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    My Night of Innocent Sexuality at Maud’s

    Spoilers below (for a film a half-century old) Desire, satisfaction, and justice are uneasy acquaintances. They are asymptotes, or Italian dressing. With space, time, and energy enough, they may emulsify, fraternize, or verge, but they will never fuse. Why? And what to do about it? My Night at Maud’s dramatizes this problem. The film’s fulcrum […]

    On Being the Occasion of Joy in Rowan Williams’ “The Body’s Grace”

    This is about “the doomed task of getting it right.” And by “it,” I mean sexuality. And by “I,” I mean Rowan Williams. Doomed, he says, because “[n]othing will stop sex being tragic and comic. It is above all the area of our lives where we can be rejected in our bodily entirety … And […]

    When Atheists Have More Faith Than You Do

    Harold Braswell grew up a nice atheist Jew. Then, he researched hospices, and he started to ponder Jesus. The hospice he studied was Our Lady of Help in Atlanta, a free Roman Catholic facility for those who are dying but can’t care for themselves at home. The Dominican nuns there offer extraordinary service, and the […]

    Just Getting By, but Decadently: Christian Wiman’s Survival Is a Style

    “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.” – Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest Camp is not the obvious center in Christian Wiman’s new book of poems. But given his title’s invocation of affectation — Survival Is a Style — and given that camp is the supreme aesthetic (obviously), it […]

    Against Identity, or By the Grace of God I Am What I Am

    “You are my eternal Father, but I am scattered in times whose order I do not understand. The storms of incoherent events tear to pieces my thoughts, the inmost entrails of my soul, until that day when, purified and molten by the fire of your love, I flow together to merge into you.” – Augustine, […]

    The Moral Dilemma of Jesus is King

    My friends and I approached the concession counter. (One of us wanted Milk Duds.) An employee, a black woman, glanced over and inquired which movie we three white men were seeing. I replied, “Kanye’s,” with a hopefully self-aware smirk. She rolled her eyes and shook her head wryly. A lot of people have some thoughts […]

    The Lord’s Prayer as Portrait of Jesus

    I rarely said the Lord’s Prayer growing up. My ministers, suspicious of any swish of ritual, took it as a template and taught me to ad lib to Our Father. I’ve learned to value that emphasis on spontaneous communication and individual requests. Although I now recite Jesus’ formula more often, I decided to do so […]

    David Bentley Hart, on Grace Beyond Supply and Demand

    An excerpt from David Bentley Hart’s provocative new book, That All Shall Be Saved. As this chapter’s title suggested, he’s “Doubting the Answers,” and he’s giving us something to think about:

    … for Christian thought in general, the question of one’s just deserts before God is irrelevant—as it was, for instance, for the woman taken in adultery. If what the New Testament says about God is true, then it is God’s will not to repay us according to our merits, but simply to claim for himself those of his creatures who had been lost in slavery to death. I remain convinced that no one, logically speaking, could merit eternal punishment; but I also accept the obverse claim that no one could merit grace. This does not mean, however, that grace must be rare in order to be truly gracious, as so many in the infernalist party so casually assume it must. Grace universally given is still grace. A gift made to everyone is no less a gift, and a gift this is intrinsically precious need not be rare to be an act of the highest generosity. Conversely, that gift becomes no more precious—indeed, it becomes much less so—if it is certified in its value by being distributed only parsimoniously. Our very existence is an unmerited gift, after all (unless, of course, there really is an eternal hell, in which case it is also, and perhaps preponderantly, an unmerited brutality). More to the point, if Paul is right, then—whereas natural justice is wholly concerned with matters of law and proportional consequences—the supernatural justice revealed in Christ consists in God’s victory over all the powers that separate his creation from him, and to that degree is as “unjust” as any other act of wholly unmerited mercy is. (52)

    Sarah Coakley, Against “Sweaty Pelagianism”

    Why are we talking so much about bodies? Not just Christians, but everyone. Whether it’s our devotion to workouts and dieting, our “gender trouble” and overwrought attempts at sexual ethics, our reproductive anxieties, our reckoning with racial histories, our climate emergency, or some other perplexity, the fleshiness of our lives stands front and center in […]

    The “Insane Refusal to Accept Help” – Kierkegaard and the Demoniac

    What episode from the Gospels fascinates you? For John Kaag, it’s the Gerasene Demoniac. Even now, after leaving his churchy childhood and growing up into an agnostic professor of philosophy, that story still holds his focus. Apparently it’s grabbed Mockingbird’s attention, too, since the story has appeared a couple of times here on the site. […]

    Dickinson on Labor Day

    I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl—
    Life’s little duties do—precisely—
    As the very least
    Were infinite—to me—

    I put new Blossoms in the Glass—
    And throw the old—away—
    I push a petal from my gown
    That anchored there—I weigh
    The time ’twill be till six o’clock
    I have so much to do—
    And yet—Existence—some way back—
    Stopped—struck—my ticking—through—
    We cannot put Ourself away
    As a completed Man
    Or Woman—When the Errand’s done
    We came to Flesh—upon—
    There may be—Miles on Miles of Nought—
    Of Action—sicker far—
    To simulate—is stinging work—
    To cover what we are
    From Science—and from Surgery—
    Too Telescopic Eyes
    To bear on us unshaded—
    For their—sake—not for Ours—
    Twould start them—
    We—could tremble—
    But since we got a Bomb—
    And held it in our Bosom—
    Nay—Hold it—it is calm—

    Therefore—we do life’s labor—
    Though life’s Reward—be done—
    With scrupulous exactness—
    To hold our Senses—on—

    (#522, Franklin Variorum 1998)

    Merton, Depression, and Therapy

    I’m an individualist who protects himself with information. That’s what the Enneagram tells me, or what my friends who’ve studied it tell me it tells me. I used to resent personality tests—you can’t put me in a box!—but then the personality test explained why I resented them in the first place—because I want to be […]

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