Category Essay

Chicago Diarist: Waiting

(I wrote this in December, 2009) Say what you will about cold weather, crowds, and snow or the threat thereof grinding the streets to a halt, but I kind of love Chicago in December. I love the concerts of sacred music for free or cheap, the Bavarian Christmas market at Daley Plaza (with offsetting public […]

Gonna Kick Tomorrow

We have been here before, too, the great Dirtbag Cenobium where the young and artistic, seeking to escape the conventions of both their art and their society, huddle with their demimondaine muses in a gorgeous squalor suspended between fame and the gutter.

It’s the Pictures that Got Small

(I wrote this in March, 2013) I am no more eager than Damon Linker to rehash the arguments of the Lesser Atheism, but I don’t quite follow him this far: If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we’re alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, […]

Getting Beyond It

(Note: I wrote this in 2011. Reposting here for Kierkegaard’s commemoration tomorrow) People have been getting beyond Christianity for a long time. “In our time,” Søren Kierkegaard wrote in 1843, “nobody is content to stop with faith but wants to go further.” It would perhaps be rash to ask where these people are going, but it is […]

Neither Fear Nor Courage Saves Us, Part Infinity: On the Church’s Lost Half-Century

(Note: I wrote this in September, 2012) There are many reasons I love St. Augustine’s House in Oxford, Michigan, North America’s only Lutheran monastery. Being back for my third retreat there, earlier this month, and browsing through some of its historical accounts, I was struck as I periodically am by how humbling it is to drag one’s […]

The Everyday Uncanny

In recent years I’ve been easing my way back into scary fiction and the less gruesome sort of horror films. I am strictly a dilettante here; I can highly recommend Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House if you want a book, and recent films like It Follows, The Babadook, Let the Right One In, […]

Eulogy (II)

The day after my mother-in-law died, we went to church and then to my oldest son’s baseball game. It had been a long illness with no real doubt about its conclusion, but the end still comes with a fresh harshness and finality, however long it’s been anticipated and however welcome the release from pain and […]

Eulogy: How It Feels

There was only a brief moment in my adolescence when I stayed current with the music of my own generation. Before my game attempts at being a fan of Jane’s Addiction, Smashing Pumpkins, and the rest of them, it was all Billy Joel, Elton John, and musicals. And after, I got really into the emeritus […]

Chicago Diarist: A Drunkard’s Home Companion

(I wrote this in August, 2006) Last Friday I made it to the Music Box for the first time in far too long to catch the midnight showing of Big Time, the Tom Waits concert film of 1988. A friend and I stopped at a Southport watering hole for a couple quick glasses of Irish whiskey before the […]

My Back Pages: Iftar with the DuPage Republicans

(A version of this appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi, in September 2009. It is not longer extant and their site, so I have posted it here). In the years following the attacks of September 11, 2001, enthusiasm for interfaith iftar events swept America’s liberal Christians. When I was studying theology, an interfaith iftar – […]