A few weeks ago, oppressed by some worrying news, I stopped into our college art museum. On the floor devoted to American and modern European paintings, I paused to admire Charles Sheeler’s Rolling Power, a close-up of train wheels, pistons and steam commissioned by Fortune magazine to honor the dynamism of the industrial age.
Hardness of heart. Scripture uses this image to describe those who are impenetrably stubborn, those who are unwilling or unable to see God’s glory or to reorient their lives to God’s call and claims. But what causes hardness of heart? Is it always human sin, those things which we have done which ossify our hearts and rigidify our minds? Do tragic accidents sometimes harden us in ways that make it difficult, if not impossible, to remain open to transformation, to sustain a mental, emotional and moral agility?
"The man who delivers my groceries wants a Bible,” my mother said, “but he doesn’t know which one. What shall I tell him?” I should have had a ready answer for her, but I did not. It was a big question, after all. If she had asked me to recommend a life partner for her deliveryman, I could not have taken the matter more to heart. Say you have one shot at putting a Bible in someone’s hands.
I was reared just a few miles from the University of Chicago on the city’s South Side. As a kid riding past, I was certain that its buildings were haunted. After all, there were gargoyles clinging to the edge of every Gothic building, and where there are gargoyles, there must be vampires. It would be many years before I entered those haunted classrooms to study.
When adjusted for inflation, the dollar amount for charitable giving in 2013 nearly reached the peak for charitable giving before the Great Recession. For 2013, giving in current dollars increased by 4.4 percent. However, giving to religion in the same year was flat and even down slightly when adjusted for inflation. Giving to the arts, health, the environment, and education has been increasing the last three years. During the Great Recession, people tended to give more to organizations that were addressing immediate needs, such as food pantries and homeless shelters. All sectors of giving were up in 2013, except for corporations, with giving by individuals up the most (Giving USA 2014: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2013, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy).