November 23, 2019

Over the past several years on my campus, events called “Difficult Dialogues” have regularly been scheduled. These are moderated conversations on controversial topics, the sorts of topics that tend to drive people into entrenched corners from which they yell across the conceptual divide at those with whom they disagree. Faculty, students, and administrators are invited to think ahead of time about current controversies on campus before coming to a “Difficult Dialogues” event—these topics have tended to be related to race… Read more

November 21, 2019

I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with a young man named Hayden Bruce on Skype a while ago. He has a podcast called “Pragmatic Christian”—he found my blog and was attracted to a number of things he found there. Our conversation lasted almost two hours—the link is below. Toward the end of our conversation, he asked me what advice I might have for a person going through a crisis of faith (he called it a “deconstruction”… Read more

November 19, 2019

In the liturgical cycle, we are headed toward a new year that begins on the first Sunday of Advent—the first season of the liturgical year—on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Advent is a season of hope and expectation, items that are in noticeably short supply these days. I was the lector last Sunday at church; the assigned reading from the Jewish scriptures came from Isaiah 65. It’s a beautiful text, a vision of a better world in which God is delighted… Read more

November 17, 2019

In my General Ethics class, my students and I have just finished a three week unit on race issues. I began our considerations of race and related issues a few classes ago by sharing an illuminating experience that I had a couple of years ago–at Walmart, of all places. If I lived by my principles fully, I would never shop at Walmart. For reasons too numerous to belabor, Walmart represents many of the worst features of American capitalism. But there… Read more

November 15, 2019

Next Monday, I will be starting the final unit of the semester with my General Ethics students. The unit is on gun violence. As if on cue, the latest school shooting happened yesterday in Santa Carita, California.  Part of the reading assignment for Monday is a short essay by Simone Gubler, who teaches at the University of Texas. She begins the essay by noting that in Texas, licensed gun owners are permitted to carry concealed weapons into the classroom. Another… Read more

November 14, 2019

In a well-known and often-quoted passage from the Jewish scriptures, the prophet Micah asks a question that should be on the hearts of all persons of faith: What does the Lord require of you? Micah immediately answers his own question: To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. In my experience, persons of faith (including me) tend to be much better at the “mercy” and “humility” part than the “justice” part. This past week I… Read more

November 12, 2019

A strange story from Luke’s gospel was the gospel for the day last Sunday. It reminded me of something I wrote a few months ago . . . A conversation overheard as a bunch of guys at a sports bar wait for the big game to begin: “Dude, I’ve got one for you. There are these seven brothers named Aaron, Bill, Carl, Dave, Eric, Fred and George. Aaron’s the oldest one and he marries his high school girlfriend Paula. But… Read more

November 10, 2019

In “Slander,” from her latest collection of essays, What Are We Doing Here?, Marilynne Robinson writes that when she applied for the faculty position at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa where she spent her teaching career until her retirement in 2016, the job description said that candidates should be able to teach the Bible as literature. And so she did—something that I also have the privilege of doing as a professor at Providence College. She notes, though,… Read more

November 8, 2019

During a recent unit in my General Ethics class called “Does ethics have anything to do with God?” we read a recent essay by Gary Gutting, who teaches at the University of Notre Dame, that referred to one of the most famous arguments for the existence of God ever offered: Blaise Pascal’s “Wager.” Except that the “Wager” is not an argument for the existence of God at all. Rather, it is Pascal’s analysis of an interesting situation that human beings… Read more

November 6, 2019

I had a lovely lunch last week with one of my best and most valued friends. I’ve often said that Marsue is the closest thing to a spiritual adviser that I have; she’s made an appearance frequently in this blog over the years as well as in each of my last two books. We live about twenty miles from each other, but don’t get together that often any more; life and its demands changes things. We spent the hour we… Read more

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