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Ben’s Quad Aflame (Notes on Shame)

I’ve only been hunting once. It was, on the whole, a memorable experience for all of the right reasons: a handful of days in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with a few cherished family members, chief among them my grandfather, who was nearing the end of his hunting days; eating lots of junk food; sharing stories in the evenings; ripping through forest paths on my uncle’s four-wheel ATVs (“quads”); being “forced” to wear bunny ears at the restaurant for opening day’s dinner…
May 31, 2021

Defense and Discernment: Bearing Witness in Suspicious Times We live in suspicious times. I wore a mask during my most recent trip to the grocery store. As I was checking out, I noticed an unmasked woman glaring at me. No words were exchanged, and yet I got the distinct feeling that she was saying something like: “oh, so you’re one of them.” It is entirely possible that I misread her body language, or that I was feeling overly sensitive, or that she was the one feeling judged…
June 18, 2020

The Life You Save May Not Be Your Own: Loving Our Distant Neighbors in a Time of Pandemic On March 27, the New York Times reported that although in some respects COVID-19 was uniting Americans in a common experience, it was also exposing fractures in our society: “A kind of pandemic caste system is rapidly developing: the rich holed up in vacation properties; the middle class marooned at home with restless children; the working class on the front lines of the economy, stretched to the limit by the demands of work and parenting, if there is even…

Ancient Paths For a New Future: A Sabbatical Reflection

This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16 Out beyond the stacked stone walls, beyond the moldboard plow perched upon it, beyond the rocky soils of the now dormant cornfield, beyond the flock of sheep picking about the leftover harvest trimmings, a fiery explosion of fuchsia blossoms detonates, shattering the muted…
June 16, 2020

A Drink of Water: Flint, Michigan, 2014–2018

I assure you that anyone who gives you a drink of water because you belong to me will certainly receive a reward.Mark 9:41 The facts of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, are well known. Most important, it was caused entirely by human error and prolonged by a subsequent refusal to admit responsibility and take timely action. In April 2014, a state-appointed emergency manager opened a new pipeline to carry water from the Flint River to the city’s inhabitants. The…
April 22, 2019

Less Likeable than Insightful: Schrader’s “First Reformed”

First Reformed presents looks at current social issues through the lens of religion and specifically the eyes of a pastor from a failing Reformed church. To its credit, it attempts to give a well-rounded view of these issues. Pastor Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke), is recently divorced and has lost his son in the Iraq war. Coming from a long line of male graduates of Virginia Military Institute, Toller had been an armed-services chaplain; he had encouraged his son to enlist…
April 19, 2019

Love and Hate: Christians and Rock Music in the 1960s

As a child of the 80s born to evangelical parents with a tall stack of Christian music on vinyl, I grew up with an odd mix of music. Music from an earlier era of secular styles was called “oldies.” Oldies were music that was once the devil’s music that had grown into AM-airwave fodder. Then there was country music, an old-time tradition often accompanied by gospel style and lyrics that developed into a saccharine substitute, with sad songs about lost…
April 17, 2019