Spring 2017 Writing Roundup

We are now traveling around East Africa in search of a new hospital to work at since Yei seems like it will remain closed to families for the immediate future. We’ll have a big post with all of the places we visited in a few weeks, but here’s what I’ve been writing and recording lately:

Creating a Just and Good Healthcare System– I was invited by the Maryland Chapter of the American Solidarity Party to give a talk about healthcare. Watch Mere Orthodoxy for the full text of the talk, coming soon!

Dorothy’s Place Podcast, Episode #1– The good folks at Solidarity Hall are trying to figure out how to live in community in light of the technological and economic changes that try to push us apart. They invited me to be on their podcast and we had a delightful conversation about healthcare systems in America, South Sudan, and Japan:

In Alien: Covenant, the March of Progress Ends in Death– The first two Alien movies are some of my favorite films, so I was eager to see what Ridley Scott would do with Alien: Covenant. I enjoyed the movie, but I also found a lot of themes relevant to technological ambition, our cultural infatuation with Science! and medical ethics.  As one of my friends likes to say, “The gods of our age are death and fruitless sex.” Alien: Covenant is about the endgame of those gods.

Dangerous Territory Feature Review– My friend Amy Peterson recently released her first book, Dangerous Territory. It’s part memoir, part examination of contemporary missions issues, and really worth reading overall. Maggie also really enjoyed it, if you’re wondering!

The Insanity of Autonomy- This is a post on my Mere-O sub-blog that further developed my thoughts in a Christianity Today article about a new Gallup poll about morality. I talk about how there’s no way to “win” any culture wars if our culture sacralizes autonomy — especially if our other political commitments reinforce this!

The Christ and Pop Culture 25: Nintendo Switch, S-Town, and Silence– I was back on the Christ and Pop Culture podcast talking about the most important things in pop culture this year. Naturally, I won by defending the film Silence, although quite frankly we kind of knew Silence had to win from the get-go and my co-hosts did an admirable job fighting a battle they knew they were going to lose.

What Political Theology are You?– Yes, I helped make a web quiz. Yes, it was fun. Yes, the results are for entertainment purposes only. Yes, you are probably a Liberal Protestant.

Winter 2017 Writing Roundup

I have been busier lately at my sub-blog at Mere Orthodoxy, including a post about 5 different options for fixing American healthcare (including blowing it up!)  As we prepare to return to East Africa, we hope have more to write here! In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been writing lately:


In Violence We Trust?– People often talk about “senseless” violence, but violence makes a lot of sense for people who feel insecure. I explored the relationship between violence, trust, and security and how we can use these ideas to reckon with the problem of inner-city violence in America.

Green Card Holders in the City of Man–  With refugee resettlement and immigration in the news, the Bible is being deployed frequently in our debates (but not always thoughtfully). I wrote about how we might get beyond prooftexting in wrestling with the challenges these issues present to God’s people and their place in the modern nation-state — as well as the world that the Bible anticipates.

“The poor will always be with us” is no reason to cut Medicaid– Congressman Roger Marshall recently applied some… interesting exegesis of Jesus’ words about poverty and Medicaid. I gave a brief response for America magazine about the challenges poor people face in obtaining preventive care and what it will really take to care for all of our bodies.

Living and Dying Well: A Vernacular Podcast– Zac and Sally Crippen invited me to be on their podcast (which is well worth listening to if you enjoy stimulating conversations). We had a great talk about death across cultures, dying well, and a richer understanding of bioethics in medical education.

Making Amends: Eve Tushnet on Addiction in Our Time– Eve Tushnet’s novel “Amends” is the funniest book I have ever read, and it is also moving and beautiful and just go buy it already, k?

Black Mirror, Technology, and the Darkness of Our Hearts– The Christ and Pop Culture Digest had me back to talk about my article about Black Mirror and technology’s power to amplify our sinfulness. We had a great chat!

A Social Justice Warrior in King Roderick’s Court– I have really enjoyed becoming familiar with the work of Plough Magazine and couldn’t miss the opportunity to join them when they hosted Rod Dreher in New York at an event about the Benedict Option. They also pulled together a great panel to respond to Rod, so I explored some of their excellent responses.

Civics is not LARPing– This was supposed to be a sub-blog piece, but I accidentally published it on the Mere Orthodoxy main site. Whoops! I’m glad it was one of the better ones: trying to figure out how to increase civic engagement and cultivate virtue in our peculiar political environment.

Go To Church LOL: An Impertinent Catechism– Everything you ever wanted to know about why Christians and the Church are so awful and why you should go to church even if it’s full of bigots.

Comfort Detox: Free for CaPC Members– Once you know that the stuff you’ve always wanted and the comfort you’ve always worked for isn’t enough, what next? Erin Straza’s book “Comfort Detox” explores this question, so I wrote about it for CaPC (it’s free with a $5-a-month CaPC membership!)

Spring 2016 Writing Roundup

Lots of references to Viagra in these pieces!

Health is About Way More Than Weight– My latest Christianity Today column is about how the Church can deal with the obesity crisis– by focusing less on the actual numbers and more on ameliorating the problems that cause us to overeat or smoke in the first place.

Strength in Weakness– I really liked Andy Crouch’s new book, Strong and Weak. Though I still think his last book, Playing God, needs to be read by more people!

Our Drugs Addiction– This CT column from May takes on the pharmaceutical industry’s preferential treatment of the rich. and what anyone can do at their doctor’s office to help push the system in a better direction.

How Then Shall We Work? Medicine– I participated in the Comment symposium on technology and the professions, focusing on medicine. I discussed how electronic medical records demonstrate the foibles of using technology to make things better. I still wish we had been able to use the original title, “User Error” but it didn’t quite work in the print layout.

What West Baltimore Needs– The American Conservative wanted a retrospective look at the events in Baltimore last year, so I wrote about how the immediate response to the unrest was a picture of our disorganized and dysfunctional approach to helping struggling urban neighborhoods. I also pointed towards some of the ways that we could do better as I explored the costs of dealing with the culture that helps poverty stay entrenched.

Benedict and Jesus– If you’re not tired of the Benedict Option discussion, I jumped in again to go back and forth with Alan Jacobs (who ended up replying here).

Writing Roundup: Baltimore

At the risk of being self-indulgent, here goes: I don’t live in Baltimore anymore, though I miss it and our community there quite fiercely. At this one-year mark of the events that centered around the neighborhood Maggie and I lived in for 6 years and will always love, I’m reposting below several articles I wrote before and after. There are many other good things written at the time which I tried to link generously to therein, and you should follow these links.

A few things have changed and I look forward to seeing how people who are willing to learn from the past might change the future of Sandtown and places like it. The people who were committed to Sandtown long before it became newsworthy are still there and still doing the long, slow, grueling work of rebuilding foundations. They’ll keep working as long as they can and they still need prayers, support, love, and fellow travelers. I wrote these things mostly to help communicate their perspectives and wisdom, which have shaped me in ways that I am still trying to discern.

Faith, Fatalism, and Freddie Gray– A broader historical take that looks at the role the church can play in healing the wounds caused by civic neglect and structural racism.

Run Towards The Pain– This essay focuses on the role of minor leaders in mediating the work of community advocates who have remained or returned to struggling neighborhoods.

The Need For Neighbors– Perhaps more relevant now than it was then, as efforts to “revitalize” have multiplied, this piece discusses the importance of knowing and caring for one another as neighbors willing to bear risk together.

From Reaction to Action– City Paper was kind to publish this “Op-Alt”, with a lot of specific suggestions for community organizations and churches doing good work in Sandtown.

Let Sandtown Speak For Itself– I found too many opinions about Sandtown last year were assuming a fairly monolithic “voice of the community”, so I tried to highlight some different voices.

The Policing Baltimore Needs– I doubt this piece had anything to do with it, but I’m happy to say that many of the suggestions here have gained some traction in the past year. We’ll see how they work out in the years to come.

Is Black Lives Matter Overblown?– I took on more about policing and how we might think about a more positive construction for how to fight for public safety in tough places.

Why Bernie Sanders Shouldn’t Call Baltimore “Third World”– More on the struggles of universalizing particular narratives in regards to Baltimore neighborhoods.


February/March Writing Roundup

Things slowed down in February but lately a bunch of things I’ve written (some quite a while ago) have been making their way out, so here you go!

Needing My Neighbor– I wrote this one for Plough Magazine, a quarterly dedicated to faith in action, about my struggle with pornography and how my ideals about being a social justice-y Christian were driving me further into addiction. Fortunately, my friends and mentors in Sandtown were there to help me find a way back into healing and along the way I learned some more things about what a more holistic approach to mental health might be.

Building the Virtuous Neighborhood– There’s been some debate lately (and some assumptions for a very long time) about the importance of cultivating virtuous behavior in fighting poverty and reckoning with the sense of victimhood. I wrote about how we can’t assume that virtue and economic self-sufficiency are a closed system and how we can go about promoting the sorts of responsibility and care we want to see flourish.

How the Church Heals– My second Christianity Today column, about the role of the local church in public health.

How The Wingfeather Saga Reshapes Our Imaginations to Love Others– I love the Wingfeather Saga books and I’m thrilled that they’re doing a Kickstarter to bring the stories to the screen. I wrote about how the series slowly builds to a powerful message about loving foreign invaders– yes, even the ones who want to kill us.

Social Justice is Boring– The rhetoric around missions and social justice is often quite charged and exciting, but the work of actually serving and loving others is usually a bit more boring. I wrote about how we can rethink our approach to be more comprehensive and inclusive.


December/January Writing Roundup

The pace is slowing down a little bit, but I had enough sleepless nights from jet lag to bang out a few unsolicited opinions.

Is Black Lives Matter Overblown?– There’s been a lot of discussion about the Black Lives Matter movement and a lot of people are skeptical. I tried to take skeptics’ concerns seriously and write an article demonstrating how one could– and should– support the goals of Black Lives Matter even if the tactics or underlying ideologies might make you squeamish. Tyler Burns and Drew Dixon also invited me onto the CaPC Digest podcast to discuss this article and we had a great conversation about police reform, public justice, and loving your local community.

Songs For The Fight– Music has always meant a lot to me and good music has gotten me through some dark places. I wrote about how I got to meet Andrew Peterson one time and how our conversation demonstrated how doctors and artists need one another in the Body of Christ. Also, why I wish sometimes that I could be a lawyer, social worker, or an independent singer-songwriter.

Rain For Roots: Music That Teaches Us To Wait For The Lord– One of the albums that has been getting us through the tough parts of our transition to South Sudan is Rain For Roots’ “Waiting Songs”. This was ostensibly a kids’ album, but it– like other good art made for children– can be good for adults, too.

The Christ and Pop Culture 25: #6-#10– Every year, Christ and Pop Culture does a list of their 25 favorite people & cultural artifacts. I wrote the blurb for Wesley Hill’s book Spiritual Friendship, which made it to #10 on the list. If you’ve been following me for any length of time you know I love Wes’ work and I loved this book, so if you were waiting for one more push to go buy it, here you go!

Why Bernie Sanders Shouldn’t Call Baltimore “Third World”– Bernie Sanders was thoughtful enough to make a campaign stop in Sandtown, but while there he described the neighborhood as looking like a “Third World country”. I wrote about how that mindset and language constrains our political imaginations and undermines the sort of development we’d want to see in Sandtown.

October Writing Roundup

Faith and Fragile Families: I owe so much to my parents and wrote part of their testimony in honor of their twenty-ninth wedding anniversary.

Life Together Means Living Together: Our life in Baltimore has centered a lot around our church and our neighborhood. This has been borne out of our convictions about how the Church should promote mutuality through physical proximity and fellowship.

Q & A For People Who Hate The Benedict Option: This humorous dialogue, meant to be read with the voices of Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry in your head, provoked a thoughtful response from Rod Dreher, so I responded with The Blinkered Benedict Option.

August Writing Roundup

I’ll be sharing my latest writings here on the blog, though I also usually put a little digest at the end of our regular emails (sign up here!) and put stuff out through social media as it comes out. Here’s your chance to see anything you may have missed:

Democratizing Community Health– my first piece for Comment’s print magazine and a pretty important essay for me. A lot of people recognize that American healthcare is broken in many ways, but a lot of “solutions” keep the current power structures in play. Doctors and patients alike recognize that patients feel and act powerless. We have to change our healthcare systems to shift more power to the communities most in need.

Fear the Lifestyle That Will Kill Body and Soul– It’s not easy to think about taking our kids to a place where they’re more vulnerable to disease and violence. However, the fear of such things can contribute to all sorts of anti-Biblical decisions. I looked at how our family is thinking through these issues and how it relates to current Benedict Option discussions.

Loving The Poor: Pics Or It Didn’t Happen– There’s a lot of armchair observations about the Culture War and how we ought to “just love people”. I tried to push back on that idea a little.

Review: This Is My Body– I really enjoyed reading Ragan Sutterfield’s book This Is My Body about faith, food, exercise, and caring for our bodies. It wasn’t a perfect book by any means, but it had a lot of really worthwhile things to say.

How to Defund Planned Parenthood– There’s been a push lately to defund Planned Parenthood. I challenged “single issue voters” on abortion to consider expanding Medicaid as part of a larger political compromise to stop abortion. [UPDATE: The CaPC crew invited me to discuss this article on their podcast! Listen here as we get more into the policy weeds and the realpolitik on the subject of being pro-life “from womb to tomb”.]