Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of a collection of spiritual essays, Grace Notes.


Posts By This Author

Bear Mountain

by Brian Doyle 12-08-2014

Five boys and one quiet honest wry excellent priest. 

A Million Prayers

by Brian Doyle 07-09-2014

And it turned out that they had gone over the million / Prayer mark for our son

Why I Stay in the Church

by Brian Doyle 06-03-2014

A testament of irrational fath and quiet, gracious miracles.

Grief, Courage, and Perseverance

Reflections on stopping gun violence, a year after the massacre in Newtown.

The Bells

by Brian Doyle 12-13-2012
Photo: Church bells at sunset, © Magdalena Bujak /

Photo: Church bells at sunset, © Magdalena Bujak /

Our text this morning, brothers and sisters, is from the inimitable Scottish devout Robert Louis Stevenson, writing (ostensibly) about his native city:

“Indeed, there are not many uproars in this world more dismal than that of the Sabbath bells in Edinburgh: a harsh ecclesial tocsin; the outcry of incongruous orthodoxies, calling on every separate conventicler to put up a protest, each in his own synagogue, against ‘right-hand extremes and left-hand defections.’ And surely there are few worse extremes than this extremity of zeal; and few more deplorable defections than this disloyalty to Christian love. Shakespeare wrote a comedy of ‘Much Ado About Nothing.’ The Scottish nation made a fantastic tragedy on the same subject. And it is for the success of this remarkable piece that these bells are sounded every Sabbath morning on the hills above the Forth. How many of them might rest silent in the steeple, how many of those ugly churches might be demolished and turned once more into useful building materials, if people who think almost exactly the same thoughts about religion would condescend to worship God under the same roof! But there are the chalk lines. And which to pocket pride, and speak the foremost word?”

Which, indeed? 

Let us talk for a minute, blunt and honest and not polite for a change, about that which is never said and ought to be: that the divisions and disagreements among the Christian sects and traditions are silly and selfish.