The Boring, Quiet Rituals that Sustain Us Spiritually

When I worked as an instructor at the Center for Applied Rationality, a lot of our curriculum on cognitive biases felt secretly virtue ethics-y: Here's how small choices you make (including ones about what environments you exist in) shape your big choices and who you grow up to be.I really enjoyed reading James K. A. Smith's You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit and reviewing it for Commonweal because it seems to cover spiritual life in the same kind of way. Here's one of my … [Read more...]

Starving Laypeople of Devotion in Church

I just wrapped up (and really enjoyed) Eamon Duffy's The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580. One of the themes that jumped out at me were the ways laypeople were pushed aside during the English Reformation. Although Protestant reformers were ostensibly giving power to the ordinary people of the parish (though translations of the Mass and other reforms), by attacking traditional devotions, they cut parishioners off from the kinds of worship they had known and the … [Read more...]

Aunt Alberta And Being Right (but the boring way)

I've been rereading the Narnia series (in publication order) with a group of friends, and when we read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last week, I was struck by how the transformation of the boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb (who almost deserved it!) is summarized in the final words of the book. Back in our own world everyone soon started saying how Eustace had improved, and how "You'd never know him for the same boy": everyone except Aunt Alberta, who said he had become very commonplace and t … [Read more...]

Christian Ethics: If you understand, I’m explaining wrong…

I've gone on from borrowing books from my fiancé to borrowing books from my fiancé's family, and I've just finished reading Stanley Hauerwas's Resident Aliens: A Provocative Christian Assessment of Culture and Ministry for People Who Know that Something is Wrong.  One of the passages I found most striking is Hauerwas's argument below that Christian ethics should be at least a little repulsive to non-Christians. Christian ethics, like any ethics, are "tradition dependent." That is, they make sens … [Read more...]

Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” And The Fertility Of Forgiveness

I'm at First Things, reviewing Beyoncé's visual album "Lemonade," which does a remarkable job telling a story about a marriage that is wounded, but not unmade, by betrayal. “Hold Up” is still dreamlike, more of an imagined, idealized anger than actual rage. Beyoncé doesn’t take second swings at her targets, she seems to have no particular animus for anything she smashes. In fact, when she knocks the top off of a fire hydrant, children rush forward to play in the spray; a perfect realization of “ … [Read more...]

Fighting Weaponized Acedia

Commonweal has my double review of Acedia and Its Discontents: Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire by R.J. Snell and Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas by Natasha Dow Schüll.  Why review those two book alongside each other? I'm so glad that you asked. Slots, video poker, and other gambling machines are often described as games, but Schüll’s description makes it clear how completely play is lacking from these terminals. Some machines allow gamblers to “autoplay”: they simp … [Read more...]

Engagement, A Bibliography

On Easter Sunday, my boyfriend proposed to me at Belvedere Castle in Central Park.And I feel the best way to invite you all into my joy is to share the bibliography of our courtship -- the favorite books we asked each other to read, the books we read for the first time together, the books it turned out we had both already loved. A Sense of Direction by William BallA Severe Mercy by Sheldon VanaukenArcadia by Tom StoppardBed and Board: Plain Talk About Marriage by … [Read more...]