Tradition is the Answer to Questions We’ve Forgotten We Have
If you are a publicly confessing Christian for long enough you will likely encounter an interesting event: at some point a secular friend will ask for your prayers. It is often the same one who gets annoyed when you can’t make brunch on Sunday morning, or who was obviously uncomfortable at your church wedding. Generally the request for prayer follows a moment of immediate need: a scary medical diagnosis, or a layoff with impending financial
The Quiet Grace of Too Many Things
Minimalism is having a moment. Marie Kondo’s bestselling book and accompanying Netflix series The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Gretchen Rubin’s Outer Order, Inner Calm , and the absolute deluge of blog posts and articles about building a “capsule wardrobe” all promise that the one thing missing in our lives is, well, less. We have too much stuff, and consequently not enough time or mental and emotional energy. There is something about this that
What is it About Candles?
What is it about candles? There is no practical reason for them to exist in the developed world in the 21st century, much less for them to be as readily available as milk and dish soap. In the developed world, electric light has been available for 100 years, and we have brighter, more convenient, and more reliable sources of light. Candlelight is feeble compared even to the single bulb on the back of my cell
God of Spirits and All Flesh: The Grace of Prayer for the Dead
In a culture that likes to pretend death does not exist, there are some vocations which don’t have the luxury of ignoring the most unavoidable aspect of human existence. People who work in law enforcement, medicine, ministry, and mortuary services experience death as a regular, if not constant, companion. Of those four, it is the minister and the mortician who are most often called only after a person has died. We show up when the
Three Things that Need to Change About Church
My husband and I went through a phase where we spent too much time watching Kitchen Nightmares, the reality show where celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey tries to turn around failing restaurants. In one episode, Gordon asks the owner of a sad and shrinking diner, “What do you think is the biggest problem with your restaurant?” “No customers” the owner replies. When he pressed her about why the restaurant didn’t have more customers she said “Because
The Feminist Case Against “Inclusive Language” Liturgy: Part II
I was once involved in preparing the liturgy for an ordination service in an Episcopal diocese. During the planning process, the rector mentioned to me that he had been planning to use the “inclusive language” liturgies approved for trial use by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, and asked for my thoughts. I gently voiced my opposition which generally followed the argument I make in this article. He and I went back and forth
Book Review: Face to Face: Meeting Christ in Friend and Stranger
One Sunday last year, as I was helping set up for outdoor church, my internship supervisor passed a slim teal book called Face to Face: Meeting Christ in Friend and Stranger across the altar to me. “This is for you,” he said, “It isn’t homework.” Wells is a very well known priest, theologian, and author, especially in Anglican circles—his book on Christian ethics was the core textbook in my seminary Ethics course—but for whatever reason
Repentance and Resurrection
In the diocese in which I attended seminary, it is common practice to exclude the General Confession from Sunday worship during the 50 days of Easter. The argument, or so I’ve been told, is that we should focus on the joy of Christ’s Resurrection and take a break from being overly penitential. The implication, of course, is that Easter is no time to feel bad about ourselves, but to focus on Christ’s victory. The trouble
The Feminist Case Against “Inclusive Language” Liturgy, Part 1
I was in college the first time I heard someone argue for eliminating male pronouns in reference to God. “Calling God ‘Father’ just doesn’t work for me,” my friend said, “I have a terrible relationship with my father, and I don’t want to think of God like that.” At the time, I found the argument persuasive. We know that God isn’t a man, so why do we address him like he is? I even went
Why Can’t We Be Friends?
Several years ago, I tripped down an internet rabbit hole and found my way to an article by Laurie Penny, a writer for the British political magazine New Statesman, entitled “For many in my fearful, frustrated generation, ‘having it all’ means opting out of monogamy.” Penny’s argument is that polyamorous relationships, which she defines as “any arrangement in which you are allowed to date and snuggle and sleep with whomever you want, as long as
Servant of The Holy Mighty
In 1942 the San Juan River Valley, a remote waterless, scrubby corner of South Eastern Utah was possibly the last place someone would expect to find a middle aged, Anglo-Catholic priest like Harold Baxter Liebler. The area was not a hotbed of Anglicanism, or even of Christianity. The tiny town of Bluff, Utah was little more than a trading post. There were few white settlers and no church; the Mormons had tried to evangelize the
You Are Not OK
On April 6, 2012, Thomas Kinkade, who was among the most popular artists in the world at the time, died in his California home from acute intoxication from alcohol and Valium. His death shocked both his fans and the media, which was quick to point out the irony that the Painter of LightTM had lived and died in such darkness. Kinkade’s paintings were, and are, incredibly popular. At the peak of his popularity in 2001,
The Books That Save Our Lives
Book lovers develop their own shorthand for the books that stand out from all the other books they have ever read. This compliment of compliments is unique to each bibliophile. For some it is “books I’ve read more than once.” For avid ebook readers (I have yet to actually meet one but I hear they exist) it may be “books worth owning in hardcopy.” Closely related is “Books I would pack and move across the
Can I Get a Hero?
I know the internet needs another article about the changes in the television industry like I need another recipe for slow-cooker chicken chili, but hear me out. Like many cord-cutting millennials, my husband and I have spent the last three years making our way through the critically acclaimed “prestige TV” of the last decade. This loosely defined (and somewhat pretentious) term refers to the serious, cinematic, dark, and novelistic television. Many claim that The Sopranos
Round Table: Free Speech
“How should Christians think about free speech?” We asked three of our editors to reflect on this question. Their essays raise fundamental issues Christians must wrestle through if we hope to facilitate real dialogue in our increasingly polarized society. These reflections center on the definition of free speech, when free speech becomes a problem, and what sort of action ought to be taken in our current moment. In the spirit of Christian charity, we have
Free Speech Round Table: The Quiet Courage of Free Expression
Nobody likes free speech. This may seem incongruous or even controversial in a theological roundtable dedicated to weighing the relative merits and Christian response to issues of free speech, but I am convinced that it is true. Free speech guarantees that you will hear something you don’t like, or even that deeply offends and troubles you. You have to listen to mean people tell lies, sometimes about things you believe in. And despite this, I
What’s Worse Than the Devil You Know?
One of my favorite movie characters is Gus Portokalos, the patriarch in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Gus’s defining characteristic is his extreme devotion to his homeland, which is summed up in his famous line: “There are two kinds of people in this world: Greeks, and everyone else who wish they was Greek.” I love this joke because it perfectly encapsulates one of the essential characteristics of the human condition: we view the world as
Covenant, Ascesis, and the Wedding Industrial Complex: Confessions of a #COVIDBride
I’ve attended a dozen weddings over the past decade. I’ve been a bridesmaid five times (and a grooms-maid once), so if there is a trend in modern weddings, I’ve probably seen it. Before I started planning my own wedding, I was frequently judgmental of the large, ostentatious weddings with six-figure price tags. When Joshua and I got engaged last October, we knew we wanted what I called an “overtly religious high-church wedding.” I was more
Who’s Afraid of Trinity Sunday?
If you worship in a Western Christian tradition that makes use of the liturgical calendar, then you probably already know that the first Sunday after the Feast of Pentecost is Trinity Sunday. What you may not know, unless you come from my particular Western Christian tradition, is that it is the unofficial practice of parish priests to invite their seminarians to preach on this feast day. This is a recipe for theological and homiletical disaster,
None for Me, Thanks: The Challenge of Reaching the Unaffiliated
Let’s talk about the “Nones.” The term refers to those who have no formal religious affiliation, and the group’s rapid growth has been the source of much hand-wringing in Christian America in the last decade. In 2014 the Pew Research Center’s study on religion in America showed that Christianity, which is still the dominant religion in America, was shrinking. Subsequent reports have shown that the decline is happening even faster than was initially indicated. A