When Joni Mitchell was a Black man
A famous singer-songwriter thought of herself as Black and performed in blackface — I’ve been trying to understand this concept we call “identity” — as includes the idea of being the opposite sex, and also perhaps a different race. Consider Joni Mitchell, the legendary singer-songwriter. She might seem a white woman, but actually regards herself as a Black man. In a typical presentation of her life, she was born as Roberta Joan Anderson in Canada in 1947.
Messy sex at Yale University is turning into a civil rights epic
Let’s look at the rape trial of Saifullah Khan — I’m catching up on the life of Saifullah Khan, who is big news in the legal world. His family is from Afghanistan. In 1992 they were exiled amid a Taliban takeover. ‘Saif’, as he’s called (pronounced ‘syph’), was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan in 1993. Found to be genius-level intelligent, he was sent to America. He got a full scholarship to Yale University.
Is Tom Cotton gay?
Let’s look at a right-wing whisper campaign — He has been a Republican star since 2012, when elected to the House, then the Senate in 2014. All the while, Tom Cotton was frequently insinuated to be gay. As talk flares up about his sexuality again, I’m thinking back on his life, and the history of those rumors about him—often from his own political side. Thomas Bryant Cotton was born in 1977 in the tiny town of Dardanelle, Arkansas.
A sick and twisted history of the Cabbage Patch Kids
The 1980s-era toy story isn’t too “cute” — No one would’ve thought a girl born in 1950 in Mayfield, Kentucky would create a generation-defining toy. Martha Nelson didn’t even like to talk. She liked to make things, like dolls. They’d do the talking for her. She went off to attend the Louisville School of Art — “because she was always making things and there seemed nothing else to do,” as a 1974 newspaper profile put it.
A ‘new’ Bible fragment shocks the Christian story
The strange tale of ‘P.Oxy. 87.5575' — In 1896, two British archaeologists were digging in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, and came upon garbage dumped from the 3rd through 7th centuries. It included biblical manuscripts that had been thrown out by some local Christians. Thousands of boxes of ancient trash were taken back to England, to be sorted out over the next centuries. This would become known as the ‘Oxyrhynchus Papyri’.
Has a new speech by the Bible’s ‘Eve’ been found?
A startling moment in Bible scholarship — In the late 1990s, a literature student was taking a graduate class in the Bible. Thinking about one of its most bizarre passages, he had an extraordinary idea. All the confusion over Romans 7:5–25, Austin Busch suspected, was because Christian readers had assumed the speaker was a man. The speaker, he thought, was a woman. Indeed, the references seemed clear. The speaker was Eve herself.
The sexuality of Franz Kafka
A new edition of his diaries brings up an old debate — If you read Franz Kafka’s diaries in the original 1948 edition, you’ll find the great writer, in 1912, at a nudist sanitorum looking at “two handsome Swedish boys with long legs.” In a new English translation of The Diaries of Franz Kafka, the scene reads a bit differently. Kafka adds that the mens’ legs are “so formed and taut that one could really only run one’s tongue along them.”
Sarah Young died and ‘Christianity Today’ uses my profile
Evangelicals don’t know much about their favorite writers. Even Sarah Young, author of the #1 all-time bestselling Christian book, was mostly a blank. Last year I wrote the first biographical profile of her, “The #1 Christian Writer is a Woman Never Seen Publicly.” It was a strange story of a Wellesley College philosophy major who became a reclusive right-wing Christian star by writing a devotional, Jesus Calling, in the voice of ‘Jesus’.
Shannon Harris says “goodbye” to the Evangelical purity culture
A new memoir is a backstage pass to a religious movement — In the 1990s, the Evangelical world made a big push to eliminate all premarital sex and dating. It was the era of the “Purity Culture.” That lasted two decades, as horror stories were reported—like about the movement’s leader. In 2018, Joshua Harris, author of the 1997 bestselling book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, got a divorce, then left Evangelicalism.