James Street’s The High Calling: Perhaps Peace Demands Understanding

James Street’s The High Calling is the rare sort of sequel that continues a story without giving in to the typical reader’s desire for neatly tied up plot lines.

The High Calling by James Street (image courtesy “From Among the Books of…”)

As I have written on a couple of occasions now, work and the need to complete my latest book have slowed my reading. As a bit of indulgent diversion for myself, I have just completed the sequel to James Street’s novel about the life of a Baptist minister, The Gauntlet. This later work, The High Calling, picks up Baptist minister London Wingo’s story some 20 years after the ending of that earlier novel. While The High Calling is a sequel, however, it is a sequel that cares less about tying up previous plot lines than about exploring how time and change (that elusive quality we know as mutability) affect the lives of Wingo, his daughter Paige, and their friends.

Street’s novel finds London Wingo returned to Linden, MO, where he began his career as a minister to accept a call to a church. That church, Plymouth Baptist, is a new church founded by members of Wingo’s earlier church, First Baptist. Street seems to be setting the stage for a battle between churches, between ministers (the current First Baptist minister, Harry Ward, seems to be the sort of minister cum entrepreneur one sees much of in contemporary American religion), between visions of what the Baptist church should be. Continue reading


Sports: it’s how America deals with big social issues

SEC-football-modern-plantation-systemAhhhh sports. For whatever reason, we’ve decided that the best way to deal with our most pressing national issues isn’t directly through our elected representatives, but metaphorically, through sports.

Guns, drugs, income inequality, violence against women, gender identification, homosexual rights—you name it, our sports venues are where those issues are debated.

This week end was a big one on the metaphorical battlefront. Continue reading


America, refugees and assimilation

twelve-syrians-drown-heading-from-turkey-to-greek-island-1441235628-2607Jeb Bush has proposed only admitting Christian Syrian refugees. On the face of it, it’s an obnoxious, bigoted suggestion, a clear violation of the fundamental principle of separation of church and state, and flies in the face of all this country stands for. But what if he’s right?

The problem is not so much that some of the refugees could be terrorists, although that’s certainly a possibility, e.g., the Tsarnaev brothers, as it is that they could form a potential breeding ground for future terrorists. The risk is second-generation terrorists. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Religion

Women at wells have problems, evidently…

In which we learn that Buddha and Jesus met the same sorts of people…

4th Century statue of Buddha (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Each morning my wife Lea and I read together, a delightful habit which we have been practicing for a number of years. Our readings consist of a religious/spiritual works (we are eclectic, though our readings tend to rotate between the Christian and Buddhist, particularly Zen Buddhist, traditions primarily), works about art (we’re fond of both art history and criticism), and poetry.  We recently finished the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and we are currently working our way through a work called Teachings of the Buddha. This work is a compendium of various lessons and stories – one might use the word parables safely – attributed to Siddhartha Gautama.

Of particular interest to us have been remarkable similarities between stories of the Buddha’s experiences and stories of those of a later teacher, one well known (at least by name) to Western culture – Jesus Christ. One of these “shared stories,” the woman at the well, is worth a look because it gives us insight into the traditions of two major religions and of how we understand their teachings. Continue reading

Without ordination, women can’t contribute equally in decisions on religious dogma

By Whitney Downard

Despite political and social gains elsewhere, women cannot hold many high religious offices because of their gender. By limiting leadership positions to men, churches erode women’s role in defining worship.

The priesthood, a cornerstone of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, grants the holder the power and authority to act in the name of God. Only those who hold the priesthood can administer priesthood blessings, bless the sacrament (the passing of bread and water) or perform baptisms. Most importantly, a majority of leadership positions within the LDS church can only be held by those possessing the priesthood. Only worthy male members, 12 and older, can be priesthood holders.

The LDS church isn’t the only church to limit women. Several major religions in the United States don’t allow women to hold meaningful leadership positions. The authorities in power – men – dictate what, how and if women can contribute to religious dogma. This prevents women from performing important spiritual rituals or practices.
Continue reading

Donald Trump, Public Idiot

Would Donald Trump close the Westboro Baptist Church?

I’m not saying that Donald Trump ought to close the Westboro Baptist Church. Or that Donald Trump ever said that he might close the Westboro Baptist Church. I’m just asking if he would.

Republican candidate Donald Trump told MSNBC Monday that he would consider closing US mosques with radical leaders if he were elected president. Continue reading

CATEGORY: WarSecurity

The human detritus of war

After the U.S. Civil War, the violence didn’t stop. Numerous gangs of bandits continued to fight on for almost thirty years after the war was officially over. The most famous of course was the James-Younger Gang, but there were also the Daltons and the Doolins, Henry Berry Lowrie and the Swamp Outlaws in North Carolina, the Baldknobbers in Arkansas and the Klan. Some of these are purely for-profit initiatives, but as often as not, they have a political bent. They are, along with the maimed, widowed and orphaned, and dislocated and impoverished, the human detritus of war.

Some wars produce more. The Hundred Years War in Europe produced so many companies of bandits that various popes proposed Crusades in an attempt to siphon them off into hopefully deadly wars, just as the French would later enlist SS into the Foreign Legion after WWII and sent them to Indochina. Others produce only a few. The Vietnam War contributed a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Gulf War Timothy McVeigh. Sometimes so many are produced that they destroy entire countries, as the Liberia Civil War ended up ravaging Sierra Leone.

Regardless of nuance, the basic formula is the same. Angry young men, trained in the art of war, who come back disaffected and often with limited prospects. So they do what they know how to do—blow shit up and kill people.

Now we’re seeing the same thing in the recent wave of terrorism. New York, Madrid, London, Mumbai, Boston, and now Paris, again. We don’t know all the details yet, but what we do know suggests military grade weapons handled with military-level expertise in a military-like operation.

It’s not really about Islam or a reaction to the devastation created by the foolish adventuring of the Bushes and Cheney. It’s much simpler than that. They’re young, impassioned, angry and deadly and there are simply too many of them.


Carson, Carson, Carson. What are you thinking?

Please make sense once. Just once.

ICMYI: Mint Press News (9/28/2015) – Ben Carson Considers Religion As Probable Cause For Searches

And if you can’t make sense, would you at least leave our 4th amendment rights alone?

Seriously, the irony is rich with this one.

““What we should be talking about is Islam and the tenets of Islam and where do they come from? They come from Sharia. They come from the Koran,” he told host Martha Raddatz. Continue reading

A belated lesson for Ted Cruz on speaking for the people

It helps when more people are behind you. How’s the view from under the bus?

ICYMI: Politico 9/28 – Cruz sternly rebuked by GOP

On Monday night, Cruz’s colleagues ignored his attempt to disrupt Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to fund the government without attacking Planned Parenthood. In an unusual rebuke, even fellow Republicans denied him a “sufficient second” that would have allowed him a roll call vote.

Then, his Republican colleagues loudly bellowed “no” when Cruz sought a voice vote, a second repudiation that showed how little support Cruz has: Just one other GOP senator — Utah’s Mike Lee — joined with Cruz as he was overruled by McConnell and his deputies.

Life must be truly surreal for him these days. I mean: Continue reading

CATEGORY: PoliticsReligion

Abortion and the separation of church and state

20,000,000+ reasons why separation of church and state remains a good idea

Sometimes I mull and navelgaze and don’t have the decency to refrain from posting. This may be one of those times. Indulge me if you will, or not, but if these musings strike you in some way, one way or another, I hope you’ll share where those musings lead you.

Before our most recent tragedy, Planned Parenthood and efforts to defund it were all the rage in GOP quarters, replete with Fiorina trying desperately to overtake Hillary as America’s most notable serial liar. So while we struggle through this unfortunate hiatus until the next government shutdown showdown, I got to mulling and gazing.

How many people in America actually oppose abortion? Continue reading


Wrestling with Pope Francis (and Kim Davis): Scrogues Converse

Behind the scenes at Scholars and Rogues ideas are hashed out in emails and on social media. This week the meeting between Pope Francis and Kim Davis–and the bigger issues it raises for us–kept rising to the top of the pile. Perhaps it is appropriate that on the Feast of St. Francis we share some of our thoughts.

On the one hand, I just want Kim Davis to go away. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Religion

The two most important commandments vs those who preach intolerance

I’ve recently outed myself as some kind of weird not quite deist/gnostic, read: believer in God, just very differently, so I find it a little peculiar that with all the allegedly Christian ministers and pundits spreading hate and fear, I feel called  to remind people of this:

Matthew 25: 36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Continue reading

By Frank Balsinger Posted in Religion
CATEGORY: Religion

The legacy of Pope Francis will not be his meeting with Kim Davis

PopeFrancisI was disheartened, to say the least by yesterday’s headlines regarding Pope Francis’ meeting with Rowan County Clerk of Courts Kim Davis. And yet this meeting did not cause me to lose hope in his ability and intention to bring about significant changes in the Roman Catholic Church.

“Kim Davis, Kentucky Clerk, Is Said to Have Met Pope,” New York Times

“Pope Francis met privately with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, Vatican confirms,” Washington Post

The first was posted on Facebook, the second sent to me in an email. The Facebook post came from Connie Schultz, author and columnist from Cleveland. She responded, “Kim Davis has now managed to poison the joy of so many who saw the Pope’s visit as a sign of hope. God’s work, you understand.” Her post was followed by an outpouring of disappointment, sadness, and some anger. Continue reading


A word to our some of our putatively Christian fellow Americans

The Gospels are clear. So are reactionary intentions.

If you think Muslims and the Koran are scary, you should check out the Old Testament sometime. It wouldn’t make someone else’s religion less scary, but it might put things in perspective. Western Judeo-Christian tradition is far older with a much bloodier history.

Kill people who aren’t like us: check. Continue reading


Book Review: Forbidden Chronicles of a Roman Centurion

A bit like a mystery, a bit like a thriller, a bit like the notes from a theological conclave: John Chaplick’s Forbidden Chronicles of a Roman Centurion offers all kinds of readers an interesting trip into the search for the various forms of truth religious texts offer us….

Forbidden Chronicles of a Roman Centurion by John Chaplick (image courtesy Southern Yellow Pine Publishing)

A Roman centurion who knew the Apostle Paul sends his son an original version of the New Testament. Twenty centuries or so later, the letter he sent along with the manuscript is discovered by an archaeologist and brought to the attention of a museum curator, a couple of theologians, a history professor, and a graduate student writing on material related to the discovery. These five enlist the archaeologist, they split into two groups of three, and each group goes in search of that important – and likely controversial – document.

That, in a nutshell is the plot of Forbidden Chronicles of a Roman Centurion, a book that explores some profound ideas even as it veers between being a mystery, a thriller, and a theological symposium. What Chaplick seeks to do is almost as elusive and difficult as what his characters attempt to do in his novel: explore a profound religious question while at the same time keep readers entertained.

He comes close to pulling off this near impossible feat.

What will make Forbidden Chronicles a challenge to the reader attracted to its Da Vinci Code like narrative is that author Chaplick peppers the novel with at times almost dauntingly philosophical and theological discussions among his main characters. Continue reading

Tony Perkins of Family Research Council strikes again

Bearing false witness is Perkins’ anti-Christian stock in trade

From Raw Story: Tony Perkins: The Constitution protects Christianity but not Islam because it’s not just a religion

Judging all Muslims for the violent behavior of the relative few (as a percentage of total population) makes as much sense as judging Christians on the behavior of Anders Breivik, the George Tiller Killer, the violent clashes in Ireland not so long ago, the Inquisition, and the Crusades. Continue reading


Why can’t Ben Carson address the ramifications of his bigotry?

Maybe because it would be awkward?

Caricature by Paul Szep

Caricature by Paul Szep

From PolitiFact: Ben Carson: Do any Muslim countries have women’s rights, gay rights or religious freedom?

Spoiler: mostly false, with caveats. Ironically, while busily lambasting nations where a different religion holds the majority and calls the shots, he rather fails in addressing those inequalities and the political extremes evidenced here.

What do I mean? He feels that being Muslim should exclude a person from the presidency, because heaven forbid a single Muslim should be the head of state. Maybe if America were to become a majority Muslim nation we’d have to worry about being one of the worst Muslim-dominant nations according to the data in the fact-check. Maybe we’d be one of the best. We will probably never know. Continue reading

Trump: no obligation to decency


From The Guardian: Trump: I was not obligated to correct questioner who called Obama Muslim

On Twitter, the Republican presidential frontrunner said: “Am I morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him? I don’t think so!”

Let’s reframe.

Jackass stands up and, based on zero evidence, Continue reading