Christians in the Age of Sincerity

Guest Post

By Dyana Herron

Image has just published its 25th anniversary issue (#80). We’re pleased today to run an excerpt from a symposium in that issue entitled “The Road Ahead: Voices for the Next Twenty-Five Years,” consisting of reflections by a group of writers under the age of 35.

Although I don’t consider myself to have a finger on the pulse of culture (I’m not a journalist or a critic or an academic, but someone who writes mostly from a limited personal perspective), I do agree that the contemporary public square seems a safer place to be a Christian artist or intellectual than it has in even the recent past.

This is a strange position for Christians to find ourselves in, because we are much more accustomed to persecution than popularity. I can imagine, though, that if Jesus, with his wavy hair and mellow but antiauthoritarian attitude, chose to appear as a young man in America today, he might just as likely be crowned prom king as King of the Jews. And then where would humanity be?

Christians have never been particularly cool, no matter how hard DC Talk or our youth pastors tried to convince us otherwise. That’s partly because our parents never allowed us to go to the good parties. But more because, historically, coolness is about detachment, distance, and self-assurance, whereas Christianity is about commitment, presence, and self-surrender.

[Read more...]

Bible Thumping

I once saw a girl beaned in the head with a Bible.

Her attacker was a well-muscled star of our middle school football team, so his throw was hard, accurate, and had a bit of a spiral.

To be fair, the weapon wasn’t a full Bible, neither was it large. Someone in this guy’s group of cronies had procured a box of those miniature New Testaments kids are given in Sunday school, and brought them in his backpack with the intention of evangelizing—through force.

I noticed something was up that morning in the gymnasium, where the buses unloaded and students lounged in the bleachers waiting for the bell to ring so we could go to homeroom. With only one teacher—usually a distracted gym coach—on duty, it was easy to get away with mischief, and many of the students, hormonal and restless and facing another day of Algebra and cafeteria food, had mischief in their hearts. [Read more...]

Advice for My Little Sister

Twelve years passed, almost to the day, between my birth and the birth of my sister.

When she was born I was a bony adolescent—what I call gawkward—who wore bifocals, DARE t-shirts, scrunchies, and fluorescent tracksuits. I left my sixth grade class early to go to the hospital to meet my new sister, who was round as a piece of gnocchi and as white, with a soft down of light red hair on her head like a smear of sauce.

I could have eaten her.

My mother, groggy from medication, asked worriedly if the baby’s nose was as big as it looked on an ultrasound photo from weeks before. I told her it did not. It was a tiny nub of a nose. She was beautiful. Perfect.

Last year my sister and I both celebrated milestone birthdays; I turned thirty and she eighteen. Because I am poor, thoughtful, and guilt-prone, I decided to give her a homemade gift: a small book of advice upon entering independent womanhood. A list of what I wish someone had told me when I was eighteen.

Why did guilt enter into this? Because I left home when she was only seven, and wasn’t close by for much of her childhood. [Read more...]

Traditional New Year’s Food

At the end of December I talked to a friend of mine who lives in Seattle. He was going to a New Year’s Eve dinner and was having trouble deciding what to contribute to the meal. “It’s strange,” he said, “that Americans don’t have any traditional New Year’s foods. We have Thanksgiving food, and Christmas, but not New Year’s.”

What I found strange was that he’d grown up without a food tradition on this holiday, because my family always ate black-eyed peas, greens, and cornbread on the first of January, and although I knew it had originated in the South, I’d thought the tradition was now widely known, if not widely practiced.

Each year my parents, brother and sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, and I would gather in my grandmother’s kitchen.

“The black-eyed peas are coin money,” Grandma told me, stirring the big, black pot where the beans floated in a bubbling liquid, a smoky chunk of fatback bobbing in the middle like a buoy. [Read more...]

Seasons of the Soul

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning since August I’ve walked a long wooded path to reach the building where I teach College Writing to a group of freshmen.

Over the past four months, the landscape has changed. In August the heat of summer still lay heavily over everything, like a panting dog. The forest underbrush was so thick it looked impenetrable, and I couldn’t see whatever small animals made sounds within it, so that sometimes, when alone, I frightened myself by imagining someone was following me there, just a few feet away.

Though I took the same path each morning, I always noticed something I hadn’t before—something that surprised and delighted me. Once it was a hedge, maybe twenty feet long, covered in a delicate lacework of spider webbing, beaded with dew. Once it was a row of ground ferns, fanning out around a tightly spiraled middle. Once it was a tiny vine coiled around a fence post, sprouting what looked like dime-sized purple orchids. [Read more...]


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