Something seems off here . . .
The chief prosecutor in Peter Leithart’s recently concluded heresy trial stunned many by converting to Roman Catholicism shortly after bringing his prosecution. Now some are citing his conversion as reason to declare a mistrial:
Three Presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) recently approved an overture requesting the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction over TE Peter Leithart, a teaching elder member of Pacific Northwest Presbytery.
Calvary Presbytery approved the overture at its April 25, 2013 meeting, and Gulf Coast and Mississippi Valley Presbyteries approved the overture at their respective meetings on May 7, 2013. The vote at all of the meetings was unanimous or at least without audible dissent. . . .
In June 2011, Pacific Northwest Presbytery held a trial, and the Presbytery found TE Leithart not guilty of the five charges. In November 2011, one month after the Presbytery met and adopted the judgments on the five charges, a complaint was filed against the actions of Pacific Northwest Presbytery. In April, 2012 the Presbytery denied the complaint at which point the complaint was carried to the SJC. . . .
The three Presbyteries voted to approve the overture asking the PCA General Assembly to, “Assume original jurisdiction and direct the Standing Judicial Commission to hear ‘Pacific Northwest Presbytery vs. Peter Leithart,’ because PNWP has ‘refused to act’ per the provision found in BCO 34-1, by not declaring a mistrial in this case because of its chief prosecutor’s conflict of interest, stemming from his transition into membership of the Roman Catholic church.”
The controversy centers on Leithart’s views on baptism, which he recently restated here.
First Things has been updated for the iPad. It has the same elegant style as the print magazine, but we’ve changed the formatting in significant ways to make the articles more readable for electronic subscribers, and easier to navigate. You can buy individual issues or sign up for regular monthly delivery. Check it out in Apple’s iTunes store, or on our website (which I hope you’ve made your homepage).
We can thank Austin Stone for the iPad update. He steps into a new role at First Things, that of e-publisher responsible for “pushing out” our content on “multiple platforms.” (That’s a sentence I never imagined myself writing.) First Things remains committed to old-fashioned print. That’s my preferred way to read serious articles and essays. But we also want to give our electronic readers formats as easy and pleasurable to read as the crisp, clean pages of America’s finest journal of religion and public life.
While welcoming Austin Stone to the team, I’d also like to acknowledge the departure of Joe Carter, our former web editor. He is now senior editor of the Acton Institute and an editor at the Gospel Coalition. Joe is an important voice among religious conservatives, and a man whose faith, integrity, and intelligence I admire a great deal. In his five years with the magazine, Joe was an adept tech guy, an insightful writer for our website, a faithful Christian, and a good friend. Thanks, Joe.
Timothy Flanders, writing about the twentieth-century movement toward unity between the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches (who split over Christological disagreements after the Council of Chalcedon in 451), says that Protestant models of ecumenism paved the way:
It was within the WCC that two visionaries from each church met and began to collaborate—Nikos Nissiotis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Paul Verghese of the Malankara Indian Orthodox Church (later Metropolitan Paulos Mar Gregorios of Delhi). This work with the WCC helped galvanize the Orthodox to meet together at Rhodes in 1961—and also invite the Miaphysites. In 1963, when the WCC Faith & Order Commission met, Swiss Reformed Protestant Lukas Vischer began working closely with Nissiotis and Verghese to eventually organize the first formal Orthodox-Miaphysite consultation in 1964, in which the bulk of the division was overcome in matter of days.
Virtually as soon as the two church families managed to come into contrastive dialogue with each other in this century, it was realize that physis . . . was being used in different ways in our different churches.
In matter of days a division and misunderstanding that had lasted nearly fifteen hundred years—almost sixty generations!—was viewed in an entirely new and promising way, almost resolved then and there. And this was due in large part to the encouragement, sponsorship, and support of Protestant Christians through the WCC. Moreover, can not the Protestant openness to diversity in doctrine (no doubt to a fault at other times) be seen as a strength in the midst of intransigent myopia holding tenaciously to old prejudices? Indeed, this very cooperation with Protestants has helped the Orthodox rediscover their own tradition more fully. A more mature understanding of the Church canons, for instance, has been brought to bear on mainstream Orthodox theology.
Orthodox Christians have often been divided on the WCC, many seeing it with suspicion and hostility. The Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC was created in 1998 in an attempt to assuage Orthodox concerns about ecclesiology, social and ethical issues, interconfessional prayer, and the WCC’s structure and decision-making process. Nearly all Orthodox Churches remain WCC members today.
Peter J. Leithart explores the problem with family values:
Traditionally, marriage and family in turn opened out to the community. As Wendell Berry says, “Lovers must not, like usurers, live for themselves alone. They must finally turn from their gaze at one another back toward the community.” Even today, married couples “say their vows to the community as much as to one another.”
Like many, I have been following the debate between R. R. Reno and Robert Miller about conservatism and the alleged triumph of capitalism. As I follow their debate, in the back of my mind is a phrase I heard soon after Pope Francis was elected: the Pope gets his “oxygen” from the slums:
In Argentina, they say that if you want to understand the priestly soul of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, then you have to know the villas miserias, literally “villas of misery,” meaning the slums in Buenos Aires where the poorest of the poor are found.
According to Fr. Juan Isasmendi, who lives and works in one of the villas, this is where the future Pope Francis filled his lungs with the “oxygen” he needed to think about what the church ought to be.
Where do we get our oxygen? When Reno says there needs to be a moral, principled, non-utilitarian case for capitalism, I hear it as a variation on the question of what we’re breathing. What animates our arguments? In part, it’s a question about motives. And I think Reno is right to worry about the oxygen in our culture.
From a recent issue of the New Yorker [April 29], comparing journalism about the Great Depression with reporting about our own Great Recession today:
Marxism, for writers in the nineteen-thirties, gave the ruins of the Great Depression a certain glamour. In reporting on the mill town of Lawrence, Massachusetts, Wilson believed that he was getting closer to the heart of history: the workers and their default leaders weren’t marginal losers – they were the prophets of the future. But, for a media culture without such political commitments, this second depression has interest chiefly through the filter of élite experience. The American jitters belong to the likes of Hank Paulson, Richard Fuld, Angelo Mozilo, and Timothy Geithner. Some have suffered damaged reputations; a few have seen their net worth drop; none have had to hunt for food in garbage cans.
Christians generally aren’t Marxists and ought not to be in the glamour business, but I think we can take the point: Our media culture today does not draw its oxygen from the poor. That should worry us, because even if Christians are a dissenting minority, we live in this culture and our imaginations are formed by it.
As we follow the debate between Reno and Miller, I think it matters why we’re interested in capitalism. It matters who we love, what we’re trying to conserve, who we know, and who are friends are. Where do we get our oxygen?
Elizabeth Prodromou, a former Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, or USCIRF, has some harsh words for the commission’s annual report, issued last month. Prodromou sharply criticizes USCIRF and the entire U.S. foreign policy team for ignoring human rights violations endured by Orthodox Christians in the Middle East.
For example, Prodromou complains that neither the U.S. administration nor USCIRF (an independent agency) has issued a statement about the kidnapping in Syria last month, most likely by Islamists in the opposition, of two Orthodox bishops. The kidnapping of two bishops sends an ominous message to Syria’s Christians, and Prodromou is outraged that the U.S. did not see fit to introduce a Security Council resolution condemning the kidnapping. Russia, she notes, did introduce such a resolution.
I share Prodromou’s outrage about what is happening to Christians in Syria, most of whom are Orthodox, and her frustration at the West’s lack of attention to the problem. (This lack of attention is nothing new; the last U.S. administration seemed more or less indifferent to the plight of Iraq’s Christians). But I’m not sure that official American statements would help the situation. Perversely, official expressions of concern from the outside often increase the danger for Christians in the Middle East. When Pope Benedict spoke about the obvious mistreatment of Copts a while ago, for example, Egypt withdrew its Vatican ambassador in protest. Things have not improved for the Copts since.
Moreover, it’s not plain how much credibility U.S. government statements have in Syria at the moment. The U.S. has worked itself into a situation in which neither of the major players in the conflict, neither Assad nor the Islamists who dominate the opposition, have an incentive to listen to what the U.S. says. I’m not suggesting the U.S. and the West should ignore the plight of Syria’s Christians and leave them to their fate; not at all. I mean only that official statements, without the wherewithal to back them up, do little, and often backfire.
Prodromou is on firmer ground when she criticizes the USCIRF report’s about-face on Turkey. Last year’s USCIRF report declared Turkey a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, a designation that signified that Turkey had an especially problematic record on religious freedom. This year’s report upgrades Turkey’s status from a CPC to a country that merely warrants monitoring. But, Prodromou notes, there hasn’t been any appreciable improvement of the situation for Orthodox Christians (and other religious minorities) in Turkey over the last year:
By the USCIRF’s own report in 2013, Halki [a famous Greek Orthodox seminary] remains shuttered 42 years after its closing and 10-plus years into the Erdogan era; there has been no overhaul of the property rights regime used to economically disenfranchise the country’s Orthodox Christian citizens and strip Orthodox foundations of their lands, so that the USCIRF characterized random returns of property, as in the case of forest lands around Halki returned to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as “commendable” but “not codified by law.” The 2013 USCIRF report also cited rising fear amongst Armenian Orthodox citizens of Turkey, because of hate crimes committed against members of their community, the most grotesquely emblematic case being that of an 84-year-old Armenian woman who was murdered in her Istanbul home with a cross carved into her chest. The Commission obliquely commented that the “Turkish local police promptly launched investigations into three cases, but it is not known if any arrests have been made connected to any of these incidents.”
It does seem very strange that a country could go from being a “country of particular concern” to one merely “worth watching” in the space of a year, especially a country with Turkey’s spotty religious-freedom record. In fact, four commissioners dissented from USCIRF’s decision, including current Vice Chair Mary Ann Glendon and Commissioner Robert P. George, both of whom are affiliated with First Things. USCIRF shouldn’t have named Turkey as a CPC in the first place, the dissenters wrote, but, having made that decision, USCIRF is now making the opposite mistake. “We believe that Turkey has not shown nearly enough improvement in addressing religious freedom violations over the past year to justify its promotion to the status of a country that is merely being monitored,” they explained. The dissenters would have placed Turkey in an intermediate category–among “Tier 2″ religious freedom violators, in the parlance of USCIRF.
You can read Prodromou’s entire post here.
From the Wonder of Earnest, Ethereal Personalism
Owen White, The Ochlophobist
The Alphabet of Nature and Angels
Stefany Anne Golberg, The Smart Set
Mark Sanford’s God
Ross Douthat, Evaluations
The Guerrilla Skirmishes of the Sexual Revolution
Troy Patterson, Slate
“Son of God” Translation Controversy Resolved?
Michael Clark, Gospel Coalition
New figures released yesterday by Statistics Canada suggest the increasing ethnic and religious diversification of the Canadian population. But, as Statistics Canada itself warns, the numbers (based on the 2011 Census) should be taken with a grain of salt, especially when compared to previous year’s data (more on that below).
First some general statistics on Canada’s ethnographic makeup. As of 2011, Canada’s total population was 33.477 million people (31.613 million in 2006; current estimates put the number at 35.056 million as of January 2013). The Aboriginal population is now 1.401 million people or 4.3% of the total population (3.8% in 2006). About 1 in 5 Canadians identify as a visible minority (19.1% in 2011; 16.2% in 2006). The total immigrant population in Canada as of 2011 was 6.776 million or 20.6% of the total population (19.8% in 2006). Of these immigrants, 93.5% are conversant in at least one of Canada’s two official languages. Total recent immigrants (arriving between 2006 and 2011) add up to 17.2% of Canada’s total immigrant population, with 56.9% of recent immigrants coming from Asia (including the Middle East).
Now on to religion itself. The first thing to note is that the census “collected information on religious affiliation, regardless of whether respondents practiced their religion.” So there are plenty of cultural Christians (and others) in the following numbers. As of 2011, 22.103 million Canadians identified as Christian, about 67.3% of the total Canadian population. That’s down ten percent from 2001 when Christians made up 77% of the population.
A great deal has already been written about Rod Dreher’s new book, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming (including William Doino’s review). I only have two short comments to add to the discussion. The first grows out of a conversation I had with a bookshop owner several weeks ago. On learning of my Kentucky roots, he observed, “I’ve always felt the South has produced the greatest American storytellers because it produces the greatest listeners in the country.” Dreher’s writing in Little Way offers readers the chance to be one of these great listeners. Even after five years as a regular reader of Dreher’s blog, I’ve never heard his voice sound so uniquely and clearly. The effect, most of the time, is the feeling that you’re sitting across a kitchen table, or on some humid front porch, listening to him tell you this story. So maybe the trick of Southern storytelling isn’t just that the author listens, but trusts the reader to listen with just as much focus and delight.
I also had the good fortune to finish Robert K. Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra after a four-month hiatus before picking up Little Way. Massie’s work is at once a biography of the last Russian tsar and his family and a history of the years leading into the 1917 revolution. From the moment of Nicholas’ abdication, however, it transforms into a work almost of a kind with the story Dreher tells about his sister: the tsar and his family meet the new and ultimate crisis of their lives with a preternatural calmness, faith, and even generosity. Still, they differ from Ruthie Leming. There are no stories of this love and grace emanating outward at age five; before the abdication Nicholas and Alexandra frequently (and rightly) come across as unsuited to their positions and power.
This difference lets us see something more: that despite a host of errors and sins, a love for others, a desire to do what is necessary for those others and the Russian people (even when it leads, ultimately, to their own deaths), and a simple, unwavering faith manage to spring from them. One can imagine the figures Massie draws bending to tell their children, as Dreher shows his sister doing, “We’re not going to be mad at God. Okay?”
Finding similarities between the two wasn’t entirely surprising. Last summer, while at work on Little Way, Dreher blogged about the effect Nicholas and Alexandra had on him and his gradual understanding of the role, as passion-bearers, the Romanovs fulfill for some Russian Orthodox. These are very different works and very different stories, but Massie’s book offers a complement to The Little Way of Ruthie Leming for those who are interested in finding one. Tendrils of conversation are already growing between them.
Gregg is certainly right to point out that we need a moral argument for capitalism, not just a utilitarian one. The fact that it produces wealth is a good thing. But economic freedom also opens up space for human creativity, agency, and productive cooperation. Quite right, and important.
I would go a step further and simply say that productive work brings with it as sense of dignity. Workers can sense a make-work situation, and they take less satisfaction in that kind of work. A poorly organized workplace, one that impedes productive cooperation, also demoralizes. One of the good consequences of creative destruction is that it puts a great deal of pressure on unproductive enterprises. We want our labor to “make a difference,” and capitalism, however frivolous some of its aspects, increases the changes that what I do from 9 to 5 adds up to something.
However, I do want to take issue with Gregg’s claim that a negative view of capitalism is the “prevailing wisdom.”
That was true when I was a college student, but I don’t think it’s true any longer. I’m struck by how easily the Zuckerberg generation fuses idealism (change the world!) with capitalism.
I would say that today’s “prevailing wisdom” is that capitalism is—inevitable. Most people take it for granted. That’s why our economic arguments take place in such a narrow range. I don’t think anyone in 1970 could have imagined that right would be defined as a 35% top marginal tax rate and left as 39%!
Meanwhile, the left has adopted all sorts of free market principles. The Obama administration recently announced an initiative to expand experimental programs in public housing that limit long-term dependency. Since the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, most liberals have come to see precisely what Gregg thinks important: It’s morally good for people to work and play a productive role in a free economy. They’re more fulfilled when they can contribute and take responsibility for themselves.
This scrambling of old ideological distinctions is part of the challenge we face. What’s conservatism going to look like for the Zuckerberg generation? I’m not sure.
The Journal of Medical Ethics sparked a firestorm last February when it ran the article “After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?” They have now devoted an entire issue, much of it open-access, to that topic. Many of its contributors will be familiar names to readers of First Things.
Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, authors of the original article, clarify their views. The pro-abortion Jeff McMahan explores the absurdities of much abortion-related legislation and the considerations that surround killing babies (born or unborn) and animals. Regina A. Rini, meanwhile, finds Giubilini and Minerva’s arguments incoherent and proposes a new framework that permits abortion but rejects infanticide.
On the pro-life side, John Finnis refutes the arguments that humans do not acquire rights until becoming conscious of themselves and that unconscious human beings cannot be harmed, and Francis J. Beckwith contests the claims that babies are merely potential persons and that the burdensomeness of a new life is morally relevant.
Charles Camosy acknowledges the similarity between unborn and newborn infants—a key point of Giubilini and Minerva’s view—but rejects the conclusion that neither group possesses a right to life. Robert P. George and Camosy then dispute whether proposing infanticide constitutes moral madness. View the whole issue here.
Russell E. Saltzman reflects on the hours before his son’s deployment to Afghanistan:
I cannot tell you what we talked about; I don’t remember much of it really. Mostly, I spent time simply looking at him, wonderingly. Where did this man come from? When did I first meet him? When did this man become the man he is, and why did I not know it before now?
Also today, Wesley Hill remembers reading Dallas Willard:
What we need, Willard argues, is to hear the Sermon on the Mount afresh, not as mere “law,” aimed only at reforming our behavior, but as instruction on how our hearts may be renewed. Jesus, Willard says, “does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love.”
Robert Downey Jr. is back as Tony Stark in Iron Man 3. I found his performance every bit as delightful as previous installments.
Though still witty, Tony Stark has lost some of his brashness in this movie. His encounter with aliens in The Avengers has left him shaken and prone to anxiety. He’s asking himself how he can make sense of life post-Avengers.
Director Shane Black had to wrestle with a similar question. I can only imagine that after seeing The Avengers he asked himself how am I supposed to follow that? In my estimation he managed to answer that question quite well.
This third installment in the Iron Man franchise matures Tony emotionally. In the first movie, Tony is a millionaire playboy, who has a life-changing experience. He rises from the dead, so to speak, in order to atone for the past and save lives. In the sequel, we find Tony still wrestling with the same demons that plagued him in the first film. He’s abusing alcohol, and he cannot break free from the party lifestyle. The second movie frustrated me because Tony was stuck in this rut. What happened to the life change?
Shane Black gave me the new Tony Stark that I had been waiting for. Tony’s given up the booze and parties. He’s in a stable relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). He’s still plagued by demons, but these demons of confusion and anxiety mark a man who is wrestling with his world. He’s no longer attempting to numb himself to the pain around him.
Though I like the film’s narrative arc, it wasn’t flawlessly executed. Black recycles some of the villain’s motivation from earlier movies in the franchise. I detected a fairly large plot hole towards the end of the film, but I won’t elaborate because I don’t want to spoil anything.
The good outweighs the bad. There’s an especially beautiful scene in which Tony saves Pepper, sacrificing his own safety. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Tony Stark grow up. I think you will too.
*If you’re the kind of person who whines about too many superhero movies, then you can read my defense of the genre that I wrote last summer.
[Cross-posted at collingarbarino.com]
How Lewis Prepared Me for Edwards (audio)
John Piper, Desiring God
Brett Foster, Books & Culture
The Real Story of Church Growth and Decline
Christopher Brittain, ABC Religion & Ethics
Why is Communist Iconography Still Cool?
Dalibor Rohac, Umlaut
800,00o Converts to Syriac Orthodoxy in Central America?
N. Silk, Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches
One of the more remarkable aspects of Francis’ pontificate has been his rhetorical style. Whereas Benedict XVI generally spoke in carefully crafted Latin paragraphs, Pope Francis has adopted a more casual style of Italian—often speaking without prepared notes. Most notable of all, Francis has gone about coining striking phrases that capture spiritual concepts in contemporary terms.
Archbishop Claudio Celli, head of the Vatican’s Council for Social Communication says that Francis uses images to “communicate concepts that people can perceive immediately.” According to Celli, Francis is ”helping us to rediscover that communication is not only an intellectual problem.”
Vatican observer Rocco Palmo cites an article in article in Avvenire by Stefania Falasca that compared Francis’ rhetoric to sermo humilis—the simple Latin by which the church once spoke to the ordinary man. Falasca also connects Francis rhetoric to “pastiche.” This, says, Falasca, “is precisely the juxtaposition of words of different levels or different registers with expressive effect. The ‘pastiche’ style is today a typical feature of communication on the web and of postmodern language. This is therefore a matter of linguistic associations unprecedented in the history of the Petrine magisterium.”
Here, then, is an early document of some of Pope Francis’ more notable phrases:
March 14: “We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord.”
Geza Vermes died today from a reoccurrence of cancer. Religious studies has lost one of its most erudite and colorful scholars.
Vermes was born to Jewish parents and converted to Roman Catholicism with them before WWII. After the war he became a Roman Catholic priest, but then returned to Judaism while in his 30s. Not long after publishing his English translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, he began teaching at Oxford. His scholarship concerning the origins of Christianity is especially weighty.
Mark Goodacre has this to say about Vermes’s legacy:
It has almost become a cliché to point out that his Jesus the Jew (1973) was revolutionary, but its impact was indeed massive. I remember seeing the book for the first time in our home when I was a teenager in the 1980s and being somewhat taken aback by its title and its appearance, with lots of Stars of David all over it. In the early 1970s, with the new quest for the historical Jesus still in full swing, it was still de rigueur for Jesus to be depicted as some kind of Lutheran figure championing his gospel in contrast to a law championed by petty legalists. The exciting thing about reading Vermes’s book was that he had actually read the rabbinic texts that many a New Testament scholar only pretended to know.
Vermes’s work that I enjoyed the most was his thorough revision of Emil Schurer’s monumental The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ. It’s an incredible resource for those investigating the earliest years of Christianity.
I certainly haven’t always agreed with Vermes, but he was always worth reading. His mastery of the primary sources was awe inspiring, and he almost always dealt with the sources in a judicious manner.
I’m sorry that his education led him away from Christianity, but I’m thankful that I can stand on his scholarly shoulders.
We have made an idol of choice, regarding it as the logical concomitant of our “natural” freedom. But freedom so conceived is really anti-natural, for it demands that we do away with all the barriers and constraints that come from nature (and, I might add, nature’s creator). The only way to overcome nature and hence to facilitate choice is to acquire power, lots of it. Choice requires empowerment, in other words. But what is truly empowered in this process is not the human being, but the organization (that is, the government) that purports to empower him or her. C.S. Lewis, by the way, saw this in The Abolition of Man and That Hideous Strength.
Our libertarians, so infatuated with choice, are really infatuated with what facilitates or empowers that choice—that is, with government.
The antidote is to recognize what we are made for, about which our bodies (created by the creator) give us some very strong hints. We can through very great efforts seem to overcome the limits of our bodies (in medicine, we sometimes call that “playing God”), but that doesn’t free us so much as it makes us dependent, not on the partners for whom we were made, but on the Leviathan that offers us choices.
The fundamental issue here is not anyone’s sexual orientation; it’s the assumption that choice, pleasure, and self-fulfillment are our be-all and end-all, an assumption that many—nay, all—of us sinners share.
Dallas Willard, a prominent philosopher on a “quiet quest to subvert nominal Christianity” (according to a 2006 CT profile), died today after losing a battle with cancer. He was 77. . . .
According to Gary Moon, executive director of the Dallas Willard Center at Westmont College, Willard died early Wednesday morning, but “awakened to a full experience of the reality of the Kingdom of the Heavens he described so beautifully. Fittingly, his last two words were, “‘Thank you.’”
Writing on the necessity of inner transformation in 2006, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. had this to say of Willard:
The first thing to do is to trust our Christian friends who have died with Jesus Christ when they tell us it’s going to be okay if we do it, too. This, in my judgment, is one of the greatest services offered to the church by our Christian friend Dallas Willard.
He is a brilliant, modest, immensely experienced Christian older brother, calling to us from the Resurrection side of things. His books all call out, in one way or another: Come on over. It’s going to be okay to die first. You have to do it, and you can do it. Not even Jesus got a resurrection without a death, and he’ll be at your side when you surrender your old life. Trust me on this. If you die with Jesus Christ, God will walk you out of your tomb into a life of incomparable joy and purpose inside his boundless and competent love.
The great Italian politician Giulio Andreotti, nicknamed the “Eternal One,” has passed away at the age of 94. The seven-times Prime Minister was an unassuming man:
Andreotti would go to a different church every morning, and always leave as soon as Mass was over. He would never leave the house without a dozen or more envelopes, in each of which was a 10,000 lira note. These would be dispensed to the beggars that stand at every church door in Rome, or to any who approached him in the street. He often wore a green Loden coat, the preferred dress of the European integrationist, along with deliberately unfashionable spectacles.
Andreotti was one of those men, who though married, was of deeply clerical appearance and demeanour. . . . “He’s very reserved. He will never tell you what he is thinking. . . .”
The death of Giulio Andreotti—a Christian Democrat in the mold of Konrad Adenauer—“marks a milestone in Italian, indeed European, history,” says the Catholic Herald.
George Weigel remembers Max Kampelman:
He was a major figure in forcing human rights issues onto the U.S. foreign policy agenda, made an invaluable contribution to the moral delegitimation of the Soviet Union as ambassador for Presidents Carter and Reagan to the Madrid Review Conference on the Helsinki Accords in the early 1980s, and then worked himself into a heart attack negotiating a nuclear arms reduction pact with the USSR.
Also today, from our May issue, David Bentley Hart analyzes the problems with natural law:
Even if final causality in nature is demonstrable, does it yield moral knowledge if there is no clear moral analogy between natural ends and the proper objects of human motive? After all, our modern narrative of nature is of an order shaped by immense ages of monstrous violence.
A recent inquiry from a college instructor in search of philosophical arguments on the morality of abortion inspired us to compile the below list of resources, which, though far from comprehensive, may be of use to pro-lifers. I’ve sorted the list by type of resource.
Free online articles:
Scholarly articles (limited access):
You can find more helpful resources on the blog Pro-Life Philosophy, on the blog of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, and on this page compiled by Princeton Pro-Life, all of which I used in putting together this post. And many of the people cited above have written other books or articles on abortion that I omitted here for the sake of space. Feel free to provide more suggestions in the comment box.
Once an intimate family affair, death and dying are now outsourced in America. Set in different centuries, stories from two of America’s greatest storytellers highlight the manner in which American encounters with death and dying have changed over the last two hundred years.
Culled from Stephen King’s novella The Body (1982), the plot in the 1980s coming-of-age film Stand by Me (1986) revolves around a quest by four adolescents to find a dead body. Set in 1959, the narrator reflects back on the events from the present, highlighting the novelty of the encounter in the film’s opening line: “I was twelve going on thirteen the first time I saw a dead human being.” By the mid-twentieth century, close encounters with death had become exceptional for American adolescents.
By contrast, in his masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain incorporates a dead body into the plot as a banal element of the antebellum tale. Although the reader does not expect Huck to hide a bag of money in the coffin containing “the remainders of Peter,” Twain portrays the presence of a coffined body in the downstairs parlor of the Wilks home while the family sleeps upstairs as mundane occurrence. By the twentieth century, such a scene could only fit comfortably as a prelude to some horrific preternatural episode in one of King’s other works.
These disparate works of fiction punctuate the manner in which American attitudes towards death and dying have been transformed from an uncomfortable familiarity to a comfortable unfamiliarity over the last two centuries. (more…)
Do All Twentysomething Evangelicals Hate the Suburbs?
Keith Miller, Mere Orthodoxy
I Still Love Kierkegaard
Julian Baggini, Aeon
The Argument from Divine Hiddenness
Victor Reppert, Dangerous Idea
A Caution re: Reading Bergoglio As Proto-Francis
Ed Peters, In the Light of the Law
Door-to-Door (Catholic) Evangelism
Tim Townsend, Christianity Today
Elizabeth Scalia on the age of technology and ideology:
Self-idolization is a natural by-product of the instrumentalization of our age, and it is weakening us. The GPS destroys our sense of direction; social scientists cripple our instinctive knowing. The world says True North is a relative concept, and so whatever path one takes is the right one—the path to the All-Knowing Me, who knows nothing and is stranded and alone, and weak.
Also today, from our May issue, Ephraim Radner reviews The Myth of Persecution:
Here’s the pitch: Conservatives in America think that traditional Christians are “persecuted” for their positions against abortion and homosexual marriage, but this is only a latter-day expression of an early Christian “myth” that relies on fraud to demonize opponents and stoke the fires of intolerance. That is the book in a nutshell. Those who know some Christian history will learn little here except, perhaps, something about the continuing intellectual dead ends of historical criticism.