Thursday, December 5, 2013, 9:00 AM
Thursday, December 5, 2013, 7:10 AM
When Cardinal Jorge Borgoglio became Francis I there was a ripple of excitement that ran through parts of the Pentecostal community. This excitement was related to then Cardinal Borgoglio’s actions in Argentina as represented in the picture of prayers being offered for him by Raniero Cantalamessa who has been so important to the Catholic Charismatic movement and by Norberto Saracco, a Pentecostal who directs the Facultad Internacional de Educación Teológica in Buenos Aires.
Recently, Pope Francis has had private audiences with leaders in the Catholic Charismatic renewal, including Matteo Calisi, past president of the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships; Michelle Moran, president of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services; and Salvatore Martinez, president of the Italian Catholic Charismatic organization Rinnovamento nello Spirito. He has also stated in the interview during his return from Rio de Janeiro that the Charismatic renewal renews the church, and recently reminded the 15,000 persons present at the 36th National Assembly of Catholic Charismatics in Rimini that he was responsible for the Charismatic renewal in Argentina. These are all encouraging signs.
His first apostolic exhortation offers many reasons to remain excited about his papacy although I will mention three points that seem particularly important for Pentecostals.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013, 5:00 PM
Over at Postmodern Conservative, Pete Spiliakos is still pondering the problems Scott Walker 2016 may face.
Peter Leithart is reading about: the Puritans (more here), ecclesiology.
Tips from Dr. Boli: “An ordinary automobile will consume 6% less fuel if you name it Jeremy.”
Here at First Thoughts, David Mills has some words for the people who are just asking questions (that for some reason are always about Jews). And Carl R. Trueman asks: “Is journalism no longer considered a legitimate Christian calling?”
And On the Square today, George Weigel praises Peter Flanigan, while Justin E. H. Smith thinks Terrence Malick is a little too mainstream.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013, 2:45 PM
A couple of recent events have highlighted one or two of the peculiarities of the subculture of American Christianity, specifically evangelical Christianity. First, Ergun Caner is suing a couple of pastors in an attempt to keep some material pertaining to his life from being published on the internet. Second, talk show host Janet Mefferd accused megachurch pastor, Mark Driscoll, of plagiarism (as noted by Collin Garbarino on First Thoughts last week). Earlier today, the pertinent material compiled by Ms. Mefferd mysteriously vanished from her website. (more…)
Wednesday, December 4, 2013, 1:26 PM
“Why are we compelled to dismiss him simply because the truth regarding the history of Zionism may be uncomfortable?” protests a commenter on reading my Greek Archbishop Speaks, Doesn’t Help. He argues that the criticism of the archbishop’s words—mine and the Greek Orthodox Church in America’s—only expresses a different understanding of history from his.
How do we know that what he [the archbishop] has said isn’t true? Are we to dismiss it as untrue simply because it is critical of Zionism and therefore would seem counterproductive to the cause of ecumenical relations between Christians and Zionists? It would appear that Mr. Mills et al and the Archbishop adhere to historical narratives at odds with each other regarding the history of the Zionist movement. Does it not then become a question of fact? Why are we compelled to dismiss him simply because the truth regarding the history of Zionism may be uncomfortable?
This all sounds quite reasonable. History can be read in different ways, we don’t know everything, what facts we do have can be put together in different ways, some of us are too influenced by the mainstream view, which eventually changes anyway, and so on. It seems reasonable to think that the archbishop and I just see the history of Zionism differently.
If you don’t know what the archbishop said—and the commenter did. Archbishop Seraphim of Peraeus said: “Adolf Hitler was an instrument of world Zionism and was financed from the renowned Rothschild family with the sole purpose of convincing the Jews to leave the shores of Europe and go to Israel to establish the new Empire.” The Holocaust, in other words, was the result of a Jewish plot to create a Jewish empire. Seraphim’s clarification, as I pointed out, didn’t make things any better.
“Please don’t label me an anti-Semite simply for asking these questions,” the commenter asks. “I don’t know if what the Archbishop said is true or not, but as a mere observer, it is frustrating to learn from Mr. Mills that certain ideas are dismissed out of hand simply because they might cause offence.” (Which is not, by the way, what I argued. I said the archbishop’s ideas should be condemned because they’re lunatic and bigoted.)
It is the line the shrewder Holocaust deniers and revisionists and others of that sort always use. They’re not anti-Semites, oh no no no, they’re just asking questions, probing the evidence, raising matters for consideration, exploring anomalies in the data, pointing out problems with the dominant narrative—just being good (if continually misunderstood) historians.
One tends not to believe them. There are some stories about which to claim, or to feign, agnosticism is to advance a lie. Hitler the instrument of world Zionism is one of them. This leaves us asking why such people claim, or feign, agnosticism about such stories, which are so often stories about Jews. Why these stories in particular? Anti-semitism is one obvious answer.
Update: A note from a friend prompted me to a quick web search, which led me to remembering that one of the main Holocaust-denying groups is called the Institute for Historical Research. See paragraph five above.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013, 9:00 AM
Beauty and Truth, Laughter and Memory
Peter Makuck, Hudson Review
How the NSA Enables Privacy
Jonathan Askonas, Fare Forward
The Boomer Bust
P. J. O’Rourke, Wall Street Journal
Here Be Monsters
Maria Warner, New York Review of Books
Bad Jeeves Fanfiction
Isaac Chotiner, New Republic
Tuesday, December 3, 2013, 5:01 PM
Yesterday, December 2, Lawrence Kudlow hosted our editor, R. R. Reno, and PovertyCure director and Acton Research Fellow, Michael Matheson Miller, on CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report” to discuss capitalism and Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. It’s important, Reno noted, to always keep in mind that the fundamental purpose of human life is not simply material:
I think we have to be sure we don’t fight the last war. It seems to be that Pope Francis is responding to the fact that global capitalism is triumphant and we have to deal with its limitations and its excesses and that’s going to require something more than just free market measures. . . . Because if we’ve become too ra-ra about capitalism, what we’re really saying is that wealth creation, which capitalism is supremely good at doing, is really the be-all and end-all of human life. And that reinforces the secularist mentality.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013, 5:00 PM
Happy Tuesday! Here’s what we have for you today.
The Puritans did not have “art,” in the modern sense, says Maureen Mullarkey—just beauty.
Peter Leithart is reading about: Dickens, Auerbach, Joban complaints, Abraham, and cinematic sex.
Here at First Thoughts, we have Dale M. Coulter on immigration: “Given the doctrine of creation, Christians have always respected the rule of law where law refers not primarily to civil laws, but to the eternal law.”
On the Square today, Henry Olsen reminds Republicans to care for regular people, while Dylan Pahman reminds the Ecumenical Patriarch of . . . well . . . the same thing.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013, 9:00 AM
The Tridentine Masterpiece
Donald S. Prudlo, Crisis
Non-Celibates Writing about Celibacy
James Martin, America
Terry Eagleton, London Review of Books
A Call to Individuals
Robert W. Patterson, Philadelphia Inquirer
Alan Jacobs, Books & Culture
Tuesday, December 3, 2013, 7:15 AM
I’ve always been struck by the ascription of philanthropia to God in Titus 3:4. God is a lover of humanity. Philanthropia is also closely associated with humanitas, as Jerome understood when he employed the Latin term in his translation of the verse. God’s love for humanity is an expression of a genuine humanism, the humanism of God. This lavish claim fits well with what is said in Titus 2 that the “grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all humanity” (v. 11). It is difficult to escape the universality of this humanism as nothing less than the appearance of a grace for all. It echoes the Johannine declaration that “for God so loved he gave.”
Moreover, there is a close relationship between being a lover of humanity and practicing hospitality as a manifestation of love for the stranger or alien (philoxenias). We are admonished to love the stranger in Hebrews 13:2 just shortly after the exhortation to love one’s fellow believers (philadelphia). The author of 1 Clement (10-12) constructs a cloud of witnesses around hospitality, noting that Abraham was called “the friend” (ho philos) because of his hospitality and faith. Grounded in the hospitality Abraham gave to the three visitors, Rublev’s great icon of the Trinity beautifully captures God’s humanism and hospitality.
These ideas come to mind when I think about the evangelicos who cross the Sonoran Desert in shirts emblazoned with the words resucito, or Catholics who journey with prayer cards and rosaries in hand. The church’s mission in the world is both a form of humanism and an extension of hospitality. It also reminds us that the church approaches civil laws that govern societies in light of its understanding of the God who stands behind creation and redemption. (more…)
Monday, December 2, 2013, 5:00 PM
Happy Monday-after-Thanksgiving! Here’s what we put up for you to read over the weekend:
Over at Postmodern Conservative, Peter Lawler thinks about football (“it’s sobering to know that the location of football excellence in our country . . . is now in the particular state of Alabama”) along with Marc Chagall (previously featured here), a thread that is picked up by Carl Scott here. Meanwhile, Pete Spiliakos wonders about a Scott Walker presidency, Carl Scott wants to know WWJMR, Peter Lawler watches teen movies, and James Ceasar has a list of presidents he prefers to Obama: James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding, and . . . Jimmy Carter.
Maureen Mullarkey posted something beautiful for Thanksgiving.
Read Peter Leithart on: addiction, revolution, the Trinity, criticism of criticism, and being.
Dr. Boli goes to the opera (“Giuditta tells the story of the doomed love affair between Octavio . . . and Giuditta, a beautiful woman with the brains of a gerbil”), observes Thanksgiving customs all over the world, teaches us history, and writes a play. He also brings us two new installments of the Illustrated Edition (one, two).
Here at First Thoughts, Gene Fant watches Frozen, Carl R. Treuman thinks Virgil is probably worth it, David Mills takes on people who have lost the standing to speak, Collin Garbarino has a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarists . . . and Robert P. George points out that while recipients of national honors will always annoy somebody, Bill Clinton was a particularly annoying choice.
On the Square today, Timothy George talks about his short friendship with Bishop Sarah Frances Davis, and R. R. Reno writes on Pope Francis, populist.
Monday, December 2, 2013, 11:00 AM
This past weekend my family joined scores of others in attending a screening of Frozen, Disney’s latest “princess” movie. The story is a substantial reworking of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. We were there with the youngest of our clan, who were prime targets for this sort of breezy, musical entertainment.
I am not much of an aficionado of these films, as I have grown weary of the entire “follow your heart” mantra of so many of their ilk. Indeed, in Frozen, one of the primary characters is harmed gravely and the means of healing is sought desperately. A proposed solution: “true love’s kiss.” When this was uttered, I groaned out loud, as did several other adults near me. I’m sure I rolled my eyes as well.
Yes, yes, very nice. The answer to society’s problems is obvious: not enough people following their hearts or running around kissing strangers. (I would counter that Jeremiah 17:9 holds a more accurate view of what is wrong with us.)
As Frozen’s climax unfolds, however, the solution is neither a kiss nor a pursuit of the heart. It’s a semi-prophetic, selfless act that ends up requiring one character’s sacrificial death.
The film’s world had been plunged into the deepest darkness of winter, families were torn apart, evil was sneering and shameless, everything was falling apart and when the young woman dies, it looks like all is lost. Then something amazing happens: We realize that her death was the antidote for all that was wrong. She returns to life. And spring returns. And relationships are healed. And evil is exposed and brought to justice. And joy returns. In our theater, the audience erupted into cheers.
I was dumbfounded by the movie’s final twenty or so minutes. It was an astoundingly clear parable of the Christian Gospel, perhaps even superior to that of the Stone Table scene in the first Narnia film in terms of simplicity and clarity. (more…)
Monday, December 2, 2013, 10:30 AM
An event that readers in Washington, D.C., may find of interest:
CSF president Carl B. Schmitt, Jr. will be speaking this Monday evening about his father’s art, life, and thought at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, DC. Copies of the book Carl Schmitt: The Vision of Beauty will be available for sale. If you are in the DC area, this is an event not to be missed!
The event will take place on Monday, December 1, at 6 pm, at the Catholic Information Center, 1501 K Street NW, Washington, DC, just off McPherson Square. For more information, visit the CIC website, or sign up at the event Facebook page here.
A Google preview of the book Carl Schmitt: The Vision of Beauty can be found here, and you may purchase the book online here.
As Fr. George Rutler has noted, “Carl Schmitt was a master. His art has inspired me, as it must anyone who reads this book.”
Monday, December 2, 2013, 10:00 AM
Peter Jones, distinguished classicist and “Ancient and Modern” columnist for The Spectator has published (just in time for Christmas in the UK, at least) an entertaining new book on ancient Rome: Veni, Vidi, Vici: Everything you ever wanted to know about the Romans but were afraid to ask. It is that rare kind of book: light but learned, an ideal bedside read.
Monday, December 2, 2013, 9:00 AM
Responses to the Pew Report on American Jewry
Michael Lerner, et. al., Tikkun
Holy High Rollers
Randall Stephens, Wilson Quarterly
Whatever Happened to Male Friendship?
Brandon McGinley, Acculturated
A Corporatist Mandate
Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner
Brian Lapsa, Clarion Review
Friday, November 29, 2013, 4:30 PM
For those interested in this debate, Lutheran Anthony Sacramone asks Why Calvin and Not Luther? and Darryl, or D. G., Hart responds with Now Lutherans are Tightening My Jaws.
Friday, November 29, 2013, 3:20 PM
The Archbishop of Piraeus, Seraphim, has called for the excommunication of Greek MPs who vote for same-sex partnerships, which the European Court of Human Rights has required the country to implement. The news stories I found were uniformly critical to hostile, and none quoted him at any length, so what exactly he said and how good his arguments were can’t be decided.
Whatever one thinks of the archbishop’s declaration, however, there are some people who just shouldn’t speak in public because they’ve lost the respect necessary to be heard. The archbishop had previously (in December 2010) told a Greek television show “Adolf Hitler was an instrument of world Zionism and was financed from the renowned Rothschild family with the sole purpose of convincing the Jews to leave the shores of Europe and go to Israel to establish the new Empire.” The Greek Orthodox Church in America condemned his statement as “gravely offensive and totally unacceptable.”
His clarification did not help. After explaining that his views are his own and that “I respect, revere, and love the Jewish people,” he continued:
My public vehement opposition against International Zionism refers to the organ that is the successor of the “Sanhedrin” which altered the faith of the Patriarchs, the Prophets and the Righteous of the Jewish nation through the Talmud, the Rabbinical writings and the Kabbalah into Satanism, and always strives vigorously towards an economic empire set up throughout the world with headquarters in the great land beyond the Atlantic for the prevalence of world government and pan-religion.
One can’t say that sort of thing and expect to be listened to again. In this case, he’s made it particularly easy for homosexualist partisans to equate opposition to the political approval of homosexuality with lunatic bigotry.
Friday, November 29, 2013, 9:31 AM
Mega-church pastor Mark Driscoll just can’t seem to avoid controversy. He’s crass and brash, and he says outrageous things. He’s always making some Christian somewhere uncomfortable. This time, however, it’s not about the words that he’s said. It’s that he’s claimed the words that other people have said.
On November 21, Janet Mefferd, a radio host, accused Driscoll of plagiarism. She pointed out that passages from his new book, A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?, reproduce ideas from a book by Peter Jones published in 1999, Gospel Truth/Pagan Lies: Can You Tell the Difference? Driscoll blew off her assertion. Mefferd has uploaded a comparison of the similar passages, along with some other suspect passages, here.
If I had come across the Call to Resurgence passage, I’d have been concerned about the lack of citation, but I might have just shrugged it off as ineptitude.
Some of the other evidence that Mefferd found is more damning. In a book on First and Second Peter published by Mars Hill Church, Driscoll lifts whole paragraphs almost word-for-word from the entry on First Peter in the New Bible Commentary, published by IVP in 1994. These passages are at the end of the previous link, and Mefferd provides additional passages here.
I’m a university professor. I have no tolerance for this kind of nonsense. I’ve failed students for less flagrant plagiarism. So, it’s my duty, as a member of my professing profession, to give Driscoll an “F.”
Mark Driscoll, you have failed.
I’ve dealt with a number of plagiarists, and it seems to me that plagiarism stems from two issues. I’ll let you decide which problem Driscoll suffers from, because there obviously is a problem.
1. Laziness. Writing is hard work, so some writers don’t want to do it right. Laziness also leads to procrastination. Getting behind schedule causes writers to cut corners and plagiarize.
2. Ignorance. I don’t mean ignorance of the conventions of proper citation. Everyone knows not to steal other people’s words. I mean ignorance of the topic. Sometimes people plagiarize because they are incompetent. They don’t know enough about their topic to ask interesting questions and provide interesting answers. Thus they must regurgitate what someone else has done. Becoming competent would take too much work (see reason one), and admitting incompetence would be embarrassing.
Unfortunately, this kind of thing is pretty common in Christian publishing. I remember when I was in seminary I came across a couple of paragraphs in a new commentary that had been lifted word-for-word from a very old commentary. I told my professor about it, and he shook his head sadly. He said, “I know that author. I can’t believe he did that.” We didn’t have blogs back then. It was much more difficult to “out” the plagiarists.
Of course, perhaps Driscoll isn’t a plagiarist. Maybe he employed a ghostwriter who is a plagiarist. It’d be convenient to have a scapegoat right now. But even if it was his ghostwriter, I’ll still fail him because we university professors don’t actually approve of ghostwriting. I know it’s typical in Christian publishing, but it’s still lying. Ghostwriting is lying, and plagiarism is stealing, and there seems to be a lot of it going around.
I’m sorry, Pastor Mark, but I don’t give extra credit. You’ll be stuck with the grade you’ve earned on this one.
(And because it’s always important to cite your sources, I give Jonathan Merritt the HT for this one.)
Wednesday, November 27, 2013, 8:44 PM
Presidents have it in their gift to honor civilians who have served the nation with distinction with prestigious medals that are conferred at White House ceremonies. Of course, there is bound to be controversy about whom presidents choose to honor. In particular, one can hardly expect universal acclaim when presidents honor people who are strongly associated with causes about which the American people are divided. People on the left will be offended when people on the right receive presidential medals, and vice versa.
Naturally, presidents’ ideas about who has served the nation with distinction will be shaped by their beliefs about which causes are good and which are bad. So I am not shocked or scandalized by President Obama’s decision to confer the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest of honors that can be conferred on civilians—on Gloria Steinem, for example. Her aggressive advocacy of abortion (among other liberal causes) strikes the President as a good thing, because he believes that making abortion legal, making it as widely available as possible, and financing it with taxpayer money are all good things. I disagree, but I’m not the President. Barack Obama is the President. As President, he has the right to award presidential medals based on his own best judgments of good and bad, right and wrong, justice and injustice.
So I’m not complaining—about that.
I am complaining, however, about the President’s decision to confer the Medal of Freedom on William Jefferson Clinton. This is indefensible. President Clinton disgraced the office that he held and Barack Obama now holds. The less important dimension of this disgracing of the presidency was Clinton’s carrying on a sordid affair with a White House intern. The more important dimensions were his lying to the American people, his perjury, and his obstruction of justice. For the latter two offenses, he was impeached by the House of Representatives. Although he survived a Senate trial that would have removed him from office, the state in which he was licensed to practice law (Arkansas) punished his offenses against the system of justice he was sworn to uphold with a suspension of his law license.
To me, it was scandalous for President Obama to honor such a man with the nation’s highest civilian award—or any award. This is not a case of honoring someone for service to a cause (for example, abortion) that some people, including the President, think is good and I and others think is bad. It is a case of honoring a man who shamefully dishonored the high office entrusted to him by the American people by a series of acts that are not defended—and cannot be defended—by anyone.
Some of my fellow pro-lifers will say that what Steinem advocates (the taking of innocent human life) is far worse than what Clinton did (the affair, the lying, the perjury, the obstruction of justice). I agree. So if I were president, there is zero chance that Gloria Steinem would get a medal of any kind. But again, I am not president. The American people (to my inestimable regret) elected Barack Obama to that office. Elections have consequences. As president, he has the right to confer medals on people who, in his judgment, have served the nation with distinction by championing causes that are, again in his judgment, good ones. So if there is a scandal, it is in Obama’s extreme pro-abortionism (see here, here, and here)—the extremism that causes him to believe that a person like Gloria Steinem deserves to be honored by the nation. Given his beliefs about abortion, however misguided, his giving the medal to Steinem makes perfect sense.
Consider how different the situation is with Clinton, however. President Obama doesn’t say (and, I must assume, doesn’t believe) that having affairs with White House interns, lying to the American people, testifying falsely under oath, suborning the perjury of others, hiding evidence from courts, and the like are good things. (By the way, I won’t even go into the corrupt pardons—Mark Rich and the rest—since there is no need to pile on.) He knows that they are bad things. And when done by a person sworn “faithfully to execute the laws,” and most especially when done by the chief executive of the United States, they are an outrage and an utter disgrace. (I realize that Obama himself has rather flagrantly lied to the American people about healthcare and Benghazi, but lay that aside for the moment.) That doesn’t mean we need to hound Bill Clinton. And his offenses are by no means unforgiveable (after all, we are all sinners and have fallen short). But for heaven’s sake, it does mean that his successors should not be conferring the nation’s highest civilian honors on him. Just as elections have consequences, criminal acts performed while serving as President of the United States have consequences—or should have.
I do not deny that a person can be great—and merit high honors—despite moral lapses. But even if Bill Clinton were truly repentant—which, as far as I am aware, we have no reason to suppose—and even if he were great—which, in my opinion, he most definitely is not—among the consequences of disgracing one’s office by committing criminal acts should be no national honors for one’s conduct in office. That is hardly a harsh principle or a cruel judgment. Other people have actually gone to jail for perjury and obstruction of justice. Indeed, some who went to jail for those crimes—including lying about sex—were successfully prosecuted by the Clinton administration’s Department of Justice. Please pause for a moment, gentle reader, to think about that.
Of course, what’s done is done. Barack Obama has conferred the Medal of Freedom on Bill Clinton. History cannot be reversed. As President Clinton’s die hard supporters insisted at the height of the Lewinsky scandal, it’s time to “move on.” So let’s do that. Memo to the next Republican President. The Medal of Freedom can be conferred posthumously. I have two words for you: Henry Hyde.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013, 3:30 PM
Happy Wednesday! Here’s what we have for you to read today:
Over at Postmodern Conservative, Carl Scott is also reading The New Republic.
Peter Leithart is still reading about the Trinity, and also Objectivism (not that Objectivism. . .I think).
Dr. Boli made a few mistakes: “The rumor that the borough of Dormont has been rounding up Episcopalians and sending them to concentration camps in Baldwin Township is apparently unfounded.”
Here at First Thoughts, Peter Blair thinks about Francis.
On the Square today, we have George Weigel on the New Evangelization, Stephanos Bibas on presidential pardons, and Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry on Francis and free market economics.
And that’s it—we’ll see you Monday.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013, 2:40 PM
What does it mean that the Atlantic and Matthew Yglesias’ Moneybox blog both ran appreciative posts today about Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, or that the Daily Caller published a story about conservatives’ reactions to the exhortation? As someone who has been occasionally annoyed by the way Francis’ symbolic gestures have had such a profound effect on people—there’s something frustrating about people flocking to mass because Pope Francis doesn’t wear red shoes—I was thrilled to see Evangelii Gaudium making waves with its serious, substantive, economic thought. As Peter Maurin once put it, the social teaching of the church is like dynamite whose power and force is rarely appreciated. To see that social teaching driving discussion and setting the terms of the debate is very exciting.
But it’s important to remember that the two sides, the symbolic and the substantive, are related. Michael Sean Winters noted at the time of Benedict XVI’s abdication that Benedict wrote more often and more insightfully on economic, environmental, and social questions than he was usually given credit for. There is a lot of continuity between the Benedict’s economic thought and Francis’ economic thought, but the latter’s writings have begun to set the agenda for mainstream political and economic conversation in a way the former’s never did.
The reason for the disparity here has largely to do with the pope’s style, although calling it “style” might be giving it a more glib word than it actually deserves. People are listening to Pope Francis because they believe, consciously or otherwise, that he has moral authority. No doubt part of this comes from his interviews and off-the-cuff remarks that have made people think he takes a softer stand on sexual morality than his predecessors. But it also has to do with his much-vaunted humility, his habit of calling up critics for some casual conversation, and, of course, his photo-ops with the poor and the disfigured.
We may be annoyed that people’s faith or their willingness to listen to the Catholic social teaching hangs so much on things like this, but human beings are moralizing, affective creatures. It’s always been the case that the perceived moral purity of the clergy has driven the fortunes of the Church—think of all the Frenchmen who became Cathars not because of theological disputation per se but because they were impressed by the asceticism of the Cathar perfecti. It’s been a long time since people have been willing to credit moral authority to church figures, and much of that has to do with the lingering anger over the way sexual abuse cases were covered up. It’s Pope Francis’ accomplishment that he has restored some moral authority to the papal office, such that people are more willing to listen to what he has to say.
Still, poverty and capitalism are perhaps the areas where he has had the least resistance to overcome among the Western literati, simply because many antecedently agree with Francis on economics. The real test will be whether the moral authority he’s claimed will allow him to challenge people on issues that are less congenial to their pre-existing biases.
If Francis can manage that, he will truly have shown that there exists a religious middle that can be reclaimed for institutional Christianity, provided we have the moral integrity and public relations savvy to claim it.
Peter Blair is a staff writer at the American Interest and the editor-in-chief of Fare Forward.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013, 9:00 AM
Atonement, Theosis & St. Paul
Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers’ Institute
Are You Really Calling for a Schism, Tony Jones?
Billy Kangas, The Orant
Hal Parker, American Reader
Bones of the Book
Robert Moor, n+1
Catacombs on Google
Elise Harris, National Catholic Register
Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 6:22 PM
Happy Tuesday! Here’s what we have for you to read today.
Over at Postmodern Conservative, two short (even Leithartian) posts from Peter Lawler as he reads the New Republic: why Malcolm Gladwell makes you stupider, why the Iran deal is doomed.
Quoth Maureen Mullarkey: “The lunatic dogmatism of the group . . . is not benign, no matter the inanity of the product.”
Peter Leithart doesn’t enjoy first person shooters (“I’m . . . the guy everyone sneaks up to get an easy kill”), is reading Papal Economics, books on violence, and a book about Thomist ontology which sounds really interesting but is also only available in French.
Dr. Boli wrote a story.
Here at First Thoughts, Dale M. Coulter writes about Thanksgiving, America, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Hawthorne; Robert P. George gives us some of the highlights from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation; Carl R. Trueman has a post how the political scene has shifted; and David Mills has his doubts about the Francis effect.
On the Square today, James R. Rogers looks at the decline in global poverty, while Stephen H. Webb reviews a new book on education.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 2:21 PM
In the blogging world, what follows is known as a “bleg”:
As some First Things readers know, in my day job, I’m the Director of the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s University in New York. The Center has its own blog, the Center for Law and Religion Forum, which contains regular updates on law and religion cases, news, and scholarship from across the globe, as well as commentary by me, my St. John’s colleague, Marc DeGirolami, and frequent guests. The blog has been in operation for a couple of years now and has filled an important niche in the American legal academy: fair and balanced coverage of vital issues at the intersection of law and religion.
We were delighted to learn yesterday that the American Bar Association Journal has named the Center for Law and Religion Forum as one of the top 100 blogs on law and lawyers in its annual “Blawg 100” survey. The ABA quoted a reader: CLR Forum “highlights interesting news in law and religion that no other such blawg highlights. Its commentary is incisive and fair. Its point of view is unique among blawgs for taking seriously varied religious traditions rather than mocking them or treating them in a lowest-common-denominator fashion.” We’re very grateful to the ABA and the readers who nominated us.
Now for the bleg: The ABA is asking readers to select their favorite blogs from each of the survey’s categories, including the “Niche” category, where the ABA has placed CLR Forum. Voting began yesterday and will continue until December 20. If you think that it’s important to have a blog that fairly covers law and religion issues and offers commentary that departs from conventional academic secularism, please check out CLR Forum and, if you like what you see, vote for us by clicking here and following the links. Thanks!
Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 11:46 AM
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“New Pew Research Analysis Finds No Clear ‘Pope Francis Effect’ Among U.S. Catholics” reads the headline of a press release from the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project. The release explains that though 79% of American Catholics rate the pope favorably, “the percentage of Americans who identify as Catholics has remained the same—22%—as it was during the corresponding seven-month period in 2012.” A summary of the study can be found here.
Sounds bad, or at least disappointing, and some newspapers are going to pick up the story — and ignore that hedging “clear” — but it is a non-story. With 314 million Americans, the number identifying themselves as Catholic would have to rise by three million to raise the percentage one percent, and that’s three million among the portion of the population countable by surveys . Francis’ greatest fan does not expect that kind of response in just seven months.
And besides, suppose in that time just one million more people started identifying, or more likely re-identifying, themselves as Catholics. Wouldn’t that be possible evidence of a “Francis effect” though it would make no difference in the percentage? Surveys are too blunt an instrument to measure such things, but not too blunt for press releases.