Another Southern Writer Finds Love in the Ruins: A Review of Kevin Powers’ Latest

The opening paragraph of Kevin Power’s new novel, A Shout in the Ruins, is perhaps the finest beginning to a book I’ve read since Flannery O’Conner blew open the universe in the first paragraph of The Violent Bear It Away. Like that gem, Powers’ opener is all mood and tantalizing hooks that spark a thousand […]

Race, Virginia, and Jesus’ Circle of Favor

It has been a disturbing week in Virginia government. Once again, we are struggling with how we address questions of race and racism. This time Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring are both confronted with incidents from their past involving appearances in blackface, a remnant of minstrel shows where the entertainment came […]

God is in the Countryside (and Country Churches)

Maybe it’s because I’m getting ready to do a workshop on storytelling this weekend, but I’ve been thinking about the parables of Jesus. The Nazarene had a way of incorporating the stuff of the world around him into his messages. Farmers and seeds, shepherds and sheep, tenants and landowners—these were things Jesus’ listeners knew about. […]

Why Don’t Country People Just Get Out? – Episode 3

It’s happened again. Writers in The New York Times are once again wondering aloud if country people shouldn’t just give up and move to the city to deal with problems of economic insecurity. Which means, it’s time for another episode of “Why Don’t Country People Just Get Out?” In an article titled “The Hard Truth […]

Your Civil War Is Too Easy: Looking for The Thin Light of Freedom with Ed Ayers

Who starts a story of the Civil War in the middle?  By the time Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia marched up the Shenandoah Valley into Pennsylvania in July of 1863, the war had been going for more than two years.  The twin Confederate defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg on the 4th of July usually mark […]

The Greatness of the Small: A Review of Love Big. Be Well.

When Amy Quitman writes a letter to the unknown pastor that the Pastoral Search Committee hopes to call to their Presbyterian church in the small town of Granby, she includes an invitation that would set the hearts of potential candidates like me aflutter: We want theology, but we want the kind that will pierce our […]

“Pessimism, Hopelessness & Doom” – Traveling the Virginia Extremes with August Wallmeyer

  August Wallmeyer paints a distressing picture of rural Virginia in the 21st century.  His little book, The Extremes of Virginia, which highlights the realities and common challenges of three regions of the Commonwealth—Southwest, Southside, and the Eastern Shore—gets your attention quickly.  You start to see why he calls the regions “the Extremes,” and it isn’t just because […]