Denying and Welcoming the End: The Evangelical Duplicity Print E-mail

SeptCOVER-web(The Truth Seeker September 2015)

Snowballs from Hell /

All things Christian, all things American, reside with the Oklahoman. A few years ago, a local reporter from Moore, Oklahoma, who was hooked in, via his affiliate, to CNN, was doing live interviews in the aftermath of a May tornado. He was broadcasting at the end of a mile-wide, seventeen-mile-long swath of destruction, which included the remains of two grade schools that were rebuilt on the same spot after previous deadly twisters. Beside him was a wary-eyed, ball-capped farmer or trucker, randomly culled, no doubt, who would express the horror of an EF5 tornado that had just splintered his community on winds of 210 mph.

“How awesome it is,” the breathless man said, “to witness what God’s wrath can bring!” The reporter did not ask if that wrath was aimed at the seven children who died that morning in one of two schools whose concrete-block walls lacked reinforced steel. No. This was not a social or a political visit. It was Armageddon in the Heartland. Or a reminder to the forgetful that the end times were upon us. In his immediate exclamation, I got the philosophy of climate-change belief and disbelief: humankind didn’t create this murderous storm, God did. And He meant it.

Hobby Lobby, Steve Green, & the New Bible Empire Print E-mail

FI AM cover copy(Free Inquiry April/May 2015)

1 /

Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and son of its founder and CEO, David Green, loves to tell the story of the company’s brush with financial ruin and salvation via divine intervention. David founded the craft-supply store in 1972, at first a modest Oklahoma City picture-frame business. By 1985, Hobby Lobby had expanded to several more area stores and become the go-to supplier of gewgaws for home decorators and holiday artists.

It seems that the company erred in its enthusiasm, growing too big too fast. Soon it was slouching toward bankruptcy. As journalist Brian Solomon recounted in Forbes, David Green had “overleveraged the business and diluted the inventory with off-brand, expensive products like luggage, ceiling fans and gourmet foods.” David, an evangelical Christian, blamed himself for the sin of entrepreneurial pride.

Having None of It: Parenting Without Religion Print E-mail

Descent of the Modernists E. J. Pace Christian Cartoons 1922(Written February 2015)

The book the mother is showing me is Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories. It’s an illustrated first Bible, ages 4 to 8, which, according to the back cover, the author “lovingly brings to life.” She starts paging and stops, her nearly three-year-old son beside her, pounding Play-Doh. “OK, God creates the world, but then”—flipping pages and quoting text—“‘Adam and Eve disobey God,’ and ‘Cain kills Abel,’ and ‘God unleashes a flood’ and kills everyone but Noah and the family. Huh?” She pauses, huffs, and glances at her apartment’s mess—toy-strewn like Christmas morning. “I’m not going to read this to Justin. He’ll be terrorized.”

Thus begins, in this thirty-two-year-old Mom, as it does in millions of other secular parents, the once unorthodox, rhetorical questions. Why should my child know about a God who sanctions such continual violence? Why expose anyone to a religion I don’t believe in? Such queries are being asked and answered by millions of millennials—Pew Research, as of May 2015, shows 35 percent are Nones—who refuse to indoctrinate their children into any faith.

The Sincerely Held Religious Belief Print E-mail

boy with bible(New English Review November 15, 2014)


The Hobby Lobby decision, written by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Alito and passed by a 5-4 ruling in June, continues to reverberate in American culture like a car alarm that won’t shut off. As most everyone knows, the Court had to decide whether “three closely held corporations [which] provide health-insurance coverage for methods of contraception . . . violate the sincerely held religious belief [italics added] of the companies’ owners.” Contraception here refers to four of twenty methods approved by the FDA, intrauterine devices or pills that supposedly prevent a fertilized egg from implantation in a woman’s womb, which is defined as pregnancy. To prevent such implantation of a viable embryo is considered by some to be abortion. More important, religious fundamentalists say that once sperm meets egg, an ensouled human life has begun. Ending it, pre- or post-implantation, is murder.

How I Want To Be in That Number Print E-mail

big chief costume(Oxford American May 20, 2013)

Friday: It's the Mud

Ah, New Orleans in early May. You might think 90 degrees, fly-trap stickiness, magnolias, and post-Mardi Gras contrition. You'd be half right. This year's 44th New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, at least the second of two weekends I attended, was so rain-sodden I almost cried. Some five hundred acts performed during the seven-day festival, and I figured I could get to twenty-five or thirty if I kept motoring. A night of downpour turned the fairgrounds' paths into cold mud, an all-day toe-squishing trudge: tire-tread sand, horse-track slick, grassy sludge, ankle-deep ooze, pig-sty slop. It was fifty degrees, and most of us half-dressed fans were wearing straw fedoras, cut-offs, and plastic-wrapped tennis shoes. We teetered through the mud at a woozy half-time to the music, balancing inebriation and chagrin.

What Became of San Diego's Newspaper Print E-mail

0 uHLUHxWgVo954W h(The Awl January 18, 2013)

The dystopian author Mike Davis once wrote that San Diego—the city where I live, 100 condo-packed miles south of Los Angeles—is "arguably the nation's capital of white collar crime." In fact, Davis devoted a book to the claim, Under the Perfect Sun, whose thesis underscores the old adage that "San Diego is a sunny place where lots of shady people go." Davis describes a history of graft and deception in which the city's business monopolists mingled with landowners and indentured politicians to create a Petri dish for "dynamic, even visionary, self-interest." Though such revelations have been reported on for decades, this view of the city's seedy past is a narrative few of the city's three million residents know. Why? Because the public—numbed by surf culture, sea breezes, and the Pacific Fleet—bought the boosters' story instead.

Book Critic Censored By San Diego Newspaper Print E-mail

CapitalistatLarge(Counterpunch May 25-27, 2012)

My Turn Under the Scalpel

Buy a newspaper and censor its content. This seems to be the policy of San Diego developer and multimillionaire Doug Manchester, who last November purchased the city’s largest newspaper and rechristened it, the UT-San Diego. His editor, Jeff Light has been cutting contributor’s voices left and right.Last Christmas, Manchester, a Catholic, published a front-page greeting, citing Jesus Christ as humankind’s biggest influence. When online readers reacted, many by discussing problems with Catholicism, Light didn’t like what he read, so he closed and erased the comments.In March, Light censored a week’s worth of Doonesbury’s cartoon strip, lampooning a Texas law that forces women to have ultrasounds prior to an abortion.

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