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Modernity’s Fraternity: What Dan Brown Gets Right

…sle. Nevertheless, his ambition outstretches any run-of-the-mill author of cheap thrillers. For better or worse, after two runaway bestsellers that claim to upend the traditional story of Christianity, he has become America’s most important pop philosopher and historian. In the earlier books, he hatched a version of the faith that spoke to many people in ways that churches no longer seem able to. Now, by turning to Freemasonry in The Lost Symbol,…

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Celebrate Jesus with Weird Merchandise!

…tween the bunnies-and-eggs version of Easter, and the church-service version. Merchandisers are wise to define Easter by marshmallow chicks and colorful baskets, rather than bring theology into it. But there are always exceptions. One is the Oriental Trading Company. Founded to create cheap plastic toys for carnivals, OTC is now a leading supplier of cheap plastic stuff for church groups and Christian schools. Their party supply catalog always con…

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After Orlando: Love Wins, But When?

…ut the same law that buys a venison steak in the Great Northwoods brings a cheap Taurus pistol to Baltimore, to people who also feel unheard and neglected. (Never mind the strange psychology of the “lone wolf.”) So the freedom to live without threat and the freedom to own a gun are at odds. Someone will have to win and someone will have to lose. I mean this quite literally. The only way to have meaningful gun control will be to vote people out of…

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The Problem with Christian Gentlemen: A Short Goodbye to Ted Cruz, the “Mr. Pecksniff” of Presidential Politics

…is rationalizing his decision to pimp out his younger daughter at a rather cheap dowry price to a rich but grotesquely uncouth suitor: All his life long he had been walking up and down the narrow ways and by-places, with a hook in one hand and a crook in the other, scraping all sorts of valuable odds and ends into his pouch. Now, there being a special Providence in the fall of a sparrow, it follows (so Mr. Pecksniff, and only such admirable men, w…

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There’s No Business Like the Bible Business: 200 Years of the ABS

…s, which did the actual distributing of the sacred texts. The ABS produced cheap, text-only Bibles, sold at cost and distributed through “branch societies,” and thus undercut competitors. If you wanted notes, commentary, or maps, you would have to look elsewhere; the ABS focused on sola scriptura, with the faith that the words alone, guided by the Holy Spirit, would effect transformations in the lives of individuals. If there’s one thing that Amer…

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The Contested Religious Powers of Baseball on Display in Cuba

…a is a believer in that legacy. But the power of sports to produce heightened emotional states of unity, which scholars call “collective effervescence,” can also give it a shared power with religion to occlude injustice in this world, to bury it in cheap, playful sentiment. Sports, like religion, and like the American Dream, will thus continue to be contested symbolic terrain, where the stakes can prove much more complicated than zero-sum games, a…

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An Open Letter to Black Clergy on the Disdain for Protest

…y or by a wannabe Martin Luther King. While the President sermonized about cheap grace, a daughter of the church climbed a flagpole and took down the American swastika. Like Mary and Elizabeth, Bree Newsome proclaimed that our salvation—wrapped in swaddling clothes—is here in our hands. As an ordained clergyperson nurtured in the bosom of the black church, I am all too familiar with the way in which we tend to spiritualize the material suffering o…

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Despising the Holidays: When Christians Led the ‘War on Christmas’

…became the equivalent of a blockbuster. In the chaos of the era print was cheap and plentiful, and the collapse of the licensing laws insured a degree of free speech hitherto unknown in the British Isles. The World Turned Upside Down would prove so enduring that it has been an English folk ballad for more than 350 years. The song’s opening verse, “Holy-dayes are despis’d, new fashions are devis’d. /Old Christmas is kicked out of Town” remains per…

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Springtime for Ross Douthat?

…ands Francis’ amazing, charismatic realignment of Catholic priorities as a cheap publicity stunt to get hippies in the pew. He completely misunderstands Francis’ speech to Congress as plumping for liberal values—and I’m not entirely sure he gets that Martin Luther King wasn’t a Catholic. On and on it goes. Douthat snipes at “a liberalism that thinks it can impose meaning on a cosmos whose sound and fury signifies nothing on its own,” without bothe…

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SoulCycle Looks to Sell its Soul

…ized family—albeit one with a healthy profit margin. Accordingly, it’s not cheap. A package of 50 classes in the Hamptons (which includes early class signups) runs for $4,000. New York magazine interviewed one New York City rider who, by the magazine’s estimate, was spending more than $21,000 on SoulCycle each year. A single class, sans early sign-up perks, costs nearly as much as a month-long membership at my local YMCA. Meanwhile, back on SoulCy…

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