Wednesday's News & Ideas

Since at least the 1960's, the word "institution" has conjured up only negative images. But could it be, David Brooks asks, that institutions actually make many of the goods in our lives possible--such that their disintegration is cause for lament? Also faith and Superbowl Sunday and reflections on the death of John Updike.

Faith mixes with football for the big gameAssociated Press: Even more surprising than Arizona’s appearance in the Super Bowl is the number of players on both teams who don’t hesitate to invoke the name of God.

Russian Orthodox Church elects 16th patriarchLos Angeles Times: The ascension of Patriarch-elect Kirill fuels hopes of rapprochement with the Roman Catholic Church.

Updike's Middle-Class GodNewsweek: For John Updike, who died Tuesday at age 76, the search for holy truth often involved the lives of small-town, middle-class Protestants.Christianity Today blog: Updike surveyed the spiritual emptiness of post-World War II family life.

Our bodies, our faith: Practicing incarnationChristian Century: In an excerpt from her new book, An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor says deep suffering makes theologians of us all.

The Spark

What life asks of usIn contrast to the individualism of modern culture, there is another, older way of living and thinking “institutionally,” says David Brooks, conservative columnist for the New York Times. “In this way of living, to borrow an old phrase, we are not defined by what we ask of life. We are defined by what life asks of us. As we go through life, we travel through institutions — first family and school, then the institutions of a profession or a craft. Each of these institutions comes with certain rules and obligations that tell us how to do what we’re supposed to do.” But as Brooks notes and an article in the Financial Times confirms, faith in institutions is dropping precipitously.