In these days of extraordinary terror and ordinary routine, the future seems at once darker and more open than we had expected. It may be that in the face of war or want, future generations will answer the call to Christian heroism with renewed vigor, and take refuge in Christian hope from failed utopias. It may be that such a change has already begun, though few observers mark it.
In the two decades since MTV captured the restless souls and short attention spans of our youth, it has become increasingly evident that teaching and learning require new strategies. The classroom lecture is dead, reading is an endangered art, and memorization belongs next to exorcism in the dustbin of discarded teaching arts.
Six years before he died, American philosopher William James filled out a questionnaire about religious experience. He was asked, among other things, “Do you pray?” His answer was forthright: “I can’t possibly pray.
September 11, the war in Afghanistan, the impending war in Iraq, the devastating conflict between Israel and Palestine, the crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, the crisis in big business, children missing, snipers shooting, politicians sniping, ethnic cleansing, famines: it’s one of those times when one wishes it were possible to return to the beginning, unravel the ancient enmities and start the
When Andy turned six, an extraordinary thing happened. At the crown of his head there suddenly appeared that mystic sign by which all spirited six-year-old boys are instantly recognized: the cowlick. It looks exactly like Calvin’s cowlick in Calvin and Hobbes.
Dear Professor James: A century has passed since you delivered the 20 Gifford Lectures on natural religion at Edinburgh, and published them as The Varieties of Religious Experience. We are celebrating this occasion, my students and I, and your friends around the world, as the 100th birthday of the greatest modern book on personal religion.
It’s going to be a long Advent. We stepped into the deep violet darkness and have been on the alert ever since, not only for the coming of our Savior, but also for further assaults from our largely unseen enemies. Two mysterious objects thus appear on the same radar screen: the mystery of redemption and the mystery of evil, both pushing our powers of analysis beyond their limits.
When the new war has become an old war, and a new world has emerged from it, what will the religious landscape look like? “There are no atheists in foxholes,” a young friend reminds me, “and now the whole world is a foxhole.” Admittedly this is an exaggeration.
One Saturday morning when there was a brief lull in our domestic hubbub, I asked our 13-year-old son John what he considered to be the most important things in life. He instantly presented me with an itemized list:
• To make sure that you and everyone else have a good time
And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested (1 Chron.
By a coincidence that must strike a chord in the hearts of all who long for Christian unity, Easter Sunday falls on the same day this year for Christians of both East and West. It’s a good time to be reading The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, the Orthodox émigré theologian who died in 1983 at the age of 62.
There’s a rumor going around about heaven. It’s been bruited about by well-known theologians, sharp-tongued satirists and social critics (Mark Twain among others), but it’s not really a very subtle point: The life of eternal blessedness sounds boring. My five-year-old son Andy voiced this concern early one morning while he was bouncing on the bed where I was trying to sleep.
Not long ago I went to visit my mother at a busy New York hospital where she was recovering from heart-valve surgery. The elevators were so crowded that I had to go down to the basement to claim a place for the trip up to the sixth-floor coronary care unit. At each floor the doors opened in front of identical signs: “No cell phones.
I live in a city of candles. At one end of Main Street, there’s a little jewel box of a shop that sells pure beeswax candles along with aromatherapy supplies, bath salts and hand-milled soaps that promise to impart an aura of serenity to the mundane affairs of the daily toilet. A few doors down, perfumed candles fill the New Age bookstore with the scent of generic spirituality.
Five-year-old Andy is in the shower looking for ways to use an entire bottle of blue, no-tears Aussie shampoo (the kind with the kangaroo on the bottle) without washing his hair. “I’m getting clean for Easter!” he calls out.
A few months ago I had a visit from the college-age daughter of a friend of mine. The young woman, an exceptionally gifted linguist, had developed an interest in religion and philosophy. What books, she asked, would combine her longstanding love of Latin and Greek with her newfound desire to plumb the mysteries of the cosmos?