I’ll Be Small for Christmas

Children today are raised with dreams of greatness. Cultural affirmations of our limitless potential, well-intentioned, have not produced a generation of over-achievers, but have indeed brought forth hordes of great dreams. This is nothing new in American culture. We are the world’s longest sustained pep-talk. Ronald Reagan loved to quote the 1945 Johnny Mercer hit: You’ve got to accentuate the positive Eliminate the negative Latch on to the affirmative Don’t mess with…

Making Known the Mystery

Recent conversations on the blog have revolved around the word “mystery” and the notion of a “literal” or “plain” meaning of the Scriptures. This reprint might be of interest. The trouble with reading Scripture is that almost everybody thinks they can do it. This idea is rooted in the assumptions of Protestant thought: only if the meaning of Scripture is fairly obvious and more or less objective can it serve as a…

The Translation of the Faith

There is an Italian proverb: Traduttore, traditore. It means, “translator, traitor.” It is the observation that no matter how hard one might try, the translation of one language into another is never more than approximate: there can be no “literal” translation. Every language is, within itself, a universe of relationships between words. There are shades of meaning and associations that simply cannot be moved into another language. When we study a new…

A Secular Kingdom…Where Christmas Never Comes

  Two people are working at a soup kitchen, feeding the poor. One of them is a Christian, the other an atheist. The Christian is doing what he does out of obedience to Christ, in order to serve Christ “in the least of these my brethren.” The atheist is doing what he does because he thinks that generosity is a good thing and that the world would be a better place if…

Care for the Soul

This article first appeared in 2015. It seems very apropos to our present moment. Glory to God for all things. I do not understand Zombies. When I was a child, Zombie movies were virtually non-existent. The word referred to something like a Golem in Jewish thought – a creature without a soul. It is properly a frightening thing – for that which we think of as the soul, is also the seat…

Of Kings and Things and What Matters

On October 25, 1415 (St. Crispin’s Day), the army of King Henry V of England engaged the army of Charles VI of France at Agincourt, in Northern France. The battle was famously depicted in Shakespeare’s Henry V. Estimates say that as many as 10,000 Frenchmen died, while as few as 112 Englishmen perished (the numbers reported vary somewhat). Henry’s speech before the battle is classic: And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,…

Getting Saved on Star Trek

Movies have a way of mirroring reality. They are cultural products, even if written by a single person. Our creative mind is formed and shaped in the reality we live. With that in mind, I have been thinking about the guys who wear red shirts on Star Trek episodes. In popular lore, they are the ones who are expendable. They show up in a single episode, maybe beam down to a planet’s…

The Cross and the One Ring of Power

The greatest trial surrounding the One Ring of Power in Tolkien’s novels, was the temptation to use it. No one (except for Sauron himself) seemed to think that they would do anything but good with the Ring. The Ring would protect Gondor; the Ring would bring order to the world (Saruman). And though it was indeed occasionally used to escape Trolls or to get friends out of Elfin prisons, every use drew…

Be True to Yourself

I recall the excitement that I felt every year as a child and as a teenager as the signs of summer’s end came. Looming ahead was the beginning of a new school year. It never felt like a return to what I had known the year before, but as an opportunity for something new. In my teen years, the secret something new that felt exciting was a “new” me. Of course, that…

Literalism and Another Word

There are many who speak about literalism and see it where it does not exist. The trees of modern theories and habits hide the forest of ancient understanding and use of texts. It is necessary to back away from details and look at a larger context to see what we are actually seeing. In cultural terms, it is possible to say that no one was a “literalist” until the modern period. In…