1. Not to beat a dead horse, but Hanna Rosin (she of Ehrenreich book review/God’s Harvard fame) wrote a lengthy cover story about the prosperity gospel for The Atlantic this past month entitled “Did Christianity Cause The Market To Crash?”. She reports that “the growth of the prosperity gospel tracks fairly closely to the pattern of foreclosure hot spots”, even detailing the efforts of certain loan officers to reach out to prosperity pastors. Her criticisms may not exactly be breaking news, and thankfully it’s not all one-note – there are some touching examples of hope offered to the hopeless – but her final conclusion is pretty condemning:

It is not all that surprising that the prosperity gospel persists despite its obvious failure to pay off. Much of popular religion these days is characterized by a vast gap between aspirations and reality. Few of Sarah Palin’s religious compatriots were shocked by her messy family life, because they’ve grown used to the paradoxes; some of the most socially conservative evangelical churches also have extremely high rates of teenage pregnancies, out-of-wedlock births, and divorce.

On a related note, the NY Times Magazine tells us that controversial Transformers starlet/sex symbol Megan Fox grew up in a pentecostal home and attended a Christian high school (ht RJ). Go figure.

2. Very thought-provoking article in The NY Times this week about forgiveness and who has the authority to grant it, detailing the current outrage in South Africa over a black university president’s decision to pardon four white students expelled for racism. Apparently not everyone is on board with his attempt at reconciliation (ht JD):

But [Dr. Jansen’s] gesture — the audacity of his forgiveness — dominated South Africa’s headlines for weeks, firing a controversy that continues to emit heat. Mr. Jansen [first black president of The University Of The Free State] most certainly has his champions. He was already a highly regarded educator, a Fulbright scholar with a Ph.D. from Stanford. Now he is also praised for his courage.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, called him a “great man” whose inauguration speech displayed the bold and merciful spirit of Jesus. “Forgiveness is not for sissies,” the archbishop said. But many others considered Mr. Jansen’s action to be insensitive and arrogant. Who was he to pardon those who had blackened the eye of the nation?

3. A fascinating discussion of Friedrich Nietzsche’s relationship to the Pietism in which he grew up, over at Christianity Today (ht JDK). A new book entitled Pious Nietzsche: Decadence and Dionysian Faith asserts that Nietzsche, “transplanted a form of Pietism onto the soil of Dionysus or, better, cultivated the apparently alien form of Dionysus on the soil of native Pietism. He may not have succeeded in overcoming his childhood Pietism. But it is what Nietzsche was about, even if he did not fully know it.”

The author concludes by asking a very timely question about the book’s central claim, “is [this] a kind of (broadly) theological thesis, a hint that, if a superficial atheism turns out to be an ersatz religion, it matters a lot that we see, describe, and call it as such?

4. You may not have caught last week’s episode of Community (a new NBC sitcom that keeps getting better and better), but it hinged on a debate about “is man inherently good or inherently evil?”. Believe it or not, our beloved low anthropology received a sympathetic and un-Hollywood-like airing, via a series of rather clever and effective illustrations. The episode also touched on determinism/predestination in a pretty charming way (ht CZ).

5. I’m pretty sure this is a joke, but you have to admit it’s a good one. This, however, is not a joke, but you have to admit that it’s a good one too.

6. Speaking of which, High Street Hymns has just released its first collection of Christmas and Advent hymns, “Love Shall Be Our Token”, which you can purchase here. Highly Recommended.