The Patient Body: Our Sick Body Politic

“The Patient Body” is a monthly column by Ann Neumann about issues at the intersection of religion and medicine. This month: Politicizing sick bodies and the body politic’s sickness. Continue Reading →

Brokenheartlands: Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land

Patrick Blanchfield reviews Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild. Continue Reading →

Virtues of Engagement

An excerpt from Moral Ambition: Mobilization and Social Outreach in Evangelical Megachurches, a new book by Omri Elisha.

There are many ways to be ambitious, and many different objectives that ambitious people aspire to aside from wealth and power. For those we call “people of faith,” the life of religious commitment is a relentless, often challenging pursuit of virtues that-like fame, fortune, or artistic genius-are perceived as elusive yet ultimately attainable. Whether such virtues are enacted in everyday life or conceived in other-worldly terms, the ambitions that propel religious people toward lofty ideals are rooted in cultural practices that allow sacred pursuits, including the triumph of righteousness over mediocrity, to appear not only desirable but always close at hand. The ambitions of religious faith, and for that matter all personal aspirations that we often misrecognize as expressions of radical individuality, are inherently social in their inception and saturated in moral content.

This book is about evangelical Protestants affiliated with megachurches and faith-based ministries in the city of Knoxville, Tennessee, and the ambitious efforts of some pastors and churchgoers to increase their faith community’s investments in various forms of altruistic social engagement. Based on nearly sixteen months of ethnographic research carried out between 1999 and 2002, my study focuses on cultural practices and individual experiences related to organized benevolence and social outreach, areas of ministry that are fraught with ideological tension. In describing how conservative and predominantly white evangelicals navigate the shifting and contested boundaries of social engagement, I offer an in-depth perspective on important aspects of North American evangelicalism-including the complexity of evangelical moral and political attitudes at the congregational level-about which there has been much speculation but little concrete analysis. Continue Reading →

Saved and Sacked; Fruits and Roots

Taking a qeue from William James (and the bible), David Bromwich asks if it’s too late to examine the Obama-Bush presidency.  How has the first black president, who promised to return America to “the high moral ground” and by race and rhetoric signaled an allegiance to equality and justice, proven to be the perfect ambassador of the last Bush’s policies? War.  Torture. Financial titans.  Bromwich lists those advisors and public servants Obama chose to keep or let go and draws conclusions about Obama’s moral compass from the record.

(h/t Marilyn Young for the frame) Continue Reading →

Authentic American Citizenship

Consider these two news bits from last week alongside the continuing denial of Obama’s citizenship:  At the Guardian Amy Goodman reported that the death penalty case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther member who’s been in jail for 29 years, was declared unconstitutional. Continue Reading →

What Beck's Marching For: Making Social Justice Unjust

by Becky Garrison

Look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church website. If you find it, run as fast as you can. –Glenn Beck, March 2, 2010

Since Beck uttered this and related comments on his radio show, much ink has been spilled decrying his analysis of one of the basic tenets of Christian teaching. While The Catholic League came to Beck’s defense, “progressives” like Sojourners founder Jim Wallis suggested that viewers and advertisers instead leave Beck, though they later gave Beck some PR attention by placing him on the cover of Sojourners (September 2010.) Other progressive groups like Faithful America continue to mount campaigns against Beck’s rantings in the hopes such advocacy efforts will result in strategically placed media and will increase both the nonprofit’s political profile and donor base.

But the battle to defame “social justice” is as old as the New Testament itself, a point made by Fr. James Martin, author of The Jesuit’s Guide to Almost Everythingon the Colbert Report last March. Martin describes how throughout the gospels, ”Jesus choose to be poor not only to show us what it means to live simply but also to show God’s love for the poor.” Continue Reading →