Everything happens for a reason.  Some things are meant to be.  These well-worn clichés are bandied about by religious and non-religious alike, and the romantics among us can’t help but believe they conceal something true.  Especially when we fall in love, the beloved appears as uniquely “for me.” Does this sense of necessity belong only to poetry and fairy tales, though? Human beings are not the center of the universe, especially not you, or me.  Nor are we in control… Read more

  Like many American Christians, I grew up with a bunch of dualisms: we need to scorn earthly things for heavenly things; the body is perishable but the soul lasts; church is sacred in a way the world isn’t. In the past few years, I’ve read Christian writers like Marilynne Robinson and Wendell Berry who have made me question the necessity and even the wisdom of these kinds of dualisms. Robinson and Berry both have a very deep, incarnational sense… Read more

I found myself dreading the release of Josh Ritter’s latest album, which is strange, because he’s been a favorite of mine since I first heard The Animal Years back in 2006. His songwriting is truly superior, and he’s got a talented and versatile band supporting him. If Fare Forward were electing a poet laureate, he would be my nominee. His attitude toward Christianity is an especially powerful current under his music. His lyrics are saturated with biblical and theological language,… Read more

When one thinks of art and its relation to ethics, one of the first things to come to mind is Plato’s treatment of poets and painters in the Republic.  Neither group is beloved of the philosopher: the poets do too much to lead the passions astray and create false notions of divinity and the afterlife; the painters create objects which form the lowest rung on the Platonic chain of being.  For Plato, immaterial forms are the untainted essences of things, while material instantiations of… Read more

  Throughout college and in the post-college years many people have told me to “try something new,” “take risks,” and “don’t leave any regrets.” The “good life” is pitched as hopping from job to job, traveling from country to country, in a who-knows-how-long Wanderjahr. The globalized world is our oyster. I have recently read A Journey Worth Taking, a book on meaning and calling by Pastor Charles Drew. The book showed me that behind the wanderlust-talk is a lot of FOMO (fear… Read more

  Minimalism is on the rise— but unless we build our relationships as much as we pare down out possessions, it will fail. Last week, two opinion pieces in the New York Times discussed materialism and the good life in American culture. In his article, “Living with Less. A lot Less,” Graham Hill explains how he overcame anxiety and found happiness by minimizing clutter in his life and concentrating on meaningful intangibles. Jessica Soffer’s article, “Staying Sane in Small Spaces,”… Read more

The Baptism of Constantine   In prepping for a recent interview with Robert Bellah about his upcoming visit to Notre Dame, I spent some time thinking about one of Bellah’s most significant contributions to the study of religion: a nuanced understanding of civil religion. Bellah’s argument for considering “American Civil Religion” (our public religion expressed in the religious language of politics and national rituals) a “real” religion like any other draws on a long history of theorizing about the public… Read more

Every March tons of Americans make brackets of all the competing teams in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship and vote for their favorite teams. This year Fare Forward decided to create some brackets of our own and invite readers to vote. But instead of basketball teams, we’ve paired off famous Christian thinkers, submitted by Fare Forward writers, into randomly-generated matches (above, see bigger image here). At Fare Forward, we “consider the future and the past with an equal mind.” We are inspired… Read more

Bible documentaries tend to skew toward the fringe in order to get a high viewership: I have seen documentaries that argue that Ezekiel’s wheel was a UFO, and that Jesus performed his miracles using David Blaine-style street magic.  So I was wary about the History Channel’s new, much-hyped mini-series “The Bible.”  Shortly before the show premiered this past Sunday, however, I read a Christianity Today interview with the producers—Roma Downey from “Touched by an Angel” and her husband Mark Burnett,… Read more

David Brooks’ recent NYT op-ed featured Brown professor Jin Li’s research on the comparative values of Eastern and Western cultural approaches to learning: Westerners tend to define learning cognitively while Asians tend to define it morally. Westerners tend to see learning as something people do in order to understand and master the external world. Asians tend to see learning as an arduous process they undertake in order to cultivate virtues inside the self. These “learning virtues” include “sincerity” (an authentic commitment… Read more

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