Silence and Solidarity

From Web Exclusives

Many colleges and universities open the new academic year with a special assembly or convocation that is generally an upbeat occasion of welcome and new beginnings. The Catholic University of America held such an event several days ago, and it included, appropriately enough, a beautiful mass led by Washington’s Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl. The music was sublime and the liturgy well ordered. Dr. John Garvey, the president of CUA, was presented with an award by the Archdiocese of Washington. It was an altogether appropriate and uplifting event. But just before the dismissal, the tone was changed as Cardinal Wuerl, speaking without notes, delivered this admonition with a sense of urgency: Continue Reading »

Between Sweetness and Nausea

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A few years ago I learned a new word. I wonder if you know it—ecotone? An ecotone is where two ecospheres come together—where they meet and merge into one another. The Mississippi River flowing into the Gulf of Mexico—that is an ecotone. Or imagine flying over the plains out West, and then you look up and there are the Rocky Mountains. Where the plains meet the mountains, where the current meets the tide—that is an ecotone. An ecotone is always a place that is fragile, unstable, shifting, fluid, risky, filled with danger and yet, at the same time Continue Reading »

Let Religious Freedom Ring

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When Chuck Colson, Robert George, and I drafted the Manhattan Declaration back in 2009, some people questioned why we had chosen to include religious freedom, along with the sanctity of life and the integrity of marriage, as one of the three most pressing moral issues of our time. Life is sacred, and matrimony is holy, they said, but isn’t religious freedom just another “political” tenet? What does it have to do with the Christian faith? Continue Reading »

Jesus Came Preaching

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At the heart of the Christian faith is a Savior who was a preacher. “And Jesus came preaching” (Mark 1:14). This stands in contrast to the gods of Olympus or the deities of the Roman pantheon whose interaction with mortals, when it happened at all, was transient, ephemeral, detached, like a circle touching a tangent. Zeus thundered, but he did not preach. Nor did the dying and rising savior gods of the mystery religions. There were ablutions and incantations and the babbling utterances of the Sibylline Oracles but nothing that could rightly be called a sermon. Continue Reading »

Troubled Waters

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The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in America and has been since around 1960 when it bypassed Methodism in this category. Riding the wave of the post-World War II evangelical boom, Southern Baptists long ago moved beyond their old confines south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Southern Baptist churches are now located in all of the fifty states. Led today by the Reverend Fred Luter, their first African-American president, Southern Baptists have become one of the most ethnically diverse and multilingual denominations in the country. Continue Reading »

The Devil on the Charles

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Memorial Hall is the ugliest building on the campus of Harvard University, in my view. Built in the 1870s, this Victorian monstrosity is situated between the stately columns of Harvard Yard on the one hand and the Science Center with its modern design on the other. Students frequently gather in the Cambridge Queen’s Head Pub in the basement of Memorial Hall. It was here, on Monday evening, May 12, that the Harvard Extension School’s Cultural Studies Club had planned to reenact a “black mass.” A black mass is a grotesque, sacrilegious ceremony in which the most sacred rite of the Catholic Church is deliberately mocked. Satan and his pomp are invoked, often in Latin, and a consecrated Eucharistic host is desecrated, often in vulgar, revolting ways. That Harvard would host such a bigoted event was a surprise to many. Continue Reading »

Reading Acts with the Reformers

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In 1622, just two years after the Pilgrims had set sail for Plymouth, John Donne preached a sermon on Acts 1:8 to the members of the Virginia Company, another group of New World adventurers. He applied the text of his sermon—“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”—directly to his audience: Continue Reading »

John Donne in Lent

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John Donne, it is clear, is not everyone’s cup of tea. In a notable essay in 1990, Stanley Fish wrote this: “Donne is sick and his poetry is sick. . . . Donne is bulimic, someone who gorges himself to a point beyond satiety, and then sticks his finger down his throat and throws . . . . Continue Reading »

Not Just for Catholics

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I am not a Roman Catholic, but I love the churches of Rome. Where else on earth is there such a concentration of hallowed houses of worship, sermons in stone and light, in art and architecture, that reveal so completely the antiquity and historical density of the Christian faith? That is why I was . . . . Continue Reading »