Ground-level Grittiness

On Christian Wiman’s “Ifs Eternally”: I like paper and have yet to reach the stage of enjoyably reading online. I do so but begrudgingly. I’ve been reading my first paper copy of Plough (Winter 2024). What a pleasure to feel the weight of paper! I first encountered you several years ago through J. Heinrich Arnold’s Discipleship. I read it, keep a copy close, tell others to buy and read it too, and have given a copy away. Up to now, I’ve read Plough solely online, and I listen to the podcasts but admit to more often than not leaving off before reaching the end. So, finally there’s this print copy in my hands. I read it, reread, pick it up yet again. It’s quite handsome, too, with fine artwork.

What finally pushed me to subscribe was the prospect of reading an excerpt from Christian Wiman’s latest. “Ifs Eternally” wasn’t easy and I read it several times, but I got much out of it. Wiman doesn’t pretend poetry or living or dying arrives easily. So that drew me in, but then there was Makoto Fujimura and Carlo Gébler and much more. I appreciate the thoughtfully diverse approaches to repair, the often ground-level grittiness, the neighborliness. Who knows, maybe Plough can warm three winter months.

Gregory Harris,
Clifton, Illinois

Overcoming Consumerism

On Peter Mommsen’s “In Praise of Repair Culture”: Growing up in Evangelicalism, one of the unfortunate lessons I learned was that this life is temporary, which diminishes how we see everything around us. If all we see and know is subject to destruction (or refinement) then what does it matter that our landfills grow exponentially? What does it matter that trash travels around the oceans as floating islands? What does it matter if I destroy my body with sugars and trans fats? Thank you for putting repair and longevity back into the discussion of theology with this article.

Grant Stafford Morgan,
Reno, Nevada

I am a part of the repair culture, having a small business in which I repair commercial cleaning equipment. I am appalled at how many perfectly good pieces of equipment have to be destroyed because parts are no longer available for them. I also collect scrap metal as part of my overall business program. It sadly reflects the throwaway society in which we live how many good items I have restored that were given to me as junk. You can blame much of this on Edward Bernays, a father of modern advertising. The whole purpose of ads, Bernays taught, is to make us psychologically dissatisfied with our current condition, and to make us feel that buying the next gaudy trinket will bring us the happiness we seek. And ultimately, who benefits from this consumerist mentality? The same people Jesus chased out of the Temple with a whip – the moneylenders, who make fortunes getting us to buy what we don’t need at exorbitant prices.

Edward Hara,
Fairfax, Virginia

Zero Episcopalians?

On Ben Crosby’s “Empty Pews”: Well stated! As I finish out my last eight months of ministry (I will be seventy-two in August) in a parish where we have had to learn the meaning of being the church again, I think more and more of our lack of heart for Christ, lack of sharing the gospel, lack of instruction for discipleship. Perhaps it’s a tiredness with labels and programs at my age, but nothing galls me more than the annual parochial report, which says little about souls transformed or communities given hope in Christ. It’s all about who has the biggest numbers. I pray for you and I pray that the church recommits to its mission and ministry rather than seeking the one magical solution.

Mary Thorpe

Thank you for articulating something I’ve been clumsily trying to say when explaining why I stopped going to church circa 2018. Until very recently, I wondered if I was one of the “dones,” but I decided to give it one more shot, with very low expectations, this Advent season. It’s hard to be a Christian outside of a community, but so many churches these days make it hard to be a Christian inside of a community.

Frances O’Roark Dowell,
Durham, North Carolina

As a Roman Catholic in the American Midwest, I see the same decline in my denomination all around me. I have the same bewilderment with my own denomination’s leadership or lack thereof in even merely slowing the decline. Instead of us bemoaning our respective denominations’ decline, I ask what fundamental concrete steps this author thinks those in leadership should take? What steps should reasonably active lay people take? Until we can make these steps we’re all just engaging in a bunch of navel gazing. I do think in a Western secular society that has a growing epidemic of loneliness and a lack of transcendent beauty, the churches can lean into this and become outposts of beauty and in-person community.

Robert Aitchison,
Deerfield, Illinois

Repairing with Care

On Kurt Armstrong’s “Just Your Handyman”: I have not read something this lovely, sincere, and hopeful in a long time. I am so glad that the writer, aside from being a handyman, is also a gifted wordsmith. In a world where bits and bytes dominate, it is so heartening to go through this description of what it takes to be good with your hands. There is so much talk about AI, ChatGPT, and their breed threatening jobs and the livelihoods of millions. I don’t think Kurt and his tribe need ever worry on this score.

Arjun Rajagopalan

This really spoke to my heart and soul. As a fellow “doer,” I’ve struggled at times with loving things and accomplishment more than people. My to-do list can easily become an idol. I’ve felt that my propensity to be task-oriented is at war with my call to love God and my neighbor. But this beautifully crafted article spoke of the harmony that can exist for us doers. The author spoke of integrity, the parts all functioning as a whole. That to me was like a puzzle piece that just fell into place. Be a loving doer however big or small the doing is. “Whatever you do in word or deed do all to the glory of God.”

John Geffel,
Oregon City, Oregon

The Benefits of Serving

On Adrian Pabst’s “Why Serve?”: I completely agree. A friend of mine is also from Germany and his stint in national service (helping those with addiction issues) led him to a vibrant faith and a lifetime of service to the body of Christ. He was glad that he had a nonmilitary option to pursue. I also agree that it should be compulsory and wonder if there should be military and nonmilitary service options. Want to make America great again? I see all sorts of benefits with this proposal.

Matthew Granitto,
Lakewood, Colorado

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