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The Sacred is All Around Us

One way you know that you are on-to something useful and significant is that you see it pop up all over the place.  You'll be minding your own business, doing whatever it is you do normally, and all of the sudden something will happen and you will think "wow, that's yet another example of The Thing, popping up in an unexpected place."  That's been my experience with the ideas of Rene Girard.  Every few months or so, something will come up in popular culture that is controversial or ambiguous, and my first thought is "oh, that's an example of scapegoating," or "I know exactly what Girard would say about this."

That was exactly the experience I had this weekend reading a New York Times op-ed piece by Mayim Bialik, which is a perfect example of the Girardian concept of "The Sacred."  Bialik is an actress who came into prominence as the star of the 90s TV show Blossom.  As she states in the piece, she left acting after Blossom to obt…

Reclaiming the Privilege of Carrying Each Other

Some of you, I can confidently predict, don't like Bono or U2.  In this you are wrong, but I acknowledge that this is a reality of the world we live in.  Some people think that U2 and Bono are faux-deep and sappy, but that's because we live in a world where too many people are afraid of things that are actually deep and meaningful, and so armor themselves against the world by constantly taking an edgelord ironic stance.  I love U2, and I love the song "One," as I have discussed before.

On last week's episode of the Inglorious Pasterds, the guys mentioned "One" in the context of the shootings in Las Vegas.  In particular, they quoted the final chorus:

One love, one blood
One life, you have to do what you should
One life with each other
Sisters, brothers
One life, but we're not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other
One
One

After hearing the Pasterds' podcast, I've been thinking about these lines for the last couple of weeks, and the wo…

Filling the Space

I know a guy who would consider himself an evangelical Christian.  At the end of the day, he is a good guy.  While conservative, he's not a flame-thrower.

But, here's the thing about this guy, this evangelical Christian.  He lives his life on the basis of the principle that the goal of this life is to make as much money as one possibly can.  He has said so on numerous occasions, in both private and quasi-public settings.  Sure, he cares about his family and about his religion, but the primary,day-to-day objective of his life is maximizing his personal wealth.  He spends a great deal of time thinking and strategizing about how to make the most money in his current situation.

More specifically, he recognizes that the best way to make money is to put yourself in the same environment as other people that have money and/or are in a position to make money come your way.  So, he makes a point of being around those people, openly sucking up to them and trying as hard as he can to ing…

First, and Last, Confession

Barring some unforeseen development, on Sunday Bishop Thomas Breidenthal of the Diocese of Southern Ohio of the Episcopal Church will officially pronounce that I (and about a dozen other folks) have changed denominations and officially joined the Episcopal Church.  As I sit here, 48 hours from this event taking place, I have some unorganized thoughts about where I am and where I might be going.  This is, perhaps, a "confession" in the classical sense of the term.

If I had to pick a single reason for deciding to make this move, it would be that I wanted to live my faith with greater authenticity and personal integrity.  As time has gone on, it is has become increasingly clear to me that I simply don't believe some of the things that the Roman Catholic Church insists that I believe.  I recognize that many people can, happily and with great personal integrity and self-assurance, believe and live those ideas and principles, and while we can debate the impact of some of those…

Three Thoughts on Rebuilding the Church

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Early on in his journey toward God, St. Francis found himself near the small chapel of San Damiano (St. Damian), about a half mile south of Assisi.  St. Bonaventure's Life of Francis says that San Damiano was in disrepair, "on account of its great age."  First off, we should probably put "great age" in perspective.  The original San Damiano probably dates to the end of the 11th or beginning of the 12th Century, so by the time Francis comes upon it in 1205, it is 100, maybe 150, years old.  That's certainly not nothing, but from the perspective of the history of the Christian church--even from the perspective of Francis's time--it is relatively recent.

Nevertheless, San Damiano was in disrepair by the time Francis arrives.  We are conditioned, or at least I was conditioned, to think of our time as some sort of uniquely problematic period in the history of Christianity.  Christianity is in decline, Millennials are leaving in droves, nothing is as good…

Umbrellas and Their Meaning

1. I was on a business trip Wednesday in Atlanta, Georgia, and it was raining.  I had a meeting and a walk to get to that meeting, so I went into the hotel gift shop and bought an umbrella.  I bought the smallest and least expensive (I would say cheapest, but it was not cheap) umbrella they had, without really looking at it.  After I had completed the purchase and got ready to get out into the rain, I noticed that it was a Kate Spade umbrella, one of those transparent plastic bubble-type domes.  As I made my way through the streets of Atlanta, I felt overwhelmingly, profoundly self-conscious.  I noticed I wasn't willing to make eye contact with dudes carrying their more macho black umbrellas, as if I was avoiding their judgment for my umbrella and its femininity.

How dumb is that?  Here I am, in a city that I know no one, which I hadn't been to in fifteen years and probably won't be back to for another fifteen, and I am worried about what random strangers think of my umb…

Giving a Name to the Pain

Six years is not a long time.  I've now lived in Columbus for six years, and it seems like a blink of an eye since I was living out on the West Coast.  But not all blocks of six years are created equal.  Six years in your thirties, as the last six years have been for me, is not the same thing as six years when you are younger.  Context and timing matter.

From August 1990 to August 1996, I lived in Jacksonville, Florida.  That period of six years corresponded with my two years of middle school and my four years of high school.  I was 12 at the beginning of that period and 18 when it ended.  There is an argument to be made that this is the most significant six year period in any person's life, and I am coming to the conclusion that it is the most significant period of my life, by far.  And it was spent entirely in a strange place called Jacksonville, Florida.

If you have never been to Jacksonville, you probably have certain associations with "Florida" that you assume c…