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...]

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...]

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...]

Words to live by

words-words-words

I love aphorisms --- short, pointed, insightful observations.It all started with writing speeches for the Optimist Club.  They once sponsored “oratorical contests” and I loved competing in them.  Each year they advertised a new topic and the assignment was to write, memorize, and deliver a speech of five to seven minutes in length.  The first year the topic was “Optimism, youth’s greatest asset.”It seems kind of corny now, but it prompted me to think, read, and build my vocabulary.  I don’t r … [Read more...]

Which New Year?

newyear

We’ve celebrated two new years now…one driven by the calendar, the other driven by the liturgical year.  The liturgical year, which you can think of as the year, structured by the Christian story began at Advent in the beginning of December and takes us imaginatively through the story of Jesus’ life and the lives of the early apostles.  Apart from other things, it is a cycle designed to remind the church of its responsibilities and, more importantly, the work of God in our lives.The two “new ye … [Read more...]

Hitting a religious nerve

Atheism

In a recent column written for the Washington Post, I commented on religious displays in public spaces.  As is the case with articles of that kind, the Post went for a title that would match other contributions to the symposium that they were featuring.  Their title for the article was “The Scandal of Atheist Campaigns against Christmas” and, predictably, it attracted a different audience.The change in title was a bit unfortunate, because I’m not sure that there is a campaign against Christm … [Read more...]

Something new for Christmas

tabernacles

One of my students recounted a story that, I’m told, is widely known in Roman Catholic circles.  So the story goes: A little girl was sitting with her mother in church and asked,“Mommy, where is Jesus?”Deeply formed by her faith, the little girl’s mother pointed to the Tabernacle where the reserve sacrament is kept.The little girl was silent for a moment and then declared,“When I grow up I’m going to buy him a bigger box.”This Christmas, consider getting something that cost you nothing, … [Read more...]


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