Climb a Mountain to Reach Yourself

Embracing the Inconceivable: Interspiritual Practice of
Zen and Christianity
Ellen Birx

Often, as I made my way through this brief, gentle volume, I thought of how I’d begin the post I would come to write about it. And while I may work in some of the ideas and anecdotes that surfaced during my interlude with Ms. Birx, I actually need to begin by conceding Continue reading


Must Be the Season of the Witch

The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England
Carol F. Karlsen

Although I continue to be baffled by irony as a concept, in practice it’s an unending source of delight. And so, as the Fall semester approaches, I find myself utterly bemused as academia–a business still following a 12th-century model–attempts to reinvent itself on the fly.

A thousand flowers will bloom, no doubt, and each will have fans and foes. But until that inevitable fracas starts Continue reading

Blasphemous Rumours

The Feast of Fools
Harvey Cox

Recently,  conservative talk-show host Erick Erickson offered a startling observation during what seems to be an ongoing attack against presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg: “But then he is an Episcopalian, so he might not actually understand Christianity more than superficially.”

I’m neither a regular reader nor listener of Erickson’s, though I’ve seen him quoted. He strikes me as not so Continue reading

Sharif Don’t Like It

The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror
Bernard Lewis

It isn’t always easy, amid all this demonizing, to remember there was a time when the world east of the Bosporus beckoned.

Even though the charges of imperialism, cultural appropriation, and intolerance stand up to some scrutiny, you can’t deny the existence or effectiveness Continue reading

Losing My Religion

Neither King nor Prelate: Religion
and the New Nation, 1776-1826
Edwin S.  Gaustad

A while back I lamented the fate of philosophers. Today, I’m expressing my sympathies for historians.

I’ve always loved history; if I had known, or encountered, some of the more recent historiography  I might even have chosen it as my major. The siren song of quantification, though, drew me across campus though the underlying motivation was the same: to help me Continue reading

You Were Temptation

The Screwtape Letters
C.S. Lewis

screwtapeSin. What a quaint term. No one cares about sin anymore, do they?

Maybe they do. It’s hard to imagine that a trilogy about a lion and a piece of furniture is solely responsible for most of the works of a long-dead author still being available in Continue reading

There is a Road

Tao Te Ching
Lao Tzu
Trans. by Stephen Addis & Stanley Lombardo

taoThere are three books I reread in more or less constant rotation. While you’ll never see them written about here they mean the world to me and keep me sane.

This is not one of those books.

It is however the basis for one of those books. More importantly, it is one of those books lying at the core of human civilization that we really ought to read. Think of the Continue reading

Going to the Place Our Father Has Made

Wills_futureThe Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis
Garry Wills

Walt Whitman taught me that contradicting myself was okay, even to be expected. So I long ago accepted that believing was part of my make-up and that, like it or not, I was a Catholic.

That doesn’t make me an apologist. Like all human institutions the Church has flaws. Some might say it’s all flaws. Garry  Wills, I’m pretty sure, would have a more optimistic outlook.

Wills is a professor of history (emeritus) at  Northwestern UniversityA member of my parent’s generation (born in 1934), married to the same woman for more than 50 years, Wills is more or less the  de facto go-to guy when it’s time to Continue reading

A Reason to Believe?

Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas
Elaine Pagels

beyond-belief-coverDeath and sadness. Can you think of two better reasons people seek solace in religion?

Maybe you can. I am not here to proselytize. I feel compelled to note, though, that non-belief is also a belief system and that, religion being an almost universal human development, you cut yourself off from a big chunk of humanity when you dismiss the subject.

But let’s get back to the nouns I started with. I never wanted to know too much about writers of fiction because I feared blurring the line between author and Continue reading