The decision by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill that defined “exercise of religion” as the “ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief,” has undoubtedly disappointed and even angered many of us.
This is especially true given the hysterical way in which many of the bill’s opponents portrayed SB 1062 and the motivations behind it. I won’t rehearse those portrayals because I suspect that it would be an occasion of sin for many of us.
What follows, with your kind indulgence, are some thoughts prompted by the fate of SB 1062 and the events that led to its demise. Read More >
In a recent column for USA Today, Fox News contributor (and confessing Christian) Kirsten Powers waded into the debateover Arizona SB 1062. The bill, vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer on February 26, would have allowed religious freedom as a defense against discrimination lawsuits—for example, in the case of an owner of a flower shop, bakery, or photography business who does not want to be a part of a “gay wedding.”
Powers says that because Jesus served and died for all, Christians should serve all, even when they disagree with the recipients’ underlying morality. “Christians backing this bill are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws,” Powers writes. “Maybe they should just ask themselves, ‘What would Jesus do?’ I think he'd bake the cake.”
By: Kevin Belmonte|Published Date: February 24, 2014
Memorial Day, 1982. For three years, I’d heard young men from my high school read the Gettysburg Address in the town cemetery of Exeter, New Hampshire. After our marching band finished playing a somber piece, one senior would step forward and read, using two 3x5 cards containing Lincoln’s text.
I would listen, and look around at the faces of those who listened with me. The oldest faces interested me most: the faces of veterans who’d fought in World War I—the Great War—“the war to end all wars.” They were well into their 80s now, and it was hard to picture them when they were my age. “And they would have been my age, or close to it,” I thought, when summoned to their terrible duty.
What is the proper place of science in contemporary culture, and what happens if we lose sight of where science belongs? David Gelernter’s recent exploration of those questions, in his “Commentary” article “The Closing of the Scientific Mind,” is worthy of further reflection. His article opens,
The huge cultural authority science has acquired over the past century imposes large duties on every scientist. Scientists have acquired the power to impress and intimidate every time they open their mouths, and it is their responsibility to keep this power in mind no matter what they say or do.
We live in the age of the expert. Every field has them: experts in Egyptian history, Shakespearean literature, pop culture—virtually anything you could think of, including of course science. Science’s “huge cultural authority” comes not only from its expertise, however, but also from the overflow of that expertise. Read More >
By: Regis Nicoll|Published Date: February 14, 2014
Over sixty percent of first-time marriages are preceded by cohabitation, according to the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project, which reports a 17-fold increase in the practice since 1960.
Cohabitation has become so accepted and commonplace that for many couples it is not the result of a conscious decision or even a conversation. Instead, notes clinical psychologist Meg Jay, more often it "just happens," as a couple slides, ever so surely, from dating, to having sex, to sleeping over, to sleeping over a lot, to moving in together without discussing goals or expectations.
By: Stan Guthrie|Published Date: February 06, 2014
Reports of American celebrities “entering rehab” no longer shock us. Just last year, according to Peggy Drexler of The Huffington Post, the following stars checked in for help with their addictions: Josh Brolin, Zac Efron, Lindsay Lohan, Elizabeth Vargas, Adam Shankman, and Amanda Bynes.
The death of acclaimed character actor Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier this month, however, is a different matter. On February 2, the Oscar-winning actor was found dead on the floor of his $10,000-a-month New York apartment, a needle full of heroin in his left arm. The apartment had more than 70 bags of the narcotic, plus five prescription drugs. Hoffman had made six ATM withdrawals of $200 the day before.
By: Kevin Belmonte|Published Date: January 27, 2014
So often, the start of a new year brings a welcome time of reflection. Many recall moments that prompt thoughts of gratitude, and I’m one of them.
As a reader, and an author, I try to remember way stations of good things that have graced my journey. They remind me that while there are many challenges that arise in following a writer’s calling, there are moments that make it all new again, and deepen one’s commitment to that call.
At the start of this new year, while a winter storm blanketed the land around our home in white, I had a chance to revisit one set of memories for which I’m particularly grateful. They are rich in ties to history and literature. For me, they carry a wealth of blessings too.
This would mean that belief in Christ would be policed and encouraged in the same way that our current cultural beliefs are: by manipulation of the levers of power to control spoils, intimidate dissent, and coin new taboo words and thoughtcrimes that can immediately condemn without argument and persuade without reason.
The story of the rich man and Lazarus is more than a bracing reminder about our duty to the poor; it is a cautionary tale about misjudging our spiritual condition.
In Jesus’ day, material wealth and well-being were commonly assumed to be divine blessings for personal righteousness: The rich were rich because of their moral virtue, and the poor, poor because of their sin. The rich man had bought that line, only to learn too late that he had been wrong—tragically so.
Sadly, it is a line selling well today, as evidenced by the popularity of the Prosperity Gospel and its various permutations.
My father had begun playing tennis regularly with my younger brother, who was a good athlete, but he never played with me. It isn’t fair, I thought, jealously. What kid hasn’t thought the same thing at one time or another?
But my dad wasn’t the source of the unfairness, and he wasn’t playing favorites. I had a significant physical disability that kept me out of the sports that most of my family enjoyed routinely. All I could do was sit and watch . . . and brood.
One day, my frustration got the better of me, and I had an ugly, self-pitying tantrum in the bathroom. Well, my parents surely heard my bitter complaints from the other side of the door, and soon my dad was taking me—just me—to the tennis court.
By: Roberto Rivera|Published Date: January 06, 2014
For Emily Colson, “darkness in a theater” is a metaphor for life with her autistic son, Max. I am grateful that nothing remotely as ugly has ever happened to my son, David, and me. Then again, every autistic person is, to paraphrase Tolstoy, autistic in his own way. David is fine at the movies (assuming you can get him out of the house) and even does well at sporting events, so long as we leave before the ninth inning and avoid the crush at the Navy Yard Metro stop.
The closest I ever come to what happened to Emily and Patty, albeit without the ugly crowd, is, of all places, church. David can’t stand the sound of babies crying and/or fussing. His distress and anxiety are almost palpable: Waves seem to emanate from him.
By: Kevin Belmonte|Published Date: December 31, 2013
Christmas lives in the hearts of poets, and so often, what they tell us about Christmas can hallow the season.
This year, there are three poets to whom I’m especially grateful.
The first, John Clare, isn’t widely known, though Westminster Abbey houses his memorial in Poet’s Corner. A man of humble birth, he was a native of Northamptonshire. Rural England lives in his verse, rich in the folkways of village life. To see Christmas through his eyes is to glimpse a bygone era—an England that is no more. But it’s an England we may visit because of John Clare’s gift. Faith dwelt there.
He was sought after by shepherds and by the most learned of men. He was heralded by angels, and He slept in a feeding trough. Greatness and humility met each other in the most profound ways when Jesus Christ laid aside his station and privileges as God, and “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7, ESV).
That passage in Philippians has always been a favorite of mine. If I remember correctly, the first 11 verses of chapter two were the first extended portion of Scripture I memorized as a young Christian, almost 40 years ago. I have always loved its message of Christ’s humility leading to His glorification “above every name.” The great Christian celebrations of Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter all tell us there is greatness in the practice of humility. It wasn’t until a few years ago, though, that I discovered that humility and greatness can touch in another way. It was a life-changing realization. I wouldn’t be writing here without it.
By: Regis Nicoll|Published Date: December 13, 2013
I once heard someone say that the most popular time for pastors to leave town is Trinity Sunday. How true that is, I don’t know. What I do know is that, in 50-plus years in the pews I have never heard a sermon on the subject, in whole or part. I suspect my experience is not unique.
Few would deny that the Trinity is one of the most (if not the most) important of all the doctrines of the Christian faith, and also one of the most misunderstood. Whether or not homiletical avoidance is to blame, it is regrettable, because no other doctrine tells us more about God and ourselves.
By: Stan Guthrie|Published Date: December 05, 2013
The National Football League has taken to dressing its players in bright pink. They sport pink wristbands. Some wear pink cleats. They wipe off their sweat with pink hand towels. Even the referees occasionally throw pink penalty flags. Sometimes, however, this traditionally feminine hue clashes horribly with a team’s regular colors—not to mention the time-honored ambience of the gridiron.
Why all the pink in the quintessential manly sport?
Believe it or not, we are told that this predilection for pink will “raise awareness” about breast cancer. (Ah, now I understand the reason for the garish coloring—apparently all women like the color pink!) Well, I have news for Commissioner Roger Goodell and all the other awareness-raisers in the NFL: I’m already “aware” of breast cancer.
By: Kevin Belmonte|Published Date: November 22, 2013
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the day C. S. Lewis died. To mark this anniversary, he will have a permanent place in Westminster Abbey, there to live on in the heart of his nation, and all who visit his memorial there.
While it is only fitting, and very proper, that Christians the world over remember him on this day, I have found myself unable to shake the thought that we ought not to remember his death—as much as we should bring to mind the many ways his life and legacy live on.
With all the thousands of lives it took, Typhoon Haiyan has left many of us speechless in grief. John Loftus, atheist blogger, author, and editor, has responded rather differently, though, taking advantage of the tragedy with an article at Debunking Christianityon“The Top 10 Christian Responses to Typhoon Haiyan.”
There’s something seriously insensitive about taking rhetorical advantage of the disaster the way Loftus has done there, which is ironic, considering that he’s trying to expose Christian insensitivity. There’s a deeper irony in here than that, though.
By: Regis Nicoll|Published Date: November 15, 2013
In a rare, unguarded moment, physicist Lawrence Krauss confided, "I worry whether we've come to the limits of empirical science.”
That was over four years ago. Since then, experiments at the Large Hadron Collider have confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, an elusive particle thought to give rise to the most fundamental property of our universe: mass.
Commonly associated with weight, mass is the measure of an object’s resistance to an applied force. But what gives an object its mass, and why is it that some particles, like electrons, have it and others, like photons, don’t?
By: Stan Guthrie|Published Date: November 07, 2013
For me, the holiday season started early this year. Let me explain.
Anyone following the news has noticed the increasingly sharp rhetoric of politicians, pundits, and the people. One side of the argument is said to be “holding a gun to the head of the American people.” The other accuses the Obama administration of using National Park Service “thugs” to close down memorials and parks. There are threats of economic disaster over the shutdown, reports of lying, rumors of profound disrespect, rage and blame over the broken promises of Obamacare.
By: Roberto Rivera|Published Date: November 05, 2013
On October 9, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta announced that a state funeral would be held for the, at last count, 359 migrants who died when their boat capsized near the island of Lampedusa on October 3.
More than 500 people were crowded onto a 66-foot boat that set sail from Libya. The victims, who mostly came from Eritrea and Somalia, were a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of migrants from Africa who attempt to enter the European Union illegally each year. Many, like the victims, come via the Mediterranean. Many -- an estimated 19,000 in the past 25 years -- also perish in the attempt.