We Need Symbols of Shared Identity

Marcher with flag

Jim Geraghty’s comments on the anthem controversy this morning are oustanding:

Americans would be better off tackling this problem with empathy. For the average law-abiding young black man, getting pulled over on a traffic stop can be terrifying, gripped by the fear that one can do everything right and still get killed over a misunderstanding. Similarly, citizens should pause and recognize that every time a police officer puts on his badge and goes out to perform his duties, he wonders if this day will be his last, and whether he will be ambushed by some nut with a grudge against cops.

Of course, instead of understanding, the country got former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick wearing cops-are-pigs socks and denouncing police brutality while wearing a t-shirt bearing the image of Fidel Castro.

Trump is of course, as always, a racist, misogynist, illiberal reprobate eager to seize any advantage, at whatever cost to the country that he so clearly despises. (All nationalists despise their countries, because they are idolators and like all idolators they despise their idols for failing to deliver the goods.)

But ESPN and all the others who decided to make a hero of Kaepernick and demand viciously that everyone must pay obesience to his integrity should have known better than to play into his hands.

They have handed Trump perhaps his greatest political victory ever. Honoring the flag and the anthem are now signs of support for Trump.

The loss of the flag and the anthem as symbols that command allegiance across all boundaries would be incalculable.

If anyone says that oppressed peoples never saw the flag and the anthem as symbols that command their alligance, I strenuously deny the claim.


How will we find common ground without a common identity, and where will we find moral commitments with which to bind scoundrels like Trump if not in a common identity that people like him have no choice but to at least nominally affirm?

MLK: “I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

Of course we can’t compel respect for the flag and the anthem. Forcing players to stand would only increase the division. That’s why it was so very, very important for ESPN not to make a divine hero out of Kaepernick in the first place. Now they’re stuck. (Of course it was also important for Trump not to be a racist, misogynist, illiberal reprobate, but that ship has sailed.)

Finding a way to restore the flag and the anthem to their rightful, nonpartisan place is a matter of national emergency.

Free Faith in Our Secular Age

The Gospel Coalition has just released its first independently published book, Our Secular Age – a look back at Charles Taylor’s volume ten years after its publication. An excerpt from Collin Hansen’s pastorally sensitive introduction runs on TGC today. The focus is hope in our secular age. I love how the book trailer turns the challenge of modernity on its head using Romans 5:4.

Carl Trueman’s chapter, focused on getting the history of religion and modernity right, is also particularly good.

I contributed a chapter, focused on the challenge of religious freedom and secularity:

Without a common god, we lack a common good. That is the first challenge. It is hard to find shared moral ground upon which to build a way of living in peace with each other. This is why worldliness and strife are increasing in our communities.

But there is a second and deeper challenge. Religious freedom brings with it a different way of experiencing religion itself. It destabilizes all religious positions, including not only fidelity to this or that religion but even belief and unbelief simply as such. It is harder now to be a really committed Christian, or even a really committed theist; it is also, in a different way, harder to be a really committed atheist. Our chaotic cultural environment undermines the sources of moral character and intellectual confidence. The only thing that has become easier (at least in the short term) is therapeutic deism and being “spiritual but not religious”—passively surrendering to each spiritual mood as it happens along.

But you should read the book anyway. In this age of freedom, I freely welcome your free speech in response!

Holy War at Work


TGR carries the first post in my new series on work as holy war:

This puts Satan in control of the world. That’s why three times Jesus calls him the archon (ruler) of the world, and once calls him “the god of this world.”

That’s why, in the temptation of Christ, when Satan tells Jesus that he rules all the kingdoms of the world and will give them to Jesus if he worships him, Jesus does not reply: “Satan, you’re crazy. You don’t rule the world, God does.” On the contrary, Jesus accepts Satan’s claim that he rules all the nations. Think about it: If it weren’t true, this wouldn’t even be a temptation. If Satan doesn’t rule the world, he has nothing to tempt Jesus with. The story would be meaningless.

Coming up: how we struggle to take our little corners of the world back from Satan in our daily work.

Could It Be True – God, a Father?


Wrapping up my latest series on TGR with a little light speculation about the inner life of the Trinity:

Is there work in the inner life of the Trinity? Perhaps we can’t know. But everything in the outward operation of the Trinity (God’s creation and redemption of the world, and all his relations with it) has to come out of the inner life of the Trinity.

Occasion for these reflections is the thought that we tend not to think of fatherhood as a form of “work,” which diminishes our appreciation of how the agency of God is represented in the image of God as a father:

Notice that for Paul, what sharply differentiates the Christian conception of the divine from pagan conceptions is not only the sole lordship of Jesus over all but also the sole fatherhood of God over all.

That’s a lot of dirty diapers.

This series was great fun and richly rewarding for me. Not sure what to write about next – taking suggestions!

The 95 Theses and Vocation

95 Theses

Today, Christian History Institute runs a sneak preview of my forthcoming eBook on how Luther’s 95 Theses can challenge the church today:

Mark Greene of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity put the issue [of following God in our work and other daily activities] into sharp focus when he spoke to the Lausanne Movement gathering in 2010, the largest global conference of evangelical leaders ever held.

He observed that most Christians think the job of the church is to recruit people to join the church and participate in its programs to spread the gospel. On that model, he pointed out, the 98% of Christians who are not church employees are neither envisioned nor equipped by the church to serve Jesus in 95% of what they do with their waking hours.

As Greene said: “What a tragic waste of human potential!”…

Five hundred years ago, Brother Martin was facing a dilemma that had important similarities to ours. In his world, works of religious devotion had become something separate from ordinary life, similar to the way we put our faith front and center on Sunday but struggle to do the same on Monday…

If you have any theses for disputation to offer in reply to my thoughts, they’re very welcome!

And mark your calendars for Oct. 31, 2017, the 500th anniversary date, for the release of The Church on Notice.