Publications
Oh Me of Little Faith Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

Caravaggio - The Incredulity of Saint Thomas(Lehigh Valley Vanguard October 3, 2015)

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Not long ago, my artist-friend Johanna and I were talking about why it is that some Christians believe only in the God of the Bible—the flood launcher, the sin avenger, Yahweh or Adonai or Jehovah or the God of Abraham, who watched without remorse, apparently wanting the Romans to nail Christ to the cross—when, in fact, many of the faithful don’t accept that version of the deity at all. Their idea of God is much more benign, Clara Barton-like, more Jesus-y than tyrannical. I knew that Johanna was raised a Christian and that later she rebelled. Anymore, I wasn’t sure how she defined God or even where he was in her life. Had he gone away? For good? Had he returned? With forgiveness? Just how Biblical of a God was he?

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Denying and Welcoming the End: The Evangelical Duplicity Print E-mail
Articles

SeptCOVER-web(The Truth Seeker September 2015)

Snowballs from Hell /

All things Christian, all things American, reside with the Oklahoman. A few years ago, a local reporter from Moore, Oklahoma, who was hooked in, via his affiliate, to CNN, was doing live interviews in the aftermath of a May tornado. He was broadcasting at the end of a mile-wide, seventeen-mile-long swath of destruction, which included the remains of two grade schools that were rebuilt on the same spot after previous deadly twisters. Beside him was a wary-eyed, ball-capped farmer or trucker, randomly culled, no doubt, who would express the horror of an EF5 tornado that had just splintered his community on winds of 210 mph.

“How awesome it is,” the breathless man said, “to witness what God’s wrath can bring!” The reporter did not ask if that wrath was aimed at the seven children who died that morning in one of two schools whose concrete-block walls lacked reinforced steel. No. This was not a social or a political visit. It was Armageddon in the Heartland. Or a reminder to the forgetful that the end times were upon us. In his immediate exclamation, I got the philosophy of climate-change belief and disbelief: humankind didn’t create this murderous storm, God did. And He meant it.

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On Medical Authority Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

2106(Guernica August 5, 2015)

Is it just me or do you, too, notice that the preponderance of published and reviewed books about medical matters are by doctors, not patients? Is this just my ego griping, the author of a memoir about heart disease, who lingers, uncalled, in the waiting room of the healthcare debate? Perhaps. But I want my voice heard because patients speak to health and illness as participants and not, as doctors do, as witnesses. It’s a perspective largely neglected in our culture. If the media gatekeepers show any interest in what we write, it’s to question our credentials. What medical authority does the patient have in a system run by experts?

I’ll tell you mine. I’m a survivor of three heart attacks over a recent five-year period in which I was shocked awake to my problems: the deadline stress of a journalist, extra weight, crappy diet, and a lousy genetic hand—all of which caused the disease. I was saved by three angioplasties but I received no nutritional or lifestyle advice, and nary a nod to that health-trade axiom, “patient empowerment.” I got stents, I got drugs, I got fixed, but I felt a divide between me and my overburdened cardiologists. Every visit to the doc, I would count 20 other discouraged people waiting for their precious eight to ten minutes. I put these things in a memoir—a patient’s story. But mine, like thousands of others, has fallen by the wayside, due in part to our media’s imperial deference to doctors and advice-hawkers.

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Review: One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Created Christian America by Kevin Kruse Print E-mail
Criticism

One-NationUnderGod(The Humanist July/August 2015)

In 1952, with the election of Dwight D. Eisenhower as president, a small, chariot-driving clan of Christian evangelicals stormed the national stage, bent on foisting their religious claims into American law, custom, and ceremony. The chief drivers—the Congregationalist James Fifield, the Methodist Abraham Vereide, and the Baptist Billy Graham—enlisted the pliable Eisenhower, a self-described man of “deeply-felt religious faith,” and used his popularity to foment legislative and judicial changes dear to their cause. In return, these media-savvy pastors, along with fellow-traveling capitalists, delivered audiences to any politician blessing their credo. To vote is a faith-based proposition, believing in what the candidate stands for. The outcome was a new corporate-political movement, later termed “Christian libertarianism,” which mixed piety and patriotism and trademarked free enterprise as every American’s “divine right.”

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Child No More Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20150722(San Diego Reader July 22, 2015)

Little for Sherry Sotelo growing up was how she wished it would be. She, her four siblings, and her mother lived wherever they could—in an accommodating relative’s house or a complex of two-bedroom apartments somewhere south of I-5. Her mother was single, with limited English, and hard-pressed to find work. When Sotelo was 12, her mother secured a job in Tijuana, so the family moved there. But then Sotelo wanted to go to school in the U.S., so she came back. She enrolled as a freshman at Hoover High, rooming “with whoever would let me stay.” After a while, she says, the loneliness got to her. “It was tough, not having my mom here, so I went back with her for another year.” At 15, she returned to San Diego. She began dreaming of a college education and a career in veterinarian medicine, yet still vulnerable to temporary quarters, no steady income, and a dearth of nutritious food.

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Hobby Lobby, Steve Green, & the New Bible Empire Print E-mail
Articles

FI AM cover copy(Free Inquiry April/May 2015)

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Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and son of its founder and CEO, David Green, loves to tell the story of the company’s brush with financial ruin and salvation via divine intervention. David founded the craft-supply store in 1972, at first a modest Oklahoma City picture-frame business. By 1985, Hobby Lobby had expanded to several more area stores and become the go-to supplier of gewgaws for home decorators and holiday artists.

It seems that the company erred in its enthusiasm, growing too big too fast. Soon it was slouching toward bankruptcy. As journalist Brian Solomon recounted in Forbes, David Green had “overleveraged the business and diluted the inventory with off-brand, expensive products like luggage, ceiling fans and gourmet foods.” David, an evangelical Christian, blamed himself for the sin of entrepreneurial pride.

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San Diego For Sale Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20150401(San Diego Reader April 1, 2015)

Dr. Ken Anderson, the affable owner of Pacific Beach’s Anderson Medical Clinic, has his hands sagely folded, fingers interlaced, on his desk. He’s remembering the date, September 26, 2010. That day, the temperature over 100 degrees in Del Cerro, the humidity an untypical 78, he and his wife were playing another couple at the Lake Murray Tennis Club. The two pair were the only players at the club. In the middle of the third set, Anderson tells me, he went down: “I wasn’t breathing and I wasn’t moving.” His heart had stopped. Neither his wife nor their friends had any medical training, though his friend’s wife did notice an automated external defibrillator (AED) near the front desk. She ran for the device, put it beside Anderson’s motionless body, and unzipped the canvas top. The machine started speaking. It told them to apply the panels to his chest. Then, in robot voice, “Shock advised. Stand clear. Press the orange button. Shock delivered. Start CPR.” As a doctor, Anderson reminds me, he knows how perilous the moment was. “Had the AED not been there I would not have made it.” For cardiac arrest, which was his diagnosis, the heart needs to get back to its normal rhythm in five minutes—before the brain loses oxygen.

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