Friday travels

  1. Affirmation from a Mensch
  2. Evangelicalism at its Best
  3. Leadership’s King
  4. Punking Trump
  5. Drive-by suicide


I have confirmation from Warren Farha that my imagination wasn’t being vulgar when I kept thinking that Laurus reminded me of Kristin Lavransdatter. He thought the same thing. That was worth a trip to Wichita.

But wait: there’s more! Mark your calendar for next year’s Eighth Day Symposium.


I’m getting a better feel for what the Eighth Day Institute is about. I came to its Symposium partly as an excuse to visit Eighth Day Books, partly as a mini-vacation, and partly to hear talks, and maybe even dialog with, people I’ve heard on Mars Hill Audio Journal.

The last — ecumenical dialog at the lay level — seems to be what the Institute (the Symposium’s sponsor) is about. When I say “lay level,” though, I’m not talking about an ersatz pooling of ignorance (present writer excluded; this definitely is a venue where I expect to be 99% ears instead of mouth). Our four major speakers include three academic theologians and authors (Vigen Guroian, Mike Aquilina and Hans Boersma — you can Google them yourself if you’re interested) plus journalist/author Rod Dreher, who is kind of a hub of discussion on the “how then shall we live?” questions from a realistic conservative perspective.

[UPDATE: Mike Aquilina is not an academic theologian, and he considers his role that of a popularizer, though he’s quite prolific at it.]

At the reception last night, I mostly huddled with Hans Boersma and some other, gratifyingly young Evangelicals. What I heard was Evangelicalism at its best, which I tend to forget exists, drowned out by the highly amplified religiopreneurs like Joel Osteen (is he even Protestant? Christian?), prophecy porn purveyors (Harold Camping, Tim LaHaye), and sundry Movement Conservative adjuncts whose agenda is more partisan political than spiritual.

Boersma is younger than me by a decade or so, and the young men who made up most of the rest of the huddle included several who had been students of his. One, Chad Raith, has brought unexpected respect, via the Paradosis Center, to an institution whose dust I shook from my feet 47 years ago (and they were glad of it, too). Look at his educational background: this isn’t quite Harvard/Yale stuff, but it’s not the education of an Fundamentalism so insular that it sprouts six theological fingers, so to speak.

I don’t take back much of what I’ve said about Evangelicalism, but most of it patently has been about the higher-income, lower-integrity echelons. I still think that Orthodoxy is the eventuality of thoughtful Evangelicalism of the sort that would write Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry or attend a Symposium titled Soil & Sacrament: The World as Gift

But I shall try harder to distinguish Evangelicalism at its best (I do, after all, mark a version of “the sinner’s prayer” at a very early age as the initiation of my Christian life, though I wasn’t baptized for another 10+ years) from the cheap, tawdry and popular, which Rod Dreher suggests may be winding down at the very fundamental level of worship. The alternatives for dienthralled thoughtful Evangelicals seem to me to be Rome, Constantinople, Canterbury (which is itself unstable, but I acknowledge the allure) or bricolage.


While traveling to Wichita I caught up with Mars Hill Audio Journal, which I cannot praise too highly. Rod Dreher concurs:

What books have most profoundly shaped how you serve and lead others? 

You know, I can name several books that have profoundly formed me, but that’s not the question. When it comes to leadership, there’s no doubt that Ken Myers’s Mars Hill Audio Journal has been more influential than any series of books. I’ve bought many books based on interviews he’s done with guests, been inspired and challenged by them, and found a community of friends within the Mars Hill orbit (I’m looking at you Alan Jacobs, and you Ralph C. Wood). I tell every intellectually engaged Christian I know that they absolutely have to subscribe to the Journal. There is nothing else like it in equipping us how to think about and respond to the challenges of our time and place. Once you get hooked, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.

Nota bene: He had the same praise before he was interviewed for the current volume 128. Mars Hill, too, is not insular. Volume 128 includes an interview with Matthew Crawford, who I believe is not a Christian. Apologies if I’m remembering that wrong.


From the sublime to the ridiculous, I’m glad to read that while I was sipping craft beer in ecumenical bonhomie, someone finally bested Donald Trump at trash-talking. Sadly, it was Ted Cruz, whose obnoxiousness may be getting re-christened as leadership.

I’m starting to root for Cruz to take the nomination, because it’s him, Trump, or even more bellicose (substantively, on “defense” issues, not stylistically) Rubio, and I think the GOP nominee stands a chance of winning in November even if, God forbid, it’s that loathsome billionaire. I still expect to throw away my vote in protest in November, as I see no potential nominee (i.e., exclude Paul, Fiorini) in either major party that I could endorse.


One of the things I missed when not subscribing to the Wall Street Journal was Peggy Noonan’s columns on politics. She is very perceptive.

Of the drive-by trashings of Nikki Haley’s GOP response to the State of the Union address:

Ms. Haley has every right to her reasonable and mildly stated views. Mr. Trump is no victim—he dishes it out, he can take it. And Ms. Haley is a popular, moderate-conservative woman who is a successful two-term governor. Do Republicans not realize they need more such women, who put up with a great deal and deserve respect, and that for years as a party they’ve had a woman problem? More immediately, do they not realize it is good to have a sunny, well-balanced woman as the momentary face of their party? The other faces, the presidential contenders, are running around like rabid squirrels throwing nuts at each other in the dark. It’s not a good look. In appearing to be and acting like a normal human being, Ms. Haley did more for the party in 20 minutes than they have in two months. So go Nikki!

With one caveat. She later revealed that, like an obedient person not quite in tune with the spirit of the times, she had cleared her remarks with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Ugh. Never clear your work with the guys in Washington, and if they tell you that’s the price of making the speech, don’t make it—and tell people why. Clear your thoughts with no one, like a classy independent woman.

(Emphasis added)

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.