Happy New Liturgical Year!

Happy New Year. Yes, I’m pushing it, but not as much as you think. I’m not talking about those woozie performances of “Auld Lang Syne” and the Rose Bowl, but instead the first Sunday of Advent that started off this week.Once a year I have the pleasure of introducing our students . . . . Continue Reading »

Desert Like a Rose

Time was when Christian missions occurred “over there.” Every now and then, the missionary would show up at church dressed like a time traveler, to show slides of exotic places and to enchant the stay-at-homes with tales about the strange diet and customs of the natives. Foreign missions . . . . Continue Reading »

The Challenge Facing Conservatism

In the immediate aftermath of Obama’s election, I had to talk a friend or two off the ledge. They were apocalyptic, foaming at the mouth and muttering about socialism and the Pelosi-ization of America. At one point I had to resort to insult in order to restore sanity: “You sound like a . . . . Continue Reading »

So, I spent Columbus Day…

So, I spent Columbus Day weekend writing ballads. Or, at least, browsing around in books of ballads, singing and strumming away at them badly, and trying to think my way through their strange plot inversions and narrative compressions. In the best ballads, I feel some deep root of English being . . . . Continue Reading »

The End of Advent

Christmas has devoured Advent, gobbled it up with the turkey giblets and the goblets of seasonal ale. Every secularized holiday, of course, tends to lose the context it had in the liturgical year. Across the nation, even in many churches, Easter has hopped across Lent, Halloween has frightened away . . . . Continue Reading »

Dakota Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was always tense while I was growing up, and I don’t know why. Christmas, now¯Christmas was mostly fun and presents and carols and laughter, as I remember. But Thanksgiving was arguments and huffs and recriminations and doors slamming and one indistinguishable great-uncle or . . . . Continue Reading »

Small Towns

Small towns have been in the news lately. The past election featured them often. Barack Obama commented on the bitterness of those who cling to guns and religion. Sarah Palin and the McCain campaign celebrated small town virtues to contrast with “big city elitism” of the Democrats.For someone . . . . Continue Reading »

Inventing Scotland

After losing his Glasgow-Govan parliamentary seat in the 1992 General Election, Scottish National Party politician Jim Sillars condemned Scotland as a country of “Ninety-Minute Patriots,” willing to support Scotland during a football match but unwilling to take the necessary steps to . . . . Continue Reading »

We Need Roots

G.K. Chesterton was a sucker for romantic gestures. Lines of soldiers with swords crossed, flags rippling in the wind, cathedral bells tolling: These sorts of scenes moved him, as did visions of lovers pledging themselves to each other in the dusky darkness of a summer evening, monks prostrate on . . . . Continue Reading »