Fall 2023 | Faith Not Fear: Varieties of Christian Practice

“Christian” is an embattled word these days, tested by forces eager to colonize it for some ideological cause or twist it into something unrecognizable. Writers of this Reflections respectfully decline to join the media game of contortion and distortion. Most here embark on a different path, where Jesus is a vivid figure who reaches across the present moment and compels a response. These divergent stories have this much in common: a moral imagination illuminated by a divine spark, a big-picture sense of history. An authentic faith cannot be bullied or ignored: it is busy enfleshing a divine dream of joy, solidarity, and homecoming. As alumna Karis Ryu ’23 M.A.R. writes, “His voice calls from a place unknown.”
Cover image: Mohamed Nohassi/Unsplash


From the Dean's Desk

By Gregory E. Sterling, Dean of Yale Divinity School

Last year I had two related conversations that were unsettling. The first took place after I read Phil Gorski’s and Sam Perry’s The Flag + the Cross before hearing Phil speak (see the interview with him in this issue). After Phil summarized the book and accepted questions, I asked him: “Has Christianity become a dirty word in American society?”


By Brandon Nappi ’01 M.Div.

Contemplative prayer is a path for resetting priorities, connecting with others, and returning the meaning of “Christian values” to valuing the things Jesus valued.

By Countess Cooper ’23 S.T.M.

A U.S. military chaplain’s encounters with the vast pluralistic world haven’t shaken her own Christian faith but enlarged it.

By K. Jason Coker ’01 M.A.R.

Jesus’ misconstrued statement about the poor has become an excuse to do nothing. If faith doesn’t compel believers to care for the economically vulnerable, either through personal practice or public policy, “then our Christianity is worthless.”

An Interview with Philip Gorski

Christians have a duty to democracy to make alliance with others in defense of principles of minority rights, public-spiritedness, governmental accountability, and military and corporate restraint.

By Natasha Huang ’16 M.A.R.

A Christian approach to friendship adds layers to the meaning of the word, including friendship with God, friendship with oneself, with one’s past, and with the future.

By Jim Antal ’78 M.Div.

Counteracting the climate crisis requires facing facts and telling the truth. Christians cannot allow humanity’s greatest moral challenge to be framed by those who stand to gain from abusing God’s creation.

By Awet Andemicael ’10 M.A.R., ’22 Ph.D.

Modern definitions of freedom and liberty often devolve into assertions of mere selfishness, entitlement, or the will to power. Faith in God releases a different kind of freedom, the mortal courage to love as we have been loved.

By Kenneth P. Minkema

As America debates its Christian history, a look at Jonathan Edwards and the Puritan vision of a Christian commonwealth suggests how jarringly different that colonial model is from modern assumptions about society, Christian or otherwise.

By Amy Carr
and Christine Helmer ’97 Ph.D.

Mustering genuine Christian community requires a more imaginative idea of church than today’s ideological antagonists are willing to admit.

By Mia Tabib ’20 M.Div.

We face a choice: we can weaponize the human imagination into a tool of cruelty and fatalism, or we can take out our metaphorical paintbrushes and create worlds where gentleness reigns. 

By Jean-Fritz Guerrier ’18 M.Div.

The paradoxes of one’s background can unexpectedly forge a vocation of empathy and reconciliation.

By William R. Bell Jr. ’07 M.Div.

The word Christian is vain and futile until believers face an unavoidable gospel commandment and the divine logic behind it.

By Marylouise Oates ’73 M.Div.

A writer’s decades of activism has stirred reform and collaboration by taking a lesson from the Gospels’ miracle of the feeding of the 5,000: invite people to help out. Chances are, they will.

By Calvon T. Jones ’18 M.Div.

The startling power of the original Pentecost—the New Testament experience of great spiritual unity amid vast cultural pluralism—is a neglected and misunderstood wellspring of ecumenical partnership and social transformation.

By Karis Ryu ‘23 M.A.R.

Taking the risk of acknowledging the voice of God may be the only way to learn how to become one’s truer self.

By Mark Dingler ’23 M.Div.

Empower young people to work toward the Kin-dom of God on earth by helping them find their voice as agents of change, love, and joy. 

By Kazimierz Bem ’10 M.Div., ’11 S.T.M.

Fads—political, musical, theological—pass away. God’s faithfulness does not. What churches can offer to the world now is not another sexy way to reinvent itself but an open-hearted response to the divine spirit already in its midst.

By Ray Waddle

Data glut … context collapse … distraction … self-deception. Contemporary life could use a gospel reality check.

Reflections is a publication of Yale Divinity School