August 22, 2018

I am afraid of heights. I first realized it when I was 16. I had hiked with my sister and father to the top of Lone Mountain near Big Sky, Montana. It was a 9 mile hike from the base, and the last 2.8 miles climb over 2000 feet to its full elevation of 11, 166 feet. I wasn’t too far  from the spectacular summit when the narrow ridge suddenly dropped off steeply on both sides. I remember kicking a… Read more

August 21, 2018

What Chris learned about student learning from his six-year old daughter… Read more

August 20, 2018

Many years ago, somewhere in the early Jurassic era, I taught in a criminal justice department. This was a very valuable experience, in giving me the opportunity to learn skills and insights that can very usefully be applied to understanding history, and especially in its religious forms. Some of these approaches have been on my mind recently as I look at debates over immigration and nativism, particularly in Europe. Issues of drugs and drug policy have long been of prime… Read more

August 17, 2018

Not long ago, I commented on what a poor job Hollywood normally does of treating religion, or comprehending regular religious practice – especially Christianity. This post concerns the dilemma of just how acute those difficulties need to be before the film or TV program becomes completely unacceptable. How wrong do they have to get it? Imagine you are watching a hypothetical film with a Jewish theme, which is beautifully filmed and superbly acted. Let’s imagine that it concerns a young… Read more

August 16, 2018

There’s a charming set of paintings on the seventh floor of the New England Historical and Genealogical Society Library in Boston. It’s a rather dreamy setting for a historian, just a few doors down from the rectory Trinity Church built for Philips Brooks in 1880. Hard not to hum “O Little Town of Bethlehem” even when passing in August. The paintings are the work of the artist known simply but not artfully as the “Freake painter,” who created portraits of… Read more

August 15, 2018

In light of yet more abuse scandals in different churches, Chris wrestles with the costs and benefits of Christianity as a highly organized religion. Read more

August 15, 2018

In its radical individualism and stress on tolerance, Baha’i appears to be a religion invented for the twenty-first-century West. Read more

August 14, 2018

Before the start of another school year, Chris has some words of advice and inspiration for teachers of all kinds. Read more

August 13, 2018

Can theology fix the college-party scene? In a recent book, College Hookup Culture and Christian Ethics, Jennifer Beste, Koch Chair for Catholic Thought and Culture at the College of Saint Benedict, proposes theology as the remedy for what’s wrong with the boozed-up, buttoned-down way of doing weekends on campus. “Theology” here does not here mean rules that reserve sex for the marriage bed. Instead Beste proposes insight from a book dear to her and her students, Poverty of Spirit by Johann Metz. For Metz, becoming… Read more

August 10, 2018

If you have ever visited a major art gallery, you have undoubtedly seen many, many, classic pictures of Christian religious themes ­– the Nativity, the Crucifixion, the Virgin and Child, various miracles – commonly European works from that long era of production and patronage from the fifteenth through the eighteenth century. So commonplace are many of these items, so standardized in theme and presentation, that we might tend to skip over them. In many cases, that would be a grave… Read more

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