Welcome to The Square Inch, my weekly newsletter! I am Brian Mattson. I began this endeavor in April of 2020 and have delivered it nearly every week since. I am glad you’re here. Let me explain a bit about this platform.

I endeavor to bring sharp insight to a wide variety of interesting cultural topics, but I must forewarn you:

You may ask yourself: “Brian, somebody somewhere said something wrong on their social media account. Could you provide me a snarky comeback or at least stoke my personal outrage?”

No.

“Okay, Brian,” you may continue, “will you at least insistently stand with the Resistance™ and call out our loathsome President for his manifold catastrophic failures?”

No.

“Well, then at least you must tell us about every ‘fake news’ story peddled by the Lamestream media, right?”

No.

“Come on. Whose side are you on, anyway?”

Politics and media and “sides” are not altogether uninteresting or unimportant. Don’t take this as me trying to strike a snooty “above it all” pose. But let’s be honest: there is plenty of commentary—and outrage—available to scratch those itches. In fact, we are so inundated by silly memes and clickbait and people trying to convince us that at every waking moment there is an ongoing life-and-death struggle with “them” (defined in so many ways) that I simply lack interest in traveling that lane.

“You know what I’m craving?” asks food critic Anton Ego in Pixar’s Ratatouille: “A little perspective. That’s it! I’d like some fresh, clear, well-seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?”

I am by training a theologian, and one of the greatest things about Christian theology is the perspective it provides. The Bible is, after all, a complete story with a “Once upon a time” (Genesis 1-2), a conflict (Genesis 3), a battle (Good Friday), a victory (Easter), and a “happily ever after” (Revelation 22). This wide cosmic sweep has a way of framing our lives, our times, and our cultures in proper perspective. Standing “within” that grand story (and we are standing in it!) gives us insight into the bewildering realities of modern 21st century life; shows order in the chaos, method in the madness: “For with you, O Lord, is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

Why The Square Inch?

I am glad you asked. The name is inspired by the great Dutch theologian, churchman, journalist, and statesman Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), who famously said:

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!

That is a power-packed statement about the Lordship of Jesus Christ worth taking some time to mull over. I suggest going over it word by word. But even more, it is an inspiring call for us to see every square inch in every domain as something Jesus claims as his own. He cares about it. He has purposes and expectations for it. That means, yes, the dominating issues of our day (heavy on politics and media), but also everything else. Of course, it isn’t possible to exhaustively write about “Life, the Universe, & Everything” (as Douglas Adams puts it), so this newsletter will focus on the various “square inches” that interest me. It might be grand or it might be mundane. There is no prefabricated formula. I enjoy ideas, family, food, baseball, Montana, fishing, books, music, and much more.

I promise to try to write about those things in a lively and entertaining way.

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The Square Inch Newsletter is now a paid subscription feature ($7.95 per month / $79.95 annual). Free subscribers will generally receive a “preview” of posts. Subscribers receive the flagship Friday newsletter, The Quarter Inch, a midweek “current events” newsletter, and two occasional, roving newsletters: Off The Shelf (books) and Pipe & Dram (scholarly/academic musings). I hope you’ll consider subscribing to the whole production!

[To find out more about the company that provides the tech for this newsletter, visit Substack.com.]

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Weekly thoughts on Christianity and culture.

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