A Little Farther Down the Path: The Road to Character

When I recently reviewed my book purchases from Amazon for the past few years, I was surprised to note how many of the titles I had ordered after I watched Charlie Rose’s interview with the author on his PBS talk show. I also observed that, while an interview with the author could prompt me to purchase a book, as a motivation to actually read the book, it was decidedly less effective. That was a major reason, then, for undertaking this series of fourteen special posts during Lent, each one referencing a different title from my “new books” shelf.

When I selected the fourteen titles for this series, I had not yet read more than half of them, but I had purchased them because I felt fairly certain they would help me move, to quote E.M. Forster once again, “a little farther down the path” in the direction my life has taken over the past few years. After I published the list on Facebook and here on my blog, I had second thoughts about one or two of the titles. Not about whether they would be worth the expenditure of time to read, but about whether they would illustrate forcefully enough the principle of moving me a little farther down the path. Continue reading


Who Do You Think I Think God Is?

I am the first to admit that I don’t fully understand the concept of prayer. I do pray, and most of the time I feel better because I have prayed, but when I stop to consider what my praying implies about God, I am a combination of confused and embarrassed.

Do I really believe that the God who created the universe is not going to heal somebody or intervene in some situation or open some door of opportunity unless I ask God to do that? Or do I believe that God will allow a calamity to unfold unless a certain number of people beseech God to stop it? And if so, what is that number? At what point does the volume of prayer and the number of people praying about a particular matter reach “critical mass” so that God is required to respond by answering those prayers in the affirmative? Continue reading

The Road to Someplace Beautiful

The Road to Someplace Beautiful
Chapel Address by Eric Kouns
Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia
November 10, 2015

[Note: If you’d like to hear this address as it was delivered at EMS, click here.]

Whenever a man of mediocre intellect is invited to address an audience in an academic setting—a pseudo-scholar who wants to foster the pretense of erudition—he will often begin his talk by referencing an obscure quote by a nineteenth-century existentialist philosopher.

I think it was Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish existentialist, who once observed that…

We  live our lives looking forward, but we understand our lives only by looking back.

I would call that either profoundly self-evident or self-evidently profound. But it’s true, in any event. Continue reading

Going Dark for a Month

In late September, I announced that I was going to publish a blog post each day during the month of October. I had undertaken that very discipline one year ago and found it to be both gratifying and exhausting. I attempted a similar schedule during Lent this past spring but ran out of steam before the end of that 40-day marathon.

I am today suspending my blogging for at least a month. This will be my last post until sometime in November. The reason for this decision is not that I have nothing to say. I had already drawn up the schedule for all 31 posts. Rather, I decided to “go dark,” both here and on Facebook, because I want to extract myself from any further conversation that relates to the 2016 presidential election.

I did not address issues related to the presidential race, either here or on Facebook, during the 2012 campaign. I intended to follow that pattern this year as well. Then, last winter, when most of the country still thought the entry into the race by one well-known reality-TV personality was a joke, I made a few comments to that effect. As his candidacy became more and more likely, while at the same time more and more unthinkable, I posted my thoughts on that matter fairly frequently.

I can’t say that I regret anything I said, since I spoke only to matters of the candidate’s lack of character and qualifications for the presidency. I did not engage in partisan political activism. Still, I have reason to believe that my comments in that sphere diluted the impact of my posts on other, more substantive, issues. Readership of my blog has taken a nosedive in recent weeks.

There has never been a more divisive figure in American politics in my lifetime than the Republican presidential nominee. His influence on the American psyche has been corrosive and destructive. It will take decades to recover from the damage his candidacy has inflicted on our nation.

Here’s my prediction. I think there is a real chance the Republican nominee will drop out of the race before the election. If he does not, he will lose by a significant margin. In the process, the Democrats will regain the majority in the U.S. Senate. But November 9 will not bring the end of this sordid and painful chapter. The Republican nominee will claim the election was rigged, and his supporters will use that as a reason to de-legitimize the new president. The pain will continue.

I need a break from this. For that reason, I am going dark for the next four weeks. I’ll pop back on Facebook from time to time for personal items. For example, I’ll be speaking in chapel at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, VA, on November 10, two days after the election. I’ll come back with some reminders as that date gets closer. It will be a quick trip to Virginia, but we hope to see some old friends—as well as some new ones—while we are there. The chapel service, which begins at 11:00 a.m., is open to the public.

And then, I will be back with blog posts after mid-November. At least that’s the plan at this time. If that changes for any reason, I’ll let you know.

I do appreciate all of you who read my posts, here and on Facebook, either regularly or from time to time. I hope you’ll find that this time away will serve to enrich the quality of what I write when I return.

Oh, in case you are wondering, my movement away from conservative evangelicalism and toward a more progressive understanding of how to follow Jesus continues unabated. It has cost me a good many friends, but it has given me immense peace of mind. No second thoughts there.

See you in November. Peace.

The Gospel is not Hostile to the Culture

Jesus of Nazareth stands at the center of the narrative that best explains, for me, the world, the universe, and the reason for human existence. That narrative, with Jesus at theday-12 center, gives me a sense of purpose for my life and fills me with hope for the future.

Jesus of Nazareth, whom the early church came to think of as Jesus the Messiah (or Christ, i.e. God’s anointed one) embodies the nature of God while, at the same time, he exemplifies the full potentiality of humanness. I come closest to realizing my own potential by aspiring to be like him. Continue reading

How to Spell Hope with Three Rs

Like Amos in the Old Testament, I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. On the other hand, like the sons of Issachar, I hope I understand the times. In that role, then, I day-11make the following prognostications.

Politically and socially, we need a revolution. Theologically and spiritually, we need a reformation. Experientially, we need a revival. All of these are interrelated, and all three are already in progress, if only in the beginning stages. We may only recognize them after the fact, since they will not strongly resemble any previous manifestation. Continue reading

A Serious Message for My Millennial Friends: I Want to Help, and I Don’t Have to Drive

To all my friends who are also members of the Millennials Generation, day-10with affection:

I’m not quite old enough to be your grandfather, but I am older than most of your parents. I’ve had a few successes in life and a great many failures. Like the Farmers Insurance tag line says, “I know a few things because I’ve seen a few things.” I’ve seen some things you’ve not yet seen, and I’ve been through some things you’ve not yet experienced. Those are the facts. Continue reading

Let Hypocrisy Roll Down like a River and Political Expediency like a Never-Ending Stream

As I sit down to write this morning, the news is all about two destructive forces unleashing pain and calamity on our nation—one meteorological, one political. Hurricane Matthew, a monstrous storm that caused widespread damage and loss of life as it swept across the day-9Caribbean and posed a major threat to the southeastern U.S., seems to be losing steam and veering away from the coast with much of its ruinous potential unrealized. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the Republican candidate for president.

As everybody knows by now, an audio recording has surfaced from 2005 in which the Republican candidate made vile and vulgar comments about women and spoke of his attitude and behavior toward them in terms that can only be described as predatory and demeaning. It is simply one more example, as though one were needed, to show that every time that man speaks, he hurts somebody. Continue reading

The Future Starts Today

I am a Christian who also happens to be an American. As such, a few observations.day-7

I am not threatened by immigrants. Although my parents were born in the US, I am, like all of us except our Native American brothers and sisters, a descendant of immigrants. Some of us are descended from those forced to immigrate to America against their will. To them we owe a debt we have hardly begun to repay.

I do not fear persecution for my faith at the hands of a godless government. Conservative Christians seem to require a perception of victimhood in order to stay relevant in the current culture. We are not victims. Our religious freedom is not at risk. Any “persecution” we are suffering is self-inflicted, owing to our arrogance and intransigence. We need to repent. Continue reading

A Pastor for People Like Me

Contemporary Christianity in the U.S., especially of the megachurch variety, is a typically American phenomenon. As soon as it achieved some popular “success,” its leaders began to treat it as a product and to develop programs to enable the product to scale in the day-6marketplace. If you’ve ever watched Shark Tank, you know where this leads. Ultimately, it’s not the quality of the product that is most important, it is the efficiency of the business plan and the energy and savvy of its marketers.

Genuine faith is not a commodity, however, and the church is not a merchant selling a product. Genuine faith is based on a trusting relationship, with God and with other people. It is not efficiently scalable. It is messy, inconsistent, and notoriously inefficient. It’s more like a family than a business. Continue reading