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In the Midst of Life We Are in October

In the Midst of Life We Are in October

What images come to mind when you think of Halloween? Ghosts? Skeletons? Gravestones? Some Christians cry foul at such “morbid” imagery, but it seems to me this stems from a safely modern, bourgeois outlook. Our older brothers and sisters in medieval Europe most assuredly wouldn’t know what to make of...
You Can't Be Serious

You Can’t Be Serious

I am forever struggling to be taken seriously. Perhaps it comes from being the youngest child or perhaps it is connected to my ordination at an early age. Whatever the cause, I am desperate to be seen as a serious person doing serious things.  This desire carries over into my...
Help Kids Hear the Story: With StoryMakers

Help Kids Hear the Story: With StoryMakers

Like a lot of children raised in a denomination, I remember my Sunday school classes teaching me about my denomination. There were the seasonal colors, things about the liturgical calendar, and something to do with sheep. To be honest, I was never sure if the goal was to make me...
When Tara Isabella Burton Ran Out of Magic

When Tara Isabella Burton Ran Out of Magic

A remarkable essay by Tara Isabella Burton appeared last week on Catapult entitled “I Spent Years Searching for Magic—I Found God Instead” in which the esteemed religion journalist (and novelist) charts how her lifelong fascination with magic led her to Christianity. She covers a lot of ground, and the sum...
Mining Netflix: "Father Brown"

Mining Netflix: “Father Brown”

What do you get when you cross Sherlock Holmes with Pope Francis and Arthur Weasley? You get a slightly bumpling but brilliant Catholic priest who moonlights as a murder detective. “Father Brown” is the literary creation of G.K. Chesterton, and the BBC show based on him is now airing on...
Text Message for the Otherworld

Text Message for the Otherworld

When I was in school, Facebook was young. One evening, I saw a dead classmate’s profile, his picture featured on the sidebar, a recommended friend. I spent the next hours perusing the status updates he had posted when he did not realize his days were numbered. For anyone wondering, now...
Preaching Politically in Turbulent Times

Preaching Politically in Turbulent Times

Was Rudolf Bultmann a Nazi sympathizer? Short answer—no. And yet…the accusation is commonplace within some sectors of scholarship. In his recent Gifford lectures, the New Testament scholar N.T. Wright said as much, accusing Bultmann of Lutheran “quietism” in the face of the Third Reich because he was a “friend and philosophical...
Not a Product of Narrative or Moral Cause-and-Effect

Not a Product of Narrative or Moral Cause-and-Effect

This is too fabulous to bury in a weekender, the conversation between poet Kaveh Akbar and essayist (and 2019 Mbird Conference speaker!) Leslie Jamison, published last week on The Paris Review. The occasion for the interchange is the release of Jamison’s new collection Make It Scream, Make It Burn, which...
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Mining Netflix: “Father Brown”

What do you get when you cross Sherlock Holmes with Pope Francis and Arthur Weasley? You get a slightly bumpling but brilliant Catholic priest who moonlights as a murder detective. “Father Brown” is the literary creation of G.K. Chesterton, and the BBC show based on him is now airing on Netflix in its entirety. I […]

A Full Grown Man & His Sad Jelly Belly

A confession from Matt Magill: I have a complicated relationship with sugar. It’s really the candy that does me in. The guilty verdict on my perpetual adolescence needs no further evidence than my wicked sweet tooth and embarrassing proclivity to indulge it. No matter how often I throw out “Not today Satan!”, I trend towards […]

In the Midst of Life We Are in October

What images come to mind when you think of Halloween? Ghosts? Skeletons? Gravestones? Some Christians cry foul at such “morbid” imagery, but it seems to me this stems from a safely modern, bourgeois outlook. Our older brothers and sisters in medieval Europe most assuredly wouldn’t know what to make of the bland, sterilized Christianity regnant […]

“Ad Astra” and Dad

Usually I disdain movies. But aesthetics can seduce, and I am a sucker for dystopia, and, well, last night I was beat. So we went to see “Ad Astra.” I had heard of the sublime art direction and the contrast between the full-on space travel and the intimate subplot of the father/son relationship. You may […]

Shouting Louder (Mark 10:46-52)

This morning’s devotion is taken from Larry Parsley’s book An Easy Stroll Through a Short Gospel: Meditations on Mark. …they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he […]

Another Week Ends: El Camino, Total Work, Acedia, More Judge Tammy, Nir Eyal, History’s Long Defeat, and the Only Character Jesus Ever Named

1. These two thuderbolts struck at the same time. First, from Judith Shulevitz, the author of The Sabbath World and writer at the Atlantic, comes “Why Don’t I See You Anymore?” a treatise on the ever-expanding workweek, and its stupefying impact on our family and social ties. Shulevitz, who you might guess from the book […]

Stormzy Takes Glastonbury to Church

Stormzy is a star in the UK and has the following to prove it. He’s the first black solo artist headlining at Glastonbury, but who’d have thought that a pop concert with tens of thousands of people–and no Kanye–would become a worship service? The lyrics are spectacular and the whole scene is profoundly moving.

ht JMGB

When Tara Isabella Burton Ran Out of Magic

A remarkable essay by Tara Isabella Burton appeared last week on Catapult entitled “I Spent Years Searching for Magic—I Found God Instead” in which the esteemed religion journalist (and novelist) charts how her lifelong fascination with magic led her to Christianity. She covers a lot of ground, and the sum is a conversion narrative par […]

Binge/Cringe

This one comes to us from Nathan Hoff. Why do I keep eating ice cream? Why do I keep looking at porn? Why do I keep drinking booze? Why do I work like there’s no tomorrow? Why do I binge-watch Netflix? Why do I keep on ketoing? Why do I keep looking for news? Why […]

Preaching Good News When Clinically Sad

I talk about death and grief a lot. It is a running joke in my house that I am always thinking about death and I am always willing to talk to someone about grief. This shouldn’t surprise anyone given my life (and death) experiences. The work of a priest requires that you be in the […]

The Utter Strangeness of Christ’s Divinity

Making my way through Tom Holland’s new book Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind (or as it will be known in the US when it comes out later this month, Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World), and it is chock-full of tasty anecdotes and asides, all written in prose far more sparkling than one expects to find in work of history, popular or no. We’ll no doubt be posting from it quite a bit in the coming months. Here’s a portion of the preface:

The utter strangeness of [Jesus’ resurrection and ascension], for the vast majority of people in the Roman world, did not lie in the notion that a mortal might become divine. The border between the heavenly and the earthly was widely held to be permeable. In Egypt, the oldest of monarchies, kings had been objects of worship for unfathomable aeons. In Greece, stories were told of a ‘hero god’ by the name of Heracles, a muscle-bound monster-slayer who, after a lifetime of spectacular feats, had been swept up from the flames of his own pyre to join the immortals. Among the Romans, a similar tale was told of Romulus, the founder of their city.

In the decades before the crucifixion of Jesus, the pace of such promotions into the ranks of the gods had begun to quicken. So vast had the scope of Roman power become that any man who succeeded in making himself its master was liable to seem less human than divine. The ascent into heaven of one of those, a warlord by the name of Julius Caesar, had been heralded by the blaze across the skies of a fiery-tailed star; that of a second, Caesar’s adopted son, who had won for himself the name of Augustus, by a spirit seen rising—just as Heracles had done—from a funeral pyre. Even sceptics who scorned the possibility that a fellow mortal might truly become a god were happy to concede its civic value. ‘For the human spirit that believes itself to be of divine origin will thereby be emboldened in the undertaking of mighty deeds, more energetic in accomplishing them, and by its freedom from care rendered more successful in carrying them out.’

Divinity, then, was for the very greatest of the great: for victors, and heroes, and kings. Its measure was the power to torture one’s enemies, not to suffer it oneself: to nail them to the rocks of a mountain, or to turn them into spiders, or to blind and crucify them after conquering the world. That a man who had himself been crucified might be hailed as a god could not help but be seen by people everywhere across the Roman world as scandalous, obscene, grotesque. The ultimate offensiveness, though, was to one particular people: Jesus’ own. The Jews, unlike their rulers, did not believe that a man might become a god; they believed that there was only the one almighty, eternal deity. Creator of the heavens and the earth, he was worshiped by them as the Most High God, the Lord of Hosts, the Master of all the Earth. Empires were his to order; mountains to melt like wax. That such a god, of all gods, might have had a son, and that this son, suffering the fate of a slave, might have been tortured to death on a cross, were claims as stupefying as they were, to most Jews, repellent. No more shocking a reversal of their most devoutly held assumptions could possibly have been imagined. Not merely blasphemy, it was madness.

Those looking for a bit more to whet their appetite should check out the interview Holland gave to The Church Times in the UK.

No Body Wins

Very thankful for this candid piece from an anonymous writer. I am a survivor of sexual violence. I now work closely with other survivors. I didn’t seek out a job where I would do this type of work, but I wouldn’t exactly call it an accident that I’m doing this type of work, either. It […]