When I went to Williston, North Dakota to report for the Century on churches in the oil boom, I had dinner at a place called Banquet West, a free meal on Sunday nights. At my table on that stormy March evening were people from around the country.
In the weeks leading up to May 21, 2011, young filmmaker Zeke Piestrup asked radio-show host and apocalypse predictor Harold Camping if he could accompany him in the final days of the world. Piestrup was not a believer, and he planned to make a film about Camping’s apocalyptic prediction. Still, Camping welcomed him as a companion.
New research from Carnegie Mellon University confirms what we already knew: Yes, distraction does make us stupider. The little red flag at the bottom of my computer screen is not a harmless little reminder that I am not alone in the world. It is a constant invitation not to finish a thought.
Gordon Cosby, the prophetic founder of the Church of the Savior, passed away yesterday. I interviewed Cosby in the fall of 2009 in the library of the Festival Center, one of the many buildings in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington D.C. where the (un)church that Cosby founded in the 1950s has thrived.
In our interview, Cosby—at 91 dynamic and impassioned—talked about how ministries have an “essence.”
The women in many of Alice Munro’s stories are fleeing, in quiet and not-so-quiet ways. A woman has an affair while on a train on her way to Toronto. A young girl in a controlling family runs away with a saxophone player. A repressed woman throws a party without telling her husband.
My Lenten practice has almost involved some kind of endurance. As a child I usually gave up something like chocolate or sweets. My practice evolved into committing to walk to the grocery store or buy nothing but food or, one year, give up plastic.
But regardless of what I took on or gave up, I have always intended for this to last through all of Lent. The practice ends—or finds a new form—at Holy Week, and the endurance test ends with it.
This year, Lent has an entirely different rhythm for me—because of a book by writer and Benedictine oblate Paula Huston.
When I saw the headline in the New York Times—“The Hidden Prosperity of the Poor”— I thought of something very different than what Tom Edsall’s commentary is actually about.
Edsall highlights an insidious and specious argument about income inequality made on the right. In essence, the cost of basic human needs has gone down in relation to income, while consumer goods have become cheaper and cheaper.
As I mentioned before, I’ve been reading this strange book called The Spiritual Meadow, written by sixth-century wandering monk John Moschos. One of the last stories in the book was as relevant to my daily existence as any story I have read in a long time. I have only the vaguest idea what it means, but I do know it’s another weird monk joke. And this one was aimed directly at me.
The story goes like this: In the ancient city of Antioch, the church had various kinds of social services. “A man who was a friend of Christ” used to gather supplies and give them out to people in need.
This year, I have decided to make space for more non-urgent reading. This is reading that isn’t about keeping up with work-related issues or the latest, best writers. It might mean that I will have to lay off a bit on my habit of reading the New York Times Book Review and imagining the necessity of reading everything that is in it.
“Anyone who reads independently and spiritedly is going to carry an eclectic canon around in his head,” writes Christian Wiman. “That is half the fun of it all.”
For the past five years or so, I have had the responsibility of coming up with the novels to put on the Century’s list of Christmas picks for fiction. At first I was baffled by this job. Did I have to read every new book?
I didn’t vote for Amendent 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use in my home state of Colorado. I had mixed feelings about it. When marijuana was legalized for medical use in 2000, the effect on my small mountain community wasn’t something to celebrate. The majority of people who got licenses for medical marijuana were young men under the age of 34. At least legalization for recreational use will put a stop to that farce.