Against the Powers

October 31, 2013

A long-overdue return to the topic of this particular conference I attended in 2009. Previous entry here. The plenary sessions left me with a lot to chew on, and I may as well acknowledge that I’m still trying to take it all in. There were three speakers: Walter Wink, Stanley Hauerwas, and Marva Dawn. Read the rest of this entry »


The blogger Jeremy Hooper has posted one of the most fascinating documents I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, through all my reading related to the collision of gay rights activism and conservative Christian activism. A man changed his mind. Wow. It does happen, people. The man is named Louis Marinelli, and for a while he had a very close relationship with the organization NOM, which (in spite of its acronym) is not about the ravenous consumption of yummy food but instead is attempting to agitate and lobby against the institutionalization of same-sex marriage. Marinelli went from being an enthusiastic supporter to a repentant sinner asking for grace. Not to misrepresent things: the man is not a Christian. (More fascinating still, he is not exactly a supporter of the set of sexual choices often called “homosexuality.”) This is not a man who has switched camps. He just recognizes that there is a truth external to our biases and leanings and sometimes a day of reckoning comes when you have to adjust your point of view in accordance with that truth. We who profess faith should all have such a spiritual experience!

Hooper emailed him, asking: “On record, I’d ask you to go through the list of comments you have written/ Tweeted/ blogged/ Facebooked and repudiate any/all that you now see were objectionable.” Marinelli’s response is below. Read the rest of this entry »

William Stringfellow

July 16, 2010

To retrace my path to Stringfellow is to try to follow a rather tangled thread (or string).

Alas, I have completely forgotten how I came to take an interest in Stanley Hauerwas, who really helped me out when he wrote, “I am still mad as hell at Christians, which certainly includes myself, for making the practice of the Christian faith so uninteresting.” Read the rest of this entry »

the Tug of War Tour

February 19, 2010

When I was teaching high school, there were one or two times when I said to myself, “OK, this gig is rough, but I do get to rub shoulders with young genius. Take this kid here – I should keep an eye on this kid, because someday her name will be in lights and for once I’ll be ahead of the zeitgeist.” Well, it wasn’t so much a matter of discovery, of painstakingly searching out the diamond in the rough, but of paying some very basic attention. When the kid came along, it really did not require subtle perceptions on my part to know she was going to make a splash. Her name was Tahani Salah, and she was a politically-vibrant, down-to-earth Palestinian-American Muslim slam poet. She had the way with words, but she also had the winsome combination of a profound vulnerability with an urban toughness, and for a WASPy Masshole from Naw-wood like myself, the combination of the hijab and the Brooklyn accent was irresistibly exotic.

Anyway, keeping her on my radar really paid off the other night, when I visited the Nuyorican Poets Cafe for the first time, trudging through LES snow, to catch Tahani in the Tug of War Tour. Read the rest of this entry »

beg for help

April 21, 2009

Today I was listening to the Brian Lehrer show, and heard a brief, throwaway comment that seemed to me to be terribly revealing.

Food stamps were the topic. For his last question, Lehrer asked Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, “Is one of the biggest hurdles… this stigma that won’t allow somebody to even allow themself to get on food stamps?”

Berg said, “Absolutely. New Yorkers are more willing to beg for help from their neighbors than to get help from their rich Uncle Sam, and that is absolutely the reverse of how it should be.”

I’m not trying to bust on Berg, who was told. “You’ve only got 20 seconds!” – it would be shocking if I could come up with anything intelligent to say about anything in 20 seconds – but it’s precisely the offhandedness of the comment that makes me marvel. How can it be that clear to him that a government safety net is not merely necessary (something I would not dispute) but preferable? I would just like to ask him: is it really better to rely on the government rather than your neighbors?

stephenson on wink

March 15, 2009

I’m grateful to Wikipedia for directing me to this fascinating mention of the theologian Walter Wink by the novelist Neal Stephenson (who, as the author of Anathem, is an imposing figure in my mind right now); it’s an example of cross-fertilization between my two geekdoms, so I’m pleased. Read the rest of this entry »

a prayer for your enemy

February 17, 2009

“You can’t work together with people totally opposed to what you are.”

The President-elect received many comments along these lines from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists repulsed by his selection of Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. In response, Obama reminded everyone of his campaign promises to foster dialogue across party and ideological lines.

For the Episcopalian bishop whose ordination as an openly gay man precipitated a rupture in the Anglican communion, this was not satisfactory. “I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table,” said Bishop Gene Robinson, “but we’re not talking about a discussion; we’re talking about putting someone front and center at what will be the most watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation. And the God that he’s praying to is not the God I know.”*

Ouch. Read the rest of this entry »