse" on the lives of children.

    But for his own role in abetting child abuse, Cardinal Brady's regret is rather meager. He explained that he was nothing more than a note-taker without any authority to act. As to why he remained silent when his superiors transferred Smyth, he reluctantly conceded, "I also accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the Church."

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Supply-Side Jesus Is a Lie

    NPR broadcast this piece, on American Christians' disagreement over Christianity's economic teachings, on Morning Edition today. Unsurprisingly, left-leaning Christians like me feel Jesus taught a basically leftist approach to social welfare issues; we feel that when Jesus is talking about feeding the poor and the hungry, comforting prisoners, and helping the homeless, that he means exactly what he says.

    Ramona's picture

    No Preacher Presidency this year. Santorum is out.

    The big news yesterday was that Rick Santorum has suspended his presidential campaign.  After great deliberation, spurred on by the realization that he didn't have a chance at it anyway, he has cancelled his campaign plans and most of his public appearances.  As with every concession speech, Santorum says he's not giving up the fight.  There's more to come. The fight for freedom, except for women, children, the poor, the jobless and the heathens, goes on.

    Yesterday, on the same day he stepped down from the podium, he stepped up to the pulpit for a scheduled appearance with James Dobson at his latest "Focus on the Family" smack-down.  I'm not surprised.  Just as George W. Bush's wishful true calling wasn't really as President of the United States but as baseball commissioner, Rick Santorum's true calling is as Grand Fundamental Firekeeper.

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    No More Bible Stories

    I sat quietly several rows back, playing the respectful atheist. My young cousin blushed and simpered on the bema--the wide, raised platform at the front synagogue. This was her day.

    The rabbi called out my mother's name in Hebrew. She rose from her seat beside mine and ascended to the bema. Two more honored relatives took their places at either side of a curtained cabinet embedded in the wall--the Holy Ark of the Torah. As they drew back the curtains, the congregation rose and began to chant reverently in Hebrew. Few of us understood the words. Translated to English, they plead, "Arise, Lord! May your enemies be scattered, may your foes be put to flight.'"

    The rabbi then reached into the Ark and withdrew the sacred Torah, two massive scrolls of parchment trussed in velvet and silver. He held it up lovingly like a trophy or the urned remains of some revered ancestor.

    "One is our God, great is our Lord, holy is his name," sang the congregation in Hebrew. Then the rabbi placed the Torah gently into my mother's arms. As she paraded it slowly around the room, the congregants reached out to touch it with prayer books or pieces of cloth--never bare hands--and then reverently kissed the item that had come in contact with the holy Torah.

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Quietly Celebrating Death

    Several weeks ago, I met a man with a Jewish wife. Though he was not religious himself, they were raising their young daughter to be Jewish. A year ago, he went with his family to a children's service for the festival of Purim at an Orthodox synagogue in Mexico. The rabbi there spoke briefly to the children about the events that Purim celebrates. "Many years ago in Persia," he gruffly explained, "They tried to kill the Jews. But we killed all of them instead. Ha ha!"
    This is not exactly the Purim story that most Jewish children learn in the U.S. Most Sunday school teachers focus on the brave, beautiful Queen Esther and her clever cousin Mordechai as they outwit an evil official named Haman and foil his plot to slaughter the Jews of Persia.
    At the end of the story, the children do learn that Haman hangs for his crimes. Some teachers might mention that Haman's ten sons hang as well. Few relate the last part of the story--how the Jews take up arms and slaughter some 75,000 of their Persian enemies.
    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Prime Time Persecution

    Anyone on television talking about how they're being persecuted for their religion is not being persecuted. How do I know this?

    Because they are on television.

    Ramona's picture

    Women of GOP Land: What do you see in those men?


    Hello, women of the Republican Party:  Democratic female of the liberal persuasion here.  I know it looks like we couldn't be any farther apart when it comes to ideology, but I know us.  I know when it comes to the big issues--our futures and the well-being of the ones we love--we're sisters under the skin.


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