Archive for October 16th, 2014

After the Fire



I love spring and fall, the times when the world is being transfigured, when every day brings something new. Of course there is change in the summer. New flowers bloom, the green leaves gradually loose their bright freshness. But most of the late summer flowers, aside from the sunflowers and the hibiscus, seem unenthused compared to the riotous and urgent burst of life that is spring.

But the fall is its own beauty, this transformation in jeweled leaf and golden field.

I only wish it lasted longer. Even now, barely approaching peak color, I mourn the undressing of trees, the coming winter.

Soon it will be after the fire, when the colors change from the reds and golds and oranges to blue and grey and black.

And white.

Though I am ready. I am ready.

Who is Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig?

She came out of nowhere and suddenly is everywhere: print magazines, websites, Facebook, and though I do not twit or whatever, Twitter.

I mean there is a Bruderhof family on my mail route and they gave me a copy of that Anabaptist community’s recently revived journal Plough. Pretty obscure, right? But I open it up to a book review by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig.

Who is Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig?

elizabethShe is all of 23, diminutive in height but not in spirit. Master’s Degree in Christian Theology from Cambridge, studying for a doctorate at Brown. Texan, descended from Confederates and Kluxers. She is really really smart and a damn good writer.

And an unapologetic Catholic leftist.

But this is not your mother’s Catholic Leftism. I doubt one would find Ms Stoker Bruenig banging the tambourine at a hootenanny Mass or agitating for women priests. She is comfortable in her faith, which includes the radical implications of Catholic social doctrine.

And she hates Capitalism.

In every photo of her she is wearing a mischievous smile. She really does enjoy tormenting libertarians and Actonites. And she is so good at it.

I have long been heartened by the realization that younger Catholics – and I am old enough that ‘younger’ means fortyish and younger- seem more open to a radical reading of Church social teaching, and are way more critical of the Acton/Novak narrative.

There are a lot of new voices, but Ms Liz is one to watch. I expect great things from this young woman.

Though how she finds time for all she does is a mystery.

If you do not, for some odd reason, know her, begin at her blog:


Speaking of Plough


When I edited the print journal Caelum et Terra, the remote ancestor of this blog, I had subscription swaps with various other journals. These were mostly Catholic, but also included the late tradtionalist Quaker journal Plain, as well as Plough, the journal of the Bruderhof Community.

The Bruderhof are descended from a remarkable group of German anabaptists, a sort of outgrowth of the German youth movement of the post-World War I age. Persecuted by the Nazis, they fled to Paraguay, then North America, for a while joining the Hutterians, another German anabaptist communal group.

That did not go so well. Think the dynamics of the influx of zealous evangelicals into Orthodoxy.

Or if a bunch of hippies joined the Amish.

What drew me to them is their intense belief that Jesus gave us clear instructions for living in Heaven, right now, in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere. Their founder Eberhardt Arnold’s remarkable reflections and actions built a community that has survived many disasters and continues to prosper and thrive.

Exceptional, especially when you realize that the Apostolic experiment in communism did not last all that long. And while I am not an Anabaptist and am a firm believer in baptizing, chrismating, and communing babies, in these days any witness for living a life that takes Jesus at his word is part of the broad ecumenism of Love that is emerging beyond confessional boundaries.

Plough was not in print for many years, but the community is again publishing a print journal. It is lovely to look at and full of substantive reflections on life in Christ. And it is affordable at $14 a year.

Check it out here:http://www.plough.com/en/quarterly

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