Lettuce Pray

[Touchstone; November, 2008]Just at the moment my first grandchild was placed in my arms, my cell phone rang — and it was Big Idea, Inc., the Veggie Tales company, asking my help in discerning whether to expand into different media. That’s always struck me as a curious synchronicity: my family tree was putting forth its newest branch, and there was the world of children’s entertainment, ready to follow them every day of their lives. But I handed off the child and took the phone call, and after some more conversation said yes to the invitation. They eventually said no to the project, but in the meantime I had the opportunity to observe a lot of talented people working at a high pitch of creativity.

Let’s Create a Perfect World

[Beliefnet.com; October 21, 2008] So you think that the existence of suffering proves that there is no God. But can I ask a question? How would you eliminate suffering? What would a world without suffering look like? You have free rein-make it any way you like. Why don’t we start with something specific. People often cite the story told by the character Ivan in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: parents punished their little daughter for bedwetting by locking her in a frozen outhouse. Ivan cannot accept a God who would let that happen. OK, how would you prevent it? Can you imagine a world where there is no child abuse? Not just that one awful case-there’s no point in stopping only one act of abuse. How would you stop child abuse entirely? Would you make it so that an angry parent could not think of any way to hurt a child?

Transfiguration, Light, and an Icon

[Ancient Faith Radio; August 8, 2008] I’m looking at an icon of the Transfiguration—and it’s beautiful. Now, you’ve seen icons of the Transfiguration. You can imagine what it looks like. In the center, there’s an image of Christ transfigured in white robes, light streaking from Him. He is standing in an oval that is blue, it comes to a lighter shade of blue on the edges, and that’s meant to suggest a full-body halo. It’s called a mandorla, these large sort of oval halos. And, of course, on the left and right are Elijah and Moses speaking to Him. In these images they have their hands raised, sort of like philosophers, as they’re talking to Him. And around and beneath Him are scattered James and John and Peter, falling on their faces in awe at this amazing scene that they’re witnessing.

Light and Evangelicals

[Ancient Faith Radio; May 28, 2008] Today I wanted to touch on a couple podcasts from the past, one recent, one a little longer ago, because I’ve had some other interactions since those podcasts were posted, and it’s given me some more to think about. One is the very recent one, about light and darkness. I got an email from someone who said, You know, I always pictured that before creation, God was in darkness; that darkness came first, because after all, it says that when God was creating the heavens and the earth, in the beginning of Genesis, Genesis 1: “The earth was without form and void, darkness was upon the face of the deep, God said, ‘Let There be Light’, and there was light”. I always thought that since he had to create light, that the first thing was actually darkness.

Holy Hegemony!

[Books & Culture, March/April 2008] On the road, shuttling between airports and motels, I sent my daughter an email: “I’m on my way to Branson, Missouri. They say it’s like Las Vegas, but for Christians over fifty.” She wrote back, “I can’t even begin to imagine what that means.” I could; I imagined it would be laughable and hokey. (You could point out that I am a Christian over fifty and should get off my high horse, but I would only blink at you.) This little town of 6,000

The World and the Grail

[First Things Online; November 6, 2007] For some time now I’ve been reading Bill Bryson’s terrific 2003 book, A Short History of Nearly Everything. (You should interpret “some time” to mean “a pretty long time,” because not only is this a hefty-sized book, it’s about science.) In his introduction Bryson, an entertaining travel writer, explains how he came to write a book about the origins of life, the universe, and everything. He says that when he was in the fourth or fifth grade the cover of his science text showed the earth with a quarter cut away, revealing an interior neatly arranged in colorful layers. Not only did Bryson enjoy the thought of unsuspecting motorists sailing off the edge,

VTS Cemetery

[Ancient Faith Radio; October 30, 2007] I’m here on a hillside in Alexandria, Virginia, on the campus of Virginia Theological Seminary, the Episcopal seminary that I graduated from in 1977. I’m here because it’s the annual Fall Theological Convocation, and it’s the year for my class to have our 30th reunion, so there are a number of classes getting together on campus this week for a series of lectures. But as everybody else is marching off to the dining room, I thought I’d take a minute and come to the cemetery here, where there are buried perhaps 50 or 60 seminary professors beginning from the time the campus opened, in 1823, so it goes back for awhile. There are men here who were missionaries to Africa in the 19th century, and who poured out their lives in South America—this was a very strong missionary campus. I heard today that probably this seminary sent more missionaries into the world than any other Episcopal seminary.

Men and Church (podcast version)

[Ancient Faith Radio; October 24, 2007] I’m in the car today driving down I-95, going south (as usual) toward Washington, this time toward northern Virginia, where I’m going to a reunion of my seminary class at Virginia Episcopal Theological Seminary. It’s our 30th anniversary so I’m going back on campus to hear some speakers today and to attempt to give the seminary library a stack of my books; we’ll see if they will accept these, we’ll see what happens. I expect so; they’re actually very gracious people at Virginia Seminary. I’m thinking about a conversation I’ve been having, an email conversation, with a lot of people in the last couple of weeks, that has led up to an article just published on Beliefnet.com. Beliefnet was doing an interview with John Eldridge. Now if you don’t know that name,

The World and the Grail

[Ancient Faith Radio; October 17, 2007] Last year, for Christmas, I gave each of my children a copy of a big, fat, almost 550-page book by Bill Bryson, titled A Short History of Nearly Everything. I had begun reading this book and was so fascinated that I wanted each of my children to have a copy so we could talk about it. Bill Bryson talks about in childhood being so interested in science, and disappointed to find out how boring it was in the classroom. He described looking at the cover of his science text, that showed a quarter of the Earth cut away so that you cold see the layers. And he thought, ‘How do they know that? How do they discover things like that?’ And not finding that answer in the book.

Men and Church

[Beliefnet; September 30, 2007] In a time when churches of every description are faced with Vanishing Male Syndrome, men are showing up at Eastern Orthodox churches in numbers that, if not numerically impressive, are proportionately intriguing. This may be the only church which attracts and holds men in numbers equal to women. As Leon Podles wrote in his 1999 book, The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity, “The Orthodox are the only Christians who write basso profundo church music, or need to.” Rather than guess why this is, I emailed a hundred Orthodox men, most of whom joined the Church as adults.