Why I’m Sorry About Being Sorry

You may have noticed that I haven’t updated the blog in awhile1. A big reason for this is that my posts had fallen into a rut, and I got frustrated.

Here’s my recent formula: I start with a very evangelical topic–prayer, missions, youth pastors, etc. I then carefully (oh so carefully) broach my difficulties with the topic. I do this through portraying myself as a sneering jerk lobbing unfair criticisms. But then I realized I was a jerk. After this breakthrough, I am free to love the topic, and admit that the only real problem was me.

There’s a reason all my posts hit these same beats–I didn’t want anyone to get mad at me.

Continue reading “Why I’m Sorry About Being Sorry”

Reading Cynicism Out of Genre

I have a confession: I like reading genre fiction. I also have a confession about the confession: I feel ashamed about it. And I shouldn’t.

Mostly-true story

I was on the phone with a college friend–the type who makes his own cheese and wants me to read more Bertrand Russell. He asked what books I was reading, and I responded with equal parts hemming and hawing.

At the time, I was reading A Morbid Taste for Bones, a detective story set in Medieval Wales. To make things more shameful, I was enjoying it. The characters were pleasant, the puzzle was engaging, and the prose was admirable.

But of course, my friend couldn’t know this:

“I’m working through a period novel right now. Lots of insight into the Scholastic mind, meditations on guilt, and grasping with ordinary men’s capacity for brutality.”

At this point I’m afraid he’ll ask for the book’s title, so I pivot:

“I also bought Infinite Jest. I’ve just nibbled on it so far, but I’m loving what I’m seeing.” I then compared David Foster Wallace’s writing style to literary kudzu, because I read that in an article once.

This was all true enough. I had bought Infinite Jest because it was ninety-nine cents at the Kindle store, and I had enjoyed reading through the first four pages. But I knew perfectly well that I was never going to finish that thousand-paged hydra.

I just needed to balance my detective story with something literary…

Continue reading “Reading Cynicism Out of Genre”

How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 4

In my last post, I rejected a perfectly fine church because it wasn’t perfect enough. In this post, I finally find a church that is utterly perfect. On paper. I also realize the endgame of my cynical perfectionism.

Googling

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles for law school, I googled “Anglican churches LA” on a Saturday night. I didn’t expect to find anything. Instead, I stumbled onto a link for something called St. John’s Anglican Church.1 Shrugging, I clicked on it. It was one of those “continuing Anglican” movements that broke from the Episcopal Church years earlier to maintain doctrinal purity.

I read their website with widening eyes. They checked every box on my dream list. Apostolic Succession: check. Commitment to sound doctrine: check. High Mass: check. They even had Orthodox icons along the side of their web pages.

After years of toil, I allowed myself to hope. Was my rejection of all other churches about to be rewarded? Continue reading “How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 4”

How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 2

Last time, I described my love of the Anglo-Catholicism of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church in Oxford.1 But alas, my fairy tale love could never last.

The first reason is obvious enough. When the semester abroad ended, I had to go back to America. And there aren’t any thousand year old churches here.2

But the Mary Mag’s experience couldn’t last for a more fundamental reason. It was a rushing confluence of things–being in a new country, learning a new theological tradition, experiencing new ceremonies and sacraments, and meeting new and interesting people. And I was doing all of this with a group of evangelical classmates who were enamored by the same newness as me. Continue reading “How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 2”

How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 1

My family and I go to International Anglican Church1 in Colorado Springs. For those interested in such things, it’s part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). We think it’s a great church, and we’re happy and content.

But it took me a long time to get to “happy and content.” And I ignored a lot of perfectly fine churches along the way. Maybe you’ve been there too: so enamored with the thought of a “perfect church” that you refuse to see the good in other churches.

In this series, I’ll share the lessons from my too-long search for the perfect church, and how my cynicism kept me from being content. Continue reading “How to NOT Be a Cynic at Church: Part 1”

Are Millennials Really the Worst?

A lot of my posts are about millennials who are cynical to older generations. This post goes in the other direction–it’s for older people who are cynical toward millennials. My inspiration is this video that was bouncing around my newsfeed. It’s part of a booming social media genre: millennial bashing.

The video makes the typical anti-millennial talking points. They’re all pointless.

Don’t worry, I’m not trying to start an intergenerational war. My argument isn’t that millennials are great and Baby Boomers are terrible. I think we’re all equally terrible. Continue reading “Are Millennials Really the Worst?”

Enter the Hero Missionary

I was seventeen, sitting in my high school’s weekly chapel, and picturing my future self. I called him Missionary Matt, and he was super cool:

I’m in a thatched-hut village in the Congo. I kneel beside a war orphan, checking his ears for infection and telling jokes to lighten his mood. The sun beats through the ferns, bronzing my arms and beading sweat on my skin-tight v-neck. Finishing the treatment, I stand up and pat the boy on the head. He scampers off to his family, prattling about this amazing American stranger. I stride toward the Chief to discuss the well I’m building for the village. But then my Bantu friend, Shaka, bursts through the underbrush with wild eyes. Western poachers have entered the jungle, he cries, and they’re after the gorillas! Nodding, I grab my machete and bullwhip from the jeep, readjust my cowboy hat, and barrel into the heart of darkness. Continue reading “Enter the Hero Missionary”

“Those Evangelicals” Are Ruining Everything

My last post was on assuming the worst about “Those Evangelicals” and the liturgy. This week, I thought Those Evangelicals deserved their own post. But first, I should explain what I mean by Those Evangelicals.

Who are Those Evangelicals?

No matter your theology or politics, everybody can have Those Evangelicals.

If you’re a conservative, Those Evangelicals are the people who read Rachel Held Evans and vote Bernie Sanders and use words like “social justice” and “fair trade coffee.”

If you’re a liberal, Those Evangelicals listen to James Dobson and vote Ted Cruz and use words like “sanctity of marriage” and “American exceptionalism.”

And if you’re like me and like pretending you’re a moderate, you could have Those Evangelicals on both sides of you.

There are characteristics that apply to Those Evangelicals. All of them: Continue reading ““Those Evangelicals” Are Ruining Everything”

The Real Reason Your Parents Don’t Like Liturgy

I used to think that every one of “Those Evangelicals” hated liturgy.

You haven’t heard of Those Evangelicals? It’s simple. Those Evangelicals are the shadowy others out there in the world. Whenever I disagree with Those Evangelicals about something, it makes me feel smart and edgy. And Those Evangelicals have an irrational fear of liturgy.

During my cynical days, I spent a lot of time defending liturgical traditions like Episcopalianism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy against the ignorance of Those Evangelicals. I also spent time concocting theories about why they hated it. Continue reading “The Real Reason Your Parents Don’t Like Liturgy”