Minya and Manchester: On Care-lessness and Obsession

From this morning’s Wall Street Journal: Unknown gunmen opened fire Friday on a bus carrying Coptic Christians to a monastery in southern Egypt, local media reports said, killing at least 20 people, in the latest attack on the minority Christian community. The bus was headed to the monastery in the city of Minya, some 190 miles south of the capital Cairo, Al Ahram newspaper quoted unnamed security officials as saying. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack,… Read more

People are just no damn good*

The world is divided into two camps by the answer to this question: Is human failing finally tragic or therapeutic?** If one omits the adverb, “finally,” of course, it is possible to believe that both the tragic and therapeutic provide windows into human behavior. One can believe that human failing is often tragic without excluding the therapeutic, and one can believe that therapy provides a window into human conduct without excluding the tragic. But when the adverb, “finally,” comes into… Read more

On Confessing the Sins of Others

Confessing the sins of others is an addictive practice. It feeds self-righteous certainty. It simplifies life’s complex demands. It elicits confirmation from those who share our views. It spares us the effort associated with thinking and reasoning carefully. Above all, it insulates us from the painful process of self-examination. This is why Jesus urged us to consider the log in our own eye, before contemplating the speck in someone else’s eye. It is also why, as First Peter puts it,… Read more

Recovering Confirmation

Our conversations about the church’s pastoral prayers led to a conversation this week with my students about the sacrament of confirmation. One astute member of the class observed that his efforts to prepare adolescents for confirmation seemed rather futile. “I’m not convinced that at age fourteen they know what they are promising to do, and they slowly disappear from church after their confirmation. So, aren’t we just ‘graduating’ them?” The question he raised is a good one. Heaven knows, young… Read more

The Spiritual Logic of Easter

Resurrection, then hope. No Resurrection, then no hope. The spiritual logic of the New Testament is direct, unequivocal, and it is difficult to underestimate the significance of that logic for the early Christians. The Resurrection of Jesus vindicates the claims that he is acting on God’s behalf. It addresses the longed for answer to spiritual struggles that are scattered throughout the Old Testament;\, and in some senses it restores the reason for living with hope. It is not, however, the… Read more

The Thursday of Holy Mysteries

Some weeks ago I began yet another painting project at home, the third room so far. I have a piece of advice to share with you: Never say “never.” I’ve said, “Never,” to painting two or three times, to no effect. Anyway, I find painting exceedingly boring, so I usually troll through old movies that are dialogue heavy. They are distracting and I can follow them, without actually watching the TV screen. One of my more recent weekend choices was… Read more

The Real Work of Bishops

In his report from The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops, Bishop Daniel Martins described a telling exchange: We began with another table discussion of generous length (about 30 minutes, as I recall). Each table was given a sheet amalgamating all the feedback that had been turned in on sticky notes yesterday concerning how we think we’re meeting the personal and institutional challenges of dealing with the way we tend to systematically marginalize individuals and groups based on criteria over which… Read more

Pre-approved Bishops: A Nursery for Ambition

  In a report from the meeting at the House of Bishops for The Episcopal Church, Bishop Daniel Martins notes that the bishops are considering creating a pool of prospective candidates for the episcopacy. As Martins describes it, this pool of would-be bishops would be a list of prospects who are vetted ahead of time, and dioceses electing a new bishop would be encouraged to use that list. Martins also infers that dioceses choosing to look beyond the list provided… Read more

3 Reasons We Find it Difficult to Lament

Prayers of lament wedge their way into the American psyche from time to time, much of it in the form of music. One thinks of Mahaila Jackson’s rendition of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” Lauryn Hill’s version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” and Eric Clapton’s “Holy Mary:” Holy Mother, where are you? Tonight I feel broken in two. I’ve seen the stars fall from the sky. Holy mother, can’t keep from crying. Oh I need your help this time, Get… Read more

Lent is not a tightrope, it’s a journey.

Popular assumptions about Lent come from a variety of places. Some arise out of the historical excesses that have surfaced from time to time in the life of the church. Other assumptions about Lent arise out of misunderstandings or a lack of familiarity with Lenten observance. In both cases, Lenten practice looms large, but the purpose of Lenten practice is lost. When that happens, Lent has all the spiritual allure of New Year’s resolutions – only longer and religious. Dint… Read more