Commentary

Charlottesville and America’s original sin

I vividly remember my first visit to Charlottesville, Virginia. It was about 20 years ago, and I was on vacation with a good friend, who shared with me a passion for American history and for Thomas Jefferson in particular. We had toured a number of Civil War battlefields in Maryland and Virginia and then had made our way to Jefferson’s University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Finally, we ventured outside the city to the little hilltop home that the great founder had designed and built for himself, Monticello.

Understanding grace more deeply

The mark of genuine contrition is not a sense of guilt, but a sense of sorrow, of regret for having taken a wrong turn; just as the mark of living in grace is not a sense of our own worth but a sense of being accepted and loved despite our unworthiness. We are spiritually healthy when our lives are marked by honest confession and honest praise.

Being goodhearted is not enough

Charity is about being goodhearted, but justice is about something more. Individual sympathy is good and virtuous, but it doesn’t necessarily change the social, economic and political structures that unfairly victimize some people and unduly privilege others. We need to be fair and good of heart, but we also need to have fair and good policies.

From conflict to communion

We are just a month away from the fall season in which the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation will be commemorated on Oct. 31. Each earlier centenary commemoration has been shaped by church and political agendas that reflected the cultural and political context of the time.

Superheroes and the power of love

Superman has his red power cape. Elijah wore a cape to manifest his divine authority. Most famously, the Virgin Mary is usually portrayed wearing a cape-like garment known as a mantle, often blue and sometimes adorned with stars, to highlight her extraordinary role in history. In the church’s oldest Marian prayer we say “Beneath your mantle we take refuge, O Mother of God.”

Musing on the teeth of St. Ambrose

I write these words from Milan, Italy, where I am with my Word on Fire team filming new episodes for our Pivotal Players series. I’ve seen lots of marvelous things on this trip, including the ruins of the ancient baptistery under the Milan Cathedral where, in the spring of 387, St. Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose. But the most fascinating sight I’ve taken in is the vested and mitered skeleton of that same Ambrose, which rests in the basilica that bears his name, not far from the cathedral.

Christianity isn’t dying, it needs to grow up

There’s a popular notion which suggests that it can be helpful to compare every century of Christianity’s existence to one year of life. That would make Christianity 21 years old, a young 21, grown up enough to exhibit a basic maturity but still far from a finished product.