June 14, 2016

By Barbara Falconer Newhall Is it OK to kill plants just because they are ugly? The snapdragons sprouting up in my front yard a few summers ago were innocent. They were doing what snapdragons do: send down roots, suck up water, push out blossoms. But they were ugly, really ugly — a screaming red-maroon color that outshouted the pastel pinks, lavenders and yellows that I’d planted in my rock garden. If I ripped those snaps out of the ground in full bloom would that make me an assassin?… Read more

June 8, 2016

By Barbara Falconer Newhall Samir Selmanovic grew up atheist. His  family, like so many Croatian intellectuals living in Zagreb in the former Yugoslavia, was comfortably atheist. But Selmanovic’s life took a different turn during his time as a young soldier in the Yugoslav army. He became religious — a Christian. His family, his father in particular, was so shaken by the news that they decided he needed psychotherapy. “They hired top psychiatrists to talk to me,” Selmanovic told a gathering of the… Read more

May 31, 2016

  God is a Grade-A loser who can’t control his brand. And so is Jesus, for that matter, a nobody who couldn’t keep his hair out of his eyes and whose apostles were a bunch of weirdos and lowlifes. If that sounds like Donald Trump bloviating on the topic of faith, that’s because no less a comic light than Scott Dikkers, founding editor of The Onion, has produced 164 slick pages of Trump satire in his new book “Trump’s America: The Complete Loser’s Guide,” (Micro Publishing Media, Inc.,… Read more

May 24, 2016

Try this thought on for size: “It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.” And this: “I live only because it is in my power to die whenever I want; without the idea of suicide I would have killed myself a long time ago.” Those are the words of Emil Mihai Cioran, a Romanian-born French writer whose somewhat obscure twentieth-century work got a reexamination by Joseph Bottum in a First Things article. The… Read more

May 17, 2016

By Barbara Falconer Newhall They emerge from mud, manure, leaf rot, earthworms, sow bugs. They take in water and sun. And here they are — with their intricate lines, dewy textures, and colors beyond naming. Also their precise, mathematically predetermined arrangements of sepals and petals. How do they do it? A recent NOVA segment, “The Great Math Mystery,” suggests that maybe those blossoms, sticks and leaves growing out of the star magnolia tree in our front yard are no more real than so much digital… Read more

May 3, 2016

By Barbara Falconer Newhall Rocks. There is something about rocks that speaks to me these days. It’s their sturdiness, I think. They’re willingness to stay in once place. Their wordlessness. Yosemite National Park is probably my very favorite rock place. El Capitan, that massive cliff overlooking the Yosemite Valley, is the biggest single chunk of granite in the park  — and in the world, for that matter. But to me, just as spectacular as all that bigness is the abundance of… Read more

April 26, 2016

By Barbara Falconer Newhall Am I a sinner? I don’t think so. Lots of traditional Christians think that they are sinners — and that you and I are too. But I’ve never been able to get my mind around the concept of original sin and its corollary, Jesus’s atoning death on the cross. The logic, the math, just doesn’t add up for me. We humans are obviously products of our evolution, which means we do a lot of brutal stuff to other… Read more

April 19, 2016

By Barbara Falconer Newhall  Lots of folks are claiming to have been to heaven and back these days. Usually there’s a flash of light involved, and a host of angels maybe. My idea of heaven, if there turns out to be such a thing, is a place inhabited, not by flashing lights and winged specters, but by rudebeckia and honeysuckle, liatris and phlox. Real down to earth stuff, nourished by a little dirt, a little sun, a sprinkling of rain and an army of red… Read more

April 12, 2016

By Barbara Falconer Newhall For the young evangelical Christian, chastity before marriage seems to be a hot topic — if the folks I met in my spiritual writing group at the Glen Workshop in Santa Fe a few years ago were any indication. The conversation and the writing kept drifting back to that tantalizing subject — how to manage one’s sexuality when sex is off limits. Whether sex before marriage is OK or not-OK is not a hot topic for me… Read more

April 5, 2016

The pro-life/pro-choice conversation has been going on for decades. But I can’t think of a time, ever, when a politician has suggested that a woman be punished for an illegal abortion. Until, that is, Donald Trump outed the elephant in the pro-life room last week. Thanks to Trump, I — and maybe a lot of other Americans — are wondering why anti-abortion activists haven’t sought to have women prosecuted right along with abortion providers. When MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked Trump last week whether a woman who… Read more

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