[This delightful story is one of many given in Benedicta Ward’s translation of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, which makes excellent Lenten reading.] There was once a brother who was very eager to seek goodness.  Being very disturbed by the demon of lust, he came to a hermit and told him about his thoughts.  The hermit was inexperienced and when he heard all this, he was shocked, and said he was a wicked brother, unworthy of his monk’s habit because… Read more

Did you see The Master?  I did, when it came out.  It was disturbing, filled with a kind of psychological grit that I’m accustomed to seeing only in Swedish movies.  The photography was incredible.  I’m still haunted by the film’s recurring transition shot: a slow motion image of water churning in the wake of a boat.  And Joaquin Phoenix?  Amazing. Beasts of the Southern Wild?  It must have been the most humane and moving film of the year.  The director is… Read more

Growing up, my church observed “Lord’s Supper” once a quarter. Every three months, an extra line would appear in the bulletin’s Order of Service between “Message” and “Special Music.” After spending a silent minute “examining our hearts,” trays bearing a species of super-dense oyster crackers and tiny plastic cups of grape juice would be passed along the pews, offering plate-style. In a tradition that generally deprecated ritual, this practice was clearly an anachronism, a holdover that would have been mildly… Read more

I just finished reading Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire by William Cavanaugh. Fare Forward readers will be familiar with many of its themes, but I found it insightful nonetheless. One of his more interesting suggestions is that, contrary to much Christian rhetoric, we should understand consumerism as a form of detachment rather than attachment: Most people are not overly attached to things, and most are not obsessed with hoarding riches. Indeed, the United States has one of the lowest savings rate of any wealthy country,… Read more

In a recent response to a David Brooks column, Rod Dreher wrote that “People today feel liberated from any obligation to place, and all that entails (family networks, especially). Rising to the potential of one’s merits is not only one thing they think about when deciding on a place to live; it’s the only thing.” We’re all well aware of the positives that come from this sort of social arrangement. It turns out that when you put millions of highly-talented people… Read more

In trying to explain how God is worthy of praise in the midst of suffering and evil, one does not usually bring up genetic diseases. But somehow Jimmy Lin, founder of the Rare Genomics Institute and medical professor at Washington University at St. Louis, managed to open and close a recent talk about science, faith, and genetic diseases with Psalm 8, declaring, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Lin likes to call himself… Read more

Lance Hosey’s opinion piece from last week’s New York Times carries the promising headline “Why We Love Beautiful Things,” but the article fails to fulfill the title’s promise. Hosey considers a number of aesthetically pleasing objects and explains them all in purely naturalistic terms. On his account, the color green arouses creativity and motivation because it hearkens back a fertile oasis that meant sustained life for our Saharan ancestors; the Golden Rectangle is beautiful because it is the shape most… Read more

  If a big theme with this year’s Best Picture nominees was a lack of tension and challenge, Argo is the clear outlier. Like Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, Argo was saddled with a story where the ending was never in doubt. Yet Ben Affleck managed to take that story and develop an engrossing, all-purpose thriller with some meaningful commentaries on the stress of human existence. It would be poetic justice, and just plain just, for Argo to win Best… Read more

My thoughts on Zero Dark Thirty resemble my thoughts on Lincoln in many respects. Both are movies where the end is never in doubt. Both attempt, without success, to tell their story in a more or less historically accurate way. Both fail to conjure up the tension and interest that their stories could have had. Zero Dark Thirty, however, does have at least one saving grace: the last forty minutes are fantastic, showing that Kathryn Bigelow is an accomplished director… Read more

  For decades, accounts of secularization went something like this. As societies modernize, they become better off and thus less reliant on religion; they become smarter and thus less likely to believe in religion; and they become more differentiated, thus relegating religion to its own, circumscribed sphere of influence, far away from important things like politics and science. And this was all happened naturally – it would unfold inevitably and uniformly. Empirical anomalies and theoretical reconsiderations beginning in the late… Read more

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