Beyond Belief
6

What Can Confession Mean Now?

The determined forays of hallowed Western faith traditions into the digital-media world rarely produce a non-embarrassing outcome. There are your teen-themed “Bible-zine” translations. There are your evangelical trade shows. There are your media churches. But the recent news that the Catholic Church was launching a quasi-official confession app on the iPhone was something else again—and not just because it got snapped up in the related Maureen Dowd column-generating software.

To be fair, the app—the brainchild of a pair of entrepreneurial Indiana-based Catholic brothers, Patrick and Chip Leinen—is not designed to supplant the traditional rite of confession, spoken in anonymity to a real-life [...]

12

For Your Own Good: Chipping Away at 'Roe'

The Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade decision turned 38 last week, and regardless of one’s ultimate view of the issue, the legal right to abortion on demand is clearly in the throes an awkward middle age.

This year’s Roe anniversary coincides with the indictment of Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell on eight counts of murder. Gosnell appears to have been the sort of unscrupulous abortion mill operator you’d find in a Jack Chick comic—an answer to the many fervid prayers of pro-life activists keen to make the public abortion understand as murder in the most brutal and forceful terms. When state inspectors suspended his license and closed [...]

20

How Sarah Palin Tortures the Bible

With her usual vacuous brio, Sarah Palin has seized another news cycle, using an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network to attack the Obama administration for failing to do, well, something she’d vaguely like to be done about the political crisis in Egypt. The half-term former Alaska governor assailed White House diplomacy hands for withholding reliable information about the nature of the protests and for their inability to clearly telegraph the next moves the United States will pursue in the suddenly unstable Middle East. The potential risks, she warned, are dire indeed. Washington urgently needs to determine just “who it will be that fills now the void in [...]

21

The Growth of a Pentecostal Congress

It’s hard to say in what, exactly, our elected representatives believe. Oh, this Congress got all sorts of attention for running, and winning, on a tea partyish platform of ideological purity, but when it comes to belief belief—in the cosmic stuff, last things and first scriptural principles—they’re a distinctly squishy bunch.

They are, like the country they represent, majority Protestant, according to a new study by the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life. But as is the case with the country’s broader Protestant profile, it’s hard to say what, beyond a general feel-good affinity for Jesus, that faith entails. Not surprisingly, the 112th Congress includes stronger [...]

12

Americans Get Hysterical: Oh No, a New Radical Muslim Egypt!

There are countless reasons that the makers of U.S. policy have been caught flatfooted by the uprising in Egypt. As is often the case in human affairs, the most compelling reason is also the basest: We spend $1.2 billion in Egypt to provide “security” and support for U.S. interests in the Middle East—and all that money buys both parties the privilege of looking the other way as the sclerotic Mubarak regime grew more unresponsive to a restive democratic oppostion.

In broader terms, however, American leaders are puzzled by the uprising because so far it has failed utterly to conform to the “Clash of Civilizations” playbook. That is to say, [...]

14

Long Distance Projection: Believers Making Sense of Jared Lee Loughner

Truly senseless acts make for poor sloganeering. Jared Lee Loughner, the gunman who killed six people at a Tucson congressional town meeting, while gravely wounding his apparent target, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, seems to have been not at all working from any traditional set of motivations. His now-infamous cache of YouTube videos throws around theories of a new currency and the illegitimate seizure of private property, together with a barely intelligible discussion of himself as a terrorist. He also announced plans to introduce a new number and letter to the alphabet, both represented as bursts of incoherent scribbling—a fair depiction, it seems, of the thought process involved in producing [...]