Diana Butler Bass is an author, speaker, and independent scholar specializing in American religion and culture. She holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Duke University and is the author of seven books including A Peopleâ€™s History of Christianity: the Other Side of the Story (HarperOne, 2009) Her best-selling Christianity for the Rest of Us (2006) was named as one of the best religion books of the year by Publishers Weekly and Christian Century, won the Book of the Year Award from the Academy of Parish Clergy, and was featured in a cover story in USA TODAY.
Diana regularly consults with religious organizations, leads conferences for religious leaders, and teaches and preaches in a variety of venues. She regularly comments on religion, politics, and culture in the media including USA TODAY, Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post, CNN, FOX, PBS, and NPR. From 1995-2000, she wrote a weekly column on American religion for the New York Times Syndicate. She has written widely in the religious press, including Sojourners, Christian Century, Clergy Journal, and Congregations.
From 2002 to 2006, she was the Project Director of a national Lilly Endowment funded study of mainline Protestant vitalityâ€”a project featured in Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Diana also serves on the board of directors of the Beatitudes Society.
Diana has taught at Westmont College, the University of California at Santa Barbara, Macalester College, Rhodes College, and the Virginia Theological Seminary. She has taught church history, American religious history, history of Christian thought, religion and politics, and congregational studies.
She lives in Alexandria, Virginia. She is a member of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in downtown Washington, D.C.
Emily Dickinson, the poet of exquisite doubt, was born today in 1830. Progressive faith makes room for doubt. In many ways, Dickinson should be considered the patron saint of ambiguous Christianity. She grew up in revivalist New England, where she […]
On December 7, Faith in Public Life released a statement condemning the anti-gay bill in the Ugandan Parliament that submits homosexuals to draconian punishments for their “crimes.” Sadly, many prominent Christians have refused to speak out against the human rights […]
December 1 is World AIDS Day–a day to remind the human family of the toll of the AIDS epidemic and take stock of progress against the disease. It is, indeed, a global day that connects rich and poor, people of […]
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations caused by the roaring of the sea and the waves,” proclaims Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. He continued: People will […]
During the last few days, Psalm 109:8, a Bible verse in the form of a “prayer for Obama,” has topped the Google trends chart: “May his days be few; may another take his office.” Evidently, a bumper sticker emblazoned with […]
Updates on yesterday’s blog about the fight between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese and the DC City Council: According to the Washington Post, the DC city council has responded to the Catholic Archdiocese by “digging in its heels” on gay marriage. […]
This morning’s Washington Post made me choke on my coffee: “Catholic Church Gives D.C. Ultimatum.” The Catholic Archdiocese is playing political hardball by threatening to cut off social services to the city’s poor–including the homeless, the hungry, the sick, and […]
I’ve often wondered why progressive Christians don’t typically celebrate All Saints Day on November 1 with more enthusiasm. It is, next to Christmas and Easter, my favorite church holy day–I eagerly await reading the texts of our Christian ancestors and […]
This week, the Vatican announced that it would make it easier for conservative Anglicans and Episcopalians–those uncomfortable with women priests and accepting gay people–to join the Roman Catholic Church. The move surprised Anglican leaders who, evidently, had no idea that […]
Although many pundits think the religious right is waning, Republican Bob McDonnell, whose political views were shaped by radical right-wing beliefs–those of Christian Reconstruction–appears poised to win Virginia’s upcoming gubernatorial election. McDonnell’s ties to the Christian Right were not an […]
Some African churches have taken a frightening literal turn: accusing children of witchcraft and torturing or killing them to purify their souls. Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported that more than 15,000 Nigerian children have been accused of being witches […]
Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to a video from Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas entitled “Taking the Hill.” I thought it might be a political video encouraging conservative Christians to go to Washington to lobby against […]
ABC’s Nightline has been running a series on the Ten Commandments in which they explore the issues and dimensions of each commandment in contemporary society. Tonight’s commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery. The series is interesting and, in many ways, […]
Earlier today, I wondered if the President would return to hope in tonight’s health care speech. He did. And he did even more. President Obama made the moral case for health care reform by appealing to the best aspects of […]
I was too young to remember President John F. Kennedy. My mother worked on his campaign and hauled her baby (me) along with her to pass out literature. She assures me that one of my first words was “k-e-n-d-y.” I […]
I can’t say that I always loved Ted Kennedy. For years, I have agreed with the issues he fought for–especially regarding his concern for the sick, the poor, and the elderly. But, I confess, Senator Kennedy’s personal behavior often proved […]
Yesterday, Ed Schultz posed a question on both his radio program and his MSNBC show: Where is the religious community on health care? Ed, a Christian who admits he is not a regular churchgoer, sees the issue in pretty simple […]
People often ask me why I don’t blog more often in the crucible of the news cycle when an issue is “hot.” My friends and editors are always trying to get me to speed up–as I tend to be slow […]
Three news stories in recent days point to significant change in the landscape of North American religion. For decades now, the conventional wisdom about church growth has been that only conservative churches–those that take the Bible literally and embrace conservative […]
For the last month, I’ve been in Australia and only occasionally heard news from the United States. I haven’t minded too much missing arguments over health care and the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. But I have fretted about missing the […]
With yesterday’s shooting at the Holocaust museum, I was reminded of a story told to me several years ago by a professor of when he had been a doctoral student. An eminent post-modern theologian had come to his university to […]
Following the President’s Cairo University speech a number of journalists commented that it was a political speech and not very “religious.” Indeed, one referred to his policy remarks as “wonky” in which he primarily addressed seven areas of tension that […]
My young daughter is a dedicated fan of the TLC program Jon and Kate Plus Eight, a reality show of a wholesome family with a set of twins and a set of sextuplets. Over the weekend, TLC ran a marathon […]
In 2004, a little book appeared that made quite a splash among dispirited Democrats: George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant. In it, Lakoff argued that Republicans and Democrats worked out of two different “framing” stories–frames are “mental structures that […]
In 1899, Pope Leo condemned “Americanism” as a heresy. Americanism, a theological development in American Roman Catholicism, was a complex of progressive ideals regarding freedom, separation of church and state, historical criticism and scientific inquiry that attempted to reconcile traditional […]
Last Friday, my family went to see the new Star Trek movie. We really enjoyed the renewed adventures of Captain Kirk and the starship Enterprise. We weren’t alone. The audience in the nearly full theater loved the film. And it […]
Most people think of Mother’s Day as a quaint and conservative holiday honoring 1950s values, a sort of historical throw back to traditional notions of hearth and home. Let’s correct that impression by saying: Happy Progressive Mother’s Day. In May […]
Earlier this week, the Pew Research Center released a survey on the views of religious Americans regarding torture. They survey found that white evangelical Protestants were the most supportive of torture–only 16% of evangelicals reject the use of torture. A […]
My family lives in a typical 1960s house in the Washington DC suburbs, and I work at home. “Typical 1960s house” equals small and no closets. As a result, my books were taking over and there wasn’t much space to […]
One of my favorite movies is the old film, Anne of a Thousand Days. After her turbulent affair and brief marriage to Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn awaits execution in the Tower of London and reflects on the fleeting 1,000 days […]
This morning, Miss California USA told an MSNBC anchor that she prays for celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. Not unsolicited charity, her prayers are a response to an unexpected controversy from Sunday’s night Miss USA competition. Miss California was one of […]
Ten years ago today, I was in San Francisco leading a retreat for Episcopal clergy from the western United States. During the afternoon break, someone handed me a slip of paper saying that there had been a shooting at a […]
This morning, at 9:00 a.m. sharp, I took my tax payment to the local post office. When I handed it to the clerk, she said, “I hate tax day.” I replied, “Not me. I don’t love parting with the money, […]
For four years, I’ve been driving around with one of those “01/20/09″ stickers on the back of my car. However, with the exception of election night and the inauguration, I haven’t really, truly believed that there has been a change […]
All day Wednesday, MSNBC advertised a discussion about the “new role” of religion and politics to be aired on the Chris Matthews Show. When the show began, guest host Mike Barnicle announced that the debate would feature atheist Christopher Hitchens […]
Yesterday, on the first day of Holy Week in the western Christian world, President Obama addressed Turkey’s Grand National Assembly and declared that the United States “is not and never will be at war with Islam.” “Our partnership with the […]
Yesterday morning CNBC anchor Rick Santelli exploded in a rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange against President Obama’s housing proposal. He attacked the “losers” who got suckered into bad mortgages, shouted that the proposal rewarded “bad behavior,” […]
One of the most intriguing aspects of the current debate on the economic recovery act is the strange way the terms “postpartisan” and “bipartisan” are being thrown around by both politicians and the media. President Obama campaigned as a postpartisan […]
My grandmother’s grandmother touched Abraham Lincoln’s coat. One day, when she was a little girl, her father rushed into the house and said, “Come on, we are going to the train station right now.” Once outside, they joined a large […]
A few days ago, the Obama team announced that Bishop Gene Robinson, the Episcopal bishop who is an openly partnered gay man, will pray at Sunday’s Inauguration rock concert on the National Mall. On the Rachel Maddow Show, Bishop […]
This week’s two major religion stories revolved around Rich and Rick–Rich Cizik and Rick Warren–and point out the uncomfortable but spiritually challenging direction President-elect Obama may be pushing religious communities with his post-partisan vision for America. For more than a […]
Was religion an important issue in this election? Or was Barack Obama’s election a matter of economics? Exit polls reveal that white Protestants voted in large numbers for John McCain for president–thus making them the primary religious group left […]
In an interview with Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin responded to the host’s question about her attacks on Barack Obama. Praising her for “forcefulness,” Rush asked, “Can you attack as you wish?” Palin replied, “I’ve got nothing to lose in this.” […]
Over the summer, a seventy-year old family member has struggled mightily with the possibility of losing her home. For many months, she has been in a financial meltdown, one unnoticed by politicians claiming that the economy was “sound.” Washington politicians […]
With media attention directed toward the largest economic story in recent American history, other stories are falling by the way. One of the most interesting–and surely least understood–is the story of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s religious faith. As […]
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Faith, Media and Culture
Prayer, Plain and Simple
posted 2:50:10pm Aug. 27, 2012
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Why Jews Around the World are Praying for the Victory of the Egyptian Uprising
Originally appeared on Tikkun Daily BlogEver since the victory over the dictator of Tunisia and the subsequent uprising in Egypt, my email has been flooded with messages from Jews around the world hoping and praying for the victory of ...
posted 1:48:39pm Feb. 01, 2011
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When Generosity, Love, and Kindness are Public Policy, the Violence We Saw in Arizona will Dramatically Diminish
The attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords and the murder of so many others in Arizona has elicited a number of policy suggestions, from gun control to private protection for elected officials, to banning incitement to violence on ...
posted 2:44:04pm Jan. 19, 2011
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The Spiritual Messages of Chanukah and Christmas -- and Their Downsides
Christmas and Chanukah share a spiritual message: that it is possible to bring light and hope in a world of darkness, oppression and despair. But whereas Christmas focuses on the birth of a single individual whose life and mission was itself ...
posted 12:59:53pm Dec. 02, 2010
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Obama (and Biden) Have No Clue About What's Bothering Their Political Base
Shortly before the California Democratic primary in 2008, the San Fransisco Chronicle invited me to write a short article explaining why I, chair of the interfaithNetwork of Spiritual Progressives, was supporting Barack Obama. Like ...
posted 1:44:11pm Sep. 30, 2010
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