12 Songs for Christmas: Christmas in Washington

“It’s Christmas time in Washington, and the Democrats rehearse. Getting into gear for [an upcoming] year of things not getting worse. Republicans drink whiskey neat and thank their lucky stars. [Thanks to Senate minority rule, with Wyoming voters weighing 68 times more than Californians] There’ll be no more FDRs.” So said Steve Earle, more or less, … Continue reading 12 Songs for Christmas: Christmas in Washington

12 Songs for Christmas: “Every Star Shall Sing a Carol (new millennium peace version)”

Trigger warning! I am the sort of geek who actually cares both about schisms among subtypes within subtypes of Calvinists (Presbyterian and Congregationalist) in the antebellum US (which mattered for things like ending slavery and the ongoing curricula of US liberal arts colleges) as well as which factions of the academic left have a correct … Continue reading 12 Songs for Christmas: “Every Star Shall Sing a Carol (new millennium peace version)”

Injecting Bleach or Ingesting Beach—Inquiring Minds Want to Know

I’m writing this note after reading a New York Times piece and reader’s thread about Trump’s suggestion to combat coronavirus by “injecting” a form of bleach as a sort of "cleansing” (which he has now walked back to supposedly being “sarcastic,” although that seems worse than sincerity). I noticed on cable TV as the story … Continue reading Injecting Bleach or Ingesting Beach—Inquiring Minds Want to Know

The Death of My Old Hometown: Sucking Out the Wealth, Filling the Gap with Fecal Pollution

Last summer, on a road trip between Minneapolis to Kansas City, I passed through a small town in Iowa where I lived from age two to five.  Here is a picture I took. I have few personal memories of my early years, and almost all of them are filtered through home movies that I watched … Continue reading The Death of My Old Hometown: Sucking Out the Wealth, Filling the Gap with Fecal Pollution

A Workshop for Critical Thought about U.S. Religion—with Silly Putty and a Carved Lion

I have built up numerous cheesy but memorable “mottos” for the academic study of religion, which I use in my teaching. Perhaps I’ll write about more of them later, but meanwhile today's topic is the motto, “our class is not a paint-by-number kit, but a workshop for critical thought.” I wrote up a short and … Continue reading A Workshop for Critical Thought about U.S. Religion—with Silly Putty and a Carved Lion

Don’t Deem a Melting Glacier Irrelevant (Just Because the Rest of the Glacier is Still Cold and You Really Hate Cold Things)

“Many evangelicals are likely to switch their loyalties to the Democrats [in the coming election]—and the exact numbers will depend partly on whether they perceive that mainstream liberals are treating them with nuance and respect, as opposed to stereotypes and contempt.” I wrote that in 2008, in a context I will discuss shortly. Because of … Continue reading Don’t Deem a Melting Glacier Irrelevant (Just Because the Rest of the Glacier is Still Cold and You Really Hate Cold Things)