Category Archives: Worldview and Culture

Life on Earth: Comedy or Tragedy?

We owe the words “comedy” and “tragedy” to the ancient Greeks, whose stage plays in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. gave rise to the terms. A hundred years of films and about 80 years of commercial television have left us thinking that comedies are comic and tragedies are sad. The Greeks were more nuanced.

Tragedy may contain humorous moments and funny characters, but what makes a tragedy tragic is that it ends badly. The hero fails, the aspiration goes unfulfilled, night falls. Continue reading

Posted in Theology, Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Convergence

God is working in our lives and world, but we are liable to miss it because we are expecting something else: something obvious, something “religious,” something extraordinary. But in Samuel we learn that God works through the mundane events of life, its pleasures and its pains. Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Spiritual life, Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Feeling Misunderstood? You’re Not Alone

According to a Pew Research Center survey from 2020, nearly 6 out of 10 Americans feel misunderstood. This figure holds across racial and ethnic lines, with 58 percent of black, 55 percent of Hispanic, and 61 percent of white Americans … Continue reading

Posted in Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

You Can’t Argue with That

We are the most argumentative people in generations. We now have technological pillboxes from which we, unseen, can send a volley of argumentation at our opponents while remaining shielded from their counterarguments. At the same time, there are fewer listening posts than ever before—and most of those we do have are abandoned. We simply never have to hear what our opponents are saying.

Contrast that with the Emperor Antonius, adoptive father to the philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius. He was said not only to tolerate frank opposition, but to be “pleased if somebody could point to a better course of action.” Such openness to reason has always been uncommon. In today’s climate, it is astonishing.
Continue reading

Posted in In the News, Lifestyle, Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Case of the Displaced Yard Signs: How We Gather Evidence Is Important

In our already splintered America, the last thing we needed was something else to divide us, but that is what we got. Solar power has come to our rural neighborhood. Or rather, solar power wants to come to our neighborhood.

Some of us in the neighborhood want solar power and some of us do not. More precisely, some of us want it and some of us want very much not to have it. Signs have appeared up and down our road, most opposing the massive solar farm but others supporting it.

My wife and I take a two-mile walk each morning along our country roads, so we walk by many signs. On a recent walk, I noticed that the signs opposing solar power were all standing where they had been placed, but more than half of the pro-solar signs were lying on the ground. It appeared that there was some mischief at work. Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

A God Veiled in Time and Space but Revealed in Christ

Second Time Around Sunday.

First published in the October 19, 2018 issue of Christianity Today.

But why would God want to hide? Is he just waiting to jump from his hiding place in quantum uncertainty and shout, “Surprise!”? Does he want to astonish us by the revelation that he has been here all along, working in our lives and our world, turning evil to good, and making all things serve his incomprehensible purpose?

Perhaps. God, as the Episcopal priest Robert Farrar Capon once pointed out, loves throwing parties: “Creation is not ultimately about religion, or spirituality, or morality, or reconciliation, or any other solemn subject; it’s about God having a good time and just itching to share it.”

Yet there is more to this than God’s love of a good party
Continue reading

Posted in Theology, Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

What Should Christians Do About President Biden?

“What Should Christians Do About President Biden?” I hear that question, though perhaps in a less respectful form, regularly. It is more like, “What about Biden?” or “Did you hear what Biden’s done now?”

Most of my friends are Christians who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. In conversations about politics I, who did not vote for either of the major candidates, generally find myself on the outside. I sometimes try to reframe, or perhaps enlarge the frame, of such conversations to include God’s plans for the church and the world and Christian responsibility within those plans.
What is that responsibility? What should Christians do about Biden? The biblical answer is that
they should pray for him. St. Paul urged “that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority…” As the Bible scholar Christopher Wright put it, “Paul commands all kinds of prayers for all kinds of rulers.”

How should we pray for rulers like President Biden? Continue reading

Posted in Bible, In the News, Prayer, Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

The Uncommon Politic

According to the political scientist Eiten Hersh, of Tufts University, “politics is for power.” In his book by the same name, Hersh, who self-identifies as a political liberal, complains that Americans have lost sight of this obvious truth. This is especially true of the left who, in recent years, has engaged in what he describes as “political hobbyism … emoting and arguing and debating, almost all of this from behind screens.”

Whether Hersh is right or not depends, it seems to me, on two things: (1) whether power is a means or a goal and (2) what type of power is being considered.

If in politics the use of power is seen as a means to an end and that end is the common good of a people, then the acquisition of power is not only a legitimate pursuit, but also a necessary one. However, power is dangerous even when it is legitimate. And it is dangerous, in part, because it is addictive.

The American Church, particularly its more conservative wing, has suffered from this addiction. In the 1970s and 1980s, under the leadership of the Reverend Jerry Falwell, Sr., conservative Christians began seeking power in both politics and the media. The Moral Majority flexed its muscle to oust liberals from Congress and “The Teletubbies” from the airwaves.

The power conservative Christians wielded grew. Politicians began courting them.
Continue reading

Posted in Christianity, Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What Superbowl Advertisers Teach Us

Sixty-nine commercial spots ran during this year’s Superbowl. Each thirty-second commercial cost two million dollars, which means, if I did the math right, that advertisers spent 138 million dollars to convince us to buy their product during just one television program. One suspects that Pepsi, Anheuser-Bush, Cadillac and others don’t buy into the lingering myth that television content has no lasting effect on viewers.

John Paul II once noted that “Vast sectors of society are confused about what is right and what is wrong and are at the mercy of those with the power to ‘create’ opinion and impose it on others.” I am not sure who the Pope had in mind when he referred to “those with the power to ‘create’ opinion and impose it” but I suspect he was thinking of those in the entertainment industry.

Television and the movies have a bully pulpit in almost every home in America. So what do they teach? For one thing, they teach that religious people are always suspect, usually odd and sometimes dangerous (unless, of course, they are clergy, which almost guarantees them to be dangerous). A recent study conducted by the Parents Television Council found that 25% of the time religious people are portrayed on television, it is in a negative light (22% of such portrayals are positive). But on NBC, the network of West Wing, ER and “Must See TV”, over nine out of ten portrayals of religious people were negative. Apparently someone at NBC is on a mission to warn America that religious people are greedy, mean and, very possibly, sexual predators. Continue reading

Posted in Spiritual life, Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

A Different Take on Immigration

This is a true – and sad – story. I do not know the details, but I have become acquainted with the outline. It seems personal to me.

Violence, war, and famine were not happening over there. They were happening here, all around the family and the village. Dangerous men were strongarming them for protection money – money they could not afford to give, money that was needed to buy food.

There was nothing they could do. They scraped what little money they had together and paid them off. By the time the army arrived, it was too late; their tormentors were already gone. Besides that, the soldiers were as bad as the men they were fighting.

After two dreadful growing seasons – most of the people in the village were farmers – poverty was pervasive throughout the region. The farmers had no crops to sell. The village artisans had no one to buy their merchandise. Life in the village had always been difficult, always only one step ahead of indigence; but during the last three years starvation had been nipping their heels.

But word had been spreading through the village and around the region that America was the land of promise, the land of plenty. In America, there is law and order. Its people live in peace. Hard work brings prosperity there, unlike here, where it invites extortion.
Continue reading

Posted in Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments