Six years ago today, after a great deal of resistance, I finally followed the advice of several people whose opinions I respect and began this blog. I moved it to the Patheos platform a year and a half ago. Over a half million visits from 180+ countries later, writing here regularly has provided me with more joy and opportunities for growth than I could have possibly imagined. My latest book, published last year, was entirely a product of several years of… Read more

In Lies We Believe Abut God, Wm. Paul Young (author of The Shack) tells the story of how one of his friends reacted to his speculation that we have the opportunity to choose God even after physical death (just one of many interesting non-orthodox ideas in this fascinating book). His friend’s viscerally negative response let Young know that he “had entered waters that were considered sacred. My intention made no difference. I had stepped on a land mine . …. Read more

I grew up in hunting country where at the appropriate times each year the males of the species took their preferred firearms and started shooting things. I remember my father returning from a day of hunting with a partridge or two or even a squirrel in his backpack (much to my mother’s consternation). Every third year or so he would hit the jackpot and get a deer, setting us up with meat for most of the upcoming winter. My older… Read more

I’ve been thinking about ashes lately. I just finished reading Sara Miles’s City of God, a memoir about taking ashes into the streets of the Mission district in San Francisco on Ash Wednesday (“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return”). And we buried the ashes of a family member in the back yard last Wednesday. Bean, our Boston Terrier, died almost a year and a half ago; the small wooden box containing her ashes have been on the nightstand… Read more

During the three years that I lived in Milwaukee while completing my Ph.D. studies at Marquette University, I made some additional money beyond the pittance I earned as a teaching fellow by serving as the organist for Grace Presbyterian Church. I studied piano from age four, thought until my senior year in high school that I would be a concert pianist, realized that I would not be (I was good, but was not that good), then taught myself the organ… Read more

Every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. George Washington, Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, RI This summer has been a summer of travel: Scotland, Denver, Minnesota, and Birmingham. Last summer, Jeanne and I organized our activities around using the Rhode Island Brewery Passport, taking advantage for the first time of the thirteen (and counting) microbreweries in our tiny Ocean State. The establishments are clumped together in… Read more

Let me tell you here first, “trust in God” has never floated my boat as a viable answer to religious questions. From a student notebook On the day after Christmas 2004, the third strongest earthquake ever measured, deep under the Indian Ocean, caused a tsunami that resulted in the deaths of close to 250,000 people. The vast majority of those who lost their lives were among the poorest people on the planet, the very people who are often most vulnerable to… Read more

One Sunday, not too many months ago, I decided to pay close attention to the words of the Nicene Creed when it showed up as it does every Sunday morning in the Episcopal liturgy right after the homily. People usually pay about as much attention to the text of the Creed as they do to the words of the Lord’s Prayer—but try it sometime. “Wow,” I thought as I said the words, “there’s some pretty crazy stuff in here. I’m… Read more

Although I regularly find myself immersed in things medieval with a bunch of freshmen every spring, I am not a medievalist. I must confess that I often find medieval literature, philosophy, theology, and just about everything else medieval largely boring, inscrutable, or both. Still, it’s hard to go wrong in the classroom studying Dante’s Inferno with eighteen-year-olds. Sin, violence, torture—what could be better? Is suicide worse than lying? Is adultery less problematic than treason? How do gluttony and simony compare? Does sloth… Read more

In one of the many recent books written by an atheist about Christianity (I forget which one), the author suggests that one should look with suspicion on any religion whose dominant and most recognizable symbol signifies violence, torture, and oppression. The importance of the cross to all Christians, regardless of their many important differences, is indeed worthy of attention. One of my early childhood memories involves waiting for a cross to arrive in the mail, selected from a list of… Read more

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