How to Be a (Better) Protestant in Five Easy Steps

Reformation Day

Reformation Day doesn’t make me giddy, but it does afford me the opportunity to think again about this business of being Protestant. “I yam what I yam,” Popeye said. And so it is with me. By the grace of God. Most non-Catholic, non-Orthodox Christians really don’t identify as Protestants. They’re Baptists and Presbyterians, Reformed and [Read More...]

The Lovely, Lovely Thing (Friends of God 6)

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  Some of our Friends of God shine like the sun, and their names are known even to an unbelieving world: Meister Eckhart, Henry Suso, Johannes Tauler, Jan Ruysbroeck. Some lie in forgotten corners of history like so many fallen autumn leaves blown into the shadows. Often, but not always, it’s the women who drift [Read More...]

The Green Isle Community (Friends of God 5)

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The Friends of God were committed to community. While their associations with each other were indeed informal and unregulated, they recognized the value of mutual support and encouragement in their God-friendships. The Green Isle Community is one example of this. Today, Strasbourg in eastern France is known as the headquarters of the European Parliament, but [Read More...]

Honesty or Heroism? (Friends of God 4)

William Tell

When we think of the Middle Ages, and we try to imagine the ordeals people faced, it’s our modern tendency to look for heroes. We love heroes. Who in the 14th century was doing something about all that mess? That deep-seated desire to set things right—by the sword, mainly—must, in part, be behind movies like [Read More...]

The Atmosphere of God (Friends of God 3)

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Imagine running a large organization—a multinational organization—with thousands of employees, complicated networks of incomes and expenses, vast assets requiring ongoing upkeep and capital improvements, and a clientele that consists of nearly every single person in every country within your organization’s sphere. And imagine doing this without internet, fax, smartphone, or computer; without any travel conveniences [Read More...]

Golgotha as Tabor (Friends of God 2)

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In light of today’s solemnities, and the desire to keep our eyes on the Christ, I’ll refrain from talking too much history and delving into the characteristics of the Friends of God. Instead, I cite one of them for you (in my own paraphrase). Here this Flemish mystic from the 14th century writes about the [Read More...]

Friends of God

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Every generation, as it ages, seems to feel that things have gone awry, that the world is fracturing, that order has become disorder in unredeemable ways. To the young, the world is fresh, and their powers are strong, and their visions are grand. The “disorder” we who are older might feel is “order” to them. [Read More...]

Which Mythical Creature Are You?

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Though I’ve finished the mini-series on neo-Christian myths, perhaps I’ll just add this postscript to the last entry on celebrity status. Consider it a trailing lament, I guess, a sadness that we feel so inadequate in our own hiddenness. We want to be seen, and known to be beautiful and wise and clever and sexy [Read More...]

Neo-Christian Myth #6: The Guest-on-Oprah Complex

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It’s tempting to cut this last post out of the series, stop while I’m ahead (if, that is, I am ahead). I’ve kindled some ire in the previous five posts, and this last has lots of fiery—as in, the stake—potential. And I’m not sure I can even articulate my concerns about this clearly or persuasively. [Read More...]

Neo-Christian Myth #5: The Velocity of Holiness

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There’s a delicious irony in the fact that one of evangelical Christianity’s favorite phrases—“a long obedience in the same direction”—comes from the pen of “God-is-dead-and-we-have-killed-him” Nietzsche. It was appropriated by one of our most venerable writers, Eugene Peterson, for his classic book, and thus baptized for our purposes. I can’t say how Peterson chose that [Read More...]

Neo-Christian Myth #4: The Sweet Tooth of American Christianity

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When we study church history, the prevailing tension is one between continuity and ingenuity—between preservation of the gospel tradition and the adaptation of it to new languages and cultures. Sometimes that tension collapses when we entrench ourselves in the “this is the way we’ve always done it” syndrome, and invariably those ruts embed us in [Read More...]

Neo-Christian Myth #3: Muddling Music

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Lest I offended preachers everywhere by my last post, I’ll take a moment here to honor them with a word of recognition… before I go on to tackle another touchy issue. Preaching is hard work and to be done well it requires faithful study, prayer, reflection, and listening (both to God and to the circumstances [Read More...]


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