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My wife and I recently hosted a dinner party around a discussion of the book, The Wind in the Willows. Like many enduring children’s books, this one from Kenneth Grahame operates on several levels - engaging for children with talking animals, humorous mishaps, and obvious good guys and bad guys; and stimulating for adults with its themes of deep community, perseverance, and morality. As we discussed these aspects, our conversation slowly wound toward our own community of faith - do we see these same issues extant in our relationships and church? It was a rich time of reflection on the praxis of our faith - are we swimming in the stream, or just dipping our toes in the water? It’s awfully easy to just do the latter.

In a world fixated on the immediate and material we don’t often find ourselves part of conversations about transcendence.  “Transcendent” is not a theological term, yet it certainly has theological relevance in its meaning of “supernatural”, “surpassing”, and “overarching”.  In the just concluded Easter season the idea of transcendence is highlighted as we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.  The resurrection in particular highlights God’s redemption of both our souls and, indeed, all things to the hope of glory and completeness in the new heavens and new earth. 

At a recent event on the church in today’s cultural context, the speaker mentioned culture having “surface” structures and “deep” structures. Passing trends and changes in laws happen at the surface level while shifts in values and ways of understanding identity take place in the deep structures of culture. These latter changes happen over decades and are of a type that truly changeculture.

In a study of Judges that I’m involved in, there are a few lessons that jump out each week - lessons that have stood the test of time from before there were kings in Israel to 21st century New York. These insights make me regularly question my operating assumptions about faith and the world around me.

2019 brings a new year and a list of new resolutions. For CU New York it isn’t so much resolutions as our plans and initiatives for the year. We will, of course, continue our salons and forums that explore various aspects and implications of our faith in our vocations and the broader city. Additionally, there are other activities coming that will serve to build the kind of redemptive engagement we seek.

Merry Christmas! Since childhood, this has been a season I’ve looked forward to – the gatherings, anticipation, cookies, and yes, hopefully presents under the tree. Advent is actually that period of anticipation for the main event, the celebration of the birth of Christ. In recent years, I’ve begun to wonder why a sense and discipline of anticipation is important – for celebrations like Christmas, Easter, marriage, the birth of a child. For children it makes sense - children are, by their very nature, impatient and full of hopes – which is expressed in anticipation.

Earlier this week I was watching an interview with a Federal Reserve official on managing the US economy. In the course of the interview he made two interesting statements:

We have to be data-dependent”, and
I don’t see any clear signal from the market…

Apart from the second statement seeming to mock the first, both statements reinforce the idea that a world consisting of humans filled with longings, hopes, fears, giddiness (at times), and relational dysfunctions is naturally best understood and motivated by data – that somehow data is unbiased and wise. In light of history I think it’s a weak argument, but one that nonetheless shapes the vocational worlds we all live in.

The annual CU New York Yacht Cruise late last month was spectacular – a cool vintage yacht, gorgeous weather, and a collection of sixty of the most fun people to hang out with.  From recent grads to grizzled veterans of the Big Apple it was an afternoon of fun and fellowship, followed by an after-party at The Park. 

For the past few days ten of us have been participating in a conference on global affairs – geopolitical and economic trends and what they mean.  Topics range from China’s Grand Strategy to Cyber Security to the Fintech Revolution - and the people gathered for the conference have been equally fascinating as they range from business and financial executives to academics to government policy makers around the world.

The Gallup organization published a poll this year on institutions and the level of confidence Americans have in them.  Some of their findings:

2018 2009 2000
Church/organized religion 38% 52% 56%
Supreme Court 37% 39% 47%
Congress 11% 17% 24%
Big Business 25% 16% 29%
Newspapers 23% 25% 37%

The list of institutions surveyed goes well beyond these few but the trend is similar – that we trust our institutions less as being capable, in our best interests, and as foundational to our societal well-being.  While the Gallup poll does not break this down by faith commitment, I would be surprised if there was much difference between those of faith and those not of faith.