Paul L. Caron
Dean




Sunday, May 22, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: We’re In A Loneliness Crisis — Another Reason To Get Off Our Phones

New York Times Op-Ed:  We’re in a Loneliness Crisis: Another Reason to Get Off Our Phones, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3It rained one morning this week. I moved back to Texas last year, in part for the rainstorms. Here, it rains decisively, gloriously, like it really means it. It explodes, pounds, roars, thunders and then, suddenly, moves on. I stepped on my back porch, not wanting to miss the show.

I sat, silent, smelling that indescribable rain scent and stretching out my hands, palms open in supplication, the same position I use in church to receive communion. The physicality of the experience, the sensual joy of sounds, smells, touch and sight, was profoundly humanizing. In a very real way, I am made for that. I am made to notice the rain. I’m made to love it.

We are creatures made to encounter beauty and goodness in the material world.

But digitization is changing our relationship with materiality — both the world of nature and of human relationships. We are trained through technology (and technology corporations) to spend more time on screens and less time noticing and interacting with this touchable, smellable, feelable world. Social media in particular trains us to notice that which is large, loud, urgent, trending and distant, and to therefore miss the small, quiet importance of our proximate and limited, embodied lives.

Continue reading

May 22, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Christianity And Constitutional Law

Nicholas Aroney (TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland; Google Scholar), Christianity and Constitutional Law:

Christianity and ConstitutionalismThis paper, written for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook on Christianity and Law, edited by John Witte and Rafael Domingo, explores the influence of Christianity on constitutional law. The paper begins by pointing out that modern constitutional law is the product of several important historical influences. These include elements of Greek philosophy, Roman law, Christian theology, and Enlightenment principles. Greek philosophy proposed a classification of the basic types of constitution and introduced the idea of the rule of law. Roman law contributed the legal concept of jurisdiction, which is an essential feature of contemporary constitutional law. Christian theology offered a conceptual framework in which the authority of civil government was effectively qualified by a higher natural or divine law, and in which the spiritual authority of the church posed a practical limit on the temporal powers of the civil authority. Christian theology also provided the context in which the powers of civil and ecclesiastical rulers were tempered through various means, including the administration of oaths of office and the issuing of charters guaranteeing the rights of religious, social, economic, and civil associations of many kinds. The principle of the separation of powers and the establishment of written constitutions enforced by judicial review, although associated with the Enlightenment, also owed a great deal to these earlier principles and practices. The paper surveys the contribution of each of these influences and argues that although the Greek, Roman, and Enlightenment contributions have been important, constitutional law would not be what it is today if it were not for the influence of Christianity.

Continue reading

May 22, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink

Tax Experts Say Section 107 Housing Allowance For Clergy Remains Safe Despite Recent Cases And Greedy Abuses

Christianity Today, Churches Still Depend on Clergy Housing Allowance:

Despite recent legal cases and reports of greedy abuses, experts say the longstanding benefit remains safe.

Wth the federal tax filing deadline looming, a Virginia court case may have some ministers wondering whether their ministerial housing allowance is secure.

The case isn’t about the housing allowance. But to some, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, it suggests courts may be willing to meddle increasingly in clergy affairs, including housing.

At issue was denial of a property tax exemption for a church parsonage in Fredericksburg, Virginia. New Life in Christ Church sought the tax exemption for a church-owned home inhabited by two youth ministers, married couple Josh and Anacari Storms. The city denied the exemption because it claimed the church’s denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), does not allow women to be considered ministers.

New Life in Christ said the city misunderstood its doctrine. Ordination and certain duties, like preaching, are limited to men in the PCA, according to the church, but the denomination’s governing documents permit congregations latitude in hiring nonordained persons like the Stormses for various ministry jobs. Yet a trial court sided with Fredericksburg, as did the Virginia Supreme Court.

The US Supreme Court declined to hear the church’s appeal in January. Now the church must continue paying the annual property tax bill of $4,589.15. The Supreme Court’s action provoked a dissent from Gorsuch.

“The City continues to insist that a church’s religious rules are ‘subject to verification’ by government officials,” Gorsuch wrote. “I would grant the [church’s] petition and summarily reverse. The First Amendment does not permit bureaucrats or judges to ‘subject’ religious beliefs ‘to verification.’”

Is the case a harbinger of increased willingness to scrutinize ministerial housing in court? Pastors across America hope not. While fewer churches own traditional parsonages, the majority take advantage of the federal clergy housing allowance and say it benefits both their families and their churches. ...

Continue reading

May 22, 2022 in Faith, New Cases, Tax, Tax News | Permalink

Sunday, May 15, 2022

WSJ Book Review: America's Book — The Rise and Decline Of A Bible Civilization

Wall Street Journal Book Review:  ‘America’s Book’ Review: The Word Out of Season, by D.G. Hart (Hillsdale College) (Reviewing Mark A. Noll (Notre Dame), America's Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794-1911 (2022)):

America's BookMany Americans born after 1960 have trouble imagining that for much of the country’s history the Bible was a chief source of national identity. ... Whether ceremonial or therapeutic, Bible-reading in public schools was, by the 1950s, among the last uncontested conventions of America’s Bible civilization.

Mark Noll’s Mark A. Noll (Notre Dame), America's Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794-1911 explains how the Bible achieved this status. The new nation’s rejection of European forms of Christendom such as sacral monarchy and state churches left the Bible to bear the burden of America’s attempt to create a Christian civilization. A completely secular republic was never a possibility except for the most free-thinking of free thinkers. The Founders virtually to a man insisted that a republic depended on a virtuous citizenry, and that the best source of morality was religion. Despite the variety of Protestant denominations, church leaders and public officials agreed that the Bible was the best and most reliable guide for determining moral consensus.

“America’s Book” documents the extent of the Bible’s reach—from the printing and distribution of Bibles and the creation of Sunday schools to the intellectual dead ends into which unwise handlers of the Bible were led. The book’s breadth is a tribute to Mr. Noll’s career as an interpreter of Protestantism in North America, even if its encyclopedic quantity occasionally obscures the overarching argument. ...

Continue reading

May 15, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: If Roe Is Overturned, Where Should The Pro-Life Movement Go Next?

New York Times Op-Ed:  If Roe Is Overturned, Where Should the Pro-Life Movement Go Next?, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3Pro-life activists have been working toward overturning the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision ever since it came down in 1973. But as I spoke to folks from pro-life and whole-life movements last week after the leak of a draft opinion that indicated the court will overturn Roe, the mood was complicated. I did not find unalloyed jubilance or triumph.

Most people I talked to expressed cautious optimism and hope but also concern. This was in part because they worried that the court’s draft opinion may shift in weeks to come. But more so because those who take a holistic approach to reducing abortion feel that legally restricting abortion, while a win for justice and the voiceless and vulnerable, is not alone enough to create a culture that is holistically pro-life and addresses the needs of both women and unborn children.

The sense I got is that, for many pro-life and whole-life leaders, this Supreme Court decision would represent a starting line, not a finish line. There are no credits rolling with a victorious pro-life movement marching into the sunset. One activist told me, “I feel joy and relief, but it is kind of like the joy and relief one feels in getting into college, being cast in the school play or making the varsity team. The conditions for the possibility of achieving the goal have been met, but there’s so much more hard work to do.”

What lies ahead is the continued need to enact policies that address the underlying reasons that some women feel they need abortions in the first place. I asked pro-life or whole-life thinkers and leaders: If Roe is overturned, where should the pro-life and whole-life movements direct energy to support women, unborn children and families?

Here are some of their responses: ...

Continue reading

May 15, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: Too Much Church In The State For This Catholic

New York Times Op-Ed:  Too Much Church in the State, by Maureen Dowd:

As a Catholic whose father lived through the Irish Catholics “need not apply” era, I’m happy to see Catholics do well in the world. There is an astonishing preponderance of Catholics on the Supreme Court — six out of the nine justices, and a seventh, Neil Gorsuch, was raised as a Catholic and went to the same Jesuit boys’ high school in a Maryland suburb that Brett Kavanaugh and my nephews did, Georgetown Prep. ...

[T]his Catholic feels an intense disquiet that Catholic doctrine may be shaping (or misshaping) the freedom and the future of millions of women, and men. There is a corona of religious fervor around the court, a churchly ethos that threatens to turn our whole country upside down.

Continue reading

May 15, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, May 8, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: How To Cultivate Joy Even When It Feels In Short Supply

New York Times Op-Ed:  How to Cultivate Joy Even When It Feels in Short Supply, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3In the Bible, there’s a question that Paul asks in his letter to the Galatian church that has haunted me for the last couple of years: What has happened to all your joy?

I don’t think that many people looking at the church in America today or at broader American society would say, “Now, there is a group of people marked by joy.”

In a 2020 survey, happiness and well-being among Americans reached a 50-year low. But it’s a deeper issue than just that. Joy is hardier and sturdier than mere happiness or positive circumstances, closer in meaning to contentment than amusement. The current state of our cultural discourse seems to be joylessness writ large. ...

Our culture desperately needs to rethink and rediscover joy. ...

How can I possibly cultivate joy? ... There will inevitably be traffic jams and illnesses, afternoons when I feel grumpy or mornings that I don’t want to get out of bed. But joy can be taken up, even when things aren’t going great. “Joy is both a gift and a practice,” I wrote in my last book, “but it isn’t primarily a feeling any more than self-control or faithfulness are feelings. It is a muscle we can strengthen with exercise.” ...

Continue reading

May 8, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

WSJ Op-Ed: The Blessing Of A Mother’s Love

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  The Blessing of a Mother’s Love, by Mike Kerrigan (Hunton Andrews Kurth, Charlotte, NC):

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” I understand this insight more fully when I reflect on the earthly blessing of a mother’s love.

Contemplation of this doesn’t require a doctorate in theology. I’ve always found the bond between a mother and her son, from the latter’s perspective, to be the most uncomplicated of human relationships. She’s your mom and you love her, simple as that.

Memories of her positive influence in my life are legion, yet the best evidence of the transcendence of a mother’s love is the spell it casts on its beloved. While the years have been good to my mom, I’m told she is aging. I say “I’m told” because whenever I gaze at her, I see only the cool lady in her mid-30s picking me up after soccer. In my mind’s eye, she is forever young.

Continue reading

May 8, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: Why I Pray To A God I Don’t Believe In

New York Times Op-Ed:  How to Pray to a God You Don’t Believe In, by Scott Hershovitz (Michigan; Author, Nasty, Brutish, and Short: Adventures in Philosophy With My Kids (2022)):

Nasty 2The world is awful at the moment. Millions have died of Covid-19. Authoritarianism is on the rise, abroad and at home. And now there’s war, with all the death, destruction and dislocation that entails.

In dark times, many people seek refuge in religion. They hold fast to their faith. ... But darkness also drives many people away from God.

[T]he “problem of evil” [is] an old philosophical question. [I]f you think about God (who’s supposed to be all-powerful and endlessly empathetic), the existence of evil poses a serious puzzle: Why does God let us suffer?

People have proposed many answers, but most are poorly reasoned. For instance, some say that good requires evil — that it can’t exist without it. It’s not clear why that would be true. But the bigger problem is that if you take that view, you call into question God’s omnipotence. It turns out there’s something God can’t do: create good without evil.

But also: If good requires evil, maybe just a little bit would do. Is absolutely every evil in the world essential? Why can’t we have a world that’s just like this one — except without that twinge of pain I felt last Tuesday? What kind of God can’t soothe my sciatica? My physical therapist, Tony, makes my back feel better, and he doesn’t even claim to be a deity.

He is a hero, though (at least to me). And some say that’s why God allows evil in the world. He doesn’t care about pleasure and pain. He cares about what pleasure and pain make possible — compassion, redemption and heroic acts, like Tony mending my back. To get those goods, though, God has to give us free will. And once we have it, some of us abuse it.

This is, historically, the most influential answer. ... But I don’t buy it. Why can’t God create only those people who would use their free will well? Why can’t he wave Paul Farmer through and keep Vladimir Putin out? He knows in advance how each of them will act — if he’s really omniscient.

Some believers feel the force of these arguments, but maintain their faith nonetheless. Marilyn McCord Adams, a philosopher and Episcopal priest, doubted that we could explain the existence of evil. But that didn’t bother her. A 2-year-old child, she explained, might not understand why his mother would permit him to have painful surgery. Nevertheless, he could be convinced of his mother’s love by her “intimate care and presence” through the painful experience.

For those who feel the presence of God or have faith that they will feel it later, I think Ms. Adams’s attitude makes some sense. But if I’m honest, it sounds too optimistic to me. ... I think the problem of evil poses a serious barrier to religious belief.

Continue reading

May 8, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, May 1, 2022

WSJ Op-Ed: How God Works — The Science Behind The Benefits Of Religion

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  Does Religion Make People More Ethical?, by David DeSteno (Northeastern; Google Scholar; Author, How God Works: The Science Behind the Benefits of Religion (2021)):

How God Works[W]hen it comes to morality, the power of religion is more in the doing than in the believing. Studies of religion and health show that identifying with a religion—saying you believe in God or going to worship once a year on Easter or Yom Kippur—means very little. Epidemiological research shows that it is people who live their faith, regularly going to services and engaging in their religion’s rituals, who tend to live longer, healthier and happier lives.

In most faiths, being religious isn’t just defined by a creed but by rituals and practices that permeate daily life. When we pray and sing together, listen to readings from scripture, or give offerings and blessings of thanks to God, our minds and bodies aren’t passive. They’re subtly being nudged toward virtue.

Take giving to charity. A large-scale 2017 study by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy [Special Report on Giving to Religion] showed that in the U.S., 62% of religiously active households gave to charity, with an average donation of $1,590. By contrast, only 46% of nonreligious households give, with an average donation of $695. And increased attendance at religious services is associated with increased generosity.  ...

[W]hen people feel gratitude, elevation and compassion more frequently, they become more moral in general. While this might seem at odds with the commonly held view that qualities like honesty or generosity are stable personality traits, scientists now recognize that morality is really more of a moment-to-moment balancing act between competing motives. From about the age of 7 onward, children spend a good deal of time learning how to exert self-control so they can inhibit their less-than-noble desires.

Continue reading

May 1, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Christian Legal Society Members Sue Law School For Punishing Them For Expressing Their Religious Beliefs

Alliance Defending Freedom, Idaho Law Students File Suit After University Punishes Them For Their Religious Beliefs:

Christian Legal Society (2022)Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing three Christian law students filed suit Monday against University of Idaho officials for violating the students’ First Amendment rights by punishing them because of the religious content and viewpoint of their speech.

“Students of all religious and ideological stripes must be free to discuss and debate the important issues of our day, especially law students who are preparing for a career that requires civil dialogue among differing viewpoints,” said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross. “Yet the University of Idaho is shutting down Peter, Mark, and Ryan because of their religious beliefs. This is illegal behavior from any government official, and we urge the university officials to right their discriminatory actions immediately.”

Peter Perlot, Mark Miller, and Ryan Alexander are members of the Christian Legal Society chapter at the University of Idaho. When Perlot and Miller joined most of the other members of CLS at a “moment of community” gathering to condemn a discriminatory slur written at another campus, a law student approached them to ask why CLS requires its officers to affirm the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. Miller respectfully explained that the chapter requires this because it is the only view of marriage and sexuality affirmed in the Bible.

Continue reading

May 1, 2022 in Faith, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

The Chosen At Pepperdine Caruso Law

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I absolutely love The Chosen, without a doubt the most beautiful cinematic depiction of the life of Jesus:

One of the coolest things about The Chosen is that it is entirely crowd-funded and offered free on its website (viewers do not even have to give their email address). Dallas Jenkins, the show's creator, graciously allowed us to show Season 1 and Season 2 at Pepperdine Caruso Law this year. My wife Courtney and I hosted each episode on Fridays and provided lunch to the students, staff, and faculty who joined us. At our final showing of the year, the students surpised me with this:

A student captured my reaction to the video:

Continue reading

May 1, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, April 24, 2022

God, Grades, And Graduation: Religion's Surprising Impact On Academic Success

New York Times Op-Ed:  I Followed the Lives of 3,290 Teenagers. This Is What I Learned About Religion and Education, by Ilana M. Horwitz (Fields-Rayant Chair of Contemporary Jewish Life, Tulane University; Author, God, Grades, and Graduation: Religion's Surprising Impact on Academic Success (Oxford University Press 2022) (author summary) (author interview)):

God Grades And GraduationAs a sociologist of education and religion, I followed the lives of 3,290 teenagers from 2003 to 2012 using survey and interview data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, and then linking those data to the National Student Clearinghouse in 2016. I studied the relationship between teenagers’ religious upbringing and its influence on their education: their school grades, which colleges they attend and how much higher education they complete. My research focused on Christian denominations because they are the most prevalent in the United States.

I found that what religion offers teenagers varies by social class. Those raised by professional-class parents, for example, do not experience much in the way of an educational advantage from being religious. In some ways, religion even constrains teenagers’ educational opportunities (especially girls’) by shaping their academic ambitions after graduation; they are less likely to consider a selective college as they prioritize life goals such as parenthood, altruism and service to God rather than a prestigious career.

However, teenage boys from working-class families, regardless of race, who were regularly involved in their church and strongly believed in God were twice as likely to earn bachelor’s degrees as moderately religious or nonreligious boys.

Religious boys are not any smarter, so why are they doing better in school? The answer lies in how religious belief and religious involvement can buffer working-class Americans — males in particular — from despair. ...

Continue reading

April 24, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

The Secular Case For Christianity: It Works For The Individual And For The Common Good

Tim DeRoche (Common Sense),  The Secular Case for Christianity:

I grew up in Milwaukee with a form of pale, Midwestern Catholicism that had turned me off intellectually and aesthetically. I spent most of my adult life in a state of defiant non-religiousness. Whenever anyone asked I called myself an agnostic.

Then I met a pretty girl in a bar.

My wife, Simone, is a devout Christian, the daughter of an ordained Congregationalist minister who is herself the daughter of a Baptist pastor. I started going to church with her. And, after we got married, we made the rounds a bit, looking for a congregation in Los Angeles that suited us. ...

When a Christian says, “He is risen,” another Christian is supposed to respond, “He is risen indeed!” or “Truly He is risen!” There’s a name for it—the paschal greeting—and it’s a thing in Catholicism, too, especially on Easter. It’s even the name of a Sopranos episode. You might wonder how I came out of 12 years of Catholic school unfamiliar with the paschal greeting. I myself have wondered.

But that’s what a Christian is, right? Someone who believes that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead, and gave us eternal salvation. As a short-and-sweet form of the Christian statement of faith, the paschal greeting allows Christians to recognize one another in the wild. (The statement of faith is more fully realized in the Christian creeds and confessions, which are recited during services or learned during catechism.)

More than any other religion, Christianity is built on the statement of faith. And this simple, binary definition of what makes a Christian is eagerly accepted by believers and nonbelievers alike. 

Recently, though, I’ve been losing my confidence in that distinction—and not just as it applies to my own life.

There’s a little corner of the internet where believers and nonbelievers are getting together to talk. And we’re finding that the line between Christian and non-Christian is a whole lot blurrier than we’ve been taught.

Like the Intellectual Dark Web, one of its forerunners, the Meaning Crisis community isn’t a fixed place. Folks gather on Twitter (#meaningcrisis), on Discord (“Bridges of Meaning”) and in the comments sections of various YouTubers. In all of these places and more, Christians, atheists and people who don’t fit into either of those categories are talking deeply about our current moment. Some say that we are “awakening from the meaning crisis.” Others talk of reviving “collective sensemaking.” Still others hail the end of modernity and the “re-enchantment of the West.” ...

Lots of folks in the Meaning Crisis community do not believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on this day, Easter Sunday. But everyone is willing to listen across the chasm of faith and try to understand the root causes of our current discontent: the political rancor, the economic insecurity, the lack of trust in institutions, the mental health crisis, the collapse of the birth rate.

And most everyone, Christian and secular, is willing to contend with realities that our modern culture has chosen to ignore. Namely, that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the most successful meme in the history of the world. And the spread of that meme over the last 2,000 years has largely been correlated with decreasing levels of slavery, war, crime, poverty, and general suffering.

Continue reading

April 24, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Pepperdine Caruso Law 3L Commissioning Service

Commissioning Service Program (042022)

We hosted our 11th annual 3L Commissioning Service at Pepperdine Caruso Law last week. Like many of the best things at our school, this was the brainchild of a student. In 2012, 2L Raija Churchill proposed that the last Wednesday night Dean's Bible study of the year model the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) as a send-off for our graduating 3Ls. After an online service last year due to Covid, we were thrilled to be back in person this year at the specacular new Light House on Pepperdine's main campus. I was honored to give two gifts to each 3L on behalf of the law school:

Continue reading

April 24, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education, Pepperdine Legal Ed | Permalink

Sunday, April 17, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: What Good Friday And Easter Mean For Black Americans

New York Times Op-Ed:  What Good Friday and Easter Mean for Black Americans, by Esau McCaulley (Wheaton; author, Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope (2020)):

McCaulley (2021)It’s common, even in Christian circles, to think of the afterlife as a disembodied bliss in a paradise filled with naked baby angels tickling the strings of harps as our souls bounce from cloud to cloud. But Christianity has never taught a disembodied future in heaven. Our beliefs are more radical.

We believe that one day the entire created world will be transformed to become what God always intended it to be: free of pain, death and sorrow. It will be an earth that still contains some of the things of this life: food, art, mountains, lakes, beaches and culture. There will be hip-hop, spirituals, soul music and grits (with cheese, salt and pepper — not sugar) in the renewed creation. Christians believe that our bodies will be resurrected from the dead to live in this transformed earth. Like the earth itself, these bodies will be transfigured or perfected, but they will still be our bodies.

All of this — the painful, unjust reality of bodily suffering and death in this world and the glorious embodied future that will come in the next — is on my mind as I prepare to observe Good Friday and celebrate Easter. The last few years have borne witness to an overflow of Black suffering. ...

Physical suffering ... is also at the core of the Christian story. Good Friday, the day when Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion, highlights what happened to his body. It was mutilated and put on display. Crucifixion was a tool of Roman imperial terror, a practice largely reserved for slaves, non-citizens or those convicted of high crimes such as treason. It was intended to remind the disinherited about the power that the state had over the bodies of all under its dominion.

James Cone’s important work of theology The Cross and the Lynching Tree connects the crucifixion of Jesus with the lynching of Black bodies: both are manifestations of evil inflicted as a means of control. Since the time of the hush harbors, Black Christians have found solace in the idea that the God they worshiped knew the trouble we’d seen. He experienced it himself. The hip-hop artist Swoope said, “Christ died in the Blackest way possible, with his hands up and his momma there watching him."

Continue reading

April 17, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: How A Cancer Diagnosis Makes Jesus’ Death And Resurrection Mean More

New York Times Op-Ed:  How a Cancer Diagnosis Makes Jesus’ Death and Resurrection Mean More, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Hope In Times of Fear 4I’ve talked to Timothy Keller several times since he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer almost two years ago. ... Keller moved to New York City in 1989 with his wife, Kathy, and their three young sons to start a church from scratch. It was a risky move to plant a traditional, evangelical Presbyterian church in a secular, progressive city. But Redeemer grew, has become one of the best-known churches in the country and birthed City to City, a global church planting network.

Keller has also written over two dozen books, most recently Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter. David Brooks recently described Tim as having “one of the most impressive and important minds in the evangelical world.”

Tim said that when he received his cancer diagnosis, “The doctor looked at us and said, ‘I want you to realize that when it comes to pancreatic cancer, you’re going to die from this.’” The vast majority of patients live less than a year after diagnosis. Tim described that day itself as a kind of death. ...

As many Christians around the world begin Holy Week, I wanted to hear more about how Tim’s diagnosis changed how he thinks about life, death and this week leading up to Easter. In the midst of ongoing chemotherapy, he kindly agreed to this interview, which has been condensed and edited for length and clarity. ...

Continue reading

April 17, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

WSJ Op-Ed: What Saint Dismas Can Teach Us About Good Friday And Easter

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  For Lent, I’m Reading Up on the Christian Saints, by Mike Kerrigan (Hunton Andrews Kurth, Charlotte, NC):

During Lent, I have stepped up my reading about the lives of Christian saints. The exercise has been strangely dispiriting, not because their virtue isn’t heroic, but because it’s so heroic. This is especially true for the lives of the martyrs, those who died for their faith. ...

Would I show such courage in the face of persecution, compassion for my tormentors ...? [N]o. Their standard of holiness is otherworldly.

This is why the lesson of St. Dismas, better known as the Good Thief recorded in the Gospel of Luke, is so important to me. Dismas was the criminal who was crucified to the right of Jesus on Good Friday. Recognizing his own culpability at the end of a dissolute life, Dismas humbly asked Jesus to remember him in paradise. Jesus assured Dismas he would be with him that very day in heaven, making the lowly brigand the only mortal whose hallowed forwarding address was confirmed by the Bible. ...

Continue reading

April 17, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: Imagine A Bible With No Moses, No Story Of The Exodus

New York Times Op-Ed:  Imagine a Bible With No Moses, No Story of the Exodus, by Sharon Brous (Founder & Senior Rabbi of Ikar, a Jewish community based in Los Angeles; Speaker, The Intersection of Faith, Social Justice, and Racial Reconciliation, Pepperdine Caruso Law School Dean's Speaker Series (Jan. 26, 2021)):

BrousOne copy of the Slave Bible, first published in 1807, sits today in the permanent collection of the Fisk University Library in Nashville. Originally intended for use in worship by enslaved people in the British West Indies, the biblical text was carefully redacted to exclude all references to the Exodus from Egypt. Imagine a Bible with no Moses, no burning bush, no Israelites fleeing slavery, no split sea and no revelation at Sinai.

This version of the text, gutted of that central narrative, was designed to fulfill a two-part objective: to introduce enslaved people to Christianity and to preserve the system of slavery. The problem was that the Exodus story—bearing the promise of freedom over slavery, dignity over degradation—is powerful and dangerous. The slaveholders were surely concerned that enslaved people would see themselves in the Israelite struggle for liberation, that they would find strength in God’s identification with the oppressed and be inspired by the triumph of faith over even one of the strongest regimes of the ancient world. They may have feared that this story would plant the seeds of possibility, if not the seeds of rebellion.

This week, Jews around the world will sit at Passover Seder tables and retell the very narrative stricken from that Slave Bible: the Exodus from Egypt. In Hebrew it is yetziat mitzrayim, literally “emerging or leaving from the narrow place.” This, our origin story, has animated and sustained the Jewish people for thousands of years. It’s read not as a remembrance of a one-time event but as an eternal promise, a frame of reference for all future struggles — including those we face in our time and our own country. ...

Continue reading

April 17, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, April 10, 2022

WSJ Op-Ed: There’s No Crisis Of Faith On Campus

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  There’s No Crisis of Faith on Campus, by Ryan Burge (Baptist Pastor; Author, Twenty Myths About Religion and Politics in America (2022); and Assistant Professor of Political Science, Eastern Illinois University):

God's Not DeadMany religious parents worry that higher education will weaken their children’s belief, but evidence shows the result is often just the opposite.

As a pastor who is also a professor of social science, I am often asked by parents of teenagers who were raised in a religious environment how their son or daughter can maintain their faith when they go off to some large state university or private liberal-arts college. Many parents seem to believe that as soon as their child walks into a freshman class, they will throw out their Bibles and pick up Nietzsche.

They haven’t plucked this idea out of thin air. It was the premise of the 2014 film God’s Not Dead, which became very popular in Christian circles and spawned two sequels. In the movie, an evangelical student enrolls in a philosophy class led by an atheist professor. To pass the course, every student has to sign a declaration that “God is dead.” The main character refuses, leading to a series of debates in the class about the existence of God. In the end, most of the class sides with the student, and the professor leaves in defeat.

With reinforcement such as this, the assumption that going to college undermines faith has put down deep roots in the psyche of many conservative Christians. ... But is it true that going to college makes students less religious? Are people with higher levels of education more likely to say that they have no religious affiliation than those who have completed only high school?

Continue reading

April 10, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Selected Negative Teaching Evaluations Of Jesus Christ

McSweeney's, Selected Negative Teaching Evaluations of Jesus Christ:

“By week one, I was already tired of his anti-rich, pro-Samaritan bullshit. I wanted to take a course in Christianity, not liberalism.” ...

“Kind of absent-minded. My name’s Simon, and he’s called me ‘Peter’ for the entire semester.” ...

“Tells too many stories. Easy to get him off track during lectures.” ...

Continue reading

April 10, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink

Harvard Journal Of Sports And Entertainment Law Honors The Memory Of Cedric Weston Halloran (2000-2021)

Cedric 7During the pandemic, our law school community has endured far too many deaths, including the loss of recent graduates, alumni, faculty, faculty spouses, and children of faculty. Our beloved colleague Maureen Weston and her husband Brian Halloran are mourning the death last year of their 20-year old son, Cedric. To honor and continue Cedric's legacy, Maureen and Brian have established the Cedric Weston Halloran Project For Student Mental, Physical, and Fiscal Health and the Cedric Weston Halloran Endowed Scholarship. Maureen posted on Facebook this wonderful tribute from the co-editors-in-chief of the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law:

Cedric 3

We mourned Cedric's passing at last year's Baccaureate Service, which was the first time our community gathered in person since we shifted online during the pandemic 440 days earlier. There are of course no words to adequately convey our sorrow and comfort Maureen, Brian, and all in our community who have suffered tragic losses during the pandemic. I said in part:

Although we have lost much over the past 440 days, we are here to worship the God who created us, the God who has been with us the past 440 days, and the God who will be with us for the next 10,000 years and forever more.

April 10, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education, Pepperdine Legal Ed | Permalink

Sunday, April 3, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: Three Habits To Keep After The Pandemic Ends

New York Times Op-Ed:  Three Habits My Family Started in the Pandemic That We Want to Keep, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3As I reflect on the past two years, I think of (at least) three practices that my family and I have taken up that I hope we continue.

First, in the early days of the pandemic, when my family of five abruptly found ourselves crammed into a small house, we developed a practice of having tea around 4:30 each weekday afternoon. With cookies, Earl Grey, juice for the kids and sometimes a shot of bourbon for the adults, we talked about what worked and didn’t work that day. We would ask one another, “Who do you need to apologize to or reconcile with today?”

There were days we felt like sardines — crabby, stressed out, Zoom-depressed sardines. There were days when every single person in the family (except for the 5-month-old) had to say “I’m sorry for …” or “I forgive you” to every other person in the family. ...

As Covid precautions have changed, we have been less intentional about our reconciliation teas. But I hope to carry this practice and intentionality (intentionaliTEA?) with me even into this next normal. We don’t make purposeful time for reconciliation every day now, but I’d like to make it, at least, a weekly rhythm.

Continue reading

April 3, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Vischer: Christian Nationalism And The Rule Of Law

Robert K. Vischer (Interim President & Former Dean, St. Thomas; Google Scholar), Christian Nationalism and the Rule of Law:

Current threats to the rule of law in the United States emerge, at least in part, from a nationalism shaped by a distinctly American vision of Christianity. Defenders of the rule of law must therefore respond in terms that confront the religious dimension of the threat directly. Religiously affiliated law schools should be key contributors to this conversation, modeling a faith-shaped discourse that avoids invoking Christianity as a conversation-stopper, as a signal of self-righteousness, or as a means to stir up hatred of “the other.” How might the public witness of our faith support, rather than impede, the rule of law?

Continue reading

April 3, 2022 in Faith, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink

WSJ Book Review: The Flag And The Cross — Defining Christian Nationalism

Wall Street Journal Book Review:  D.G. Hart (Hilldale College), Defining Christian Nationalism (reviewing The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy (Apr. 1, 2022)):

How pervasive is Christian nationalism in the United States? Before answering, a more pressing question is: What is it? Here the people paid to define our terms are all over the place. Christian nationalism can involve a national church like the Church of Scotland. It can be a form of civil religion, as in “one nation under God.” It can also dissolve into American exceptionalism: “a city set on a hill.” Whatever the definition, attaching national or civic meaning to divine purpose is as old as recorded history.

It is also everywhere in America. When Franklin D. Roosevelt explained his administration’s reasons for entering World War II, the president did not hesitate to invoke God or quote the Bible. “The world is too small to provide adequate ‘living room’ for both Hitler and God,” he told Americans. “We are inspired by a faith that goes back through all the years to the first chapter of the Book of Genesis: ‘God created man in His own image.’ ”

Seventy years later when filmmaker Aaron Sorkin wrote the lines delivered by a news anchor in the first episode of HBO’s The Newsroom, the religious component of Christian nationalism may have been invisible but the appeal to moral purpose was pronounced. After lamenting America’s decline, the news anchor explained what made America great: “We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors.” He might well have asked: What did Jesus do?

Continue reading

April 3, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Pepperdine To Launch Center For Faith And The Common Good

Pepperdine to Launch Center for Faith and the Common Good on April 1:

JohnsonThe March 10 edition of the President’s Speaker Series ended with a surprise announcement — the University will partner with Baylor professor Byron Johnson [right] to begin a Center for Faith and the Common Good beginning April 1.

President Jim Gash invited Johnson to speak as a part of his series on the topic of faith, human flourishing and the common good. Provost Jay Brewster shared the center’s news following Johnson’s discussion.

“We anticipate robust societal impact that will emerge from the Center for Faith and the Common Good,” Brewster said during the event. “I think good things will come from this center that will have tangible impacts on our culture and our society and strengthen the scholarly work of Pepperdine.”

Johnson is a professor of Social Sciences at Baylor University, the founding director of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion and director of the Program on Prosocial Behavior, among other titles.

“I’ve had a pretty long career in studying faith based initiatives, and especially with a view to solving some of society’s most pressing social problems,” Johnson said in a Graphic exclusive. “And that’s the kind of work that we want to do here at Pepperdine, you know, how can we help society? How can we help people to flourish?”

The center, despite Johnson’s connections to Baylor, will be a Pepperdine fixture and connect the Caruso School of Law, the School of Public Policy and Seaver.

“Pepperdine, with its law school, and its clinic — [the Hugh and Hazel Darling Foundation Religious] Liberty Clinic — and the School of Public Policy, these are all components that make it a compelling place to do something like this,” Johnson said. ...

Continue reading

March 27, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

'Keep the Faith': How A Hostile Encounter With Yale Law Students Emboldened Me To Speak The Truth With Kindness

Update:

Following up on my coverage of the Yale free speech controversy (links below):  World Op-Ed:  “Keep the Faith”: How a Hostile Encounter With Yale Law Students Emboldened Me to Speak the Truth With Kindness, by Kristen Waggoner (General Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom):

WaggonerAs the students filled the room holding signs and loudly protesting, someone passed a folded piece of paper up to me. I didn’t even see who it was. I could feel myself tensing up, and my legs were a bit shaky. It was hard to concentrate in the chaos of what was quickly becoming a volatile event.

The note was typewritten, anonymous, with Jesus’ words from John 15: “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me first. … As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” Underneath it said, “Keep the faith. Good luck!”

There are a few moments in my legal career where I’ve known God had me somewhere for a particular reason. As I walked out of the Yale Law School classroom, escorted by police officers, I also knew that God had used the student who had written that message to give me courage and inspiration right when I needed it.

Continue reading

March 27, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: My Synagogue Was Attacked, But I Will Never Stop Welcoming The Stranger

Congregation 2

New York Times op-ed:  My Synagogue Was Attacked, but I Will Never Stop Welcoming the Stranger, by Charlie Cytron-Walker (Rabbi, Congregation Beth Israel (Colleyville, TX)):

RabbiSome teachings, such as, “Love your neighbor” or, “Care for your community,” are shared by almost every religious or ethical practice. From an evolutionary standpoint, that makes sense: In the long run, the group does better than the individual.

But welcoming strangers, let alone caring for them, does not come naturally. I was reminded recently that our brains aren’t wired for it. Strangers are, by definition, unknown. The unknown often generates fear. Strangers, in this context, are harmful.

All people should enjoy a sense of safety in their sacred space. But too many people, of many backgrounds, don’t always feel safe. My congregants and I know this well and we are all grateful to be alive.

On Jan. 15, a gunman entered our synagogue and demanded the release of a woman being held at a nearby federal prison. During the 10 hours I spent held hostage by this terrorist, all the anxiety and fear that many Jewish people live with on a daily basis were realized. No one should live like this — not the congregants of the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., and not the members of Sikh temples or mosques that have been vandalized or our small synagogue in Texas, the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh or the Chabad synagogue of Poway, Calif. ...

I, and so many other religious leaders, have pointed out again and again the sacred obligation to love the stranger. The command to care for the stranger is mentioned at least 36 times in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible — more than any other mitzvah. It’s mentioned so often because we need the reminder, because it isn’t natural. It is hard. Just getting past the notion of fearing the stranger is a big enough hurdle.

Continue reading

March 27, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, March 20, 2022

A Young Father With Terminal Cancer Asks: Does My Son Know You?

Jonathan Tjarks (The Ringer), Does My Son Know You?: Fatherhood, Cancer, and What Matters Most:

TjarksI got scanned for the first time last April. That’s when I found out I had cancer. I had been in and out of the hospital for two months. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong because what I had (a Ewing’s-like sarcoma with a BCOR-CCNB3 rearrangement) is so rare. Sarcomas are small tumors found in the bones and connective tissues of the body. They represent about 1 percent of new cancer cases in the United States each year among adults, and BCOR is an even tinier part of that 1 percent. The odds of me getting it were about 25 million to 1. My wife and I ran into a doctor who is friends with her parents. He asked how it felt to get hit by lightning.

Sarcomas are one of the deadliest kinds of cancers. The five-year survival rates for adults with metastatic Ewing’s sarcomas are between 15 percent and 30 percent. Metastatic means the tumors have already spread through the body by the time they are diagnosed. There were too many for the doctors to count on my first scan. ...

Being diagnosed with terminal cancer doesn’t happen like it does in the movies. The doctors don’t actually tell you how long you have to live. They can’t predict the future. What they say is: What you have will kill you at some point. We just don’t know when. It could be months. It could be years. It could be longer.

The only real hope they can offer is that someone might find a cure before it’s too late. All they can do for now is keep me alive as long as they can. ...

[I]t leaves you with a lot of time to think. I usually end up thinking about my son.

Continue reading

March 20, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Prayers For Ukraine

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Former BigLaw Partner Who Left $800k Salary For $32k College Basketball Job Is Headed To The Big Dance As Head Coach Of Upstart Longwood Lancers

Washington Post op-ed:  He Left a Lucrative Law Career to Become a College Basketball Coach. Now He’s in the Big Dance, by John Feinstein (author of 42 books, including The Back Roads to March: The Unsung, Unheralded, and Unknown Heroes of a College Basketball Season (2021), which profiles Longwood University basketball coach Griff Aldrich among others):

Aldrich 1It wasn’t until there were 63 seconds left and his team had a 21-point lead Sunday afternoon that Griff Aldrich finally admitted the inevitable: His team was going to the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament for the first time. ...

One of the people least surprised to see Aldrich’s demeanor was his best friend from college, Utah State Coach Ryan Odom, who calls him “a nervous Nellie.”

“It’s part of who he is,” Odom said by phone Sunday. “He’s always prepared. He’s always worried about something that isn’t perfect. He’s really passionate. But his most important quality is that he’s always been concerned first with having a positive effect on his players’ lives.”

That may sound like coaching pablum, but Aldrich has lived by that creed since he was practicing law and coaching AAU basketball in Houston — before a dramatic career change that culminated with Sunday’s win.

So there were a lot more hugs and some tears when Longwood finished off its 79-58 victory over perennial Big South power Winthrop to claim the conference’s tournament title. The Lancers are 26-6 and have won 19 of their past 20 games. They will be at best a No. 15 seed when the brackets go up this coming Sunday. ...

Aldrich and the Lancers should get plenty of attention when the tournament begins next week. Part of it will be that they are on this stage for the first time. More of it will be Aldrich, whose story is unlike that of any coach in the tournament. ...

Continue reading

March 13, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: We’re All Sinners, And Accepting That Is Actually A Good Thing

New York Times Op-Ed:  We’re All Sinners, and Accepting That Is Actually a Good Thing, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3This is the first Sunday of Lent, a season in preparation for Easter when Christians often focus on sin and repentance. One of the things that’s most difficult to swallow about Christianity is the idea that normal, nice people are sinners, that we are born sinful and can’t elude being a sinner by being moral or religious enough. ...

In college, through a string of failed relationships and theological questioning, I came to understand sin as something more fundamental than rule breaking, more subtle and “under the hood” of my consciousness. It was the ways I would casually manipulate people to get my way. It was a hidden but obnoxious need for approval. It was that part of me that could not rejoice in a friend’s big award or accomplishment, even as some other part told her, “Congratulations!” ...

Far from being a crushing blow of self-hatred, the realization of my actual, non-theoretical sinfulness came with something like a recognition of grace. I saw that I was worse than I’d thought I was, and that truth knocked me off the eternal treadmill of trying to be better and do better and get it all right. It allowed me to slowly (and continually) learn to receive love, atonement, forgiveness and mercy.

Every week now in church, I kneel with my congregation and admit, in the words of the Anglican liturgy, that I have sinned against God, “in thought, word and deed” by what I have done and by what I have left undone, that I have not loved God with my whole heart and have not loved my neighbor as myself. With my whole community around me, week in and week out, I admit ... that I have broken stuff, including other people and myself with my human propensity to, ahem, mess things up. ...

I noticed how strange and transformative it is to repeatedly identify myself as a sinner. I am not identified primarily as a mother, a writer, a woman or a priest. I am not primarily a Democrat or a Republican or a Christian. I am also not primarily an upstanding citizen or right or reasonable or talented or “on the right side of history.” Instead, again and again, in these received words, I call myself a sinner.

This recognizes that I will get much wrong. That as a writer, I’ll say things, however unintentionally, that are untrue and unhelpful. As a mother, I will harm my children — the people I love and want to do right by most in the world. And it tells me that I will harm them in real ways, not just dismissible “well, shucks, we all make mistakes” kind of ways. As a priest, I will lead people astray. I will not live up to what I proclaim. I will fail. I will hurt people, not just in theory or abstraction. I will cause true harm.

Continue reading

March 13, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Indiana-McKinney Law School Hosts Inaugural Conference: Law vs. Antisemitism

Indiana-McKinney Law School Special Event, Law vs. Antisemitism: Inaugural Conference (March 14-15):

IndianaAntisemitism is more than a hatred and a practice — it's legal phenomenon. Join legal scholars and experts at the Law vs. Antisemitism Inaugural Conference as they discuss how law has been used both to perpetrate and to combat antisemitism, historically and today.   US law in particular has been used to fight antisemitism through the constitutional separation of church and state, anti-discrimination laws, and “hate crimes” laws, among other means.  Despite these laws, there has been a recent resurgence in anti-Jewish violence and antisemitism more generally, ranging from online hate speech to cemetery desecration to attacks on synagogues.  What does this tell us about the efficacy of law in combating antisemitism?

The Conference will be held at IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law on March 14-15, 2022, and will be broadcast live online.  It will consist of the panels and speakers listed below. 

Continue reading

March 13, 2022 in Faith, Legal Ed Conferences, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, March 6, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: Ash Wednesday Forces Us To Confront Death, But It Also Offers Hope

New York Times Op-Ed:  Ash Wednesday Forces Us to Confront Death, but It Also Offers Hope, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, which begins the Christian penitential season of Lent. On Ash Wednesday, churchgoers usually kneel and our foreheads are marked with ashes in the shape of a cross. An Ash Wednesday service was one of the first liturgical services I ever attended. And it hit me hard. We, the living, gathered to name the fact of death. The priest marked the foreheads of children, even newborn babies. It felt so true and countercultural, and also incredibly sad.

I have since presided over several Ash Wednesday services as a priest, and it still hits me hard. In the service, I tell the members of my congregation, one by one, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This black mark of death rests on every forehead — the young and old, rich and poor, strong and weak, sick and well. We carry on our body a recollection and proclamation that we, and everyone we love, will die. ...

Speaking the truth of mortality out loud on Ash Wednesday feels somehow transgressive. In the midst of the bustle of cities, the busyness of our lives, the triviality that subsumes much of our time and the unreality of social media, a priest stands with ashes in hand and calls people back to reality. ...

Oftentimes, by avoiding the truth of death, we end up stifling questions about the meaning of life, about God, about eternity and about who we are, what we are for, where we are headed and why anything matters at all. ...

Continue reading

March 6, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: The Meaning Of Lent To This Unchurched Christian

New York Times Op-Ed:  The Meaning of Lent to This Unchurched Christian, by Margaret Renkl; Author, Graceland, At Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache From the American South (2021)):

RenklOn Wednesday, in Catholic parishes across the world, a priest will dip his thumb into a pot of ashes — the burned remains of blessed palms from last year’s Palm Sunday Mass — and smudge the sign of the cross on each congregant’s forehead. Performing this ancient ritual, he will murmur, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The priest will say these words on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, but he will not be saying these words to me.

I have had a troubled relationship with the church of my childhood since childhood itself, when I learned in Catholic school that I would never be allowed to become a priest. For decades, nevertheless, the gifts of my faith outweighed the pronouncements of the institutional church that I found alienating or enraging. Human institutions are inherently flawed, and I have always loved the rituals that linked me across time to so many others facing fear and loneliness and pain, to so many others finding solace in their faith.

Then the pandemic quarantines left me unchurched through no choice of my own, and the death of our last parent, for whom there would only ever be one church, left my husband and me free to make our own choices about where to worship. I came to understand that my growing feeling of spiritual alienation wasn’t temporary. I loved my parish, and I loved our brilliant, compassionate pastor, but I was done with the institutional church.

Continue reading

March 6, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

New Pepperdine Religious Liberty Clinic Asks Supreme Court To Rule For High School Coach Fired For Praying On Football Field After Games

Pepperdine Caruso Law Religious Liberty Clinic Represents American Legion in Supreme Court Amicus Brief:

Pepperdine Amicus BriefPepperdine Caruso Law’s newly-established Hugh and Hazel Darling Foundation Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief on March 2 at the United States Supreme Court in support of Coach Joseph Kennedy’s appeal against Bremerton School District. The friend of the court brief was submitted on behalf of national veterans’ organization The American Legion. Kennedy, an assistant high school football coach, was fired by the Seattle-area school district because he engaged in private prayer on the football field after games. The Clinic’s brief argues that the First Amendment protects the right of government employees to engage in personal prayer in public places.

The brief was drafted in part by Caruso Law third-year students Anne McCarthy and Seth Shepherd, along with attorneys from global law firm Jones Day, including Noel Francisco, former Solicitor General of the United States.

“It has been a privilege getting to work with and learn from the attorneys at Jones Day,” said McCarthy. “I am glad that we could do our part to protect a robust role for religious expression in the public square.”

“Working on this brief has been one of the highlights of my education at Pepperdine,” said Shepherd. “I am proud that we have been able to make a difference on such an important case, and as someone set to become a Marine Corps Judge Advocate after graduation, I am particularly proud that the clinic is representing the American Legion.”

“Football fields are not religion-free zones,” said Eric Rassbach, visiting professor at Pepperdine and inaugural executive director of the clinic. “The school district got the Constitution exactly backwards by banning prayer instead of allowing it as the First Amendment requires. We hope the Supreme Court throws the yellow flag on this flagrantly unconstitutional behavior.”

This is the first brief filed by the new clinic at Pepperdine Caruso Law, established in January 2022 with the help of a transformational gift from the Hugh and Hazel Darling Foundation. As part of the school’s Nootbaar Institute for Law, Religion, and Ethics, the Religious Liberty Clinic explores enduring questions relating to how civil governments treat the religious beliefs, expressions, and institutions of their citizens and residents. “Faith is at the very core of Pepperdine’s mission,” said Dean Paul Caron. “The new Religious Liberty Clinic is a natural extension of our work, and empowers us to make an even greater impact with our faculty and students in matters of faith and the law.”

Continue reading

March 6, 2022 in Faith, Legal Ed News, Legal Education, Pepperdine Legal Ed | Permalink

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Ketanji Brown Jackson's Faith

I must begin these very brief remarks by thanking God for delivering me to this point in my professional journey. My life has been blessed beyond measure, and I do know that one can only come this far by faith. — Ketanji Brown Jackson, February 25, 2022

Christianity Today, Ketanji Brown Jackson Thanks God for Supreme Court Nomination:

Immediately after President Joe Biden introduced Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to the US Supreme Court at a White House event on Friday, the federal appeals court judge stepped up to the podium and appealed to the divine. ...

Jackson did not mention a specific faith tradition in her remarks, so it was not immediately clear whether she would alter the religious makeup of the Supreme Court, which currently consists primarily of Catholic and Jewish justices (Justice Neil Gorsuch was raised Catholic but attended an Episcopal Church in Colorado). ...

Continue reading

February 27, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: It’s Easy To Put ‘Jesus’ On Your Bus. Practicing Faith Is Harder.

Taylor Bus

New York Times op-ed:  It’s Easy to Put ‘Jesus’ on Your Bus. Practicing Faith Is Harder., by Jane Coaston:

On Thursday, I saw tweets featuring the debut of a campaign bus for Kandiss Taylor, a Republican candidate for governor of Georgia. It is emblazoned with what is evidently her platform: “Jesus, Guns, Babies.” That’s it. No further explanation needed, or perhaps more accurately, no further explanation given. ...

As someone who has covered politics, I can appreciate the brutal simplicity of Taylor’s messaging. But as a Christian, I’m … depressed by it. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the savior of all, who was born to the Virgin Mary and suffered and died on the cross at Calvary for the sake of the sins of humanity. I believe he then rose from the grave, and as the Nicene Creed, an ancient statement of faith, puts it, he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

I believe that as much as I believe that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. I read the Bible regularly (from Genesis to Revelation to the Acts of the Apostles, my favorite book of the Bible) and I think a lot about my faith and its role in my life. Suffice it to say, faith is hard — faith in the unseen, faith in something that encourages you to act against your first instinct, faith that, no matter what you want to do, tells you what you should do instead.

It is not hard to be a Christian in America since the majority of Americans identify as Christian and virtually every public institution bends over backward for us. But it is hard to live a Christian life — to exist as a person who has a belief in an eternal savior but spends a lot of time wondering what that really means. ...

Continue reading

February 27, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: Grief And Covid Stole My Love Of Reading. Here’s How I Got It Back.

New York Times op-ed:  Grief Stole My Love of Reading. Here’s How I Got It Back., by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3I want to tell a story about a love lost and found again. In 2017, I moved across the country, lost my father to heart disease, had a miscarriage and then a complicated pregnancy that ended in another miscarriage. During this time of sorrow and doubt, I was, as I write in my book Prayer in the Night, “a priest who could not pray.” But there was something else I loved that suddenly seemed impossible: I was also a reader who could not read.

Reading had always been a sturdy part of my life. ... So in 2017, when I already felt weighed down by grief, the loss of reading was a particularly sad defeat. ... It was as if I had woken up one day with a different color of eyes or hair. What had happened? ...

I wondered if I could continue being a writer. Reading is a big part of the gig. Around three months after my dad died, someone interviewing me for a podcast asked what I was reading. I sheepishly said, “I’m not, really.” It was like a doctor admitting to not washing his or her hands.

No one told me that grief affects reading. No one told me that this was common. But apparently it is.

I mentioned this experience to my therapist recently and she told me that some find comfort in reading. But for others, in times of intense grief or stress, our brains decide to spend their energy elsewhere. This was the illiterate impulse of my poor, overtaxed limbic system.

Continue reading

February 27, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

RIP, Jane Marczewski (Dec. 19, 1990 - Feb. 19, 2022)

It's Okay: God Is On The Bathroom Floor (June 13, 2021):

Check out this award-winning performance Tuesday night on NBC's America's Got Talent of It's Okay by Jane Marczewski (stage name: Nightbirde), who is battling a very aggressive cancer with a 2% survival rate:

Nightbirde, God Is On The Bathroom Floor:

After the doctor told me I was dying, and after the man I married said he didn’t love me anymore, I chased a miracle in California ...  On nights that I could not sleep, I laid in the tub like an insect, staring at my reflection in the shower knob. I vomited until I was hollow. I rolled up under my robe on the tile. The bathroom floor became my place to hide, where I could scream and be ugly; where I could sob and spit and eventually doze off, happy to be asleep, even with my head on the toilet.

I have had cancer three times now, and I have barely passed thirty. There are times when I wonder what I must have done to deserve such a story. I fear sometimes that when I die and meet with God, that He will say I disappointed Him, or offended Him, or failed Him. Maybe He’ll say I just never learned the lesson, or that I wasn’t grateful enough. But one thing I know for sure is this: He can never say that He did not know me.

I am God’s downstairs neighbor, banging on the ceiling with a broomstick. I show up at His door every day. Sometimes with songs, sometimes with curses. Sometimes apologies, gifts, questions, demands. Sometimes I use my key under the mat to let myself in. Other times, I sulk outside until He opens the door to me Himself.

Continue reading

February 23, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, February 20, 2022

WSJ Op-Ed: Silicon Valley’s Secret Christians

Wall Street Journal op-ed:  Silicon Valley’s Secret Christians, by Peter Rex (Founder/CEO, Rex)

HBO’s Silicon Valley won praise during its six-season run for accurately satirizing Northern California’s tech startup culture. A classic episode depicts a meeting in which one of the main characters accidentally “outs” a colleague, leaving the gathered tech leaders uncomfortable. But they’re not upset that their potential partner is gay—rather, they’re shocked to learn that he goes to church. Another character later admits that Christianity “freaks people out in the Valley.”

There’s truth in the show’s satire. Having held tech jobs in Silicon Valley and Seattle, I’ve experienced a combination of hesitation and hostility toward my Catholic faith. Eastern Orthodox, Mormon and Protestant colleagues at my company have had similar experiences, leading them to worry about being open with their religious beliefs. The fear is valid. For all its talk of diversity, the tech industry has little room for devout believers. This discomfort with faith cuts off much of tech from the moral foundation it needs. ...

Continue reading

February 20, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: How Faith Communities Can Respond To The Opiod Crisis

New Yok Times op-ed:  ‘We’re All Sort of Primed for Addiction’, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3Last August, I had a conversation with an old friend that I couldn’t stop thinking about. I have known Trevor Henderson for over a decade. Until recently, he was the director of the Nashville Metro Health Department’s overdose response program, which works with emergency medical workers and the community at large to reduce drug overdoses. With kind eyes and a rich Northern Irish brogue, Trevor speaks with the hard-won wisdom of those who’ve walked with suffering people.

He told me about his work and how as the past two years convulsed under Covid-19, there has been another health crisis in our midst. The Times reported that between April 2020 and 2021, over 100,000 Americans died of overdoses, which was “more than the toll of car crashes and gun fatalities combined,” and the highest yearly number on record. The increase in overdoses is in part due to the introduction of fentanyl, a powerful and addictive synthetic opioid. ...

I was curious, since Trevor is both an active member in his church and a leader in his local government’s response to the overdose crisis, if he could help me think about the role that religious organizations could play in caring for those who are addicted.

Since then I have often thought about Trevor and his work. We met in church and were in a small group Bible study together for about four years. Faith communities seem to me to be uniquely positioned to respond to this crisis, offering hospitality and love to those struggling with addiction and helping to remove the stigma surrounding it that leaves people feeling isolated and alone. ...

Continue reading

February 20, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

2L Marianna Marques Shares Her Powerful Testimony On Harvard Law School Website

Harvard Law School, Student Voices: Marianna’s Journey to HLS:

HLS 4I followed an unconventional path to Harvard Law School. I’m the first in my family to be born in the United States, I studied pre-med in undergrad, I only applied to one law school, and I never even took the LSAT. My time at HLS was not only divinely ordained, but also, simply, a miracle.

At a young age, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. At age 13, while I was reflecting on my life plans, I heard God’s voice (in my spirit) for the first time: Those are your plans for yourself, not Mine. Although God says in Scripture that He has a plan for each of us, I hadn’t consulted Him as I had developed my own. I hadn’t trusted that His plans would bring me satisfaction—I lacked faith and wanted control. But in that instance, I decided to trust Him and to surrender my plans.

But when I was 16, I gradually started to stray off His path for me. Still, He never left. At age 21, I got on my knees and repented, and God began to restore me. He revealed that it was only by His strength and by abiding in His Word that I could be free from sin and hurt, not on my own strength. I thought I was a “good person” and “free” during the past five years, but I realized that true freedom in Jesus meant that I did not have to live captive to sin. These sins were the roots of the mental and spiritual health struggles I had been experiencing. He freed me—I started experiencing love, joy, and peace every day.

Continue reading

February 20, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Friday, February 18, 2022

Christian Legal Society Hosts Online Program Today On The Moral Challenges Of Law School & Law Practice

Cochran

The Christian Legal Society hosts a free zoom program on The Moral Challenges of Law School & Law Practice today at 7:00 PM ET | 4:00 PM PT (Zoom link here) with Bob Cochran (Pepperdine) and Barbara Armacost (Virginia) moderated by Pepperdine 3L Rebecca Voth.

February 18, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, February 13, 2022

WSJ: God And Man At Yale Law School

Wall Street Journal, God and Man at Yale Law:

After DisbeliefAnthony Kronman grew up in an atheist household. Now he’s determined to convince American elites of the existence of ‘divinity.’

Was it divinely ordained that a boy raised by aggressively atheist parents would one day, in his eighth decade, make a passionate public case for God? This mischievous thought crosses my mind as I speak to Anthony Kronman, whose book After Disbelief: On Disenchantment, Disappointment, Eternity and Joy, forthcoming in March, aims to persuade America’s “relentlessly rational” elites to acknowledge the existence of “divinity.”

Those elites include his colleagues at Yale Law School, where Mr. Kronman, 76, is a professor and former dean. “In the academic circles in which I live and work,” Mr. Kronman writes, “the only respectable view of God is that he doesn’t exist.” He elaborates in an interview, saying that they regard his public professions of spirituality with “skeptical bemusement.” To the extent religion figures in their conversations at all, “it often does so as a synonym for prejudice and superstition—the attitude [Barack] Obama expressed, in an unguarded moment, when he made his regrettable comments about ‘guns and religion’ ” while seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

Mr. Kronman’s ambition is to repair “the schism between those for whom religion continues to matter and those who view it with amusement or contempt.” The political implications of this split are especially profound in America, which Mr. Kronman says is unlike any other country in both its “commitment to secular values” and the “seriousness with which it takes religious beliefs.” The combination of the two has frequently been a source of national strength, but in recent decades it has given rise to hostility and bitterness.

“After Disbelief” approaches the problem by giving each side its philosophical due. Mr. Kronman argues that the scientific conviction that everything in the world is “knowable and explicable” collides with the practical reality that we can never know everything—that the questions are “inexhaustible” because new ones arise from every answer. ...

Continue reading

February 13, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: Should Churches Drop Their Online Services?

Following up on last Sunday's post, Why Churches Should Drop Their Online ServicesTish Harrison Warren (New York Times Op-Ed), 7 Thoughtful Reader Responses on Ending Online Church:

Warren 3There was a huge response to last week’s newsletter, where I argued that churches should phase out their livestream services. I received thousands of emails and other replies online, many of which were beautiful and profound. You’ve given me a lot to think about!

Readers raised important concerns and questions, so I decided to use this week’s newsletter to highlight excerpts from some of the thoughtful and helpful replies that I received.

Some readers responded enthusiastically to the piece and found motivation in it to return to in-person services. ...

There were readers who agree with the importance of in-person church but who have found that in practice it is difficult to attend church where they live because of a lack of Covid-19 precautions. ...

I agree that offering livestreaming services to those with unique accessibility needs could play a helpful role as one part of more comprehensive, holistic and ongoing support. I am sorry not to have included this caveat in my original piece.

Continue reading

February 13, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Department Of Education Dismisses Complaint Over LGBTQ Dating Ban Due To BYU's Religious Exemption To Title IX

BYU News, U.S. Department of Education Dismisses Title IX Complaint Against BYU:

BYU (2015)The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has dismissed a Title IX complaint against BYU that alleged discrimination related to students involved in same-sex romantic relationships. The complaint, which was recently reported in the media, was officially dismissed on February 8, 2022.

BYU had anticipated that OCR would dismiss the complaint because OCR has repeatedly recognized BYU’s religious exemption for Title IX requirements that are not consistent with the religious tenets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As President Kevin J Worthen wrote in a recent letter to OCR, BYU affirms “the freedom to operate a religious university without sacrificing distinctive religious beliefs,” and at the same time, BYU “will continue to support ongoing efforts to find common ground on these issues as we strive to follow Jesus Christ’s example of love and fairness for all of God’s children.” ... President Worthen’s letter stated that “we simultaneously stand firm in our religious beliefs and reiterate our love and respect for each member of the campus community.”

Continue reading

February 13, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, February 6, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: Evangelical Christianity's Dissension And Renewal

New York Times Op-Ed:  The Dissenters Trying to Save Evangelicalism From Itself, by David Brooks:

There have been three big issues that have profoundly divided [millions of American Christians]: the white evangelical embrace of Donald Trump, sex abuse scandals in evangelical churches and parachurch organizations, and attitudes about race relations, especially after the killing of George Floyd. ...

Of course there is a lot of division across many parts of American society. But for evangelicals, who have dedicated their lives to Jesus, the problem is deeper. Christians are supposed to believe in the spiritual unity of the church. While differing over politics and other secondary matters, they are in theory supposed to be unified by their shared first love — as brothers and sisters in Christ. Their common devotion is supposed to bring out the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,” say the opening lines of a famous Christian song commonly known as “By Our Love.” In its chorus it proclaims, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” The world envisioned by that song seems very far away right now. The bitter recriminations have caused some believers to wonder if the whole religion is a crock.

Continue reading

February 6, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: Why Churches Should Drop Their Online Services

New York Times op-ed:  Why Churches Should Drop Their Online Services, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (Christianity Today's 2018 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3Over the past two years a refrain has become common in churches and other religious communities: “Join us in person or online.” I was a big proponent of that “or online” part. In March of 2020, we knew little about the new disease spreading rapidly around the world but we knew it was deadly, especially for the elderly. My church was one of the first in our city to forgo meeting in person and switch to an online format, and I encouraged other churches to do the same.

Since then Sunday mornings have varied. Our church met online; then met indoors with limited attendance, masks and social distancing; then met outdoors; then, after vaccines, indoors again. Precautions rose and fell according to our city’s threat level. But even as most churches now offer in-person services, the “or online” option has remained. I think this is good, given how unusual the past two years have been.

Now I think it’s time to drop the virtual option. And I think this for the same reason I believed churches should go online back in March 2020: This is the way to love God and our neighbors.

Continue reading

February 6, 2022 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, January 30, 2022

The Power Of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward

Wall Street Journal Saturday Essay:  ‘No Regrets’ Is No Way to Live, by Daniel H. Pink (Author, The Power Of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward (2022)):

Power of Regret“No Regrets.” It’s an alluring motto, a handy recipe for success and satisfaction. Reject the pain of looking backward, revel in the pleasure of dreaming forward, and the good life will ensue.

Little wonder that this simple maxim transcends political and cultural divides. The Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale —Christian, conservative, mentor to Republican presidents—urged his followers to drop the very word “regret” from their vocabularies. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg —Jewish, liberal, appointee of Democratic presidents—concurred. “Waste no time on…regret,” she counseled in her 2016 book, “My Own Words.” Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald recorded a song called “No Regrets” in 1968—as did country star Emmylou Harris in 1989 and rapper Eminem in 2020. Some people endorse this world view so deeply that they tattoo the two-word credo on their bodies.

Yet for all its intuitive appeal, the “No Regrets” approach is an unsustainable blueprint for living. At a time like ours—when teenagers are battling unprecedented mental-health challenges, adults are gripped by doubt over their financial future, and the cloud of an enduring pandemic casts uncertainty over all of our decisions—it is especially counterproductive.

For the last three years, I have examined several decades of research on the science of regret. At the same time, I have collected and analyzed more than 16,000 individual descriptions of regret from people in 105 countries who responded to my online survey invitation. ...

The conclusion from both the science and the survey is clear: Regret is not dangerous or abnormal. It is healthy and universal, an integral part of being human. Equally important, regret is valuable. It clarifies. It instructs. Done right, it needn’t drag us down; it can lift us up. ...

Continue reading

January 30, 2022 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink