Virtue in TV

“Everybody lies.”  The FOX drama House sustained eight seasons of medical mysteries on this cynical insight alone.  And the more righteous the liars were, the more satisfying (for Dr. House, and often for the viewer) were their falls.  A classic episode pitted a rambunctious “faith healer” against the atheist misanthrope, but when the root of the young man’s illness is revealed to be the sexually-transmitted herpes virus, the doctor gets the last laugh. Law & Order: SVU is still chugging… Read more

Winter’s Humbling

Cuttings of yellow forsythia bloom on my coffee table as March threatens its last (fingers crossed) snowstorm… Finally. I confess a sigh of relief at the resurgence of sunshine, warmth and colors other than brown, gray and white. Winter’s grip on the Earth is growing weak in the face of spring’s insistent return, yet its bleak work has primed me for the impudent  joy of crocuses blooming beside melting snowdrifts. Like winter’s firm discipline has prepared the tired earth for… Read more

MASH and Murder

Mansion. Apartment. Shack. House. The kids who hoped for shacks are monks by now. Back then we knew that homeless, jobless meandering wasn’t an option. Neither were celibacy or promiscuity. You either married your crush, or the creepy kid who slobbered on the water fountain. You were a janitor, or a movie star, but you were something. You might have had zero kids, but you could just as easily have been the lucky parent of one hundred precious dolls. Impressive,… Read more

Five Books to Read in College

This is a list of five amazing books. They come representing five noble genres: the novel, the memoir, poetry, the short story, and the essay. How good are they? This good: as I read, I often had to pause, put the book down, breathe or sigh or shake, and look around to see if the world was still there. It was – but each time, the way I viewed it had changed. This list is particular, not comprehensive. I did… Read more

The Rule of the Clan

What should be the relationship among individualism, civil society, and state power in a healthy political order? In the Summer 2013 issue of Fare Forward, I considered this question in critiquing an essay by Rutgers Law School professor Mark Weiner. My primary critique of Prof. Weiner’s essay was that he did not adequately grapple with civil society as a solution to the “paradox of individualism:” “Weiner presents an impoverished and unconvincing account of civil society, which he reduces to the…“rule of the clan,”… Read more

“Didactic Paragraph-Pomposity” and the Pursuit of Truth

In one of my first encounters with Søren Kierkegaard, I distinctively remember hearing the term “Gobbler of Paragraphs.” My professor stated that this term, originally taken from some margin notes to Fear and Trembling, would inform the way our seminar would proceed. He wanted to ensure, as we students were reading Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments, that we were taking time to inwardly digest the assigned material. As we worked our way through the Fragments, Kierkegaard began to urge us to “take… Read more

Social Sin: Who’s Responsible?

Is it possible to take sin seriously when all of one’s collective responsibilities are understood in terms of protecting the individual right to define one’s own responsibilities? I’ve heard it said that one of the great advances in Christian reflection over the 20th century has been the “discovery” of social sin. Consider, for instance, Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous interpretation of Luke 10: On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that… Read more

A Brief Theology of Coffee

  The season of Lent has come, and I’ve spent the past weeks watching my more liturgical friends drop off Facebook and refuse beers, chocolate, and Netflix references. This season leaves me feeling guilty, not so much because I’m not giving up anything for Lent, but because I didn’t remember that it was Lent until I saw a friend post “Ash Wednesday” on Facebook. My spiritual calendar has been reduced to social media posts, which I now feel guilty about… Read more

The Language of Narrative and the Recovery of Metanarrative: Part Two

What is truth? This, of course, is an ancient question.  Pilate’s response to Jesus doesn’t present us with an isolated instance of a doubtful mind, but rather it unearths the perennial condition of Man’s mind.  We are creatures capable of introducing doubt into any system of thought.  As a result, our late-modern culture may be accurately described as a culture that has embraced the idea that because everything can be doubted, nothing can be known.  This characterization of our culture… Read more

The Language of Narrative and the Recovery of Metanarrative: Part One

In the closing chapter of C.S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet, (the story of Dr. Ransom’s adventure in Mars) the narrator explains that it was Dr. Ransom’s idea, instead of publicizing this adventure in terms of fact, to relate it in the form of fiction: “It was Dr. Ransom who first saw that our only chance was to publish in the form of fiction what would certainly not be listened to as fact.” The narrator goes on to quote… Read more


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