“In my view, a genuine pro-life political position takes its commitment to human life seriously, and is therefore willing to commit to supporting the lives of mothers and children rather than simply their births. I do not believe harsh punishment is the way to address the challenges facing mothers and infants that tragically conclude, at times, in abortion. Yet penalty seems to be the one way those operating under the “pro-life” banner feel comfortable expressing their commitment to life, which is why I find the usual rightwing anti-abortion approach underwhelming and incomplete. Compassion isn’t cheap, and it’s defined by its longevity: If we are to take seriously a cultural commitment to life, which I believe we should, then we’ll conduct ourselves with mercy and sensitivity to the difficulties that bring women to choose abortion, and will commit ourselves to concrete political change aimed at reducing those struggles.”
“Many centuries ago … Saint Ambrose said that ‘it did not suit God to save his people by argument.’ Of course arguments have their uses. When people argue against the existence of God, it helps to have some points you can make to counter the idea that belief is just completely irrational. But what is it that shifts people’s imagination and vision and hope? The Bible has no arguments for the existence of God. There are moments of conflict with God, anger with God, doubt about God’s purposes, anguish and lostness when people have no real sense of God’s presence. The Psalms are full of this, as is the book of Job. Don’t imagine the Bible is full of comfortable and reassuring things about the life of belief and trust; it isn’t. It is often about the appalling cost of letting God come near you and of trying to trust him when all the evidence seems to have gone.”
“If a government employee or contractor leaks classified information to the press, and the result is a judicial finding that the government has violated the Fourth Amendment, multiple pieces of bipartisan reform legislation circulating Congress, and a review for the president that suggests reforms to multiple secret programs, what do you call the leak? I call it whistleblowing.”
“Torture may be considered a kind of perverse liturgy, for in torture the body of the victim is the ritual site where the state’s power is manifested in its most awesome form. Torture is liturgy — or, perhaps better said, “anti-liturgy” — because it involves bodies and bodily movements in an enacted drama which both makes real the power of the state and constitutes an act of worship of that mysterious power.”
“The boys in the classroom were right to be scared of her irony. O’Connor’s was not the shifty, reactive, and merely local variety that passes for irony today: sitcom irony, skinny-jeans irony. It was vertical and biblical: the irony by which the mighty are lowered, the humble exalted, and the savior dies on a cross. And she would shortly be required to submit to it herself, in full. Within three years of leaving Iowa, where she had prayed for desire of the Lord to claim her like a disease, she was diagnosed with lupus. Stricken, she returned to her mother’s farm in Milledgeville, her base of production for the novels Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away, and the short-story collections A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge, the latter published posthumously. Health and sex and adventure had been taken from her, and in their place was a vision, her world, blast-lit and still reeling under the first shock of creation. “The air was so quiet,” she wrote in “The River,” “he could hear the broken pieces of the sun knocking in the water.” It was a gift. And we are left with a question: Without this terrible narrowing-down, would she have achieved the greatness she prayed for? This illness, this thing that confined her, that hauled her, crutches clanking, into a premature spinsterhood, and finally killed her at the age of 39, can we call it by the name of grace? Dare we?”
Even were I not a Baptist, though, I am not sure I could say ‘happy Reformation day’. Surely if Reformation day is to be marked, it should be only partly, at most, in celebration? The church was split, not reformed, by Luther’s intervention. Of course, the recovery and foregrounding of crucial gospel truths should be remembered (and yes, justification sola fide is at least a, if not the, ‘articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae’…) – but is Reformation Day not as much a time to mourn our divisions, to fast and pray that all who are baptised in the triune Name may together confess one Lord, one faith, and one gospel, and share one Eucharist around one table?
‘Happy Reformation Day’ sounds to me like saying ‘Happy Ash Wednesday’ – it is just the wrong salutation.”
“We have this weird, romantic, fundamentally sensual idea of books, one that approaches fetishization in its own right. We experience them by touch, by smell – both the books and by extension the spaces that the books are in. And we experience books in terms of time. In a world that seems both temporal and violently atemporal, they are profoundly time-laden.”