December 18, 2018

Grace means suddenly you’re in a different universe from the one where you were stuck, and there was absolutely no way for you get there on you own. Anne Lamott A few years ago, Jeanne surprised me for Father’s Day by taking me to a concert in Maryland by one of my favorite musicians. I discovered Fernando Ortega’s music three or four years ago after plugging the name of one of the few Christian artists I can stand into Pandora. After… Read more

December 16, 2018

In my religious tradition, we didn’t do saints. But we did do Christmas pageants—big time. I remember in various pageants being an angel, a wise man, a shepherd—all of the usual male roles. My most triumphant pageant appearance, though, was the year I got to be Joseph. Wearing a white dish towel on my head secured with a bathrobe belt, I gazed with a holy aspect at the plastic headed Jesus in the make-shift manger while the narrator read the… Read more

December 13, 2018

A popular Christian writer got herself in trouble not long ago by suggesting on Twitter that most Christians have a hard time with texts in the Gospels that clearly show Jesus to be fully human. The specific passage she had in mind was Mark’s account of Jesus’ interaction with a Syrophoenician woman who asks Jesus to cast an “unclean spirit” out of her daughter. Jesus first refuses, saying that he does not intend to give his children’s (Jews’) bread to… Read more

December 11, 2018

I was raised in a version of Christianity that had no sense of the liturgical year. I have often described the landmarks of my Baptist youth as Christmas, Easter, and everything else. I knew nothing of Advent until my twenties, and loved its energy, its carols, its texts–it still is my favorite liturgical season decades later. Inwardness, reflection, anticipation, and patience–Advent is for introverts. Many of my best Advent memories are related to music. Charles Harlan Clarke was the organist… Read more

December 9, 2018

We’ve all done this, we bang and bang on the door of hope, and don’t anyone dare suggest there’s nobody home. Barbara Kingsolver I recently finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel, Unsheltered. One of the first full-length, fictional treatments of what it’s been like to live in the cognitive and social dissonance that has accompanied the rise and presidency of Donald Trump, it is not one of my favorites of her many novels (The Poisonwood Bible remains my favorite). Unsheltered… Read more

December 6, 2018

I recently had a brief, unproductive exchange in the comment section of this blog with a Christian who, among other things, accused me of not believing that the Bible is the Word of God. As we exchanged comments, I felt a certain deja vu–I felt that I was conversing with someone from my past. I was raised in a version of Christianity in which, for all intents and purposes, we worshipped the Bible as God’s inerrant Word and God’s final… Read more

December 4, 2018

Just when you thought you had heard and read it all . . . “If Jesus was back among us, he’d be a law-abiding gun owner. He’d support the Police. And he’d say “Merry Christmas” not “Happy Holidays.”  This piece of wisdom and insight was shared around this time last year on Twitter by Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman turned conservative talk-show host. A number of creative responses were immediately forthcoming, including No, he’d say Happy Birthday to Me… Read more

December 2, 2018

Each Advent for the past eight years, I have had the privilege of giving a sermon at the Episcopal church that I attend (this year I am up on Advent 4). Last year I gave this sermon on the First Sunday of Advent. In Philosophical Fragments, Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard tells a lovely story about a powerful king who falls in love with a lowly maiden. The maiden is unaware of the king’s love, and the king is worried. Knowing that… Read more

November 29, 2018

As we approach the Advent and Christmas seasons, I am in a forward-looking and hopeful mood. But that also involves looking back to a point in my life, not that many years ago, when hope took on a new meaning for me. The great but incredibly difficult German philosopher Immanuel Kant, in a rare moment of clarity, wrote that all important human questions can be boiled down to these three: WHAT CAN I KNOW? WHAT OUGHT I TO DO?  and WHAT MAY… Read more

November 27, 2018

Despite my consistent self-description as a “person of faith,” I have been accused occasionally over the years, usually by various Christian colleagues, of actually being an atheist. I do take atheism very seriously, and have often written about how this has helped me understand and express my faith more effectively and clearly. I have regularly written on this blog about what atheists and persons of faith share in common and how they can communicate fruitfully and intelligently. I recently received… Read more

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