I don’t like to be that guy–the one who airs his grammar or usage pet peeves. But this one’s been bugging me for a while. It’s the use of “myself” in place of “me.” As in: “Let Jane, Bob, or myself know if you have any questions.” The practice seems rampant in corporate America and other big organizations, maybe because people think it sounds more “correct” or official? It’s called a reflexive pronoun, people. Use it the way it was intended.

Stuff evangelical hipsters like

The author of the blog (and book) Hipster Christianity asks:

How many of these 50 books have you read? If you’ve read more than 20 of them, there is a good chance that you are a Christian with artistic or intellectual tendencies. If you’ve read more than 30 of them, you are most likely a Christian hipster. If you’ve read more than 40 of them, let me know. You could probably write the sequel to Hipster Christianity.

Here’s his list, with the ones I’ve read in bold. Best as I can tell, a true hipster Christian must also be an ex- (or current?) evangelical. I like to think that I have artistic or intellectual tendencies (pretensions?), but I only racked up 15 14 books. I would’ve done better if his Dostoevsky choice was The Brothers Karamazov, the Faulkner was The Sound and the Fury, and Steinbeck was The Grapes of Wrath. What makes these particularly un-hip? Too obvious? Also, what makes King Lear the Christian hipster play par excellence??

Augustine – Confessions
C.S. Lewis – Till We Have Faces
Walker Percy – The Moviegoer

Dorothy Sayers – The Mind of the Maker
G.K. Chesterton – Orthodoxy
George MacDonald – Phantastes
Evelyn Underhill – Mysticism
Terry Eagleton – After Theory
Jean-Paul Sarte – Being and Nothingness

Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings
Annie Dillard – Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Donald Miller – Blue Like Jazz
Kathleen Norris – Acedia & Me
Marilynne Robinson – Gilead
Shushako Endo- Silence
George Steiner – Real Presences
William Shakespeare- King Lear
Anne Lamott – Traveling Mercies
Plato – The Republic
Jacques Ellul – The Technological Society
Flannery O’Connor – Wise Blood
Chuck Klosterman – Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs [I mis-remembered the Klosterman book I read, which of course was Fargo Rock City.]
Dave Eggers – A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Martin Buber – I and Thou
Neil Postman – Amusing Ourselves to Death
Lauren Winner – Real Sex
Douglas Coupland – Life After God
Tim Keller – The Reason For God
N.T. Wright – Surprised by Hope
Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment
A.W. Tozer – The Knowledge of the Holy
Henri Nouwen – The Return of the Prodigal Son
Dietrich Bonhoeffer – The Cost of Discipleship
Jack Kerouac – On the Road
John Steinbeck – East of Eden
Jean Baudrillard – Simulacra and Simulation
Rob Bell – Velvet Elvis
William P. Young – The Shack
Shane Claiborne – The Irresistible Revolution
Thomas a Kempis – The Imitation of Christ
Dallas Willard – The Divine Conspiracy
Eugene Peterson – The Message
Paul Tillich – The Courage To Be
Francis Collins – The Language of God
J.I. Packer – Knowing God
Andy Crouch – Culture Making
Madeline L’Engle – Walking on Water
Mark Noll – The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
Jim Wallis – God’s Politics
William Faulkner – As I Lay Dying

The rise of the more-Catholic-than-thou Protestant

This was a character who was (blessedly) unknown to me prior to the advent of the theo-blogosphere: the guy (and it’s almost invariably a guy) who is constantly berating his fellow Protestants for not being “catholic” enough. That is, not being in touch with the larger Church and the Great Tradition, being antinomian, relativistic, individualistic, “liberal Protestant,” etc. etc. And yet these fellows never seem quite able to bring themselves to take the obvious step and become Catholiic. Could it be because if they did they’d be just one more humble Catholic and not someone with a mission to tell his fellow Christians everything they’re doing wrong?

Now I personally have a great attraction to Catholicism, though it’s an attraction to Catholic piety and Catholicism’s intellectual and social tradition rather than any desire for an authoritative church. But I’m just not going to become Catholic for a variety of reasons, so I try not to go around insisting that Protestants be “more Catholic” (whatever that might mean) to suit me. I do think we might consider being better Protestants though.

Dear Pandora

When I’m listening to your (otherwise great) Traditional Country station, I really don’t need to hear Joaquin Phoenix singing Johnny Cash tunes from the Walk the Line soundtrack. Just sayin’.

Theological pet peeves

When Christian writers do one or both of the following:

1. Posit a simplistic dichotomy between “Hebrew” (or “biblical”) and “Greek” thought. These days the former is invariably portrayed as earthy, holistic, and life-affirming, while the latter is otherworldly, dualistic, and sees matter as evil. (As an aside, I often wonder what Jews think when Christians purport to define “Hebrew” thinking. Bonus question: was Maimonides a “Hebrew” or “Greek” thinker?)

2. Going on ad nauseum about how God cannot be contained in “propositions” and how “propositional truth” and “reason” are irrelevant to the life of faith, which is a dynamic, life-changing relationship that, in some way I can’t fathom, doesn’t involve having beliefs with any specifiable content or truth conditions.

Here endeth the rant.

Spring fever

I finally get what everybody was talking about when they said that Spring in DC is wonderful. I had the day off today and took the opportunity to wander a bit around the city. It’s about 80 degrees, low humidity, crystal blue sky, and it seems like every last bit of flora is in full, fragrant bloom. I went up to the National Cathedral, which, in addition to being a pretty impressive building, has a sweet theological bookstore (I picked up a copy of James Alison’s On Being Liked). Then I walked around the Cleveland Park area a bit before hoofing it back home for lunch. My only regret is that I didn’t take my camera to snap some shots for posting here. I think, though, that we may head down to the Tidal Basin for a stroll tomorrow, so maybe photos will be forthcoming.

“A refuge from insignificance”

For those for whom life means action, the world is a stage on which to enact their dreams. Over the past few hundred years, at least in Europe, religion has waned, but we have not become less obsessed with imprinting a human meaning on things. A thin secular idealism has become the dominant attitude to life. The world has come to be seen as something to be remade in our own image. The idea that the aim of life is not action but contemplation has almost disappeared.

Those who struggle to change the world see themselves as noble, even tragic figures. Yet most of those who work for world betterment are not rebels against the scheme of things. They seek consolation for a truth they are too weak to bear. At bottom, their faith that the world can be transformed by human will is a denial of their own mortality.

Wyndham Lewis described the idea of progress as ‘time-worship’ — the belief that things are valuable not for what they are but for what they may someday become. In fact it is the opposite. Progress promises release from time — the hope that, in the spiralling ascent of the species, we can somehow preserve ourselves from oblivion.

Action preserves a sense of self-identity that reflection dispels. When we are at work in the world we have a seeming solidity. Action gives us consolation for our inexistence. It is not the idle dreamer who escapes from reality. It is practical men and women who turn to a life of action as a refuge from insignificance. — John Gray, Straw Dogs, pp. 193-4

I don’t post this to endorse Gray’s rather bleak view, but because I think it’s a view worth grappling with. Sort of like how all Christians should sit down and read Ecclesiastes every once in a while.


The revivified American Gladiators is kind of awesome.

Surprisingly apt search terms

Sometimes bloggers will post lists of the wacky search terms that lead people to their blog. But this selection of mine from the last couple of days shows people…being led here looking for things that are actually discussed on this blog. How boring!

presidential candidate quiz
“skeptical of the skeptical environmentalist
“where did the party go” “jeff taylor”
Presidential Candidate Quiz
Obama left
if god is not a vending machine then why
Atonement reading notes
there will be neither jew nor gentile
elca non-christians
alienation from God
thinking reed
presidential candidate selector
“skeptical of the skeptical environmentalist
praying the psalms daily
religious predestionation [sic]
lutheran outlook on just war
“keith ward” “virgin birth”
mutualist localism

D.C. = most walkable

Lucky for me as I walk pretty much everywhere I go. I might take the Metro once or twice a week, but we’re lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where pretty much all the necessities (and several of the luxuries) of life are within a couple blocks’ distance. Of course, we pay for that nice location in our expensive (and small!) apartment. But I love living somewhere that allows me to walk most places. I paid some serious commuting dues in the early 2000s living in the San Francisco Bay area and driving 1+ hour to work each way for over two years. So, I feel like I’ve earned living in a walkable city. 😉

To make a broader point, creating walkable communities should surely be a priority for our future, shouldn’t it? Pick your poison (obesity, peak oil, global warming, social anomie) and getting people out on the sidewalks and on their feet is at least part of the solution. Obviously many of our cities and suburbs (not to mention rural areas) simply aren’t designed to accomodate pedestrians, and to some extent that can’t be helped. But surely if we can subsidize the auto industry with all that concrete infrastructure we ought to be able to do something to make our communities more pedestrian-friendly.