Each time “someone clicks on a Web page, makes a phone call, uses a credit card, or checks in with a microchipped pass at work, that person leaves a data trail that can later be tracked. Every day, billions of bits of such personal data are stored, sifted, analysed, cross- referenced . . .
In my mind, reductionism translates as “nothing buttery.” Belief in God, for example, is seen as “nothing but” the result of certain neuron firings in the brain. Altruism, formerly seen as spiritual or religious at root, becomes “nothing but” an expression of “the selfish gene.” Free will is reduced from spiritual and moral agency to neural determinism.
"The economy of salvation” is an ancient phrase used by everyone from the Eastern Orthodox theologians of old to pioneer Pentecostal preacher Phoebe Palmer to thinkers across the Christian spectrum today. Technically, it refers to divine stewardship, God’s “household management” (oikonomia), but also to elements of trade: God’s gift, our response.
In 1958, during a trifaith “Religious Emphasis Week” at the University of Arkansas, I hung out at the Sigma Nu house. One morning some Baptist Sigma Nu brothers were walking with me as I went by the Lutheran campus chapel. I stopped. “You want to go in there?” they asked. Yes, I wanted to see a majestic figure of Christ on the cross sculpted by Harriet Youngman Reinhardt.
Readers often ask, “Whence issue these columns?” Here’s the current answer. Last winter we traded our suburban home of 43 years for high-rise housing in downtown Chicago. We can see three states looking south from our condo, and from my study, looking north, I see the lakeshore and the glow of Wisconsin cities.
The press has been making much of 29 binders and 2,400 pages of jottings found among the relics of baseball great Joe DiMaggio. According to Clyde Haberman in the New York Times (July 17), no one who reads those jottings will be “stumbling upon Proustian insights.” For one thing, DiMaggio was “notoriously—how to put it kindly?—frugal,” and recorded every taxi fare and tip.
"Great Awakening 2007” is the headline of Cathleen Falsani’s two-page column in the July 6 Chicago Sun-Times. Falsani asks readers, “Have you ever had a spiritual experience? Would you like to?” and then responds by offering “suggestions” that “just might lead to a spiritual experience.”
As family names and old religious stand-bys continue to lose favor, parents are spending more time and money on the issue [of names for their children] and are increasingly turning to strangers for help.” The Wall Street Journal (June 22) goes on to say that numerologists are paid up to $475 to test a favorite name. Hundreds of books and thousands of Web sites offer help.
Having written “The Uses of Infidelity” (1956), >The Infidel: Freethought and American Religion (1961) and Varieties of Unbelief (1964) back when I was on the trail of atheists and their kin, I am often asked: When are you going to comment on the media’s discovery of “the new atheism”? The term refers to writings by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel C.
When asked, “Whatever happened to the mainline Protestant churches?" as I often am, I respond: Mainline decline is an old, tired story, but mainliners’ mission is urgent. How are mainline churches recovering? By going local in order to turn global.
Robert Solow on his friend Milton Friedman: “One difference between Milton and myself is that everything reminds Milton of the money supply. Well, everything reminds me of sex, but I keep it out of the paper” (New York Review of Books, February 15). We keep many things out of M.E.M.O. Money? Sex? No—only war.
"Life dies” will be the label for this column in my computer files. Life dies? Because of global warming? Is this a statement of the human condition, life being “a sexually transmitted disease with a terminal prognosis”? Is this the unavoidable topic the late Dr. Lewis Thomas wanted Americans to talk about: death? He noted: “There’s an awful lot of it going around these days.”
Herewith,1 an2 essay3 on4 footnotes.5 Quote6: “Lomborg’s7 book,8The Skeptical Environmentalist,9 is10 carefully11 researched12 (2,93013 footnotes14!15).” So reads a line in a letter to the editor that criticized author B
I have never given much thought to Titus, Roman destroyer of Jerusalem in the year 70, or seen reason to rejoice in the destruction of the Second Temple and the defeat of Israel. Yet once or twice a year I’m celebrating that destruction and what it did to Jews when I sing in sing-along Messiahs, sometimes standing next to Jews who love the music of Handel.
When I was nine years old I dreamed of being Bobby Feller. I forget about that dream for long stretches, but then something comes back to remind me of it. Recently that something was Tyler Kepner’s profile of Feller in the March 7 New York Times. I learned that at age 88 Feller still suits up every day, and that he is often called a hero because of his World War II service. He responds to this term by saying, "Heroes don’t come home; survivors come home." What good did that baseball dream do? For one thing, it's a bracing alternative to the dream talk that afflicts us now.
Draw up your chairs, younger ones, and I will describe a moment in the Age of Innocence, back in late-medieval time of 1945-1949. Bring your chairs in close so you can be sure you are hearing right. Let me set the scene: it is New Year’s Eve in one of those years. A score of us collegians are home for Christmas and—yes—have just been to church.
The Martys move their residence and parish membership every 43 years, so every 43 years I should devote a column to my parish, Ascension Lutheran in Riverside, Illinois. I have written so many articles and several books about life in the local church that readers have often expressed curiosity about my own ties.
This winter I had occasion to caress every one of my thousands of books, kiss thousands of them good-bye as I downsized my library, and decide which to save and which to give away. Reflection at such times can turn sentimental, as finding a long-buried book can let loose a flood of memories.
Christopher Niebuhr of the well-known Niebuhr tribe wrote to me recently. He is celebrating the Yale University Press publication of Sermons and Discourses, 1743-1758 (edited by Wilson H. Kimnach), 800 pages of transcribed scripts and notes that make up the 25th and final volume of The Works of Jonathan Edwards.