April 13, 2021

My father, an itinerant Baptist minister, once told me about a plaque on the preacher’s side of the pulpit in one of the many churches in which he sermonized during my growing-up years. The pulpit plaque challenged the person giving the sermon directly by asking “What are you trying to do to these people?” That question has been central to my teaching career which now, amazingly, has been going on for three decades. Over time, I come to envision my role… Read more

April 10, 2021

The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty   Anne Lamott I am currently in the early stages of planning a new team-taught colloquium for next spring with a colleague and good friend. The colleague is a young Dominican priest. We get together every other week or so at our place or his on-campus apartment to shoot the shit and sample high-quality adult beverages; at one of these recent get-togethers we talked about what we would do at our first… Read more

April 7, 2021

In my “Markets and Morals” colloquium in the good old pre-pandemic days a couple of semesters ago, our text was a co-authored volume in which two economists, who happened to also be persons of Christian faith, alternated essays and responses on a number of important issues. As their weekly writing assignment in preparation for seminar, I asked students to select a point of disagreement between the authors (the disagreements were legion), describe briefly the position of each author on the… Read more

April 6, 2021

After more than a year hiatus, I found myself sitting at the organ bench at Trinity Episcopal Church in Pawtuxet, RI on Palm Sunday. The organist and music director is out of commission for several weeks recovering from serious back surgery, and as I have done occasionally over the years, I am filling in until he can return. It’s not as if being a substitute music minister is a particularly heavy lift these days. Sunday services are limited to only… Read more

April 3, 2021

God is not an insurance agent. H. G. Wells During Rick Pitino’s tenure as the coach of the Boston Celtics from 1997-2001, he was often asked about when, if ever, the mediocre Celtics would reach the rarified air of excellence reached by Bill Russell’s Celtics of the 60s and Larry Bird’s Celtics of the 80s. After yet another loss in 2000 and yet more questions about when things would get better, Pitino lost it in the postgame press conference. Larry… Read more

April 2, 2021

During the college basketball season, Jeanne and I frequently watch a replay of the Providence Friars’ most recent game (when we win) the next day. The moment to moment drama can be tense in replay, even when we know what the outcome will be. We never watch a loss the next day—why submit ourselves voluntarily to an experience that we know ends badly? Even the worst of times can be weathered and perhaps appreciated when one knows that things work… Read more

March 31, 2021

I know we’re in the middle of Holy Week. I know that today is Maundy Thursday and that tomorrow is Good Friday. But according to the calendar, today is also April Fools Day. So let’s step back, lighten up a bit, and ask a profoundly important question. Did Jesus ever laugh? One of the many enjoyable occurrences at the end of each semester is occasionally receiving thank-you notes from students. Often they come from quiet students who said little in… Read more

March 29, 2021

Holy Week is upon us once again—as good a time as any to step back and reflect a bit on where I find myself as a person of faith three weeks into my 65th year. I come from a Evangelical Christian upbringing, where what we believed was crystal clear from large doctrinal demands to minutiae about when television was okay to watch and why dancing and going to movies never were okay. Needless to say, I have evolved (or strayed)… Read more

March 27, 2021

Today is Palm Sunday, one of the most dramatic days on the liturgical calendar. But there is one reported event attributed to Palm Sunday that it makes an appearance in the liturgy every Sunday. And each time I say or sing this part of the liturgy, I remember a beloved colleague. Rodney Delasanta was one of best teachers and colleagues I ever had the privilege of knowing. Rodney was a true Renaissance man—a Chaucer scholar, family man, sports fan (especially… Read more

March 25, 2021

A Facebook friend who knows that I am a philosophy professor sent me a thought-provoking picture a couple of weeks ago. I thought I knew a good deal about the ancient world, particularly ancient philosophy, but Mediocrates was a new one for me. So I did some research. Mediocrates (around 450-370ish BCE) was the (much) younger sibling of his slightly more famous brother, Socrates. Like Socrates, everything we know about Mediocrates comes through the testimony of those who knew and… Read more

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