The first time I read Richard Bach’s beloved novella, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, I was charmed. This slim volume tells the tale of a young seagull, Jonathan, and his quest to master both the art of flying and the depths of self. On the surface, there’s much to enjoy. The story has a forthright, fable-like quality. The themes of youthful idealism, self-discovery, and growing wise are compelling and relatable. Even the grainy, black-and-white photos of seagulls
The world is not well. Though in a fallen world this is always true, the brokenness around us now feels particularly visceral. I need not provide a list of the ailments, catastrophes, disasters, etc. You likely know them as well as I, and each person experiences this brokenness differently in their own situation. So, rather than enumerate the maladies besetting us, I wish to focus on a simple, profound, foundational truth: God loves you. It
Why squint, O eyes, which love the night, At grey bodies blurred that creep? What hope have you to see the form Of light itself? Veni, Spiritus, da tuis fidelibus sacrum septenarium. Dispel this seven-fold dark. Love for pleasure inordinate Downward tends me on broken wings. ’Til pierced my flesh with your fear be, I Wallow low. Sancte Spiritus, doce principium sapientiae nobis. Hands kept from evil grasp good. With sinner’s crowd I
O. Fernandez, New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer / Public domain In part one of this article, Divine Dissatisfaction: Loving Rage and the Imagination of a Better World, I argued that an important aspect of Martin Luther King Jr.’s theology—what he calls divine dissatisfaction—can be better understood if connected with the concept of rage. Rage, in this context, I define as a refusal to operate within the status quo bounds of rationality, a
James Cone states at the beginning of his paradigm-altering first book, Black Theology and Black Power, that he writes with “the attitude of an angry Black man” but also with “a certain dark joy.”1 Why does he simultaneously name these experiences, anger and joy, that are seemingly in conflict with one another? And what is it that makes his joy dark? I argue that Cone names his joy as dark, not because it is evil
For the Christians of Britain, the fifth century was a dark time. Their homeland was attacked and partially taken over by Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, non-Christian Germanic people from Continental Europe, and these aggressors behaved ruthlessly toward the Christian inhabitants of the land. They killed innocent people mercilessly, even slaughtering Christian priests at the altar, and enslaved many who, unable to survive in hiding, surrendered themselves. Some believers must have been concerned about the future
Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth! a man of strife and contention to all the land! Because I bore your name, O LORD, God of hosts. I did not sit celebrating in the circle of merrymakers; Under the weight of your hand I sat alone because you filled me with indignation. Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook,
“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 NRSV). Paul’s second missionary journey began as an excursion to revisit churches planted throughout Asia Minor on his first missionary journey (Acts 15:36). Along the way, the Spirit of God gave Paul
“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. . . Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:13, 21, NIV). I was looking for a good devotional last year over Christmas and found a hidden gem in a used bookstore. It’s called You Are The Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living, a compilation of Henri Nouwen’s writings by Gabrielle Earnshaw (Convergent Books, 2017). Nouwen has some timely words
Abraham, my eldest, my firstborn, the one who taught me that I have enough goodness in me to help produce life. I love you. I want you to know that—and I want to live my life in a way that you have no question that this is true—that I will do everything in my feeble, human frailty to show that I love you and that there is nothing you can do that would make my
Or, Reflections on the Gospel of John in Response to Leonard Cohen I hunger. Bread fills me. I hunger again. I thirst. Wine makes the heart glad. My thirst is not quenched. I question. I have seen all done under the sun. Truth eludes me. I love As the wonder of a man with a virgin. Yet the unity is cracked. I live, Tasting, hearing, smelling, seeing, feeling all these mundane joys, Yet I die.
For the last five years, I have taught an introduction to humanities course at a local community college. Each semester I begin and end the semester with the same question, “What makes us human?” I ask students to think about a pet dog or higher primate like the gorilla. Certainly, we have some characteristics in common with other members of the animal kingdom. Yet, in spite of these similarities, our human intuition imagines that there
For many Christians, especially, I think, within Protestantism, Church history is a foggy and mysterious realm somewhere beyond the borders of normal thought, beyond the more familiar lands of biblical interpretation and spiritual discipline. Occasionally, one of its more conspicuous citizens (St. Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, and a few others) makes an appearance in familiar territory, but in general the land and its inhabitants seem far away and shrouded in darkness. Many evidently prefer
Jordan Peele’s latest movie, Us, is an intense horror film that confronts issues of duality, identity, sameness, otherness, sin, and judgment, just to name a few. Part of what makes Us so rich is not just its carefully crafted storytelling, but its strategy of navigating weighty topics from different approaches: philosophical, social, psychological, and theological. This makes Us an excellent resource for theological reflection, with theological claims that are as bold as they are relevant.
Let me begin with a warning for the reader: My purpose in this post is to praise the depth of divine condescension in a way that eschews politeness. And in so doing, I’m going to talk about poop. You have been warned. My four-year-old is now daytime potty trained. This is a huge accomplishment for him and a great relief to his father and mother. Increasingly, he doesn’t even need help finishing up in the
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend a week in Taizé, an international, Christian ecumenical community in central France that is known for its meditative prayers and chants. It was a powerful experience, to say the least. Before visiting, I knew that Taizé was an international destination for pilgrimage, but it wasn’t until actually visiting that I understood why. Taizé was founded by Brother Roger, who came upon the village of Taizé
I first caught a glimpse of him through the doorbell camera at church. He looked cold and a little scraggly, and when I went to open the door, he was shorter than I expected. But there he was: the Son of God in human flesh. We talked for a while, as anyone might when they have the chance to speak with someone so important and famous. We talked about theology, about the church, about the
“The word ‘God’ defines a personal relation, not an objective concept. Like the name of the beloved in every love, it does not imply separation and distance. Hearing the beloved’s name is an immediate awareness, a dimensionless proximity of presence. It is our life wholly transformed into relation.” —Christos Yannaras, Variations of the Song of Songs THE EROTIC GIFT OF SELF-DENIAL Love transforms existence into relation. Without love, the created order exists in a
Just two weeks ago, the US was the site of horrific terror. Two people were murdered in what appears to be a racially motivated shooting in Kentucky; members of a synagogue in Pittsburgh were the victims of what may be the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history; pipe bombs were mailed to prominent critics of Donald Trump. These acts of violence are not blips on the radar and they did not happen in a vacuum.
On Nakedness and Shame Human beings show an almost universal desire to conceal certain parts of their body from the gaze of others, especially persons of the opposite sex. We react instantaneously and spontaneously to try and hide our nakedness. But why do we respond in such a way, and why do we feel shame if we are exposed to the gaze of others? Jean-Paul Sartre and Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II)