Mamma Mia! Emergency Baptism at 30,000 Feet

You may have noticed, reader, that I haven’t blogged much lately. There’s a reason for that: I’ve been turning my hand to fiction. My chief talent, such as it is, is for storytelling. Blogging, when it attempts to rise above simple news aggregation, tends to become opinion writing. At least it does if it means to earn page views and money for the blogger.In such an enterprise, storytelling is of limited use. As everyone knows, the plural of anecdote is not data. Narrative can be adapt … [Read More...]

My First Orthodox Liturgy: A Blast for A Rainy Day

Strolling through Moscow in the spring and summer of 1997, you couldn’t lose sight of the sacred if you wanted to. The municipal government was working doggedly to rebuild the Cathedral of Christ the Savior – at 103 meters, the tallest Orthodox church in the world. With a bone-white exterior and domes of blinding gold, it looks like Paris’ Sacre-coeur basilica might have looked had its design been entrusted to Mr. T. Even under scaffolding, the thing had a way of jamming itself into the eye li … [Read More...]

Bursa Suicide Bombing and the Return of History

You can’t keep a dog in downtown Bursa. The people are too pious. Or maybe “traditional” is a better word. In either case, they believe dogs are unclean and the enemies of angels. A Colombian friend of mine who has a golden retriever – named “Athena,” after a pagan goddess and a Greek to boot – f … [Read More...]

Amoris Laetitia and the Family Road Trip

A confession: I’m in no hurry to get through Amoris Laetitia. Two hundred, sixty-four pages is a lot of Pope Francis to dive into all eagerski-beaverski and heedless-like. The first two chapters, however, have gone down smoothly enough. As usual, the pontiff demonstrates a firm grasp on How We L … [Read More...]

A Little Blood Never Hurt Anyone

Shortly after recovering from a nervous breakdown that culminated in a suicide attempt, William Cowper composed a hymn titled “Praise for the Fountain Opened,” which begins with the following verses:There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; And sinners plunged beneath th … [Read More...]

Je Suis — I mean, Ich bin ein Jan Böhmermann

In 1998, Istanbul Mayor Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was sentenced to 10 months in prison for violating a law against inciting religious hatred. The nature of his violation? He read a poem that included the lines “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the fa … [Read More...]

Muslim Student’s Grounding Proves We’re Getting to Know Each Other

My friend Khalid’s mother, a native of Karachi, was named “Shaheda.” She stressed the first syllable and pronounced the middle vowel like a schwa. One day while she and her husband were tending the family liquor store, a woman in her early 20s sauntered in wearing a halter top with the same name pi … [Read More...]

Keeping My Brother — Exp. Not Nec. but a +

.When I first saw the guy groping his way down the aisle with his eyes fixed on the carpet, I thought he was blind. Then, after he settled gingerly into the pew in front of mine, I smelled the truth: he was blitzed. He exhaled a bouquet of domestic beer – the kind you can buy cheap by the case … [Read More...]

Flashman and the Wardrobe

Mallory Ortberg's Ayn Rand's The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is a few months old, but today it happened to be making the rounds on my Facebook newsfeed. It's evergreen anyway, and it recalled to mind a C.S. Lewis fanfic project I've been wanting to undertake for years.In The Flashman … [Read More...]

The Gladsome Easter Morn

I spent my first Holy Saturday helping my friend Rick move. I had offered my services partly out of brotherly feeling, but also partly – like Wellington’s soldiers – for the promise of drink. By the time we’d unloaded the rented U-Haul van for the third time, I was sure I’d earned it.Since be … [Read More...]

Was I There When They Crucified My Lord? Well…

Six weeks after my first marathon, I ran a second. By then, I’d upgraded my electrolyte drink and taken to eating bananas by the bunch in order to preclude muscle cramping. I also devised a strategy meant to reverse the events of the first race. In the name of husbanding all the glucose, g … [Read More...]

St. Joseph: Patron of Crawlers and Scramblers

Several years ago, St. Joseph found me a job. I still haven’t thanked him properly. In a way, the job it allowed me to quit was right up his alley, since it was related to real-estate sales. Representing the bank, I would call borrowers who were on the verge of letting their homes go into f … [Read More...]

Lent for the Reluctant Ascetic

I grew up in the days before Velcro. By persisting to the age of five or six in not knowing how to tie my shoes, I drove my mother to desperate measures. One morning, she snatched the bowl of Life cereal out of my greedy little hands and informed me that I would not be getting breakfast until I … [Read More...]

How to Lose A Marathon

I spent roughly the first 15 miles of Phoenix’s PF Chang’s Rock and Roll Marathon eavesdropping on – you should excuse the pun – a running monologue. A young woman was recounting her life story for her companion, a young man whose acquaintance she’d apparently made not long after the starting gun ha … [Read More...]