Hebraism Redoubled

From the January 2014 Print Edition

The blow to Christian egos may not be such a bad thing. Christians, particularly those in the West who are heirs to many centuries of political and cultural dominance, must learn to contend with shrinking influence and growing marginalization, even vilification, where they once enjoyed a high, even dominant, status. But the general cultural decline it betokens is a far more serious matter. So contends Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and some of the most powerful parts of his lecture, particularly in the final third or so of his text, testify to the depth of his conviction.Sacks offers Jeremiah’s words as a starting place for Christians as well as Jews to respond to that decline. He interprets Jeremiah as introducing to human history, through the Jews, the idea of a creative minority devoted to the common good, congenitally averse to the wielding of domineering political power. In Jeremiah’s day, he argues, the Jews had been punished with exile for forgetting this idea, for becoming “obsessed” with politics and worshiping power. Sacks argues that the mission of Jews throughout history is to stand for the principle that religion should never be used to empower dominant majorities or to undermine the principles of diversity and particularity. Continue Reading »

The Living City

From the December 2011 Print Edition

Works of social criticism often do not wear well, and even the best of them tend to fade in interest by their fiftieth birthday. Either the tools of analysis change, or the conditions being analyzed, and very often both. Once-essential works become strictly historical documents, artifacts giving . . . . Continue Reading »

The Moral Economy of Guilt

From the May 2011 Print Edition

In his grand and gloomy book Civilization and Its Discontents , Sigmund Freud identified the tenacious sense of guilt as “the most important problem in the development of civilization.” In fact, he continued, it seems that “the price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss . . . . Continue Reading »

Whig History at Eighty

From the March 2011 Print Edition

It is odd that in the many recent discussions about what it might mean to pursue a more self-consciously “Christian” approach to scholarship, debates that were given fresh urgency over a decade ago by George Marsden’s book The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship , the name of . . . . Continue Reading »

Keeping Time

From the June/July 2009 Print Edition

A Time to Keep Silence by Patrick Leigh Fermor New York Review Books, 112 pages, $12.95 paper One of the most memorable films of the decade was also one of the most countercultural: Philip Gröning’s 2005 Into Great Silence . This severely unadorned, unnarrated, and unsoundtracked . . . . Continue Reading »

Mediating Institutions

From the April 2009 Print Edition

To Empower People: From State to Civil Society Twentieth Anniversary ­Edition by Richard John Neuhaus and Peter Berger American Enterprise Institute, 244 pages, $25 Because Richard John Neuhaus was so prolific, and his interests were so amazingly broad and diverse, even his most devoted . . . . Continue Reading »

The Danger of Abstract Words

From Web Exclusives

We have a chronic problem in America with abstract words. We cannot do without them, since they are carriers of our highest ideals and aspirations: “justice,” “democracy,” “dignity,” “liberty.” But it is for precisely this reason that we should beware of them, . . . . Continue Reading »