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…]

For Prospective Graduate Students: How to Interview Better

I didn’t have to interview for graduate school. I did visit the campuses of my top choice schools, but it was very informal. The only graduate students and professors I met were the ones I had contacted in advance. I didn’t even meet the professor who became my adviser until after starting the program because [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…]

Deciding about College

The season has arrived when many graduating high-school seniors and their parents begin to make decisions about college for next fall. Certainly, many considerations go into a decision of this magnitude, and no simple formula applies to all. Even so, as someone in the academic world, permit me suggest ten questions that thoughtful Christian (or [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…]

Remembering the Massacres of Innocents

Lately, the nation has rightly focused on the jihadist massacres in Beruit, Paris, and San Bernardino. But the presents roughly marks the two-year anniversary of our own homegrown terrorism committed in Newtown, Connecticut. Since December 28 is the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents, permit this re-posting from the Anxious Bench archives: The senseless tragedy [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…]

Religious Conviction and “Altruistic Evil”

The murders in Beirut, Paris, and San Bernardino raise many questions, but few are as haunting and recurring as this one: how in the name of religious conviction can acts of such ghastly violence be committed? Sadly, this might well be the defining riddle of our age. But it’s an old one and many explanations [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…]

India Today and Hindu Nationalism

After traveling in the United States, G. K. Chesterton famously described America as “a nation with the soul of the a church.” Something akin to this could be said of India, but to church one must quickly add Buddhist stupa, Jain mandir, Sikh gurdwara, Parsi dar-e mihr, Muslim mosque, and, not least, Hindu temple. Indeed, [Read More…]


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