Highest and best may not be tall, but it’s still higher and better.

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Urban neighborhoods have been changing considerably over the last decade, and, in many locations, income levels have risen steadily. When we hear about gentrification, the coverage often reaches us through a few recurrent tropes: data-driven accounts of demographic and socioeconomic change; journalistic interviews of individuals who have either left or feel threatened by the rising …Read more…

Who needs Vegas for quirky chapels? The rest of the country is holding its own.

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I’d wager that the American religious landscape is currently undergoing a cataclysmic shift, but that would be disingenuous, since it suggests that the shift, with all these denominations, is something recent. It isn’t. Religious expression—or the demonstration of it among its adherents—has never really been static in this country. Throughout the twentieth century, the number …Read more…

Along the road to Calvary, a bingo parlor.

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I’ve ruminated multiple times on this blog about how we spatialize ourselves through religion—a subject of great interest to me, but one of which I haven’t plumbed any great depths. And this is not the time. I’ll keep it superficial, while at least adding a little texture to the layer. And here’s that texture: a …Read more…

Communion for Camrys.

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In a quiet residential area of a town that I will leave anonymous, I found this unusual marquee.I’ve certainly heard of “blessing of the animals” events, but cars? Apparently I’m not as well-traveled as I’d like to think I am. Since car-blessing seems even more quintessentially American than valet parking at a strip-mall nightclub, I …Read more…

Among those ritzy restaurants…a Reading Room.

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In a nondescript nook within Summit, New Jersey’s generally thriving downtown, we encounter a main street standby from days past. Yes, it’s a Christian Science Reading Room. I imagine most of us—most Americans, at least—have seen one at some point, even if quite a few probably don’t know exactly what they are. In the past, …Read more…

Biblical Flooding on a Biblical Floodplain, Part I – The recipe for natural disaster.

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Whether wildfires, tornadoes, power plant meltdowns, explosions, epidemics, bankruptcies, school shootings, Godzilla invasions, or roving bands of undomesticated alpacas on the loose, the essential agreement for a disaster to capture the public eye is magnitude. This isn’t brain surgery. Size is generally the variable that semantically distinguishes disaster from catastrophe, or separates predicament from setback. …Read more…

Sudsy strategies.

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By now, it’s not just something for Portland to be smug about. Nearly everywhere in America—urban centers, suburbs, college towns, sometimes even rural hamlets—seems capable of supporting a craft brewery. Not only have the numbers of breweries and the often family-friendly brewpubs increased precipitously in the last five years, but the market share for craft …Read more…