A comment on my
recent rush-hour-communion post mentioned the Episcopal Church's recent practice of Ashes to Go, a form of "liturgical evangelism" that
has brought congregations out into streets, bus stations, train stations and
subway stations to dispense ashes on Ash Wednesday.
When I started
to read about Ashes to Go, I had many of the same questions that I brought to
early-morning communion. At first I thought, ashes to go? Whatever happened to
liturgy and community? Aren't we just feeding into our culture's unwillingness
to stop for anything at anytime? Can ashes really be offered like a fast food
item at a take out window?
But once again,
in the midst of these restless and protesting thoughts, another reality has
In January, the Century published my interview with Kerry Cronin, who teaches at Boston College and gives
students an unusual assignment: go out on a date. Since then we've asked some
college students to respond to Cronin. Do they find her
dating advice off-putting? Valuable? Impractical? Strange?
After glancing at recent headlines and listening to rumors,
I was under the impression that the Chicago City Council had passed repressive
new restrictions on protests leading up to the G8 summit in May. The
newspapers' pictures of Mayor Rahm Emanuel looked dictatorial. I pictured
Emanuel strong-arming the council into passing a crackdown.
The Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka. Otsuka tells the story, in collective voice, of Japanese women who traveled to meet husbands already living in the U.S. in the first part of the 20th century. She writes of their encounters with American culture and how they shaped their dreams and hopes for themselves and their families in difficult and sometimes harrowing circumstances.
Books on Barack Obama are proliferating. Recent additions include biographies, political analyses, a look into Obama's African family tree, books on his handling of specific issues and books on race and politics in American society. Among these, James Kloppenberg's intellectual contextualization stands out.
Several years ago, I was interviewed by Linda Wertheimer of
National Public Radio about the then extraordinarily popular Left Behind
series. At one point, she asked me if I thought the Left Behind books were
funny. I paused, trying to absorb all the layers of her question, and then came
up with a brilliant answer: "No. Why? Do you?"
On my bike ride home from the train station, I see a church
sign: "Shaking Foundations? God is Big Enough to Hold Onto." I assume that the
person who put this sign up was thinking about economic or personal
foundations, was trying to speak to the heightened anxiety that has its grip on