Arianna Huffington takes on religion

At a time when many traditional news outlets are cutting back their coverage of religion, the Huffington Post has announced a new section of the website called HuffPost Religion.

It’s being edited by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, a Baptist minister and Associate Dean of Religious Life at Princeton U.

huffington-ap-4823549The queen herself, omnipresent liberal media pundit Arianna Huffington, explains:

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Religion plays a central role in American life. Yet, all too often, when talking about it, we end up talking at each other instead of with each other. This is a shame, especially at a time like this, when the economic struggle in many people’s lives has led to a deeper questioning of our values and priorities.  Whether you are a believer or not, this is an essential conversation to have, and I’m delighted we will be having it on HuffPost.

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Her line-up includes a good number of familiar liberal/moderate voices: Jim Wallis, Sister Joan Chittister, Deepak Chopra, Robert Thurman, Steven Waldman, Feisal Rauf, Yehuda Berg,  Tony Campolo, and many, many more.

I took a quick look at the site and found some interesting stuff, like music mogul Russell Simmons’ explanation of why he does Transcendental Meditation. (“At its depths, life is an ocean of energy, intelligence, and bliss. And that ocean lies within us all.”)

Liberal Christian writer Brian McLaren asks “10 questions that are transforming the faith” (for some), including these: “Who is Jesus and why is he so important? Why do Christians present such different visions or versions of Jesus? How do we sort through the different versions to get a more balanced and accurate understanding of Jesus?”

It’s not, ahem, for everyone.

I was struck by an essay by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., chair of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton, called “The Black Church is Dead.”

He writes of the “routinization of black prophetic witness.” It’s something I’ve wondered about, but have rarely heard black Christians discuss.

Glaude writes:

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Too often the prophetic energies of black churches are represented as something inherent to the institution, and we need only point to past deeds for evidence of this fact. Sentences like, “The black church has always stood for…” “The black church was our rock…” “Without the black church, we would have not…” In each instance, a backward glance defines the content of the church’s stance in the present — justifying its continued relevance and authorizing its voice. Its task, because it has become alienated from the moment in which it lives, is to make us venerate and conform to it.

But such a church loses it power. Memory becomes its currency. Its soul withers from neglect. The result is all too often church services and liturgies that entertain, but lack a spirit that transforms, and preachers who deign for followers instead of fellow travelers in God.

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(Evan Agostini/Associated Press)