“Communal Sex: Or, Why Your Neighbor Has Any Business Asking You What You Did Last Night”

In contemporary society, sex is public–moms go on talk shows and confess to sleeping with their daughters’ boyfriends, Calvin Klein models expose their body parts in magazine ads. But if sex is public, it is not communal. Americans consider sex a fine topic of public disclosure but we insist that sex is also private, nobody’s business but mine and the person with whom I’m doing it. I can show you my midriff in public, and I can make out with my boyfriend on a park bench, but there is no communal grammar that allows you to talk to me about this body I am exposing in front of you. (Lauren Winner, Real Sex, p. 47)

It’s an interesting phenomenon, isn’t it? Keep your nose out of my bedroom, unless I choose to broadcast it on Dr. Phil. I can decide to tell the world about my sex life, but if you ask me about it out of genuine care or concern you have become the definition of foot-in-mouth disease. On the one hand, I can’t ask a close friend if all is well in his sex life without fear of faux pas. On the other hand, the very public fascination with the affair of General Petraeus has far exceeded is newsworthiness.

I wonder if our public fascination with sex stems in part from Read more of this post

Christianity and Pluralism (2): Coercion and Corruption of the Christian Message

Yesterday, I suggested that while a pluralistic attitude toward religion (i.e. saying that all religions are equally in the dark about ultimate things) is admirably humble, it is also deeply flawed. It turns out that while the pluralist says, “No single religion or worldview can get to the whole truth. So we should all just reject authoritative dogma and accept each others’ positions,” they are, at the same time, contradicting all those religions (like Christianity, Islam, various forms of Buddhism, etc.) that do make claims to ultimate truth. In fact, what the pluralist is doing is exactly what they tell others not to do–they are saying that their worldview encompasses and explains all other worldviews.

So why make this mistake? Why pretend to be inclusive and intellectually humble when we are actually exalting our worldview above all of the world’s great religions? Read more of this post

Christianity and Pluralism (1): Groping the Elephant

Religious symbols from the top nine organised ...

“In a pluralist society such as ours, any confident statement of ultimate belief, any claim to announce the truth about God and his purpose for the world, is liable to be dismissed as ignorant, arrogant, dogmatic. We have no reason to be frightened of this accusation.” (Lesslie Newbigin).

If you don’t believe anyone should impress their beliefs on anyone else, this week’s series is for you. If you do believe you should impress your beliefs on everyone else, this week’s series is for you. If you are simply curious about what it means for a Christian to tell someone about her faith in a culture that often tells us such an act is arrogant and unloving, this week’s series is for you. If Christians have been unloving to you when telling you about their faith, but you know that doesn’t rule out the whole religion, this week’s series is for you.

Starting today, I am going to write a series of five blogs derived from Lesslie Newbigin‘s book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. This won’t even come close to offering the full scope of his thought on the subject, but I hope it will give you a helpful starting point for thinking about how Christianity/Christians ought to think about themselves in a pluralist society.

I’ll start off with a charming little story, Read more of this post

Pithy Post: The Vocation of the Poet (Part 2)

The quote from Kenyon that I posted yesterday, about the poet being a relentless finder of names for things and an empathic companion to console in the face of loss, reminds me of someone. It strikes me that Jesus was an awful lot like that.

Jesus was the consummate truth-teller. He never shied away from naming what he saw. I remember a story Read more of this post

Pithy Post: The Vocation of the Poet

In A Hundred White Daffodils, poet Jane Kenyon tells us what she thinks poetry is all about:

“The poet’s job is to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, in such a beautiful way that people cannot live without it; to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name.  The poet’s job is to find a name for everything; to be a fearless finder of the names of things; to be an advocate for the beauty of language, the subtleties of language.  I think it’s very serious stuff, art; it’s not just decoration.  The other job the poet has is to console in the face of inevitable disintegration, of loss and death, all of the tough things we have to face as humans.  We have the consolation of beauty, of one soul, extending to another soul and saying, ‘I’ve been there too.'” (pp. 183-4)

I think she is giving us not only the job description of a poet, but also the vocation of a pastor. It’s one of the wonderful and terrifying responsibilities we who stand in front of people on Sunday morning face. What Kenyon describes is someone who is able to speak the truth in love with beauty. The ‘beauty’ part is a gift of God and a skill to hone, but speaking the truth in love is, for every Christian, a responsibility and a joy.

In fact, I wonder if most of what Kenyon describes should also be called the job description of a friend.

Pithy Post: Truth in an Age of Politics

During this election season, going to factcheck.org is a necessary but altogether distressing practice. Too often, truth is not nearly as important as repetition and rhetoric is substituted for reason. As discouraging as this is to so many of us nowadays, the reality is that throughout history people in power have used language as a tool to gain and maintain that power. It is in this type of world that Jesus sent his disciples and sends us to speak and live authentically. Read more of this post

Who Occupies Your Heart?

On Friday, as I walked onto UC Berkeley’s campus and toward the nocturnally abandoned remnants of the Occupy Berkeley cardboard protests, the seriousness of the movement struck me for the first time. Now, I am not saying that I agree with all the rhetoric, the hype, the tactics being used, or even the philosophy underlying Occupy Wall Street (if there is one such philosophy). What I am saying is that there is a reason it has become a movement: it resonates with something beautiful in the souls of human beings.

As I wade into the deep and turbulent waters of commenting on the Occupy movement, I am painfully aware of something: Like most contemporary issues in my beloved country, this one divides people. Read more of this post

A Short Letter to an Atheist about Rob Bell and Christian Controversy

This post is a reply to Ronnie, an atheist writing on Jon Kuhrt’s blog about his experience with Rob Bell and the surrounding Christian controversy.


Thanks for being so transparent with your journey. I, for one, think I need to apologize on behalf of Christians for the rancorous rhetoric and contentious conflict surrounding Bell and his latest book. Another book that gets at the heart of this conflict, I think, is Prodigal God, by Tim Keller. Read more of this post