By Tim Winterstein

I knew this was going to happen. I knew that if a movie was hyped over and over, time and again, as being an incredible, profound meditation on faith and doubt, that it was unlikely to be anything of the sort. If someone has left or been scarred by Christianity, or an American Fundamentalist version of it; if someone is quick to say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious”; or if someone is fully convinced that what the Church should do is take up the apocalyptic cause du jour, then that person is the perfect candidate to be over-impressed with Paul Schrader’s First Reformed.

By Paul Koch

Peddlers of bulls**t are nothing new. Our lives often seem to be saturated in their mess. We’re used to hearing bulls**t from our politicians and bureaucrats of almost any stripe. There’s bulls**t on the left and bulls**t on the right. There’s the difficult to decipher bulls**t that comes from mainline media outlets and the intentionally crafted and personally curated bulls**t we find in our preferred online news sources. I’ve been accused of peddling bulls**t myself. Hell, I’ve probably even been guilty of it more times than I would like to admit.

By Bob Hiller

Someone is caught in the act of a grievous error. Everyone saw it. There is no denying it. They can’t justify it. So, what should be said about it? J. R. Smith might not be the best guy to learn from in this scenario. As I’m sure you’ve seen by now, LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers (the team J. R. Smith is on…for now) was about to pull off a huge surprise in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. No one really expects them to win the series; few expect them to take even a game. But at the end of Game 1, they were primed to steal one from Golden State and change the entire conversation. Down by one point with five seconds left, George Hill was at the free-throw line for the Cavs. He hits the first to tie the game at 107. It looked like overtime when he missed the second shot, but for J. R. Smith! He snags the rebound, and all he has to do is put the ball back in the hoop. Game over. Cavs win! Smith is the hero!

By Bob Hiller

We’ve all been there: You’re having a conversation about the faith with a person who is struggling to believe, or doesn’t at all. In the course of the conversation, they bring up an argument you don’t have an answer for. In fact, the point is way over your head, and you worry that pursuing the question will challenge your faith in uncomfortable ways. Maybe they are questioning how you know Jesus rose from the dead, or why you believe the New Testament is full of trustworthy documents. They’ve watched the latest Food Network special on the historical Jesus or checked out the latest Bart Ehrman thriller reconstructing the first four centuries of the church, and now they have questions. They aren’t afraid to put you on the spot: “How do you know? Why should I believe?” And all you can say is, “I just have faith that it is true. You just need to believe it! Take it on faith!”

By Paul Koch

Over the years I have read quite a bit about the influence of Scientific Management in our schools, corporations and military but I had never really thought much about its influence in the church. Scientific Management views efficiency as the highest good. So if you want a good and well-oiled society the best way to get it is to engineer it to be as efficient as possible. Schools need to track students and guide them to fill a specific role in society and so people are viewed as part of a machine, each providing a crucial piece and working with the highest efficiency. Such things don’t happen by chance; they need to be scientifically managed to reach the best outcome.

By Hillary Asbury

Michelangelo Buonnarotti’s “Holy Family” is also referred to as the “Doni Tondo” in reference to its round shape (“tondo”) and the family that commissioned it (the Doni family).

It is perhaps one of my very favorite oil paintings in history. It resides at the Uffizzi in Florence, Italy, and the first time I saw it in person, I was enchanted, though I couldn’t say why at the time. I remember being pulled in by the rich colors and smooth brush strokes first, and then being carried away by the sweeping composition.

By Joel A. Hess –

This past Sunday, our church celebrated the confirmation of a bunch of our kids, my son included. Poor kids. What are we doing? Thirteen and fourteen year olds promising to be upstanding members, givers, and receivers in the Church, to hold to the teachings of the Church according to the Small Catechism, even to suffer death than to fall away from the faith.