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 responsibilities that… Read more

Rational Faith: More working hypothesis than logical proof

Editors’ Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on Faith and Reason. Read other perspectives here. This month, Patheos asked bloggers to contribute to a Public Square symposium on the question “Is Faith Rational, Irrational, or Arational?” Since I used to work teaching Bayesian statistics for the Center for Applied Rationality and I’m now a statistician for FiveThirtyEight, I’m coming down firmly on the “Rational” side of this trilemma. But “rational” may not mean what you think. You’re… Read more

Why I’m a Statistician and Why I’m a Catholic

I got to do interviews with two great radio programs in the last few weeks. First up, I spoke to Matt King of Say That (past of his work for Mission: USA, an inner city mission in Chicago). We spoke about my coverage of sappy Christian hymns and how and why I work as a statistician. Say That, Ep 222 (I’m on at minute 37)   I also got to talk with Patrick Coffin of Catholic Answers Focus about my… 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… Read more

The Tony-Winning Guide To Temptation And Grace

Last Sunday, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton won 11 well-deserved Tony Awards, and, last week, I wrote an appreciation of the show for Aleteia. In keeping with Miranda’s style, it’s a mashup: the grace-filled story of Hamilton’s adultery and the way he is forgiven paired with St. Therese of Liseux’s advice for withstanding temptation. The choice he refused to acknowledge as a choice kept rippling out, leaving no part of his life undamaged. If Hamilton was tempted to despair at his own weakness before,… Read more

The Virtues of Sad Songs (a piece for three voices)

After I covered the empty sweetness of some contemporary Christian music, I got a mix of excellent responses, from specific song recommendations to response essays. Here are three I particularly enjoyed:   Richard Beck (Experimental Theology) “Growing Up Shape Note” In short, all the major hymnbooks of the Churches of Christ tradition have used shape-notes. No matter what Church of Christ you visited, even if you were pulling a different hymnbook from the pew, you were always singing with shape-notes…. Read more

The (Extra) Mercy of My Conversion

Kristine Franklin invited me on to her radio show, Mercy Unwrapped, a few weeks ago to talk about my conversion and the way I’ve learned to pray. The audio is up now: Mercy Unwrapped Ep 24 – Leah Libresco: A Fervent Atheist and the Mercy of God. One of the things we wind up talking about is the wide range of kinds of conversions, and the way that “God kept reaching out to me in ways I could say ‘Yes’ to…. Read more

7QT: Fake Bears, Faker Weapons, and Austen

— 1 — I was pleased to get to interview Richard Beck for my article on unremittingly cheerful Christian pop music. I’ve always enjoyed his writing (and I have his latest book, Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted, on my shelf to read). One recent post of his I particularly liked is “Edging Toward Enchantment: Recovering a Catholic Imagination” (he’s not Catholic).  Here’s an excerpt: [O]ne of the impulses of Protestantism was to shift the… Read more

Christian Pop Is Oh So Peppy

Over at my day job, I’ve done an analysis of contemporary Christian music and traditional shape-note hymns. I took a look at the last five years of Billboard’s year-end top 50 Christian songs1 to see whether Christian pop is unrelentingly cheerful. I looked at pairs of concepts across the entire collection of lyrics2 (life and death, grace and sin, etc.)3 and calculated the ratio of positive to negative words. For every pair I checked, positive words were far more common… 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 sense, not because the principles they… Read more

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Catholic