The Problem of Pronouns and Pluralism

From the land of “the culture war is interested in you,” here’s this new report from Eugene Volokh at the Washington Post:

From the official Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination’s Gender Identity Guidance, just released last week:

Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.

Now, churches hold events “open to the general public” all the time — it’s often how they seek new converts. And even church “secular events,” which I take it means events that don’t involve overt worship, are generally viewed by the church as part of its ministry, and certainly as a means of the church modeling what it believes to be religiously sound behavior.

You should read the whole thing for context, but the upshot is that there are serious conversations happening right now in the state of Massachusetts that could lead to legal action against churches that do not use a person’s preferred pronouns. Legal action may even be taken against churches whose congregants engage in such behavior, depending on how laws are written and courts rule. Continue reading

Purity as Branding in the Evangelical Sub-Culture

After Ruth Graham’s interview with Joshua Harris last week in Slate there was, once again, the predictable round of discussion on social media and in the blogosphere about evangelical “purity culture,” as it existed in youth ministries during the late 80s through the early 2000s. The term purity culture is probably part of the problem here, as there isn’t just one “purity culture” in evangelicalism. Continue reading

On David Gushee’s Dishonesty

Earlier this week David Gushee continued his sad decline with a cowardly piece for Religion News Service. It’s all par for the course for progressive evangelicals like Gushee, of course, which is why I’m generally not too bothered by what they say. But even so the dishonesty in this particular piece is jarring and merits further comment.

I could quote multiple lines, but this one will suffice, to begin. In talking about those awful backwards bigots (that he used to hang out with), Gushee writes, “(Religious conservatives) are organizing legal defense efforts under the guise of religious liberty, and interpreting their plight as religious persecution.” Continue reading

Francis Schaeffer and Christian Intellectualism

In his recent essay on Christian intellectualism, Alan Jacobs dates the high point of the public Christian intellectual in America as being in the late 1940s. Citing the influence of thinkers like CS Lewis, WH Auden, and Reinhold Niebuhr, Jacobs argues that the movement began to fade in the 1950s and, by the 1960s, was largely a spent force. By that time Lewis, Auden, and Niebuhr were no longer as relevant in contemporary debates and the next generation had not yet emerged. By the time that generation of leaders did, Jacobs argues, the culture had moved past them and they had become more conversant in the intramural discussions happening in conservative religious circles rather than the broader cultural conversation. Continue reading

Recovering our Confidence: Four Theses on Social Conservatism (#4)

Note from Jake: This is the final post in Matt’s social conservatism series published in 2012 which we are re-publishing this week.

Post 1, Post 2, Post 3

One of my underlying themes through this week has been the current lack of confidence among mainstream social conservatism.  I’ll grant this is a somewhat surprising subcurrent:  after all, the religious right hasn’t exactly earned its street cred through timidity and reserve.  But I have always been haunted by that old verse, “in quietness and confidence shall be your strength,” as though the most authentic and honest sign of assuredness is the mocking silence in the face of those who oppose us. Continue reading

End the Hostilities Against Elites: Four Theses on Social Conservatism (#2)

Note from Jake: We are re-publishing Matt’s old series from the fall of 2012 on social conservatism:

Part 1

Thesis: For social conservatism to thrive, it needs to end its hostility toward elite institutions that are currently opposed to it.

Consider this bit by Rick Santorum from this year’s Values Voter Summit, which both stunned and saddened me: Continue reading

Soma and the Silencing of Evangelicalism After Trump

In his novel Silence Japanese writer Shusaku Endo tells the story of two Portuguese missionaries in 17th century Japan. After initial pioneering work by Francis Xavier in the 16th century, a small native Japanese church had begun to flourish in the mid-to-late 16th century, possibly growing as large as 100,000 people. Then the government took a hard anti-Christian turn, closed the island to foreigners, and began a harsh regime of persecution against the Japanese Christians.

At the center of this persecution were small icons called fumi-e, pictured above. During the torture, the government officials told the Christians that all they needed to do to end it is agree to trample on the fumi-e, which was understood to be a way of renouncing the faith. To make sure it took, it was common practice in much of Japan to require former Christians to step on a fumi-e once a year. (Silence spoilers below the jump.) Continue reading

The Predictable Rhetoric of Evangelicalism

It’s now been 12 days since the horrific shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that saw 50 people killed and over 50 more injured. We did not publish anything on this event last week out of respect for the victims and because in the aftermath of such horror, silence is often the wisest response initially. That said, we’re now beginning to talk about it. We began with a post by Bernard Howard on gun control. Today we’re continuing with a reflection on the evangelical response to the shooting. Continue reading