Rethinking Religion

Christianity

A Call for Redemptive Rhetoric

A mentor of mine recently told me that a huge divide is on the horizon for those of the Christian faith—one that centers on the meaning of the cross and the message of atonement. Even the act of verbalizing that thought out loud is considered sacrilege by many in my Christian tradition. To question something as integral to Christian religious history and heritage as the cross will result, to put it mildly, in a variety of responses from a variety of perspectives.
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Christianity

Could the Christian Church Contend with a Living Jesus?

It is hard to imagine any inducement that might draw Jesus—that dangerous Jewish prophet—to affiliate with the Christian Church. For the life of me, I don’t know why Jews don’t take Jesus back. We Christians have made such a mess of it.
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Christianity

Legacies of the Cross and the Lynching Tree

The lynching tree is a metaphor for white America’s crucifixion of black people. It is the window that best reveals the religious meaning of the cross in our land. In this sense, black people are Christ-figures, not because they wanted to suffer but because they had no choice. Just as Jesus had no choice in his journey to Calvary, so black people had no choice about being lynched. The evil forces of the Roman State and white supremacy in America willed it. Yet, God took the evil of the cross and the lynching tree and transformed them both into the triumphant beauty of the divine. If America has the courage to confront the great sin and ongoing legacy of white supremacy with repentance and reparation there is hope “beyond tragedy.”
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Judaism

Sabbath Practice as Political Resistance: Building the Religious Counterculture

One thing Abraham Joshua Heschel and Karl Marx had in common, aside from having both been spectacularly bearded Eastern European Jews, is the shared insight that time is the ultimate form of human wealth on this earth. Without time, all other forms of wealth are meaningless. It is this insight about time—patently obvious but frequently forgotten—that makes keeping a Sabbath day both spiritually profound and politically radical.
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Rethinking Religion

Coming Out on Yom Kippur

The moment I put the tallis around my shoulders, my service started. Immediately, I was taken up in the embrace of the rich cloth, the whole texture, the weave of my life, my family, the renewal of New Orleans. As soon as I felt the cloth on my shoulders, and the fringes between my fingers, I knew that the tallit is for both men and women. As I sat there, I felt every bit a woman, a beautiful Jewish woman in a beautiful Jewish tallis.
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Spiritual Politics

Raising the Curtain on “Gandhi Centre Stage”

I have never bothered to respond to Gandhi detractors because, like the Mahatma himself, I tend to think their pathetic writings are best left to die a natural death—the eventual fate of all untruth. Nevertheless, when Michael Lerner urged me to reply to “Gandhi Centre Stage,” the article by Perry Anderson that appeared in a recent issue of the London Review of Books, I assented.
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Judaism

Exodus: An Allegorical Portrait of the Human Mind in its Relationship to God

I would like to share a new and quite radical midrash regarding the story of Exodus, one that I have found extremely powerful.
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Gender & Sexuality

The Cross as a Central Christian Symbol of Injustice

In “The Death of Christianity,” Lawrence Swaim argues that the doctrine of substitutionary atonement “makes God out to be a vengeful, homicidal deity who can be satisfied only with the death of his son.” He eloquently elaborates how the doctrine of blood atonement is a product of Roman imperial power, injustice, and terrorism, and presents the cross as a sign of conquest that has shaped Christian identity and ecclesiastical might throughout the centuries. Urging us to embrace a counterstory of Jesus’s life, Swaim goes on to suggest that we replace the symbol of the cross with the image of “a woman holding a child.”
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Christianity

The Hope of the Cross

Ignorance of major world religions comes in many forms today, but Lawrence Swaim’s particular version is still stunning. It is almost as if Swaim skimmed pop or even comic books on Christian theology and early church history and fashioned a reckless rant from their raw materials. Of the many historically and argumentatively strange things in his essay, his call for Christians to get rid of the symbol of the cross is the most bizarre. Getting rid of the cross is tantamount to getting rid of Jesus—which is to say, of Christianity itself.
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Christianity

The Death of Christianity

There is at the heart of Christianity a disturbing doctrine that has the uncanny ability to overwhelm cognition, and—when internalized by the believer—the ability to traumatize. I refer to the belief, held by most Christians, that Jesus Christ, the prophetic figure of Christianity, was crucified to redeem the world, and that this plan originated with God.
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Economy/Poverty/Wealth

Religion and Equality in Human Evolution

Where did we come from? What should we do here? Where are we going? As long as human beings ask these questions, we will need metanarratives—accounts of cosmological and biological evolution that place the human species in the context of what we know about the universe as a whole.
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Israel/Palestine

A Red Letter Christian Speaks to the Palestinian Church

Politics alone will not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—a deep, collective, psychological healing must also occur to sustain a lasting peace. I believe Palestinian Christians are uniquely situated to facilitate this healing process.
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Christianity

Online Ministry in a Massively Multi-Player World of Warcraft

Why do some people sit at a computer for hours and hours every day, building their homes in a fantasy world, rejecting reality even to the detriment of their health and relationships? Perhaps they reject the real world for good cause and the solution is for us to work to make our flesh-and-blood world better.
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Spiritual Politics

The Difference Between Holy and Nice: The Religious Counterculture

Polite. What could possibly be more antithetical to the heart of religion than the cool reserve of social propriety implied by that word? We’ve all seen it—the chilly, respectful friendliness; the ginger embrace that somehow reminds us of our separateness; the newcomers ignored at an Oneg Shabbat or coffee hour. We try to solve the problem through deputizing official badge-wearing “welcomers” or offering trainings in “hospitality” and, while some progress is sometimes made, the congregation is rarely transformed by these ex post facto measures into a community as religiously loving as the one described by Jasleen.
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Spiritual Politics

Privacy and Personhood in a World Without Mystery

It will not do merely to complain about the widespread and outrageous invasions of privacy that citizens of the developed world constantly suffer, nor to legislate against them one by one. If we really want to fix the privacy problem, we have to identify the underlying shift in society’s attitudes towards what it means to be a person.
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