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Perhaps you’ve heard of the publishing phenomenon called The Shack
.  The book, written by William P. Young, was brought out in 2007 and has become an international sensation, riding atop the New York Times paperback bestseller list for nearly a year and currently sitting at #3 on the Amazon book sales list.  What makes The Shack an extremely unusual bestseller is that it’s a modern retelling of the book of Job, an exploration of the problem of God in relation to human suffering.  The protagonist of The Shack is Mackenzie Phillips,  a decent family man whose youngest daughter, Missy, we learn, had been kidnapped and brutally murdered by a twisted serial killer. 
Posted: 7/29/2009 3:04:40 PM by Word On Fire Admin | with 25 comments

The recent re-naming of the Sears Tower in Chicago speaks volumes about modern cities and their culture.  Joseph Campbell, the historian of religion, commented that we can discern the dominant values of a society by looking at its buildings - more precisely, at which kind of buildings are most prominent.  For instance, consider medieval Europe.  It is easy to see that spiritual values were supreme  because the towns and cities were, almost invariably, dominated by churches.  Think of Thomas Merton’s lyrical description, in The Seven Storey Mountain, of the little medieval town of St.-Antonin in southern France.  Merton recalls prowling through the narrow streets of this village when he was a boy, and remarking that all of the roads and alleys and avenues pointed, like spokes, to a central point where the little cathedral was situated. 
Posted: 7/29/2009 1:21:04 PM by Word On Fire Admin | with 2 comments

I’ve just finished reading a most extraordinary novel, one that sheds considerable light on the spiritual predicaments of our own time.  The odd thing is that it was written just over a hundred years ago.  It’s called The Lord of the World, and it was authored by Robert Hugh Benson.  Benson was the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to the shock and chagrin of much of British society, he left the Anglican church and became a Catholic priest.  Benson died young at 41, just after finishing this book.
Posted: 7/23/2009 11:52:35 AM by Word On Fire | with 3 comments

I’ve just finished a first reading of Pope Benedict’s new encyclical Caritas in Veritate.  It is a dense and complex text, deeply in continuity with the mainstream of the Catholic social teaching tradition but also fresh, filled with new ideas and proposals.  Let me highlight just a few of the major themes.  Very much in line with his predecessor John Paul II, Benedict insists on the tight connection between love and truth.  In a telling phrase, the Pope says that love without truth devolves into sentimentality and truth without love becomes cold and calculating. The coming together of the two, which is the structuring logic of the church’s social teaching, is grounded in the God who is, simultaneously, Agape (love) and Logos (reason). 
Posted: 7/13/2009 2:36:27 PM by Word On Fire | with 6 comments

All individuals and institutions are, to some degree, marked by inconsistency. Not all of our ducks—conceptual and behavioral—are ever quite in a row. But sometimes, an inconsistency is so sharp, so jarring, that it crosses the line into hypocrisy. A case in point is the recent decision of the Public Broadcasting System to exclude any religious programming from its future schedules. The usual reasons are trotted out: religion is divisive; it would be impossible to give equal time to all denominations; the public forum should not be the place for partisan speech but rather for objective exploration of issues, etc. etc.
Posted: 7/8/2009 2:31:47 PM by Word On Fire Admin | with 6 comments

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