22 Sep 2021

The Sabbath Can’t Be Secular

In his new history of Christian politics, The Two Cities, Andrew Willard Jones discerns that modern people, including Christians, erroneously divide the world up into distinct religious and secular realms. The former sits “totally outside of history” and the latter refers to what is “in time,” which is to say, devoid of the timeless, eternal, and supernatural. The religious realm intervenes in the secular only extraordinarily. Absent a miraculous event that defies the status quo,

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13 Aug 2021

Duty and Reciprocity in the Pandemic

I have spent a good amount of my Covid pandemic days imbedded in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century New England election sermons, as well as older American case law regarding the state police power vis-á-vis past public health crises. The two seemingly disconnected inquiries have actually cohered quite well. This exercise has kept me, for the most part, from joining the hot take fray on pandemic-related topics. It has not, however, totally kept me from glancing up

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19 Jul 2021

The Ambivalent Earth

“Re-enchantment of the world” is one of those phrases that tends to frequently show up within certain aesthetically inclined Christian circles. However, unlike other buzzword-y concepts that often make appearances in conversations along these lines (“human flourishing”?), this one is at least somewhat easier to nail down. Charles Taylor, one of the leading exponents of the theme, wrote in 2008: [T]he boundary between agents and forces is fuzzy in the enchanted world; and the boundary

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05 Jul 2021

Saving Stormtroopers

As a child of the 1980s, Star Wars loomed large in my psyche. I built the models. I played with the toys. I named my pet goldfish Luke. But most of all, I watched the original trilogy of films – over and over and over again. By the time The Force Awakens came to theaters, my imaginal world was no longer populated by X-Wings and AT-ATs, but I dutifully purchased my ticket. I wasn’t expecting

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30 Jun 2021

It’s Disposable: Planned Obsolescence and a Culture of Death

  “Oh, I know how to use that mixer, my grandma’s is just like it!” I said to my hostess as she pulled out her mother’s mixer. She looked pleased and then sighed, “Yes, this one is still plugging away, unlike the things they make now. Planned obsolescence, they call it. So your products have a life-span of only a few years.” The term was not new to me, nor the concept—but that didn’t stop

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23 Jun 2021

Of Rob Bell and Dolphins

Former preacher and megachurch pastor, Rob Bell, is impressed by dolphins. In a recent interview with Lewis Howes, Rob waxed philosophical about the natural ability of dolphins to just be dolphins, to bypass the frazzled attention spans and psychological reflexivity which characterize so much of human life as we know it. “Most of the time when I surf,” Rob explained, “there are dolphins. Like this morning. And a dolphin goes by, ‘I’m a dolphin.’ It’s

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21 Jun 2021

How Not to Write About Stephen King’s “Theology”

As a longtime fan of Stephen King’s sprawling stories—which, contrary to popular belief, run the gamut from horror epics to mainstream dramas like The Shawshank Redemption—I’ve often noticed that the specter of the sacred is never far from view in his tales. Whether religion is engaged critically—as in the hypocrisy of a fundamentalist minister—or sympathetically, as in the martyrdom of a prisoner who may be Jesus Christ, its presence looms large in the lives of

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04 Jun 2021

The Handmaid’s Tale and Human Dignity

“Cows don’t get married.” This line comes from the second season of the Handmaid’s Tale, which, to put it mildly, is a very difficult show to watch, for a variety of reasons. [1] It is said in the context of a concentration camp where “unwomen” – women deemed worthless by the tyrannical government, Gilead – are condemned to die a slow death while working to clean up radiation poisoning. Janine, formerly a waitress and sexual

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The Good Place
12 May 2021

The Insufficient Eternity of the Good Place

Welcome! Everything is fine. That’s what the wall in front of you says the moment after you die. Or, at least, that’s what The Good Place suggests that the wall in front of you says immediately after the moment of your death. Appearing on NBC from 2016 to 2020, The Good Place is a fantasy comedy series that traces the journeys of four “Good Place” residents (along with their celestial architect friend and his AI

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21 Apr 2021

Three Cheers for Cultural Christianity

It is presently in vogue amongst evangelical cultural elites to decry “Cultural Christianity,” or alternatively, “Bible Belt Religion.” Ray Ortlund’s tweet from April 12th encapsulates this mood. “I rejoice at the decline of Bible Belt Religion,” he wrote. “It made bad people worse—in the name of Jesus. Now may we actually believe in Him, so that our churches stand out with both the truth of gospel doctrine and the beauty of gospel culture. To that

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08 Mar 2021

Book Review: “Uprooted: Recovering the Legacy of the Places We’ve Left Behind”

I did not grow up on a farm. I was born a son of the Texas suburbs, eventually made my way eastward (with a brief detour to the Northeast) and now work in the very center of Washington, D.C. I am blessed with interesting work, a loving wife, a beautiful home, and all in all live an extraordinarily privileged life. But that wasn’t always the case. Historically speaking, we are relative newcomers to the American

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19 Feb 2021

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

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13 Jan 2021

Just Justice

This article is adapted from a message delivered at Arise Community Church in Fenton, MO.   What comes to mind when you hear the word justice? Probably a lot of things, because justice has been a hot button issue in recent months. You can hardly get on social media, watch the news, read something, or make a TikTok without being confronted by conversations about justice in one form or another. But what is justice? What

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08 Jan 2021

A Year of Revelation

It is (nearly) universally acknowledged that 2020 was, to put it technically, a dumpster fire. A global pandemic, economic turmoil, political chaos, isolation from loved ones, and massive loss of life across the globe combined to make 2020 one of the most difficult years to live through, both literally and metaphorically. In this short reflection I would like to focus, though, on what we can take away from this year. To be clear, this is

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09 Dec 2020

Tell Me the Same Old Story

I once received an e-mail from a former parishioner. Catherine had been a star student in my youth group, and she was now enrolled in a fine Roman Catholic liberal arts college. I was delighted to hear from her, but alas, she wasn’t writing to catch up. She was having a crisis of faith, and she needed to talk. Her letter painted a candid picture of how her faith had run aground. She had taken

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07 Dec 2020

Book Review: “American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time”

New theologies are on the rise in contemporary America. As seemingly far back as 2015, Columbia University professor John McWhorter described the emerging concept of “antiracism” as “a new and increasingly dominant religion. It is what we worship, as sincerely and fervently as many worship God and Jesus and, among most Blue State Americans, more so.” In 2017, journalist Andrew Sullivan wondered openly, “Is Intersectionality a Religion?” And earlier this year, Tara Isabella Burton argued

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26 Nov 2020

Religion is Downstream of Technology, Part II

The Dynamic Age (roughly spanning from the final decade of the eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century) was one of man’s liberation. Liberation from the outdated mores and the old superstitions, from agrarian life, from backwardness, and even from nature itself. Liberation came (or was promised to come) through mastery—mastery of the self and environment (and history). As part I attempted to show, this trend of the Dynamic Age, which radically changed

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20 Nov 2020

Infinite Human Desire: The Afterlife of The Good Place as Affirmation of Christian Hope

Image: The Good Place promotional material, Fair Use. Since I’m usually around a year behind popular culture (if not more), I only recently watched the final season of The Good Place. I’ll go ahead and show my hand immediately—I love the show and equally loved the final season. Often described by Marc Evan Jackson—the actor who plays Shawn on the show and the host of The Good Place The Podcast—as the smartest, while simultaneously dumbest,

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04 Nov 2020

Divisiveness on Conciliar Post

We live in a divisive time. As I write these words, the outcome of America’s presidential election is uncertain (and may remain so for some time). Regardless of the result, it will leave many unsatisfied and will further foment tension. Now is a fitting time to remind ourselves that, at Conciliar Post, our mission is to facilitate meaningful dialogue across Christian traditions. This is becoming more and more difficult. The reality is that our own

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02 Nov 2020

Religion is Downstream of Technology, Part 1

It is often said, and usually attributed to Andrew Breitbart—though he certainly wasn’t the first to say it—that politics is downstream of culture, and that culture is downstream of religion. But a brief look at the dynamic changes of the period spanning from the late 18th century to the early 20th century (sometimes referred to as the “Dynamic Age”) suggests that, in fact, religion (or at least, religious form and expression) is downstream of technology,

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