Defending Daniel Murphy’s Freedom of Thought

In his August 21 Chicago Tribune column Steve Rosenbloom calls into question the “character” of new Chicago Cubs player Daniel Murphy simply because Murphy has declared his disagreement with the homosexual lifestyle of former player Billy Bean.  Rosenbloom never bothers to explain exactly why Murphy’s convictions should be considered problematic, much less why his character should be called into question.  Apparently, Rosenbloom was content to use cheap innuendo, which of course is irresponsible and lazy journalism.

Since when did it become morally objectionable to disagree with a person’s lifestyle choices?  And given the fact that historically orthodox devotees of all three Abrahamic religions—Jews, Christians, and Muslims—have the same conviction as Daniel Murphy, Rosenbloom is effectively

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questioning the character of billions of people.  And all without a single argument.  That is closed-minded dogma.

Perhaps Rosenbloom would insist that it is irrational or wrong to oppose homosexual conduct because same-sex orientations are innate, based in, say, a genetic disposition.  There are two major problems with such reasoning.  First, there is no evidence, scientific or otherwise, for this claim.  The notion that people are “born that way” is a cultural myth which has taken hold only because it so conveniently fits the LGBTQ narrative.

Secondly, even if it turns out to be the case that homosexual attractions are innate for some people, it does not follow from this that homosexual behavior is morally appropriate.  Not all desires need to be acted upon.  Human beings are free to resist particular sexual desires, regardless of how strong they might be.  We are not automatons or animals.  To say that a person must act according to their same-sex desires is to affirm hard determinism, which is a deeply problematic view, since it implies that all of us are slaves to our strong desires and not culpable if we act on them.

Or maybe Rosenbloom would say that Murphy’s belief is somehow dangerous or threatening to LGBTQ people.  But if mere disagreement with a person’s lifestyle is dangerous or threatening and therefore grounds for moral censure, then shall we also impugn the character of those who disagree with other lifestyle choices, from pot-smoking to NRA membership?  This is a slippery slope to an Orwellian world.

In short, however Rosenbloom might try to rationalize his assailing of Daniel Murphy’s character, it is indefensible.  And he owes Mr. Murphy an apology.

It should be obvious to everyone that our culture has turned decidedly in the direction of a gay-affirming stance in recent years.  But the mere popularity of a view does not show that it is true.  To reason from popular opinion is a basic logical fallacy—a fallacy that much of our culture has sadly embraced.  And the tacit assumption that consensual sexual behavior should be exempt from moral assessment is not only historically aberrant but ethically foolish.  It is indicative of a culture whose idol of sexual license has become its most ascendant god.  Every culture ultimately makes sacrifices to its gods, and American culture is no different.  Evidently, we are now even prepared to offer up our freedom of thought.


Five Smart Recent Albums

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on music, so I’ll do a little catch up here by highlighting some of my favorite albums of the last couple years, all gathered under the descriptor “smart,” because, well, that’s exactly what they are.

Panic at the Disco – Death of a Bachelor

What if the Killers and Duran Duran had a baby and you injected it with ten ounces of adrenalin and the lyrical wit of Morrissey?  That’s right, you get Panic at the Disco.  This stuff is lyrically clever, melodically addictive, and danceable (if you’ve had plenty of caffeine).  And the title track features the most impressive lead vocal performance I’ve heard since Queen’s “Somebody to Love.”  Brendon Urie (lead vocalist, multiple instrumentalist, songwriter, and stage acrobat) is a wonder of nature.  Wow.

Avett Brothers – True Sadness

I’m just now getting on this band’s wagon and am happy to be late to the party, since a wealth of great music awaits me.  This latest offering is poignant, earthy, witty, wise, and stylistically eclectic.  My favorite song on the record is “No Hard Feelings,” a powerful musical resolution to hold no grudges or resentments toward people.  This is one of many Avett Brothers songs which dare to make mature statements about personal virtue which are extremely rare in the world of popular music.

Foxygen – Hang

After three interesting but somewhat sprawling albums, this innovative California duo settled down to create a lushly produced and fully orchestrated song set, and Hang is the fascinating result.  Though clocking in at a total of just 33 minutes, the album explores several genres in a way that leaves the listener feeling like s/he is attending a Broadway musical.  And these guys have a great sense of humor, as evidenced by this video for the song “Avalon.”

Stephen Malkmus – Sparkle Hard

This former front man of the legendary Indie-rock founders Pavement has been making high quality solo records for seventeen years, and this latest offering maintains his high standards of unpredictable musical adventures combined with quirky lyrics and unpredictable melodic flourishes.  Here are some performances of songs from Sparkle Hard on Live at KEXP.

Arctic Monkeys—Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

These guys have been around for a while, but they refuse to make the same album—or even an album within the same genre—twice, evolving admirably from a gritty garage rock through progressive rock to their current reinvention, which is spacious, atmospheric, and loungy musical palate surrounding Alex Turner’s mesmerizing stream-of-consciousness lyrical puree.  Joe Strummer meets Paul Weller meets Tony Bennett.  Or something like that.


Risk Takers

Great artists and intellectuals take risks.  They dare to challenge prevailing paradigms of thought and popular practice, which guarantees they’ll receive resistance and ridicule.  Gregor Mendel’s pioneering work in genetics was ignored by his peers.  Claude Monet endured abuse by both critics and the public.  Marcel Proust was rejected by publishers more times than he could count.  Galileo’s and Einstein’s insights were profound and eventually world-changing, but they were strongly opposed before their ideas eventually took hold.  Aldous Huxley and Bob Dylan were hated by many even after they were established in their fields.  And Socrates, Joan of Arc, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King were killed because of the risks they took.

Risk is a standard feature of innovation.  This guarantees opposition, an unfortunate deterrent to proposing new ideas.  So along with the fact that innovation demands strong imagination and intelligence, the innovator must be courageous, willing to be hated or humiliated for the sake of the truth or beauty they pursue.

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Risk also guarantees occasional, if not frequent, failure, as illustrated in the lives of Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, and the Wright Brothers.  So eventual success requires persistence and even an obstinate personality.  The innovator, then, must be a well-differentiated person, defining him- or herself by a standard beyond public opinion.  To many s/he will necessarily appear insensitive or even insane.

The oft-repeated exhortation to “be a risk-taker”—a favored bromide at graduation ceremonies every Spring—is almost never fully serious or else it is hypocritical, because most people only like risk-takers in the abstract.  They resent and are annoyed by the real, concrete risk takers in their lives (though all of us have benefitted from them).  This is one more sad fact about the human condition.

Perhaps a better or more realistic exhortation is “be patient with risk takers” or “be open to new innovations.”  Not everyone has the disposition to be a genuine risk-taker, so why encourage everyone to do so?  But all of us encounter risk-takers and are forced to decide whether to ignore, resist, ridicule, or even hate them because their ideas cut against the cultural grain and challenge our own beliefs or values.  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t subject their ideas to rigorous critical review.  On the contrary, rational critique is the mature, responsible response to new challenging ideas.  It is good for the world of arts and ideas and good for risk-takers themselves.

So if you’re not a risk-taker in the sense of pursuing innovations in your field, then at least take the risk of patiently considering and perhaps reasonably responding to the risk-takers in your life.  Their latest risk might be one of their mistakes, but your demonstrating this through rational argument will help them and the rest of the world more than empty ridicule or blithe dismissal.


Jesus Christ, Our Celibate Lord

Our culture treats sex like its oxygen or food—as if it were something one needs to survive.  In fact, sex isn’t necessary for survival, nor is it even necessary for the good life.  Even the philosophical father of hedonism, Epicurus, understood this.  But, alas, American culture is far more hedonistic than even the ancient Greek hedonists.

What sex is necessary for is procreation and marital unity.  But one need not participate in either of those things to live and to live well.  This is most evident in the life of Christ.  Jesus lived as a virgin.  He died a virgin.  He rose again a virgin.  And he lives forever as a fully exemplary human being . . . as a virgin.  Jesus Christ is our eternal, celibate Lord.

Let that sink in.

From this it is clear that the celibate life is not unhealthy or even less than ideal.  Rather, the Ideal Man lived a thoroughly celibate life.  We live in a culture which constantly contradicts this by insisting that sex is necessary for a happy and fulfilled life.  In fact, it tells us that the choice for celibacy is somehow unhealthy or unreasonable.  (Ironically, that view itself is unhealthy and unreasonable.)  And because that claim implies Jesus was unfulfilled, unhealthy, and unreasonable, it is deeply anti-Christian.

Yet many Western Christians give sexual pluralists a pass on their assumption that we all need sex.  That we all must have sex to be happy.  Why?  Probably because we have lived so long in a hyper-sexualized and pornified culture that we’ve interiorized some of its assumptions, including this one.  Consequently, in public discussions of sexual orientations and same-sex marriage, you seldom hear Christians confidently declare that celibacy is a reasonable and positive option.  It’s as if we are ashamed to admit this biblical and anthropological fact.

But refusal to stand by this truth is to deny that Christ himself was the Ideal Man.  It is to deny that the Apostle Paul spoke the truth when he declared celibacy to be a gift (1 Cor. 7:7-8).  And it is an insult to millions of Christians around the world who practice celibacy either by choice or by necessity (due to physical disability or lack of a marriage partner, in spite of their desire for such).  So let us be careful to respect Jesus, respect Scripture, and respect our celibate fellow Christians by honoring the high calling of celibacy.

Please keep this in mind the next time you hear someone talking about sex as if it were a basic human need or a necessary ingredient in a fulfilled life.  Even if you lack the courage to correct them on this important point, at least remind yourself that they are rejecting an important biblical teaching.

In many ways, ours is a post-Christian culture, and nowhere is this more evident than in the area of human sexuality.  As Christians, let us remain true to Scripture and the plain facts of human nature regarding this issue and thus honor Jesus Christ, our celibate Lord.


My Debates with John Loftus

Last week I twice debated atheist author John Loftus.  The first debate was hosted by Brookville Road Community Church in Indianapolis.  Approximately 600 people attended the event, and you can view it here.  The second debate, which was held the very next night, was hosted by the Free Thought Fort Wayne group at the Allen County Public Library auditorium.  The audience at this event was smaller—about 150—and consisted of a higher concentration of religious skeptics.

At both events Loftus and I debated the question “Is Religious Faith Rational?”  I took the affirmative position while Loftus defended the negative thesis.  John is a veteran debater, having gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Dinesh D’Souza, Randal Rauser, David Wood, and others.  Spiegel at Indy DebateThis was my first experience at formal debate, so I was curious to see how it would go.  I certainly enjoyed Loftusit, and I found the time constraints to be the most challenging aspect of the experience.

There was an interesting wrinkle regarding the first event.  John’s van broke down in Muncie on his way to the Indy debate.  So the organizers contacted me to ask if I would pick him up on the way to the church, which I was happy to do.  Consequently, John and I were able to spend about an hour together getting to know one another before the first event.  We actually hit it off, and I think that helped set the tone for a cordial debate both nights.

Here is a piece about the Indy debate that appeared in the Daily Reporter.

I am interested in doing more debates with other atheists and religious skeptics.  In addition to the topic of the reasonableness of religious faith, I am happy to debate such issues as the problem of evil, the existence of God, the prospects of ethics without God, and other issues related to philosophy of religion.  So if you or someone you know would like to partner with me to do that, let me know!

 


Politics Gone Viral

For many years, as a mother of four, I dreaded this time of year. The excitement and cheerful decorations of Christmas are long gone. The green and sunshine of spring seem a still distant hope. When the kids were little, these were long and grey winter days with no snow spent wishing for sledding and igloos to help burn off some of that seemingly endless childhood energy. The long and grey days with lots of snow were spent stuffing kids in and out of snow pants and wishing they would just stay inside. But my greatest dread was sickness. Inevitably, we would schedule a playdate, spend several lovely hours with friends only to have someone throw up all over one of the kids as we were saying goodbye. Okay, that never actually happened, but there did seem to be a proportional relationship between the frequency of playdates and the chances of my kids getting sick. In order to avoid whatever gut-spilling, bowel-emptying plague which was currently laying siege to our circle of friends, I would become hyper-vigilant regarding contact with others. If I saw the slightest hint of illness, runny nose, sneezing, unidentified ooze leaking from any orifice, I would yell “Retreat!” and hustle the kids off as quickly as possible, giving the offending orifice a wide berth large enough to drive the Titanic through…sideways.

This season of political divisiveness and strife has me living in the same nerve-fraying state of alertness. Politics has become a virus from which I would like to be immunized or, better yet, simply avoid all together. I know this is not the way of the informed citizen and might seem a complete shirking of my civic duties, but I’m ready to at least use a few sick days. It isn’t that I don’t care about the issues being debated. Quite the reverse. The stakes have never seemed so high: illegal immigration which encompasses national security, our legacy as a nation of immigrants, and the fate of those caught in the middle; racial equality; issues of religious freedom and tolerance; abortion; gun control; and the list goes on. All matters of vital importance and deserving of our attention. Nevertheless, on a fairly regular basis, I dream of leaving others to solve our problems and packing up husband, kids and dogs (sorry cat, you are on your own) and heading to hill country with a lifetime supply of dehydrated beef stroganoff and the complete works of Sir Conan Doyle.

I know that in the last two hundred plus years of our nation’s history there have been times of greater political division (e.g., the Civil War, Vietnam, etc.). But what I find so maddening about our current political divide, beyond the character assassinations and untethered vitriol on both sides of the aisle, is its ever-pervasive presence. Go to the movies or turn on the television and you’ll have some high school dropout lecturing you about the environment or gun control or the “wage gap.” Try to watch sports and you’ll have it turned into a political exercise about racial prejudice. You can’t even shop for school supplies or buy a cupcake without declaring your support or disapproval of one side or the other. Every corner of our culture has been infected with politics. In other words, there is no common ground. There is no place to meet in the middle and enjoy a laugh or well-played game. Everywhere is a pulpit and everyone a preacher.

I’m not denying anyone’s right to use whatever platform they have been given to propagate their particular perspective. I only ask they consider the context in which they do so. We watch movies for their artistic and entertainment value, not to be indoctrinated but to be enlightened and uplifted. We watch sports to be amazed and inspired, to feel a part of so larger than ourselves, not to be lectured and subdivided.

Maybe if we spent a little more time on common ground, rooting for the home team, laughing together, enjoying the same musical or theatrical experience, we might find the road to political compromise a little less rocky. Maybe those moments of shared experience will be just what the doctor ordered.


Civil Public Discourse and the Virtue of Open-mindedness

 

This past weekend I gave a presentation at the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics in Chicago.  My presentation was entitled “Civil Public Discourse and the Virtue of Open-mindedness.”  Here I will summarize the content of my talk.

Today there is a lot of anger and division about political and moral issues.  How do we demonstrate civil discourse in the midst of this? Our natural responses to conflict are essentially fight or flight.  We either withdraw from those with whom we disagree or we challenge them to show them where they are wrong.  But neither approach is constructive because withdrawal kills dialogue and challenge makes people defensive.  In neither case is civil discourse achieved.

I argue that the proper alternative is open-minded engagement.  I affirm Jason Baehr’s definition of open-mindedness as a willingness to transcend one’s default cognitive standpoint on an issue (The Inquiring Mind, Oxford, 2011).  A person who is open-minded in this sense displays a readiness to take seriously alternative perspectives and a willingness to welcome new evidence that could overturn their current beliefs.  Although people generally admire those who display such open-mindedness, it is difficult to do so because our current belief set is comfortable, open-mindedness challenges our intellectual pride, and open-mindedness requires moral work, specifically development and application of the virtues of self-control and patience.

Obviously, we should not be open-minded about everything (e.g., being open to the idea that my spouse is actually an alien or that rape is morally acceptable).  We should be foreclosed about many things.  But regarding issues where reasonable people disagree, we should strive to keep an open mind.  I argue that in such cases open-mindedness is an intellectual duty.  This is because each of us has many false beliefs, as evident in the fact that we all disagree with many people who are at least as intelligent and responsible as we are.  Other factors also guarantee that I have false beliefs about various issues, including the fallibility of my reasoning skills and perceptual abilities, as well as the fact that I don’t have the time or ability to thoroughly vet all of my beliefs.

Some other reasons to be open-minded are that this trait is critical for learning, and open-mindedness follows from the Golden Rule: I want others to seriously consider my truth claims and welcome the evidence I present to them, so I should do the same regarding others’ truth claims and arguments.

So how does one become more open-minded?  Here are three practical tips for transcending one’s default perspectives: (1) intentionally build your moral imagination, (2) practice active listening—resolve to speak less than your conversation partner, and (3) be Socratic—develop the art of questioning (which can also expose problems in others’ views).

Finally, it is important to remember that open-mindedness is effective for changing others’ minds.  This is because open-mindedness is disarming; it prevents others from becoming defensive.  It can also be contagious.  If you display an open mind, then your neighbor is more likely to do so also.  But even where minds don’t change, open-mindedness improves civility because it makes us less defensive, makes us feel less threatened by those with whom we disagree, and enhances our capacity for calm and patient dialogue.


Lent: A Love/Hate Relationship

Well, here we are again. Lent. As we slip through winter days of snow and ice, with Christmas decorations once again stored safely away, Lent has a way of sneaking up on me every year. When I think of Easter, I imagine shoeless kids running through sun-drenched yards getting grass stains on the knees of their Sunday best; the glow of new life springing up all around us. This, however, is not what I see when I look out the window today. It is grey. Grey sky. Grey snow. Everything is frozen, grey and dead. Or so it would seem. Lurking just beneath the surface, there is life, waiting, holding its breath, waiting.

It amazes me how finely tuned a world our Creator has made. I could watch nature shows for days on end, marveling at the complex web of interdependence which has been spun all around us. And in the season of Lent, this physical world mirrors the invisible yet tangible reality of our spiritual journey. These forty days of self-denying greyness are reflected in the greyness of winter’s dying breath. (Unless you live in some unnatural tropical paradise of course, which just means you aren’t as spiritual as the rest of us. We would move to Hawaii or California but then I don’t want to miss out on all those spiritual insights that snow, ice and frostbite bring.)

When I wake up to chilly floors and fingers that can never quite get warm, my heart whispers “Hold on. Spring is coming. Hold on. The sun is closer today than it was yesterday.” When I stare longingly at the empty places on my phone where for the next several weeks my Netflix and Amazon Video apps will not be, a voice says “Hold on. They will be back.” And yet all this longing and waiting points to a deeper anticipation of joy yet experienced, longing never fulfilled. For spring and summer will pass and bleed into fall and winter and once again we will miss the warmth and green the sun brings. But one day, the Son will return and bring with Him an everlasting life that will never turn cold.

So I will wait. Staring out my window at the grey, holding fast to the promise that it won’t last forever. I sit here wearing the sign of the cross on my forehead, appropriately, in ash grey. This cross is made from the ashes of last year’s palm branches, connecting Palm Sunday’s shouts of “Hosanna” to Good Friday’s cries of “Crucify him!” and looking forward to Easter’s “He is risen.” Like our Savior, today I wear a cross so that one day I can wear a crown.


Two New Publications on Sexual Ethics

Two new publications of mine deal with issues related to sexual ethics.  One of these is an article entitled “Great Cloud of Moral Witness,” just published in Touchstone magazine.  In the article I develop an historical argument for the traditional Christian view of sex and marriage, noting that for nearly 2000 years no significant Christian theologian or biblical scholar defended the permissivist view on 61t3WhQRhXL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_human sexual relations.  That is, for all of Christian history until just recently, all major Christian thinkers who addressed the subject have agreed that sexual relations are only appropriate within a marriage between one man and one woman.  I argue that for Christians this uniform consensus of scholarly opinion creates a strong presumption in favor of the traditional view and that those who nonetheless reject it display arrogance or ignorance (or perhaps some combination of both).

Another essay of mine, entitled “The Sexual Pluralist Revolution: Reasons to be Skeptical,” appears in the just-released volume Venus and Virtue, edited by Jerry Walls, Jeremy Neill, and David Baggett and published by Cascade Press.  (The germ of this piece was a W&F blog post in May 2014.  My Touchstone article, however, goes into some depth in highlighting major Christian theologians and biblical scholars who defended the traditional view.)

The Venus and Virtue book consists of sixteen chapters written by men and women from a variety of disciplines (e.g., theology, philosophy, biblical studies, psychology, counseling, youth ministry, etc.), each addressing a different aspect of the sexuality issue.  Section headings include “Biblical and Theological Foundations for Human Sexuality,” “Christian Sexuality for Singles,” “Christian Sexuality for Persons with Same-Sex Attraction,” and “Pastoral Wisdom for Christian Sexuality.”  I highly recommend this resource for pastors, young adult ministers, college professors, and Sunday school teachers.

 


The Best and Worst of 2017

It’s been another exciting year, and we want to thank you all for reading and, if applicable, posting comments on our blog. Once again, we would like to close out the year with some summary remarks about good and bad stuff related to film, music, books, sports, food, and family.

Film Experiences:

Jim:  This year I saw a lot of intense films, including Baby Driver, Dunkirk, and It, which are intense in very different ways. I appreciated the innovation of Baby Driver—an action adventure film meticulously choreographed to an eclectic but somehow seamless musical soundtrack. The WWII film Dunkirk is powerful in its realism, but suffers for lack of character development. And despite its over-the-top frenetic scare scenes, It has a surprisingly human touch. But the film’s highlight is Bill Skarsgard’s performance as Pennywise the Clown. Split is a riveting psychological thriller with a surprise connection with director Shyamalan’s earlier film, Unbreakable. Really looking forward to the upcoming film Glass, which will be the third film of what is now being called the Eastrail 177 Trilogy. But my favorite film experience of the year was Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This installment gives us more superb acting performances (even from Mark Hamill), surprising plot twists, and—in Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren—the most complex and compelling villain in a Hollywood film since Norman Bates.

Amy:  My highlight features the small screen and is probably a bit more sentimental than entirely critical. Stranger Things Season Two is likely to be the last series I watch with all the kids and piling in front of the TV with all four of them to cheer on Mike and the gang will long be a long-cherished memory. I do consider Stranger Things a well-produced as well as well-acted show worth the trouble of coordinating everyone’s schedules and staying up past bedtime. Another favorite for sheer entertainment value was Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 which we all watched in the theater. On a more serious note, my experience of film was forever changed this year with the avalanche of sexual harassment claims coming out of Hollywood. I am both sickened and frustrated by the accusations of seemingly innumerable women, and this cements my belief that the City of Angels is the most ironically named metropolis in America.

Jim’s Best Musical Experiences of the Year:  Lots of good music from old artists and new. I’ve enjoyed U2’s Songs of Experience, which seems more like the second half of a time-released double album (along with Songs of Innocence). “Red Flag Day” is instantly one of my favorite U2 songs. I also, at last, discovered the genius of Taylor Swift, whom I now regard as one of the best songwriters of our time. (More on that later in a separate post.) My son Bailey introduced me to the gritty and soulful Robert Finley, whose Goin’ Platinum sounds like it came right out of the early 70s, thanks to the retro production of Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys). My son Sam turned me on to Foxygen, a band that can traffic in more musical genres in one song than most bands explore in an entire career. For a stimulating taste of their Rundgren-flavored R&B check this out. And then from the Next Saviors of Classic Rock category, there is Greta Van Fleet. They still are recording their first full-length album, but the early hype seems well deserved. Here’s a nice sample. (And, no, you’re not the first to note the similarity to Led Zeppelin, especially the Plant-like lead vox.) But the very best musical experience of the year was seeing Manchester Orchestra in concert at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio with my son Sam who is as big a fan of the band as I am. Finally, I’ve enjoyed seeing our boys improve on their instruments—Bailey on guitar, Sam on drums, and Andrew on piano—even teaching himself some challenging sections of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Good stuff.

Amy’s Best Food Experiences of the Year: Will you think me completely full of myself if I confess that my favorite meals this year were prepared by yours truly? I tackled Indian samosas this year and have made myself sick on their deliciousness on more than one occasion. Getting a stamp of approval for my homemade tortillas from a native Mexican had me on cloud nine for days. The highlight for eating out this year was my birthday meal which had less to do with the food and more to do with the company. My sister and brother-in-law joined Jim, my folks and me for the holidays for the first time in more than a decade which was food for the soul well worth the wait.

Jim’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year:  Not many major sports highlights for me this year, unfortunately. But seeing the New Orleans Saints’ resurgence has been fun. I believe they have a decent shot to go on a playoff run and make it to the Super Bowl this year. Seeing Bailey and Sam play soccer together on the Eastbrook high school team, which advanced all the way to the state regional finals. Also, seeing my friend Chris Holtmann hired as the Ohio State head basketball coach was exciting. He’s probably going to take them to the top eventually, as hard as that is for me to say as a U-M fan! Chris is a man of moral integrity, and I love seeing that rewarded.

Amy’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year:  Okay, I am clearly getting soft in my old age because my favorite sports memories all involve my kids. Andrew pitched crucial closing innings in his team’s championship game which they won. Bailey’s and Sam’s soccer team won their sectionals tournament for the first time in school history and lost the regionals final in a nail-biting shootout. Maggie’s and Andrew’s team made it to the semi-finals and watching them play together was pure joy.

Jim’s Most Disappointing Sports Moments of the Year:  It was fun to be able to celebrate the Cubs’ 2016 World Series championship for an entire year, but alas, all good things in sports must come to an end. But they’ll be back! Lots of other disappointments: It was tough to see the Colts tank this season with the absence of the slowly convalescing Andrew Luck. Same with the Detroit Tigers, who are now rebuilding. My Red Wings are also struggling as well. But the most disappointing single moment this year was watching victory stolen from the Detroit Lions in their game against the Atlanta Falcons because of a ridiculous 10-second “run-off” rule that I expect will be changed or qualified after this season.

Amy’s Most Painful Sports Moment of the Year:  Watching Tom Brady and the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl…again. Seriously think the NFL should consider term limits, unless your last name is Manning.

Good and Bad Reads of the Year:

Jim:  In addition to the usual countless scholarly articles I read his year, I found time to read more classics and a few contemporary works. I did a lot of reading of major works by the ancient Roman thinkers Cicero and Seneca, the latter of whom is my favorite Stoic author. Seneca’s essay “On Providence” is one of my very favorite works of philosophy. Both insightful and therapeutic, I recommend it to anyone who struggles in this world—that is, of course, everyone.  I enjoyed reading two classic works from the early 20th century—Erich Maria Remarque’s classic All Quiet on the Western Front and Booker T. Washington’s inspiring Up From Slavery. I also really enjoyed What is Marriage? by Girgis, Anderson and George, a powerful defense of traditional marriage. Currently, I’m reading Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve, which is profound and insightful regarding so many aspects of contemporary American culture.

Amy: This year I fell seriously short of my usual reading habits but did enjoy several of those I did manage to finish. I read several of the Anne of Green Gables books. Delightful. I read The Case for Christ aloud to Andrew and while it was a discipline at times, seeing him make connections in sermons and other contexts was priceless. I find most contemporary fiction deeply disappointing and was pleasantly surprised by a friend-recommended read, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Just in time for January book club meeting, I finished The Path Between the Seas, David McCullough’s tome on the building of the Panama Canal which was fascinating, inspiring and tragic all rolled into one hefty work.

Best 2017 Family Memories:

Amy: Once again, we welcomed family and friends as my niece lived with us for J-Term this year and a friend of Bailey’s from Bolivia joined us for the semester. They weren’t the only “guests” we welcomed this year. In May, Penelope, our beloved standard poodle, gave birth to nine, yes nine, puppies. Watching them come into the world, grow and find new homes was a source of seemingly ceaseless wonder and joy, especially the new homes part. But, without a doubt the most profound family memory I experienced this year was the passing of Jim’s mom. I arrived just in time to hold her hand and read the psalms to her before being the sole witness of her passing into eternity. She was one of my favorite people and I felt humbled and honored to be present at her death.

Jim:  A major highlight of the year for me was learning to ride a unicycle. I’ve always wanted to do it and decided this was the year. While this wasn’t really a “family” thing, the learning process did involve Amy and the kids in various ways. Watching their reactions—from concern about my safety to cautious encouragement to awe at my mastery of the danged thing was amusing. Other highlights: our family trips to Tennessee, watching Bailey and Sam play together on the Eastbrook soccer team, watching Andrew win a 3rd consecutive baseball championship (this time on his 12U team), and seeing Bailey crowned as Eastbrook homecoming king, which was more humorous than anything else.

Best Kids’ Quotes of the Year

As usual, the best quotes from our kids this year come mainly from our poet-comedian-dreamer daughter, Maggie (13).

  • Maggie: “I think most people spend most of their time figuring out ways to save time.”
  • Andrew: (After listening to the Lil Yachty song “I spy”): “If that is what music is coming to, kill me.”
  • Maggie: (After I told her repeatedly to clean her room): “It’s not messy; it’s just organized in a way that you can’t comprehend.”
  • Maggie: “I hate being so funny.”

New Year’s Resolutions:

Amy: I am resolved to cherish this last year of having Bailey home full time and celebrate this new stage of life for him without getting too sappy or embarrassingly sentimental. Good luck with that, Amy. I also am looking toward the end of our years of homeschooling in a year and half and starting to consider what I want to be when I grow up.

Jim:  My resolutions this year are to be more regular with posts on Wisdom and Folly and to purge some of our possessions, especially by trimming our book collection. We’re not pack-rats, but simplicity is a virtue.

Happy 2018 everyone!