A Long(ing) Year
Heather Grennan Gary

With 2019 in the rearview mirror, it’s fair to say that the year has been overwhelming and for many. Contributors to this issue offer thoughtful, heartfelt, and creative perspectives on some of the issues that have dominated recent headlines. Richard T. Hughes’s lead essay, for instance, examines the force of white supremacy in his own life and in the life of the United States. He recounts how he was finally able to recognize white supremacy after it had been operating, invisibly to him, throughout his life.

Josh Langhoff considers what migration means, both within the Christian tradition and within the world today, when the United Nations reports that 70.8 million people around the globe have been forced from their homes—the highest level of displacement on record. (Do yourself a favor and listen to the horizon-expanding, migration-inspired soundtrack Josh created.)

Martha Greene Eads also studies the place of music, especially religious music within the context of poverty, in her essay on Robert Morgan’s novel Gap Creek. Even though readers are likely less religious and rural than the novel’s protagonist, our current economic landscape features stark—and growing—wealth and income inequality.

And while some humanities scholars have been sounding the alarm about the viability of their disciplines, Tim Grennan’s review of Paul Scherz’s new book, Science and Christian Ethics, reveals that some of their colleagues in the sciences have similar concerns about their own disciplines. Even aspects of our world that seem privileged and ascendant are, perhaps, not quite as secure as they seem.

Yes, 2019 has been difficult. Mischa Willett sums it up in a stanza from the poem “Past Participle” (page 46):

One can be forgiven, then, or I
Can, which is to say, you will,
If everything recently looks to me
A premonition, essay on mortality


Before we say good riddance to 2019 and all of its troubles, take a look at Janet McCann’s review of Marjorie Maddox’s latest poetry collection, Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation. “What gives us the ability to survive?” McCann asks. “It is hard to imagine how to assimilate into [one’s] faith such an event as a father’s death after a failed heart transplant.” She continues on to say that Maddox’s poetry manages to do it, with “powerful, complex metaphors and symbols to show us a world where, despite all, God is love, and love gives us the courage to endure and even triumph.” And linger over the personal story shared by Charlotte F. Otten, who recounts one small but transformative event—with truly historic connections—that swept away longstanding animosity for her and replaced it with even-longer-standing joy. Finally, considerJ. T. Ledbetter’s story of filling in one Sunday for the pastor of a church where many of the congregants are homeless. Despite the downtrodden reality he encounters there, he also experiences an almost absurd epiphany that blossoms into life-affirming gratitude.

We hear much from the prophet Isaiah during Advent; one of my favorite verses from Isaiah (not in the Advent lectionary readings) is this: “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Is. 43:19). We long for such a new thing, and I am grateful to our writers for showing us places and ways in which it is happening.                       



Works Cited

Kent, Ana, Lowell Ricketts, and Ray Boshara. “What Wealth Inequality in America Looks Like: Key Facts & Figures.” Open Vault Blog. August 14, 2019. https://www.stlouisfed.org/open-vault/2019/august/wealth-inequality-in-america-facts-figures.

Schmidt, Benjamin. “The Humanities Are in Crisis.” The Atlantic. August 23, 2018.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. “Figures at a Glance.” UNHCR. June 19, 2019. https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html.

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