The Spiritual Core of Liberty

I’ve been focusing a bit more on editing than writing lately, although I have also forgotten to post links to one or two essays in the meantime.

Not today, however.

Today at the Acton PowerBlog, I pick up on economist Dierdre McCloskey’s argument in a recent essay for FEE to explore further the nature and core of liberty:

While the logical core of liberty in society may be best understood through an economic lens, the history of liberty suggests that the spiritual core of liberty flows from the nature and rights of conscience. As Acton once defined it, “Liberty is the reign of conscience.”

Read the whole post here.

Everyday Asceticism: Get Born

Today at Everyday Asceticism, I reflect on birth as an image of the spiritual life:

For the child in utero, the womb is her world. She catches glimpses of muted light from the world beyond, hears muffled voices, feels softened touches of her mother and father and brother. But she knows very little about that world. Not only is this due to her circumstances, it is also due to her limited cognitive capacity at such an early stage in human development.

To be born means leaving the only world she has ever known and entering one that is utterly alien. It is alien not only with regard to the external environment, but also due to her own heightened senses. Unimaginably more of life is revealed, while at the same time one has a sense of how very little one knows.

Read the whole post here.

Narrative Now! #amwriting #amrevising #amquerying

Reading Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake for my book club, I realized that my manuscript needs the narrative present.

Narrative present (or historical present), is basically what it sounds like: instead of telling a story in the past tense, you write it in the present.


Heathcliff felt discouraged as he walked to the store.


Heathcliff feels discouraged as he walks to the store.

(No, my manuscript does not contain a character named Heathcliff.)

There are important pros and cons to the narrative present, and some have complained that it has been overused in recent years. But it hadn’t even occurred to me to use it until reading Atwood. Continue reading


Ever since I was in high school, I wanted to write fiction. However, in my case at least, the old adage “write what you know” proved paralyzing to my aspirations. I realized that I knew and had experienced little worth writing about. Now in my thirties, that has happily changed.

While, of course, there will be some common themes with my nonfiction work, I hope that even someone who is unsympathetic to my religious, social, and political views can still enjoy my fiction. It is most certainly not meant to be allegorical. On that, I agree wholeheartedly with J.R.R. Tolkien:

I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned – with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.

Fiction, for me, is firstly about the story being told. Hopefully it entertains above all else. If I wanted to argue a point about philosophy, theology, economics, society, or whatnot, I’d write an essay. Stories can certainly engage those things (and mine certainly do), but hopefully they do so in a way that could not otherwise be done. Through stories, our big ideas have to face the challenge of, well, reality. I firmly believe that my stories ought to challenge my own deepest convictions just as much, if not more so, than they illustrate them.

That said, some of my fiction can be found at the links below:

How We Lost the Moon

The Time Traveler

  • An old man approaches David Wells, a young college student, claiming to be his future self. To the old man’s exasperation, David is skeptical.

The Conspiracy

  • This one is a play! Leo becomes suspicious when Daniel and his other friends all seem to be hiding something from him.

The New Fairy Science

  • Two fairies debate the nature of their universe … and science and tradition.

As for commentary on the fiction-writing process, you can read all of my fiction-related blog posts here.


Journal of Markets & Morality

  • I began working at the Acton Institute in 2011 as assistant editor and am now managing editor. Published semi-annually, the journal is a double-blind peer-reviewed, academic journal, focusing on the intersections between faith, freedom, ethics, and economics. The journal’s executive editor is Dr. Jordan Ballor, to whom I owe quite a lot.

Orthodox Christian Social Thought Monograph Series


“Should Religious Leaders Live a Modest Life?” – World Have Your Say, BBC World Service

  • No, I did not expect that my first ever radio appearance would be on the BBC. Fun discussion. Fascinating news story (the “Bishop of Bling”!).

“Can Catholics, Orthodox, and Evangelical Christians Learn from One Another?” – Up For Debate, Moody Radio

  • I joined Up For Debate host Julie Roys on Moody Radio, as well as guests Jay Richards and John Stonestreet, to discuss prospects for ecumenical dialogue.

“What is Fasting?” – The Ride Home with John & Kathy, 101.5 WORD Radio, Pittsburgh.

  • Sometimes the best questions are the most basic. I had a great discussion with John and Kathy on the nature and goals of fasting from a Christian perspective.

“Markets & Monasticism”

  • This is the audio of my 2015 Acton University lecture on the history of monastic enterprise, broadcast on Ancient Faith Radio.

“Introduction to Orthodox Social Thought”

  • This is the audio of my 2015 Acton University lecture on (Eastern) Orthodox Christian social thought, also broadcast on Ancient Faith Radio.

“Star Wars, the Regulatory State and the Moral Virtue of Lando Calrissian” – Watchdog Podcast,

  • Host Eric Boehm invited me to talk about Star Wars, entrepreneurship, and virtue … because I needed to signal to the world not only how big a nerd I am, but in precisely what ways. Of course, it was a lot of fun.



Everyday Asceticism

  • This is my personal blog that focuses on living ancient Christian spirituality in a modern, non-monastic context. I originally created it to give myself a creative outlet unrelated to public policy. I love this kind of writing, and I’d love (hint, hint) to get paid to do more of it.

“The Yeast We Can Do”

  • Published in Touchstone Magazine, this is the first essay I ever had accepted for publication. It focuses on the social benefits of personal spiritual practices. That also encapsulates a common thread to much of my academic work as well.

Social Commentary

My approach to social commentary could accurately be termed “Christian Classical Liberal,” but I’m also okay with the squishy term “moderate.” My author pages at a variety of sites and publications are below:

Acton Institute

Acton PowerBlog

Ethika Politika

The Federalist

First Things

Humane Pursuits

  • I had two essays here listed as “Guest Contributor” as well (1, 2).

Imaginative Conservative

Library of Law & Liberty

Mere Orthodoxy

Public Discourse

Public Orthodoxy

The Stream