If, as Karl Barth said, God may speak through a blossoming shrub or a dead dog, I reckon God may be found at rock festivals. At least that is my hope every spring as the Chicago winter finally eases its grip and I begin planning rock music outings.
While I never suffered the childhood trauma of parents getting divorced, I know as an adult what it is like to suffer with a divided family. That is because I am an Episco palian. As everyone knows—the late-night arguments and breaking of dishes have been audible since spring 2003—the Episcopal Church teeters on the edge of a breakup.
New inventions often result in new words, or neologisms. Radar, for instance, emerged as an acronym for a “radio detection and ranging” device. Cultural developments also evoke new words and phrases, such as cyberspace (originating from science fiction), soccer mom (from the world of politics) or prequel (from movies and pop culture).
For a practice to qualify as “evangelical” in the functional sense means first of all that it communicates news. It says something particular that would not be known and could not be believed were it not said.
For Christians (as for religious people of various sorts), music is a basic human activity. We cannot live without worshiping, and we cannot worship without making music. Smack in the middle of the Bible are the Psalms, the blues and praise songs of the ancient Hebrews. And the earliest confessions of the New Testament may have been lifted directly from hymns that rang out in corporate worship.
In recent years, “No problem” has become a customary response to a “Thank you” rendered to wait staff, service providers, hosts and gift givers. By my observation, this practice of replacing “You’re welcome” with “No problem” began with the generation now in their thirties. “No problem” is now widespread enough that Judith Martin (Miss Manners) has thought it necessary to pronounce against it.
It was Marshall McLuhan, I believe, who first observed that the increased speed of transportation and communication had made the world a global village. That observation has become a commonplace. But we don’t usually focus on the aspect of the village metaphor that suggests we have become more, not less, parochial than our predecessors.
The frightening downturn on Wall Street has caused even some staunch antigovernment pundits to begin rethinking their assumption that all government regulation is bad. That is a rethinking this country desperately needs.
Autumn arrives September 22 (in the Northern Hemisphere). If you are like me, you depart reluctantly from summer, the season of light. Fall carries intimations of death—leaves dry and shrivel, grass bleaches corpse-pale, insects perish, squirrels batten down their nests and fatten up for a long season of lethargy.
Every Batman story explores the nature of good and evil—or more specifically the often blurry line between the two. The Dark Knight takes the Batman-Everyman story in fresh directions, ones germane to a world confronted with terrorism. The movie raises the question: What is worse or more demonic: a terrorist with principles (even if that principle is nothing grander than accumulating more and more money) or one without?
He assumes his still posture two feet from the table. He is not grabby, his tongue is not hanging out, he is quiet.
He wants to leap, he wants to snap up meat and blood. You can tell. But what he does is sit as the gods his masters and mistresses fork steak and potatoes into their mouths.
He is expectant but not presumptuous. He can wait. He can live with disappointment. He can abide frustration and suffer suspense.
He watches for signals, he listens for calls of his name from above.
At hints that he may be gifted with a morsel, he intensifies his already rapt concentration, he looks his god in the eye, but humbly, sure of his innocence in his need, if his need only.
On the (often rare) occasions when gifts are laid on his tongue, he takes them whole, then instantly resumes the posture of attention, beseeching, listening, alert, the posture of hard-won faith that will take no for an answer, yet ever and again hopefully return to the questioning.
In a culture supersaturated with information, overwrought and overstimulated by media, none of us is immune to the allure of truthiness. With our attention stretched thin and largely confined to the surface, we are forced back on our intuition, to some reflexive sense of what “feels true.” Enter The Da Vinci Code. With the benefit of hindsight we can say the novel got noticed because of able marketing, and because it played into the manic milieu of truthiness.
The Supreme Court’s June ruling on whether “under God” should be part of the Pledge of Allegiance passed with relatively little notice, since the case was rejected on procedural grounds. For those who paid attention to the arguments, however, it conclusively exposed the incompatibility of American civil religion with any kind of robust Christianity.