Our Political Idols Won’t Save Us

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The first time I observed American Christians creating idols of their ideologies was during the presidency of George W. Bush; I saw people put enormous faith in a president and his policies because”through their post-9/11 prisms”they came to regard his election as God-ordained. Especially within the online political forums I frequented from 2001-2003, Bush seemed nothing less than an agent of the Lord meant to avenge America’s dead, and in so doing either bring peace to the nations or usher in the messianic age… . Continue Reading »

Evangelization is Meant to Persuade, not Provoke

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There is a video going around the internet”it seems to arrive in my email box every other day from another Catholic offering it as evidence of Americans’ antipathy toward the church. In the video, which was taken in early August, some gay-rights activists protesting outside a Chicago Chick-fil-A are joined in their circular march by Father Gerald O’Reilly, who proceeds to pray the rosary out loud, contra their shouting, until the activists begin to crowd around him, shouting, “We don’t want your bigoted prayers!” “Get him out of here!” and the always tiresome “Shame! Shame! Shame!” … Continue Reading »

Jesus's Challenge: Stand and Deliver

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Both of my sons are wordsmiths and the elder one has a particular facility for delivering groan-inducing puns with such lightning speed that even as you roll your eyes, you can’t help but be a little impressed—or terrified—by how dexterously his brain can associate many things with many other things… . Continue Reading »

May Anger Begin to Abate with Gratitude?

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My mother”let’s call her Alice”was born during the Depression to a couple who could neither hear nor speak, and were rather famous around Coney Island for their ability to initiate spontaneous parties and sustain them for whole weekends. They were the polar opposite of today’s “helicopter parents.” For them, parenting was not half as interesting as playing the ponies, their factory-shift work, or partying with their fellows … Continue Reading »

The Sons of Caesar, Still Pulling Peter Down

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In the first chapter of Father Robert Barron’s remarkable book Catholicism, he discusses the utterly revolutionary fact and idea of Jesus Christ, son of Mary, son of God, as communicated in the “fighting words” that open Saint Mark’s Gospel, and through the subversive teachings of Saints Paul and Peter: “Fighting” because the gospel states baldly that human authority is illusory in the face of creator and sustainer of life; subversive because their teachings took notions of freedom, defeat and victory and turned them on their heads… . Continue Reading »

Bong! Boring; Say Something New

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When I am feeling all out-of-sorts—not just distracted, but traipsing toward disorientation—I regain a sense of order by pulling from the bookshelf a favorite book that has lain dormant for perhaps a decade, lifted only for dusting or for consideration when I am putting together a donation to our local library. Sometimes, one cracks open the dusty pages and discovers that the book’s attractions have not held … Continue Reading »

Sigrid Undset’s Essays for our Time

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Nearly a century has passed since Sigrid Undset wrote the biographical essays about holy men and women, and the letters, which eventually would be collected and published under the heading, Stages on the Road. It is a title evocative of the life of faith, wholly explored and lived-out”unpacked depot by depot, as it were”from the spiritual nursery, to precarious venturing forth, to stepping back in wonder or doubt, to the nearly inevitable and deepening darkness that, for all its pain, accesses an interior cave of Oneness, solitary yet completed in the companionship of the Christ… . Continue Reading »

The First Rule of Being Cool

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Have you heard the news? Barack Obama is cool! He’s not just cool, he’s way cool; the coolest thing ever! Never having been “cool” myself (or desperate enough to seek its conferral upon me by people I always found to be rather sad trend-followers) I can only judge by past observation, but it seems to me that the first rule of being cool has always been that if you really are cool, then no one ever has to say it about you, because your “coolness” is as self-evident as the truth that all men are created equal… . Continue Reading »

Orthodoxy and Silence in the Public Square

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Chesterton famously wrote, “There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.” With the furor arising from some corners upon the release of his new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Ross Douthat might be inclined to add to the big man’s dictum, “or anything so willfully misunderstood and resisted.” Douthat’s book is a neatly laid-out dissertation on the people of faith and their place in American society… . Continue Reading »