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“After all this time, people still can’t do without God”

“It’s like Graham Greene or something. I mean, who converts anymore? Unless they’re converting away.”

This is what the publicist says in hopes of putting the best spin on the oddity of Sophie Wilder, the critically acclaimed young writer, converting to Christianity, in Christopher Beha’s novel, What Happened to Sophie Wilder?

It’s intriguing to see a recent novel take conversion seriously, like Graham Greene or something. Here is the description of Sophie’s turn to God:

It is in the nature of what happened next that it can’t be conveyed in words. The few times Sophie tried to explain it later, even to herself, she fell back on cliche: something came over her; she walked out changed. It got closest to it to say that she was, for a time, occupied. After all her reading in the week leading up to that day, she thought of that occupying force as the Holy Spirit. But mostly she knew that it was something outside of herself, something real, not an idea or a conceit or a metaphor. Once it passed on, she knew that her very outline had been reshaped by it, that this reshaping had been long awaited though she hadn’t recognized as much. More than that, she knew that she wanted the feeling back. She would chase it forever if need be. Everything later followed from that. That was the part she couldn’t explain to others. It couldn’t be explained. It didn’t come from books; it didn’t allow itself to be argued for or against. 

The author does have a passing moment on one page where he refers to Sophie not knowing that such a sensation was quite independent of any particular religion. That’s the only interruption of the flow; the author’s bias otherwise seems to stay off the stage and Sophie is allowed to be a real character who processes her conversion to (Catholic) Christianity intellectually and emotionally. 

There are plenty of observations throughout the book on how the Christian message is regarded in our day, such as this one:

“It’s funny,” he said. “After all this time, people still can’t do without God. I never would have guessed that He’d survive to your generation. Even the atheists are militant. They can’t quite get over Him.”

“Most of my friends don’t think one way or another about it,” Sophie told him. “They’re not for it or against it; they’re just beyond it.”

“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing wonder and awe. The starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.”

“You’ve got a real way with words,” she said.

“That’s Kant….”

The book was recommended when I posted on social media a request for recommendations of books, preferably recent books, that included a Christian conversion of one of the characters as part of the plot.

It’s March 25: Happy New Year!

“In Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell, and when you were brought out of the fire to the King.”

Gandalf, The Return of the King


“For centuries theologians and leaders of the church had affirmed that the key date in human history was March 25, on which date occurred the Fall itself; the angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary, which heralded the birth of the One who would undo the effects of the Fall; and the Crucifixion, which defeated the forces of evil, which had been unleashed on this world by Adam’s sin. It was with these events that Dionysus Exiguus, the sixth-century monk and calendar-maker, determined that the year itself should begin on March 25, which it did throughout Europe for a very long time. It was England’s official New Year’s Day until 1752, though by that time January 1 had been celebrated by most English people for hundreds of years.”

Alan Jacobs, Original Sin, p 43.

Sundry Dinner for January 4

IH8YRST8. Studying drivers across the country for signs of license-plate prejudice—or, why everyone loves Vermont drivers and hates Texans.


How one couple saved their marriage by asking each other a simple question


Each Grain of the Ocean Floor Is Home to a Diverse, Mysterious World


“Because modern technologies allow the instant, costless dissemination of fulminations, and because the more vituperative the fulminations the more apt they are to be noticed in the digital clutter, public conversations often quickly degenerate into something less.” “Survival of the Shrillest” by George F. Will.


“Nev Jones today describes the madness in and around her family as a koan, a puzzle that teaches by its resistance to solution….” Good line in a long article.


“The first Star Wars movie…was at heart a certain kind of fairy tale adventure: An ordinary farm boy goes on a quest to save a princess from a dark sorcerer-king. But the twists of the original trilogy negated the idea that Luke Skywalker was a normal young man who had stumbled onto a chance at heroism. It was revealed that the princess was his sister, the sorcerer-king was his father, and they were all part of a destiny-laden bloodline. The Last Jedi goes back to basics. Anyone can be a protagonist in this universe, no magic heritage required.” Alexi Sargeant


“[Vice Admiral Holdo’s martyrdom] is so shot through with religious resonance that the normal pseudo-religious utterances of Star Wars (‘May the Force be with you,’ and the like) are inadequate. Instead, there’s an oblique invocation of a more personal transcendent reality—‘Godspeed, rebels.’” Alexi Sargeant


“From A New Hope through The Force Awakens, learning to master the Force required faith, ritual, and ancient wisdom—all of which are hallmarks of institutionalized religion. But in The Last Jedi, a grizzled Luke Skywalker dismisses the Jedi mythos, and presents a more modern take on theology that accords with the “spiritual but not religious” trend that finds younger Americans to be less interested in organized faith but more open to spiritual experiences….The Last Jedi reminds viewers that even a fictional secular religion will likely reflect the spiritual economy of its time.” Why The Last Jedi Is More ‘Spiritual’ Than ‘Religious’


It took 2 days to build this 12,000 Domino Rainbow Spiral, and a few seconds to topple it:


“A morally convincing account must be given”

Richard John Neuhaus:

An atheist can be a citizen, but he cannot be a good citizen. A good citizen does more than abide by the laws. A good citizen is able to give an account, a morally compelling account, of the regime of which he is part – and to do so in continuity with the constituting moment and subsequent history of that regime. He is able to justify its defense against its enemies, and to convincingly recommend its virtues to citizens of the next generation so that they, in turn can transmit the order of government to citizens yet unborn. This regime of liberal democracy, of republican self-governance, is not self-evidently good and just. An account must be given. Reasons must be given. They must be reasons that draw authority from that which is higher than ourselves, from that which transcends us, from that to which we are precedently, ultimately, obliged.

The American experiment in constitutional democracy was not conceived and dedicated by those who today call themselves “atheists,” and it cannot be conceived and dedicated anew by such citizens. In times of testing – and every time is a time of testing for this experiment in ordered liberty – a morally convincing account must be given. One may ask, Convincing to whom? One obvious answer in a democracy, although not the only answer, is that it must be convincing to a majority of citizens. Minorities, including the minority of atheists, are assiduously to be protected in their legal right to dissent. It is the responsibility of their fellow citizens to give a moral account – an account that atheists cannot give – of why that is the case. Giving such an account in continuity with the truths by which this political order was constituted is required of good citizens, not least because those who cannot give such an account depend on others who can.

American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile (pp. 116, 118)


Here’s a good comedy piece. It’s created in the form of an old AM radio broadcast of a Fundamentalist preacher by the name, Dr. G.I. Barber. A fitting name, given his passion is “hairology,” a theology of hair. It’s an old spoof, and I can’t find any information on the creators.

I recalled the comedy piece as I was getting ready for today’s sermon. In my Sunday morning sermon series through 1 Corinthians, I’ve reached that passage in chapter 11 that confuses people. Verses 2-16 have to do with head coverings and hair length, which seems to have no relevance to twenty-first century culture.

Here’s “G.I. Barber’s” 16-minute sermon on hairology:



Click here for my sermon on the subject.

About Tom

ANCHOR COURSE LOGO Tom Goodman is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, and he holds a doctorate from New Orleans Seminary. He has served as pastor in Louisiana, north Texas, and overseas in Grand Cayman before becoming the pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, Texas. Diane and Tom have been married since their days at Baylor University, and they have two sons, Michael and Stephen. Tom enjoys scuba diving, watching the latest Netflix DVD with Diane, and chasing mis-hit golf balls.