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Invisible Grief? Theological Reflections on Miscarriage

It is the hard work of mothering always to remember. —Walter Brueggemann   About six minutes into what will become a ninety-minute conversation, the woman on the other side of the kitchen table begins to cry. As I fight—and fail—to hold back my own tears, I am struck that so far in my research, I’m five for five in reducing these women, some of them strangers to me, to tears. As they tell their stories of having suffered one or more miscarriages, I realize also that... 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 legendary tales forged cultures. I always wanted to ride out, meet the enemy, slay the dragon. Well,... Read More

Evil Is What Humans Do: An Interview with Christian Wiman

Christian Wiman is one of America’s most important poets. He is the editor of Poetry magazine, the author of several poetry and essay collections, and a revered contributor to such prestigious publications as the Harvard Divinity Bulletin and the New Yorker. His forthcoming book, My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer, explores the central themes of his work, including frailty, illness, and the love of God. In this interview, Wiman discusses his work, his attention... Read More

Randomness and Assurance: Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

The Blueprint Worldview On August 1, 2007, a highway bridge several miles from my house collapsed during rush hour, killing 13 people and wounding 144 others. That night, a well-known local pastor blogged about a discussion he had with his eleven-year-old daughter as he put her to bed. He asked her what purpose God might have had for not “holding up that bridge,” even though he could have done so with “his pinky.” He affirmed her when she responded that God “wanted all... Read More

Suffering and the Love of God (A Tribute to My Wife)

A little over a year ago my wife was diagnosed with a rare, cancer-like disease called pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP). This disease begins with an appendiceal or ovarian tumor that ruptures and begins to spread thick mucin throughout the abdominal cavity. The tumorous cells multiply, attaching themselves to organs and slowly filling the abdomen with a bright yellow Jell-O. If left unattended over a long period, the slowly reproducing mucin will begin to crush organs and shut down... Read More

Though the Earth Give Way: Haiti, Suffering, and the Crucified God

Paradox before the Ruins Jack Gilbert’s poem “A Brief for the Defense” is a haunting meditation on a central contradiction: that profound suffering and extraordinary joy—each apparently unaccountable in light of the other—so pervade a world ascribed to the work of God. In the poem (Job-like in its honesty of language), Gilbert sets the stark horrors of poverty, violence, and natural calamity side by side with portraits of beauty and laughter in the mundane habits... Read More

Why Lord? Haiti and the God-Question

On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake, the same strength quake that rocked San Francisco in 1989, brought the little island nation of Haiti to its knees. Some news outlets have reported that nearly one-third of the nation’s population, or somewhere in the neighborhood of about 3 million people, have been affected either by being killed, maimed, or left homeless. It is not an exaggeration to say that the devastation strains one’s abilities to describe. And it is just... Read More

Facing Suffering: Human Rights Tragedies and the Divine Comedy

I’m going to start with a claim that I can’t actually substantiate but that I hope you’ll entertain as likely or at least interesting: I think that people who watch a lot of human rights documentaries have a problem.1 To be fair, I think that people who avoid watching them also have this problem, although they deal with it in another way. The problem is this: it seems there can be no role for joy when we are observers of suffering and injustice. How can one be both... Read More

Sea Billows Rolling: A Review of Paul Mariani’s Deaths & Transfigurations

Paul Mariani, Deaths & Transfigurations (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2005). 94 pages. $21.60 hardcover. Click here to purchase Deaths & Transfigurations from Amazon.com and help support The Other Journal. Salty, briny, barnacled, and often shipwrecked, Paul Mariani’s sixth collection of poems, Deaths & Transfigurations, plumbs the depths of memory and mystery, death and life, and the steady current of illuminated ordinariness that flows throughout. Mariani... Read More

Huddled against Death

n Ethiopia, where I grew up, funerals last three days. I hated going to these liksous. In the Amhara culture, grief is violent and sensory, loud and raw. As the local missionaries, my parents were usually asked to attend the last tribute to the dead. As we entered the mourners’ houses, I would duck behind my mother’s legs, terrified by what I heard and saw—relatives wailing at the top of their lungs, rocking back and forth, eyes rolled back in their heads; the bereaved... Read More