Barbara Brown Taylor's concise, pithy and challenging prose is evidence that she is practicing what she preaches: that Christian pastors take more care with the words they use and treat language with economy, courtesy and reverence.
A priest poses the question to a group of children: "How many sacraments are there?" Without missing a beat a little girl responds: "Seven for boys, and six for girls." The math may differ for different communions, with fewer sacraments distributed more equitably among the genders, but Susan A. Ross of Loyola University raises questions that no sacramental tradition can ignore. She posits a principle all traditions could embrace: all of life is potentially revelatory of the divine. Then Ross surveys all facets of her question: how can one construct a sacramental theology that takes the bodies of men and women as seriously as it takes the body of Christ?
Like Many people with nothing better to do, I often read obituaries. It is the print equivalent of walking through a cemetery, where whole lives are summed up on headstones and buried along with their times. I love reading about flying daredevils who rode the wings of biplanes in the 1930s, or Kentucky farmers who plowed their fields with teams of matched mules.
I am a longtime fan of public radio. It began years ago with Garrison Keillor, whose weekly monologues on Lake Wobegon became a regular feature of my Saturday evenings. With my transistor radio perched on my kitchen windowsill, I would put supper together during the first hour of the show.
I first heard the Lord’s Prayer in Mexico, during a family trip when I was 11 years old. I strayed from the Oaxaca market square, where my parents were bargaining over black pottery, and slipped into an old stone church, cool and dark. There were clusters of women in lace mantillas, and one or two solitary old men. Some were silent.
When I read in the newspaper recently that the U.S. Navy had decided to lift its ban on women serving on submarines, I remembered a woman who told me a story about how she communicated with her husband when he was serving aboard a submarine in the 1970s.
Watching my 13-year-old sit on the couch and text-message his pals, I intuitively know that our language—our use of words for communicating with one another—is at risk. Speed has become paramount. Using words accurately or thoughtfully seems about to become extinct.