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 ou … [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 sense of ourselves in this context.An ess … [Read more...]

Machen, Evangelicalism, and Worldviews

On the recommendation of a friend, I recently read through J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism. As one who will soon be attending a more left-leaning divinity school, I thought that going back to the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversy might be a good means of understanding that into which I will soon be stepping. While I think Machen’s work is quite prescient in its nature, I often found myself frustrated with him.For the past year and a half, I have been discussing the nature o … [Read more...]

Paddle Your Own Canoe

In his 2011 essay, “The Problem With Memoirs,” New York Times critic Neil Genzlinger called for a moment of silence for “the lost art of shutting up.” “There was a time when you had to earn the right to draft a memoir,” he argued, “by accomplishing something noteworthy or having an extremely unusual experience,” and “anyone who didn’t fit one of those categories was obliged to keep quiet.” “Unremarkable lives went unremarked upon,” Genzlinger said, “the way God intended.” Well, he’s right—mostly. … [Read more...]

Grace at the Movies

 In their first co-directed film, The Way Way Back (2013), Nat Faxon and Jim Rash feature fourteen-year-old Duncan (Liam James), who goes on summer vacation with his newly-divorced mom (Toni Collette), her new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), and Trent’s daughter from a previous relationship, Steph (Zoe Levin). The movie begins as the four of them are on the way to Trent’s beach house, with Trent asking Duncan to rate himself—his personality, looks, everything—on a scale of one to ten whi … [Read more...]

Bleeding Edge

 Is it better to seek the truth, or to accept the comfort of illusion? That is one of the central questions posed by Bleeding Edge, the latest novel from Thomas Pynchon that paints a picture of greed, ambition, and paranoia in wake of the rise and fall of the dot-com era and 9/11.Steeped in pop-culture references to Beanie Babies, Friends, and Britney Spears, the book captures the enthusiasm and recklessness of the dot-com bubble as well as the panic, uncertainty, and despair of … [Read more...]

What We Talk About When We Talk About Ambition

When it comes to ambition, it sometimes seems that feeding our egos means starving our souls. The Onion highlighted this ambivalence with an article headlined “Unambitious Loser with Happy, Fulfilling Life Still Lives in Hometown.” Quote: “Sources close to Husmer reported that the man, who has meaningful, lasting personal relationships and a healthy work-life balance, is an unmotivated washout who’s perfectly comfortable being a nobody.” This Onion piece juxtaposes the language of worldly success … [Read more...]