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An Ordinary Nine Innings


All baseball games begin with no runs, no hits, no errors, a player scuffing his shoes at the plate, and nobody on base, but I’m going to start by telling you the final score: John Sexton’s Baseball as a Road to God is a flawed but insightful look at how something as ordinary/pedestrian/unchurched/free from theology/etc as baseball can help us explore the deeper meaning of things. First... Read More

We Are the Syllables God Utters from His Mouth: A Review of Annie Dillard and the Word Made Flesh


Colleen Warren. Annie Dillard and the Word Made Flesh: An Incarnational Theory of Language. Lanham, MD: Lehigh University Press, 2010.   The use of words as a primary route to faith has fallen out of favor in many theological and philosophical circles. Scholars suggest that the body is a sexier mode for coming to know who God is, who we are, and how truth is revealed. And so... Read More

Marxism v. Global Finance: A Review of Kenneth Surin’s Freedom Not Yet: Liberation and the Next World Order


Kenneth Surin. Freedom Not Yet: Liberation and the Next World Order. New Slant Series: Religion, Politics, Ontology. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009.   Neoliberal capitalism is not working—at least not right now and not for many us. The golden age of capitalism—that period of growth between the end of World War II and the early 1970s during which advanced industrial... Read More

Why Does the Devil Have All My Best Songs? Daniel Johnston, David Liebe Hart, and the Living Outsider Artist


I. The Insider’s Desirous Gaze Some would try for fame and glory; others aren’t so bold. —Daniel Johnston, “Story of an Artist” We attend concerts for many reasons, and in the more obscure corners of pop music, we may worship artists because of peculiar factors. If pressed, we may confess to attending performances mostly in order to play a role in what Guy Debord called... Read More

Lord, Make Me Unchaste, but Not Yet: A Review of Brett Foster’s The Garbage Eater


Brett Foster, The Garbage Eater (Evanston, IL: TriQuarterly Books, 2011).   It is said that we are what we eat, that our appetites and outputs are in sync. Often, that’s also the case in the relationship between reading and writing. In reading Brett Foster’s debut poetry collection, The Garbage Eater, it becomes readily apparent that—for better or worse—Foster does... Read More

Burning Peak Oil

country ride

My friends Andy and Alice recently bought a new car. This is a big deal. Not because of the ride itself—a mature, utility Saab with a few clunks and quirks—but because they are not what you would call “car people. Andy hikes the Olympic peninsula and rides a bicycle to his job at a local high school. Alice comes home from giving music lessons to tend the plants in their small... Read More

Taking Semiotics to Church: A Review of Crystal Downing’s Changing Signs of Truth


Crystal L. Downing. Changing Signs of Truth: A Christian Introduction to the Semiotics of Communication. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012.   Crystal Downing offers an entertaining and anecdotally rich account of how an otherwise highly specialized and esoteric form of linguistic science can be deployed theologically to reframe perennial problems in the relationship between... Read More

Citizenship, Voting, and the Common Good


A political news junkie in 2008, I now find myself tuning out. I am done with the partisanship and vitriol. I am tired of sorting facts from lies. Perhaps I’ll just sit out this election. After all, I still have enough faith in the American system’s propensity to tilt from the Far Left or Far Right to the center to believe that I will be fine, to know that when the inane mudslinging... Read More

The Other Side of Normal


“Fearlessness is better than a faint heart for any man who puts his nose out of doors. The length of my life and the day of my death were fated long ago.”1—I read these lines in the Norse epic poem For Skirnis as a child and have remembered them often since. I steeped myself in Norse and Celtic mythologies, and I remain impressed by the fierceness of those warriors whose... Read More

Bearing the Silence: On James Baldwin and Prayer


It is not unusual to encounter silence in prayer or in writings about prayer; it is, in fact, quite normal, whether it be a romanticized vision of the silent heart basking in the brilliant glory of God or the infuriatingly mundane experience of hearing no answer and finding few or no words to lift up to our Creator. Silence is extolled as a virtue in this bustling, chatty world.... Read More