Fear in the U.S.A.

Photo by Darron Birgenheier

One glance at my Facebook feed right now tells me that a lot of people have a lot of opinions about the executive orders President Trump has signed in his first week on the job. We have people protesting at JFK airport. We have memes popping up left and right. It seems that our new president’s policies, while popular with a certain segment of the population, are deeply unpopular with another segment of the population.

What I personally find most concerning is not the particular policies that are being put in place by the Trump administration, though we could certainly debate all of them to death. What is most concerning is the thing that lies at the root of all of this: fear. Continue reading

Being Female in the Era of Trump

Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Official White House photo

In light of the events of the past few days (here I refer not to the AFC and NFC Championship Games, but to the Presidential Inauguration and Women’s March on Washington), I have decided to share some of my thoughts on what it currently means to be a woman – and more specifically, a Christian woman – in the United States of America.

Donald Trump is the legitimately elected president of this country, and as such, he is entitled to a certain degree of respect. As an American, I believe this to be true because democratic elections, the peaceful transfer of power, and respect for governmental institutions are absolutely essential to the continuation of the American ideal. This is what our country was built on, and if we choose to abandon it because of our disdain for the person who won the election, then our concern for protecting the country will in effect end up hurting the country. Continue reading

The Reformer Who Wrote Erotic Poetry

Theodore Beza, lover of fancy hats. Portrait by an unknown artist circa 1605.

History is full of odd tales, and nowhere more so than during the Protestant Reformation. We have, for example, the much beloved story of how Martin Luther’s future wife, Katharina Von Bora, escaped from her convent in a fish barrel, giving new meaning to the phrase, “That’s a pretty kettle of fish.” The relationship between the two of them and the subsequent improvements in Herr Luther’s bowel movements are rather the stuff of legend. (More about Luther, Germans, and poop can be found here.)

Then there was Wibrandis Rosenblatt, who managed to get herself married to three different Protestant Reformers – Johannes Oecolampadius (Try saying that three times fast!), Wolfgang Capito, and Martin Bucer. Now, I must stress that this dear lady was not married to them all at the same time, but rather in succession after they each went the way of all flesh. Indeed, before she was ever married to Oecolampadius, she was already the widow of one Ludwig Keller (Ancestor of Timothy Keller? Just throwing it out there…). That makes a total of four husbands for Wibrandis, which is either incredibly unlucky or incredibly suspicious.

However, for our story today I would like to take us a bit farther south to the town of Geneva, nestled on a beautiful lake at the feet of the Alps. Long before it was nagging the rest of the world about how it should behave in times of war, Geneva hosted a rather interesting religious experiment when it invited a French expat named Jean Calvin – yes, that’s John Calvin – to carry out a reformation in the city along with Guillaume Farel. This was an important development in the history of the Reformed Protestant tradition.

But I’m not going to talk about Calvin today – sorry to burst your bubble. I know Calvin is much beloved in these parts, even by those who have never bothered to read any of The Institutes of the Christian Religion, his greatest lasting legacy. No, I would like to talk about one of Calvin’s close associates, Théodore de Bèze, better known in the English speaking world as Theodore Beza. His is a truly fascinating story with many twists and turns. Continue reading

The Right to not Vote

Photo by Wikipedia user Lars Plougmann

During the contentious election year that we just experienced here in the United States, it did not seem fitting for me to add to the controversy. A single look at my Facebook feed or glance at the Twittersphere was all it took to convince me that one more opinion was the last thing the world needed. I thus remained mostly silent and only posted my analysis to this blog a week after the vote was held. I think I said everything I needed to say there, and I do not intend to rehash what has already been hashed to death.

However, that election has caused me to return again to some perennial issues involved with voting. One such issue that is unique to the United States is that of the Electoral College, which I addressed a few weeks back. Today, I would like to talk about something else: the right to vote itself.

It never fails that when an election is about to take place, I hear at least one person make mention of the fact that people died to give me the right to vote. This concept is not confined to the good old U.S. of A. Last summer, when the Brits were about to vote on whether or not to leave the European Union, The Independent ran an editorial with the headline “Thousands died to earn your right to vote – now you must exercise it”. Continue reading

Two Ways to Think about the Lord’s Supper

“The Last Supper” by Vicente Juan Masip, circa 1562

Friends, I would like to consider today the deeper meanings of that meal we call the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist, for I feel that in many places, its importance has been rather downplayed. Over the course of my life, I have attended multiple churches, each of which did the Lord’s Supper in a slightly different way. The Baptists I grew up with held it four times a year and with a purely symbolic interpretation. Later on, I was among other Baptists who felt it was important enough to do twice a month. The Anglicans, of course, did it all the time and used real wine. I was fine with the alcohol, for if it was good enough for our Lord, it was good enough for me. The communal cup did give me the heebie jeebies, but I got over it.

My academic study brought me into contact with a broad array of interpretations of this thing that we call either an ordinance or a sacrament. This caused me to truly contemplate the nature of what was occurring when I participated in the Lord’s Supper, and it became to me much more sacred and monumental. Over the past year, while in the process of observing the Lord’s Supper, I have had two different thoughts about how we can view it, neither of which is particularly original. However, I think you are less likely to hear these mentioned on a Sunday morning, depending on what church you attend. I would like to suggest that we can view the Lord’s Supper in terms of two words: communion and covenant. Continue reading

How Becoming a Buckeye Changed Me

Giving a show of support to my team before they played Michigan State in 2007.

The world is full of conversion tales: people who switched from Christianity to Islam, Democrats who decided to become Republicans, Samsung fanboys who ran to the Apple store when their Galaxy Note 7 exploded. (You lie, Christoph Waltz! Loved you in those Tarantino films though…) To that list I will add one more – the tale of my decision to cheer for The Ohio State University in college athletics.

To most people out there, this may seem a moot point. Who cares which football team is my favorite? The rest of you may question why I choose to highlight my preference for the Buckeyes so soon after they received a 31-0 thrashing at the hands of Clemson University in the College Football Playoff, a most embarrassing fate indeed that capped off an unspectacular postseason for the previously vaunted Big Ten (but really 14) Conference. But I say, what better time for me to show support for my team? They clearly need it! Continue reading