Many people who know me might not immediately associate ‘joy’ with one of my commonly displayed characteristics. I prefer my own description of myself as “optimistically cynical:” that I remain grounded in hope for the transformation my Christian faith proclaims yet also remaining grounded in the simple reality that humankind is broken and, without intervention, will decide to choose the option(s) in front of it that lead to more pain and suffering.

For Martin Luther, he talked about this tension in the theology of simul justus et peccator – simultaneously saint and sinner, being freed in the grace of Jesus Christ while remaining disposed to sin. John Calvin focused on the matter in the theology of total depravity – that regardless of outward actions, there remains an inward distortion within human beings toward the sinful, broken nature that is inherent to humanity. Looking beyond the Christian tradition, the Buddha describes human life as “suffering.”

I’m not exactly surrounded by happy, cheery, positive people in this area.

Continue reading Joy


Faith is a terrifying thing.

And, if that was the end of the story, that would not be enough to build a society-wide community of people around a particular faith tradition. Terror is, at best, a niche market.

Consider scary movies: it’s not that they don’t sell out at the box office, it’s just that in comparison to the latest feel-good, fun-for-the-whole-family animated film, they’re failures.

The funny thing about United States culture is that we do a really good job admiring fear’s cousins courage and endurance, because in our social narrative they lead to triumph and success. (And ain’t nothing USAmericans love more than triumph and success.)

Yet, we spend little to no time grappling with fear: arguably the most critical foundation for the end outcomes we are primed to admire. Continue reading Fear