June 30, 2020

During the past month, in the context of protests for racial justice and police reform in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, I have come across an interesting meme several times on social media: White supremacists use the Bible to justify their racism. Problem is, there are no white people in the Bible. True, but I did not know that until I was at least in high school. The Jesus I grew up with was white, his Dad… Read more

June 28, 2020

I’ve been thinking a lot about end of life issues lately. Really. They seem to be showing up everywhere–on the television show we are currently binge-watching, in my readings in the Psalms, in Montaigne’s Essais that I taught last semester, in a lead article in the Atlantic that just came in the mail, in a novel I am rereading that will be the first assignment in my ethics class in the fall. You know who never talks about end of life issues? Political candidates…. Read more

June 25, 2020

Man is in his actions and practices, as well as in his fictions, essentially a story-telling animal. Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue One of the things I appreciated as a Baptist kid was that, according to the Gospel accounts, Jesus was a great story teller. Sure, he also could give sermons or speeches and pontificate at length—especially in John’s gospel–but for me then, as well as now, his most effective communication was through his parables. These short stories, populated with people, animals, and… Read more

June 23, 2020

Former President Obama loved to quote a hopeful statement from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The quote was so important to the former President that he had it woven into a rug in the Oval Office. The statement is controversial, because it can be used to justify all sorts of ideas (since there are many conceptions of what “justice” amounts to), as well as a justification for… Read more

June 20, 2020

Why do intelligent people believe lies that are easily exposed as lies? Why do intelligent people treat facts as disposable opinions? These are questions as current as today’s news. Pick any week during the past three years or more; we have been fed a steady diet of lies, evasions, prevarications, mistruths—your descriptive noun of choice will suffice. Occupants of the highest offices in the land habitually say things with a straight face that anyone with a computer can verify as… Read more

June 18, 2020

If you are looking for a new novel to read, may I recommend Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel. Mandel is a bit of a phenomenon these days because of her 2014 novel, Station Eleven, about a vicious pandemic known as the Georgia Flu that sweeps the globe with astonishing speed (most of those infected are dead within a day or two), killing more than 99 percent of the Earth’s population. Not surprisingly, the eerily prophetic aspects of Station Eleven… Read more

June 16, 2020

If you think you understand it, it is not God.  Soren Kierkegaard In Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Gilead, Reverend John Ames (one of my top five favorite characters in all of fiction) frequently expresses doubt concerning his faith, something unexpected in a Congregational minister, at least in some circles. In the middle of the novel, Ames spends a few pages considering doubt and uncertainty in one’s faith within the context of challenges from non-believers to “prove” that God exists. Concerning… Read more

June 14, 2020

Over the years, a typical scenario has unfolded when I meet someone for the first time. “What do you do?” I am asked. “I’m a college professor.” “Oh wow! What do you teach?” “Philosophy.” At that point, one of three things happens: “Say something philosophical,” my new acquaintance demands. I generally say something like “When a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, there isn’t any sound (pause), except for the times that there is.” That’s usually… Read more

June 12, 2020

If you got to choose the manner of your death, what would your choice be? In his Essais, Michel de Montaigne encourages his readers to take ownership of the freedom each of us has concerning our demise: Why do you complain of this world? It does not hold you: if you live in pain, your cowardice is the cause; to die all that is needed is the will . . . The most voluntary death is the fairest . . …. Read more

June 10, 2020

There are several contemporary writers on spiritual issues and matters of faith whose work I admire so greatly I that purchase their latest books as soon as they are published—I have my Amazon account set up to send me such “heads up” announcements. These are authors whose books never fail to both deepen and broaden my own perspectives and attitudes about faith and what is greater than me. The list includes Anne Lamott, Joan Chittister, Annie Dillard, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lauren… Read more

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