Coda: Jordan, An Unpretentious Little Palace

It happens all the time in Jordan: You’re cruising on some road, gazing up at the looming hills, when, without warning, the ground on one side falls away. Right then, you realize that you’re actually creeping along an impossibly steep palisade, and that the real view is in the ravine below. That was the experience [Read More...]

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In Petra: A Bedouin Girl Leans In

She had a winning smile. As an 11-year-old who had years to go before growing into her adult teeth, she could hardly help that. But, at least in the beginning, she also had a winning sales strategy. “A gift for you,” she said as she trotted alongside me on the dusty path through Petra. She [Read More...]

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Stuff Melkites Like

Like “fundie” and “papist,” the label “Melkite” began as an insult. Deriving from the Arabic and Syriac words for “royal” or “imperial,” it was coined by Syriac and Armenian dissenters to poke fun at those Christians who accepted the dictates of the government-approved Council of Chalcedon. Its meaning boiled down to “those who kiss the [Read More...]

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My Shemagh and Me

A couple of days ago, I became the owner of a shemagh. A shemagh is the Jordanian version of the kefiyeh, or cloth headdress worn by Arab men. I would say the proud owner, but I have a sense of having come by it in a less than strictly honorable way. If I couldn’t have [Read More...]

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Heaven in the Jungle: A Visit to the Jordan

Here’s one fact about Bethabara, or Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan, the narrow plot of desert real estate where Elijah was assumed into heaven, where John the Baptist proclaimed the Kingdom of God, and where he baptized Jesus: it’s rustic. You’ll see bees buzzing in thickets of reeds hemmed in by bare rock mesas. You’ll see the domes of [Read More...]

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Private Parties

My first positive act as a visitor to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was to get myself thrown out of the Dushara Ballroom of the Amman Sheraton, where I was staying. It was 1:30 AM, jet lag had me in its grip, and my room’s Wi-Fi log-in was refusing to recognize my password. I took [Read More...]

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Amman: Where A Good Church Is Easy to Find

Finding a Christian church in Amman is the easiest thing in the world – provided you’re not too picky which church. Estimates of the numbers of Christians in Jordan range from a high of 390,000, or 6%, to a modest 186,000, or 2.8 %. Beyond dispute, however, is their variety. Jordanian Christians come in all [Read More...]

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Loaves and Fishes Redux: A Taste of the Jordan Valley

Given a less spectacular landscape, I would probably have skipped the meal. Over the previous night – my first in Jordan – jet lag had left me just three measly hours of sleep. One morning of wandering, slack-jawed, around the ruins of Umm Qais, an ancient Greek hill city overlooking the Sea of Galilee and [Read More...]

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Monday Mourning Coming Down

The day after IS terrorists beheaded 21 Coptic Christians on a Libyan beach, all of Turkey wore black – in memory of Ozgecan Aslan, a university student who was murdered, allegedly after frustrating a rape attempt by a minibus driver. Ghastly as the crime was, the aftermath was even worse. Desperate to hide the evidence, [Read More...]

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Lent and the Lame Evangelist

I’ve been warned that wearing a cross openly in Turkey means asking for trouble. There’s good reason for thinking so. The Republic was conceived in war – the War of Independence, in which several Christian nations grabbed at Ottoman territory – and birthed before the muzzles had begun to cool. To Atatürk’s victory in that [Read More...]

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Valentine’s Day: For Some, 50 Shades of Blue

I’ll call her Lara Lipschitz, even though that’s not her real name. Her real name doesn’t matter. In her professional life as model, artist, EFL instructor and go-go dancer, she generally goes by a pseudonym. That pseudonym isn’t “Lara Lipschitz,” but it is unmistakably Jewish, so “Lara Lipschitz” seems like a fair enough substitute for [Read More...]

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The Crusades and Yearning for Christendom

A few days ago, my Patheos colleague Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry asked fellow Catholics to lay off the Crusades apologetics. The piece he links to by way of example — Professor Thomas Madden’s First Things review of Jonathan Kiley-Smith’s The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam — dates back to June, 2009. But I appreciate PEG’s dismay at seeing [Read More...]

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Five Reasons I Despise Listicles

If Moses had brought a donkey or two up Mt. Horeb, God might have sent him down with a dozen tablets inscribed (on both sides) with the text of something titled A Treatise on the Nature of Good and Evil, and on the Covenant Between the God of Abraham and His Chosen People. Instead, the [Read More...]

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In Praise and Defense of Catechists

They frown. They squint. They knit and raise their brows. They purse and chew on their lips. They glower. Students’ faces are the masks of cannibal priests but their eyes are the eyes of martyrs. Except cannibal priests don’t collapse face-down on a pillow of their own crossed arms in the last hour of the [Read More...]

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Semipro Catholic, Live on Facebook

I loathe self-promoting – not because I’m modest, but because I wasted years of my life selling things. Depending on the year and the company I happened to be working for, my wares were debt reduction plans, adjustable-rate mortgages and online university degrees. I was a loser sustaining himself parasitically by pitching empty dreams of [Read More...]

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Mike Huckabee, Pope Francis, and the Rise of Mother Manners

It seems a terrible waste in a man whose name is basically a dirty limerick waiting to be written, but Mike Huckabee frowns on cussing. On an Iowa radio program, after assuring listeners that “In the South, or in the Midwest, there in Iowa, you would not have people who would just throw the F-bomb [Read More...]

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