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First Things Student Essay Contest 2015

First Things Student Essay Contest 2015

Earlier this year, the journal First Things, a prominent publication on American religion and public life, held its first student essay contest for all college and graduate-level students. Contestants had three prompts to choose from, focused around essays and material the journal had covered in 2014-15. I became aware of the contest late in the spring semester but quickly forgot about it as final assignments and papers came due. However, at the last minute, I decided to enter. I chose to respond to prompt #2: In a recent issue of First Things, Mary Eberstadt wrote, “Everybody who cares about social justice ought to deplore the new intolerance.” I would encourage you to read Eberstadt’s article first, before reading my essay. Unfortunately, I didn’t win (first place, second place), but it was fun to compete all the same! Perhaps next year I’ll try again. Below is my essay. Read the rest of this entry

Civil Rights and Same-Sex Marriage

On Friday June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry (Obergefell v. Hodges). The country has practically erupted in simultaneous celebration and deep disappointment, and news stations and social media have carried numerous discussions and debates. The conversations surrounding homosexuality and same-sex marriage will continue for some time, but it’s important to maintain kindness and civility with one another, even when we strongly disagreed.

I am currently working on a response to both Supreme Court decisions, but this morning I saw a well-known millennial Christian leader post a good question on Facebook (Rachel Held Evans). I want to respond to her question, as I think it is a genuine question that many people have and that needs answering. Read the rest of this entry

A Factual Faith: Response to T. M. Luhrmann

Note: I originally wrote this short piece on May 15, 2015 as part of an assignment for a writing for publication class this last semester.

In a provocative New York Times Sunday edition opinion piece entitled, “Faith vs. Facts,” T. M. Luhrmann, professor of anthropology at Stanford University, attempts to explain the differences between factual belief and religious belief, and why she thinks many religious people ignore the facts. Relying upon the work of a group of scholars that have investigated the cognitive nature of belief, Luhrmann presents three pieces of evidence. First, the very language used by religious adherents when they talk about their beliefs supposedly reveals the irrelevance of facts for those beliefs. Saying, “I believe in God” reveals that God is not self-evident and that others might not believe in God, neither of which are necessary when apprehending the material world around us. Second, she suggestions that with religious belief, the truth of a belief matters less than the pragmatic mileage one can squeeze from that belief. As opposed to caring about the way things are, religious folk are more invested in shaping their destinies, creating purpose, and constructing a world they want to exist. Third, Luhrmann posits that religious and factual beliefs represent different ways of interpreting the same occurrence, as factual beliefs seek to explain how something happened and religious beliefs try to explain why it happened. Read the rest of this entry

A Reflection on Ferguson Before the Grand Jury Decision

In light of the mounting tension and unrest that is happening in Ferguson, MO over the Darren Wilson-Michael Brown incident, I thought I would offer up some words about this case and the national attention it has garnered. Even though I have had a lot of thoughts regarding this tragic and difficult issue, and even though I have read a substantial amount of news articles since the shooting in August, I have held back saying or writing much about it (I did have a few Facebook posts early on, but since August I’ve only posted a few articles here and there). Yet I think now is the time to say something. It is important to put these thoughts down on paper before the grand jury reaches their decision and it is announced (possibly Monday?). Much discussion will follow that announcement, especially if any of the evidence from the grand jury meetings is released. Read the rest of this entry

Richard Epstein on Income Inequality

Income and wealth inequality is a hot topic in political and economic conversations today. Just recently Thomas Piketty, an economist at the Paris School of Economics, came out with a book, Capital in the Twenty-First Centurywhich has as its main thesis that capitalism as an economic system naturally tends toward extreme income inequality, that, if not checked, will result is catastrophic social consequences. He proposes a world-wide global progressive tax that would levy higher taxes on the rich in order to subsidize the poor. The belief that income inequality is a major problem in society is ubiquitous and ever-increasing. Read the rest of this entry

The Love of Money and the Root of Money

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (ESV)

A Basic Confusion

The above verses are from 1 Tim. 6:6-10. Many people who have read this passage have come away convinced that money is evil and that being rich is wrong. Who would want to fall into such temptation and risk so much? Who wants to face ruin and destruction? Yikes! It’s probably best to just stay away from money altogether, right? Well, no of course not. If we read Paul carefully, we note that he says that the love of money is the root all kinds of evil, not money qua money (and the desire to be rich is wrong, not simply being rich). Hmm, this makes things more complicated doesn’t it? Perhaps money isn’t intrinsically wrong, but we definitely shouldn’t love it. But just what is money anyway and why do we need it? If the love of money is so risky, wouldn’t it be better just to do away with money altogether? Is this possible?

Read the rest of this entry

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