Last Week, Today: A Special Update

Dear friends,

Thank you to those who have received this newsletter for months now, and for those who have recently signed up to receive updates on my book which I announced this week. I am excited to share with you news and exclusive updates about Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America in the coming months. You can also visit for more details and pre-order on Amazon.

This newsletter is meant to provide you with some of the most substantive, imperative reading from the last week regarding faith, culture and politics that you need to understand the current landscape. I hope that it is helpful to you in your work.

If you just want to receive updates on my upcoming book, just reply to this email, and we’ll make sure you do not receive the weekly newsletter moving forward.


1. Spirituality & Justice

The crude and false distinction between religion and politics is that religion occupies the domain of the "inner self" - hearts & minds - whereas politics is about "societal structures" which exist outside of the self. Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, beautifully frames the pursuit of systemic justice in spiritual language in her interview with Krista Tippett. 

2. America is ripe for tyranny

Andrew Sullivan argues that the rise of Donald Trump has been essentially predicted by Plato who critiqued democracies for their susceptibility to tyrants. For Sullivan, the solution lies in a mixture of democracy and elite responsibility, for elites prevent republic from succumbing to demagoguery and fascism. 

3. Do You Need to Be An Activist to Care About Justice? 

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, in an interview with Jamie Smith, reflects on the importance and limits of Christian activism. Tyler is the founding director of the Two Futures Project, a movement of American Christians for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

4. The Cost and Necessity of State Religious Freedom Legislation

A few days ago, Jonathan Merritt argued that recent religious liberty bills often seek to solve “non-existent problems” and cost Christians standing in society. John Inazu responds by pointing out that while fear-mongering certainly exists, there are legitimate causes for concern for religious people, particularly nonprofit institutions.

5. Voters Have Given Up on Trust

What really makes this 2016 election unique? Read Kirsten Powers:

"Voters are so cynical about politicians — like most everyone else in power — that a reputation for being trustworthy doesn't translate into victory.

This is a sad state of affairs but not a surprise. Major institutions have been losing the trust of the American people for years. According to Gallup, '2004 was the last year most institutions were at or above their historical average levels of confidence.' Banks, the Supreme Court, religious institutions and the government have seen a consistent decline of trust."

6. A Compassionate Judge

Sergeant Joseph Serna is a former Special Forces soldier who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and has struggled with sobriety. Judge Lou Olivera sentenced Serna behind bars for 24 hours for lying about a urine test. Worried that this imprisonment might trigger Serna's PTSD, Judge Olivera, who is a Gulf War veteran, joined Serna behind bars and spent the night with him trading stories. "They're my comrades and I won't let them fall," he said. 

Thank you for reading!

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