As our train ambled through the outskirts of London, I thought I would kill some time by quizzing my children on a few items I’d tried to instill in their brains as a little bonus above and beyond their school curricula. I elicited mild groans and chuckles when I asked, “How did the Gettysburg address begin?” and “Can you count to ten in Spanish?” But when I asked, “Can you name the books of the Bible?” a train rider across the aisle turned, and his eyes flew wide open.
It’s Dad’s birthday next week, I tell the boys. What shall we get him? Without hesitation, they chime in: the Phacops rana at A2Z. A2Z is a science and nature store in town, where our youngest is taking weekly yo-yo lessons. His father has been admiring this particular trilobite for months. And why not?
I had just shown a group of pastors and laity a scene from the movie Chariots of Fire. Christian missionary and runner Eric Liddell says about his running and his God, "To win is to honor him." A man in the group responded, “I don’t believe that line comes from Liddell. It’s pure Hollywood. It is out of character for Liddell to be so focused on winning.”
Is winning compatible with the Christian faith? What are the criteria by which we measure "winning"?
This past summer at our family home in Croatia, I was immersed in George Weigel’s long biography of the late John Paul II, Witness to Hope. As the intense focus of world attention on his funeral made clear, he was a great world leader and, in many regards, a global moral conscience. That was plain for all to see during his life and even more clearly after he died.
According to Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of Great Britain, the Hebrew Bible contains only one commandment to love the neighbor but no less than 36 commands to love the stranger. Throughout Torah, the reason given for this moral teaching is that the Israelites themselves were strangers once.
When the liberal political pundit Ana Marie Cox decided to come out as a Christian, she was worried less about the response from her secular colleagues than about that of Christians. She worried that they wouldn’t approve of a “progressive, feminist, tattooed, pro-choice, graduate-educated believer.” When people ask her why she now seems happier and freer, she’s tempted to say it’s because she moved out of Washington, D.C. But the honest answer is: “I try, every day, to give my will and my life over to God. I try to be like Christ. I get down on my knees and pray.” Cox said, “I am saved not because of who I am or what I have done (or didn’t do), but simply because I have accepted the infinite grace that was always offered to me” (Daily Beast, February 28).