14 Apr 2015

Bigotry, Ignorance, and a Small Point on the Matter of Everything

“It is foolish, generally speaking, for a philosopher to set fire to another philosopher in Smithfield Market because they do not agree in their theory of the universe. That was done very frequently in the last decadence of the Middle Ages, and it failed altogether in its object. But there is one thing that is infinitely more absurd and [impractical] than burning a man for his philosophy. This is the habit of saying that his

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31 Mar 2015

Chocolate Cake and the Death of Meaning

Recently my wife and I spent a weekend in Portland. Yes, that Portland: the Pacific Northwest hipster haven popularized by the sketch comedy show of Portlandia. The city where tattoos and body piercings are so ubiquitous one feels like a rebellious teenage outcast by not making permanent etches or punctures in their skin. I would have truly felt less out of place if I had worn my hair in an electric pink samurai topknot. Still, it’s

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17 Mar 2015

“Call me, Maebe,” or, The Gospel for a Dying Dog

Exhaustion is the best word for it, I think. For several days, I’d been up day and night, sleeping no more than a couple hours at a time, watching over the stray seven-week-old puppy my wife found wandering the Indian Health clinic’s parking lot. The pup was what we call a “rez dog,” one of the innumerable feral mutts that rove the town of Warm Springs, the center of the reservation of the same name.

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17 Feb 2015

The Skeletons in God’s Closet | Book Review

If you’re an even somewhat aware follower of Jesus in today’s post-Christian culture, then you’ve all but certainly encountered bizarre caricatures of God and Christianity hurled like spears at the faith by critics and detractors. Well-known English actor Stephen Fry recently went on a tirade against God in a now-viral television interview. Ricky Gervais’ 2009 comedy The Invention of Lying interprets religious belief as an emotional panacea, an outlandish lie we tell each other and

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03 Feb 2015

The Future of Christianity in America, Part III

In case you missed them, here are the first and second parts of this series. In this third and final installment, I explore what we Christians in America are to make of our current situation. What is this situation? It’s a comfortable one, I think. As we saw in the first article, most of America considers itself Christian, even if the majority might not understand, or even care, exactly what that entails. In any case,

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20 Jan 2015

The Future of Christianity in America, Part II

In the first part of this series, I briefly examined the demographic reality of Christianity in America. I concluded that the majority of America is at least nominally Christian, though perhaps only a minority have a committed relationship to the divine Jesus Christ. In any case, both Christianity and Judaism are viewed warmly by the majority of the country, while atheism and Islam do not share such favor. I called America a “Christian-friendly nation,” and

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06 Jan 2015

The Future of Christianity in America, Part I

In previous articles for Conciliar Post—and in related discussions—I’ve cautioned that Christians should avoid both the language and perception of persecution, as well as refrain from interpreting shifts in culture and politics as an attack on the faith. I’ve written much on what we shouldn’t believe, but the question remains: “What should we believe?” I freely admit that much of my writing to this point could be summarized as: complaining about complainers—and that an acknowledgement

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23 Dec 2014

On Torture

This is not the piece I wanted to produce the same week I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Yet, as Martin Luther King Jr. said in his 1967 speech at Riverside Church, I must address the recent U.S. Senate report on state-directed torture “because my conscience leaves me no other choice.”1 The barbaric and dehumanizing treatment of suspects in U.S. custody is one of the great moral issues of our generation, yet despite the

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09 Dec 2014

King Herod and the Original War on Christmas

It is once again that wonderful time of year when the snow comes down, the decorations and trees go up, and the lyrical sound of media pundits debating America’s “war on Christmas” fills the airwaves. Much like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas”, the outrage and counter-outrage is inescapable

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25 Nov 2014

Through the Internet, Darkly

For my birthday, a group of Conciliar Post writers banded together for a brilliant round table discussion on the imago dei. Okay, it was coincidentally on my birthday, not in celebration of it. The round table is a fantastic piece that I commend to your reading. In an unusual twist for the internet, the comments section is also full of edifying dialogue. You should go read all of it and come back. I’m not here

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11 Nov 2014

Empiricism, You’ve Got Some ‘Splaining to Do

I recently took part in a Facebook conversation about morality in which one of the participants said they preferred to avoid overtly religious rhetoric and Christian presuppositions in debates with non-believers. Full disclosure: I was a hard-headed atheist in my youth, and to this day I greatly appreciate it when a Christian refrains from using a debate as an excuse for proselytizing. Simply telling a skeptic that he can’t be a good person unless he

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28 Oct 2014

Timelessness Resounding into Time

Become an empty singing bowl, whose chime Is richness rising out of emptiness, and timelessness resounding into time1 Thus Malcolm Guite, chaplain at Girton College at the University of Cambridge, opens his recent poetry collection, The Singing Bowl. In lieu of the traditional invoking of a Greek muse, as poets from Homer to John Milton have done, Guite opens with a prayer for inner silence so that another Spirit, that mysterious third Person of the

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14 Oct 2014

“For to Such Belongs the Kingdom of Heaven”

“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.” (Matthew 19: 13-15)1   About once a quarter, Pastor John, a towering figure with grey hair and rosy cheeks, corners my

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30 Sep 2014

The Divine Art of Funny

As an adult who’s spent the last year of his life writing and revising a Christian novel he helplessly describes as a “rock n roll zombie comedy,” I’ve wasted a considerable number of hours pondering that psychic disturbance we call funny. What is funny? What is it made of? Does it get good mileage on the highway? I’ve come to the conclusion that at the core of the best and the purest of humor and

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16 Sep 2014

Diary of a Part-Time Chaplain Impersonator

On a typical day, I find that the hospital smells a bit like the last moments of my life are being wiped up by a janitor with a clean rag and a gallon of disinfectant. Today, it smells less like finality and industrial cleaner and more like an outhouse. This is because an uncapped and not-quite-empty urine jug is about a foot beneath my nostrils. When I asked the patient if he wanted to pray,

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03 Sep 2014

Round Table: Christian Warfare

Every month Conciliar Post offers a Round Table discussion, bringing together various Christian voices to reflect upon an important question or topic. Today’s Round Table considers the following question: Are Christians ever justified in supporting or advocating warfare, either on their own behalf or by the nation of which they are a part? Represented in this Round Table are some fascinating perspectives, including that of a veteran of the United States Armed Forces and that

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02 Sep 2014

Pharisees in a Strange Land

Religion News Service contributor David Gibson recently penned an opinion piece on the growing concerns of American Christian leaders that our beloved land of freedom and good Christian virtue “ain’t what she used to be.” These leaders apparently caught on that America as a whole is behaving precisely how we told it not to behave in Sunday School, and now some leaders are now equating the religious right’s loss of cultural and political clout with

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19 Aug 2014

Love Thy (Illegal) Neighbor

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Lev 19:33-34)1 Last time, I covered approaching the topic of illegal immigration (specifically the recent surge of unaccompanied minors across the U.S.-Mexico border) with

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05 Aug 2014

On Interior Design and the Border Crisis

I recently decided two things. First, oil-based paint truly scales the great heights of human devilry. Second, if I’m right about that, then the mindset of fear surrounding the surge of foreign unaccompanied minors across the U.S.-Mexican border dances on the very pinnacle. I know that sounds like a non sequitur, but stick with me. My wife and I just bought a house, and it fell to me to repaint the hideous interior. After a

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