Blog Posts

Claudia Rankine: Uncomfortable conversations

Just Us: An American Conversation, by Claudia Rankine (2020)
Excerpts from Ismail Muhammad’s  review in The Atlantic

In 2016, African-American poet and scholar Claudia Rankine was not sure that her Yale students “would be able to trace the historical resonances of Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant demagoguery.”  She wanted them to connect the current treatment of Mexicans and other Hispanic people with America’s 19th century treatment of Irish, Italian, and Asian immigrants.


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William Stringfellow, Part 6: The human vocation

Continuing my series on Stringfellow’s An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (1973).


The Gospel of Mark frequently demonstrates the typically human ways in which Jesus’ followers misunderstand his words and deeds.  One pivotal story that speaks to William Stringfellow’s concern about modern American Christians and other people of faith is usually titled “the transfiguration” (Mark 9:2-8, New New Testament).

2 Six days later, Jesus took with him

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Sissy polio boy, 1955

I spilled tomato juice on my
flannel shirt my
first year in kindergarten
in a new town with
kids I didn’t know

and they laughed.
It felt like they laughed
at me but
who knows?

When at age four you’ve
just spent weeks in a hospital
and months taking
hot baths and castor oil

but they tell you how lucky

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William Stringfellow, Part 5: “Babylon & Jerusalem as Events”

Continuing my series on Stringfellow’s An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (1973)

Events in Sacred Story

It is worth repeating that in William Stringfellow’s language of biblical discernment, “nonempirical” connotes belief systems based on abstract concepts and notions, whereas “empirical” refers to the actual experience of biblical teachings working themselves out in the world.

The Bible is a sacred story collection.  Contrary to our modern Western notions, sacred story is about

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How can a virus travel
+++and not love?

Or are we not now all infected
with shame
+++at our human nakedness?

We don’t want to know our own evil
so profess good, pretending
+++to smile without hurting.

So painful.

The Tiananmen butterfly warns us:
cyclones we’ve stirred with our grasping
+++While the world shudders.

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William Stringfellow, Part 4: The sanctification of this world

“Christ of the Breadlines,” Fritz Eichenberg (1953)

Continuing my series of excerpts from and reflections on Stringfellow’s An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (1973).

Empirical and Nonempirical

Here is where William Stringfellow begins to hold our feet to the fire, we who are often proud “professors” of our religious traditions yet feeble “practitioners.” He challenges us with his special use of the term “empirical” as he applies biblical political ethics to present-day America.

For Stringfellow, “nonempirical” connotes belief

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“So who is this ‘Bright Cow,’ anyway?” – from April 13, 2008

Flying crow (1024px)

Occasionally people wonder where I got the totem name Bright Crow that I use in my email address. Here’s the story I wrote to explain it in the voice of Walhydra’s amanuensis in 2008.

Walhydra likes to tease her amanuensis about a typo he makes occasionally with his totem name, Bright Crow.

Since he’s been typing for forty years, often to earn a living, he just shrugs and laughs. Nonetheless, she thinks the question

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“Walhydra’s salutary moment” – from October 25, 2006

Latte art at Bold Bean Coffee Roasters, Jacksonville, FL

Walhydra likes to believe that her nostalgia is not as tacky and self-deceptive as some people’s.


She thinks back on her youth—sometime in another century—as a time when she and her peers were profoundly affected by the liberation movements and communal aspirations of their era. Not to mention their discovery of sex…and those other two things.

This present Calvinist age mixes sensationalizing with trivializing of that earlier time, in order to sneer at the heartfelt cries of its

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William Stringfellow, Part 3: “The Demoralization of America”

: “War crimes (old crematorium at the former Dachau concentration camp)," by Ilias Bartolini on flickr

Autobiographical introduction

I began reading William Stringfellow’s An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (1973) because, in the midst of our 21st century American horror story, I remembered how profoundly he changed my adolescent view of the world during “Race, War, and Poverty,” the Lutheran Youth Expo (now called ELCA Youth Gathering) at Lenoire Rhyne College in August of 1968.

My senior year of high school in Columbia, SC, had climaxed, not

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William Stringfellow, Part 2: “The Fall” as metaphor for American political reality

"We the People" text from the US Constitution

Last week I posted excerpts from the preface to William Stringfellow’s 1973 book, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land.  Central to Stringfellow’s argument is his assertion that Americans are “grossly naive or remarkably misinformed” about the biblical concept of “the Fall.”

Christian ideology, in particular Protestant Christian ideology, has dominated the nation’s distorted self-image and consequent hurtful policies and culture from the beginning.  The churches project “too mean, too trivial, too narrow, too

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