Archive for April, 2010

All Things “Dark Faith”

As the promotional efforts for Dark Faith begin in earnest, Apex Book Company has been running a series of mini-interviews with some of the contributors called Dark Faith: DEVOTIONS. I’ve been loving the responses and want to collect the links to them here. And take a moment to appreciate how much my friends love and respect me…

[Here is the Dark Faith Blog]


Alethea Kontis – “The God of Last Moments”

Mary Robinette Kowal – “Ring Road”

D.T. Friedman – “Paint Box, Puzzle Box”

Wrath James White – “He Who Would Not Bow”

Tom Piccirilli – “Scrawl”

Jennifer Pelland – “Ghosts of New York”

Nick Mamatas – “The Last Words of Dutch Schultz Jesus Christ”

Ekaterina Sedia – “You Dream”

Lucy A. Snyder – “Miz Ruthie Pays Her Respects”

Linda D. Addison – “The Story of Non-Belief”

Rain Graves – “Lilith”

Richard Dansky – “The Mad Eyes of the King Heron”

Lavie Tidhar – “To the Jerusalem Crater”

Geoffrey Girard – “First Communions”

Kelli Dunlap – “Good Enough”

John C. Hay – “A Loss for Words”

Matt Cardin – “Chimeras & Grotesqueries”

Richard Wright – “Sandboys”

Chesya Burke – “The Unremembered”


Catherynne M. Valente – The Days of Flaming Motorcycles


SHORT STORY: “The Last Stand of the Ant Maker” by Paul Jessup

SHORT STORY: “City of Refuge” by Jerry Gordon

AUDIO FICTION: “City of Refuge” by Jerry Gordon (read by Maurice Broaddus)

DARK FAITH Roundtable: Gary A. Braunbeck, Jay Lake, Nick Mamatas, and Catherynne M. Valente

Related Posts

DARK FAITH: Introduction by Maurice Broaddus

Maurice Broaddus – The Big Idea

Flames Rising – Dark Faith Preview (including my introduction to Dark Faith) – Have a Little (Dark) Faith

Alethea Kontis – God of Last Moments

Kelli Owen – “Dark first, Faith second”

Jason Sizemore – “The Ups and Downs of an Anthology”

Matt Cardin – Narrative Frames and perceptive reviewers

To Breathe Underwater – Through Faith Darkly

Nick Mamatas – Kazzie Contemplates Secret Wisdom and Wise Secrets…

Adventures in Reading – Ghosts of New York and Other News

B&N Community – Give Me Something to Believe In: Spiritual Quests and the Search for Truth in SF and Fantasy


On my end, I have the unprecedented (in my career thus far) problem (and hopefully this will be a recurring “problem”) of promoting two projects at a time. Thus, the latest bouts of interviews (though King Maker was mentioned in Publishers Weekly all on its own):

Fantasy Magazine – Editing Dark Faith – Maurice Broaddus has ‘Dark Faith’

Random Musings – Interview with Maurice Broaddus

Innsmouth Free Press – Interview: Maurice Broaddus

Horrow Web – Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon

Omnivoracious – Jeff Vandermeer – King Maker Maurice Broaddus on the Anthology “Dark Faith”

The Occult Detective – Soul Searching with Maurice Broaddus

SCN Book Review: Dark Faith anthology

Publishing Dark Faith: An Interview With Jason Sizemore


The Dead Robot Society’s Podcast – Episode 132 – A Discussion of Dark Faith

The Funky Werepig:  Mo*Con V live!


B&N Community – Give me Something to Believe In:  Spiritual Quests and the Search for Truth in SF and Fantasy

Shroud Magazine

Publisher’s Weekly

Suvudu – Looking at the Shadow Side of Belief with “Dark Faith”


Horror Web

Black Static

Innsmouth Free Press – Dark Faith

365 Short Stories – Dark Faith

Wings Lifting Wide – Review:  Dark Faith Customer reviews

Book Rec- Dark Faith

SFRevu – Dark Faith

Black Gate – Short Fiction Review # 28: Dark Faith

Eyesore Times – PDS Friday:  New York, New Psalm

Postule Oozings – Dark Faith

Stem Shots – Apex Publications Brings the Goods

Dylan Fox – Review of Dark Faith

Horror Fiction Review

TJ McIntyre – July Book Reviews

Horror World

I Have An Opinion On Almost Everything

Critical Mick – Insert Clever Faith-Related Title Here

Choat Road

Booklist:  What questions would you ask Jesus if he returned on the eve of an apocalypse and granted every surviving human a personal audience? If a Zen Buddhist were consigned to Hell, would he suffer the torments of the damned or remain blissfully serene? These are some of the questions explored in this distinctive collection focusing on philosophical conundrums presented by religious faith. Thirty-one tales and poems from some of the horror genre’s most talented writers cover quite a spectrum of inquiry. Jennifer Pelland’s “Ghosts of New York” finds the World Trade Center jumpers on 9/11 endlessly reliving their terrifying plummets to earth. An autistic girl who becomes miraculously lucid in Chesya Burke’s “The Unremembered” spurns the priest who mistakes her miracle for a Christian one. A saintly boy found murdered in Ekatarina Sedia’s “You Dream” haunts a woman’s nightmares. While the overall quality is mixed, and the selections lean heavily on shock value rather than subtlety, there are enough provocative scenarios here to provide hours of faith-challenging entertainment. –Carl Hays


Rounding out this “All Things Me” post, I’d like to point to two more items:

1) Zoe E. Whitten, hysterically funny writer and tweeter, was wrestling with my novella, Devil’s Marionette in this moving piece.

2) My story “Hootchie Cootchie Man” was listed as an Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow’s list of notable stories for the year.

Ascension by Kristin Fuller

For this year’s art gallery at Mo*Con, we have a few artists making their debut showings. One of them is photography Kristin Fuller. Here’s a brief description of her powerful project, Ascension. It’s a moving piece that spoke to me.

A photo essay by Kristin Elizabeth Fuller

In my most recent project, “Ascension”, I have been exploring the spirituality of the desert. Desert Spirituality is rooted in the idea that in the desert places of our lives; in the barrenness and brokenness of our souls and the empty places of our planet; there in solitude as we seek God, we will find what is most true and real in the world. As we empty and expose ourselves we will find God reshaping our identity and our perceptions. I am fascinated by the idea that as we retreat into a desert environment (whether literal desert or quiet sanctuaries found throughout our daily lives) we find ourselves stripped of our emotional baggage, quietly refocused and more attuned to our environments. How is it that as we step away and disengage from the world around us and enter into the solitude of the desert we then find ourselves more aware and cognizant of what is real when we return?

This project, “Ascension”, began while on a 60 mile backpacking trip through the Pariah Canyon in northern Utah. About 2/3rds of the way along the trek, while approaching one of the highest and most picturesque parts of this journey, I photographed my subjects entering into the metaphorical (and literal) desert experience: observing, choosing to enter, struggling to find rest, battling to let go of illusions and find their true selves, entering into solitude, into worship, leaving a piece of themselves behind.

Alias, Rimbaldi, and Redemption

“That’s the word he used. Prophecy. Does that sound good or bad?” –Sydney

So many great science fiction shows have an underlying mythology behind them. X-Files and their alien mythos. Fringe and “The Pattern”. Lost and their “what the hell is going on?” mythos. Alias had its own mythos, the Rimbaldi mythology, which often threatened to overwhelm the precarious balance of the themes of the show. Many of Sydney Bristow’s (Jennifer Garner) missions centered around the search for and recovery of artifacts created by Milo Rambaldi, a Renaissance-era combination of Leonardo da Vinci and Nostradamus. Rimbaldi was an artist, inventor, and Pope Alexander VI’s chief architect whose advanced designs got him labeled a heretic. The Rimbaldi scavenger hunt often felt reminiscent of the Da Vinci Code and like with Lost, early on in the show, one might have had the impression that the writers were making up the mythology as they went along.

“Do you believe in redemption?” –Sloan

To SD-6 supervisor Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin), Rimbaldi was a prophet and through his journey, he might find eternal life. Sloane was always a complex villain, which is what made him both so charismatic and interesting. As is the case with all well rounded villains, he believes himself to be the hero of his own story. In him we can learn a few things about the perils, cost, and necessities of being a disciple. He was a simple man of faith pursuing the object of his faith with his entire heart, sacrificing all in pursuit of the ultimate Truth.

It began with an epiphany, a moment of truth or an end of self moment of clarity. An encounter with Rimbaldi changed his life, giving it meaning and purpose. It was ancient text he and the other Rimbaldi followers were asked to put their faith in; an ancient text with a vitality for modern times. Through it they managed to divine patterns of hidden meaning in ordinary things. He immediately abandoned his old life, the life of a patriot serving his country, and turned away from people he loved. His friend, Sydney’s father, Jack (Victor Garber) even confronted him about it: “I used to feel sorry for you. Couldn’t you sense it? You’d been abandoned. Left for dead. Disgraced. I pitied you. That you needed Rimbaldi to fill a void in your life. It was like a religion for you.”

“I should never have heard that man’s name.” –Sloan (speaking of Rimbaldi)

Like many disciples, after a difficult path, full of sacrifices, Sloane comes to a place where he regrets becoming a disciple. Jesus once warned his disciples about counting the cost of being a disciple:

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-35)

The path of a disciple is marked with hard choices fraught with peril and errors in judgment. As Dietrich Bonhoffer argues, “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ … costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.””

Sometimes people come to a point where they feel betrayed by their faith. Many a time, Sloane was left wondering was it all worth his, his own brand of a dark night of the soul. Some folks simply walk away. I’m reminded of the passage in John 6 starting in verse 60, when many of the disciples deserted Jesus. “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” they grumbled. And after Jesus questioned some of them (“Does this offend you?”) many turned their back and no longer followed him. So he turned and asked the rest of his disciples “You do not want to leave me too, do you?” Sometimes we may feel like the remaining twelve disciples. “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

“I don’t know what your beliefs are. If you have a faith. If you expect that something follows this life. You might have none. But if there is a chance that there is something else, that we face the consequences of our actions in this lifetime … this is your last chance to do what’s right.” –Sydney

Jesus never claimed that his purpose was to come to have a personal relationship with us. He did, however, say that He came to build his church and called for the church to go forth and make disciples. I’m reminded of this quote from identifying a disciple:

Following Jesus as a lifestyle isn’t a matter of do’s and don’ts as much as an expression of a new identity in Jesus. This identity as God’s image bearers gets expressed toward specific audiences – toward God we are worshippers, toward other Christ followers we are community and towards the very world of people Jesus came to earth on mission to rescue – we join him on mission. While we all sign on to the same calling, God is big enough to creatively invite each of us to a personal pursuit of following Jesus.

Spiritual journeys are difficult. Some people persevere, realizing the importance of questioning and investigation. It’s frighteningly easy to go off of a path as Sloane so tragically found out. Perhaps the object you were following wasn’t meant to be followed, perhaps you made an idol out of something which was good. It can happen in degrees, a slight deviation, and then further down the road you are left lost. What should you do in the face of feeling betr
ayed? What do you do with your questions and doubts? How do you remedy that? What can you do to prevent veering from the path we’re called to? We’re not called to ignorance. Each of us has been gifted with a will and intellect of our own. The only true betrayal of faith is to abandon thinking about it and seeking to know God. The path may look different for each of us, but the journey must be persevered.

Alias and Compartmentalized Spirituality

Before J.J. Abrams become a pop culture phenomenon (Lost, Cloverfield, Star Trek) he helmed the series Alias. The premise was simple: newly engaged, brilliant, beautiful college student, Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner), believes she works for a division of the CIA known as SD-6. Working alongside her estranged father, Jack Bristow (Victor Garber) and under her pseudo-father figure Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin), they foil the plots of evil intelligence agencies. Well, turns out that SD-6 is exactly the agency she thinks she’s fighting, after they kill her fiancée, so she goes to the real CIA. Her ”handler,” Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan), sends her back into SD-6 as a mole where she will team up with their other inside agent, her father. Oh, and it turns out the mother, Irina Derevko (Lena Olin), she believed was dead the whole time was actually a KGB agent who betrayed her father and often seems set to either reunite and bond as a family or kill everyone. Then there’s her long lost sister, but that’s another story.

Simple enough of a premise.

So each week Garner essentially got to play new characters with new looks, a living doll for the writers to dress up and play with (which became a blue print of sort for shows like Dollhouse, though Eliza Dusku couldn’t quite pull off the same feat due to her thin acting and with the inherent flaws of the show). The thrilling, over-the-top missions, provided the adrenaline rush while at its heart, the show was about family tensions (taken to the extremes because there’s nothing like a family of superspies squabbling over Thanksgiving dinner).

“The truth takes time.” –Irina

The life of a double agents is a mercurial one. By necessity they have to lead secret lives and while at first or on the surface it may seem exciting, it takes its toll. Living with the desire to tell their friends and family, be honest and real with them, about who they are. Only allowed to tell the truth when convenient or absolutely necessary. And when the truth comes out in drips and drabs, their friends are left with a sense of betrayal, not knowing if a single thing said was true, and leaving them feeling like they were only dealing with a stranger.

It was an exhausting box for Sydney Bristow to live in. She had to constantly be on guard, to be one step ahead of her enemies, her friends, and her family as she led her double and sometimes triple (quadruple?) life. The series explored what it meant to be obligated to conceal who she was, to compartmentalize her life and live in the shadow and fear of secrets, even as she assumed multiple aliases to carry out her missions. Trained to constantly conceal part of who she was, blocking off parts of herself, she was the quintessential double-minded woman.

In the same way we can compartmentalize our spirituality as well as our lives. Our duplicitous lives lead to a sort of spiritual dissociation. This is the way of how (secret) sins work, how they infiltrate our lives and we manage to continue to function. They may start small or innocent enough, manageable enough that we can put it away, lock it up in a box in our heart. Boxes we can control and keep hidden. But those boxes stack up, become bricks in a wall eventually sealing us off from God’s rebuking and restorative voice. We rot behind that wall.

Our scalded souls become numb to our sin. We can read the Bible, hear sermons, and not truly want or feel convictions of our sin. We become trapped in a cycle: attachment, attraction, sin, guilt. Lather, rinse, repeat. So we instead choose to walk around with a band-aid, self-medicating ourselves enough to continue as we always had. Such that the bandages are so thick, they further block your relationship with God and hear His voice. Pretty soon a band-aid isn’t enough to keep us together and soon our wounds are wrapped in a bandage. Then we’re hobbling on crutches. But we keep treating the wound, even as all of those accumulating scars metastasize into a cancer.

It’s the cost of compartmentalization and dissociation until truth pierces the darkness and all of the rot can be brought to light and dealt with.

“There’s rarely an end to the story.” –Jack

had a cinematic quality to it which essentially provided Abrams with on the job training for shooting the movie Mission: Impossible III. “As a (dysfunctional) family drama set in a hyperreal world,” as Abrams once described the show, Alias was almost hobbled by the Rimbaldi mythology (a thread of the show’s premise left for another review) which made the show wildly uneven as the writers didn’t seem to know which theme the show should revolve around. Thus the frequent tinkering designed to make it more accessible as the show constantly re-invented itself (nearly as often as Sydney did).

Still, for its flaws, the show offered constant thrills to gloss over it: from Sydney seduces intelligence out of a Russian aboard a plane, escaping just as he gets sucked into the engine; when Sydney has been captured and tortured and the torturer is revealed to be her mother; when Sydney realizes that her roommate has been murdered and replaced with her genetically altered arch enemy. Episodes ended with a bang, seasons ended with cliffhangers, and mysteries deepened and further entangled (often teetering under the threat of collapse). And when in doubt, Jennifer Garner was easy on the eyes and talented enough to make us buy into her house of implausible lies.

Mission: Accomplished.

Our Church Stinks

So we’ve been consigned to the basement. It’s not as bad as it sounds. The Crossing meets in the basement of Redeemer Presbyterian (a church we were familiar with since it hosts many First Friday events as it shares space with the Harrison Center for the Arts) on Sunday nights. Each week, round tables, lit with candles, are set up around the periphery of rows of chairs. Nothing glamorous, no power points, barely a sound system, it’s small enough that it’s difficult to hide from one another. The pastor has a conversational style with plenty of interaction between him and the congregation.

I love the reaction folks have when we tell them that we’re going to The Crossing. It’s typically something along the lines of “oh, you’d fit in well there.” I can’t tell if it’s because I’m an artist or if it’s because it’s become known as the church for people with issues.

There’s almost an anti-growth program with its “we’re a screwed up place, you sure you want to be here?” vibe. I remember the Sunday evening gathering which sold me on the place. The couple next to us was high and/or drunk. If we couldn’t tell from the smell the alcohol was wafting off them, their attempt to keep beat to the music would have clued us in. Then during the meal afterward, me and a homeless gentlemen was discussing my unemployment:

“What do you do?”
“I’m a writer.”
“You can do that anytime.” At which point, he pulled out his cell phone and gave me numbers to call for job leads.

Oh yeah, did I mention that about a third of the congregation is homeless? For those not used to it, there’s a smell to homelessness. Unwashed bodies, unwashed clothes. One of those things that sounds good in theory. I know that Sally is being stretched as she told me early on that “I’ve always believed church should be a place where people should come as they are: high, drunk, homeless, dirty. I’m just not sure I’m ready to at that church. Or sitting next to them.”

Which is completely honest, though most folks wouldn’t admit to such sentiments. Let’s face it, we talk a pretty good game about social justice, reaching out to the poor, and dealing with homelessness, but we tend to think of that as one of those “over there” ministries. Something that’s done away from the comfort of our suburban castles. It’s also made me realize how much we’ve come to value smooth running services. There is an element of show or production to our church services that we’ve come to expect. A trains running on time veneer of professionalism done in the name of running on/respecting people’s time. And there’s nothing wrong with that, unless we’ve made an idol of that; our need for control superseding the role of the Holy Spirit in a service or the needs of the group. The meal time afterwards is always an adventure.

We tend to want to be with people who are like us, either by race or by class. People who are different will interrupt. People who are quirky aren’t as concerned about appearances. And people aren’t easy to know, assuming they let you get to know them. It’s difficult to embrace the awkwardness of relationships and encounters with people not like us, to allow them to stretch us out of our comfort zones.

We want to go in and fix, that’s our modern American way. But what does it mean to truly love others. What does it mean to be in relationship with them? We don’t give others a chance to let people in or let them in to love us. It’s risky to let people in on our struggles, our shame. We risked being misunderstood, rejected, or not liked. So it’s easier to cling to our addictions and self-protection. The work of building community is hard. It’s one thing to talk about it, another to live it out. To not only walk beside people, but be willing to go after them. To be willing to walk into another person’s pain, their hard reality, even entering into their suffering. That’s how community is forged.

Yes our church stinks. Stripped of the façade, it smells of brokenness and sweat. It’s the smell of community.

Between Brett and Brooks… (King Maker Reviews)

Right now, King Maker is only available over in the U.K. and in Australia, but thanks to Jim Mcleod, I know what it looks like on the book shelves. And in the hands of rabid fans.

king maker1

For those especially anxious to get their hands on a copy of King Maker, here’s a place that offers free worldwide shipping.

To make things as easy as possible for you:

Search for an independent bookstore near you

King Maker on Amazon and available for your Kindle

King Maker on Barnes & Noble and available for your Nook

King Maker on Powell’s

King Maker on Book Depository

You can read the first chapter here.  Here are some early reviews:

-Science Fiction and Fantasy (a review I’m particularly proud of though I swear I’m not going to live and die by the reviews)

-Fantasy Literature
-Adam Christopher – Steampunk, Superheroes, and Science Fiction
-Civilian Reader
-Neth Space

Falcata Times – URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: King Maker – Maurice Broaddus

-Zoe E. Whitten – Book Review: King Maker by Maurice Broaddus

King Maker was mentioned in Publishers Weekly

AntiBacterial Pope – My Top Ten Reads 2010

Not Free SF Reader


Wicked Writers – To Be the Black Geek

Homicide: Life on the Street – A Review

Premiering on January 31st, 1993, right after the Super Bowl, Homicide: Life on the Street was one of the best written, best acted, grittiest, smartest dramas to hit the television airwaves. It used cinema vérité techniques (handheld cameras, jump cuts), had convoluted continuing storylines, and paved the way for shows like The Shield and The Wire (the only shows truly in the conversation of “best cop show” ever).

“I believe in justice. I believe in life.” –Pembleton

The show was brought to the screen by Barry Levinson (Diner, The Natural), Tom Fontana (St. Elsewhere, Oz) and David Simon, who wrote the book the show was based on, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. They created a police procedural completely new to the television landscape. It focused on the bleak realism of the job. Repetitive, focusing on the interaction between the detectives—during the long, boring stretches of paperwork and stakeouts—and how they go about solving the cases; and how spiritually draining, but socially necessary, the work was. This was in the pre-C.S.I. era, without flashy visuals and before terms like DNA or trace evidence entered our popular lexicon. To recap, jittery camera work, ill cut scenes, character centered, non-flashy visuals, set in Baltimore and airing on Friday nights. Needless to say, the show never became a breakout hit.

“Some things transcend normal logic.” –Howard

As the series opens, we’re introduced to rookie detective Tim Baylis (Kyle Secor) as he joins the Balitmore homicide team, an ensemble including Richard Belzer (whose character, Det. John Munch, is now in the Guinness Book of World Records for having been on the most television shows, currently a regular on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit), Yaphet Kotto (Alien), Clark Johnson (The Wire), and Ned Beatty (Deliverance). In a lot of ways, Homicide is the story of Bayliss’ journey from wide-eyed rookie (haunted by his inability to close his first case, the murder of a young black girl named Adena Watson) to world weary (as he explores his dark side and his sexual nature) to spiritually numb.

“If you had a worldview, you would see that by solving this little conspiracy it might tell us something about the human condition.” –Crosetti

He is partnered with cocky (“I’m proud of my pride.”), brilliant Frank Pembleton played by Emmy-winner Andre Braugher (Thief, Frequency). This cast was also unusual in that it was predominantly black, a rarity on television. But while Bayliss is the connecting thread of the series, Frank Pembleton anchors the show through Andre Braugher’s gravitas. Through their partnership, like with the rest on the series, the series explores how the volatility of the partnerships, many like marriages, allow them to work through the horrors they face every day. Ultimately, that’s what the show is about the worldview it requires to navigate the (dark side) of the world.

“Let me … box with God. Because in this line of work—be it mutilated priest or overdosed drug addict—faith only gets in the way and twists you up.” –Pembleton (Something Sacred pt I)

Police officers stare more intimately and more often into the face of evil. They deal with the worst of what society has to offer on a regular basis, observing and cleaning up after the evil that men do. It takes a psychological, emotional, and spiritual toll on them. Frank Pembleton most brazenly challenges and questions his worldview.

One of the great things the show did was examine the very humanity of the detectives. Just like the exploration of Tim Bayliss’ bi-sexuality was handled with subtlety and aplomb, so was the examination of Frank Pembleton’s spiritual life. Over the course of the series we see his faith challenged, extinguished, and slightly rekindled. As his wife Mary (played by Andre Braugher’s real life wife, Ami Brabson) observed: “When I first met you, you believed in things other than yourself … [like] God.” But after all that he had seen, as far as Frank was concerned, “God had become ‘the great light show’, too busy in the next county making hunchback babies.” Faith had become a lie, “blind faith is the crutch of fools.” But it bothered her that he lost his faith and belittled hers, and his crisis of faith impacted the cases he worked and their marriage. Cursed with not only an intellectual curiosity, but also a need to find out the truth, Frank continued to seek and challenge his world view and those of everyone around him. Because he needed something to help him navigate through the darkness.

Any choice of a worldview requires a leap of faith, to believe that your worldview is the “right” one. I believe quest/knowledge journeys begin with a leap of faith, that is, what we choose to put our trust in. For some, it is ourselves (the individual or humanity). For some, it is science (the determination of our senses). For some, it is the spiritual (under the assumption that there is more to this life than presented, both in terms of the spiritual and in terms of after this life). To quote from the blog of my friend, Rich Vincent:

“Christianity does not consist in a series of verifiable and interlocking hypotheses. Nor is it a philosophical system consisting in satisfactory, mutually consistent propositions… the way that truth is sought and engaged with is not through detachment but through a living relationship of faith and love with the object we seek”. The Christian seeks more than “objective truth,” facts, or information. “The goal is not to find information, or even to discern fact, but to bring ourselves, as living subjects, into engagement with reality, culminating ultimately in a participation in the ground of what is real”.

“You don’t leave any room for something good to happen. A moment of redemption. You don’t believe in anything.” –Bolander

Widely considered the most realistic cop drama ever aired (and Andre Braugher being perhaps television’s finest actor), Homicide: Life on the Street gives viewers a different view of detective work. During the course of its run it garnered two Emmy Awards, three Peabody Awards, three Television Critics Awards, two Writers Guild Awards, and was named to TV Guide’s “The Greatest Episodes in TV History” and “TV’s Greatest Characters” lists (as well as their list of “The best television shows nobody is watching”).

The show rarely followed the rhythms of an hour long drama and definitely showed no sentimentality. When it did go for an emotional moment, such as when Pembleton—who had refused to attend the funeral of his fellow detective who had committed suicide—gets in his dress blues to salute his fallen comrade, it resonates with power. As an example to how tight the writing was, one of the episodes which won an Emmy, “Three Men and Adena” , took place in a single interrogation room. Another award winning standout was the episode “The Subway,” wherein Vincent D’Onofrio is pushed in front of a subway. The story unfolds in real time as he is pinned under the wheels and once they lift the car from him, he will die. [One of my personal favorite episodes was “Black and Blue”, again featuring Pembleton in the box, eliciting a confession from a suspect he knows to be innocent.]

Put simply, this was one of the most influential, cutting edge, ahead of its time police procedurals in the history of dramatic television. The star-turning performance still mesmerize (and many of Hollywood’s finest show up in guest turns). Were it to air today, it would be found on cable, much like its creative inheritor, The Wire did.

Just when we thought we were out …

aka, Looks like we found a church home(s)

The thought about diving into church at all, much less church shopping, hasn’t been something we looked forward to. There is a high amount of church burnout among me and my friends. A reluctance to invest again, be it being burned by previous experiences or just being disappointed. And this is with the full realization that there is no perfect church out there. I was reading on Scot McKnight’s blog about what he’d look for in a church home to see how well his list lined up with me and my wife’s lists. He said he’d consider at least the following items:

1. The significance of fellowship and community to the people already there.
2. Respect for the Great Tradition in the church, made manifest in how much attention to such elements in the church services.
3. Eucharist — how often? I prefer this weekly.
4. Worship.
5. Teaching ministries: what’s important to the teaching?
6. Missional presence.
7. Sermons.
8. Public reading of Scripture.
9. Growing church — via evangelism and catechesis.
10. How many 20somethings and 30somethings are present?

I’d add an interesting addition to all of our lists: how are you greeted. We’ve had the oddest experience and it’s one that’s been repeated by our other friends as they’ve been church shopping. A lot of the communities we’ve visited haven’t been especially warm in greeting us even though in most situations (showing up as an interracial couple in our racially polarized church world), it was fairly obvious we were new. In fact, of the churches we’d visited, only three welcomed us. Which did help them make the short list.

I once wrote about my church life as dating. These days it feels like getting back into the dating scene after a divorce, so we haven’t been real excited about it. Friends have been inviting us to their churches (to extend the dating metaphor, it’s been sort of like double dating) and there have been some churches that I’d always wanted to visit (essentially blind dates). We actually still owe a few places a visit (Saturday evenings are tough to swing. Unless your social calendar revolves around your church group, it’s hard to carve out that time), but our children recently informed us that we had found our church.

Sally and I had our list narrowing down to two churches. On Sunday mornings at Common Ground, we can go and be invisible (Relatively anonymous. Turns out, Sally is well known by a lot of folks she knew from “back in the day”. I get to be “Sally’s husband” there), a place to just rest and continue healing. We have friends who go there, Sally and the pastor went to youth group together (ironically, it was the youth group she went to after she left the youth group where she and I met). Though I still struggled with finding a place to serve. We were walking with some friends through the building where the church we had checked out on Sunday evenings (The Crossing) meets, when the boys announced this was their church. On the list of churches we thought they might like, this was the least intuitive fit, after all, there was no kids program or kids their age and, not to put too fine a point on it, one third of the congregation is made up of homeless people. We asked them about why they liked it. Turned out they liked playing with the son of the co-pastor, the adults treat them like people, and they get to serve. They helped put the music equipment away and cleaned tables after the community meal. We don’t want to in anyway squelch their wanting to be helpful or serving others. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the place immediately. Instead of a “you won’t find anything better”/“we’re the best thing God’s got going” vibe which we often encountered (folks get really proud of their teachers), there is more of a “we’re a screwed up place. You sure you want to be here?” vibe.

This journey has been amazing and enlightening. Community is a tricky thing. You build community to have during times of stress. You can’t build community during times of upheaval (because there are times when you just can’t think straight and feel like you’re losing your mind), but community can be forged during them. You find out who can weather storms with you.

Friends that can know you at your worst and love you to new life are priceless treasures, a taste of God’s love. We appreciate those friends who supported Sally during all of this and continue to pray for her and be a part of her life. And while we miss the friendships that were lost, we are also grateful for the new friendships made.

I’ve been blessed to walk with a band of brothers, true men of God, who held me and my faith together when I wanted to chuck it all. I’d especially like to thank Jim Falk, Larry Mitchell, and Brad Grammer who continue to push and challenge me, remind me that the church is more than one particular expression/community, and that God’s not through with me yet.

Ten Years Ago …

Sally and I got married.

Honestly, I’m as shocked as anyone that we made it. Yet through God’s provision, and through a continuing testimony of love and forgiveness, here we are.

I know that we also wouldn’t have made it without the love and support of our friends and family. And for that, we thank you.

[And it’s also Maunday Thursday]