Thursday, September 20, 2012 4:56 PM
originally appeared at Chronicle.com.
In a world filled with images of Jesus, this one made headlines.
He stood in a stained-glass window wearing a simple white robe and a dark
tunic. When sunlight struck the glass just so, kindness radiated from his white
face and warmth from his brown eyes. This was a comforting Jesus, and for
decades he had been with this black congregation in Birmingham, Ala.
But on Sunday morning, September 15, 1963, less than three weeks after Martin
Luther King Jr. proclaimed his dream of racial equality, dynamite set by white
supremacists exploded outside the 16th Street Baptist Church, and four little
girls who had gone to the basement lounge to freshen up were dead. The face of
Jesus shattered into a thousand shards of glass. In the blink of an eye, the
prince of peace was a casualty of racism.
The bombing would become a pivotal moment in the civil-rights
movement of the 1960s. The outrage that grew around the nation helped spur the
voting-rights campaign and pave the way for passage of the Civil Rights Act of
1964. By 2004, two days after winning the Democratic nomination for a U.S.
Senate seat, Barack Obama flew to Birmingham
to give a speech at the city's Civil Rights Institute. He took the opportunity
to cross the street and visit the church, by then a national historic landmark.
When he entered, he observed a "still-visible scar" along the wall
where the bomb had gone off. He saw portraits of the four young girls and
thought about his two little daughters at home. He sat to pray, and above him
in stained glass was the Jesus installed in 1965 to commemorate the bombing.
This one seems sad, his arms stretched out, crucified. His hair is short,
cropped; his face black.
The same year the church's black Jesus was dedicated, Mormon
leaders in Salt Lake City
resurrected an image of Jesus to present themselves to the nation and the
world. The Christus, as the statue is known, was created in the early 19th
century by a Dutch artist, but Latter-day Saints made it their own when they
placed a replica in a Visitors
Center in Temple Square.
Jesus stands more than 11 feet high. He is made of all-white marble, and his
hair flows below his shoulders. His right arm and pectoral muscle are exposed
to reveal his chiseled physique. He could just as easily adorn the cover of a
best seller as a Bible storybook.
If these two Christ icons could stand side-by-side, their
differences could not be more startling. One is huge and authoritative; the
other reserved and contemplative. One showcases power, the other suffering.
Together, they illustrate how the image of Jesus has played a
vital role in American debates about race, political power, and social justice.
The story of the color of Christ is the story of a Jesus made white, challenged
by rival figures contending with white supremacy—like the black Jesus now
looking down from the window of the 16th Street Baptist Church—and re-formed in
a different color.
As recent presidential elections remind us, it is also a story still
Almost 50 years after the bombing in Birmingham
and the installation of the Christus in Salt
Lake City, today's campaign features candidates as
different as the two Christ figures. The biracial child of an African immigrant
and a Midwestern white woman squares off against the son of a powerful American
Less remarked are the differences in how the color of Christ
pertains to each candidate's campaign. Ever since videos emerged in 2008 of the
Rev. Jeremiah Wright shouting "God damn America"
and "Jesus was a poor black man," Obama has been attacked for the
words of his Chicago
pastor. The Jesus of Wright's black-liberation theology is too incendiary for
many voters, black and white. (Surveys show that very few African-American
churchgoers think of Jesus as black, and that many whites are affronted by the
idea.) At the same time, Obama has been presented in rhetoric and imagery as a
Christ-like figure who can redeem the nation and world (sometimes portrayed
with a crown of thorns, sometimes riding on a donkey). This black savior is a
By contrast, Romney, whose religion is so very much a part of his
life, has experienced few questions about the many whitened images of Jesus in
Mormon art. Although European and American artists have commonly depicted Jesus
as white, Mormons were among the first Americans to give him blue eyes, and
their theology has a particular focus on the body—they believe that Jesus still
has the same physical body he had 2,000 years ago. Even though the Christus was
first placed in Salt Lake City just a few years
before Romney entered Brigham
there has been no public debate over the race of the candidate's Christ. Of
course, no one has compared Romney to Jesus, either.
As is often true, both the rhetoric and the silence speak volumes.
Time and again throughout American history, what has been said about the color
of Christ (and what has been left unsaid and displayed through art) highlights
some of the most profound struggles within the nation.
rest at Chronicle.com.
Image by Mark Gstohl,
licensed under Creative
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 4:38 PM
When Albert Einstein turned 50 in 1929, an interviewer asked him point-blank Do you believe in God?Big Questions Online, a publication of the John Templeton Foundation,recounts his answer:
“I am not an atheist,” he began. “The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.”
In a recent video posted on The Browser, Jonathan Pararajasingham, a medical doctor based in the UK, collects footage of 50 renowned academics talking about God. The speakers come from philosophical and scientific fields like physics, chemistry, astronomy, and anthropology and include Noam Chomsky, Steven Hawking, Richard Feynman, and Peter Singer, among others—all atheist or temperately agnostic in their views. (“Most scientists don’t think about God enough to know whether they believe in him or not,” says physicist Lawrence Krauss.)
The similarities between many of the academics’ thoughts—ranging from evidence-based belief to a focus on human suffering and justice to vague disinterest—are striking. What is also striking, though, is the homogeneity of the speakers. Would the discussion change if more female or culturally diverse academics were represented? How would it transform if it expanded to include individuals in the fields of art, literature, and music? What would Mozart, whose “Requiem Mass in D Minor” accompanies part of the film, tell us about God?
Sources: The Browser, Big Questions Online
Image by Marcel Oosterwijk, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, July 18, 2011 1:32 PM
This post by Will Braun originally appeared at
The Bible Industry. From Geez magazine, Fall 2009. Credit: Darryl Brown and Aiden Enns.
Most people know now that Rupert Murdoch presides over the News Corp media empire, and that he is fighting for his reputation after being forced to sink his scandal-laiden British newspaper News of the World, the most widely read English tabloid in the world. But few people know that Murdoch also owns Zondervan, the world’s largest publisher of Bibles. For 23 years, the News Corp family has included the leading seller of the best-selling book in history.
I know many Christians see the Bible’s publishing stature as validation of their chosen faith, but a savvy entrepreneur could simply see it as a business opportunity. Or perhaps the 80-year-old Murdoch, like any shrewd businessman, wanted diverse investments – a diversity that in his case ranged from a cleavage-saturated tabloid that ran headlines like, “F1 Boss Has Sick Nazi Orgy With 5 Hookers” to a publisher that offers Little Lamb’s Storybook Bible.
Zondervan, which is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, also sells Precious Princess Bible, Camo Bible (imagine “Holy Bible” on a camouflage cover), Soul Surfer Bible, Holy Bible: Stock Car Racing and 500 other styles of the holy book. The company owns exclusive North American print rights to the popular New International Version of the Bible which it says has sold over 300 million copies worldwide. Zondervan also publishes books by leading Christian authors like Rick Warren (over 30 million copies of his Purpose Driven Life have been sold), Tim LaHaye, Eugene Peterson, Brian McLaren and Shane Claiborne.
For those us of who care about the Christian scriptures, what are we to make of this mix of billionaire media tycoonery, allegations of phone hacking and bribery, and the Holy Word of God? What are we to make of the fact that every time we buy a Zondervan product we contribute to Murdoch’s mogul-dom, which includes a personal fortune that Forbes pegged at $6.3 billion last year.
I asked Shane Claiborne. His books, Jesus for President (co-written with Chris Haw) and The Irresistible Revolution, are number 3 and 4 on Zondervan’s list of its top sellers. He has long been aware of the Zondervan-Murdoch connection and has considered it carefully.
I admire Claiborne, partly because he cares about ethics – he makes his own clothes and off-sets his air travel – and partly because he lives out his faith in what he calls the “abandoned corners of empire.” His particular corner is the impoverished Kensington neighbourhood of Philadelphia where he lives as part of The Simple Way community. Given his relation to “empire,” I wanted to know why he chose a News Corp company as his publisher?
The Zondervan advantage
“I want to have the broadest readership possible,” Claiborne says by phone, “I don’t want to be someone who just speaks to the choir.” He says smaller publishers have their advantages but the books he has written for them cost “two or three times” more than what they would if Zondervan published them.
Claiborne, who has preached his message via Esquire, Fox News (also owned by News Corp), Al Jazeera and many others, says the key is to “protect the integrity of the message.” If he is convinced the medium won’t change the message, he will work with organizations despite not “[agreeing] with all of their approaches or decisions.”
But even if the message is protected, his work helps enrich a rather well-maintained corner of empire. He feels “conflicted” about this. “I don’t think that the world exists in 100 percent pure and 100 percent impure options,” he says.
To judge, or not to judge
The ongoing News Corp scandal concerns him. “The current issues . . . in England raise all kinds of ethical questions,” he tells me, “and I would hope that a company whose mission is explicitly Christian, as Zondervan’s is, would take the opportunity to bear witness and to speak into the culture which is so terribly fallen.”
Claiborne is not sure if he will write for Zondervan again. He doesn’t rule it out.
There’s good and bad in each of us, he says, “we are called to work on the log in our own eye, and I’m sure as heck trying to work on the compromises that I make so that those are minimal when it comes to integrity.”
Point taken. This is not about demonizing Rupert Murdoch or Zondervan. No rendition of the Bible would condone that. Nonetheless, I’m not ready to say, like former Zondervan CEO Maureen Girkin did in a 2008 Christianity Today article, that “News Corp is a wonderful media giant.”
Preferential option for the lucrative
The allegations that sank News of the World, and have now spread to other News Corp papers in the U.K., demonstrate something about News Corp. They do not demonstrate that ethical integrity trumps the drive for profit at News Corp. News Corp is an aggressive business; it’s motive is to accumulate and concentrate massive amounts of wealth. Presumably it acquired Zondervan because it saw profit potential.
But is the Bible a business opportunity? Does it belong in the News Corp fold? Can we not read about “the least of these” without paying our dues to the greatest?
Or perhaps Murdoch is just an entrepreneur who enables the distribution of important materials (after all, he was awarded a papal knighthood by Pope John Paul II in 1998). Perhaps the world is just too gray to worry about the ethics of Bible publishing. Perhaps writers like Claiborne are subverting or redeeming something in need of redemption. Perhaps I overstate the link between News of the World and Zondervan. It’s just that I believe there should be absolutely no link at all. Bald greed has no place in Bible publishing.
Does God need News Corp?
We do not need to accept this arrangement. Christianity does not need to be about the best and biggest deal, and we can trust that the Good News does not require the help of an unscrupulous empire. Part of me would love to see some readers, writers and retailers engage in some respectful, humble, Gandhian non-participation with respect to the big Bible business. But it seems unbecoming to advocate a boycott of a company that publishes the books of a respected friend. It seems unbecoming to boycott the Bible in any way at all. Alas, I too feel conflicted.
Geez magazine editor Aiden Enns – who once cut the Zondervan label out of the spine of his Bible in protest – suggests a self-imposed tax or tithe on Zondervan purchases. If you buy a $20 Claiborne book, give an additional $2 to a good cause (maybe the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility). Call it the “ethical compromise tax,” or the “sin tax” as Enns puts it. You could also look into whether your denomination has any News Corp investments. The Church of England is now publicly threatening to pull its $6 million share in News Corp.
As for non-participation, all I know for sure is that I don’t want a penny of my money going to fuel the News Corp empire, regardless of the path it takes from my wallet to Murdoch’s. Fortunately for me, the last time I crossed paths with Shane Claiborne he gave me a copy of the most recent Zondervan publication he collaborated on, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. I offered him warm thanks – it’s a great book – then said with a smirk, “this way none of my money needs to go to Zondervan.”
Will Braun is a former editor with Geez magazine, where this post originally appeared. Will Braun can be reached at wbraun [ at ] inbox [ dot ] com.
Image courtesy of Darryl Brown, Aiden Enn, and Geez.
Thursday, May 05, 2011 12:16 PM
Are you Andy the Atheist, Jenna the Jew, or Willow the Wiccan? If so, be prepared for someone—let’s call her Chrissie the Christian—to chat you up about her close personal friend, Jesus.
Andy, Jenna, and Willow are three types of non-Christians profiled on a website run by Dare 2 Share Ministries, an evangelical youth ministry organization. The group’s resources page offers tips on ways to “share your faith” with 14 different kinds of people, from Mo the Muslim to Sid the Satanist, by getting inside their spiritual space.
Given the source, the basic information about each “worldview” is surprisingly fair-minded, breaking down, for example, even the dark abyss that is Satanism into bite-size bits. But things steer quickly out of hand when it comes to the proselytizing tips, which are presented under the innocuous-sounding “things to remember” heading. Because apparently the only reason evangelical Christians would try so hard to understand another spiritual belief system is so they can tear it down—slyly and strategically, that is.
Here are some of the more eyebrow-raising passages:
Willow the Wiccan: “Whether Willow knows it or not, she is in the grips of Satan, so like Sid the Satanist, be sure and cover your relationship and conversations with her in a ton of prayer.”
Jenna the Jew: “Jenna has been raised with little knowledge about Jesus Christ, so when you feel it could be appropriate, talk about how Jesus literally and perfectly fulfilled over 300 prophecies made about the coming Messiah. … Your main goal is not to persuade Jenna that Jesus is the Messiah—it is a means to an end, and that end is that she needs to see that she fails to keep God’s Law. It is not good enough for her to do her best; God requires perfection, so you need to get Jenna to the point where she knows that God will not overlook her failures or forgive her on the basis of their mitzvot (good deeds).”
Alisha the Agnostic: “Bottom line with an agnostic: remember you cannot argue someone to faith in Christ, but you can (and should) live such a Christlike life that those around you sense something different, which opens the door for you to explain the ‘evidence.’ ”
Nicole the New Ager: “When talking to Nicole, remember that you are entering a huge spiritual battle, so put on the full armor of God, and remember that the enemy is Satan, not Nicole (Ephesians 6).”
Source: Dare 2 Share Ministries
I Don’t Know, Maybe.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 12:10 PM
In a beautiful remembrance of Barry Hannah, who died earlier this year, William Giraldi writing in AGNI tells of a fishing expedition the two shared as an escape to a writers’ conference they were attending. The piece begins with Hannah asking Giraldi if he’d been fishing lately. Giraldi replies,
“Like a Nazarene.” [Hannah] had recently become reinvigorated by Christianity—born again lower case—and gone sober after a lifetime of being a venal Baptist and then nearly dying in an Oxford, Mississippi, hospital from too many maladies: lymphoma, pneumonia, organs napalmed by decades of cigarettes and booze. As a twenty-something sycophant and Hannah fanatic myself, I referenced Christ when I could—my Jesus-happy boyhood on me like a party hat—and even recited for him the religious sonnets of Donne and Hopkins. “Those bards are bent believers,” he said. “Sing more.”
The rest of the essay follows that fishing day trip and the return to the conference the two were escaping for a short time, exploring themes, from love to violence, in Hannah’s work.
It was a footnote near the end, though, that sent me away from the essay searching for a referenced piece Hannah wrote for Paste magazine called “The Maddening Protagonist,” as it seemed like it might give some answers to why the elder writer might have “become reinvigorated by Christianity.”
In a time when the date celebrating Christ’s birthday has been co-opted by marketers and sales folk and used earlier and earlier each year to hock their wares—Christmas songs playing in Macy’s well before Thanksgiving…soon, no doubt, before Halloween and then onto Labor Day!—I figure it’s never too early to give a dose of what that birth and life actually means, or could mean, when not bastardized for bottom lines and by those so called Christians on the right. And that’s exactly what Hannah’s essay does, so I offer bits of it here as a salve against Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all the other shopping-named days to come.
To begin, Hannah sets the table for what is about to be served:
Thousands of pastors have memorized the work and pontificated on it without an honest reading. You’d hear more honest confusion and less braying rhetoric from the pulpits if the Bible were actually confronted even by Christian-leaning ministers. You’d get fewer knee-jerk liars from the so-called-Christian Right if they could or would read their own New Testaments. The absence of many millions of sincere Christians and near-Christians from church is less a matter of apostasy than disgust.
Then, on Christ:
You’ll hear much cursing of God in this crawling tangle of hurt and elation we have in life. But I’ve never heard advice to curse Christ and die. Neither have I heard of a “Christ-fearing” town. Christ evokes a gentle and strong silence. For me. For billions.
Poor Mary, the very vessel that put [Jesus] forth, is always wondering and pondering in her heart….How can the Savior and lamb be so cruel as to expect her to understand when he must know she cannot? Mary is thus all of humanity.
And, finally, on the faith itself:
For simple truthful laymen, the Holy Bible is inconsistent to an almost sickening degree, and we mainly just let it pass….Through the ages there seems a redundancy of the outright mad clutching Bibles to their chests and spouting scripture incoherently as they proceed from one asylum to the next….
I ask now who, two millennia from these words and actions [of Christ], can be altogether comfortable and glib in their soul when they believe in the Savior as the Lamb of God, the Son of God, the Son of Man in fragile body, killed through the agency of his fellow man by his own omniscient Father, as a passway to paradise, his father’s kingdom where there are “many mansions”?
It takes one confused and near-absurd fellow mystic to believe, is what.
It would behoove you to combat what will be thrust aggressively upon you this holiday season with Hannah’s exploration of his faith in this essay.
Source: AGNI, Paste
Friday, October 01, 2010 3:18 PM
Lots of Americans say they’re religious, but a new poll finds many of them don’t actually know that much about world religions—their own included. The U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey by the Pew Forum found that U.S. atheists and agnostics, along with Jews and Mormons, are actually more conversant than Christians in many faith-related facts.
While that basic takeaway is rich with irony—some of the least religious people know the most about religion—it confirms what some atheists have long suspected, and a few of them are bursting with pride about the results (which for them is not a sin, of course). Dave Silverman, the president of American Atheists, told Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times:
“I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people. Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”
That’s not to say that believers don’t know anything about their own faiths, but rather that atheists and agnostics are well versed in a wider range of religious topics. Mormons and evangelical Protestants, for example, are very knowledgable on questions specifically relating to the Bible and Christianity, and atheists and agnostics aren’t far behind. According to the survey results:
On questions about Christianity—including a battery of questions about the Bible—Mormons (7.9 out of 12 right on average) and white evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) show the highest levels of knowledge. Jews and atheists/agnostics stand out for their knowledge of other world religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism; out of 11 such questions on the survey, Jews answer 7.9 correctly (nearly three better than the national average) and atheists/agnostics answer 7.5 correctly (2.5 better than the national average). Atheists/agnostics and Jews also do particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life, including a question about what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.
Jeffrey Weiss at Politics Daily quibbles with the survey’s approach—“Too many [of the questions] read to me as if they were taken from a religion version of Trivial Pursuit,” he writes—but he notes that the results line up in a way with previous surveys that reveal a related phenomenon:
Academics call it the Religion Congruence Fallacy: In survey after survey, year after year, Americans who say they belong to a particular religious tradition tend not to act like it.
To take an easy set of examples: Conservative Protestants are no less likely than other Protestants to have been divorced, to have seen an X-rated movie in the last year, or to be sexually active even if they aren’t married. Even though their church teaches strongly that all three practices are wrong.
Maybe that’s because many of us don’t know all that much about the faith tradition we say we profess—or what makes it distinctive from any other.
Ignorance about our own or other religions is not necessarily an American tradition: As Ted Widmer recently reminded us in the Boston Globe, even the men who wrote the Constitution were quite familiar with the Koran:
As usual, the Founders were way ahead of us. They thought hard about how to build a country of many different faiths. And to advance that vision to the fullest, they read the Koran, and studied Islam with a calm intelligence that today’s over-hyped Americans can only begin to imagine. They knew something that we do not. To a remarkable degree, the Koran is not alien to American history — but inside it.
Meanwhile, Steve Thorngate at the Christian Century suggests that atheists, agnostics, and Jews shouldn’t get too uppity about their good marks on the religion exam:
Atheists/agnostics and Jews didn’t actually do better on the Christianity questions than Christians did, just nearly as well—and considerably better on all the others. This is perfectly intuitive: minority groups know more about the majority than vice versa, because majority culture tends to define what counts as general knowledge. So most Jews know where Jesus was born, even though few Christians know much about Buddhism. Jesus makes the cover of one general-interest magazine or another ever month or so, and it only takes a couple shopping trips between Thanksgiving and New Year’s to accidentally memorize the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
What do you know about religion? Take the Pew Forum’s 15-question religious knowledge sample quiz and find out.
Sources: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, New York Times, Politics Daily, Boston Globe, Christian Century
Utne Reader editorial intern Will Wlizlo contributed to this post.
Image by dottorpeni, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, June 10, 2010 11:53 AM
Writing for Religion Dispatches about the debate between the Christian faithful and the so-called New Atheists, Davidson Loehr suggests that the “controversy” feels stale and uninteresting. He notes that the Christian church doesn’t represent a pivotal element in many American lives anymore:
Christine Wicker, author of The Fall of the Evangelical Nation, and David T. Stone, author of The American Church in Crisis, are among the authors citing research that shows a dismal picture of American religion:
• Christian churches are losing two million people a year.
• Between just 2000-2005, church attendance declined in all fifty states.
• No matter what people may tell pollsters about their church habits, when you count the bodies in the pews, fewer than 18% of Americans attend any church regularly; 82% don’t.
• When asked to rate eleven groups in terms of respect, non-Christians rated evangelicals tenth. Only prostitutes ranked lower. After the stories of hypocritical preachers and political moralists caught with paid lovers, it might be interesting to ask the prostitutes about that ranking.
Source: Religion Dispatches
Image by eye2eye, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, February 26, 2010 3:22 PM
During Lent this year, some Christians will give up sweets or booze. Will Self, a secular humanist nonbeliever, is giving up art and culture. In an essay for the New Statesman, Self explains his decision to eschew the pleasures of books, music, museums, and the internet. He writes:
In a cultural desert, the mind begins to burrow deep within itself - just as, in an actual desert, a human body seeks shelter among the rocks. Perhaps in this harshly deracinated environment you will be driven to meditate upon the transcendent, a practice that has become dreadfully unfashionable in the present era, lacking as it does the requisite aestheticism.
Source: New Statesman
, licensed under
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 5:15 PM
Christian radio is becoming less, well, Christian, reports Sojourners—and the shift is treating stations well. By including more “family-friendly” songs (i.e., less overtly religious) and paring down bible-thumping programming, Christian stations have grown their pool of listeners, even nabbing listeners outside the faith who are simply looking for uplifting music.
Not all Christians are fans of the trend. Daniel Radosh, whose rollicking book Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture is excerpted on Utne.com, tells Sojourners that “the fact that committed Muslims can listen to Christian music actually says quite a bit, and I think not anything very good about Christian music these days.”
Christian music’s new listeners tend to disagree. Christian stations and artists “have an opportunity to offer the mainstream market the kind of inspiration and hope that people really need,” a Muslim listener tells Sojourners. “I appreciate it if they can touch the hearts of people like me.”
Monday, May 04, 2009 1:47 PM
There comes a day when parents can no longer avoid talking to their children about sex. That day can be made more awkward if the talk is illustrated by comical drawings of fish with oversized genitalia. In an exploration into the Christian condemnation of masturbation, Scott Cheshire writes for Killing the Buddha about his father’s use of a Christian publication and hand-drawn fish cartoons to teach about procreation. “To fully appreciate the gross irony,” Cheshire writes, “please understand that I think of my father’s drawing whenever I find myself behind a car bumper bearing the Christian symbol of Ichthys—the Jesus Fish.”
Image by Jaako, licensed by Creative Commons.
Friday, March 13, 2009 12:10 PM
As much as some people would like to believe, not all of Jesus’ teachings were about charity and love. At times, Jesus could be downright mean. In the book of Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, Robert Wright writes in the Atlantic that “Jesus’ most salient comment on ethnic relations is to compare a woman to a dog because she isn’t from Israel.”
Much of the image of Jesus as a proponent of universal love comes from the gospel of Paul, according to Wright, and Paul’s motivations may not have been entirely theological. Wright explores the idea of Paul as an “ambitious preacher of early Christianity,” who wanted to set up an expansive and franchised religious organization in an increasingly globalizing world—as much a CEO as a spiritual leader.
This reading of scripture could be dismissed as simple atheism, but Wright insists that he leaves room for “the prospect of divine purpose generically.” Christianity’s promotion of transnational love, respect, and morality may have been spiritually pragmatic, but exists within a historical widening of tolerance and amity for people generally. And if history moves gradually, and “fitfully” toward harmony, according to Wright, “then maybe some overarching purpose is built into the human endeavor after all.”
The argument bears some resemblance to one in Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. Zooey insists that 98 percent of Christians try “to turn Jesus into St. Francis of Assisi to make him more ‘lovable.’” The problem is that “If God had wanted somebody with St. Francis’s consistently winning personality for the job in the New Testament, he’d’ve picked him, you can be sure.”
Source: The Atlantic
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 3:28 PM
Since its release, The Wrestler has been lavished with critical praise and attention. For all the commentary, though, S. Brent Plate thinks reviewers have neglected a crucial thread of analysis—namely, what he sees as the film’s obvious religious undertones. In a compelling essay for Religion Dispatches, he discusses the Christian symbolism of The Wrestler and why critics have such trouble talking about it.
In Plate’s mind, the religious references aren’t particularly subtle. He wonders:
“[D]id the reviewers blink their eyes, or reach down for another bite of popcorn, at the images of a tattooed Jesus Christ on Randy’s back? Or the ‘Job’ (pronounced with long ‘o’) inked into the skin of his middle finger? Or the white fleece vest he wears on his entrance into his final fight?”
It might be easy to chalk up the silence to religious illiteracy, but Plate believes something more complicated is going on. He argues that people tend to connect religion with the mind and spirit, while viewing the body as more earthly and mundane. From such a perspective, it might be difficult to read The Wrestler—with its visceral focus on the body—as a religious film.
Sources: Religion Dispatches
Thursday, November 20, 2008 2:31 PM
Reading magazines like Sojourners or Commonweal all the time, you might think that all Christians are crazy, love-thy-neighbor kinds of people. The Onion has an editorial from someone who wants people to know that all Christians aren’t like that. Here’s a key quote:
My faith in the Lord is about the pure, simple values: raising children right, saying grace at the table, strictly forbidding those who are Methodists or Presbyterians from receiving communion because their beliefs are heresies, and curing homosexuals. That's all. Just the core beliefs. You won't see me going on some frothy-mouthed tirade about being a comfort to the downtrodden.
Thursday, November 20, 2008 11:40 AM
In the desperate search for new congregants, some churches have developed a case of Obsessive Branding Disorder. The problem is that they’re doing it wrong. The website Beyond Relevance has created an amusing video wondering what it would be like if Starbucks marketed like a church, showing some of the ways that churches are made into unwelcoming, kind of creepy places.
Here’s the video:
Coffee is a religion for me, but I usually don’t drink the stuff from Starbucks. I prefer the stuff I make on my own.
(Thanks, Adult Christianity.)
Thursday, November 13, 2008 10:42 AM
Barack Obama’s faith was the subject of a lot of analysis on the campaign trail, and many are pondering the effect that his victory will have on religions in America. Jeff Sharlet at the Revealer wonders whether Obama’s election signals the demise of the Religious Right, but some think that reports of the movement’s death are premature. Sharlet quotes conservative scholar D. Michael Lindsay who predicts that an Obama Administration will give the movement something rally against: “Political movements like the Religious Right don’t need a ‘god’ to succeed, but they do need a devil. Nothing builds allegiances among a coalition like a common enemy.”
The Religious Right might make an enemy of Obama, even though he is a Christian, because his faith is moderate and measured, and because he’s prone to seek out different opinions and shun absolutism.
This measured worldview could be why Obama will present a problem the New Atheists, too. As Frank Schaffer wrote for the Huffington Post the day after the election that Obama’s victory is drawing the curtain on an era on spiritual certitude and intolerance at both extremes:
Into the all or nothing culture wars, and the all or nothing wars between the so-called New Atheists and religion the election of President elect Obama reintroduces nuance. President elect Obama’s ability to believe in Jesus, yet question, is going to rescue American religion in general and Christianity in particular, from the extremes.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 12:11 AM
With a notoriously “faith-based” presidential administration in its last throes and a race for the White House boasting a varied slate of Christians—a man who’s been called a “semi-Baptist,” a Pentecostal conservative, a Catholic Democrat, and a member of the United Church of Christ whom some insist is a “secret Muslim”—it’s surprising that faith and religion aren’t playing a more central role in the presidential and vice-presidential debates.
There’s been a relative lack of religious talk during the presidential face-offs, and various spirituality blogs are wondering if tonight’s will be any different. Both Christianity Today and the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life noted a dearth of religious talk in their liveblogs of last week’s debate, with the notable exception of Tom Brokaw’s zen question. GetReligion also called attention to the fact that the latest presidential debate’s only spiritual reference was to Buddhism, after the website live-blogged the Palin-Biden debate and its own lack of religious language.
One explanation is that Iraq and the tanking economy have largely pushed aside religious and social issues that dominated previous debate cycles. Nathan Empsall at the Wayward Episcopalian is glad the candidates are addressing the economy, but still frustrated by both candidates’ remarks in that regard. With McCain foundering in the polls and in need of a game changer, it’s questionable whether Christianity will make an appearance in tonight’s debate.
Image by Ricardo Carreon, licensed by Creative Commons.
Monday, October 13, 2008 2:10 PM
Conservationist Calvin DeWitt sees the Bible as our earliest environmentalist treatise: “an ecological handbook on how to live rightly on earth.”
The newly published Green Bible drives that message home by highlighting all verses with ecological and conservationist themes in green ink. It’s a variation on the red-letter editions of the Bible that highlight the words of Jesus. The green edition includes an index of environmental topics, a foreword by Desmond Tutu, a “trail guide for further study,” and “inspirational essays by scholars and leaders,” among them DeWitt.
Perusing the text and zeroing in on the green passages makes for an illuminating kind of exegesis. Most of Genesis is printed in green, concerning as it does the natural world and humankind’s relationship to it. When God says, “‘And have dominion over the fish of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (1:28), the Green Bible and its contributors interpret “dominion” not as free reign, but as responsibility.
The Book of Jeremiah is more to the point, recasting the Old Testament God as an angry environmental activist: “But my people have forgotten me … making their land a horror.” (18:15-16).
The Green Bible hopes to remind the faithful that adherence to their faith includes a responsibility toward God’s creations—an increasingly common theology reflected in the emergence of Christian environmental initiatives. Environmental awareness in this edition also encompasses a mindfulness of the earth’s other human inhabitants, and every exhortation to love thy neighbor, every reminder of our interconnectivity, is printed green. An example comes from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians: “There may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for each other. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (12:25).
Monday, September 29, 2008 3:55 PM
When I saw the title, Jesus Christ Super Zine, it was impossible for me not to crack open Ariel Birks’ personal zine. Distributed by S.S.O. Press out of Olympia, Washington, the first installment is full of illuminating stories from Birks’ stint as a hardcore evangelical Christian. Part handwritten and part typewritten, the charmingly sarcastic stories revisit her teenage years of proselytizing, abstaining from sex, and praying cross-legged on the grass with attractive secularists.
The essays reflect the author’s personal experiences, but there is a distinct familiarity of religious zeal for anyone with a history of zealotry. Here are some of my favorite quotes from Jesus Christ Super Zine, which encapsulate the sincerity and devotion of her then-Christian life:
On Christian camp: I got to hang out with the most awesome people ever. We had few inhibitions about ‘fitting in’ as we were all liberated by Jesus to do whatever the hell we wanted (except sin.)
On Birks’ friend Jamy finding Jesus: I’m sure it was some worship service or camp. You know. With really emotional music that made me feel vulnerable.
On witnessing: He was 19, his name was Chris and well, he was extremely attractive to me. So, so very attractive. Actually he looked exactly like Chris Cornell. And thus, a wee little bit like Jesus, no? But that’s not what I was after, of course. I was there for some mind sex.
Reading Jesus Christ Super Zine is better than remembering my own stories as an ex-Religious Freak. I can rest assured that others have been through the same experience: first hopelessly devoted, then utterly apathetic, and finally truly embarrassed. This trip down the memory lane of impressionable youth turns that embarrassment into entertainment, portraying a light-hearted coming-of-age tale.
Monday, September 15, 2008 4:48 PM
Although Jesus was tortured and murdered, a majority of white Southern evangelical Christians believe that torture is often or sometimes justified when pursuing terrorists, according to a new poll by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University. Among the general population, a smaller percentage (48 percent) of respondents believe that torture can be justified. White evangelical support of torture was much lower when the questioner appealed to the “Golden Rule,” asking respondents if “the U.S. government should not use methods against our enemies that we would not want used on American soldiers.” A slight majority (52 percent) agreed that the government should not.
The torture and killing of Jesus should motivate all Christians to oppose torture, Jimmy McCarty writes for the God’s Politics blog. Waterboarding and other interrogation techniques currently being employed by the US government are unchristian, according to McCarty, and followers of Jesus have a responsibility to speak out.
For more coverage of torture from Utne Reader, visit www.utne.com/torture.
Friday, July 25, 2008 10:31 AM
The Bible has many parts that ring sexist to modern ears. People are constantly trying to make prayers less sexist by saying, “Mother-Father,” when referring to God, instead of just “Father,” or substituting “reign” for the more gendered “kingdom.” Inevitably, there are those who buck against such efforts. Writing for Theoblog, the blog of the Christian Century magazine, Jason Byassee writes that it’s a mistake “to think Christian language can ever be scrubbed into safety.” Instead of changing the words of the prayer, Byassee writes that the faithful should change the way they live, because, “[w]ords themselves don’t abuse… people abuse with words.”
Wednesday, July 16, 2008 11:17 AM
As gas prices continue to skyrocket, members of the Pray at the Pump movement are looking towards the heavens for salvation. The British newspaper Telegraph reports that members of the First Church of Seventh-day Adventists are organizing prayer vigils at gas stations around the US, asking for divine salvation from the high oil prices. The movement’s founder, Rocky Twyman, claims that after one particularly large vigil in Ohio, the price of oil dropped in Toledo by 30 cents. The article did not, however, report on any plans for services surrounding John McCain’s proposed “gas tax holiday.”
Image adapted from photos by Infrogmation and Gabriel Ullmann, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008 8:59 AM
To some people, the word “Christians” brings to mind conservative, anti-everything culture warriors. Others think of peace-and-justice activism or the Civil Rights movement. In fact, the U.S. church has long been divided along theological, cultural, and political lines—and the different groups have tended to keep their distance.
A two-year-old group called Christian Churches Together in the USA (CCT) is working to bridge this divide. CCT—an ecumenical group, or one focused on Christian unity across traditions—has brought together an unusually broad group of church denominations to build relationships and to speak with one voice on consensus subjects.
The Reverend Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, convened the group and serves as one of its five presidents. Utne.com spoke with Granberg-Michaelson about CCT’s plans to meet with the president-elect about poverty, as well as about his earlier work as the main Vietnam-era legislative assistant to Sen. Mark Hatfield and as a writer on ecotheology.
CCT has released a pretty concrete
policy statement on poverty. Among other things, it calls for a specific target and timeline for reducing child poverty—just the kind of thing that serious anti-poverty advocates are promoting. What did it take for such a broad group to produce this statement?
Conversation. Building trust. But the proposal that we turn to the issue of poverty actually came from the evangelical/Pentecostal family of the church. The old stereotype was that evangelicals care [only] about personal conversion and doctrinal integrity. Now, Christians have come together and asked, “What can we all agree on?” Poverty is one thing.
What are the statement’s implications? Are the denominations expected to promote its goals in their policy shops or to organize their members around it?
Well, CCT doesn’t operate such that this is the central thing that everyone [has to] embrace. But we’re sharing our resources, approaches, and understanding. And we plan to pursue a meeting with the country’s eventual president-elect, to present the statement and talk about how its goals could be achieved. Such a meeting is likely to happen, given the breadth of leadership at CCT.
Because the White House can’t write it off as simply a partisan thing coming from one side or the other.
That’s been exactly the problem before. Christians have divided ideologically and politically, reducing their overall effectiveness.
Can we expect to see similar statements in the future? Maybe on global warming or human rights?
It’s likely we’ll keep considering what we can reach consensus on, but we don’t have a list.
How is interfaith work like and unlike ecumenical work?
Both are extremely important. But they’re different, and sometimes there’s a tendency to blur that distinction. Ecumenical work is about Christian unity. In interfaith relations, Christians sometimes try to find the easiest common denominator—joining hands with those of other faiths to address issues in the world. And this is important.
But in my experience, what dialogue partners from other faiths really desire and expect is an earnest witness of each to the other. Muslims want to hear how Christian faith is understood and articulated, and I want to hear the same about theirfaith. That’s what makes interfaith discussion really rich.
Has U.S. foreign policy posed any challenges for international ecumenical work?
There used to be 1.3 million Christians in Iraq. Now, about half have been forced out and are living in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and so forth. But U.S. policy has made things really difficult for Christians in those countries. It’s had the consequence of equating Christianity, in the minds of many, with a very aggressive stance in the region.
As legislative assistant to Republican Senator Mark Hatfield from 1968 to 1976, you worked on the Hatfield-McGovern amendment to end the war in Vietnam. Any insights for our current situation?
The Hatfield-McGovern legislation was genuinely bipartisan. Hatfield was a Republican, joined by others. And those who most strongly resisted the proposal included prominent Democrats, such as John Stennis, chair of the Armed Services committee. So the debate at that time within Congress was healthier—it wasn’t locked into the severe partisanship that we see today. The same with the country at large.
You mean, specifically, party lines—not political polarization broadly, which was as severe as ever in 1970.
Absolutely. It wasn’t polarized around parties, so it was possible to have a debate about the real merits. Hatfield argued around constitutional issues of war-making powers, the interests of the United States, the nature of the conflict in Vietnam itself. These arguments could be made in ways in which one’s party affiliation didn’t just close off the discussion.
That’s not to say that party didn’t matter. Nixon tried to use all kinds of influence on Republicans, as Johnson did before him with Democrats. But party loyalty did not immediately determine one’s stance on the war. This is different from what it’s mostly been like today.
Of course, Hatfield-McGovern didn’t pass. In today’s more partisan climate, is there any hope of meaningful congressional action?
It didn’t pass, though a modified version did get 49 votes in the Senate. Congressional action against the war is far more unlikely now. Nothing will happen before the presidential election, in any event.
In the 1980s, you did some work on ecotheology. Arguing that a theology of “stewardship” of the earth is inadequate—because it conceives of people as separate from and above nature—you called instead for a theology of “interrelationship.” Recently, many evangelicals have signed on to a pro-environment agenda framed in terms of stewardship. Do you feel any tension between the ideas you developed then and the ecumenical work you do now?
No. Back then, I felt that the language of “stewardship” could too easily be misused. Secretary of the Interior James Watt and others would throw the word around as a justification to use creation, to do with it what we want.
We still see that. Religious right leader James Dobson talks positively about stewardship, but he doesn’t mean it.
It’s a word that you can pour a variety of meanings into, so I thought other terms and approaches might be more helpful. Today, I mainly marvel at the way this has come onto the church’s agenda. It was barely on the radar, and now a majority of Christians acknowledge a responsibility to relate to creation as a gift.
When I went to work for the World Council of Churches in 1988, we started working on global warming. Many of my colleagues initially said, “What does this have to do with the burning questions of economic justice?” Since then, the church’s work has helped reveal the interconnection between those questions. Now, when you look at the coverage of global warming, people are making the connections to the effect on the poor and vulnerable. This wasn’t understood even 15 years ago.
Still, there is a fundamental difference between stewardship and interconnectedness. Maybe what it comes down to is that now that we’re seeing this idea of stewardship actually lived out by evangelicals, the end result isn’t a difference that matters much.
From where I sit now, that’s about what I’d say. Those questions still matter; they go back to fundamental things: How do you understand humanity’s role in creation? But what finally makes a difference is that 17- and 18-year-olds in evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox churches are more likely to take for granted that global warming is something that Christians need to be concerned about.
Do you worry that the current focus on global warming might lead us to neglect other environmental issues?
It could. But with the global food crisis in the headlines, it’s interesting to note the connections to energy and other issues. The more you get into any environmental question, the more you see its interconnectedness with other questions. Because it’s simply the way it is.
Image courtesy of Reformed Church in America.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008 12:37 PM
Spanish photographer Fèlix Curto's latest exhibit, “Heart of Gold: Visits to the Mennonite communities in America,” on display at La Fábrica Galería in Madrid, is the result of a number of visits to traditional Mennonite communities. The website We Make Money Not Art showcases the photographer's work, some of which could reinforce the popular perception of Mennonites as luddites who live apart from modern society. Comments on the site point out that the people represented are a small subset of a larger Mennonite population that has otherwise integrated itself into mainstream, modern life. Still, Curto’s photographs display a beautiful, almost surreal austerity: Mr. Soul (seen left), for example, depicts a farmer whose weathered face emanates strength and rectitude against a wide-open sky.
Image by Fèlix Curto, courtesy of La Fábrica Galería.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008 5:02 PM
Aaron Weiss doesn’t fit the stereotype of a Christian rocker. The charismatic frontman of the band mewithoutYou, Weiss is an environmentalist, a Freegan (a person who eats food that others throw away), and an outspoken critic of the Christian right and the Iraq war. In this excerpt from the new book Rapture Ready!, author Daniel Radosh talks to Weiss about politics, pop music, and religion. To hear an interview with Radosh, and to listen to other examples of good Christian pop music, click here.
Image by Informant, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008 10:50 AM
The Family, also known as the Fellowship, is a shadowy fundamentalist Christian organization that holds unknown influence in the halls of American power, according to writer and religion expert Jeff Sharlet. His new book, The Family delves into the organization, exposing members and their ideology.
The organization practices a form of “Biblical capitalism,” discussed by Sharlet in an interview on Bloggingheads.tv with Will Wilkinson, a research fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute. In a perversion of both religion and capitalism, members of the Family use the organization to manipulate power for their personal gain. At the same time, members talk about sacrificing themselves to God, turning over all responsibility for their actions to Christianity as a “self-interest proxy.” Sharlet insists that many members are sincere in their beliefs, yet Wilkinson questions how people can be “sincerely self-deluded for self-aggrandizing purposes.”
Wednesday, May 28, 2008 9:11 AM
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, right? Much of the Judeo-Christian and Islamic tradition begins with that phrase. Writing for Parabola, Rabbi David Cooper suggests the creation story may not be so simple. Instead of the phrase, “[i]n the beginning, God created…” Cooper suggests a grammatically correct translation of the original material could be: “In the beginning, [it] created God, heaven, and earth.”
This alternate translation, favored in Jewish Kabbalah teachings, drastically changes the role of God in creation. Instead of God as the creator of everything, there is a different, unnamed force connecting and transcending all things, including God.
Thursday, May 22, 2008 4:08 PM
Christian pop music isn’t just for evangelicals anymore. In this episode of the UtneCast, Daniel Radosh, a secular Jew from New York City and author of the book Rapture Ready!, talks about why everyone should listen to Christian music. To hear the interview, complete with samples of good Christian pop songs, click on the play button below.
And to read an excerpt from Rapture Ready! visit www.utne.com/Rapture.
Inverview with Daniel Radosh on Christian Pop Music: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
Thursday, April 24, 2008 2:15 PM
Knowing that the bible is perfect, don’t you think the writers must have had to go through a few drafts? And what about editors? The greatest story ever told must have needed some tweaks—clearing up an antecedent here, fixing a comma there.
Writing for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, A.J. Packman presents a few first drafts of the parables of Jesus. Honestly, the stories aren’t always clear. But “It doesn't matter,” said Jesus. “The point is that God can get you free bread.”
Wednesday, February 20, 2008 1:07 PM
Like all science fairs, you could tell which projects had parental help and which ones didn’t at the 2008 Home School Science Fair. The blue-ribbon winning project on dinosaurs and people roaming the earth together, with the color photos and the perfectly cut lettering, probably had parental help. The one explaining how a broken motor disproves Darwin's theory of evolution, with the roughly cut pieces of paper and the penciled in chicken scratches, probably did not.
Every diorama in the Home School Science Fair, which took place inside a shopping mall in Roseville, Minnesota, had a biblical quote attached to it. A young woman whose project involved teaching her dog how to run circles between her legs decorated the words: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) in pink lace fabric. This quote got to the crux of the science fair, in my opinion: parental commandment. These parents pulled their children out of school, away from their peers, and said, “Now prove that Darwin was wrong.”
The projects all used classic high school science language: Start with a hypothesis, move on to testing, and then draw a conclusion. The problem was that much of the science was backwards. In good science, you start with a piece of evidence and try to find a truth. With creationist science, you start with a truth (the Bible), and try to find the evidence.
Before I arrived at the science fair, I planned to engage some of the children and parents. I wanted to ask them about creationism and education. Once I got there, however, I was overcome with a sense of pity for the children. They stood around the suburban mall, in the prime of the most awkward years of their life, being forced to preach blather. I didn’t want to exploit them for a cheap laugh while their parents and the company Answers in Genesis (whose literature was scattered throughout the event) were so clearly exploiting them to proselytize. The children’s gangly limbs and bad acne reminded me how vulnerable I was at their age and how easily someone could have brainwashed me.
I overheard one parent saying, “One thing is for sure, a lot of learning has gone on this week.” I would change that statement a bit: I’d say a lot of indoctrinating went on that week. Hopefully, a good college professor, and a few years of therapy, will help these children turn all that “learning” around.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008 12:01 PM
“I’m drawn to bad news like a moth to a summer porch light” confesses editor Kristyn Komarnicki in the November/December issue of the evangelical Christian magazine Prism. Komarnicki’s confession seems like dreary reading, but her unflinching interest in bad news is tempered by a faith “in God’s power to… transform us through every drop and sliver of anguish that life can hand out.”
The news that fills Prism’s columns isn’t easy reading: mountains are being destroyed for coal mining, Americans are over-worked and still poor, and teens are getting into abusive relationships—at church. Behind the doom and gloom, however, the magazine’s evangelical message points toward concrete solutions. No matter how audacious the challenge, evangelical Christians are willing to fight, buoyed by a faith that lives and struggles have meaning. You don’t need to be an evangelical, or even a Christian, to appreciate Prism’s strong message of action. Even staunch atheists may be able to find inspiration in the magazine’s motivating message .
Friday, November 09, 2007 4:24 PM
It’s hard for spiritual leaders to compete with YouTube, eBay, and HBO-On-Demand. In a culture focused on the instant gratification of consumerism, messages of piety and sanctity don’t win people’s devotion—a quandary that’s sent many Christian leaders too far down the consumerist rabbit hole,
A church in Houston partnered with McDonald’s, which built a franchise on the church grounds. Other churches have partnered with Starbucks. That’s not to mention churches with ATMs and those that offer some form of refreshment—coffee and doughnuts, fruit, and bottled water. Gone are the hard, wooden benches and the suit and tie. Nowadays the seating is plush, the dress more casual, pipe organs replaced with synthetic drums and electric guitars. All this is fair game, proponents say, necessary to help the church compete in a crowded market.
At the root of Bass’s polemic against the “theological popcorn” being peddled today is the idea that there’s a crisis of spirituality in America. People are simultaneously attracted and repulsed by slick ad campaigns, and rather than offering a viable alternative, houses of worship are simply taking a page from the marketer’s playbook to get butts in the pews.
Bass never really gets into what that alternative would look like, really. Though Geez, the magazine of “holy mischief,” hints toward an out with a letter from a former vendor of Christian merchandise. While hawking her “Christian-ish” wares, the writer became uneasy profiting off bible verses devoted to Doc Martens and Birkenstock sandals. She’s now renounced her pseudo-spiritual business and thanks Geez for the inspiration.
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