Charlie Hebdo and the Inner Soul of Humor

16246547072_48798fd8a5_m (1)My friend Justin Smith recently wrote a piece for Harper’s Magazine. Justin is a brilliant guy, a philosopher and historian of ideas who also happens to write well and think clearly. Those things do not come together all that often. He’s been teaching for the last couple of years in Paris, at Université Paris Diderot-Paris VII.

This put him at Ground Zero, more or less, on January seventh of this year when the Kouachi brothers entered the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo and opened fire. [Read more...]

Triple Scoop

By Jessica Mesman Griffith

3714575165_05a6e53752_mMy best friend died suddenly almost two years ago. She’d lived across the country from me for almost ten years by then, and since our relationship mostly happened over the phone and email, it’s easy to sink into the feeling that we just haven’t spoken in a while. The phone will ring and I’ll catch myself hoping it’s her.

Then I have to face it: never again.

I’ve thought of her often in these last weeks of pregnancy. Maybe it’s the sleeplessness. I lie in the dark, feeling the twists and stretches of my growing child, struggling to recall the last conversations we had. We had a fight before she died—not unusual for us—and we weren’t speaking. [Read more...]

What Is a Christian?

5602081913_30b82fc2e8_mAccording to recent survey by the Pew Research Center, the number of U.S. adults who identify themselves as Christians has declined—a lot—since the last such survey Pew did in 2007. This information comes out just as I’m in the middle of reading Rachel Held Evans’s latest book, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, a book about Evans’s own frustrations with and hopes for the church and what it means to be or identify as “Christian.”

Though Evans is mostly known as a voice for the generation often referred to as the Millennials, and I am solidly Gen-X, I’ve found myself much in sympathy with her experiences and opinions. Like her, I grew up in an evangelical setting, and in adulthood have struggled with how to categorize, prioritize, and examine (or surrender) my doubts. In a passage that describes almost exactly a process I’ve been through myself, Evans writes:

Evangelicalism gave me many gifts, but the ability to distinguish between foundational, orthodox beliefs and peripheral ones was not among them, so as I conducted this massive inventory of my faith, tearing every doctrine from the cupboard and turning each one over in my hand, the Nicene Creed was subjected to the same scrutiny as Young Earth creationism and Republican politics, for all had been presented to me as essential components to a biblical world view. [Read more...]

Self-Hating Jew: A Love Story, Part 1

Untitled-1In response to “Never Again: Netanyahu’s Holocaust Cliché,” a recent post of mine on Good Letters, an old girlfriend messaged me on Facebook.  “It was the first time in a while,” she wrote, “I felt proud to be an American…I wonder why the writers of our times don’t instead write about the speeches of some of the truly worrisome leaders of Iran, ISIS, Hamas, North Korea, etc.”

Then, this: “Self-hatred is so destructive.”

Am I self-hating Jew? [Read more...]

Monasticism in Lockdown America, Part 9: Psalms, In the End

Continued from yesterday

 

11826685814_171e060196_mThinking of the psalms as a way to cycle through the entire range of human experience, I recently brought them with me into juvenile detention.

The kids there, on Sunday afternoons, shuffle through automated doors wearing orange jumpsuits and pink booties and take their seats shyly around bolted-down steel tables with me.

These are boys and girls who have likely seen, and felt on their bodies, and heard, what no child should have to see or feel or hear. And after absorbing all they’ve endured and trying to maintain composure, they have probably been kicked out of classrooms for not watching their tongues. For small outbursts, foul language, bad attitudes. Now, in detention, they spend most of their time in lockdown, in cells of their own, alone. [Read more...]