Is This the Kind of Lent I Desire? The Fast and the Cleanse

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  When Lent begins early, as it did this year, calls to prayer and fasting come right up against the New Year’s barrage of juice-cleanse ads promising atonement for holiday indulgence. From pulpits and religion blogs Lent brings annual reminders that “it’s not about” giving up chocolate or beer. Just skipping chocolate for six weeks [Read More...]

How to live in terrible times

The news is terrible lately. Maybe news always is bad. Many eras bristle with horror, and knowing some history gives us perspective. But it seems so bad now, Christians beheaded in Libya and more fleeing to Egypt, Christians kidnapped in Syria, ancient artifacts smashed in Iraq, jihadis uncovered in Brooklyn. What can hinder comprehension of [Read More...]

Asexual Reproduction?

Carl Djerassi, the chemist and writer who died last week, was among the few men with claim to the title “father of the Pill.”  Djerassi imagined how contraception and IVF could work together to change the world even more.  His September 2014  essay in the New York Review of Books anticipated “The Divorce of Coitus [Read More...]

New Year, Old You

Many of us already have bound ourselves to resolutions this year.  After fitness the most popular ones include resolutions to learn something. Pick up a new language, Rosetta Stone ads implore.  The Teaching Company touts Latin 101 as its top-rated course. Resolutions to better the body may have obvious appeal (or not: this husk is [Read More...]

Working Women and the “Exalted Work of Creation”

This week the Supreme Court heard a case, Young v. United Parcel Service, weighing treatment of a female UPS driver, Peggy Young, denied a shift to light duty when expecting a baby.  Putatively at issue are discrimination and prospects of regulation for “pregnant workers.”  As a report from the National Women’s Law Center argues, “It [Read More...]

Why does it hurt so much to live?

The answer is carbon.         Pain is unavoidably part of the package of carbon-based life, explained Denis Alexander this week in his Herrmann Lectures at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. Alexander, biochemist and emeritus director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge, took on the rather large question, “Is Life [Read More...]

Going to Church with Henry Adams

  “Everyone’s on a walk to Chartres,” New York Times columnist David Brooks observed in a recent lecture. “On a walk toward something transcendent, even if they don’t know what it is”—that is, people remote from religion undergo joys and griefs in life that may pull toward church, whose gravity and beauty can make pilgrims [Read More...]

Big History. Too Big.

Well into the early modern period, some histories of the world written by Europeans started the story way back—in the garden of Eden.  Not just church history, but what passed as universal histories, might start with the creation of the world. Nor is it strange for historians to consider their discipline a science, with human [Read More...]

On the Selfie and the Self

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This summer a relative put aside resistance and got his first smartphone, soon after sending us a picture of himself taken with his phone, captioned: “My First Facie.”   Initial mirth over this mistaken terminology—“facie” instead of “selfie”—gave way to conviction that his was, in fact, the much better word. That strange new-ish cultural form the [Read More...]

Did you remember to celebrate Slovak Day?

I was the only kid I knew whose family packed an accordion to go to the amusement park. It happened once a year.  My ordinary life was passed in upstate New York, but summers included at least one visit to my grandparents in Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh in a 1970s summer: hot, grimy, noisy, stirring.  Pittsburgh, a [Read More...]


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