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War and Christian Doctrine

No doubt every reader of Darrell Cole’s “Good Wars” (October 2001) was struck, as I was, by its eerie timeliness, appearing as it did just a few days after the attack on America September 11, 2001. But rather than link his essay with the devastation of that day (an assault that could easily launch a war that future historians might someday be calling a new “Hundred Years War”), I would rather cast my glance backward to the same time in history that Professor Cole’s essay also treated. For when I read the author’s citations of Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin, with their startling claims that war can sometimes be the most charitable course of action, I thought of another voice roughly contemporaneous with Calvin’s: that of the founder of the Jesuit Order, St. Ignatius of Loyola.

On August 6, 1552, Ignatius sent two letters of reflection and instruction to Jesuit Father Jerome Nadal, who was sojourning in Sicily at the time to promulgate the newly written Constitutions of the Order. At the end, Ignatius instructed this Jesuit delegate to add one more task to these duties: he wanted Nadal to visit the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, to convince the emperor to join in Ignatius’ grandly conceived plan to sweep the Turkish navy from the Mediterranean. As the editor and English translator of these missives, William Young, S.J., notes in his Letters of St. Ignatius of Loyola (Loyola University Press, 1959): “The plan reveals a broad political vision and no common gifts of organization. But no less interesting are the general principles which rule the project, and especially the supernatural motives so familiar in the saint’s spiritual outlook which are at the base of the plan” [emphasis added].

Speaking of himself (as was his habit) in the third person, Ignatius says: “Seeing all this [devastation] and the losses which the pirates are wont to inflict on the coastlands, on the souls and bodies and belongings of Christian men, he has come to understand in our Lord and to hold the firm conviction that the emperor ought to muster a great fleet and regain control of the seas. . . . [Moreover,] he would gladly devote the rest of his old age to this plan, with no thought of the labor involved in journeying to the emperor and to the prince, or of the dangers along the way, or of his bodily ailments, or any other discomfort whatever.”

Then in the second letter (sent the same day), and casting a wary eye on European geopolitics and the self-interested nationalism that would soon become the hallmark of European diplomacy (at least until it came near to destroying Western civilization in the twentieth century), Ignatius ruefully points out how easily the Ottoman Turks exploited Christian divisions: “Beginning with what little is left of Christendom, they are employing the tactics which enabled them to take Constantinople; that is, playing one prince against another, and then taking what they please from both vanquished and survivor.”

But for Ignatius a strong campaign to build a large imperial navy would not only help to obviate such nationalism but would also perhaps even serve as a deterrent to war: “The reputation and honor of his majesty are involved, a reputation which must be sustained among the faithful and even the infidel. This will be vastly improved by a fleet which could seek honor and reputation in foreign parts and defend them at home without effort. As it is now, much credit and authority is lost. For this authority can be a defense in many places to one’s nationals even without the backing of arms.”

Needless to say, the expense of such an undertaking would have been immense. But even here Ignatius did not shirk from the implications that such a levy would have for religious houses, including those of the Jesuits: “An order could be issued,” he suggested, “that many of the rich religious orders in the estates of his majesty—which could get along with much less than they have—should provide a good number of galleys. For example, . . . the Benedictines, so many [ships]; the Carthusians, so many; and so forth. Among them could be included the abbeys of Sicily and Naples which are without any religious [members]. A second source would be the bishoprics and their chapters and attached beneficiaries, which taken all together could contribute a large sum of money with which to equip a good number of ships for the benefit of Christendom.”

Of course, the task of drawing exact parallels between these exhortations and today’s bellicosities would be impossible. For one thing, the House of Islam hardly presents the picture of unanimity that once obtained during the heyday of the Ottoman Empire. Nevertheless, as to Prof. Cole’s basic point—that in certain circumstances war must be regarded not only as the last remaining necessary option, but also as the most charitable one—of that central thesis we can at least say this: St. Ignatius of Loyola would have agreed.

Edward T. Oakes, S.J.
Regis University
Denver, Colorado

Darrell Cole’s argument for good wars” shows the fundamental dishonesty in much Christian thinking about just war. I agree with Professor Cole that “the tradition” of Christian just war reasoning (from Augustine to Aquinas to Calvin) is reasonable. But I disagree with his claim that this tradition is consistent with the teachings of Jesus.

The teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is pacifist. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus clearly endorse the lethal use of force. To get around this evident fact, Prof. Cole adopts the traditional view that “Christ’s pacific nature is . . . inextricably tied to his role as redeemer and cannot be intended as a model for Christian behavior.” And yet Prof. Cole does not cite any words of Jesus to support this interpretation.

Would it not be more honest for Christians to admit that Jesus taught pacifism, but that this teaching is imprudent, and therefore we must adopt the just war argument of “the tradition” as a correction of the teachings of Jesus?

Larry Arnhart
Professor of Political Science
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, Illinois

I read Darrell Cole’s article as soon as it arrived. It could not have come at a more critical moment.

Since the bombing, my local church has offered a disturbing mix of prayers and high-minded demagoguery. It has become a bully pulpit for what, to me, seems like so much moral irresponsibility. There is much pious intoning of the word “forgiveness” with no effort to distinguish between forgiveness and exoneration. Invocations of “peace,” with no reference to the conditions on which peace is built, have been quite prominent.

My fear is that the American Catholic churches will be in the ranks of those exhuming the corpse of the antiwar movement of the 1960s. All candles and paper cranes for the enemy. No comprehension that a refusal to use force is a form of appeasement, an invitation to the murder of more innocents.

I have been so angry than I had to stop attending Mass. I could not bear lending myself to the sanctimonious braying, the rhetorical tightrope act that permits priests to deplore terrorism and the necessary violence of defensive force in the same breath. Moral equivalence is alive and well in my parish church.

Thank you for “Good Wars.”

Maureen Mullarkey
Chappaqua, New York

Darrell Cole’s article presents a picture of a Christian tradition more or less unified in its acceptance of the nobility of soldiering until the liberal/humanist/Enlightenment/pacifist cabal began to infiltrate and corrupt its thinking. The fact is, conflict over the role of soldiers and the purpose of war has been part of Christianity from early on. I notice Professor Cole omits to quote St. Basil, who was of the opinion that engagement in war and killing for any reason entailed automatic excommunication of nine years and performance of severe penance before the penitent could be restored to full communion. The Archbishop of Caesarea seems to be of the “dirty hands” school of thought. We can perform necessary acts, he reasons, that still require repentance. Sin can, at times, be inescapable; the necessity of a thing does not make a virtue of it.

But even more important than the witness of St. Basil is the witness of the early Christian soldier-martyrs who forfeited their lives because they believed in the incompatibility of their new religion with their old profession. While some of the soldier-martyrs met their end because of a refusal to engage in the obligatory cultic sacrifice of the Roman legions, others fall into a category we would have to call pacifist. The Church of the first four centuries did indeed canonize those who refused military service as violence and suffered death for their belief. Ecclesiastical documents such as the Canons of Hippolytus bear this out.

All of which is not to deny any of the excellent points made by Prof. Cole, but simply to say that the issue has been much more vexed, and the Church’s response more conflicted, than he implies.

Mary Grace DuPree
Atlanta, Georgia

Thank you for Darrell Cole’s article on just war. Growing up in America did not give me much reason or opportunity to consider anything but pacifism desirable, and it was easy to fit Christian beliefs into that mold. And how I long for an existence where peace will be a given, not an “ism”! Living in Croatia through its years of war, however, forced me to consider that war can and must be seen from other perspectives. While Christians must never be eager for war, neither must we be naive about the reality of evil and the rightness of saving lives and preserving light in a very dark world. Thank you for your willingness to go against the flow in printing this article.

Sheila Vamplin
Memphis, Tennessee

Darrell Cole replies:

I very much appreciate the kind comments by Maureen Mullarkey, Sheila Vamplin, and Edward T. Oakes. Father Oakes’ discussion of Ignatius reminded me of just how many theologians contributed to the just war tradition, both Catholic and Protestant. So many names could be added to the list: most notably Vitoria and Suarez on the Catholic side, and Jeremy Taylor and Richard Baxter on the Protestant side. But not all my correspondents are happy with the tradition as I have defended it and I would be remiss in not making some sort of reply.

Professor Arnhart represents what I like to call the Niebuhrian strain in Christian attitudes toward war, a strain that has much in common with the messianic pacifism of John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas. This claim may seem unusual. After all, Yoder and Hauerwas spilled a great deal of ink exposing the moral shortcomings of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian Realism, and there is a great deal of difference between the two positions on many points. What is not at issue between the camps, however, is how to interpret the person and work of Jesus Christ. Each camp believes that it can understand what the person and work of Jesus Christ means for the Christian by interpreting the person and work of Christ primarily (if not completely) through the Gospel writers (especially Luke).

Thus, unlike Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin, both pacifists and Niebuhr (and Professor Arnhart) fail to “see” Christ through Paul and the larger concerns of the New Testament. Because of this, both camps view Jesus’ teachings as incompatible with earthly politics. This leads the pacifist camp to tend toward withdrawal or a permanent stand against all nation-state politics; it leads the Niebuhrians to deny Jesus any role in politics. Just war politics insists against both camps that Jesus is important to just war doctrine because he who has redeemed the nations makes charitable soldiering possible by his death and resurrection. The love commands, for instance, do not merely prohibit acts of personal vengeance, but, as Calvin suggests, demand the use of force for the protection of our neighbors.

Ms. DuPree is entirely correct to point out that not every Church Father viewed war the way that Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Ambrose, and Augustine did. I could easily reply that the list I give is enough to show that the bulk of the tradition, as well as the most important Western Father, represent a unified view of warfare that became the orthodox view. This orthodox view is upheld and greatly expanded upon by Aquinas, arguably the greatest philosopher/theologian in the medieval West, and is co-opted to a very large degree by Reformers such as Calvin who were known to be hostile to Aquinas in many other areas. Luther, of course, wanted to go back to Augustine, but much of what he says in “Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved” is also perfectly compatible with Aquinas’ view. The orthodox view remained inviolate until Enlightenment assumptions began to corrupt it.

But I do not wish to leave it at that. First of all, Ms. DuPree’s examples of the Canons of Hippolytus and Basil are not as clear-cut as she assumes. The Canons of Hippolytus warn the Christian that if he sheds blood, then he should “stay away from the mysteries at least until he has been purified through tears and lamentation. He should fulfill his obligation without deceit and fear of God” (Canon XIV). Basil writes: “Our predecessors did not consider killing in war as murder but, as I understand it, made allowances for those who fought on the side of moderation and piety. Nonetheless, it is good to admonish those whose hands are unclean to abstain just from communion for three years” (Letter 188.13).

Hippolytus represents a strain of early Christian thinking that bloodshed is intrinsically wrong, but not so wrong that it is forbidden absolutely. Thus, we do not have here the sort of pacifism we find in the Radical Reformers and their modern heirs. If one kills, one must only forgo the “mysteries” until “purified.” Exactly what counts as being “purified” and how long it takes to be “purified” is not specified. Basil is more specific, demanding that those with “unclean hands” abstain from communion for three years. This does not amount to excommunication nor is the penance to last more than three years. Nevertheless, it is not so clear what constitutes “unclean hands” for Basil. He does not say expressly that all bloodshed needs penance, which might indicate that those who need penance—those whose hands are “unclean”—are those who do not fight “on the side of moderation and piety.” Such a view certainly accords with Basil’s declaration elsewhere that he had “become acquainted with a man who demonstrates that it is possible even in the military profession to maintain perfect love for God and that a Christian ought to be characterized not by the clothes he wears but by the disposition of his soul” (Letter 106).

The early Christian debate on this subject has a medieval parallel. Alain of Lille, for example, cited a canon that enjoined penance for killing even on command of princely authority, but Hugh of Saint Cher argued that soldiers could exercise their office without sin when they did so with right intention and out of necessity. For Hugh of Saint Cher, only those who killed for vainglory or other vicious desires were guilty of sin. He represents the overwhelming majority of medieval theologians who followed Augustine and Aquinas in maintaining that there is nothing inherently wrong with using force.

Music and the Soul

If it is not inappropriate for someone criticized in a book to review it, perhaps it is not inappropriate for the book’s editor to respond.

Michael Linton disagrees with Carson Holloway’s argument in All Shook Up: Music, Passion, and Politics that music has a natural power to move the soul (October 2001). To illustrate, Professor Linton draws an analogy to fire, observing, correctly, that music does not act on the person “inevitably,” “predictably,” and “regardless of circumstances” as fire does, and concluding that music does not have the power that Holloway asserts.

Yet consider that there are many who smoke heavily, but never contract lung cancer; and there are health nuts who die of lung cancer nonetheless. To borrow Prof. Linton’s words, “the effect is not universal,” yet I doubt anyone would commend inhaling cigarette smoke as a healthy activity. On the contrary, most, including many smokers, discourage it.

Prof. Linton errs in demanding to be shown the empirically verifiable link between bad music and moral corruption. We are dealing with the soul, and no such link exists. Those who will be satisfied only with a material demonstration are unwilling, or perhaps unable, to credit the formal argument that Holloway presents. But they have adopted, without warrant, a fundamentally mechanistic view of the subject, thus narrowing the inquiry in a way that settles the argument in their favor from the start. Music cannot have natural power in the way that Prof. Linton understands the term, but his understanding is incomplete.

It is not a question of material causality, but of necessary potentiality. The human lung is capable of being corroded by cigarette smoke, though in any particular case it may not be, at least not enough to undermine or even perceptibly damage the health of the body as a whole. Likewise, the human soul is capable of being affected by music, though the effect may be mitigated or counteracted by other influences or by the qualities of a particular soul.

Holloway nowhere attempts, as Prof. Linton implies (and appears to believe the argument requires), to isolate music as the determinative influence on the person. Holloway argues that we are unavoidably influenced by the music we listen to, and therefore our choice of music is not a matter of moral indifference. Holloway would no doubt agree with Prof. Linton that “there is no piece of music that will itself cause any person to choose virtue over vice.” But this observation is trivial, and to conclude from it that “the emperor has no clothes” is a non sequitur.

Mitchell Muncy
Spence Publishing Company
Dallas, Texas

Michael Linton’s review of All Shook Up: Music, Passion, and Politics by Carson Holloway has all the intelligence and grace of a John Cage performance in which the “artist” hoists a piano to the fly-in zone above the stage then lets the instrument fall and smash to a pile of rubble on the floor.

Holloway has carefully laid out the argument that enculturation in good music during the formative years is conducive to the development of rational thinking and moral character, while music that excites the emotions and stimulates the libido is likely to encourage the kind of behavior associated with rock stars. This idea is intuitively obvious and it has as much history as plausibility, but Professor Linton doesn’t seem to grasp even the rudiments of Holloway’s analysis of the historical sources. Plato is, of course, the original exponent of this idea, but Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Nietzsche have dealt extensively with the issue of art and public morality.

Prof. Linton says that he has changed his mind several times on elements of Plato’s thought. His present opinion is that the philosopher was merely a “social conservative” and “nativist reactionary” with prejudice against new or foreign music (Socrates, a social conservative!). After about three paragraphs of avoiding any engagement with Holloway’s research or his sources, Prof. Linton produces the argument that for music to have any “natural power” to influence character development, its effect must be as inevitable and pronounced as the effect of holding one’s hand to a flame. This tone-deaf reasoning is as about as helpful as the idea that since immoral behavior does not immediately and consistently lead to pain and suffering there can be no moral law. Of course, many people are now arguing just that, but even Hollywood types seem to have responded to recent events with recognition that some acts are evil.

The question of causality as opposed to influence is probably legitimate. But Prof. Linton doesn’t seem to think there is any way music can have one sort of influence as opposed to any other. He allows that the opening chorus of the St. Matthew Passion may convey profound grief to some listeners, but since some “might be simply bored” there is no meaning in the music.

This is familiar stuff. It is akin to the argument that all readings of literary texts are interpretations. One might think Prof. Linton has skimmed over the history of music as casually as he has skimmed Holloway’s book. Having shown his limited ability to deal with philosophy, he resorts to ethnomusicology and psychology. From research in these fields he relates only conclusions, so we have no way of evaluating, for example, whether Gilbert Rouget—“one of France’s leading ethnomusicologists”—is saying anything important in the contention that religious trance is induced when “the communicant has made a decision to enter into a trance.”

Prof. Linton’s point is that whatever leads to this altered state, it is not music. Well, okay, but weren’t we talking about rational thinking and character formation? The psychological research is a bit more interesting. According to Prof. Linton, “the American Medical Association in 1989 published an advisory to physicians suggesting that they question their adolescent patients’ music preferences as an early sign of possible social dysfunction.” This “speculation,” Prof. Linton suggests, was refuted in 1993. But the study he cites “found that youth who were already prone to hypersexuality and manipulative and amoral behavior, and who had low parental supervision, found heavy metal music congenial to their psychological condition.” This configuration of character traits and musical preferences tends rather in favor of Holloway’s thesis, but Prof. Linton concludes that “the music did not have the power to affect the youth’s behavior, but it did give youth a vehicle for self-expression.”

This is eerily reminiscent of assurances of the negligible effects of media violence and games simulating combat on adolescent behavior. Prof. Linton has previously made the argument in First Things that you can’t stop a riot by playing Mozart to a mob. This, of course, is only a straw man set up to ridicule the idea he is trying to refute. Holloway points out that no one has ever seriously maintained that music is the antidote to poisonous anarchy of the sort well underway in popular culture. That it could be one civilizing element in a conscientiously applied program of enduring cultural values and intelligent professorial care is the contention.

The last thread resembling an argument in Prof. Linton’s review is the observation that since Holloway doesn’t identify the musical repertoire that is supposed to have beneficial effects, there can be no case for good music as opposed to any other music in character formation. Iconoclasts cannot abide the idea that history and tradition preserve things of great value. Admittedly, the connection between aesthetic value and rational thinking and morality is not ironclad. But the fanatics who smashed treasures of Grecian art couldn’t comprehend that there are transcendent norms by reference to which such things are created. When discovered and preserved in any culture, these ideals become part of the inheritance of the human race. The study required to understand and appreciate such things is surely conducive to rational thinking. And art can become a kind of surrogate spirituality because great art verges on transcendence.

Michael Dodaro
Seattle, Washington

Michael Linton’s review of Carson Holloway’s All Shook Up seems to validate Holloway’s claim that Linton misunderstands Plato. Professor Linton takes Holloway to task on the issue that “music has a natural power to move the soul.” He uses the example of fire burning to underscore what is and is not a natural effect. Thus the understanding of nature Prof. Linton uses is taken from physics: fire burns. Since one cannot apply the same cause-effect relationship to music and character, the claim that music has a natural power cannot be supported. Nonsense. This only shows how much Prof. Linton is stuck using a Newtonian and Baconian view of nature that understands “natural power” merely in terms of causality. Using that view, the argument for music’s power is destined to fail—as is most argument concerning human social relations and behavior—since detecting and proving causality is virtually impossible, as David Hume and others have argued. Thus Prof. Linton’s line of criticism is a straw-man argument.

Holloway’s view of nature, following Plato and Aristotle, suggests that the relation between nature and human action is not a causal relation but one of predisposition and condition. One needs only to look at studies on alcoholism to see a similar view of nature being used to examine the human condition. Nature predisposes certain people to be unable to deal with alcohol and this inability leads some to become alcoholics when they engage in behavior that reinforces that predisposition. I think Holloway, along with Plato and Aristotle, is suggesting the same about music and good character.

As to the larger charge that Holloway does not suggest what music we should listen to, that is itself not the issue. The type of music one would champion would depend upon what type of regime one was trying to produce, and what set of values (or understanding of justice) one sought to defend. Holloway’s book should be primarily understood as a history of political thought that attempts to show us how some of the great thinkers of the Western tradition held music to play a very important role in the shaping of human character and thus the shaping of human political life. It seems that Prof. Linton was seeking to review another type of book, one that set forth a particular form of music education supporting a certain set of values that would produce certain traits of character in the listener. No one—not Holloway, not Plato, not Aristotle, not Rousseau, not Nietzsche—has argued for the position Prof. Linton criticizes. Clearly, he has misunderstood.

Clifford Angell Bates, Jr.
American Studies Center
Warsaw University
Warsaw, Poland

Carson Holloway and his book All Shook Up deserve better than Michael Linton’s review. Professor Linton begins with demeaning praise for the book’s “jazzy cover and hip title” and ends with an insulting dismissal of the book as “one more performance of an ancient fashion show for an emperor with no clothes.” There’s irony in that ending, however, because Holloway is one of the few (like the little boy in the story) whose voice goes contrary to the popular belief (or wish) that music has no power to shape the character of individuals and societies. Prof. Linton, on the other hand, is the one who here seems to be joining the crowd that shrugs off music’s power by saying in effect, “What’s all the fuss? It’s only a song.”

I doubt that Prof. Linton really means to say that. At the heart of his review is the question, “Does music indeed have a natural power to move the soul?” From reading the review one would conclude that his answer is an unequivocal “no,” and that Holloway’s answer is an unequivocal “yes.” But the difference is not as stark as the review suggests. In an earlier piece in First Things, Prof. Linton wrote that “while music may prod, and it may suggest, it cannot force.” But prodding and suggesting can be powerful even if they are not irresistibly powerful. So it would seem that he admits at least to some power in music.

What about Holloway? Although his answer is clearly “yes,” it is not as unnuanced as Linton’s review suggests. What leads the reader to think that Holloway’s answer is without nuance is the example—fire applied to the human hand—that Prof. Linton uses to explain “what we mean when we speak of a ‘natural power.’”

But “natural” is a slippery word and what Prof. Linton’s example suggests “we” mean by “natural power” is not what Holloway means nor what the ancients he follows meant. “Their emphasis,” he says, “is on the impact that music has on character, and thereby on behavior, through its influence over time on the souls of the young, who are impressionable.” Holloway repeatedly makes clear that music’s “natural” power is not like a flame burning a hand but like water dripping on a stone—over time continual dripping will shape the stone. And like the ancients, he is most concerned about the effect of music on the young. It is the continual “dripping” of music on the soft, impressionable “stone” of youth that most concerned the ancients and now concerns Holloway. And if that ancient concern has any foundation, we have all the more reason for concern because the music in our society that is most characterized by violence, vulgarity, and lack of self-control is the music that is mainly aimed at the young. If continual dripping of music shapes character, how much more powerfully will the fire hose force of electronic media do the job?

Carson Holloway has not said the last word in this centuries-long conversation. No one ever will. But All Shook Up is a worthy contribution to the conversation and deserves to be taken seriously. We dismiss voices like Holloway’s from the conversation to our detriment.

Calvin Stapert
Department of Music
Calvin College
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Michael Linton replies:

Golly, I can’t remember the last time a book review in this journal provoked so many letters of protest. But I’m not surprised. As every pastor knows, music sparks more heated reaction than almost any other topic. Preach whatever you want, but select the hymns—and set their tempos—with fear and trembling! Obviously the issues raised by my critics deserve a more nuanced response than space allows here, but I’ll try to address some of the most prominent complaints.

Plato, at least in the Republic, is absolutely clear when he argues that boys who combine gymnastics with listening to melodies where the final (the beginning pitch of a modal scale) is approached by tone, quartertone, quartertone, and major third will develop fortitude and endurance, while boys listening to melodies where the final is approached by quartertone, major third, minor second, and quartertone will develop into drunkards and sluggards. Contrary to Clifford Angell Bates, Jr., the whole point of this passage is precisely to outline an education that will “produce virtue of character in the listener.” Although Plato does not say that the development of these characteristics under those circumstances is inevitable, i. e. mechanistic, he does come close (and so—see p. 162—does Holloway). I say that’s nuts.

I say that’s nuts because I’ve never seen a shred of evidence of it. I have spent my whole life with musicians and I haven’t seen that people who spend a lot of time with what our culture traditionally describes as its finest music are any more prone to virtue than people who don’t. Let me be brutally specific. I have never known one time in my life when music alone—nonlinguistic sounds ordered for an aesthetic purpose—has ever disposed me toward generosity when I wanted to be stingy, humility when I wanted to be arrogant, chastity when I wanted to be promiscuous, or life itself when I was on the brink of the darkest despair. To everyone who, like Calvin Stapert, believes that music does have a power to “shape the character of individuals and societies,” I beg them to play for me the chord progression that will make me be a better person. Indeed, since Professor Holloway believes that the “educational use of the right kind of music” is a significant component in the “cure for our pathologies of the soul,” I insist that he has a moral duty to give us the tunes that will save us. But he doesn’t.

Mitchell Muncy believes that I shouldn’t have to be shown evidence of an empirically verifiable link between music and morals. The influence of music, he says, is “unavoidable.” I guess we’re at an impasse. I want to know just what the moral fallout of a B-flat instead of a B-natural will be, what is its “unavoidable” influence, and how I can figure it out. Just as I think that it is reasonable to suggest that the usefulness of a teaching method should be evaluated by testing to see if the students actually learned what the pedagogy sought to teach, I think that the moral influence of music should be verifiable. I think Mr. Muncy suggests that there’s no test for that and I shouldn’t be worried about it.

Mr. Muncy seems to reject the theological concept of adiaphoria—the existence of things of indifference. I think that adiaphoria is very helpful when dealing with a number of things (including music), but this disagreement has been going on for a while and I don’t think we’re about to settle it here. He also suggests that I have a fundamentally mechanistic view of the subject. Well, of course. I deal with real music—notes, rhythms, instrumentations, dynamics, sopranos who can’t sing in tune and bassoonists who are late to rehearsals. My musical world is not made up of essays by philosophers who posit make-believe repertories off which they bounce ideas for other philosophers to talk about.

Michael Dodaro and I have profoundly different views and I’ll leave it at that. But he compares my essay to a piece by John Cage. I’m flattered by the comparison, since I hope that someday I might generally be as kind, generous, humble, and sweet-tempered as Cage was known to be daily. So far I’m not.

I’m disappointed that Prof. Stapert believes “jazzy” to be a pejorative. It isn’t and I didn’t intend it to be. The book jacket of All Shook Up is unusually attractive and was undoubtedly a costly investment for the publisher. I really like it. And about “hip.” How else can you describe a title that intentionally conjures up memories of Elvis gyrating at his prime?

A final word. Prof. Holloway concludes his book with the comment that “the solution to our musical and moral difficulties, as we have suggested, is at hand: the musical political philosophy of the ancients that, by enthroning reason in the soul, harmonized the whole soul and provides for its truest happiness.” Sorry, I don’t buy it. I think that the solution to our difficulties is found in places like Amos and Hosea and Philippians and not in any tune or repertory of tunes.

Catholic Evangelicals?

James Nuechterlein chides me for excessive evangelical self-criticism in my review of Mark Noll’s recent book American Evangelical Christianity (“Evangelical and Catholic Together?” October 2001). I confess that we academics are indeed prone to the more-sinful-than-thou syndrome. We often find perverse pleasure in the failings of our own ilk. But if Mr. Nuechterlein had daily encounters with evangelicals, as I do, he might be less enthusiastic about our often (though not always) privatized, individualistic, and nonecclesial kind of Christianity. That he fails to mention my protest against Billy Graham’s three baptisms is revealing. Neither do many of my fellow evangelicals protest, since they too believe that baptism is a mere personal affirmation of faith that can be repeated as often as one desires.

Mr. Nuechterlein also complains that I want an impossibly pure evangelicalism. He fears that if we evangelicals adopt the virtues of other Christians we will lose the convincing particularity of our own witness. If he means that we should not abandon our missionary impulse, our emphasis on personal piety, our devotion to the Lordship of Jesus, our stress on upright moral living, our belief in Scripture’s final authority, and our conviction that the gospel is not one among many ways to salvation, then he is surely right. But if he wants our revivalism to leave converts cut off from the Church, our decisionism to rest on sub-Christian notions of autonomy, our pietism to rob us of reverent worship, our devotion to lobotomize the life of the mind, our clean living to give us contempt for those who smoke and drink, our biblicism to make us ignorant of the bi-millennial Christian tradition, and our exclusivism to convince us that Roman Catholics are not Christians, then most surely he is wrong.

To plead, as Mr. Nuechterlein does, that “all systems of thought, religious and otherwise, are partial,” that they are “all package deals,” and that “their distinctive strengths come together with distinctive weaknesses” is to remain content with an evangelicalism that is neither reformata nor semper reformanda. It is to be invited, alas, out of the church catholic and Catholic. It is also to despair that the Body of Christ shall ever become one, as our Lord prayed, making us evangelical and Catholic—not only together, but also at the same time.

Ralph C. Wood
University Professor of Theology and Literature
Baylor University
Waco, Texas

James Nuechterlein replies:

Ralph Wood knows far more about the evangelical world than I do, and I readily defer to his judgment that it is in worse shape than I had thought.

The question is where we go from there. My argument was not that evangelical scholars should not be critical of their own community. All ecclesial expressions of the Christian faith are, as Professor Wood suggests, ever in need of reform, and, in the present case, I agree that evangelicals would benefit from a more catholic (and Catholic) understanding of the Christian tradition.

But I offered, and offer again, two reservations. First, if criticism of evangelicals by evangelicals is too sweeping and too severe, it will not have its desired effects. Those criticized will tend either to become defensive—and thus dismiss out of hand what the critics say—or, if they take the criticisms to heart, to become dispirited and demoralized. (As I said in my original piece, I base this argument on my own experience within Lutheranism.)

My second reservation has to do with the incapacity of any system of thought, religious or otherwise, to encompass all the virtues relevant to its situation. Authentic Christian piety can manifest itself in a variety of ways, some of them incommensurable with others. Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants of various stripes all have a variety of things they can learn from and teach to each other in theology, liturgy, and ecclesiology. Some of their virtues (and vices) will overlap. But what none of them can do is maximize all the Christian virtues all at once. Trade-offs are as inevitable in Christian thought and practice as they are anywhere else in life. Systems of faith and piety are indeed package deals in which distinctive strengths are the flip side of distinctive weaknesses.

In that sense, I cannot agree with Prof. Wood’s conclusion that his community of faith can be fully evangelical and Catholic “at the same time.” What it can do, and what I commend Prof. Wood in doing, is work to shape its particular Christian “package” in as faithful and comprehensive a manner as possible.

Pet Rocks and Petitionary Prayer

Philip Zaleski claims that most objections to The Prayer of Jabez take one of four basic forms (“In Defense of Jabez,” October 2001). Mine provides yet a fifth. But it is not so much the book as the phenomenon that puzzles, more than offends, me. Why is it a phenomenon at all? Did the Church Fathers overlook the prayer of Jabez because it is a less than conspicuous prayer, in the sense that it is an echo of nearly every prayer in the Bible (Hannah’s, plenty of the Psalms, including the 23rd, even the Lord’s Prayer), indeed, nearly every prayer ever prayed?

After I read the book (it was given to me by someone who said, “You’ve never heard of it? Everyone’s reading it!”) I thought, “Certainly not a bad book, but why all the fuss?” Assuming that most of those who buy Jabez are Christians, many of them Bible-readers of long standing, one is inclined to ask, “Why do they require to be instructed thus? Don’t they know this already? Are they not, these days, eminently aware that ‘God really does have unclaimed blessings waiting’?”

Is the answer that people buy Jabez, and its audio tapes and gift items and spin-off books, for the same reason they buy the Left Behind books—which is the same reason they buy pet rocks? I am not talking about the relative value of Jabez and Left Behind, or Jabez and pet rocks, only about consumer psychology. And is God about to answer my decades-old prayer that He enlarge my territory because I have finally read a best-seller?

Then, in the same issue of First Things, I learn that those who buy New Age books are mostly professing Christians and that the Evangelical Studies Bulletin has determined that Tim LaHaye was the most influential evangelical Protestant of the last quarter century. Mercy! Yep, Christians, like everyone else, are influenced in a lot of ways, for a lot of reasons—some of them very mysterious indeed.

Richard A. Riesen
Monrovia, California

In Defense of Jabez” was appreciated since it carefully distinguished between “sin against style, not against God” and pointed out the condescension evidenced in much of what the “cultured despisers” had to say. And it is a fact that many in the Church have lost their ability to appreciate and utilize “petitionary prayer,” avoiding it like the gnesio-Christian might avoid good works. If Philip Zaleski had also included Bruce Wilkinson’s follow-up book, Secrets of the Vine, in his review, perhaps he would have moderated even his “only serious objection,” namely, that blessings are “not won without suffering and sacrifice.” As one might guess, this is the whole thrust of a meditation based on John 15 and the parable of the vine and the branches.

(The Rev.) Theodore Jungkuntz
St. Luke Lutheran Church
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Good News?

Along with Douglas Kmiec, I welcome the Supreme Court’s decision in Good News Club v. Milford Central School holding that a Bible club has the same right as other youth organizations, such as Scouts or 4-H, to meet in a public school building following the regular school day (“Good News from the Court,” October 2001). But Professor Kmiec over-reads Good News in claiming that a Court majority has now validated direct funding for the social service activities of faith-based organizations without any restrictions on prayer, preaching, or proselytizing within the government-funded program.

The Court only recently (June 2000) revisited this precise issue in Mitchell v. Helms, a case that Prof. Kmiec cites. But he neglects to remind the reader that Mitchell decided (5-4) the question of direct-funding-of-proselytizing in the negative. Handed down a year later almost to the day, Good News hardly overruled Mitchell. So, with respect to this question, it must be asked how the two cases must have differed in the minds of the Justices.

Good News was about the government using its resources to expand the available space that is open for the expression of ideas by private citizens. But the viewpoints these citizens express remain their own, not those of the government. The distinction between government speech and that of private citizens is crucial, for the no-establishment text is a restraint on government, not a restraint on its citizens. It is for this reason that prayer and worship led by public school teachers are prohibited by the no-establishment principle, whereas students, within their Bible clubs, may engage in both of these activities at school.

Government programs of aid, whether for education, social services, or healthcare, do not have as their object creating public forums to expand the speech of private citizens. Rather, President Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative (“charitable choice”), for example, is about the government using its resources to expand the available services to the poor and needy in accord with the government’s welfare policies. Because these policies are formulated by and remain in the firm control of the government (not all “views” will be funded), the restraints of no-establishment are applicable and, said five of the Justices, prohibit the diversion of tax funds to proselytize. For now, Mitchell controls “charitable choice,” not Good News.

We can hope for a day when the four-judge plurality in Mitchell is embraced by a Court majority. But, Prof. Kmiec’s wishful thinking notwithstanding, that day was not ushered in with the Good News of June last year.

Carl H. Esbeck
Oakton, Virginia

Douglas Kmiec replies:

It is good to have Professor Carl Esbeck on the side of faith-based organizations [FBOs]. I have long admired his judgment and clarity of expression in matters of law and religion. Unfortunately, in this instance, I believe he misunderstands the good news of the Good News decision. It certainly is not, as he and I both agree, a constitutional invitation to offer government-sponsored religious activity. Government neither can nor should directly fund proselytization or sectarian worship. Rather, the happy tidings in Good News—which adds to the plurality’s welcome principle of nondiscrimination against religious entities in Mitchell—is the implicit recognition by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that a government-provided benefit—be it computers, a public school classroom, or money—need not be immunized by the recipient’s expression of religious belief.

In Mitchell, Justice O’Connor did not join the plurality opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas because nondiscrimination of allocation of government resources was not sufficient to satisfy her carefully stated factual concerns about government funding being misperceived by hypothetical observers as impermissible endorsement of particular faith choices. But—and here is the point that seems to be eluding those misdirecting President Bush to pursue the direct funding of FBOs rather than their indirect funding through tax credits reflective of the private faith choices of individual citizens—Justice O’Connor stated in Mitchell that her concern about the diversion of public resources to a religious purpose is largely ameliorated if a private decision intervenes.

As Justices O’Connor and Stephen Breyer wrote in their Mitchell concurrence,“When government aid supports a school’s religious mission only because of independent decisions made by numerous individuals to guide their secular aid to that school, ‘no reasonable observer is likely to draw from the facts . . . an inference that the State itself is endorsing a religious practice or belief.’” This point was implicitly reaffirmed by Justice O’Connor joining Justice Thomas to form a majority in Good News when the public school classroom was used explicitly for wholly religious purposes, but only after parents approved—in advance—of their children participating in the Christian Bible Club.

My point in the First Things essay is much the same: if private citizens are directing the support to FBOs in exchange for a tax benefit, the FBOs have complete freedom to employ faith as the necessary motivation to transcend addictive behavior and the like. If FBOs get their monies directly from the government that freedom becomes more tenuous, and the entire point of the governmental exercise in involving faith communities far less patent. Justice Thomas and his plurality would sustain the freedom of FBOs to use faith in conjunction with public resources based on neutral allocationsderivatively reflective of private choices (e.g., more monies would presumably go to the FBOs that were more successful and heavily used).

Justice O’Connor would likely require more, but her views in Mitchell and her joining of the majority in Good News suggest that the “more” required is not impossible. It is not wishful thinking to imagine that Congress can accommodate her constitutional concerns by reformulating the FBO idea to be premised upon private choice. Private choices will reflect the faiths of their donors, and a sincerely expressed, personally involved private faith commitment is presumably what motivates and yields the hoped-for recovery of those in need of social service assistance.

Of course, I could be mistaken about the whole point of FBOs. I thought they were built upon federalism and the related principle of subsidiarity that one should never arrogate decisions to a higher level than necessary. Apparently, however, Prof. Esbeck’s conception is different. He envisions the initiative being about “the government using its resources to expand [social services] in accord with the government’s welfare policies“—policies, he says, “that will [be] formulated by and remain in the firm control of the government.” This sounds more like the Great Society than Charitable Choice.

Ukraine’s Catholics

In his “Letter from Ukraine” (October 2001), Father Andriy Chirovsky insists on a new name for his ecclesiastical entity—“Catholic Church of Kyiv”—instead of the more familiar appellation of “Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church,” which he deems “ethnic and therefore less proper.”

Fr. Chirovsky conveniently omits from his essay two salient demographic facts: his “Catholic Church of Kyiv” comprises a minority of only five million (compared to some thirty-five million Orthodox Christians in Ukraine) concentrated in western Ukraine far from the national capital of Kyiv. Fr. Chirovsky’s odd reconstruction of his breakaway church is further compounded by his deconstruction of its checkered history. He whitewashes the profound collaboration of many Ukrainian Catholics with the German Nazis after June 1941 by suggesting that the former were merely “confused” after years of Bolshevik oppression. He sanitizes the complex political Anschluss of the Union of 1596, when the Ukrainian Orthodox hierarchy opted for the unia—and seats in the Polish parliament. The essay also reeks of blatant hostility towards Moscow and all things Russian.

It is truly ironic that this attempt at ecclesiastical legerdemain appears in an issue of First Things in which Fr. Richard John Neuhaus properly raises his theological eyebrow at the Mormons’ latest effort to pass themselves off as a mainstream Christian community. The Mormons would have us refer to them simply as the “Church of Jesus Christ” without the historic suffix of “Latter-day Saints.” The Orthodox Churches in Ukraine, Russia, and throughout the world will never accept the Byzantine Catholic communities under any name as genuine Eastern churches with any claim to historical, canonical, or spiritual legitimacy.

That Fr. Chirovsky could present such a disappointing polemic will only fan the fires of suspicion of Rome that still burn brightly in many quarters of the Orthodox Church. That means more work ahead for those of us who seek rapprochement with the West.

(The Rev.) Alexander F. C. Webster
St. Mary Orthodox Church
Falls Church, Virginia

Andriy Chirovsky replies:

Father Webster’s attack is sad. Yes, there are far more Orthodox than Catholics in Ukraine. There are even more unchurched. Greco-Catholics are indeed concentrated in Western Ukraine, as Fr. Webster points out, but he omits the fact that they are present today again throughout Ukraine. They are more numerous in Western Ukraine simply because that part of Ukraine was under Russian rule only since World War II. In other parts of Ukraine, when the Russians took control over the centuries, they soon destroyed the “uniate” Church.

As for hostility towards all things Russian, let me say this. In 1988 His Beatitude Myroslav Ivan Cardinal Lubachivsky, Primate of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church (a name for my church that I like to avoid because it might seem to advance ethnic or nationalist identities over the more legitimate emphasis on the ecclesiastical see—Kyiv—to which it ties all of its history), wrote to Patriarch Pimen of Moscow, asking for mutual forgiveness between the two churches and between the Ukrainian and Russian peoples. Many Ukrainians have said they had nothing for which to repent after centuries of oppression and genocide by Russian overlords, but His Beatitude declared that we Ukrainians do have a sin. We have hated the Russians for what they have done to us over the centuries and we need to repent for that sin. I agree with him. Sadly, this profound gesture was met with an icy silence from Moscow.

The desperate attempt to somehow tie the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church to the Nazis is born of Soviet historiography. The Greco-Catholic Church stood firm against both atheistic regimes, Nazi and Bolshevik. (Read Andrii Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine: The Legacy of Andrei Sheptytsky [1997].)

Fr. Webster’s analogy between Mormonism and the Eastern Catholic Churches is simply bizarre. Many Christians cannot understand the apoplexy of some Orthodox at the mere mention of Eastern Catholics. Fr. Webster speaks so univocally for all of Orthodoxy in his rejection of Eastern Catholics. How different he sounds from Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Oxford University, or other moderate Orthodox.

The Church of Kyiv chose union with Rome through a canonical synod in 1596. (Read B. Gudziak, Crisis and Reform [1998].) It does not claim to be the exclusive heir of the baptism of Kyivan Rus’ in 988, but rather seeks to reestablish full communion with worldwide Orthodoxy. It does not believe that breaking its cherished unity with Rome is the way to achieve that goal. Why is it that Fr. Webster and some others who consider themselves ecumenists insist that ecumenical rapprochement between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches must be preceded by the destruction or at least the discrediting of the Eastern Catholic Churches? I certainly do not deny the Orthodox Churches-even those in the thrall of the KGB—all “historical, canonical, and spiritual legitimacy,” as Fr. Webster does for my church. I hope that we can recognize each other for the close relatives we really are, estranged by history.

The gospel puts some great demands on all of us. We all have a long way to go.

Learning from Wilder

As the author of The Lost Children of Wilder: The Epic Struggle to Change Foster Care, I reacted to Richard John Neuhaus’ glowing three-page account of my book a little like a mother who gradually realizes that the person embracing her baby is doing his best to smother it (“What We Learned from Wilder,” June/July 2001).

Father Neuhaus praises the book as “beautifully told,” “assiduously researched,” “refreshingly candid,” and highly pertinent to the debates generated by President Bush’s proposal for freer government financing of “faith-based” social services.

But his ideological grip proceeds to extinguish all the uncomfortable truths that are at the book’s core. These include the fact that for decades the tax-supported “faith-based” foster care system of New York City discarded and damaged children like Shirley Wilder because they were of the wrong color or the wrong religion, and kept many others in damaging institutions—not just government institutions, but religious ones that often served ethnic pride and political power better than they served children. As my book makes clear, the Wilder lawsuit challenged this entrenched injustice and the real suffering it caused.

What happened to the lawsuit, and to Shirley Wilder’s son and grandson, is indeed “a complex and fascinating story.” What a shame that to advance his own views Fr. Neuhaus eliminated any hint of its living, breathing contradictions.

Nina Bernstein
New York, New York

RJN replies:

It is certainly true that I highlighted those aspects of the book that seemed to be of greatest interest. Some might call that my “ideological grip.” I call it discernment. It is also true that some of the religious institutions challenged by Wilder were less than adequate (foster care is, by definition, inadequate), and others were horrible. Ethnic pride and political power played a part, as did self-sacrificing devotion to children in need, a factor acknowledged, but not adequately acknowledged, in Ms. Bernstein’s book. Among “the uncomfortable truths that are at the book’s core” is the militantly secularist and antireligious motivation of the lawyers behind Wilder. The book is “refreshingly candid” about that, and it is a factor powerfully pertinent to the debate over “faith-based” social services. Ms. Bernstein should not be upset that people draw from her book lessons other than those she intended. Books, like babies, finally go out into the world and take on a life of their own. She should be glad to know that her baby, far from being smothered, is alive and well and making a valuable contribution to one of the great public policy debates of our time.

The One True Church?

Regarding Richard John Neuhaus’ comments in “While We’re At It” (October 2001) concerning the efforts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to encourage the use of its full name, and discourage the use of the name “Mormons”: The purpose of all this is to counter the efforts of those, mainly evangelical Protestants, who try to brand us a “pseudo-Christian cult.” It is not to try to fit into what Father Neuhaus calls the “mainstream.” It is our witness to the world that this is the only true and living church on the face of the earth. There is no other church that teaches all the same things we do, so if these our unique doctrines are true, then, logically, that would have to make us the only true church, wouldn’t it?

Gordon Cummings
Granada, California

RJN replies: