This is a rolling, ongoing, frequently updated “About” page, with very few deletions, so I can show the layers and changes in my thoughts.
Updated March 15, 2019:
I’m a former L’Abri Fellowship (Greatham) student and a former daily newspaper journalist who decided to start blogging about faith, doubt, and humanities back in 2007. Since then (but not because of those things), I’ve become a university lecturer, and I’ve been elected to vestries three times.
My name is Colin, and I had especially intense experiences with American Bible Belt Christianity during the first 23 years of my life. After age 23, I didn’t make a clean break with the evangelical and fundamentalist communities of those experiences — I started something more like a gooey separation. This blog is the way I wrestle with it all. So the posts here baffle believers and non-believers alike because the only point of what I write is to record the quotations and thoughts relevant to the wrestling: Wrestling intellectually and existentially with what formed me and what I know now. This blog is a “to the best of my knowledge” and “right now, it seems to me” kind of ongoing reaction to contemporary American Christianity and a log of how I’m reasoning my way through faith and doubt, with faith and doubt. Here you’ll find arguments and quotations both for and against Christianity, for and against theism. Here you’ll find a vision for Christian Humanism and a set of reasons why the “Christian” part might not make any sense. Here you’ll find defenses of some contemporary Christians and critiques of others. Here you’ll find some chewable quotations on literature, philosophy, and the arts.
Updated Nov. 6, 2018, and revised Jan. 10, 2019:
I think the biggest fault of this blog, over 11 years, has been the attitude of oh-my-gosh-evangelicals-are-so-stupid.
Granted, I often quoted some smart evangelicals to prove that point. However, if you thought some of the posts sounded like they were written by a huffy teenager, you’d be well within your rights. But for most of the history of this blog, I more or less was an evangelical, and then less and less an evangelical, and I was trying to grow into my place in my home town.
But there are always those who are never at home in their home town. That would be me. I no longer fit the evangelical belief system, and far less do I fit its cultural and social norms.
However — and this is the real confession — I regret the oh-my-gosh-evangelicals-are-so-stupid attitude for two reasons that are so closely related, they might not be strictly two reasons.
1. Intelligence is not an all-or-nothing thing, a thing either uniformly applied or non-existent. As I’ve taught at a state university for 10 years, I’ve realized there are numerous fields about which I know nothing. Knowing-nothing-about-numerous-fields does not make one categorically stupid. There are many fields of knowledge, many aptitudes, many competencies. Some of you are already connecting this to a passage from Saint Paul.
2. My biggest complaint, at least nowadays, is not about the lack of academic weightiness in evangelical communities but about their lack of institutional, cultural, and social mechanisms for shaping individuals and creating genuine community (see Ken Myers here for an essay that galvanized some of my scattered thoughts about these issues). When evangelicals took over my previous church, it was a mainline church that had a fun gathering in the fellowship hall each Wednesday evening. One of the first things the evangelicals did was end the Wednesday gathering. Obviously, I don’t know all the reasoning behind that decision, and some of that reasoning might have been reasonable and good. And yet, when the social gatherings end and the sermons triple in length, do you think the goal is community, or ideological assent? The evangelicals who took over wanted to hold people at arm’s length — and lecture at them.
So, to combine 1. and 2. above, one does not have to be an academic-theology ass-kicker to grow healthy, helpful communities. I admire people who build genuine, healthy communities rather than personality cults. But U.S. evangelicalism today is a set of overlapping personality cults.
Aug. 25, 2018:
I didn’t know how to fix the RV. I just knew what I was doing wasn’t working. So I had to stop doing that particular thing and look for a new way.
Which I say as an attempted compressed analogy.
The evangelical world of the U.S., circa 2018, is not merely a fallible, human mess. It is an intellectually dishonest mess, both inside and outside of Christianity, working only for those who choose a closed set of evidence before they arrange it to their advantage.
It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, so the 10-plus years of blog posts here affirm good things — and some of those good things even came from the mouths, or pens, or word processors, or blogs, of evangelicals!
I continue to be surrounded, in my community, by evangelicals for whom I have respect and appreciation. But I can’t carry that evangelical banner with them, and this blog has more than 1,000 posts and counting to tell you why.
But wait—what’s evangelical, anyway? Admittedly I’m using the term in a broad sense, but I think it boils down to how the Bible is handled among both garden-variety U.S. evangelicals as well as its intelligentsia.
It dawned on me: In many evangelical churches that are positioned as non-fundamentalist and grace-oriented and free, the default view of the Bible is essentially the same as the view at Bob Jones University.
This how of handling the Bible is distinct not only from the how of a majority of academic scholars but also from the historically older traditions of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. (See How Tradition Defended Scripture and Defeated Gnosticism in Early Christianity.)
These issues hit home with me as I’ve watched the Anglican Church in North America or ACNA carry its members farther and farther away from the historical Anglican moorings in/of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition. Despite the use of the Prayer Book and the Sunday morning dress-up, the ACNA is historically more like the English Puritans in its approach to the Bible, more Puritan than the Church of England, more Puritan than that which the ACNA supposedly represents. (See this post for a quick explanation and this post for a little more in-depth explanation and this post to round out the picture.)
And fine with me if you want to be a Puritan. If you’re absolutely right and you know it, you’re lucky to live in this time and take advantage of Western social and cultural pluralism. But if you’re a Puritan, you’re not an Anglican, as the posts linked in the last paragraph explain. ACNA people call themselves “Biblical Anglicans,” default pretty much to a Bob Jones University view of the Scriptures, and aside from some formalities, ignore Reason and Tradition.
And there’s a big piece of American fundamentalism that has always feared Reason.
I think of evangelicals as including parts of, in some cases all of, various sects and denominations and groups like the Southern Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Anglican Church in North America or ACNA, the Willow Creek network, The Gospel Coalition, and even Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, for which I was once a campus small-group leader (and whose press has published some great books).
More to come…
Previous additions to this occasionally updated page:
This blog site has basically become ongoing notes about, and a searchable database for, three things:
- Scraps of evidence for the goodness of Christian Humanism, in a very broad sense of the term, as generally represented by diverse (and not even compatible) lives and works.
- Liturgical worship and symbolism as rich and meaningful ways to get at theological and metaphysical beliefs (realities?)—and as an opposition to both the emotionalism and the abstract intellectualism driving various modes of Protestantism.
- Critiques of conventional evangelical and fundamentalist assumptions as I witness them in my life.
It’s like old-school humanism: reading is good for you, and sometimes the plain sense of a passage is just what you need.
This blog likes The Inklings and U2.
This blog partly is an ongoing diary of thoughts and observations about things that relate, directly or indirectly, to Christianity.
This blog occasionally has been a harsh critic of ministers and ministries.
Throughout nine years of posts, this blog has produced layers of advocacy, layers of argument, layers of apologetics, and layers of anger.
Which is why its author hasn’t deleted very much. This blog is a record of changes in perspective.
Older About Page Entries
I update this page when I feel like it, and I update the “tagline” for this blog when it suits me. Learning and growing are evolving states.
Who am I? I used to be a weekly newspaper executive editor, a daily newspaper reporter, a daily newspaper section editor, a columnist, and a business owner and operator. Today I’m a lecturer in a university English department and a manic blogger.
So, what’s the bottom line on this thing?
I think some aspects of reality are fixed, don’t change and won’t change, no matter what I think. On this blog I’m usually trying to get people to consider something that seems real and significant to me. Sometimes I sail with an indirect tack, sometimes with an inconclusive tack (more about that here). At my best, I’d like to think I’m helping others take a closer look at some piece of what looks like reality to me.
I could be wrong. I don’t stake my career on me being ultimately, metaphysically right about everything at my still-relatively young age. Many of the recent blog posts here have been about people who were admired by multitudes but eventually abused their power and authority.
My thoughts don’t change reality. I’m not a theologian or a philosopher, so I’m not interested in leading anyone to kill others as the human race witnessed in 16th-century Geneva or Puritan colonies that exterminated 32 Native American tribes or Soviet-era Moscow or present-day Islamic State’s Caliphate-in-the-making. When someone is so certain about being precisely right, the result is tyranny and slaughter.
The best we can agree on
Is it could have been worse
What happened to your old
You know the one with stars
That revolve around you
Beaming down full of promises
To bring good news
— “Good News First“
I continue to be frustrated by the ideological litmus tests in both American Christianity and politics. The people talking the loudest about “truth” might know half the facts and certainly talk about even fewer.
Never mind your name, just give us your number
Never mind your face, just show us your card
And we wanna know whose wing are you under
You better step to the right or we can make it hard
— “On the Border“
At the same time, I realize some of the litmus tests have not originated from power gone mad. Some of the litmus tests have originated from people who sincerely want to avoid repeating old mistakes and errors.
But it’s sure hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys these days.
Until things are clearer, oppose power. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.“
Previously On ‘About this blog’
The URL for this blog is different from its name, but the two are not as unrelated as you might think. Granted, the relatively new name “Public Work” represents something of a change from an essentially religious focus to a broader scope including humanities, fine arts, journalism, and other topics — as well as an occasionally critical eye turned toward contemporary Christianity.
But what does “Public Work” have to do with “liturgical”? The word “liturgical,” in our time, describes a religious service with a liturgy, a kind of poetic and ritualistic pattern. It’s a structure for worship.
In a sense, you might say a liturgical worship service demonstrates the richness of the humanities and fine arts within a religious community. The liturgy evokes poetry and history, symbolism and musical language, even when no instruments or chants are involved.
The dusty Greek word for liturgy, leitourgia, refers to “public work” or “publicly performed work.” As I once wrote elsewhere, in an essay reflecting my excitement about my discovery of liturgical worship:
Lutheran scholar Frank Senn, in his book Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelical, wrote, “Even Quakers, who admit no texts or sacraments into their meetings, nevertheless observe certain patterns of behavior in their meetings. What they do in their meetings is their leitourgia, their ‘public work.’ Their liturgy is a ritual that comprises gathering, communal silence, sharing insights, and developing a sense of the meeting.”
In a sense broader than religion, I’d like to think of the humanities and fine arts as a kind of public work. The humanities and fine arts ought to serve the public, with all benefits and fruits elevated, demonstrated, and shared.
Like Senn says in the above quotation, liturgy is “communal,” and it involves “sharing.” The humanities and fine arts are humanizing endeavors, so they ought not to be hidden among specialists, but rather open and opened to all.
What’s this about ‘negative capability’?
“Negative capability” is a phrase the poet John Keats applied to the work of William Shakespeare. Keats once wrote,
…it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason…
At times, a person might feel a mere description of “being in uncertainties, mysteries, [and] doubts” is about all he can do. And that can be OK.
I don’t think negative capability is necessarily a shield from “fact and reason,” or a dodge from hard truths, although I guess someone could appropriate it that way.
To my mind — for my personal appropriation — negative capability is permission to dive in and explore and experience, even when neither abstract Truth nor personal meaning seem possible.
Sometimes, I’ll wager, a person will learn more by trying to gain an answer and failing. Even then, observations from the journey can become treasures.
Previous “About” preambles
His small writing awards from the N.C. Press Association and the S.C. Press Association, and the one-time achievement of becoming a semi-finalist for the Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellowship, really happened.
His interviews — with Dan Akroyd, P.J. O’Rourke, Richard Brookhiser, Randy Newman of the country music group Alabama, Lesley Chamberlain, Pat Buchanan, former S.C. Governor Jim Hodges, Peter Augustine Lawler, the late compassionate conservative Jack Kemp, and the late founder of Hooters, Bob Brooks — really happened.
He has the same birthday as John Coltrane, Bruce Springsteen, and Walter Lippman.
But none of this gives an accurate picture.
The fact is, Colin Foote Burch is a mess.
He writes this blog, and wrongs this blog, because he has been in various screwed up Christian circles all his life.
As a child, he survived communal living with authoritarian neo-Pentecostal types. He lived through, and rebelled through, a high school operated by Independent Missionary Baptists. In adulthood, he got sucked into the Willow Creek movement — until he couldn’t keep up with all the how-to-fix-your-life steps in the sermons. Later, he was part of a congregation of dispensationalists led by a Reformed psychologist. Not one to break a habit, Colin continues to participate in nutty religious groups today as a member of The Episcopal Church USA.
Along the way, a few interesting things happened. He was, for a couple of semesters, a small-group leader for N.C. State’s chapter of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. He attended Summit Ministries , the right-wing yet philosophically grounded worldview camp in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Later, he largely accepted Doug Bandow’s case for Christians holding a politically libertarian stance.
He also made two trips to the Greatham, England, branch of L’Abri Fellowship, which he largely credits for salvaging his faith and introducing him, indirectly, to good beer.
Colin is a slow reader, but he still got to the end of Goodnight, Moon before his daughters fell asleep. He also spent 10 years in the newspaper business, which was just as abusive as the neo-Pentecostal commune. Colin once owned a coffeehouse with his wife; he was solely responsible for one-third of the U.S. coffee consumption from 2001 to 2003.
Today, he is a Lecturer in English at Coastal Carolina University and formerly the Weekly Surge’s Beerman columnist, an identity he hides from his Baptist friends.
He is also a twice-elected former member of the Vestry at Trinity (formerly) Episcopal Church. He later served on the chapel committee to found the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Myrtle Beach (another identity he hides from his Baptist friends), and then served one year of a three-year term on the vestry. In September 2015, he decided to resign from the vestry after a year due to a perfect storm of familial and professional obligations. He still attends Church of the Messiah when he can. (This paragraph was updated Oct. 3, 2015.)
After some trying years, continuing in some trying years, he decided he likes life, along with liberty, liturgy, and literature, so he has begun compiling a list of quotations that might (but probably won’t) expand your understanding of stuff. This is only possible because Colin has not contributed a single quote to the list; he’s totally relying on the smart people.
As human beings, we are groping for knowledge and understanding of the strange universe into which we are born. We have many ways of understanding, of which science is only one. Our thought processes are only partially based on logic, and are inextricably mixed with emotions and desires and social interactions. We cannot live as isolated intelligences, but only as members of a working community. Our ways of understanding have been collective, beginning with the stories that we told each other around the fire when we lived in caves. Our ways today are still collective, including literature, history, art, music, religion, and science. – Freeman Dyson
The majority of mankind is lazy-minded, incurious, absorbed in vanities, and tepid in emotion, and is therefore incapable of either much doubt or much faith. – T.S. Eliot
The paradoxical idea that words have real but relative meaning leaves room for misrepresentation by those who wish to capture language for their own use. — John Ralston Saul, in The Doubter’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense
What hurts us is not wrong-thinking people but propaganda and ignorance; and unfettered criticism — liberal science — is the cure, not the disease. – J. Rauch, in Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, quoted here
The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians. – George Orwell, in a letter to Malcolm Muggeridge
Reason, unaided and untempered by poetic insight and humane feeling, turns ugly and dangerous. — Neil Postman
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. — Blaise Pascal, quoted by Daniel Taylor in The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of Commitment
For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition. – C.S. Lewis, in “Blusphels and Flalanferes,” from Selected Literary Essays
Whirlwind life of faith and betrayal / Rise in anger, fall back and repeat — from “Far Cry” by Rush on Snakes and Arrows
Poets, priests, and politicians / Have words to thank for their positions / Words that scream for your submission / And no-one’s jamming their transmission — from “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” by The Police
Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue. — Confucius
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. – C. S. Lewis, in “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment,” from God in the Dock
The answers are getting harder and harder
And there ain’t no way to bargain or to barter
But if you’ve got the angst or the ardor
You might faint from the fight but you’re gonna find it
For every challenge could have paradise behind it
— from “Stand” by Blues Traveler
All I’m arguing, basically, is that aesthetics is something that human beings value. It is a good. It is not the highest good. It is not the only good. It is an autonomous good. The fact that someone is good looking does not mean that they’re a good person. The fact that someone is bad looking does not mean they are a bad person. Just because a product is good looking doesn’t say anything about whether or not it has other good qualities. We just have to get used to talking and thinking about aesthetic value for what it is and nothing more. Otherwise we’re going to drive ourselves completely nuts. – Virginia Postrel, in an Atlantic Unbound interview, Aug. 27, 2003, on her book The Substance of Style
Theism and atheism bear equally an idol. They are a brethren born of modernity, where God is reduced to “the supreme being” and true transcendence is lost. – John-Luc Marion
In life and art both, as it seems to me, we are always trying to catch in our net of successive moments something that is not successive. – C.S. Lewis, in his essay “On Stories”
The labor of the analytical mind which produces science is the organ in human culture which tames the physical environment. Science is the extension of civilization’s technological core. In the scientific sense, ‘true’ means that which has the chance of being employed in effective technological procedures…. Metaphysical questions and beliefs are technologically barren and are therefore neither part of the analytical effort nor an element of science. As an organ of culture they are an extension of the mythical core…. Metaphysical questions and beliefs reveal an aspect of human existence not revealed by scientific questions and beliefs, namely, that aspect that refers intentionally to nonempirical unconditioned reality…. A language which attempts to reach transcendence directly violates, to no purpose, its own technological instrumentality. It reaches transcendence in myths which give a meaning to empirical realities and practical activities via relativization. A mythical organization of the world (that is, the rules of understanding empirical realities as meaningful) is permanently present in culture. The objection that such an organization does not become true as a result of its permanence, or of the reality of the needs which give rise to it, has no argumentative power for a consciousness whose mythopoeic stratum has been aroused, since here the predicates of ‘true’ and ‘false’ are inapplicable. — Leszek Kolakowski, in his book, The Presence of Myth
We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past – whether he admits it or not – can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love. –Hans Urs von Balthasar
Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. – Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600), Vol. 1 of The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine
Knowledge does not have to be conscious. It is incredible how much the aura of a country can penetrate to a child. Stronger than thought is an image – of dry leaves on a path, of twilight, of a heavy sky. – Czeslaw Milosz, Native Realm
The mad man is not the man who has lost his reason. The mad man is the man who has lost everything except his reason. – G.K. Chesterton, in Orthodoxy
People hardly ever make use of the freedom they have, that is, freedom of thought, and instead demand free speech as a compensation. – Soren Kierkegaard
If I had any indictment to make of the magisterial Reformation, it would be that it qualifies the one most crucial thing about Christianity, namely, that it is a religion of love. It tends to displace the centrality of love in favor of themes of trust and hope, even if Luther is far more guilty in this regard than Calvin. And in many ways, this is the gravest imaginable heresy. — from “Alternative Protestantism,” by John Milbank, in Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition, edited by James K.A. Smith and James H. Olthuis (Baker Academic, 2005)
[I]f the New Testament is right, Christ did not come to pluck souls from an evil and worthless creation and transport them to an angelic existence; instead he came to announce the beginning of the world’s renewal. – Norman Klassen and Jens Zimmerman, The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education
We should love God eternally with our whole hearts, yet not so as to compromise or diminish our earthly affections, but as a kind of cantus firmus to which the other melodies of life provide the counterpoint. Earthly affection is one of these contrapuntal themes, a theme which enjoys autonomy of its own. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
If every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights then all true and edifying writings, whether in Scripture or not, must be in some sense inspired. — C.S. Lewis, letter to Clyde S. Kilby, May 7, 1959
The natural order of religious belief is not usually to form propositional beliefs first and only later to engage in the faith life of a community. If we disengaged ourselves from the practice of faith in order to “find out” if it is justified, there is very little chance that we will ever find out. –Linda Zagzebski, in Philosophers Who Believe
To [artist William] Schickel, there is an important difference between being a conservative and being a reactionary. The conservative, he believes, must find a language in which to make timeless truths understood in the present. The reactionary, on the other hand, clings to an old language from which the spirit has fled. – Gregory Wolfe, Sacred Passion: The Art of William Schickel
Because it is a reversal of Adam’s decision to die, the resurrection of Christ is a new affirmation of God’s first decision that Adam should live, an affirmation that goes beyond and transforms the initial gift of life…. From the resurrection we look not only back to the created order which is vindicated but forwards to our eschatological participation in that order. — Oliver O’Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order
Paul has been described as a ‘man of three cultures’ taking into account his Jewish origin, Greek language, and his prerogative of ‘civis romanus,’ as attested also by his name of Latin origin. – Benedict XVI, July 2, 2008
The clarity and cogency that philosophy brings is accordingly something that has a potentially positive role to play in every impartial area of human endeavor, Christianity by no means excluded. No church can exist in easy comfort with its intellectuals and theologians, but no church can be a thriving concern among thinking people if it dispenses with their services. — Nicholas Rescher, in Philosophers Who Believe
Philosophy makes us yearn for the truth, but it does not always show us how to find it. –Linda Zagzebski, in Philosophers Who Believe
If there is something that can be learned from the study of Hume, it is the difficulty of trying to develop a philosophy by starting with some item of alleged empirical evidence. For what we call evidence is rarely some self-evident fact, but something which is interpreted within a web of beliefs. – Colin Brown, Christianity and Western Thought, Vol. 1
For Socrates philosophy was a way of life, and he existed in that way. Since he did not profess to have any theory of philosophy, he did not accept pay as a professor. He could teach only by example, and what Kierkegaard learned from the example of Socrates became fundamental for his own thinking: namely, that existence and a theory about existence are not one in the same, any more than a printed menu is as effective a form of nourishment as an actual meal. More than that: the possession of a theory about existence may intoxicate the possessor to such a degree that he forgets the need of existence altogether. – William Barrett, Irrational Man
Leonard Bernstein tells me more than the dictionary when he says that for him music is cosmos in chaos. That has the ring of truth in my ears, and sparks my creative imagination. And it is true not only of music; all art is cosmos, cosmos found within chaos. At least all Christian art (by which I mean all true art, and I’ll go deeper into this later) is cosmos in chaos. There’s some modern art, in all disciplines, which is not; some artists look at the world around them and see chaos, and instead of discovering cosmos, they reproduce chaos on canvas, in music, in words. As far as I can see, the reproduction of chaos is neither art, nor is it Christian. – Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water
Opposition to the idea that science can be the fulfillment of metaphysics does not involve in any way opposition to science. If the objectives of metaphysics are spurious, then they cannot be fulfilled by science any more than they can be by metaphysics. – Jeff Coulter of Boston University and Wes Sharrock of the University of Manchester, Brain, Mind, and Human Behavior in Contemporary Cognitive Science: Critical Assessments of the Philosophy of Psychology
I figured if I let go of my grip of this net of beliefs and hopes and constructions of God, I would fall clear out of existence into cold nothingness. I thought of an astronaut severed from the spacecraft. Of course, I’m still here. – Eileen Markey, writing at BustedHalo.com
Luther, you have a huge responsibility, for when I look more closely, I see more and more clearly that you toppled the Pope only to enthrone ‘the public.’ — Soren Kierkegaard, in his journals
At a critical moment in cultural history — not that there were not various fateful moves in the history of Western theology that led to it — many Christian thinkers somehow forgot that the incarnation of the Logos, the infinite ratio of all that is, reconciles us not only to God, but to the world, by giving us back a knowledge of creation’s goodness, allowing us to see again its essential transparency — even to the point, in Christ, of identity — before God. The covenant of light was broken. God became, progressively, the world’s infinite contrary. And this state of theological decline was so precipitous and complete that it even became possible for someone as formidably intelligent as Calvin, without any apparent embarrassment, to regard the fairly lurid portrait of the omnipotent despot of book III of his Institutes — who not only ordains the destiny of souls, but in fact predestines the first sin, and so brings the whole drama of creation and redemption to pass (including the eternal perdition of the vast majority of humanity) as a display of his own dread sovereignty — as a proper depiction of the Christian God. One ancient Augustinian misreading of Paul’s ruminations upon the mystery of election had, at last, eventuated fatalism. — David Bentley Hart, in The Beauty of the Infinite
What distinguishes Judeo-Christianity in general from other world religions is its emphasis on the value of the individual person, its view of man as a creature in trouble, seeking to get out of it, and accordingly on the move. Add to this anthropology the special marks of the Catholic Church: the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, which, whatever else they do, confer the highest significance upon the ordinary things of this world, bread, wine, water, touch, breath, words, talking, listening — and what do you have? You have a man in a predicament and on the move in a real world of real things, a world which is a sacrament and a mystery; a pilgrim whose life is a searching and a finding. – Walker Percy, “The Holiness of the Ordinary,” in Signposts in a Strange Land
The Previous About Page for LiturgicalCredo.com:
“The majority of mankind is lazy-minded, incurious, absorbed in vanities, and tepid in emotion, and is therefore incapable of either much doubt or much faith.” – T.S. Eliot, from his 1931 introduction to an edition of Pascal’s Pensees
In many Christian worship services, the “liturgical Credo” is the moment when the Nicene Creed begins: “I believe….” As an online journal, LiturgicalCredo is dedicated to literary expressions of faith, doubt, speculation, and wonder that begin and end with that simple, if implied, statement: I believe.
Or, to put it another way, LiturgicalCredo opens toward struggles to believe, struggles to doubt, and struggles to imagine what we can never concretely prove but quietly suspect to be true.
Despite the connotation of the journal’s name, writers with “nothing-in-particular” belief systems have been submitting work for some time now. We think that’s because humans wonder about all kinds of stuff, and sometimes the wondering wanders into religious pastures or theological fields. If that wondering and wandering human happens to be a writer, she might write about the experience and then seek a place of publication, a place that entertains works about such things without imposing dogmatic criteria upon the works.
The mission is neither to make faith doubtful nor to make doubt hopeful. It is simply to express the complexity of emotion and experience within that singular (if murky) part of our lives where both faith and doubt exist, function, ebb, and flow.
Some of Our Notable Contributers
Peter Reinhart, winner of James Beard Foundation Awards, twice has contributed to LiturgicalCredo, most recently with an essay entitled “Food of the Gods in the City of Peace.”
Rhett Iseman Trull, editor of Cave Wall, published “Counting Miracles at the State Asylum” at LiturgicalCredo. The poem was later anthologized in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery, edited by Tom Lombardo. Trull eventually published “Counting Miracles” in her first collection of poems, The Real Warnings.
LiturgicalCredo is always open for submissions. LiturgicalCredo publishes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, photography, and photographs of visual arts. To submit a manuscript or to request more information, email Colin at firstname.lastname@example.org. We prefer to receive submissions as email attachments of Word documents and JPEG photographs.
Some Context for Our Work
Our aesthetics and values steadily evolve. Still, a few works provide context for what we do. The following essays, poems, stories, novels, and nonfiction books represent a mix of faith, doubt, speculation, and wonder:
“On Stories,” an essay by C.S. Lewis, from On Stories: And Other Essays
“Recovering Evangelical: Reflections of an Erstwhile Christ Addict,” an essay by Todd Shy, from Image No. 51
“Giving Up Jerusalem,” an essay by Jeanne Murray Walker, from Image No. 40
“The Gift of the Call,” an essay by Christopher Bamford, from Parabola, Fall 2004
“Love Calls Us to the Things of This World,” a poem by Richard Wilbur, from New and Collected Poems
The Nobel Lecture on Literature by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“Prayer” and “All Souls’,” poems by Dana Gioia, from The Gods of Winter
The Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
“501 Minutes to Christ,” an essay by Poe Ballantine, The Sun Magazine, August 2005
“Useless Virtues,” a poem by T.R. Hummer, from Useless Virtues
The Doubter’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense by John Ralston Saul
Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris
Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book, nonfiction by Walker Percy
Love in the Ruins: Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World, a novel by Walker Percy
Thomas C. Oden’s introductory essay in his collection Parables of Kierkegaard
Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle
“A Good Man is Hard to Find,” “Good Country People,” and “The River,” short stories by Flannery O’Connor, from A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories
A Stay Against Confusion: Essays on Faith and Fiction by Ron Hansen
Editor & Publisher
LiturgicalCredo is edited by Colin Foote Burch. Colin has a bachelors degree in English from N.C. State University in Raleigh, N.C., and a master of fine arts in creative writing, with an emphasis on literary nonfiction, from Queens University in Charlotte, N.C.
Colin is a lecturer in the Department of English at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., and a twice-elected former member of the vestry at Trinity Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach. He has also been a lay teacher at Trinity.
He worked for 10 years in the newspaper business, including stints as the business editor and later the features editor at The Sun News, a mid-sized daily newspaper in Myrtle Beach, S.C. In 1996, Colin was a semi-finalist for the Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellowship. He holds awards from the N.C. Press Association and the S.C. Press Association.
Colin spent the first three months of 1998 at the L’Abri Fellowship branch in Greatham, England, where he informally studied the histories of Western philosophy and theology.
In the middle of his journalism career (2001-2003), Colin and his wife opened and operated the now-defunct Living Room Coffee Bar & Used Book Store, which featured paintings, performances, and book signings by local and touring artists, along with the best coffee and espresso available in the Myrtle Beach area.
In 2006, Colin received a scholarship to attend the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s Summer Institute at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where he studied under poet and playwright Jeanne Murray Walker, a faculty member at the University of Delaware.
In May 2008, he taught a graduate seminar at Queens University in Charlotte, N.C., entitled, “The Role of Imagination in Literary Nonfiction Narratives.”
For six weeks in January and February 2011, Colin taught an adult education forum at Trinity Episcopal entitled, “C.S. Lewis: A Soldier’s Imagination.”
In addition to his work at The Sun News, Colin’s writing has appeared in New Mirage Journal, Circumambulations, The Charlotte Observer, The (Sumter, S.C.) Item, The (Columbia, S.C.) State, Iodine: A Poetry Journal, Appraisal: The Journal of the Society for Post-Critical and Personalist Studies, and The Weekly Surge. While features editor at The Sun News, he contributed to special travel sections that appeared in The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, and several other newspapers.
Colin has a few more odd certifications: He holds Coffee Brewing and Intermediate Barrista certificates from the Specialty Coffee Association of America; he has been trained as a Level One Catechist in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd; and he has become something of an expert on imported and microbrewed beer while writing a regular column about cold brews.
Jess Glass holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Mary Washington, where she studied under Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Claudia Emerson, and a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte. As an undergraduate, she was the literary editor for Aubade, the university’s literary magazine. Her book and theater reviews have been published in The Free Lance-Star and The Caroline Progress, and her fiction and essays have been published in Surreal South, Knee-Jerk Magazine, The 6S Review, and PANK Magazine. She blogs at jessglass.com.
- T.S. Eliot and the Demise of the Literary Culture (commentarymagazine.com)