Last summer, my big adventure was a bicycle trip through northern Portugal, where church bells still ring the hours and homeowners value grape arbors more highly than garages. While some people I met grieve the loss of their nation’s one-time dominance in the world, others admit that obscurity has its benefits.
In a famous 1936 lecture, “The Presentation of New Testament Texts,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer proposed to the Confessing Church an alternative strategy of reading scripture. Instead of questioning the Bible from their standpoint, as the German Christians were doing, Bonhoeffer challenged them to let the Bible question them.
When people speak loosely of anti-Semitism, do they have in mind a religiously derived separation from Judaism on the part of Christians historically, or a pernicious racialist theory? Twentieth-century political theorist Hannah Arendt argued that these are two distinct theories.
When I was 12 and far more interested in horses than high culture, my father dragged my sisters and me to a student production of The Pirates of Penzance in the gymnasium at the University of Alabama. I had seen plenty of movies by then and had watched plays on television, but nothing prepared me for the experience of live theater.
When he’s at home, Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury, begins each day with a short meditative walk, or sometimes with some slow prostrations, followed by 30 to 40 minutes of sitting on a low stool to repeat the Jesus prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”). Usually he repeats the words silently, saying them while breathing out. “Over the years increasing exposure to and engagement with the Buddhist world in particular has made me aware of practices not unlike the ‘Jesus Prayer’ and introduced me to disciplines that further enforce the stillness and physical focus that the prayer entails,” says Williams (New Statesman, July 8).