Trinity Forum Reflections

Wed, Jul 13 2016
*We are pleased to provide a special guest reflection by Trinity Forum Trustee Byron Smith: " Shocked… Confused… Dismayed… Angry! " The sense of frustration many of us feel as we observe what is happening in our country can be disorienting. The demoralizing presidential election, violence against and by police, the polarization of our politics, debasement of our public language, the growing (if ignored) national debt, all contribute to a crisis of confidence in leadership. We have come to realize that we are like the proverbial frog in rapidly-heating water. But even as we recognize the peril of our situation, we also question: Is it too late? To answer that question, we need to look at how we got here. Surely part of the cause is that we as a society no longer think clearly or deeply. We read less often and less well. We cannot sustain public debate without...
Thu, Jun 9 2016
Editors' Note: This article first appeared in Patheos online and is part of the Patheos Public Square on Faith and the Election. You can find the article here . Faith inevitably shapes politics. It cannot be otherwise, as faith speaks to ultimate questions — the character and will of God, the purpose of life, the nature of man, the means of justice, and the path to human flourishing. All have broad and deep political implications and consequences. But perhaps one of the most important roles our faith plays in this election season is to remind us of the limits of politics. The Christian faith shows these limits by revealing the flaws of human nature. The Christian understanding of man as made in the image of God, and thus possessing an intrinsic dignity and worth — while also marked by an innate inclination toward selfishness and corruption — offers both hope...
Fri, May 20 2016
"Political chaos is connected with the decay of language... one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end." —George Orwell. In George Orwell’s brilliant dystopian novel 1984 , the party leaders of the totalitarian state Oceania restrict the thought and freedom of their subjects by reducing their vocabulary and debasing their language. The institution of “Newspeak”—a flattening of language to collapse moral, aesthetic, and analytical distinctions, and reduce the sublime, beautiful, brave, kind, peaceful, delicious, dedicated, or ecstatic to the “good,” “plusgood” or “doubleplusgood”—was a means of not only controlling the public conversation, but also private thought. The individual self-expression, precision of thought, analysis and critique; and aesthetic delight made possible by linguistic mastery could be prevented—rendered unthinkable—by limiting language to its most blunt, base, and controllable. As with all great novels, 1984 bears salience for our own (significantly different) time. By several measures, our public...
Wed, Mar 2 2016
There is a certain appropriateness to Super Tuesday falling mid-way through the Lenten season – an illustration of the attention-grabbing demands and distractions of the world around us in a time traditionally dedicated to spiritual reflection. If Lent encourages silence and solitude, presidential campaigns are about messaging, marketing, and mobilizing – all necessarily noisy endeavors, and this campaign perhaps noisier than most. As such, the Lenten invitation to reflection is easily drowned out amidst the din. But our need for silence and reflection may well exceed our felt need; mystics and poets have long pointed to a connection between noise and inward chaos, even suggesting that noise is hell on earth – or Hell itself. In Paradise Lost , John Milton named the capital of Hell “Pandemonium;” Dante’s pilgrim knows he has entered the Inferno in part by the noise. In The Screwtape Letters , C.S. Lewis’s demon-bureaucrat Screwtape declares:...
Wed, Jan 21 2015
A Shocking Lack of Solitude " All of man’s troubles stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone. " -- Pascal It is a truth long acknowledged that it is not good for man to be alone. But new research suggests that our aversion to solitude is so great that many actually prefer painful electric shocks to their own company. A recent study conducted by University of Virginia psychologists and released in Science magazine sought to measure how Americans handled undistracted solitude – and the results were disquieting. The study initially asked a group of nearly 150 college students to simply sit quietly in a room without distractions for six to 15 minutes. Most reported a great deal of difficulty and disliked the experience. Researchers then planned follow up tests with a wider variety of ages and backgrounds represented. In the next series of tests, they left...
Thu, May 29 2014
Dilemma: A Forum For Transformation in Prison Here in the Tomoka maximum security prison outside Daytona Beach, roaring car engines from the distant superspeedway call out to the inmates inside during race weeks. The sound of swaying palm fronds past the razor wire can be heard. But inside its gates, like all prisons, it is a stark, orderly environment filled with lonely stories of broken lives. In an effort to offer inmates more than a holding cell for their term of incarceration, Horizon Communities in Prison , was established to usher better behaved inmates into community living and offer enhanced education. The 320 qualifying inmates live in a cavernous one-room complex, with access to computer terminals and educational opportunities. A group of businessmen enter the Horizon communities to meet with prisoners for two hours of discussion on the Abrahamic faiths. I’m a long time volunteer for Horizon, and an avid...
Fri, Apr 18 2014
The Greatest Story Ever Told The power of story is getting unlikely attention. In a fascinating collaboration, literary scholars and neuroscientists have teamed up to explore the physiological impact that stories have on the human brain. A recent Wall Street Journal article by Allison Gopnik entitled “Want a Mind Meld? Tell a Compelling Story,” described a variety of brain scan studies that show that stories not only shape one’s thoughts, but also foster a connection between a story-teller and listener. The closer the connection, the greater the understanding of the story. Gopnik concluded that “results suggest that we lowly humans are actually as good at mind-melding as [Star Trek’s] Vulcans or the Borg. We just do it with stories.” Other experiments have looked at how stories help develop neural pathways, and affect our relationships by altering how we order and understand information. Such timely research sheds new insight on the...
Mon, Feb 24 2014
Readers, Viewers, and Players "We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us." - Marshall McLuhan Sometimes sales data can provide useful insights into what we as a society value, and how we are changing. Compare, for example, sales of last year’s top-selling book compared with the best-selling video game: the leading video game of 2013, Grand Theft Auto V , sold over 12 million copies in the US alone (and over 26 million worldwide). In contrast, the best-selling book in all print categories, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid , sold a mere 1.8 million hardcopies. By some measures, the total of all hardcopy (hardcover and paperback) book titles sold in 2013 was a little over 500 million. In contrast, the top ten video game titles alone sold over 70 million units. The total quantity of book titles being published (or self-published) has...
Mon, Dec 23 2013
The Singularity of Grace In What's So Amazing About Grace? author Phillip Yancey recounts: During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods' appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. "What's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace." Lewis was not asserting that other faiths did not value or extol mercy or kindness, but that they each posit steps to earning a deity’s approval (or at least placating divine anger), rather than declare the love of God as a gift to be...
Tue, Nov 26 2013
"In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 The Bible is not subtle in its calls for thanksgiving. Repeatedly, urgently, and throughout its many books the reader is urged to "give thanks to the Lord, for He is good," and "in all things give thanks." In both Old and New Testaments, both Gospels and Epistles, we are urged to consider our blessings, and the character of the One from whom they flow, and to offer praise and thanks in response. Centuries later, Martin Luther described gratitude as "the basic Christian attitude" and the Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards asserted that a spirit of thankfulness to God was an indicator of one's spiritual state. Why, one might wonder, is thankfulness so important? The act of thanksgiving requires both memory and humility -- both reflection on the causes and sources of gratitude, and the...

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