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The annotated table of contents below offers a sneak peek at what’s in issue 15. To get the issue delivered straight to your door, subscribe now.


Letter from the Editors

On Reformation

In the history of religion, there is a term for occasions when what is called for is less the creation of new ideals than a recommitment to the ones we already are supposed to hold. A time when the tools of revolution look too crude and public, those of introspection too narrow and private. This is the time for reform—or, if the reform that is required is broad and sweeping enough, for reformation.



n. rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations; profanity, worldliness, materialism

Symposium: What is church for?

True Story
[Tish Harrison Warren]

Years ago, a non-Christian friend told me that he was glad that Christianity “works” for me. I said with a laugh, “Oh, it doesn’t work for me. Sometimes it seems I work for it.”

A Serious House
[James Chappel]

The media excitement over the rise of the “nones,” especially amongst millennials, evinces a hope that we are finally turning into the secular country many elites have imagined themselves to be living in all along. But the persistence of religious practice is at least as important to understand as its (modest) decline in popularity.

Above Morality
[Hans Joas]

This focus on morality not only fails to capture the special character of the religious dimension but also that of the political sphere. We might call this the trap of the ethics of conviction. Those who intervene in political debates solely with moral arguments come across as either helpless or arrogant.

Touched by the Sacred
[Lauren M. Jackson]

Take an audience to church in spirit enough times and the matter of the messiah becomes a little sticky. No secret that Beyoncé inspires a mighty and active congregation of souls who will debate, claw, maim and maybe murder in Her name.

Charitable Living
[Elizabeth Bruenig]

Augustine argued that the grace of God is always necessary for human betterment. No person has the resources to perfect him or herself. The practice of continuous almsgiving was therefore educational, instructing congregants of all classes what wealth was for (to support of all human life and all human flourishing, as God originally intended), as well as reminding them that their own need of repentance would never end.

Can There Be an Atheist Church?
[Tim Crane]

Without sacred things, there is no church. But are atheists really excluded from employing some idea of the sacred?

Three Funerals, No Wedding
[Sarah Ruden]

Once, Friends crowded England and New England and sent out missionaries; now someone can easily lead quite a cosmopolitan life without ever meeting a Friend. This, to my mind, owes a lot to the disappearance of the old sort of female discipline, the “as much as it takes” endurance of that era.

Five pastors on leading a church

The best part of my job is the miraculous transformation that takes place in the lives of those who respond to God’s Word and apply it faithfully in their daily walk. The most difficult part is learning to deliver intelligently the truth of God’s Word, with love, particularly to naysayers and those who ignore it, oppose it, reject it, rationalize it, justify their lives despite it or outright deny it.


Accounting for Tradition
Philip Gorski on American civil religion

If you have concerns about love, justice, and righteousness in the world—as Christianity teaches—you can’t just turn your back on politics. The difficulty arises when we get so pulled into political conflicts that we start to think whatever political positions we’ve committed ourselves to are more important than the higher values that we need to aspire to.


The Master?
Paul Thomas Anderson as American auteur
[Nick Pinkerton]

Desperation is the emotion with which Anderson, as a dramatist, is most comfortable. These bet-the-house moments, on which he is prepared to stake the entire integrity of his film, mirror the in extremis commitments of his damaged characters. Yet some of the exhilaration comes precisely because the risk of artistic failure is treacherously real.

Rhapsody in Blue
A study of pleasure in pain
[Becca Rothfeld]

It couldn’t have happened the way I remember, because pain ought to contradict pleasure. But I think that it hurt, it really hurt, and yet it still felt good.

American Reams
Three days at Paper2017

[David J. Unger]

Big Paper is indeed very much in the business of selling toilet paper, facial tissue, paper towels and “feminine products,” and the business is good. You can’t blow your nose into an email. We are material in the end. We have inputs and outputs. We require physical receptacles. More of us are on the way.

Close to Nothing
The autofictional parodies of Fleur Jaeggy
[Aaron Robertson]

Jaeggy’s wonderland is one in which we are permanently freed from our bodies and the social pressures that govern them. It is “an enamel landscape, innocuous, mute,” where the voices are not too loud and the signs of our existence are as faint as footprints in snow.


The Disbeliever
[Maddy Crowell]

Overnight the video of Abdel-Samad’s talk had reached an audience of 250,000 on YouTube, provoking three Islamic preachers to call for his death. By the time rumors began circulating in the media that Abdel-Samad was missing, abducted, possibly even killed, he was hundreds of miles away in Europe, having fled via a circuitous escape route devised by the German ambassador. Two weeks later, he was living in an apartment in Berlin.


The Closing of the American Mind
[Jacob Hamburger]

The great irony is that Bloom’s emphatically elitist book helped spark a decades-long wave of conservative polemics against the academic elite.

Baidu Baike
[Chenxin Jiang]

In many cases the misinformation on Baidu Baike cannot be attributed to commercial interests; much of it is bizarre or just plain wrong. For instance, Baidu Baike lists Barack Obama as a member of the “Barack family” and identifies his mother’s citizenship as “White American from Kansas.” It quotes Bill Clinton calling Obama “the worst president in American history.”

Anselm Kiefer
[Lindsay Atnip]

From the outset, the Holocaust has always challenged art, and even called into question its continued existence. Few have agreed with Adorno that it is barbaric to write a poem after Auschwitz, but there has been considerable concern about a related question: whether and how one could make art about the Holocaust. But why? Why is it that to do so is, it seems, automatically to risk crossing some line into kitsch, exploitation or obscenity?

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This annotated TOC is a preview of what’s
to come in issue 15 of 
The Point
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