Matthew Dow: Why I Front Porch


Here’s Front Porch Board member Matthew Dow on why he does the Front Porch:

The Front Porch is about listening to others.  It’s about dialogue.  It’s about having a conversation, even with different folks from different backgrounds.  It’s about learning from one another.  It’s about community.  Without being religious, it’s about gathering with a group of people and searching and being surprised.  That’s why I am committed to the Front Porch.

The Endless Quest: on religious dissatisfaction and wide-open spiritual seeking

endless quest blog picFront Porch aficionados are, if anything, seekers, endless seekers. That doesn’t mean being weak-willed, indecisive, or unable to commit. Quite the contrary. It means being attentively, thoughtfully, courageously in touch with the way thing are, the way things move and change, hopefully deepening and gaining in wisdom, endlessly. That’s just the way things seem to work in the human condition, unless one inauthentically tries to freeze the process or just gives up on the search.


One of the 20th century’s most distinguished philosophers Alasdair MacIntyre described this kind of seeking as a “quest.” It is a quest that is, “not at all a search for something already adequately characterized…but always an education both as to the character of that which is sought and in self-knowledge.”


Here is a particularly rich example of such a quest, I think, from Joe Klein, a well-known columnist and author. Currently, he writes a weekly column in Time magazine. He is a real favorite of mine, and I try not to miss any of his commentary. Klein has read widely and deeply in social and political theory. Recently he authored a Time cover story on the response of citizens and various organizations and churches to natural disasters in the US. He commented on the remarkable extent to which it seemed that religious organizations and people predominated in coming to the aid of devastated communities.


Apparently that elicited lots of protest from readers who insisted that plenty of non-religious or secular individuals were just as sensitive to human suffering and just as altruistic as religious folk. Of course, they’re right. But Klein still felt that his observations were correct, and that set him to thinking about what it all meant. In response, he wrote the following entry on the Time “Swampland” blog. I found it to be a fascinating example of questing or seeking in our postmodern times, marked by enormous dissatisfaction with established churches and religious dogma and yet a great deal of wide-open spiritual seeking.

Difference and Conversation: The Need for Transcendence in the Postmodern World


132532-VaclavHavelVåclav Havel, who died a little over a year ago, was one of the most remarkable individuals of the last century, or perhaps any century. We (myself–Frank Richardson, Steve Kinney, and several other trouble-making Front Porchers) can’t think any better writings to inaugurate the Front Porch blog library than these two little essays of Havel, “The need for Transcendence in the Postmodern World” and “Forgetting we are not God.” Havel evinced a religious spirit that appealed to thinking Christians and Jews. But he also impressed and intrigued many less religious inclined modern souls with his ideas, perhaps because of his evident deep sincerity, plainspoken prose, and entirely non- dogmatic cast of mind. Here is how I summarized a few of his ideas in a recent article.
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Difference & Conversation: Articulate Thinking


This site intends to post substantial articles from time to time that may foster conversation, learning from one another, civil disagreement, and intellectual stimulation among those associated in any way with The Front Porch.

“Difference & Conversation” will be curated by Frank Richardson.

Here is the link to our first article, written by Frank himself:

FCR BLOG 9_25 – Beyond Dogmatism and Cynicism

Frank Richardson is professor (emeritus) of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. He spent the first half of his career in counseling psychology, the last half of it in a field that goes by the name of theoretical and philosophical psychology. This shift occurred because he became disenchanted with much of academic and professional psychology and, as a result, has spent most of the last 25 years trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff in the social and behavioral sciences. He has published several books and over a hundred articles and chapters. Recently, with a few colleagues in theoretical psychology, he has been investigating several topics in the area of psychology and religion.