Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 8:19 AM
You may have missed the news amid the turmoil in the Middle East, but last week Salt Lake City hosted its first ever Comic Con sci-fi and comic book convention. Perhaps it was the energy generated at Comic-Con San Diego last month, or perhaps it was a particular resonance with the city’s interstellar eschatological hopes—whatever the cause may be, with over 70,000 attendees, the Salt Lake City event was the largest first-year comic book convention in American history and the largest convention of any kind ever held in the state of Utah. Be that as it may, if you had scanned the crowd of Trekkies, geeks, and booth babes, you would notice that one man was conspicuously absent.
That man was Orson Scott Card.
Orson Scott Card is the author of the Hugo-award-winning Ender’s Game, a science fiction novel set in an orbiting Battle School for children bred and trained to be humanity’s best hope of surviving an apocalyptic alien invasion. Since the book became an international best seller (and mandatory reading for enlisted U.S. Marines), Card held tight to his film production rights on grounds of artistic integrity. After co-founding a film company in 1996, Card set about crafting a screenplay himself. Over a decade later, Odd-Lot Entertainment finally picked up the production, Summit Entertainment (since bought out by Lionsgate) picked up the distribution, and Gavin Hood (X-Men, Wolverine, Tsotsi) joined on as director.
At both the San Diego and Salt Lake City conventions, Lionsgate heavily promoted the film adaptation of Ender’s Game, which will open in theaters November 1st. Lead actor Harrison Ford even fielded questions at the San Diego presser. While most geeks would have been thrilled to meet the legendary sci-fi author, Orson Scott Card was not invited to take part. A geeky LGBT group known as Geeks Out had gotten wind of Card’s opposition to redefining marriage; they called for a boycott of the film, and suddenly Card became a liability for the film’s promotion. Amidst the drama, Card issued a call for tolerance and humility in victory:
Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.
Card uttered this plea for tolerance in Entertainment Weekly, but arguably he wrote his most powerful plea thirty years ago when he created Ender Wiggin, his most brilliantly crafted character.
Born under military contract and monitored from birth, Ender is taken by the International Fleet to Battle School at the age of six where he is deliberately subjected to extreme mental and emotional anguish to prepare him to defend the human race against the invasion of the alien Formics. Ender’s chief torment is that while he never wants to harm anyone, he is manipulated into situations in which he must attack for survival. His compassion is overruled by his instinct of self-defense, and the burden of humanity’s hope placed on his shoulders. Every time he is manipulated into conflict, Ender’s brilliant mind studies his enemy and achieves a deep bond of sympathy precisely at the moment he discovers and exploits his enemy’s weakness. This is why he is humanity’s hope—and humanity’s victim. By the end of the novel, Ender’s greatness is vindicated by his compassion and sympathy towards his enemy, a greatness played out to less dramatic effect in the novel’s sequel.
Same-sex marriage proponents may think of Orson Scott Card and the National Organization for Marriage as Formic invaders. And there are those on the other side of the fence who view the LGBT lobby the same way. Whatever side of the fence one is on, hopefully all can agree that a little bit of imaginative sympathy would go a long way to judging the matter rightly. As Ender Wiggin would attest, hate sees monsters where there are men, and fear sees enemies where there are brothers.
Image: Orson Scott Card at Comic-Con 2008, photograph by Alex Erde
Cross-posted at Dominicana Blog
Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 12:22 AM
Here in New York the votes in the primary elections for mayor, city council, and comptroller are almost finished being counted. Christine Quinn, once thought to have a lock on the election, will not even make the Democratic runoff if there is one.
Reading the news stories brings you to interesting things. I have never heard of Lawrence O’Donnell but his interview with mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner did, as several people have noted, accomplish the very difficult task of making Anthony Weiner sympathetic.
He opens by asking Weiner “What is wrong with you?” But he’s not asking “Why do you send people pictures of your private parts even after you got caught?” which is a reasonable question to ask a man who wants public office. He asks Weiner, a politician, why he keeps running for public office.
One would have thought the answer obvious. Weiner gives the standard “Because I care” answer. (In a later online portion Weiner asks O’Donnell why he has to be on TV. O’Donnell admits that’s a fair question—always take a step back when your target throws your criticism back at you—and claims it’s a question he keep asking himself, but I’m sure he doesn’t.) Anyway, he keeps at it for ten minutes with (to me) unconvincing indignation. The whole thing feels fake.
Is that kind of thing supposed to be bold, penetrating, important? Are we supposed to think he’s forcing his subject to ’fess up? Is this supposed to be journalism? Lauren Green was pilloried for her interview with the shrewdly self-promoting Reza Aslan, and it’s only fair that O’Donnell be similarly criticised. At least she was sincere.
As I write, by the way, with 97 percent of the districts reporting, Weiner has just 4.9 percent of the primary vote, only twice that of Erick J. Salgado, a pastor no one outside New York has ever heard of who was running for public office for the first time. Weiner got just 5 out of 136 votes in the district in which he lives (in an apartment around the corner from the magazine’s office), two of those surely being his and his wife’s.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 4:58 PM
The Imagine Sisters Movement with Catholic Lighthouse Media, the Institute on Religious Life, Our Lady’s Rosary Makers, and the Laboure Society and created by Lumen Vere Media and Altius Studies premiered its Light of Love film last Sunday night, showcasing the lives of five women religious, their discernment, and their particular apostolate.
Simple and beautiful, the film highlights the day-to-day activities of the sisters within their apostolates, ranging between healthcare, education, social work, and direct service to the poor. Each sister speaks about her discernment, the unique apostolate of her community, community life itself, and the prayer life and spirituality of her respective congregation.
The congregations highlighted are: The Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, the Franciscan Sisters of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother, the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, and the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco.
The film introduces its audience to the lives of women religious with shots of the sisters in communal and individual prayer, at work in their apostolate, and in recreation within their communities.
The most intriguing feature of the film is the similarity between many of the sisters’ responses. All five of the sisters mention experiences of peace, joy, and sacrifice in terms of their discernment and in their current state of life. Even with vastly different spiritualties, each sister mentioned Christ and prayer as the center of their lives as religious, and spoke about the relationship between prayer, contemplation, and action.
Free to stream and download, the film can be watched here. I also encourage visiting the Imagine Sisters Movement website for more information on their mission “to inspire and support women’s religious life.”
Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 12:30 PM
Another Syria-themed On the Square. Just because Pope Francis has condemned the war doesn’t mean faithful Catholics need to:
The pope must know that dialogue is not the “only” solution to the Syrian conflict. It would be a good thing if the pope would acknowledge the just war tradition while making his impassioned pleas for peace. Catholics believe in peace, but they’re not Mennonites. First Things editor R.R. Reno has consistently argued against intervening in Syria, but I believe a classical reading of the just war tradition renders robust intervention in Syria a morally desirable act of charity.
Read the rest here. (You can find a roundup of our Syria coverage here.) And don’t forget that the President is making an address on this subject tonight.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 12:00 PM
More Syria commentary in today’s On the Square, when Elizabeth Scalia returns today “to pray that if we must err, we err on the side of life”:
There are no good options, or easy answers, to the Syrian problem. Assad may be a fiend, but even the president admits that he poses no imminent threat to the United States, which is one reason Obama has given for seeking the approval of Congress before he orders a punitive three-day air strike meant, mostly, to signal to Assad that the use of chemical weapons in war will not be tolerated.
Read the rest here.
Did anybody watch Assad’s interview last night? CBS only seems to be streaming clips of it for now.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 9:00 AM
The Childfree Life
Fr. Robert Barron, RealClearReligion
The Immortality Chronicles
Adam Leith Gollner, Paris Review
James Turrell and ‘The Thing-ness of Light Itself’
Edward Lifson, NPR
What You Need to Know About Foucault
Elliot Milco, Front Porch Republic
Eliot in Pop Music
Chris Mugan, Independent
Monday, September 9, 2013, 1:20 PM
I’m very heartened by Mark Noll’s review of George Weigel’s Evangelical Catholicism, linked in today’s First Links. Other than the subject of politics (I think the significance of political issues both inside and outside the church is a much bigger challenge for Weigel’s analysis than Noll does) the review gets right to core significance of the book for Catholic-Protestant relations. The book and the review are each only one man’s opinion, of course, but in their way they point toward the kind of fruitful engagement that is becoming more and more possible in our time (partly, alas, because the threat of persecution is forcing us to confront these questions more urgently).
I think that in general, there are two older paradigms of Catholic-Protestant cooperation that are inadequate and are falling by the wayside. On the one hand, there is the “let’s stop quibbling over what words mean” school, which fails to acknowledge the legitimacy and the importance of the issues that divide us. It’s pretty clear the opposition to ECT was motivated by the perception—right or wrong—that ECT leaned in this direction and failed to give adequate weight to the anathemas of Trent and the continuing divisions over justification, etc. among our communities.
On the other hand, especially on the Evangelical Protestant side, some practice a strict dualism that compartmentalizes charitable works and social activism from the gospel. Of course we can work together with Catholics to feed the hungry and fight abortion, say Protestant Evangelicals of this school, because that stuff is not about the gospel. More and more people are realizing why this is inadequate; as Weigel and Noll (in their different ways) both remind us, everything is about the gospel. The interaction between Weigel’s book and Noll’s review shows that a golden mean is possible—that we can talk about what we share without either trivializing our differences or giving those differences such urgency that we feel the need to compartmentalize them from daily life.
Monday, September 9, 2013, 12:30 PM
In his column for today’s On the Square, Timothy George remembers the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church back in 1963:
Carolyn felt confused. She walked into the sanctuary, where the clock hanging on the wall indicated that the time was 10:22 a.m. Then she heard the blast. Boom! For a second, she thought it was thunder or a lightning strike. Then she realized—it must be a bomb. She vividly remembers two things from that horror-filled moment: the sound of feet scurrying past her to get to the exits, and looking up at the stained glass window—the same one that had brought her such comfort when she looked into the face of Jesus at her baptism. The window was still intact . . . all except the face. Jesus’ beautiful face was gone.
Read the rest here. Here’s the full text of Martin Luther King’s eulogy at their funeral, which actually made me cry at my desk . . . so if you are unduly attached to your dignity, you should read it when you get home.
You can also view some of the New York Times’ coverage of the bombing here, and read an editorial from the Milwaukee Sentinel here.
Not a single person guilty of this crime was brought to justice until 1977, when a prosecutor decided to re-open the case.
Monday, September 9, 2013, 12:00 PM
In today’s On the Square, R.R. Reno points out that we are not taking Syria seriously:
We can avoid clarity because few think anything important is at stake in Syria, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. This judgment reflects a deeper conviction that we now live in a global system that automatically limits warfare and domesticates rogue nations. True, there are threats. But counter-terrorism is now a global project that blurs the lines between domestic and international intelligence, as the revelations about the NSA make so clear.
Read the rest here. (Go do it now!)
Congress reconvenes today. NBC Politics thinks that the Senate will vote on Wednesday. Some speculate any decision may wait until August 21, when UN inspectors can present proof of an attack using chemical weapons. President Obama will make an address to the nation on Tuesday, in “an effort to shift public opinion in favor of military action,” according to Politico. (The President has a few supporters he may not especially want: some members of the Bush administration support intervention in Syria.)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is also going to appear on American TV, in an interview with Charlie Rose, which airs tonight.
According to the UN, the number of Syrian refugees crossed two million as of September 3, with more than four million displaced from their homes within Syria, meaning “that more Syrians are now forcibly displaced than people from any other country.” The situation for Syria’s Christians is dire, and Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America has written an open letter to Obama asking him not to intervene.
A lot has been written about Syria in First Thoughts and the First Things-associated blogs. Here is a (non-comprehensive) roundup of things you might have missed (or might want to revisit), listed by author.
James Ceaser, “To Authorize or Not to Authorize”
James Ceaser, “On Reading the Centennial”
Robert George, “Syria and the Wages of Dissembling About Benghazi”
Peter J. Leithart, “Syria’s Christians”
Mark Movsesian, “Christians, American and Syrian”
R.R. Reno, “Skeptical on Syria”
R.R. Reno, “Against Symbolic Killing”
R.R. Reno, “Syria and Domestic Politics”
R.R. Reno, “Does Syria Matter?”
Carl Scott, “Fellow Anti-Authorizers, How Many Chemical Attacks Can We Take?”
Pete Spiliakos, “Stray Thoughts on Syria”
Monday, September 9, 2013, 11:12 AM
Tony Abbott, Australia’s new prime minister, is being variously praised and reviled for his considered support for pro-life laws and for preserving the definition of marriage. Less noticed is how his social conservatism has shaped his economic program. Reihan Salam explains:
Abbott’s social conservatism has influenced his views on domestic policy in many respects, as he makes clear in his 2009 book Battlelines. In praising John Howard’s successful Liberal-National government, Abbott cites the fact that it tripled spending on child care and doubled the number of child-care places available, and its support for more flexible workplace arrangements which contributed to a sharp increase in the labor force participation of women. He also favorably referenced the Howard’s government’s Baby Bonus, a universal payment to new mothers, which was recently abolished by the Labor government.
Far from being some quirk or exception, Abbott writes at great length about his support for paid maternity leave in Battlelines. In the book, he sees it as part and parcel of a larger “stimulus package for families.” American supporters of family-friendly tax cuts will find Abbott’s call for removing the means test on Australia’s Family Tax Benefit Part A heartening. “If this were done,” Abbott writes, “people bringing up children would receive a benefit based not on their need but on the contribution that they are making to Australia’s future,” a line that might easily have been penned by National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru. Abbott goes further, suggesting that his proposal “would be a very significant recongition of the importance of parenting and the value of children and should, over time, have an appreciable impact on the birth rate.” Let’s keep Abbott’s support for family-friendly tax reform in mind when U.S. conservatives start championing it.
Tony Abbott’s political success demonstrates that family-friendly conservatism can succeed. . . . Abbott has managed to combine classic pro-market politics with a call for revamping the welfare state along pro-family lines, and my guess is that this combination could prove just as successful in the United States. Indeed, this combination could go a long way towards demonstrating that the GOP is culturally modern and responsive to the interests of middle-income households with children, a large and culturally diverse constituency.
Monday, September 9, 2013, 10:00 AM
For our readers in or near New York City, The Catholic Artists Society and the Thomistic Institute present a series of lectures on a Catholic understanding of the Arts. Eminent artists, theologians, and philosophers will be exploring the nature of art and its role in society. Hosted in Greenwich Village at the Catholic Center at New York University, every lecture will be followed by a reception and sung Compline.
Gregory Wolfe, editor of Image Journal, is giving the first lecture, “Art: For Whose Sake?” this Saturday, September 14, at 7:30pm. Wolfe is a prolific writer and editor whose work focuses on “the place where the religious sense generates culture.”
Don’t miss this unique opportunity!
Monday, September 9, 2013, 9:00 AM
Saturday, September 7, 2013, 1:47 PM
Matthew Schmitz has already pointed readers to Books & Culture’s need for supporters to pledge a lot of money by Monday to keep publishing. Let me add my own encouragement.
Books & Culture has an important place, a place only it can fill, in the world — the shrinking world — of serious Christian magazines. It’s a substantial magazine of the old sort, which one reads for the pleasure of reading and of learning, covering subjects with no obvious immediate cash value but of great value to those who believe in humane learning — though it also dealt well with the pressing issues of the day. It’s the flagship publication of its sort in the Evangelical world and the major magazine in which Evangelicalism’s peculiar genius is applied to cultural matters.
The Christian world needs Books & Culture. I’ve pledged support and encourage you to do so. Here’s the donate button.
Friday, September 6, 2013, 12:30 PM
In his On the Square post today, Wesley J. Smith has come to tell the tale of the Death of Marriage. When did marriage die? In 1976, when the California Supreme Court ruled that non-married couples could sue each other for breach of contract, too:
Then, Michele Triola Marvin sued the movie star Lee Marvin for breach of contract. The two had lived together for several years. Michele even legally changed her last name. But there was no question that she and Lee were not married. Nor did she claim to be the putative spouse. Rather, Michele claimed Lee’s assurances of life-long support induced her to abandon her own career and devote herself to his care. The relationship now over, she wanted what had been promised.
Read the rest here. Looking for more information about this case (there doesn’t seem to be much), I did find out that there used to be a children’s television show called Marvin Marvin. It’s about “an alien teenage boy adjusting to human life.” So, I’m thinking they’re probably not related.
I did, however, discover an article in the journal of the National Council on Family Relations to check out here, if you have a JSTOR account.
Friday, September 6, 2013, 12:07 PM
In Malcolm Magee’s fascinating book on Woodrow Wilson’s “faith-based foreign policy,” What the World Should Be, the author notes that, in the two major conflicts during Wilson’s administration, the president took sides largely out of a desire to divide the world into obvious “good guys” and “bad guys.” In the Mexican civil war, Wilson intervened on behalf of the faction to which he ascribed the most righteousness, although the murky realities of that country’s politics should have elicited a more cautious response. Similarly, during the First World War, Wilson’s admiration for British political institutions and his instinctive distrust of “German theology” predisposed him to commit the United States to the cause of London and Paris against Berlin and Vienna.
A century later, we face similar complexities in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring, a series of popular uprisings which began with high hopes of a smooth transition to democracy but whose tragic reality has been civil warfare. The rhetoric of the Arab Spring fits into a larger narrative with which Americans are familiar: Subjugated people living under tyranny finally tire of oppression, rise up, overthrow their despotic rulers, and claim liberty for themselves and their communities. Having overturned a self-serving oligarchy, they set up a government more responsive to their own needs and aspirations.
Yet this narrative does not entirely fit the current situation in a region where there are no obvious good guys and bad guys.
Read the full article here.
Friday, September 6, 2013, 12:00 PM
In today’s On the Square, Mark D. Tooley takes a trip to Chautauqua, and meditates on how far it has strayed from its original mission:
At the United Methodist House the week I attended the chaplain was the delightful president of a historic black seminary in the south. A native of Antigua reared in British Methodism, he offered a robust explanation of Methodism’s traditional understanding of salvation. After one presentation, an older couple appreciatively approached him to say they wondered why they never heard messages like his at Chautauqua. The religion speakers instead all seemed instead to have an “agenda,” the husband noted ruefully.
Read the rest here. If you have never actually heard of Chautauqua before, Steve Odland gave a (somewhat more positive) write-up of the place here. Other things I learned today: Apparently, the area around Chautauqua is also the first place in New York to have mosquitoes with Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus, so, if this post inspires you to head up to Chautauqua, maybe you should go after mosquito season?
Friday, September 6, 2013, 9:41 AM
When I hear the word comfort, the images that come to mind are macaroni and cheese, recliners, and powerful air conditioning. Comfort food and comfortable surroundings are concrete manifestations of comfort. But of course that is only one kind of comfort, a temporal, surface comfort.
“Comfort” is a word with two definitions so different that it verges on being a contronym, that is, a word with two opposite meanings (such as “cleave” or “oversight”). “Comfort” can mean “a state of physical ease and freedom from pain” or it can mean “consolation for grief or anxiety.” And while these definitions may have a common root, these two varieties of comfort rarely coexist on this earth.
The incompatibility of comfort of circumstance and comfort of soul is on display in an absurd little video called “Martyrs Read Joel Osteen Tweets!” While a power of positive thinking theology is appealing to those whose primary aim is a comfortable life, it falls far short when death hangs over you in the form of a sword!
Janani Luwum (1922-1977)
In Hodges Chapel at Beeson Divinity School, we have busts of six 20th-century martyrs, one for each inhabited continent. The artist who created the busts chose to portray each martyr with a smile on his or her face. They range from the very slight smile of May Hayman of Australia to the confident joy of Janini Luwum of Uganda to the open-mouth laugh of Rómulo Sauñe of Peru. I love looking at these martyrs during worship because their smiles are a picture of the joy they know now. They are not experiencing perpetual martyrdom, but rather the reward promised to those persecuted for Christ’s sake (see Matthew 5:11-12). We look to them for inspiration because they died for Jesus, but we trust that they have now been comforted.
When a person’s soul is grieving, comfort of body is no comfort at all. It is only spiritual comfort that will do. The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) asks, “What is your only comfort in life and death?” The answer to this question is not “excellent hospice care and pain management.” No, comfort in death has nothing to do with physical comfort and everything to with whether there is joy set before you. The Christian’s only comfort in life and death is “that I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” We don’t have to be martyred to know this kind of comfort. But if we spend all our energies seeking comfort of circumstance, we won’t know where to find the abiding comfort that could be ours at the end.
Friday, September 6, 2013, 9:00 AM
Pantheism in the Prayer Book
Brian Miller, Juicy Ecumenism
What Is Coptic Christianity, Anyway?
Geoffrey Reiter, Christ and Pop Culture
The Constitutional Status of Islam
Peter Berger, American Interest
Darwin Without Teleology?
Gerard M. Verschuuren, Strange Notions
A New Chapter for Libraries
Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times
Thursday, September 5, 2013, 8:58 PM
Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Blessed Mother Teresa. A great work to revisit is her famous 1982 Harvard Class Day Address found here.
Yes, there is hunger. Maybe not the hunger for a piece of bread, but there is a terrible hunger for love. There is a terrible hunger for the word of God.
I never forget when we went to Mexico, and we went visiting very poor families. And those people we saw had scarcely anything in their homes, and yet nobody asked for anything. They all asked us: Teach us the word of God. Give us the word of God. “They were hungry for the word of God. Here, too, in the whole world there is a terrible hunger for God, among the young especially. And it is there that we must find Jesus and satisfy that hunger. Nakedness is not only for a piece of cloth. Nakedness is for the loss of that human dignity, the loss of that respect, the loss of that purity that was so beautiful, so great, the loss of that virginity that was the most beautiful thing that a young man and a young woman can give each other because they love each other, the loss of that presence, of what is beautiful, of what is great this is nakedness. Homelessness is not a lack of a home made of bricks, but the feeling of being rejected, being unwanted, having no one to call your own.
I never forget, one day, I was walking down the streets of London and I saw a man sitting there. He looked so sad, so lonely. So I went right up to him. I took his hand and I shook his hand and my hands are always very warm. And he looked up at me and he said: “Oooh, after such a long time I feel the warmth of a human hand.” It was so small that little action was so small and yet it brought a radiating smile on a face that had forgotten to smile, who had forgotten what is the warmth of a human hand. And this is what we have to find in our country, in all other countries around the world, everywhere.
Mother Teresa condemns abortion, speaks of purity and chastity as the greatest gifts young people can give to each other and emphasizes the importance of family in an individualistic world. Over and over, she forces one to consider if social justice can ever be separated from faith. But the best part of her speech is her invitation to contemplate upon the relationship between love and sacrifice, which leads one to holiness:
My prayer for you is that you grow in that love for each other. That you grow in that likeness of Christ, in that holiness of Christ. Holiness is not the luxury of the few; it is a simple duty for you and for me.
For a great piece in response to critics of Mother Teresa, see William Doino Jr.’s post from earlier this year here.
Thursday, September 5, 2013, 2:29 PM
This week Derek Webb released his latest album, I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry, and I Love You. The album is more explicitly about the church than some of his recent work, and it marks a return to his roots, both thematically and musically.
Back in the nineties, Derek belonged to the Christian band Caedmon’s Call, and he wrote most of their folksy introspective songs. In 2003, he left Caedmon’s to work on his solo project, She Must and Shall Go Free. He dedicated that album to the church. She Must and Shall Go Free was equal parts rebuke and encouragement. The gospel isn’t just for lost people. It’s for Christians too. The album rebukes an American church that ignores its own sin and tries to earn merit with God. It encourages the church to rely only on the grace of Christ.
As his albums piled higher, Derek continued to speak words of rebuke, but the word of encouragement started to disappear. He started getting more political in some of his songs, taking a few shots at the Republican Party. This annoyed some of his more conservative fans. He also started to emphasize social issues that he felt Christians were neglecting, which made some long-time fans feel that he was minimizing the gospel.
His 2009 album, Stockholm Syndrome, sparked controversy because one of the songs included a dirty word. But it wasn’t just the dirty word. In the song, Derek accused Christians of worrying more about homosexuality than poverty. His message and his choice of words cost him a number of fans. Touring with the openly gay Jennifer Knapp didn’t win any of those fans back.
Stockholm Syndrome was a solid album, but its style actually made it easier for fans to walk away. Derek’s older music had an acoustic rawness to it. By 2009, Derek had begun experimenting with his sound, and Stockholm Syndrome features synthesized music, a techno beat, and distorted vocals. It’s really good, if you like that sort of thing, but unfortunately many of his old fans didn’t like that sort of thing.
This new album, I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry, and I Love You, seems like an attempt to reconnect with some of those old fans. He explores some of the same themes that he did in She Must and Shall Go Free, albeit in a more personal voice. The album’s sound also reengages his folk roots. Derek was inspired to write this album as he considered the ten-year anniversary of She Must and Shall Go Free, and the album really does feel like a homecoming. The prodigal son has returned, and with this album he says that he’s sorry.
Of course many fans will want to know what exactly he’s apologizing for. I’ve listened to the album and listened to him talk about it. He isn’t necessarily retracting anything he’s said. Instead he seems to apologize for how he’s said things. I’ve been listening to Derek’s songs for almost twenty years, and I can trace theological, artistic, and political growth through his albums. This album signals a development in his emotional maturity. He doesn’t scold his listeners in this album. There’s no regret about what he’s said in the past, but we hear regret about how he’s said some of those things. His almost-forty-year-old self seems a bit ashamed of the brashness of his younger days.
I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry, and I Love You is a fine album that once-upon-a-time fans ought to give a chance. It will seem familiar, but in one sense it’s still different than his earlier work. The album communicates a certain weariness. It sounds like the cares of the world have tired Derek and he needed to return to a place of refuge. He has more longing for that which will be and less interest in what we ought to do.
This latest album is a worthy sequel to She Must and Shall Go Free, but the earlier album still remains Derek’s best work. She Must and Shall Go Free will haunt its listener’s soul. If you’re not familiar with Derek’s work, start there. Then listen to his newest album.
Collin Garbarino is an assistant professor of history at Houston Baptist University.
Thursday, September 5, 2013, 12:30 PM
In today’s On the Square, the excellently named John Daniel Davidson wants to talk about why healthcare cannot become a civil right (so, perhaps that’s one word Republicans ought not steal):
But there’s another, more urgent, reason to invoke the civil rights movement in the defense of Obamacare, and that is to shut down the opposition. In his remarks Wednesday, the president strongly implied that the debate over health care, like the civil rights debate, is now over. Dissent is not only illegitimate but also cowardly, and represents a dark era of the past. What’s needed now is the courage to secure a right everyone agrees is inviolable.
Read the rest here. Back in a 1992 issue of First Things, Robert A. Licht reviewed Mary Ann Glendon’s Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse; the article contains some good general formulations of the history behind the idea of civil rights, so it makes a nice chaser to Davidson’s post if you have the time.
Thursday, September 5, 2013, 12:00 PM
It’s a very Obama themed Thursday in today’s On the Square. Start your lunch break with Pete Spiliakos, who wants to show Republicans how to respect and oppose Obama:
Bouie is right that Republicans who are seeking a wide audience should be respectful to Obama. One path open for Republicans is to adapt Ronald Reagan’s tactics in talking about Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Reagan was trying to win over FDR-loving working-class Democrats. Reagan would quote FDR in support of cutting government spending. It did not matter that FDR might have disagreed with Reagan on price controls or the top marginal income tax rate. Sometimes it is enough just to show that you share some values with the other party’s supporters, and that voting for you does not mean throwing away a lifetime of commitments.
Read the rest here. You can watch the Reagan speech mentioned here, if you’re so inclined. It is about forty-five minutes long, so once you’re done, there will be another On the Square post for you to read. Win/win/win.
Thursday, September 5, 2013, 10:50 AM
President Obama’s astonishing decision to reverse course and seek congressional authorization for military action in Syria has given Americans an opportunity to think about the situation a bit more. One important consideration is the fate of Syria’s Christians. This group, which numbers in the millions, has consistently opposed outside military action against Assad. Not only do Christians deplore the suffering an American missile strike would bring, they also worry about anything that would tend to benefit Islamists in the opposition. Assad is a brutal dictator, but most Syrian Christians would rather take their chances with him than risk Islamist government. A dictator, as Samuel Tadros wrote recently, can sometimes be bought off. With the Islamists, there’s no chance.
Yet the debate taking place in the United States this week virtually ignores the impact an American campaign would have on Syria’s Christians. A couple of commentators, like Philip Jenkins and Rod Dreher, have raised the issue, as has Senator Rand Paul. But most politicians and pundits apparently don’t care to address the subject. The fate of millions of people doesn’t figure in the national conversation. Why is that?
There are two reasons. First, it’s a matter of realpolitik. A small and shrinking minority, Mideast Christians can do little to advance American interests. So the American foreign policy establishment ignores them. This is hardly new; the US declined to accept a mandate for Armenian Christians 100 years ago, and the Bush Administration seemed largely indifferent to the fate of Iraq’s Christians during the recent occupation. Besides, American foreign policy elites are quite secular and uncomfortable with religious identity. Seeing Christians as sympathetic victims doesn’t come naturally to them.
Second, Mideast Christians lack a powerful lobby in the US. American Christians could form such a lobby, of course, but they tend not to identify with their co-religionists in the Mideast. Although Christianity was born in the Middle East—in Syria, Christianity dates to biblical times –to most American Christians, Mideast Christians seem quite foreign, theologically and culturally. An Evangelical in Minnesota probably feels he has more in common culturally with a secular Jew from Tel Aviv than a Syriac Orthodox Christian from Tur Abdin. And, indeed, American Christians are much more likely to view Israelis as their proxies in the Middle East. Just yesterday, a congressman from a conservative Georgia district told constituents that he would oppose an American campaign in Syria unless he believed the Assad regime posed a threat to Israel.
Moreover—and I confess have no way to prove this, it’s just a hunch—even those American Christians who do feel an affinity for Mideast Christians might be uncomfortable lobbying for them as Christians. For some of these American Christians, it’s a matter of religious conviction: Christianity means that one should not favor one’s own. “We don’t help people because they’re Christians,” someone once told me, “but because we’re Christians.” For others, it’s a matter of civic loyalty. Some American Christians may feel it’s illegitimate to take a public policy position on the basis of a shared religious identity. These Christians might believe that, as Americans, they shouldn’t oppose a war because of the possible effect on their “favorites” in the target country. American interests should take priority.
These are complicated questions, and I probably shouldn’t address them in a short post, but here goes. In my view, neither of these concerns should discourage American Christians from speaking out on behalf of their co-religionists in Syria. From a Christian perspective, Christians do owe special duties to other Christians, at least in some circumstances. The church, St. Paul said, is one body; Christians are supposed to be in communion with each other, as well as with God. I don’t mean that charity is limited to Christians or that the church should always put Christians first; of course not. The parable of the Good Samaritan strongly suggests the contrary. But Christians surely can show special care for other Christians who are in very serious trouble. And Syria’s Christians—like Egypt’s Christians—are in very serious trouble.
As to the second concern, the vaguely Rawlsian idea that people should put aside religious commitments when they take a position on a potential military strike—well, there are many responses, but I’ll just give two. First, it’s not at all clear that a military strike, which likely will benefit Islamists in the opposition, is in America’s interest. Second, the Rawlsian objection reflects an entirely unrealistic understanding of how the world works. In a pluralistic society, people have multiple commitments–religious, ethnic, ideological, familial—that cut across national borders. Everyone knows these commitments influence people’s decisions about foreign policy. African-Americans cared deeply about US policy with respect to South African apartheid in the 1980s and care deeply about US policy in Africa today; Americans Jews care deeply about US policy toward Israel; American Muslims care deeply about US policy toward Palestine; and so on. Should Christians alone check their commitments at the door? Should they alone be embarrassed to raise the dire situation of co-religionists in other countries? Where’s the sense in that?
At this writing, it’s unclear what Congress and the President will decide about a military strike in Syria. The dire situation of Syria’s Christians should be a factor in the decision.
Thursday, September 5, 2013, 10:00 AM
Our friends at the Nassau Community College Center for Catholic Studies recently sent us this press release:
On Saturday, October 5, 2013, in the Multipurpose Room of the College Center Building at Nassau Community College Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre will offer a lecture, “The Diversity of Sanctity and the Unity of Holiness: Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.” The talk deals with the achievements of these two Popes leading to their eventual canonization as saints in the Catholic religious tradition.
The event formally starts at 2:15 p.m. with an audience welcome and a biographical introduction of Bishop Murphy. Bishop Murphy speaks from 2:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. followed by an audience question and answer session ending at 3:45 p.m. (Note that light refreshments will be provided and available at 1:30 p.m. before the official start of the event.)
All are invited, free of any charge but registration and parking permit are required. All attendees must register with the Nassau Community College Office of Lifelong Learning. The registration process starts by contacting the Office of Lifelong Learning by calling 516-572-7472 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. After registering, a registration receipt, a campus map, and a one-day parking pass will be mailed to you by Lifelong Learning at the address you indicate.
Thursday, September 5, 2013, 9:00 AM
« Newer Posts
Why the Frankfurt School Couldn’t Understand Fascism
Walter Laqueur, Standpoint
Allison Benedikt’s Immodest Proposal
Christopher O. Tollefsen, Public Discourse
Dan Brown’s Inferno and Overpopulation
Ronald P. Millett, Meridian
Law, Not Theology
Kyle Duncan, Becket Fund
Charles Hill, American Interest
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