I Can See Clearly Now

God is in charge of the outcome of history. This simple statement is one way of expressing the Christian doctrine of divine Providence. Perhaps an even more profound way would be a statement that affirms “all things work together for good.” However, no matter how this is said, it is often the least obvious of all Christian doctrines. It is also, I think, among the most necessary of Christian doctrines when it…

The Quiet Centrality of Healthy Shame

“For there is a shame that brings sin; and there is a shame which is glory and grace.” (Sirach 4:21) I have written previously about shame (and will continue) and its importance in our life. Despite the crippling effects of shame in its toxic form, shame also has an important healthy aspect that is necessary for our lives. The toxic form tends to overwhelm us and to dominate the popular understanding. Healthy…

The Useless God

This post (which is much longer than usual) is an edited version of a talk given at a retreat earlier this year. During this time of various quarantine measures, when our “usefullness” seems thwarted, it seems an important meditation. I pray it is uselessly useful! The statement, “God is useless,” is, undoubtedly, sure to strike someone as an insult, not a statement of a faithful believing Christian (much less, a priest). That…

Getting Our Heads Back Together

I recall being urged by my mother to eat the vegetables on my plate. I had my favorites, though not many, and have somehow managed to survive to this point in my life. There is a very practical side to eating. Despite the fact that it can give great pleasure, it has a direct connection to our health. Remembering this as an adult is not always easy. Strangely, religious belief seems to…

Venerating Icons – It’s So Much Other Than You Think

In 1991, I sat in a room at Duke University with Geoffrey Wainwright, Stanely Hauerwas, and Susan O’Keefe. The purpose was the defense of my thesis, “The Icon as Theology.” I was an Episcopal priest, who was turning his doctoral work in Systematic Theology into an M.A. and heading back to parish life (a long story, that). The defense was friendly, thorough, with few surprises. The one major surprise, of course, came…

Clothed in the Image

  Begging my readers’ patience, I will take a small anthropology tour through our culture. What I want to draw our attention to is the place of the image. We are not only fascinated with looking at images, we place them on our bodies as well: t-shirts, tattoos, hats, shoes, pants – in short, everywhere. There is nothing unusual in this. Were we to examine primitive tribes, we would notice a vast…

You Belong Here – And It’s Beautiful

Among the most uncomfortable feelings is that of “not belonging.” It is one of the forms of shame, for, when we do not belong or are “out of place,” we feel exposed and inherently vulnerable. It is not a feeling that we sustain for any length of time without engaging in behaviors designed to make it go away. Strangely, this is an aspect of ugliness (in its many forms). Just as we…

When Icons Became Windows

Some thirty years ago I was doing doctoral work at Duke University under Geoffrey Wainwright. I was drawn to Wainwright on account of his commitment to liturgical tradition and practice as the ground of theology. A course that became a turning point in my studies was on the nature of language in theology. Like all work in the program, it was not a course filled with answers, but a careful discipline of…

Truth, Lies and Icons

As verbal beings, we live in a world of icons. We experience the world in an iconic fashion. A major difficulty for us is that we have lost the vocabulary of iconic reality. We have substituted the language of photography. The dissonance between reality and our photographic assumptions has led us to doubt both. Man is an iconographer and needs to re-learn what that means. +++ Franz Kafka famously wrote: “The Lie…

The Mythic Character of Reality

The friendship between CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien is well-known, as is Tolkien’s role in bringing Lewis to Christ. Less well-known (unless you dig a bit further) is Tolkien’s role in bringing Lewis out of a rigid and flat understanding of the world and into the rich possibilities afforded by “myth.” Without this conversion, Lewis would likely not have become a Christian, and certainly would not have authored the fiction that is…