fiddling

I’m in the process of updating this site at long last–playing with look and feel, arranging things here and there, and listing articles (under Things Published) I’ve published in the four (4!) years since updating this blog, which was never really updated all that much in the first place.

In the end, this site will likely be more of an author site and less of a blog, but I’ll post occasional thoughts here, mostly so my kids will have a record of what I was thinking about when I wasn’t dancing to Jack White in the kitchen.

Well, Come to Text Messages

Hi all (that is, all 8 of you),

I’ve been silent ’round these parts since my brief mid-summer noise because shortly after that noise I started poking around with the idea of doing a blog at the site I work for, Beliefnet. That blog, Text Messages, is up and running now…more or less. It should be in full swing next week, but there are a couple early posts up now, and some other doodles will appear this weekend. Blog-interviews (is there a better word for that?) will follow soon and, I hope, be a recurring feature–first up are Don Lattin, author of JESUS FREAKS, Andy Crouch, author of CULTURE MAKING, and Frank Schaeffer, author of CRAZY FOR GOD. If any of you have other ideas for stuff I should do or cover on TM, I’m all ears. 

So head on over, if you please, and add Text Messages to your RSS reader. And please post comments…um, that is, post comments after we fix the comment tool at Text Messages. (If this were 1999, we’d have to put a yellow Under Construction sign on that blog.)

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Embodied journalism

I was running this weekend (back at it after a 7-week respite) and listening to Mars Hill Audio, that unparalleled source of wisdom and insight. (I love love love it. Sometimes I think host Ken Myers is interested in everything, sometimes I think he just happens to be interested in the same stuff I am–either way, some aspect of a Mars Hill Audio Journal issue almost inevitably connects to something I’m thinking about, writing about, or struggling with. It’s a cultural gift that keeps giving.)

So, this weekend I was listening to an issue that is several years old, Vol 76, which features a conversation with Martin Moleski, a scholar of the work of philosopher Michael Polanyi. Myers opens the conversation with an epigraphic quote from the literary critic Cleanth Brooks (he of New Criticism and “The Well-Wrought Urn”): “A world reduced to hard facts would thereby become a dehumanized world, a world in which few of us would want to live. We are intensely interested in how our fellow human beings behave—in their actions, to be sure, but also in the feelings, motives, purposes that lead them into these actions.”

He had me at “hard facts…dehumanized world”: in fact, I shut off the iPod for much of the rest of the run so I could mull that over. I realized this is part of what draws me to literary journalism: it’s a way of telling about real events that sees the events’ human subjects as fully embodied. It should be clear enough how this is distinct from the facts-forward form of “objective” journalism. (Not that one is better than the other; both are necessary.) I’m not sure what all to make of this yet in terms of how it connects to my thesis on religion and the New Journalism, but it resonated because part of what is powerful and lasting about some works of lit journalism–Gay Talese’s “Thy Neighbor’s Wife,” Norman Mailer’s “The Executioner’s Song,” Joan Didion’s “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” John Hersey’s “Hiroshima”–has to do with their careful construction of embodied, fully human individuals. News-makers as people living and breathing within complicated contexts, and not mere carriers of ideas.

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Colorado Springs Ain’t All Bad #2: The Speed Trap

Here at the Speed Trap in Palmer Lake, Millie the dog hogs your favorite chair or interrupts your furious typing with a wet nose on your knee. The locals sit on the rear curve of the bar, ordering their usual, chatting up the barista, reading the paper, and having a looooong morning because they got nowhere to go. No one is too friendly unless you’re a regular, but there are a plenty of reasons to become one: the pull great espresso, make yummy sandwiches, and in the evenings, offer live music with Bristol Beer on tap and good selections of wine and scotch.

I used to frequent the Speed Trap, but a year or so ago the owner had to close shop for a long while because of a family illness. He’s back now, and it’s taken me a while to get back into the rhythm of driving to Palmer Lake, but I’ve come to see that I need the place. Though the shop closes at 2pm (it reopens for dinner, drinks, and music some nights), it’s a perfect place for early morning writing and reading. And if you get kicked out in the early afternoon, all the better–the gas station down the street boasts some of the yummiest sandwiches on the Front Range (seriously. A lady in back of the station cooks ‘em up with all the expertise of an East Coast deli), and if you want a noon-time trail run, it’s hard to beat the Spruce Mountain trail with its punishing first mile and, at the top, rewarding views of the north face of Pikes Peak.

The Young and the Church-less

(Because I just started posting here again, I’ll occasionally do some catch-up and link to articles I’ve written in recent months.)

The Shambhala Sun was kind enough to ask for a review of Robert Wuthnow’s After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings are Changing the Future of American Religion (Princeton). It’s commonplace to suggest that young people today aren’t storming church doors, which is true enough (this Boston Globe story paints a sad scene: New England churches as hospices). But Wuthnow’s book makes a case for why this is so, and ties it to the larger cultural phenomenon of young people delaying marriage and family. Interesting stuff, and churches and committed religious folks of all kinds would do well to take heed.

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Colorado Springs Isn’t All Bad #1: Margaritas at Pine Creek Farmers Market

SO:

1. The Civilians’ This Beautiful City is out (more on that anon).

2. I was in NYC last week, and will be in DC this week.

In the past, that combination has been a recipe for severe discontentment on my part: reports on Colorado-Springs-as-religious-right-enclave (they are legion) often inspire a desire to flee, and traveling to good cities compounds the problem. We moved back here from Boston three years ago, and have spent not a few evenings tinkering with plans to live elsewhere.

But we keep staying, mostly for the best and most obvious reasons–family, friends, affordability, the climate, family, the mountains, and family. Even so, my wandering eye keeps wandering.

In January I decided to try to put an end to my anxiety of place. How? By cultivating local-ness. By finding things I love about being here, and loving those things better and more. Colorado Springs is, after all, as much of a home as I ever had–I went to junior high and high school here, and my first post-college job was here. My wife and I were married in Monument, just north of the Springs, and when we needed to leave Boston for more sustainable living, it wasn’t hard to figure out where to go. We, like loads of people here, hate the stigma against the place fostered by its (MINORITY, but very loud) evangelical presence, but again: family, friends, mountains, climate, affordability.

I digress. Localness–I decided to cultivate localness. And that’s what I’ve done. More and more, I buy local. I visit the same places again and again. I run the same trails. I see the same people. And as I do, I create a running list of reasons why Colorado Springs ain’t all bad, is actually quite good, and if I hate the culture, part of the problem is that I’m only seeing one of the city’s many cultures. And after all (hat tip: Andy Crouch), if I really want the culture to be different, I need to create more culture.

So, herewith, I’ll start posting items on that list as they occur to me or get added.

#1: Margaritas at Pine Creek Farmers Market

My friend Jeff asked if we planned to visit the farmers market on Saturday morning, and we did, but not the one at Margaritas, which is a fabulous old locally owned restaurant. So after stopping by the farmers market in Monument (not in full swing yet), we went to Margaritas and got lost for a couple hours. The Acme Bluegrass band was playing, and it was a pickin’ and a singin’ good time. Bloody Marys, mimosas, and more flowed for the brunch crowd, and some Colorado College kids were there selling transplants from the college’s garden (I bought a couple tomato plants to add to my plot). A farmer from Canon City was selling yummy greens, and…well, if you’ve been to a farmers market, you can imagine what else was there and why it made for an uber-good morning.

Can’t wait for next Saturday.

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What “Americans” “Believe”

This is fascinating to me. The Barna Group found that 64% of Americans believe in Moses parting the Red Sea, 60% believe in God creating the universe in 6 days, 63% believe in the story of David and Goliath, and 75% believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

It makes sense that the numbers roughly correlate, and that the number that believe in the resurrection is slightly higher than the number who believe, say, in the 6-day creation. (That would account for people like me.) But I find it a bit strange–not surprising, just strange–that about the same percentage believe in the 6-day creation as believe in some of the stories about David and Daniel. Seems to me that one could, and should, look at 1 and 2 Samuel and Daniel as having more to do with historical records, and still hold Genesis 1-3 in a different category.

But two questions: Who are these “Americans”? Those figures are vastly higher than the 1/3+/- who say they are evangelical. And what does it mean to “believe” in these stories in this way? Does it have any bearing on their lives? Does it inform the way they work and live? It seems to me that if this many Americans take the Bible this literally, America would be quite different than it is. (I shudder to think what, exactly, it would be.)

The CT piece notes that there is a correlation between these beliefs and voting behavior. Again, that’s not surprising, but it is disconcerting. That has much more to do with our particular cultural-historical moment than it does with the politics of the Bible.

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