Archives For Original Sin


John Roth’s Essay “Polls Apart” from
Electing Not to Vote is featured in Catapult magazine

“… Not surprisingly, the chasm dividing our country—along with the simmering tensions evident in offhand comments, eye-catching billboards, or partisan bumper stickers—became increasingly visible in our congregations as well. For the past two years I had been traveling widely in the Mennonite church, visiting dozens of congregations, staying in homes, talking with young people and engaging in conversations with all kinds of people on topics related to “the gospel of peace.” The impressions I gleaned during that period—which happened to coincide with the long presidential campaign—are admittedly anecdotal; but in most of the congregations, I found people keenly aware of national politics and deeply interested in making a link between their Christian convictions and the outcome of the elections. At the same time, however, the nature of the conversation in most Mennonite churches seemed to reflect the tone and substance of the political discourse that was dividing the nation as a whole.

Now the fact of diversity within the Anabaptist family of churches regarding political engagement is not a new thing. The sixteenth-century Anabaptists were far from unified in regard to their understanding of the sword or how Christians should relate to government; and those in the believers church tradition* have held a wide variety of positions on voting, political activism and office-holding. There is no well-established believers church “orthodoxy” on these questions. Indeed, it should be clear from the outset that the argument I wish to make regarding conscientious abstention from voting should not be understood as a standard of Christian integrity or faithfulness to Anabaptist principles. To be sure, our general commitment to pacifism and the voluntary church have always raised questions about the limits of our allegiance to the state; nonetheless, our traditions have also been characterized by a spectrum of political attitudes, ranging from vigorous engagement to a strict separatism.

What seemed new in the fall of 2004, however, was not the mere fact of diverse political attitudes but rather the growing “fundamentalism” evident among both the Christian Left and the Christian Right within our congregations, along with the sense that political involvement has now become a Christian imperative. I think we would all agree that the issues facing our country—issues of poverty and health care, housing, care for children and the unborn, security, relations with other countries—are all moral issues about which Christians might have something distinctive to say. But as I traveled in various Mennonite congregations, it became increasingly clear that the nature of the conversation about values and moral choices has been almost completely co-opted by the polarized rhetoric of the media: radio talk show hosts, direct mail campaigns, polemical ads and bloggers. In short, our congregations do not seem to be ready or able to engage the substantive questions of this presidential election in a framework other than that of the Red/Blue divide in our national culture.  …”

Read the full essay:

Electing Not to Vote:
Christian Reflections on Reasons for Not Voting.
Ted Lewis, Editor.
Paperback. Cascade Books. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $15 ]

Books and Culture reviews
Original Sin: A Cultural History
by Alan Jacobs. 

“It’s a funny thing when an idea becomes at once singularly despised and surprisingly fascinating, simultaneously passé and sexy. Take the doctrine of original sin—that complex of theological and biological commitments developed and coordinated to make sense of our sense (and Scripture’s) that we are dead ends, all of us. One wonders, though, whether it is our sense these days. Fifty years ago, evangelistic tracts did their Lutheran thing to great effect: Law, then Gospel. Evangelists established points of contact by reminding listeners that they were all sinners—who could deny it?—then moved from problem to solution and invitation. And it worked, more or less.

But things are different now. The contemporary American landscape features a striking coincidence of blatant brokenness and robust self-esteem. We know we’re broke, but we don’t think we need any fixin’. In fact, we resent the suggestion. We chafe at the occasional attempt to rehabilitate notions of innate sinfulness as world-denying, repressive, and death-dealing.

Whence, then, the recent rash of books on sin? We might expect that from academic monographs. After all, sin used to matter. Its historical fascination is patent, not least because we delight in figuring out what was wrong with our parents. But a series of wryly written and deftly marketed books on the seven deadly sins, selling for $9.95 a pop? I suspect that sin’s reemergence into the limelight is directly, if inversely, related to its perceived claim on our lives. Now that we can breezily laugh it off, sin has become interesting (if only quaintly so).  … “

Read the full review: 

Original Sin: A Cultural History.
Alan Jacobs.

Hardcover. HarperOne. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $20 ] [ Amazon ]

The Sustainablog reviews Keith Farnish’s
e-book A Matter of Scale.



“I can only imagine that Keith Farnish’s comprehensive A Matter of Scale was a similar labor of love.  One can sense the author’s own expressive burst in the feverish love with which he forms his ideas.

A Matter of Scale is an e-Book only; not yet a typical “print” book.  This could be for a number of reasons.  It could be the author’s environmental concerns of tree-felling for books.  Then, it could be the crux of his whole philosophy of taking personal responsibility for the actions affecting our global ecosystem.  But one thing is certain–A Matter of Scale is unpublished certainly NOT due to its lack of quality insight and urgent information.  For its own modest scale and scope, it packs a wallop.

A Matter of Scale is a powerful read.  Farnish is a long-time environmental writer, and his experience shows.  Farnish implores us to expand our narrow perspectives about what’s going on with our planet by examining issues that often slip by the naked eye: issues of scale.   …”

Read the full review:


Keith Farnish.  A Matter of Scale.
(A Free E-book.)