Christian Symbolic Action

Regarding my most recent Fare Forward essay, two questions have been repeatedly asked of me. The first: Why think that symbolic action occupies such an important place in the Christian life? And the second: I’m not sure I understand the sorts of symbolic actions you think are so important to the Christian life; could you say more? I debated which of these two questions to take up today, and settled on the latter. My apologies to those more interested in… Read more

Receiving the Gift of Presence

My first post here at Fare Forward discussed the nature of providing Christlike presence to the grieving. An insightful commenter elaborated, saying,”I have a tendency in my life to close myself off to other people; to deny my friends and even my wife the opportunity to share in my burdens and trials… this is another species of error… those who grieve or suffer must be able to open themselves to this notion of presence.” I resonated with his observation, and… Read more

The Shortcomings of “Love What You Do”

Evangelical Christians love to cite this widely popular quote by Martin Luther King Jr: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” This is the love-what-you-do (LWYD) creed, to be contrasted with… Read more

The Miniature Wife

  The Miniature Wife, Manuel Gonzales’ debut collection of short stories, begins with a line by W.B. Yeats: “Things fall apart.” Those three words are a fitting introduction to the eighteen stories that follow, in which a plane is hijacked, a soldier is beset by swamp monsters and robots, and zombies descend on a mall. Whether you want to classify these stories as magical realist, speculative, or genre fiction, they certainly give us the pleasures of traversing well-worn ground to… Read more

Learning to Watch Movies

There’s a scene in the 2010 film Of Gods and Men in which a group of monks sit down for a meal. They are film’s protagonists, living in Algeria during the 1996 civil war. As French foreigners, they have the option to leave, and much of the drama revolves around their decision to stay despite the risks to their lives. The monks sit down to a “last supper” at which they both celebrate their community and struggle for the strength… Read more

Her

  The remarkable thing about Spike Jonze’s recent movie Her are the many questions it manages to raise and then completely ignore. Perhaps it would be incorrect to call these plot holes. It’s more like Jonze and the characters he has created are simply oblivious to the intellectual and ethical challenges the plot poses but fails to address. For those who haven’t seen it, the movie is set in the relatively near future and follows the story of Theodore (Joaquin… Read more

The Good News and Humpty Dumpty

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall Humpty Dumpty had a great fall All the king’s horses and all the king’s men Couldn’t put Humpty together again”   The story of Humpty Dumpty is as good an allegory for our predicament as any I know. Humpty Dumpty, as the rhyme goes, has had a great fall and can’t be put together again. This is the second most important fact about Humpty Dumpty, and the first is like it: Humpty Dumpty was… Read more

Tikker: The Death Watch That Makes Every Second Count!

A few weeks ago, I was delighted to hear a story on the Colbert Report about Tikker, “the death watch that makes every second count!” As Tikker’s Kickstarter page indicates, “Tikker is a wrist watch that counts down your life from years to seconds, and motivates you to make the right choices. Tikker will be there to remind you to make most of your life, and most importantly, to be happy. But it’s not really about how much time you HAVE, it’s what you DO with… Read more

I Guess It’s Chocolate

  One of the misconceptions that recent literature on religion tries to take down is the idea that there is such a thing as “neutral” culture. Consider, for instance, the attention that Calvin College philosopher James K.A. Smith gives to the concept of “secular liturgies” in his book Desiring the Kingdom. There, Smith makes the audacious claim that seemingly innocent practices such as shopping at a mall actually shape us into certain types of people – people who think, feel,… Read more

Christian Commitment, Symbolism, and Farming

  The Christians I am closest to tend to fall into one of two camps as regards the question of “orthopraxis” — the question of what right Christian practice looks like. One camp sees right Christian practice as oriented “internally”: the practices that matter most before God are those which belong to my own inner life or to my individual communion with God. Prayer, meditation, the cultivation of a devotional life — these practices stand preeminent over what might be… Read more