Phil Vollman Speaks

Let me blurt for a moment…

Category: Uncategorized

In Defense Of English Majors

Thought Catalog

I recently read that English Lit was the seventh most worthless major you could pick in college.

I loved being an English major. I think it was the second best decision I ever made in college. The absolute best decision I ever made in college was swearing off tequila forever. I don’t care if I win a Pulitzer, that still won’t make majoring in English the best decision I ever made. I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to be an English major. I was exposed to so many great and wondrous things across the entire spectrum of art. I’ve read more prescient works than most people could even imagine. I’ve been able to debate and discuss without any fear of repercussion with some absolutely finest scholars in the country and some of the most brilliant professors I could imagine. And no matter what – if I defended…

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How evangelicals won a culture war and lost a generation

CNN Belief Blog

Opinion by  Rachel Held Evans , special to CNN

(CNN) — On March 24, World Vision announced that the U.S. branch of the popular humanitarian organization would no longer discriminate against employees in same-sex marriages.

It was a decision that surprised many but one that made sense, given the organization’s ecumenical nature.

But on March 26, World Vision President Richard Stearns reversed the decision, stating, “our board acknowledged that the policy change we made was a mistake.”

Supporters helped the aid group “see that with more clarity,” Stearns added, “and we’re asking you to forgive us for that mistake.”

So what happened within those 48 hours to cause such a sudden reversal?

The Evangelical Machine kicked into gear.

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The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys)

Pippa Biddle

White people aren’t told that the color of their skin is a problem very often. We sail through police check points, don’t garner sideways glances in affluent neighborhoods, and are generally understood to be predispositioned for success based on a physical characteristic (the color of our skin) we have little control over beyond sunscreen and tanning oil.

After six years of working in and traveling through a number of different countries where white people are in the numerical minority, I’ve come to realize that there is one place being white is not only a hindrance, but negative –  most of the developing world.

Removing rocks from buckets of beans in Tanzania. Removing rocks from buckets of beans in Tanzania.

In high school, I travelled to Tanzania as part of a school trip. There were 14 white girls, 1 black girl who, to her frustration, was called white by almost everyone we met in Tanzania, and a few teachers/chaperones…

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Non-Proselytizing Evangelism: Returning To The Roots Of Anglican-Episcopal Tradition and the Incarnational Heart Of Christianity

Paradoxical Thoughts

This article was recently published in the e-magazie Witness6.7 — click here for more.

Non-Proselytizing Evangelism…. It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but in reality it is a highly effective, authentically Anglican, way to bring all sorts and conditions of people into the embrace of the love of Jesus Christ.

525 - Ashes to Go 2The idea that evangelism could take place without proselytizing began to take root in the minds of our church planting team as we prepared to launch a new mission congregation from the ashes of a previous mission, a somewhat conservative congregation that had disintegrated in conflict over ostensibly theological differences over human sexuality two years earlier, after demonstrating initial rapid growth. Because our core congregation contained some former members – though none of the founders – of the disbanded mission, we decided that we would learn from the failure of that previous effort rather than ignore it, as…

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Winning Your Twenties

Thought Catalog

Some people don’t know how to be a friend or a lover. Their insecurities and narcissism prevent them from ever establishing a meaningful connection with someone. I used to find it strange that the most insecure people could also be the most self-absorbed. Doesn’t that seem contradictory? If you don’t like yourself, why be so focused on…you? But now all of it makes perfect sense. So many people are just soooo in love with their neuroses that they can’t be bothered to look outside of themselves. They often complain about being single and wanting a partner but they don’t think about what that actually entails. They don’t realize that good love requires selflessness. It’s not about you anymore. In fact, falling in love with someone is one of the least selfish things you could do and that’s why so many people are alone. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been alone.


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Lazy Days (No, not the Enya song)

Lazy days are simultaneously amazing and terrible. On one hand, I get to spend day in bed catching up on Arrested Development and stuffing extra buttery popcorn in my face. I don’t have to open Outlook, and I don’t have to think of anything witty to post on social media. In the darkness of my room, I’m able to place myself in the world of cable television. I’m freed from any obligations I might have, and I’m not plagued by the existential dread I often feel when I’m stressed.

Unfortunately, a lazy day is enjoyable at the cost of the following day, and my self-esteem. Lazy days are so nice because they can’t happen every day…because, if they did happen every day, I’d be horrifically out of shape and bereft of any money. Checking my inbox to see annoyed emails from my parents and manager isn’t pleasant. It’s even worse when I realize I forgot to turn in homework that was due during my lazy day. My self-esteem also takes a hit when I wonder if I’m naturally lazy—if that’s my default state. Maybe I don’t deserve a rewarding job because I’m inherently lazy.

Mental health days are necessary to my being able to work and socialize with other people. I’m an introvert, and even chatting with my manager can be a little stressful. Sometimes, pressing the pause button on life has unintended consequences that can take weeks to repair.


On Repeat

Is it because I love a song, or because I despise it, that I’ve listened to it 70 times today? Am I trying to purge it from system or unite it with my being? Why do I let myself be drawn into cheesy contemp-Christian music, and why to I blast Ke$ha, creating a nightclub only I’m privy to?

What is it about music, and the increasingly isolated relationship I have with it, that makes mantras from my playlists? Perhaps there is a beauty to repetition; stasis as a freeing agent; change ensnares me, and I don’t like that.

But it’s hackneyed to revel in dated and classless music. And perhaps that’s why I’m putting songs like “Hem of Your Robe” and “We R Who We R”  on repeat: I don’t want to be a part of the Pitchfork process of searching for and pretending to enjoy music I can’t or don’t want to understand. 

Author’s Note:

I’ve not written anything in two months, so I apologize if this makes no sense.

We Will No Longer be a Welcoming Church

“‘Inviting,’ however, is different. That means we leave the comfort of our congregational home-court advantage. The main activity doesn’t happen in our worship space when people drop in, but in the neighborhood when we go out. It isn’t so much welcoming them into our place, but going out into their place and meeting them there.”

Neighborhood Church

We’ve decided to quit being a welcoming church. No kidding. We’re giving it up. It won’t be easy, but we’re committed to it. We’ll have to do it in stages, easing our folks into it step by step. We’ll have to deal with the fear of something new, the challenge of venturing into the unknown. But we’ll do it. It will take motivation, leadership, and constant reminders. But most importantly, it will take total commitment in embracing a new focus.

Like so many churches, we’ve sunk an amazing amount of time and energy into becoming a welcoming church. We changed worship styles, we trained greeters and ushers, we wore name tags, we percolated coffee, we went to workshops on hospitality, we put our friendliest people in the most prominent places on Sunday mornings. But we’ve realized we’ve been misplacing our emphasis. So we’re no longer going to do it.


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T-Shirt Trouble

Today, I accosted a female student at my school. As she cranked a cereal dispenser, filling a stoneware bowl with Special-K, I asked her what the copy on her bright pink t-shirt was proclaiming. I calmly explained that I didn’t want to be construed as looking at her breasts, when I was piecing together the words and phrases on her shirt. As I made this clear, I realized that I had gone a step too far. The t-shirt, which advertised a student leadership conference, spoke of inequality and power dynamics. Mind you, it was no essay, but it had significantly more text than many other tees I’d glanced at before. After she very briefly outlined the copy to me, she glared at me and swung away.

            I’m supposed to be a male feminist, or a progressive Democrat, or a justice-mined Christian, but it so turns out that I fall into the stereotype of a misogynistic gay man more than I want to admit. I’m still not quite sure what I did wrong, and I’m not annoyed that she gave me the ‘stink-eye’ for my unwanted attention, but I can’t help but feel like I violated something by actively trying not to. I know that there are a great deal of double standards for women; does this faux pas with the t-shirt fall into one of those double standards.


I post this to create discussion, so please civilly reply in the comments.

Long Tables

Long Tables


Long tables, false nostalgia for the middle ages.

Long tables: expectations of merriment fade.

Long table at the dining hall; it’s empty, save me.

Bit battered on the sides, a resilient top (varnished?)

Scores of students at 7pm… too many, yes. At 7 am,

Scarce to find a single person willing to sit at the middling

Feature of the room. There was a girl, she looked plain,

Plainly unhappy. At the long table I tried to read her secrets,

And I was rebuffed, at the long table. I supposed long tables

Make long faced students of us all.