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    Camp: Notes on Grace

    What does grace look like? If it made a movie or wore a dress, how would you describe it, aesthetically? It might be twee or kitsch, since the Gospel is such a personal message that, in our self-absorption, we often sentimentalize, then mass-produce. It could be sublime, as the drama of salvation involves the darkest […]

    “Good Friday: No Way Out but Straight Through, Jack” – Vicki Hearne

    “Good Friday: No Way Out but Straight Through, Jack”
    by Vicki Hearne (1946-2001)

    It’s like chance, but chance knocks but
    Won’t open the door, and here’s
    A greater thing than we have
    Ever done (before we learn
    What we are doing). The god
    Will become so resplendent
    With wounds our eyes must dazzle,

    But now our hands hold aloft
    The spears that dance in the light
    From the hillside. Ecstasy,
    Even, should not distract us:
    The flesh must be opened full
    To the light and wait, bleeding
    In welcome. And in welcome

    The elegant wounds will close
    With all of us safe inside.
    But we are not now to know
    With Whom we trifle, not yet
    To ask forgiveness lest we
    Not plunge the gleaming weapons
    Heartily. Grief will give wings

    And song reveal the purple
    Gold, the burnished ground, the flame.


    featured image: Cross with arma Christi, wood cross, Joaquín López Antay, Fowler Museum at UCLA.

    “All Things Are Lawful” for Christian Flesh

    “I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked, I am mad for it to be in contact with me.” (Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Song of Myself 2)   My hygiene is deficient, one friend told me. She said I needed to use lotion (she swears by Jergens), on my […]

    MORE LIFE: Blessings and a Guilty God in Angels in America

    the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force The Great Question before us is: Are we doomed? The Great Question before us is: Will the Past Release us? The Great Question before us is: Can we Change? In Time? And we all desire that Change will come. So begins the […]

    Giving Thanks at Holidays, with Family and Death

    “You brought us out of nothing into being, and when we had fallen away, You raised us up again.” My dad’s family gathered in his parents’ kitchen, all 27 of us, for the Thanksgiving thanksgiving. Before my dad’s dad prayed, as he always does at these meals, my grandma spoke up. Papa would be having […]

    And a Time to Laugh: The Comedy of Christmas in Auden and The Second Shepherds’ Play

    Christmas is ridiculous. That’s probably one reason it took the spot of ancient midwinter festivals like Saturnalia, when everything went topsy-turvy. Consider this excerpt from Auden’s For the Time Being, when Simeon at last sees Jesus: SIMEON Because in Him the Flesh is united to the Word without magical transformation, Imagination is redeemed from promiscuous […]

    Failure in the Gospel (Almost) According to Critical Theory

    Theologians of the cross emerge from unexpected sources. Which is fitting, since the Gospel is for nobody but those who fall short of expectations (AKA all of us). These purveyors and exemplars of low anthropology are psychologists, athletes, journalists, philosophers, and, beyond their job titles, just average people with their own screw-ups. What is less average […]

    Loving the Dreadful Day of Judgment: Fleming Rutledge’s Advent

    The Rev. Fleming Rutledge’s “generous orthodoxy” defies pinning down. She loves both the Day of Judgment and the oppressed in society (and thinks the former will relieve the latter); she believes in Purgatory (without indulgences) and in the nine ranks of angels; and she boldly declares Christ to be Lord and King and coming again […]

    Chewing Tinfoil, Wanting God: Christian Wiman’s He Held Radical Light

    What is it we want when we can’t stop wanting? Christian Wiman’s new essays resist review. Reviews of art are always a strange effort, anyway. An exhibition of paintings or a play or a concert or a novel or a poem, all are experiences, experiences of difference—when our action is displaced but our hearts and […]

    Be Imitators of Me, As I Am of

    You are looking for the thing that has meaning for them, and you are using that to get access to their inner world and draw their attention to interaction rather than solitary self-starvation. These are the words of Phoebe Caldwell, a renowned therapist, describing her work with people with autism. To communicate with nonverbal children […]

    Gravity, Grace, Weight, Love

    In one of her strange and gleaming essays in The Givenness of Things, Marilynne Robinson describes grace this way: ‘Grace’ is a word without synonyms, a concept without paraphrase. It might seem to have distinct meanings, aesthetic and theological, but these are aspects of one thing—an alleviation, whether of guilt, of self-interest, or of limitation. […]

    Death, Critique, Heaven, and Hell

    Last spring, I finished my undergrad, where I drug myself through a severely disoriented and disorienting thesis. Among the many lessons I learned in the process, I discovered something that deeply hindered my academic writing: I hated it. This revelation surprised me because I entered that research project believing I liked it and did it […]