Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest, describes a recent baptismal service:
An old hymn’s chorus goes like this: “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before….”
Warren’s essay exalts something different: piety nurtured by a radiant inwardness around two poles of behavior: affirmation, in the form of trust, and renunciation of… something or other. The “sinful desires” quandary is rotten fruit of the patristic tree. Humans can renounce harmful acts; thoughts, not so much. Warren’s strategic quote-marking of the phrase not only sets it off as liturgical cant, but lets her finesse the clash of theology with human nature by limelighting a joyful and forbearing style of devotion.
Warren’s oasis of psalmody shades us for a moment from truculent evangelism and religionist politics. For the last word of her refreshing homily, she quotes an ancient Christian soldier, Diadochos, the fifth-century bishop of Photiki: “… The soul, in its desire to say many things, dissipates its remembrance of God through the door of speech.”
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