Jim Hinch

Addiction, Recovery

jan rader

A roundup of recent editing work for Guideposts–our year-long series of stories about addiction and recovery. These are good, and important. Read about David Beddoe, a pastor who hid his addiction to pain pills until things fell apart; addiction counselor David Stoecker, whose recovery story is truly remarkable; and Fire Chief Jan Rader (above), who details the damage done by opioids in her city of Huntington, West Virginia, known as the overdose capital of America. Upcoming are stories by the chief medical examiner of the state of New Hampshire, whose early warnings about a rise in overdose deaths were ignored for years; a steel processing company owner in Pennsylvania who began employing recovering addicts after his daughter survived a decade-long heroin addiction; and other stories by addicts, loved ones and treatment professionals. More than 20 million Americans have a substance use disorder, according to the surgeon general. Twelve million report misusing prescription pain medication. Overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999. This series provides accurate, forward-looking information to an audience disproportionately affected by drug addiction but often overlooked by other media outlets.

Evangelicals Are Losing the Battle for the Bible. And They’re Just Fine With That

church

My latest in The Los Angeles Review of Books, an in-depth look at evangelicals’ evolving views about their foundational text, the Bible. Yet another signal that American evangelicalism is fracturing along generational and ethnic lines.

The African Future of American Christianity

boom.2015.5.4.44-f01

My latest in Boom: A Journal of California, a story about an Orange County mega-church revived by missionaries…from Africa. As America secularizes and grows more ethnically diverse, forward-thinking evangelicals are looking to rapidly growing churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America to help them survive.

New Orleans — Ten Years After

Hurricane-Katrina


 

Ten years ago, I covered the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans for the New York Post. I spent more than a week in the city, interviewing survivors, witnessing damage, seeing dead bodies, sometimes paddling in abandoned boats to get to flooded areas. Stories for the Post, obviously, are written in a particular style. When I returned home, shaken by what I had seen, I wrote about my experience in my own style. These words are 10 years old now. But they are still vividly present. This is what it was like to be there.

***

A human body, left dead in the sun, makes more of itself. Heat expands air in the organs, distending the stomach and enlarging the limbs. Swollen skin tightens, dulling to a waxy sheen. Fingernails become bullet-shaped pieces of amber. The face puffs, staring. It is larger—the entire body is larger—but the growth is denaturing, a sign of loss, not gain.

I learned all of this in the city of New Orleans, during the days I spent there covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a newspaper reporter. I saw my first dead body a few hours after arriving, then saw them continuously, several per day. When I could—when they weren’t floating or wedged in a high window or trapped in a flooded school kitchen—I knelt beside those bodies, examining their faces, searching for remnants of the life that had lit them. Their expressions, mostly, were neutral, as if death had come as a passerby, unremarkable. Their limbs, though, were not relaxed, but stiff, even braced. Next to some were hand-lettered signs: “THIS PERSON DIED HERE.” One was draped in a blanket. Another wore a gold watch and chains. All were alone, and several remained, unclaimed, two days, three days, a week after I found them. They became for me quintessential signs of a city extinguished. Forgotten, as if the person they once embodied had never existed—never been born, never died.

Read the rest of this entry »

End of the Culture Wars?

140707_hinch_evangelicals_ap

A year ago, I published this story in Politico Magazine about evangelicals’ rapidly changing attitudes toward same-sex marriage. That story was prescient! Now, not a week goes by without news of prominent evangelicals coming out in support of same-sex marriage or engaging in constructive dialogue with gay and lesbian activists. (For example, here.) The days when conservative Christians believed they had the power, and the obligation, to dial back the cultural clock in America appear to be ending. With one exception: abortion, which I address in a recent essay in The Los Angeles Review of Books. Why has abortion remained divisive even as the number of abortions performed in America falls to historic lows? Read to find out!

111th Street Jesus

111th Street Jesus

 

My profile of Kent Twitchell, dean of Los Angeles mural art, whose work asks: Can the visual language of photorealism communicate the truth of God? In the arts journal Image.

The Nones Have It?

A few recent stories about changing faith in America. Decline of the Revival, in The Los Angeles Review of Books, examines evangelicals’ efforts to understand their sudden loss of cultural and moral influence. What Happened to Religion in America? The I’s Have It, in OnFaith, posits American Christianity’s embrace of individualism as one explanation for that loss. Further evidence of religious conservatives’ current struggles can be found in activists’ recent turn to the courts in their fight against same-sex marriage. Faced with setbacks at the ballot box, religious conservatives have begun focusing on legal efforts to shield believers from the effects of what is increasingly considered a lost cause. It’s not all struggle and decline. Here’s a fun story about a day in the life of one of the rising generation of young, American-born imams quietly but inexorably altering the public contours of their faith. All in a day’s work: basketball, frank talk about sex, and instructions for brushing teeth in Ramadan.

Crystal Ball

My cover story for the latest issue of The American Scholar shows how the death and rebirth of Orange County’s Crystal Cathedral (which went bankrupt and now is being transformed by the county’s surging Catholic diocese into a regional worship and cultural center) signals a wider transformation in the fast-changing landscape of American spirituality.

The Future of Faith?

Much of my recent reporting has focused on the uncertain future of religion in America. Most recently, at Zocalo Public Square, I wrote about an immigrant Catholic resurgence in Orange County displacing the county’s once dominant evangelical Christians. In the Orange County Register, I’ve written about Asian-American Christians demanding greater respect from America’s evangelical establishment (here and here); a rapid change in evangelicals’ attitudes about sexuality; and growing resistance in the developing world to American-led Christian aid initiatives. The common thread in these stories is demographic change overturning established patterns of belief. The future of faith in America is increasingly hard to predict.

Wild/Underground/Hip Imams/Immigration

IMG_3630A roundup of recent work. A review in the Los Angeles Review of Books of Cheryl Strayed’s hiking memoir Wild argues that the book, more memoir than nature tale, augurs a decline of nature writing as a self-sustaining genre. Three recent articles in the Orange County Register document an underground movement of gay students at an evangelical Christian college; the rise of hip, American-born imams in Southern California mosques; and immigration activists’ claims that U.S. immigration authorities are attempting to silence criticism of conditions in California immigrant detention centers.