The Problem of Goodness

Though many struggle with the so-called “Problem of Evil,” the greater moral problem is that of goodness. How do we account for goodness in the world – particularly self-sacrificing heroic goodness? It is not uncommon for a person in a dangerous situation to place their own life at risk in order to save the life of another. It is by no means universal (some act first to save themselves or are paralyzed…

The Last Christmas – Ever

This Christmas was the last Christmas – ever. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Wherever He is, there is the beginning and the end of all things. If Christ was truly present in this year’s Christmas, then it was the last Christmas – and the first Christmas. And if statements like this make your hair hurt – then read on. Our common way of thinking about the…

How Big Is Your Christmas?

We have entered the days when news pundits are asking, “Will Christmas be big this year?” When individuals ask one another, “Are you having a big Christmas this year?” It is understoood that economics are involved (as with the media). Our modern economies are greatly dependent on the massive buying that occurs between late November and late December. Christmas shopping is so good for the economy (as presently constituted) that if Christ were…

Bones, Bodies and Belief

And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his…

The Long Defeat and the Cross

Few ideas contrast as starkly to our modern myths as Tolkien’s view of history as “the long defeat.” I have been very interested in the continuing comments that struggle with the perceived pessimism of such a phrase. I have refrained from commenting at length myself, for the very reason that I wanted to do so in an article. For the nature of the long defeat that is the Christian life and the…

Tolkien’s Long Defeat

“Actually I am a Christian,” Tolkien wrote of himself, “and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory” (Letters 255). +++ History as a long defeat – I can think of nothing that is more anti-modern than this sentiment expressed by J.R.R. Tolkien. It…

Harlots and Drunkards at the Last Banquet

Since we were thinking about Dostoevsky… Once a week I teach a class at a local alcohol and drug treatment program. It is on the “spirituality of recovery.” Recently I shared Marmaladov’s speech from Crime and Punishment (at the end of this article). There were tears in the room. For many, the version of the gospel they have heard only condemns. Most of the men I meet want to get well, to get sober.…

We Will Not Make the World a Better Place

I have written previously about various aspects of the “Modern Project.” It is the world we live in. Its ideas and assumptions enter our thoughts with no critical inspection or hesitancy. We are modern. However, the gospel is not modern and many ideas of Modernity are contrary to the gospel. It is necessary, therefore, as a simple matter of discernment to question and examine the assumptions of our world. And do not…

The American Apocalypse

America was founded by religious people – their imagination became a nation. Among their most powerful ideas was an apocalyptic hunger: they believed God was doing something new in the world and that they were its harbingers. One visionary described his colony as “a city set on a hill.” It’s a heady thing to invent a nation. Nothing is more “modern” than the belief in “something new” coming. Progress is the unceasing…

The Babel Syndrome

In the liturgical life of the Church, the event of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and they began to speak in various languages, is linked to the story of the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament. There, too, people began to speak in different languages but with an entirely different outcome. Pentecost brought the unity of the gospel, Babel brought the scattering of peoples through the diversity…