Free range Christian

Free Range

Not long ago one of my students described herself as a “free range Christian,” alluding to the diverse and varied character of her denominational past.  The phrase captures in a fresh way a reality that has been true of the American spiritual landscape for quite some time.Robert Bellah described it in Habits of the Heart in 1985.  Robert Wuthnow in a book called After Heaven, written in 1998. And you see it on display all around us: Church’s that downplay their denominational connections or de … [Read more...]

No More Random Acts of Kindness

Caritas

Traffic jams force you to pay attention to the back of the car just ahead of you and after years of attending to the philosophical and political commitments of other drivers, I’ve concluded that not all bumper sticker wisdom finally wears well.One of the widespread bits of wisdom that doesn’t wear well from a Christian point of view is the one that urges the reader to practice random acts of kindness.  Of course, being kind is not a bad thing.  And the great strength of the invitation is the fr … [Read more...]

Preaching the Gospel

Reynolds Price Portrait

Novelist, English professor, and committed Christian, Reynolds Price, died this week.  He was 77, had battled spinal cancer, and spent much of his life in a wheelchair.  When he went to Duke University 53 years ago he was offered a three year, non-renewable contract.  But the success of his first novel changed all of that.In the course of his career he was described as “an heir to Faulkner” by the New York Times, a comparison which Price skewered nicely, writing:"The search for influences in … [Read more...]

Who is my brother? Who is my sister?

humanfamily

Here we go again.  The ill-considered words of a public servant will fuel public fears about Christianity’s influence and embarrass no small number of us who are Christians.Moments into his new administrative responsibilities the governor of Alabama told a congregation that those who are not Christians are not his brothers and sisters.  As Anne Lamott once observed in a different connection, it is the kind of statement that would drive Jesus to drink gin from the cat’s dish.There are at least … [Read more...]

Here temporarily

futurepastpresent

Once, while the great Jewish sage, Honi, was walking along a road, he saw an old man planting a carob tree.  Honi asked him:  “How many years will it take for this tree to give forth its fruit?”  The man answered that it would require 70 years.  Honi asked:  “Are you so healthy a man that you expect to live that length of time and eat its fruit?”  The man answered:  “I found a fruitful world because my ancestors planted it for me.  So, too, will I plant for my children.”  (Babylonian Talmud, Ta’a … [Read more...]

Hiding in Plain Sight

Hidingips

In a recent blog, marketing expert Seth Godin made this observation in a piece called, “Lost in a digital world.”  Godin writes:Allison Miller, aged 14, sends and receives 27,000 text messages a month. Hey, that's only about sixty an hour, every hour she's awake. Some say that the problem of our age is that continuous partial attention, this never ending non-stop distraction, addles the brain and prevents us from being productive. Not quite. The danger is not distraction, the danger is the a … [Read more...]

Demon Possessed Politics

Demon-possessed

In the wake of yesterday’s tragic shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords no small number of commentators were quick to lay blame for the climate in which this kind of thing could happen at the doorstep of millions who differ with Ms. Giffords’s views.  I find that troubling --- not because I share those views --- but because it points to a general decline in thoughtful, judicious political conversation.The murderer who perpetrated these crimes is, by all accounts, criminally insa … [Read more...]

Spiritual Neuropathy

Neuropathy

Physical symptoms offer useful analogies to the spiritual life.Neuropathy is a case in point.  Frequently when patients suffer from diabetes, neuropathy is one of the early signs of the disease’s presence.  The patient can lose feeling or experience a tingling sensation as nerve damage grows and spreads; and, left unattended, amputation may prove to be the only solution.  The condition is usually at its worst in patients who haven’t acknowledged the seriousness of their condition and modified t … [Read more...]


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