Making peace in troubled times…


Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, it’s hard to deny that these are troubled times. Thinking about not accepting injustice also brings to mind the pitfalls of ‘fighting fire with fire.’

I recently came across this stirring quote about peacemaking — and was particularly moved by its vision of actively pushing back and yet breaking out of an escalating cycle of retribution:

“Peacemaking does not mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.”  (Shane Claiborne)

Yes, the real work is in hashing out *how* to enact such lofty principles — but we can and must let inspiration like this at least get us started.

A reason?…

storm at sea

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Some of the most caring people i know have said this to comfort me in the midst of tragic circumstances. I have received it with warm gratitude for their empathy. Yet inwardly, i admit, i have also grimaced and rolled my eyes.

Many people must find comfort in the sentiment, since it is so commonly expressed. Perhaps the conviction behind it is, “If some meaning can be found in this awful thing, that makes it a bit less awful, and a bit easier to hang on through it.”

Continue reading

god’s weeping…


Religious fervor has been in the news in a big way this week. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of the god question, you could hardly avoid the news of the pope’s visit to the U.S., its significance and massive response much covered and commented on.

I did not follow the events of his visit closely, but i did hear that in reference to victims of child abuse, he asserted, “God weeps.”

That statement started me weeping.

I have some personal familiarity with the issue. I was a very strong believer at the time (i was not the victim directly), and the events i’m referring to did not drive me away from belief. Rather, i was comforted and inspired by the idea of a god who suffers with us.

Believing in a god who could have intervened, but who chose not to prevent the infliction of this particular harm, necessitated also believing that at the very least, the atrocity somehow hurt him too. I granted that the Why question belonged to the shadowlands where mysteries remain beyond us for now.

Along the way in the many years since, i have become less able to find the notion of god’s weeping either comforting or persuasive. It has, of course, never been merely an academic exercise. I suspect it never is for anyone who has known the indefinite suffering of deep violation.

As i have written about elsewhere, my very gradual development toward non-belief has not been driven primarily by personally painful experiences, though they inescapably play a crucial role in the narrative. As regards the pope’s statement, though, I am much more ready to accept my own troubles than those dealt to a child from a predator’s hands.

While in these contemplations today, i happened on an article that touched tangentially on questions of god and suffering. In it, writer Darin Strauss, who considers himself a skeptic, queries believer Erik Kolbell, Minister of Social Justice at Riverside Church in New York City. Here is part of Kolbell’s response with regard to suffering:

“I do believe that we can effect both good and ill on earth, and, as pertains to the question of inexplicable and arbitrary suffering, while we cannot explain it (to do so is to demean it), we can redeem it.”

There is profound resonance for me in his point about demeaning another’s suffering by attempting to explain it. It cannot be explained. But what we can do is remain mindful of our own capabilities for good or ill, in big and small ways — after all, there are no small ways.

I see ‘redeeming’ as being ready to seize every opportunity to prevent suffering, to otherwise mitigate it by offering comfort, and finally to realize our deep human connection to each other in the face of it.

Now that i can be inspired by.


Forgiveness in Charleston…


A couple of weeks ago, an incredibly moving scene played out in the wake of yet another mass shooting – this time in Charleston, South Carolina.  At the bond hearing of the accused shooter, family members of those murdered professed their forgiveness of the murderer.

I’ve been pondering what it is about this scene that makes me uncomfortable. Surely an act of forgiveness — of the most horrendous of offenses, from the most personally wounded of positions — is to be commended, isn’t it?

To me, there is no question that these anguished victims, going against the normal human impulse to lash out and to seek revenge, are drawing from a resource they would likely describe as outside of themselves. It is nothing short of inspiring when someone of faith demonstrates the willingness to live it authentically in such a profoundly agonizing situation.

None of us can say with certainty what we would feel or say in their shoes. It is not my purpose here to declare what i might do or to hold forth on the effects of what they are doing — only to try to understand what i find jarring about it, beyond its rarity.

Continue reading

Grey areas…



Every now and then a cultural phenomenon reaches a level of media momentum that it becomes virtually inescapable. Occasionally that phenomenon happens to involve a topic many don’t typically address in polite company, and therefore elicits a startled uneasiness at first, and later an increased acceptance within the general public. Such was the case with President Clinton’s White House affair in the 1990s, which accustomed the populace to the open discussion of certain intimate behaviors for the first time.

Such is the case now with a book-to-film which has become an enormous hit, arguably due to its provocative themes. (I am not naming the film so as not to promote it.) And similarly to the Clinton affair, it throws into the public spotlight intimate behaviors previously talked about mostly with wink-and-nudge euphemisms, if at all.    Continue reading

It’s a new year!

Looks like we’ve made it through another year. Launching this blog is my celebration.

Every menu item has at least one post so far, except Viewpoints. I plan to use Viewpoints to comment occasionally on events in the news and culture. If you have a suggestion for a topic for the inaugural post under Viewpoints, feel free to let me know, either in a Comment or by emailing me at

I wish for everyone a healthy and fulfilling new year.