~ Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic by Reinhold Niebuhr

Forced to attend church the first time as a teenager in in Richmond, Virginia, the pastor a few months later handed me an old wrinkled paperback he thought I might enjoy:

Reinhold Niebuhr’s Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic.

Aquinas’ Summa followed the Cynic recommendation.

Since then, Jesus has gleefully afflicted me with the right kind of nightmares and continues to tame my stubborn cynicism. Or should I say, Jesus is giving me different things about which to be cynical- after all, if Jesus is King and the world knows it not then there’s plenty in the world for which cynicism is the sanest, healthiest posture.

About Me~

Thanks to being given a copy of Leaves, I’m now the least well-rounded person in the world, having studied theology at UVA and from Princeton. Seriously, I’ve got no skills apart from parsing Greek nouns and obscure theological categories. Fortunately, the United Methodist Church is the perfect place for someone like me. I am an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, and since 2002 have served as a pastor of churches in New Jersey and Virginia as well as a prison and hospital chaplain. I’ve been a pastor at Aldersgate UMC in Alexandria, Va for 12 years.

I started the blog in June 2012 on a lark and through the encouragement of Tony Jones and named in homage to how my journey started.

IMG_4678The More Important About Me~

My wife, Ali, is my high school sweetheart. We first met on the swim team. One look at me in my Speedo and she was a goner. She’s shy and easily embarrassed so suffice it to say that she’s my better 3/4 in every way but cooking.

My youngest son, Gabriel, is a budding standup. He loves swimming and the White Stripes. My oldest son, Alexander, is a hardcore swimmer and gifted in everything but common sense.

I enjoy cooking, traveling, writing and running.
I’m also learning (slowly, very slowly) to play the banjo, but I’m better at growing a beard. My man-o-pause is such that I now cry at movies like the Blindside, and as strongly as I believe in anything I think baseball is the Platonic ideal.

But all that may not say as much about me as:

Favorite Bands: Blitzen Trapper, Trampled by Turtles and Sturgill Simpson (Dylan is too obvious but him too)
Favorite Movies: Chinatown, The Big Lebowski, Pan’s Labyrinth
Favorite TV Show: The Killing and Battlestar Galactica
Favorite Authors: Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Lynch, Richard Ford
Favorite Smell: Roast Chicken
Favorite Sound: Gabriel’s Belly Laugh
Favorite Theologian: Karl Barth, Herbert McCabe
If I wasn’t a pastor I’d be a….chef.
I tolerate: a crazy Australian Shepherd.

12 responses to About

  1. Hmm
    Fav bands: Blitzen Trapper, Nena, Beirut
    Fave movies: Midnight in Paris, Once, Anything with Indiana Jones
    Fave smell: roast chicken
    Fave Theologians: St. Augustine, Thomas a Kempis, John MacArthur, Steve Brown
    If I wasn’t a chef, I’d be a…….Pastor. (just kidding, I’m a retired optician who re-invented himself as a Letterpress Printer and runs our churches College Dept. with my Seminary Trained Theologian Wife who happens to look like Olivia Newton John.
    Dogs: Australian Cattle Dogs (ACD with OCD)
    Fav instruments: My trusty Yairi, Irish tin whistle, recorder, mandolin, and banjo. Or any other instrument that can make a cultural German pass for Irish.

    Great to come across your site, Jason.

  2. Tamed Cynic,
    Stumbled onto this site doing a search on liberal fundamentalist,
    Happy I did.

  3. when I said to my wife just now that I wished we lived closer to y’all, she said that the local police / sheriff’s office might have a different view of that.

    anyway, glad I found ya a while back. keep on keeping on.

  4. Just found your blog. Enjoying it very much. Interested in your thoughts on the scapegoat and yom kippur as compared to those from Tova Singer on outreachjudiasm.com.

  5. One thing I said to myself before I left was, “Self, don’t forget to thank Jason for all the good
    work he has done and the inspiration he has been. Well I forgot. I hope it’s not too late.

    I just wonder what the Bishop said this time about the assignment to Aldersgate. Was it ‘Keep an eye on Dennis
    And when Dennis says, Lets go faster, there are no icebergs around here, keep
    an eye out for icebergs”

  6. Dear Jason,
    I found your blog only a few days ago and have been frantically reading ever since (I found it by accident, frankly, looking for articles by D.B. Hart.)
    I was well into it before I discovered that you have cancer. Tho I wish with all my heart you didn’t – you look about the same age as my son – the fact that you’re facing your mortality so up close and personal gives your words great weight.

    You’ve made me think (and re-think) and strengthened the faith of this old lady who, tho still in health, must face her own mortality soon.

    I’m grateful for your existence and pray that it may long continue.

  7. Colleen Walker May 26, 2016 at 6:53 PM

    Please add me to your notification by e-mail of your new blog entries.

  8. Heard you on the show with John Fugelsang today and while I found your entire story to be one of incredible faith and humanity, you captured my attention and my following when you discussed Christ’s total humanness. The mere mention of Jesus’ boners told me I had to look you up. I’m really glad I did.

    I pray for your continued healing and that you have enduring strength to write and preach the Word as effectively as I’ve seen on this site.

    Peace and Love in Him

  9. Good morning, Jason.
    I found your site looking to see what folks had to say about the doctrine of Analogia Entis. You had a post from 10/31/2016 about David Bentley Hart’s class at UVA and some statements he made in respect of Barth’s comments back around 1932. Honestly, I didn’t follow what was tongue-in-cheek from you and what opinion you were actually agreeing with.

    I’m also very sorry to hear about your rare cancer. My wife also has a rare cancer, Pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP). I find understanding God through analogy helps to reasonably disengage from the finitudes of language and engage in an “in and beyond” (as Przywara might say) where my certainty is grounded in faith rather than any ontological, let alone empirical construction.

    That said, I don’t see how it can be all too critical seeing 99.9975% of Catholics wouldn’t know what it is. And, though Protestants would be better a little better off with only 99.9825% having never heard of it, the ones that have would hate the idea because it is Catholic. Most folks cling to the “Man upstairs” notion of God even with faith. It is hard to break the addictive notion of imagining what God thinks always in terms of God being reactive and surprised and PO’d, all of which can be useful analogically but not ontically. I like the immanence and transcendence of the “in and beyondness” when thinking of God. But in fact, what we need to know about God is in Christ(“he that has seen me has seen the Father”). Analogy helps with managing the principle of non-contradiction for headstrong folks. But logic will eventually seemingly contradict because of the limited perspective of premises. (Is the train coming or going? I observe both without seeing either end.) Yet, logic is the principle way we discern common-sensical non-revelational truth.

    I suppose I could rattle on. I hope and pray things work out well for you and the illness you’re having to deal with. Thanks for the work on the site. It is a ministry.


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