The Fault in Our Logic

  When I was young, I heard many a sermon that was based on math. Pastors would make simple calculations like this: “The time you spend in heaven and hell will be far longer than the time you spend on earth. You should do things that contribute to your ‘eternal bank account’ (i.e. reading Bible, praying) rather than your ‘spiritual bank account’ (i.e. getting good grades, being cool). Live for something greater. For something eternal.” The logic was that whatever… Read more

Reflecting on Trinity Sunday with St. Augustine

St. Augustine opens his De Trinitate with a forward in which he recounts his efforts to complete this work which was suddenly interrupted by the theft of his incomplete manuscript. At first, Augustine refused to resume his efforts as an act of protest. But after much encouragement from Aurelius, the Bishop of Carthage, he agreed to complete the work on the condition that it contain a preface expressing his concern that the previously stolen work might, due to its incompleteness,… Read more

Sherwood Anderson and the Platonic Touch

A couple of weeks ago, Leah Libresco wrote an excellent article suggesting that our society’s neglect of platonic touch is among one of the many things we need to address if we are to reverse the sexualization of contact that dominates our lives today. In lieu of alternative stories and models of interpersonal relationship, the “friend zone” becomes a dead end, an impasse to be overcome if greater intimacy is to be won. She writes: The friendzone is treated as… Read more

Ignorance: A Blessing

There are some things that I know with certainty. The sum of two and three is five. All mothers are women. A triangle has three sides. My back hurts. I am currently writing a blog post and trying to think of another example that doesn’t sound too trite. I think most would agree that the degree of certainty which I have about these things is so high that I cannot not know them. On the other hand, there are many… Read more

To Work Is Not Quite to Pray

St. Benedict has often been (mis)quoted as saying, “Labora est Ora”. Or: “To work is to pray”. It is not clear precisely what was meant by this phrase when it first was propagated, but the guiding sentiment seems clear enough: Work – that activity whereby we take up and transform the creation towards some productive end -, can count as an act of worship.   The Christian tradition’s attitude towards work would seem to make such a sentiment attractive. For… Read more

The Human Mystique

  This fall, more than 200 Christian women met at the American Bible Society in central Manhattan to talk about calling. Hosted by Q Ideas, the one-day event drew women—most between the ages of 25 and 40—to discuss identity, ambition, and work-life balance. Shauna Niequist, one of the speakers and a well-known church leader in the Chicago suburbs, gave a talk titled “What My Mother Taught Me.” Niequist’s mom had spent almost all of her adult life being a pastor’s… Read more

Bulletins from a Second-Order Society

Mitt Romney was having a bad week. This, as anyone familiar with the 2012 election’s proceedings can attest, does not really narrow things down. That year’s primary saw President Obama and his opponent Governor Romney trade so many awkward, embarrassing blows that countless weeks from that season could be called “bad.” But this week had been particularly brutal. While traveling overseas to burnish his foreign-policy credentials, the hapless Republican had managed to seriously offend vast swaths of Britain and the… Read more

Bridging Time: Days of Future Past

  The scattered and even feeble attempts to build a storyline for Marvel’s beloved mutants have led bewildered audiences down dead-end streets that have refused to resolve.  These movies have seemed relatively pointless events in a universe too full of heroes and villains to be personal.  But, somehow, Bryan Singer’s masterpiece in X-Men: Days of Future Past has managed to join the disjointed and finish the unfinished. Playing with modernity’s fetish for dystopian films, the movie starts with our desperate heroes in a war-torn… Read more

Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power

  Tramp. Cad. Lily-livered. Townie. Every generation has their put-downs, but for a certain subset of the population today, the best way to insult someone is by calling her “privileged.” In a hyper self-conscious culture, many millennials are wracked with guilt over their white middle-class upbringing, $30k-a-year education, and relative economic security. This is, no doubt, from where the sudden popularity of social justice causes and philanthropic NGOs springs: we’re eager to assuage our guilt by digging wells and freeing… Read more

Moral Experimentation and the Tree of Life

Director Terrence Malick’s fifth feature film, The Tree of Life, is a film universal in scope; it covers the period from the beginning of time to the termination of planet Earth, and beyond.  But it is also a film about the particular: a particular boy in a particular family in a particular place.  Taken together, then, Malick’s project is to place our particularity in the context of the universal—and to try to make us understand that we can only make… Read more

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