Whatever else it is, the pro-life movement of the last thirty-plus years is one of the most massive and sustained expressions of citizen participation in the history of the United States. Since the 1960s, citizen participation and the remoralizing of politics have been central goals of the left. Is it not odd, then, that the pro-life movement is viewed as a right-wing cause? Reinhold Niebuhr wrote about “the irony of American history” and, were he around to update his book of that title, I expect he might recognize this as one of the major ironies within the irony.
In “Abortion After Obama,” I add:
On abortion, Obama is the complete man, his support so ingrained that even his carefully controlled public speaking can’t help revealing it. He’s not a fanatic about abortion; he’s what lies beyond fanaticism. He’s the end product of hard-line support for abortion: a man for whom the very question of abortion seems unreal. The opponents of abortion are, for Obama, not to be compromised with or even fought with, in a certain sense. They are, rather, to be explained away as a sociological phenomenontheir pro-life view something that will wither away as they gradually come to understand the true causes of the economic and social bitterness they have, in their undereducated and intolerant way, attached to abortion.
The state of the pro-life movement after the November election is one of the key questions we face, and so these two articles are this month’s online bonuses, available free here on our website even to non-subscribers.
Of course, why there are any non-subscribers remains a mystery. Shouldn’t you be subscribing to First Things?
That way, you would be reading not just the bonus articles but also such important essays as Robert Louis Wilken’s Erasmus Lecture, “Christianity Face to Face with Islam”:
From the day Caliph Umar was met by the patriarch Sophronius in Jerusalem in the mid-seventh century, Christianity has found itself face to face with Islam. Though the circumstances have varied from place to place and century to century, Islam has always presented a challenge. Yet, in the course of a long history, during which Islam expanded all over the world, Christians, with the exception of those who lived in the Middle East in the early centuries of Muslim rule, have seldom taken Islam with the seriousness it deserves or recognized it for what it isa religion in the biblical tradition in which piety is wedded to statecraft. A “complacent ignorance” (in the phrase of the modern scholar Lamin Sanneh) has prevailed, especially in the West.
Or Alan Jacobs’ “Do-It-Yourself Tradition,” a review of several books promoting the “New Monasticism” in evangelical churches:
The practices of the ancient Church were forged in eras of the porous self and were responsive to its fears and vulnerabilities. Can they be nearly as meaningful to us, surrounded by our protective buffers, as they were to our ancestors? Does their evident power suggest to us that we have paid too high a price for our buffers, that we may need to be more exposed? The self that can pursue the via illuminativethat can be illuminated by Godmay open itself to the demonic as well as the divine. The disciplines and practices of our Christian ancestors are not toys or tools; they are the hope of life to those who are perishing. This is what Alasdair MacIntyre had in mind when he said that, here among the ruins of our old civilization, what we may be waiting for is a new St. Benedict: someone who can articulate a whole way of life and call us to it.
The turn to the Christian past is indeed welcome, but it may demand more of us than we are prepared to give. In contemplating the witness and practices of our ancestors, we may discover that we’d rather remain within our buffersif we can. But can we? Current electronic technologiesfrom blogs to texting to online banking to customer-specific Google adsmay be drawing us into a new age of porousness, with new exposures, new vulnerabilities. And in such a new age the hard-earned wisdom of our distant ancestors in the faith may be not just a set of interesting ideas and recommendations but an indispensable source of hope. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.
Or Michael Novak’s “Apology for Democratic Capitalism,” which asks: “What on earth is happening? Is democratic capitalism dead? Has socialism in fact come back to life?”
Or “Messianic Gentiles & Messianic Jews,” and exchange between Mark Kinzer and Matthew Levering. Kinzer opens his defense of Messianic Judaism with a declaration:
I am a Messianic Jewa Jew who adheres to Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth as Israel’s messiah and finds in him the realization and renewal of Judaism rather than its nullification. I am also a person who has benefited enormously from relations with Catholic teachers and friends. For all Jews, an excellent starting point for theological discussion with Catholics remains Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from the Second Vatican Council, as supplemented by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
But Levering is not persuaded:
Mark Kinzer makes several interesting claims about the relation of Jews and the Churchthrough his critical engagement with the ecclesiology of Lumen Gentium, his proposal that the Catechism offers a significant advance on that ecclesiology, and his suggestions for developing Catholic ecclesiological doctrine.
In doing so, however, he relies on a framework that misapprehends Catholic teaching on Christ and history. Essentially absent from Kinzer’s analysis is the understanding of history that shapes Lumen Gentium and the Catechisman understanding of Christ as the eschatological figure who fulfills Israel and stands at the center of all history. This fact has wide ramifications for his dialogue with Catholic theology.
Not enough for you? In “A Nation of Hustlers,” James Nuechterlein adds a full-length review essay of sharp observation about Walter McDougall’s project in the new history volume Throes of Democracy, and in “O Death, Where Is Thy Sting-a-Ling-a-Ling?,” R.R. Reno puts in some sharp words about Julian Barnes’ new book Nothing to Be Frightened Of.
Meanwhile, in the Correspondence section of the magazine, Mary Eberstadt responds to the critics of her earlier article “The Vindication of Humanae Vitae,” pointing out: “The point is that singling out any one of these rules for special treatment cannot help but invite the rejoinder, what about me? That’s why the widespread disobedience about birth control has led many American Catholics to ask in turn what right the Church has to impose rules of any kind, on any sexual or bodily activity whatsoever. That’s the road that dissent inevitably if also logically leads to, and the one that Humanae Vitae, like so much else before it in Christian teaching, refused to embark on.”
In this same January issue, we’ve got poetry from the likes of the editor, and Bill Coyle, and Amit Majmudar, and Robert Mezeytogether with reviews by the likes of Thomas Hibbs and Edward Oakes and Russell Hittinger.
Shouldn’t you be subscribing today?