An Introduction to this Series of Essays

The famous German Evangelical theologian, Karl Barth, was once asked how he prepared his sermons. He is said to have answered that he sat down with both the Bible and a newspaper on his table during his morning coffee and began to write.

While this author is neither "Evangelical" (even in the German Lutheran sense of that term), nor famous, still the same idea applies here. Only I try to draw not only just on Sacred Scripture, but on the whole Christian, and especially Catholic theological tradition and its history, as well as on what I know of the thought of other religions and their histories for my theological and ethical reflections.

Although a few of the articles contained here may have had to pitch-hit for an occasional Sunday sermon, the vast majority of them were written for the editorial page of the Gaylord Herald Times, a local bi-weekly newspaper published here in northern lower Michigan. Either that, or else they were emailed to friends -- now maybe ex-friends after they read some of my more controversial opinions. Politics are the where the tires of religion and ethics meet the highway of public or everyday life. Accordingly, these articles are not meant to be particularly "inspirational". In fact, part of the deal with the local editor was that they not be relegated to the weekly "Religion" page. In turn, I was asked to try to limit them to 500-600 words in length.

Back in 2008, about 120 of the articles, all but three written beginning in late 1999, were chosen to be published by Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD) in their Lexington Books division in a volume titled Views from a Hermitage: Reflections on Religion in Today's World. However, since that collection has gone out of print,  I have reacquired the copyrights, and have continued to add new essays to this site – with some of the most recent appearing as “blog” contributions in the “Religion” department of Huffington Post.  

The reader will probably note, as he or she looks down through the index of articles, beginning with the latest addition on down to the very first article back in 1999, that the same topics occasionally are revisited. Here the reader might detect an occasional change or shift in perspective over the years. The reader may also see the same topic (for example, America's involvement in the Middle East in various ways) preoccupying my attention for an extended period of time.

In this latter respect, writing these short pieces has been a real test. Trained as an academic, it takes real discipline and occasional ruthlessness to force myself to say what most needs to be said in that small of space. This often means leaving aside all that which might also be included, often about matters that are quite complex.

Whether or not any of these newer essays will be reprinted in book form remains to be seen (I have been currently working on producing a Amazon Kindle edition). But I would invite the reader to submit further titles or topics for possible inclusion, as well as call to my attention any typos or grammatical -- or even factual -- mistakes.

Although copyright law is generally interpreted as permitting quotations up to 300 words in length without getting the author or copyright holder's permission, I would appreciate it if anyone desiring to reproduce any of these articles for further distribution would notify me first. Who knows? -- I might also wish to alter my opinion, or write still another piece on the subject!

R. W. Kropf

Montmorency County, Michigan, USA

January 30, 2014

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