April 8, 2023

Anyone who belongs to a liturgical Christian tradition (and perhaps many who don’t) has heard Psalm 22 a lot in the past week. So I decided to share publicly a translation of the Psalm that I made some months ago as part of my ongoing project of reading through the Bible in Hebrew. I was so struck by the imagery of this well-known Psalm in particular that I wanted to try my hand at translating it myself. This is not... Read more

December 12, 2022

  In my ongoing project of reading through the Hebrew Bible in the original, I’m currently in the Psalms (Psalm 43 at the moment). The repetition, almost monotony, of their vocabulary strikes me a lot more when I read them in Hebrew than when I read them in English. Over and over again the Psalmist complains about his enemies and his troubles in almost exactly the same language, begs God for help in the same stock phrases, and promises praise... Read more

November 8, 2022

In a Facebook conversation a while ago, I made the claim that all the major religions reached their current form through a long and difficult process of rational inquiry. A number of people (presumably atheists) reacted to this with snarky comments about how ridiculous it was to ascribe “rational inquiry” to religious traditions. The most succinct response was: “A belief in talking snakes does not come [by] rational inquiry. Try again.” So I did. Here’s a longer and more developed... Read more

November 3, 2022

No cliche is more common in moderate and progressive circles in our culture than the claim that “religion and politics shouldn’t mix.” Around election time, this often takes the form of claims that politicians oughtn’t to let their religious views influence their political actions. Anyone who disagrees with this is taken to be a right-wing extremist. The United States is, allegedly, in danger from a conspiracy of dangerous theocrats who want to impose their religion on everyone. The only answer... Read more

November 1, 2022

One of the phrases that conservative Protestants like to use about the Reformation is that it “restored the Biblical Gospel.” Or, with more nuance, that it restored it to “full clarity.” Whatever the Reformation is, that’s the one thing it quite clearly didn’t do. It didn’t take Christians back to a more authentically first-century way of thinking about the faith, at least if we are speaking of the “magisterial Reformation” exemplified above all in Martin Luther. (The Anabaptists could make... Read more

September 25, 2022

When I was about nine years old, a few years after having moved to the United States from England, I was at a meeting of AWANA. (AWANA is a fundamentalist imitation of Scouts and mostly consists of learning Bible verses, but that’s not important right now.) A girl at a table near mine was looking at a Canadian coin with her friends and I heard her exclaim, “Who is that girl?” I marched right over, looked at the coin, and... Read more

September 3, 2022

  August 28, the feast of St. Augustine, was of course superseded by Sunday this year. The Gospel reading for this past Sunday gave many priests, including the one who filled in at my parish last Sunday morning, the occasion to talk about humility and pride. It’s appropriate to speak of this subject on St. Augustine’s memorial, because he shaped how we think about humility and pride in Western Christianity. It is in part thanks to Augustine that we think... Read more

July 8, 2022

This is part of a series responding to the 100 most common questions people have about various religious traditions. In the case of Catholicism, naturally one of the things people want to know about is our belief regarding what we call the Eucharist and the question calls “communion.” The terminology is important to clarify at the start. Most Protestants refer to the ceremony of praying over and sharing in bread and wine as “communion,” and there’s a reason for this... Read more

June 14, 2022

Is the Trinity an embarrassment? One of the many reasons why Christians should talk to Muslims is that doing so makes us think more seriously about the distinctives of our faith, particularly the Incarnation and the Trinity. It was in conversation with a Muslim at the age of 20 that I first really came to an understanding of the importance of the Incarnation for my own faith. And similarly, Muslims’ persistent belief that the Trinity must be some kind of... Read more

April 19, 2022

  Every year during Advent and Christmas, punchy Catholic dudebros who think themselves clever clutter the Internet with memes about St. Nicholas. No, not the lovely story about how he saved three girls from being sold into sexual slavery. Much less the charming if often consumeristic modern mythology that has clustered around him as “Santa Claus.” No, what really impresses these valiant knights of social media is that St. Nicholas supposedly punched Arius at the Council of Nicea. He was... Read more

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