How a Decadent Culture Makes Me Think Like Sorokin

The more I am hit by the decadence and vulgarity of American culture, the more I return to the thought of Pitirim A. Sorokin (1889-1968). Now out of favor in spite of his enduring scholarship and his central role in the development of academic sociology, Sorokin was already beginning to fade when I entered graduate school in the late-1950s. His stout anti-communism, critique of loosening sexual mores, and cultural conservatism ran squarely against the academic trends of the time. And it didn’t help that his life story gave him far more credibility than his colleagues to discuss the great ideological debates of the Cold War. Continue Reading »

On College Football (and Blaming ESPN)

The season ends in a few days, the first year of a playoff, and TV ratings will be astronomical. For real lovers of the game, though, the ones with an historical sense of things, it’s getting difficult to watch. How can you appreciate the contest when so much bad behavior by players happens? Continue Reading »

The Power of “Heteronormativity”

For twenty-five years, the term heteronormativity has been a strategic usage. The basic definition isn’t complicated. Heteronormativity is the act of interpreting heterosexual desire as the normal, natural way of human being and society. The term doesn’t signify the normal-ness of heterosexuality. It signifies the disposition to normalize it.For twenty-five years, the term heteronormativity has been a strategic usage. The basic definition isn’t complicated. Heteronormativity is the act of interpreting heterosexual desire as the normal, natural way of human being and society. The term doesn’t signify the normal-ness of heterosexuality. It signifies the disposition to normalize it. Continue Reading »

Celebrity and the Absence of Faith

In Christopher Beha’s excellent debut novel, What Happened to Sophie Wilder?, writer Charlie Blakeman nearly laughs when Sophie, his ex-girlfriend and a Catholic convert, says she plans to save the soul of her dying father-in-law, an atheist: “I don’t think I knew a single person who would have spoken in that way about saving someone’s soul,” ­Charlie observes. “The religious people I knew talked about their faith apologetically. It was an embarrassment to their own reason and intelligence, but somehow a necessary one.” Continue Reading »

Christmas in Harvard Square

Christmas in Harvard Square is the first recording of the St. Paul’s Choir school, the only Catholic boys’ choir school in America. Led by Mr. John Robinson, a former assistant from Canterbury Cathedral, the boys take their music and their faith seriously. Continue Reading »

A Witness, in Life and Letters

Born in Britain in 1923, and educated at Eton and Oxford, Philip Trower is a Catholic writer of notable achievement. This alone merits attention—as there is much talk about the relative dearth of Catholic authors today—but Trower’s life and work offer something more, as they speak to questions that are being asked within the Church today. Continue Reading »

Gnosticism 2.0

Humans typically situate their divinities at the border of the cosmos. The Israelites and Babylonians understood the solid sky to represent the edge of the created order and placed gods there accordingly. Whether YHWH or Marduk, deities reside at the farthest limit of the world. Modern science has expanded the cosmos so far beyond the ancient imagination that not only do we now find the idea of divinities living in the sky absurd, but we cannot even place new gods at the edge. There is neither absolute space nor privileged location in the new, constantly expanding universe. Continue Reading »