Trinity Forum Reflections

Mon, Nov 20 2017
by: Cherie Harder
The holidays are rapidly approaching — and we the people are angry. A year after the nastiest presidential election in modern history, our general ire seems further stoked. In this age of rage, one can find any number of reasons to be furious: congressional gridlock, the President (or his critics), the media, racial divisions, the gall of anyone who disagrees with us on social media. By some measures, almost two-thirds of Americans report being angry every day – and most claim they angrier now than last year or the year before. Why are we so torqued? Certainly, there are deep injustices meriting indignation. But one of the revealing aspects of various studies on the national mood was that the angriest people weren’t the worst off, or those who had suffered great losses, but who had a stronger sense of disappointed expectation or perceived disrespect. The resulting resentment often fuels a...
Wed, Aug 30 2017
by: Cherie Harder
After a valiant two-year battle with cancer, waged with his characteristic energy and verve, author, scholar, Faith Angle Forum founder, and Trinity Forum Senior Fellow Michael Cromartie died earlier this week. He leaves behind his extraordinary wife Jenny, sons Ethan and Eric and daughter Heather, and a vast company whose lives, work, and thought were deeply influenced by his presence, conversation, care, and friendship. Michael served for many years as a Trinity Forum Senior Fellow and frequent moderator, and as Vice-President at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. There, he authored or edited more than 15 books, and created the Faith Angle Forum, which hosted semi-annual retreats for journalists and columnists to learn about faith and theology from religious thought leaders, and which had a seismic – if largely unknown – impact on the way in which the most respected and influential journalists understand and cover religion. ​ In many...
Thu, Mar 30 2017
by: Cherie Harder
It is a strange irony: at the most globally connected moment in all of human history, we are lonelier than ever. Even as our social media connections grow, so do our rates of living alone, and our reported feelings of loneliness and estrangement. A survey published by the AARP found that as many as a third of Americans over the age of 45 reported being chronically lonely – up from only one in five a decade earlier. And since loneliness is often concentrated among the elderly, the swell of aging boomers makes it likely that loneliness will become even more widespread. The consequences of loneliness are significant and sobering. Long-lasting loneliness can not only sicken, but kill its sufferers. By some measures, reported loneliness is as significant a factor in mortality as smoking; other studies have shown that it can cause or exacerbate a range of physical and mental illnesses...
Fri, Dec 16 2016
by: Cherie Harder
As if Economics was not already considered “the dismal science,” a vocal number of economists have taken to questioning the value of gift-giving, even labeling it a “market failure.” By the laws of economics alone, the Grinches have a point: giving a gift is a less efficient exchange than simply transferring money or handing over a gift card. There is always the real possibility that the recipient won’t like his gift, or value it less than the giver paid for it. And significant time is spent searching for and fretting about gifts, which could be eliminated if the intended recipient just bought for himself whatever he wanted from the transferred funds. All of which has led some economists to declare gift-giving a “waste.” A contrary view was poignantly expressed in O. Henry’s short story “The Gift of the Magi,” in which (spoiler alert) an impoverished young couple sacrifice their most...
Fri, Nov 11 2016
by: Cherie Harder
Hope and Change? It has been a wild election. The majority of our deeply divided fellow citizens, many of whom are clearly hurting or angry (or both), fed up with gridlock in Washington, and eager for change, chose a new president, in what has seemed a joyless and bitter contest between two of the least popular candidates in recent history. The election results are, in many quarters, interpreted as a mandate for significant change; evangelical voters in particular were widely seen as hoping to restore America to a lost time of previous greatness, and pinning those hopes on an unlikely candidate to get them there. But while our faith calls us to be people of hope, it also cautions against placing our hope in politics or politicians (seemingly a constant temptation for the politically-engaged faithful). There is a limit to what politics can do. The very structure of our system...
Fri, Sep 23 2016
by: Cherie Harder
It is uncanny how much attention is paid in the Bible to the weight and power of words. It is a recurrent theme, beginning in Genesis with God speaking the world into existence, and culminating with the good news that the Word himself became flesh and walked among us. The reader is cautioned that the spoken word has the power to heal or destroy, encouraged that “a word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver,” and warned not to distort the smallest word or punctuation mark. It is hard to escape the conclusion that words have weight and power, even the power of life or death. As the inimitable Eugene Peterson wrote in The Jesus Way: "Words are holy – all words. But words are also vulnerable to corruption, debased into blasphemies, trivialized into gossip…. Everywhere and always as Christians follow Jesus we use words that...
Wed, Jul 13 2016
by: Byronsmith
*We are pleased to provide a special guest reflection by Trinity Forum Trustee Byron Smith: " Shocked… Confused… Dismayed… Angry! " The sense of frustration many of us feel as we observe what is happening in our country can be disorienting. The demoralizing presidential election, violence against and by police, the polarization of our politics, debasement of our public language, the growing (if ignored) national debt, all contribute to a crisis of confidence in leadership. We have come to realize that we are like the proverbial frog in rapidly-heating water. But even as we recognize the peril of our situation, we also question: Is it too late? To answer that question, we need to look at how we got here. Surely part of the cause is that we as a society no longer think clearly or deeply. We read less often and less well. We cannot sustain public debate without...
Thu, Jun 9 2016
by: Cherie Harder
Editors' Note: This article first appeared in Patheos online and is part of the Patheos Public Square on Faith and the Election. You can find the article here . Faith inevitably shapes politics. It cannot be otherwise, as faith speaks to ultimate questions — the character and will of God, the purpose of life, the nature of man, the means of justice, and the path to human flourishing. All have broad and deep political implications and consequences. But perhaps one of the most important roles our faith plays in this election season is to remind us of the limits of politics. The Christian faith shows these limits by revealing the flaws of human nature. The Christian understanding of man as made in the image of God, and thus possessing an intrinsic dignity and worth — while also marked by an innate inclination toward selfishness and corruption — offers both hope...
Fri, May 20 2016
by: Cherie Harder
"Political chaos is connected with the decay of language... one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end." —George Orwell. In George Orwell’s brilliant dystopian novel 1984 , the party leaders of the totalitarian state Oceania restrict the thought and freedom of their subjects by reducing their vocabulary and debasing their language. The institution of “Newspeak”—a flattening of language to collapse moral, aesthetic, and analytical distinctions, and reduce the sublime, beautiful, brave, kind, peaceful, delicious, dedicated, or ecstatic to the “good,” “plusgood” or “doubleplusgood”—was a means of not only controlling the public conversation, but also private thought. The individual self-expression, precision of thought, analysis and critique; and aesthetic delight made possible by linguistic mastery could be prevented—rendered unthinkable—by limiting language to its most blunt, base, and controllable. As with all great novels, 1984 bears salience for our own (significantly different) time. By several measures, our public...
Wed, Mar 2 2016
by: Cherie Harder
There is a certain appropriateness to Super Tuesday falling mid-way through the Lenten season – an illustration of the attention-grabbing demands and distractions of the world around us in a time traditionally dedicated to spiritual reflection. If Lent encourages silence and solitude, presidential campaigns are about messaging, marketing, and mobilizing – all necessarily noisy endeavors, and this campaign perhaps noisier than most. As such, the Lenten invitation to reflection is easily drowned out amidst the din. But our need for silence and reflection may well exceed our felt need; mystics and poets have long pointed to a connection between noise and inward chaos, even suggesting that noise is hell on earth – or Hell itself. In Paradise Lost , John Milton named the capital of Hell “Pandemonium;” Dante’s pilgrim knows he has entered the Inferno in part by the noise. In The Screwtape Letters , C.S. Lewis’s demon-bureaucrat Screwtape declares:...

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