By Debie Thomas

Most of us have seen (stereotypical) examples of bouncers in movies or television shows. Mention the word, and we immediately conjure up powerful, six-foot-tall bodybuilders with black armbands, steel-toed boots, and menacing expressions on their faces, grimly guarding the entrances of bars or nightclubs.

Whether or not the physical description fits, a bouncer’s job is to provide security, keep order, refuse entry to people who aren’t allowed inside, and “bounce” (throw out) those who forfeit their welcome. In a broader sense, a bouncer’s job is to serve as a gatekeeper for the institution he or she serves…


By Dan Clendenin

Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (New York: Liveright, 2017), 342pp.

About a year ago I wrote an essay called “Reading Black America” that gathered nearly seventy JWJ reviews of books about our Black Lives Moment. Richard Rothstein’s book belongs at the very top of that list; it is a devastating and deeply disturbing book of meticulous scholarship. The Color of Law has won numerous awards, and been on just about everyone’s “best books of the year” list.

How did the United States become so deeply divided by…


By Dan Clendenin

The Minimalists: Less is Now (2021)

This 53-minute documentary isn’t a great film, but it explores an important cultural phenomenon that Jesus himself mentions in Luke 12:15: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” No one in the affluent West is immune from the relentless powers of consumerism; think of one-click shopping, the endless stream of pop-up ads on all our screens, same-day delivery, and the $16,000 average credit card debt for each household. It’s no wonder that our closets are so crammed and…


By Debie Thomas

For the past several months, my church has held its Sunday worship services outdoors. Parishioners sit in a wide circle of folding chairs around our church labyrinth, facing the altar we’ve moved onto the church steps. Our parish children sit among us, their hands deep in the activity bins our youth minister has assembled for each child, filled with toys, stickers, books, and art supplies.

Sometimes, the youngest children get restless, and one or more of them gets up and starts walking the labyrinth in the middle of the service. While we grown-ups chant a psalm, sing…


By Dan Clendenin

James Dillon, The Gospel of “It’s a Wonderful Life:” A Spiritual Journey Through the Movie (Bloomington, IN: LifeRich Publishing, 2021), 193pp.

In the introduction to his book, James Dillon compares his own life to the character George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) in Frank Capra’s Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). A medical crisis at about age fifty landed Dillon in the hospital for three weeks. This sounds horrible on the face of it, but he came to see it as his “miraculous illness” with the help of watching the famous Capra movie: “It was like…


By Dan Clendenin

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

By the time Frank Capra (1897–1991) was about thirty years old, he was one of Hollywood’s most famous and successful film makers. His movie It Happened One Night (1934) won five Academy Awards. His autobiographical film It’s a Wonderful Life had a much different fate. It received mixed reviews when it was released in 1946, and did poorly at the box office. The classic Christmas story stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, who suffers the loss of his personal dreams but who, with the help of his guardian angel Clarence Odbody, begins…


By Michael Fitzpatrick

Michael Fitzpatrick is a parishioner at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, CA. After growing up in the rural northwest, he served over five years in the U. S. Army as a Chaplain’s Assistant, including two deployments to Iraq. After completing his military service, Michael has done graduate work in literature and philosophy. He is now finishing his PhD at Stanford University.

Last month on the 8th Day, we made a small recovery of Christian sexual ethics as a way to engage with contemporary attitudes towards the body and human sexuality. Too often the temptation of…


By Debie Thomas

Do you ever feel ashamed of your faith? Do you hesitate to identify as a Christian in your workplace? On social media? In the company of your classmates, your neighbors, your extended family?

I imply no judgment in the question, because my own (uncomfortable) answer is yes. Yes, I often struggle with shame when it comes to my faith. There are contexts in which I hesitate to identify as a follower of Jesus. I can name more than one instance in which I’ve hidden or minimized the essential role Christianity plays in my life.

So I come…


By Dan Clendenin

Simon Winchester, Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World (New York: HarperCollins, 2021), 464pp.

A review by Brad Keister, former Deputy Division Director of the Physics Division for the National Science Foundation.

Simon Winchester is a best-selling author whose previous two dozen books include Krakatoa, The Map that Changed the World, and The Professor and the Madman. In Land, he explores a subject that is never far from the headlines, be it local or global. Land is one of the few things on the Earth that is permanent (though with sea levels rising, even…


By Robert Hann

Los Lobos, “Native Sons” (2021)

One of my favorite things about being alive, about my own particular flavor of human consciousness, is album listening. And with few exceptions, my favorite album listening experiences happen not when the album is immediately accessible, but when my relationship with the music grows over time.

Sure, I have records that clicked immediately. But on my personal list of all-time greats, the majority are records that I didn’t “get” right away. Perhaps a couple songs stand out initially, and after a few spins of the complete album I find myself skipping to…

Dan Clendenin

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