Month: June 2015

In the aftermath of the tragic shooting in South Carolina, a shockingly racist hate crime, this bit piqued my interest:

What too many whites seem to demand from these families’ statements, however, isn’t really grace. As the journalist Jamelle Bouie pointed out, people like Santorum insist on what the German theologian and anti-Nazi freedom fighter Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace” — the “preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance” from those who have sinned. The forgiveness they want is so cheap that I can only call it “Wal-Mart grace”: low-priced but shoddy, destructive of real community and built on exploitation.

Source: LA Times editorial online at:

The author goes on to suggest a theological error–that whites need to atone for their years of racism.  As if they could do so.  In fact, the heart of the gospel is this:  We cannot atone for our own sins.  Only Jesus can pay that price.

However, while we can’t atone for the past, we can choose a better future.  We go forward trying to live differently, and making what amends we can out of love and gratitude.  The word that the author should have chosen here is the word “repentance”.  This is the word that Bonhoeffer chose. For even as Jesus says “I forgive you”, he also says, “go, and sin no more.”  To do otherwise is indeed to cheapen that precious gift of grace.



image“Sleepy Hollow” is a show that trades on a formula: This or that cursed object or ritual is about to usher in the apocalypse, or visit some doom or tragedy upon an innocent girl, or both. It reminds me a bit of an old show called “Friday the 13th” in which a curio shop owner collected occult objects that the heroes were trying to get out of public circulation.

The first episode of “Sleepy Hollow” has a headless axe-wielding British horseman emerging from a barn to terrorize a sleepy upstate New York community. In what seems a mashup of Irving’s Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, Ichabod Crane also mysteriously awakens 200+ years after facing the horseman in the 1700’s. In this telling, Crane is no wimpy schoolteacher, but rather a revolutionary war hero, played enthusiastically by Tom Mison, who is resurrected to take on this hideous beast. He teams up with a street wise female cop (Nicole Beharie), who becomes his partner of sorts. Some of the enjoyment in the early episodes is watching him cope with modernity, even as she must come to grips with the realization that there may be supernatural forces at work.

Fairly quickly, things take a turn for the apocalyptic. The headless horseman is none other than one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who is about to usher in the End of Days.

The Bible is treated in typical media fashion as a book of arcana that contains a recipe and doomsday calendar for the earth’s end. (Of course, to be fair, there are some Christians out there that view parts of it this way, too). The Bible is discarded for the most part except to offer up a frightening passage here and there from Revelations or Ezekiel. I haven’t watched enough to see if they are even using real verses or just making stuff up. In any case, even if the verses are real, there is no context or theological framework to make sense of them. The show basically puts the scripture in a blender and hits “frappe”.

True believers will be saddened to note that although demons abound, there is very little of God to be found anywhere. The forces in play are demons, not angels. The wrath of Molech is substituted for the wrath of God. And of course, the End of Days can be averted if humans can just stop that next portal from opening, or disrupt a profane ritual involving dribbling blood on some tied up female victim, or just get get that [insert occult object here] off the streets.

Perhaps they should have stopped with the pilot. The proverbial “jumping the shark” occurred somewhere fairly early on. Two seasons now have seen a proliferation of creatures and occult entities to rival even what the old 1960s “Dark Shadows” soap opera could envision at its campiest. (A Barnabas Collins vampire would fit right in; Alas, but Jonathan Frid was born too early). At least “Dark Shadows”–and “Ghostbusters”, to name another that pops to mind–didn’t take themselves too seriously. In “Sleepy Hollow”, that sickening sound you hear isn’t the rolling of heads onscreen, but of eyes offscreen, as the show chugs along, introducing pied pipers, cursed Judas coins, good witches fighting evil ones, a demon named Molech snarling at his human servants, a Frankenstein monster created by Benjamin Franklin, and so on.

So consider watching this for the atmosphere (though this seems to get less creepy as the silliness mounts), and perhaps for some unintentionally campy fun. But don’t expect to learn anything of eschatological or biblical importance. You won’t find much similarity with Washington Irving’s tales, either, aside from some names.

In Tarrant, Alabama, a woman was stopped for shoplifting this past December.  When she mentioned that she was struggling to feed a family, the officer, William Stacy, ran inside and bought her groceries.


The officer’s kind act was caught on camera by a bystander who posted the clip online. It quickly went viral racking up more than 650,000 views.

Johnson’s family of six, including her two daughters, two grandchildren and a niece, have been living off of disability and welfare. The welfare check she was supposed to receive this month had gotten lost in the mail, according to

And while Stacy’s decision to lend a helping hand was a generous one, the kindness didn’t stop there. The Tarrant Police Department has since signed Johnson’s family up for a local toy drive and collected food donations from the community, eventually delivering two truckloads of groceries to the 47-year-old’s apartment.

Read it all:

This is a most welcome change from all those police brutality stories.