Birth Advice from Leo Tolstoy

Popular notions about baby-making, religious or not, often have been peculiar.  The soon-to-be-in-theaters Warner Brothers’ film, Storks (“In the beginning…storks delivered babies”) underscores this afresh.  Unlike the stork story, some of these notions do better than others in appraising the life-sustaining, life-changing, life-giving work women do in nine months’ worth of bearing with.   Tolstoy [Read More…]

How to Pray for a Presidential Candidate You Don’t Like

Under current circumstances, praying people might puzzle over how to pray for leaders they do not much like.  History affords a range of options, from requesting deliverance from evil rulers, to affirming allegiance to the powers that be whom God ordained, to giving thanks for just and prudent officials.  Another provocative possibility comes from invocations [Read More…]

“What Men Foolishly Bring on Themselves”: Why You Should Vote for Someone Good

Samuel Willard (1640-1707), minister at Boston’s Third Church—“Old South”–offered a heady dose of Puritan political thought in his classic election sermon, “The Character of a Good Ruler.”  A conventional part of Massachusetts government from the colonial period into the late nineteenth century, election sermons aimed to remind elected and electorate alike of the gravity of political [Read More…]

For This I Went To College!

Commencement-address season is upon us, bringing glad tidings about the power of grads—especially young women–to change the world. We live in a time of great global advocacy for girls’ education, purported to be a game-changer on many grounds. The education of young women is praised for lowering birthrates, for improving health, for advancing peace (girls’ [Read More…]

A Trade Good for Body and Soul: School and Career Choice for New England Puritans

These are days of decision. This span of weeks in April and May can be fraught ones for families with children of a certain age, when colleges await commitments from those who hope to start next fall, and as the clock winds down for students four years or so on the other side, about to [Read More…]

The Righteous Sentences of Julia Ward Howe

Nicknamed the “Queen of America” in the nineteenth century, Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) goes often unremembered in ours. Elaine Showalter’s new biography , The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe, aims to recollect reasons for her public acclaim while uncovering her private marital distress.   The most beautiful and accomplished daughter of a New York banker, [Read More…]

Remember that you are dust

All of my children got ashes on the forehead before getting washed with the waters of baptism. This is probably common, depending on local protocols of baptism or Ash Wednesday, which more American Protestants now observe as an edifying if not essential rite. Our Anglican church schedules baptisms for the Easter vigil, so our kids [Read More…]

Drawn to the Women Saints

“I am not Catholic, and yet I find myself drawn to the women saints,” admits Jessa Crispin in a recent New York Times op-ed.  Crispin is not alone in this fascination, nor should she be.  She touts St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) as independent woman, one engaged in meaningful work rather the traditional woman’s lot [Read More…]

Museum Catechesis

The tourist arrives in a city like Florence, Italy, ready to gape at the Renaissance. Though postured to appreciate it, book in hand and eyes directed up, he might find himself at a loss, like the man ahead of me at the Florentine baptistery who, under the mosaic of Christ Pantocrator, asked the Italian leading [Read More…]

You are not still working on that

Though Thanksgiving is rooted in real historical events, intentional misremembering of those events is a big part of our holiday observance.   In his new documentary about the Pilgrims, Ric Burns rues the way we “forget almost everything actual about the Pilgrims when we sit down to eat turkey on Thanksgiving.” What we honor as authentic [Read More…]


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