Stevens and the Constitution

John Paul Stevens served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010, appointed by President Gerald Ford. While somewhat idiosyncratic early in his tenure on the high court, he eventually became aligned with the liberal block. Continue reading

“God Is Not a White Man” — Gungor

This song and the video just never grow old. I love it.

Liturgical Athletes

For several years I have been the sole acolyte in our Good Friday service. The Good Friday liturgy is probably the most physical demanding of our services. It begins with the altar party prostrating themselves before the altar. Over the years I have learned how to most effectively get into position—first going to my knees, then stretching out on my stomach, hands clasped under my forehead. After about thirty seconds of prostration, we then rise—first to our knees, then boosting ourselves upright from there. This year a deacon in her seventies tottered as she came up, and needed a hand to rise from her knees.

The Good Friday service also includes the veneration of the cross. Here a four-foot cross is held by an acolyte (me) and all members of the congregation who so desire come forward to kneel before the cross, reverently touch it to their foreheads, and perhaps even kiss it. As it happens, not all members are able to kneel. So some in the parade of venerators simply bow. Others drop to one knee and need a hand standing back up. Holding the cross, I’ve seen surprise on some faces as some kneel and then find they have trouble rising. The ravages of aging and disabilities sometimes advance slowly, incrementally, and what someone formerly did with ease now comes with unexpected difficulty and strain. There are poignant moments in the service.

The church fathers thought that our resurrection bodies would be like those at the peak of our physical and spiritual abilities. If so, this will enable us in the eschaton to worship with our full bodies, with agility and even a liturgical athleticism. As I see my fellow church members struggle with aging (and as, at age fifty-seven, I find kneeling and prostration a little harder), I think of the resurrection hope, when we will be athletes in the unceasing praise of God.

A Quote for Good Friday

St. Augustine, commenting on the First Epistle of John:

“He who says that he abides in him, therefore, must himself also walk as he walked” (2:6). How brothers? What is [John] teaching us? “He who says that he abides in him”—that is, in Christ—”must himself also walk as he walked.” Is he perhaps teaching us this, that we should walk on the sea? By no means. This then: that we should walk in the way of righteousness. In what way? I have already mentioned it. He was fastened to the cross, and he walked in that very way: it is the way of charity. “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” Accordingly, if you have learned to pray for your enemy, you are walking in the way of the Lord. (Homilies on the First Epistle of John 1.9)

Curmudgeon List, pt. 2

About eleven months ago I started a curmudgeon list. I had a handful of gripes I often had as an editor. It was not an exhaustive list. And since I tend toward a curmudgeonly disposition, it is is not a list that will likely ever stop growing. As you can guess, it is a list that can and does include things not associated with editing books and dealing with authors. In the last several months, I’ve had some pressure building up. This blog post is my relief valve. Additions to curmudgeon list after the jump.


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Jesus on a Bench

This past Sunday, National Public Radio ran a story about an Episcopal parish in Davidson, North Carolina, that installed a “controversial” sculpture in town. It was purchased as a memorial for a parishoner who recently died—an art work of Jesus sleeping on a bench, covered by a blanket. Continue reading

“Finding Vivian Maier”

A new and fascinating documentary is making the rounds. There’s quite a bit of discussion of Finding Vivian Maier here in Chicago, because the subject of the film lived and worked here. Vivian Maier was something of an enigma, a woman who died in 2009 and spent her adult life as a nanny. But there was a whole other side to herself, not discovered until after her passing.

John Maloof is a Chicagoan and collector who bought boxes of Maier’s personal effects at an auction. When he took home of the trunks full of material and started exploring it, he found dresses, blouses, political pins—and piles of undeveloped rolls of film. Maloof took a look at some of the negatives and was impressed. When he developed some photographs he was even more impressed. But Maloof was no expert in photography and wasn’t sure of his eye. He then posted a few dozen of Maier’s photos online, and found that dozens of viewers agreed with him that the photography was extraordinary. He sought out the evaluations of professional photographers and museum curators, and they agreed on the outstanding quality of Maier’s work. Continue reading

Forthcoming Books with Broad Appeal

The editorial lottery is, like any lottery, hard to predict. Just when I get comfortable with a particular mix and pace of academic and popular manuscripts coming across my desk, along comes a sudden change to shake things up. Continue reading

Round Ball and Inverted Pyramid

A few weeks ago I mentioned two books I was reading. I’ve since finished An Instance of the Fingerpost. It picked up pace toward the end. I’m still slogging my way through Gospel Writing. My interest is flagging. I may set it aside soon, or at the very least skip around to the bits that interest me more.

I now have space for more entertaining reading. I’ve mentioned before my growing interest in soccer/futbol/football. Each World Cup my interest grows. This last World Cup cycle I bought into self-describing as a soccer fan even during non-World Cup years. Now that we are on the verge of another World Cup, my excitement could send me over the edge into a fanaticism I haven’t had for a sport since my enthusiasm for college basketball during my high school and college days. The problem I am facing—other than the pit of annoying fanaticism—is that I don’t know near enough about the sport. I’d venture to guess that I know more than the average American. But if I am going to take this to the next level I need to address the gaping holes in my grasp of tactics and my knowledge of the sport’s history. Two books come highly recommended to help me here: The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt and Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics by Jonathan Wilson. I’ve downloaded both free samples for my Kindle, and I am now trying to decide which to invest in first. I’m thinking I’ll go with the one on tactics just so I can understand the finer aspects of the games to be played this summer. But Goldblatt’s history is certain to be on my reading list soon after. He gets at why soccer is so appealing to me in his Introduction: connection to the global community. He writes,

Is there any cultural practice more global than football? Rites of birth, death and marriage are universal, but infinite in their diversity. Football is played by the same rules everywhere. No single world religion can match its geographical scope. Even Christianity, borne on the back of European expansion, is a relatively minor player across Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. The use of English and the vocabularies of science and mathematics must run football close for universality, but they remain the lingua francas of the world’s elites, not of its masses. McDonald’s, MTV? Only the most anodyne products of America’s cultural industries can claim a reach as wide as football’s, and then only for a fleeting moment in those parts of the world that can afford them. Around half the planet watched the 2006 World Cup Final—three billion humans have never done anything simultaneously before.

These books should get me mentally prepared for the World Cup. This ESPN promo has already got my fanatic’s blood flowing:


U.S. Oligarchy

E. J. Dionne, the long-time columnist for the Washington Post, published another corker on Sunday. What he points out is that the recent Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon et al. v. Federal Election Commission works together with the earlier decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to further consolidate the power of the super-rich in affecting elections and minimizing the access of the poor and minorities. Continue reading