Archives For author


“What is the defining event of America? World War II, because what Americans are dying to have is something worth dying for. War becomes the great event in American life, because that’s when we send the young out to die and be killed. To die in wars, to give us the belief as Americans that we think there’s something worth dying for—to die for who your democratically elected leader says you should die for, and to protect the sacrifices of the last war.

“It’s an extraordinary sacrificial system, but sacrificing to the wrong god—Mars. I admire people for making the great sacrifice of their unwillingness to kill. But it’s the wrong sacrifice. Christianity is an alternative to that sacrificial system. We believe the ultimate sacrifice has been made, and you don’t have to repeat it over and over again in the name of nations.”

-Stanley Hauerwas

For God, Not Country
The un-American theology of Stanley Hauerwas
by Mark Oppenheimer

Periodically I drive a stake in the ground, something concrete for my myriad thoughts to cling to. This is one. I am not a nationalist. I’ve wrestled with my nationalisitc demons since I was a young high school student. I couldn’t imagine anything life-giving coming from the nationalism and milistarism that was propagated in my community. The violence was stifling and incoherent.

I traveled a little. That was good for the borders of my mind. I moved to Chiraq. Taking up residence in a violent neighborhood was one of the strangest things I’ve ever done. I thought it would expand my understanding. But instead I have fortified myself from it. I’ve watched arrests, beatings, car fires, humans on fire. All from behind closed, locked, shuttered windows. Hauerwas posits that Christians are witnesses. They are the keepers of memory. Am I?

Each time I drive a stake, I can begin to gather my thoughts, projecting for myself a new way in which to be and live. What has taken up residence where nationalism most naturally resides? Some more passive version of the same thing? A penchant for materialism, a bent for capitalism, a heart for my own welfare above the welfare of others?

Good for me, I am not a nationalist. I declare it every week as I a partake of the Eucharist. Christ became death for us.

Have I become life for anyone?


Food equals Love.” The quote on their wall arrested me. It has been a long time since I’ve loved food, or felt that food was loving. Eating, for the gutless, takes guts. It is an intentional choice to live, to survive. Eating for us is not romantic. It hurts. It burns. It shames.

But the quote brought me back to someplace that my soul once lived, to the tiny patch of roughed up earth that unwillingly rooted my narrow selection of plants. The words wafted up into my nose the way the chives and basil once did. I suddenly remembered scrubbing my nail beds before snipping those fresh greens into a salad and giving thanks for the goodness. Food was love, and I loved it.

It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten — every piece of fruit — had been picked by callused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone’s knees, someone’s aching back and hips, someone with a bandanna on her wrist to wipe away the sweat. Why had no one told her about this before? All food is won by someone’s labor…

What We Came For by Alison Luterman

In those days I used to give much and reap much, and I understood eating as a byproduct of living a certain kind of caring, serving life. My greatest error at that time was in fastening my attention here and there on calories, forgetting the real matter at hand.

Robert F. Capon exhorts me to see the real matter: the miraculous in the rudimentary foods I have ceased to notice. Take an onion, he directs most spiritually. Plan to spend an hour with it. “The first order of business is to address yourself to the onion at hand… The two of you sit here in mutual confrontation.” This meeting becomes a session, enlightening my awareness of situatedness, creatureliness, and my need to notice.

But I am irked with Capon’s transcendent experience. Grasp the onion, he quips the delightful Russian fable, and it will lift you to heaven. I’ve resented the onion from the first post-surgical moment I spent with it. I don’t believe that the place it took me to was heaven. I hope not.

Today I can’t look at a green leafy without suffering  what do they call it in polite company?  the trots. Before the colectomy I had been treated with dietary restrictions so diverse and difficult that I believed this new lifestyle would be quite palatable. I didn’t understand that the colectomy was a marital breakup. I didn’t know how loveless meals would become.

The experience of suffering seems to drive a wedge between me and the flourishing, nourishing, feral Bread Life. The meals I once blessed I curse. My hands have ceased to serve and prepare and touch the earth. They reach for the simplest, the easiest, the most bland. In so doing, I have ceased to reach for the sacramental. And so I sit with the onion, and I pray…

O Lord, refresh our sensibilities. Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in, and sauces which are never the same twice. Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with, and casseroles that put starch and substance in our limp modernity. Take away our fear of fat and make us glad of the oil which ran upon Aaron’s beard. Give us pasta with a hundred fillings, and rice in a thousand variations. Above all, give us grace to live as true men – to fast till we come to a refreshed sense of what we have and then to dine gratefully on all that comes to hand. Drive far from us, O Most Bountiful, all creatures of air and darkness; cast out the demons that possess us; deliver us from the fear of calories and the bondage of nutrition; and set us free once more in our own land, where we shall serve Thee as Thou hast blessed us – with the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Amen.

-Robert Ferar Capon

Capon, Robert Farrar. The Supper of the Lamb; a Culinary Reflection. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1969. Print.

A sacred oratorio from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion [BWV244]



Ich will hier bei dir stehen,
Verachte mich doch nicht!
Von dir will ich nicht gehen,
Wenn dir dein Herze bricht;
Wenn dein Haupt wird erblaßen
Im letzten Todesstoß,
Alsdann will ich dich faßen
In meinen Arm und Schoß.


I shall stand here with You,
do not then scorn me!
I do not want to leave You
when Your heart is breaking;
when Your set turns pale
in the last throes of death
then I want to grasp You
in my arm and bosom.

RAWtools: turning AK47s into farming tools

“My people will beat their swords into plows… and study war no more.” –Isaiah 2

Yesterday was a struggling day for me. Wrestling with God always leaves me limping. This photo appeared on my Twitter feed like a stream of water in a desert place. How exciting to see life cultivated out of death…

The waiting is the tortuous part. One doctor waits on another. One order rests on another. One test result must arrive before another. And so we wait with baited breath and knotted stomach and tangy, singed hope.

The waiting feels to me like wasting. If there is a time bomb in my body, ticking wildly toward its destruction and mine, why is everyone taking so damn long to find it? One doctor suggests another theory and a few more possible tests and I want to knock their teeth in because if that was a viable theory and a helpful test, why wasn’t it run A WEEK AGO? And I know these surgeons have real lives and they cannot wait on me hand and foot… they have real lives, sure… but so do I. So did I. I had a life once and it was not wrapped in a green sheet gown or stabbed through with needles or diced and dissected into fragmentation. I had a life like they do. “You’ll have to wait to see her. She’s at a birthday…” I went to birthday parties too once, you know.

Will I go to any more?

Will I have one of my own?

I used to want a chance to die.

Now I want a chance to live.

How long does that take, doc?


God is waiting too, I think. He has not shown up yet. Maybe like Dr C, he is crashing a birthday party. Maybe he’s waiting on… himself? Is he conflicted in his purpose here? Is he weighing out the risk of bending me further, stretching me farther, testing me harder? I’m a stubborn ass. I won’t break yet. Not today, anyway. Does he want to see how close I can get to that crucified place where even he knew forsakeness? I fear he is.


What if it kills me?

I’m afraid that I will die before I have a chance to make myself immortal.

I’m afraid of living vicariously through Jake and never becoming my own self. That I will leave the earth and he will be all that is left of me, and then he will move on.

I’m afraid of shriveling up, or worse yet, I’m afraid that there never was a part of me that was alive enough to shrivel. I’m afraid that there is a part of me that was always dead and stifled, and somehow it is taking over more and more. It is the fecal decay… the undergrowth of my soul… that I’m afraid of. It has gotten hold of me. It is destroying me with a slow leak of poison into my gut, a cesspool of waste, and a myriad of unanswered questions and unlived possibilities.

I’m afraid I’ll die here waiting for an answer that was never there, waiting for a doctor who couldn’t know, and on a God that didn’t show up.

Waiting is the worst part.

The poet had been on the streets for too many days. Street life is strange: it’s funny how being homeless isolates you from so many people and makes you repugnant and untouchable but out there on the streets you are never alone. Isolation you feel, yes, but no solace.

The poet was tired of street life but it’s a recession. Poets are, well, nobody knows what poets are but they are not marketable. So here he was on a sad Thursday and he was tired.

Some trees on the left offered relief from the heat, and he was obliged to rest with the loiterers. Boredom sat thick in the air. One man wanted to hear the poet’s story? God knows there’s nothing else to do… so who are you?

It’s etiquette up here, in the privileged world, to clean up your story before it’s told. Under the trees, sitting in the mud with the bleeding feet and the lice and the refuse, there is no need to sound auspicious.  The poet told his story of rejection and loss… a million others like it have been told before.

One hobo offered the advice of aggression: if you are wronged, cut them. Take this gun. It will help.

Another wanted to know if the poet had any connections to exploit. If you are poor, pull yourself up. It will help.

The others threw in whatever answers they themselves had turned to. Ignore these circumstances, nothing is really as bad as all that. Call on family, they’re supposed to be there for you. Fill yourself fully of lecherous pleasure. It will help.
The poet sat under the tree and didn’t respond. In the infuriating silence, the others wondered if he had forgotten them, or if he was too good for them, or if he was simply mad. His story fell silent and they simply despised him. After all, he wouldn’t help himself. One by one, they left the poet.

That night the poet slept under the tree and his dreams were bitter. On Friday, the sun never rose. Finding himself utterly alone, the poet began to tremble and to sweat. The time had come at last. His courage fled him, but he sang out from the tree. He climbed upon that tree and he sang a song of death. He sang a song of emptiness, betrayal, nakedness, and pain. He sang a song of rich men brought to hunger and poor men made full. He sang a song of bereavement, abuse, hunger, and curses. He sang a song that splintered the religious and scattered the imagination. He sang a song of death and it was strong.

Take my blood. It will help.
Take my pain. It will help.
Take my death. It will help.

Take myself. I will help.

The poet sang a song. It did not rise from earth. It plunged to hell.

Good Friday from Feinberg 1204
Annie Bolger
February 15, 2013

The conversation is: purity in [a specific] Christian culture, a culture that was home to me for many years [North American, Protestant, evangelical, fundamentalist, etc.,].

Do any of these voices echo your experience? What insights would you add? How could you change the conversation?

1) The Modesty Rules: Is a Woman Responsible for a Man’s Lust? “Heteronormative modesty codes not only objectify women by making them responsible for the thought life of every man they encounter, but make men feel weak, guilty, and vulnerable for experiencing basic sexual attraction.”

2) Virginity: New & Improved!

“Christians say that the world objectifies women through immodest dress and a permissive sexual ethic. However, by idolizing sexual purity and preoccupying ourselves with female modesty and an emphasis on hyper-purity, Christians actually engage in reverse objectivization.”

3) I am damaged goods

“Darling, young one burning with shame and hiding in the silence, listen now: Don’t believe that lie. You never were, you never will be, damaged goods.”

4) Beauty vs. Sexuality

A broken worldview that reduces human behavior down to a predictable set of gendered, inevitable physiological responses shouldn’t be the framework for a Christian discussion of beauty, desire and the longing for affirmation.

5) Modesty and Hating Oneself: The Darker Side

“Lust is not about sexuality, but about power and control… We, as a church, need to change the conversation. We need to first teach men that blaming women for boners is not a healthy way to go through life, and that sexual attraction and not feeling sexual attraction are natural and acceptable identities. We need to broaden the conversation to talk about control and objectification rather than how one person is sinful for having a perfectly normal sexual reaction to attractiveness. We need to talk about how this thinking fuels a culture of rape.”

6) How the Modesty Doctrine Fuels Rape Culture

“It is this idea that women need to cover up because men can’t help themselves, quite simply, that fuels rape culture in our society today. The conservative evangelicals I grew up amongst might not know it, but their ideas about gender and sexuality really do promote rape culture.”

Matthew 5:8… “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

We walk in the company of the women who have gone before, mothers of the faith both named and unnamed, testifying with ferocity and faith to the Spirit of wisdom and healing.

They are the judges, the prophets, the martyrs, the warriors, the poets, lovers, and saints who are near to us in the shadow of awareness, in the crevices of memory, in the landscape of our dreams.

We walk in the company of Deborah,

who judged the Israelites with authority and strength.

We walk in the company of you whose names have been lost and silenced,

who kept and cradled wisdom with the ages.

We walk in the company of the woman with the flow of blood,

who audaciously sought her healing and release.

We walk in the company of Julian of Norwich,

who wed imagination and theology, proclaiming “All shall be well.”

We walk in the company of Sojourner Truth,

who stood against oppression, righteously declaring “Ain’t I a woman!’

We walk in the company of you mothers of the faith,

who teach us to resist evil with boldness, to lead with wisdom, and to heal.


{Excerpted from A Litany to Honor Women in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals}

Her Facebook status arrested my attention for a few fleeting moments. “The world is so much prettier through Instagram filters.” So much truth in that statement. And so many lies.

One. Two. Three. Smile! We see the manner in which the picture falls short of our anticipation and we set forth to polish up the dingy portrait and set it right. We dress up the real life and paint it anew, recreating the picture that is there and forcing it to be the picture we desire. There is a darkness lurking behind the drive to Instagram our lives. Our everyday, mundane, boring moments are altered and reshaped and presented to the world as other than they are. We edit the familiar to render it original. We retouch the blemishes. We crop out the ugly corners of living. Pixelated perfection. It isn’t raw or real. It isn’t honest. The “Come to Me” Savior is all-too-familiar with the painful, wounded, ugly, dying parts of us. He wants to see the picture and He doesn’t require the filtered version.

But our photogenic dishonesty betrays at least one precious attribute that we possess. This world is so very disappointing and a picture, worth a thousand words, can give that secret away. We are the changers, the re-creators, the guardians of this brokenness who rage against the way things are and wish that we could make it new. We were intended to yank the weeds and tend the garden. We were made with an innate dissatisfaction with the way things are. Instagram. Our one-click opportunity to retake the true picture. Here again, the “Come to Me” Savior is sympathetic. He is sympathetic with our desire that things be different… that life be better… that the picture improve. He is the “Come to Me” Savior who is also “making all things new”. He knows all too well that a simple filter will never suffice, but He understands our deep dissatisfaction with the way that things are. He is dissatisfied, too.

The gift of recreation comes neither through the untouched photo nor through the Instagrammed one. The gift comes when we finally answer the “Come to Me”, and we are seen.

“I did not go through pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within that pain the grace to survive and eventually grow. I did not get over the loss… rather, I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am.”

– Jerry Sittser, in A Grace Disguised