Liberal public opinion found it easier to accept the defections from the pro-Soviet cause than from the radical movement of the 1960s.
—The Bad Old Days
by Paul Hollander,
Capitalism’s relentless erosion of proprietary institutions furnishes the clearest evidence of its incompatibility with anything that deserves the name of cultural conservatism. There is obviously a good deal to be said, from a conservative point of view, for the institution of private property. . . . Twentieth-century capitalism, however, has replaced private property with a corporate form of property that confers none of these moral and cultural advantages. The transformation of artisans, farmers, and other small proprietors into wage-earners undermines the “traditional values” conservatives seek to preserve.
—Conservatism Against Itself
by Christopher Lasch,
A new chapter is now opening in Eastern Europe, but we should not be overly surprised if, as in Africa, the old ways soon reassert themselves. The things that people and governments say in the flush of sudden change may not correspond closely to the structures they elaborate with the passage of time. In the gray morning after the previous night’s celebration old mental habits easily reappear, especially if vague but heady promises of better days are not soon realized.
—Eastern Europe: History Resumed
by Thomas Molnar,
Here is the crux of the problem. Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians find too little difficulty validating the Jewish right to the land of Israel on the basis of biblical promises. But the Vatican and the recent bishops’ statement err in the other direction. . . . It is not enough for the Catholic Church to take note of Jewish ties to the land “that have deep biblical roots.” If they have deep biblical roots, then the Church must also take these ties seriously, not only as something that Jews have but as something the Church must struggle with. That decision was made when the Church decided to make the Hebrew Bible its own.
—The Bishops and the Middle East
by Michael Wyschogrod,
There are no liberal neckties. At a conservative gathering one will generally find a smattering of Adam Smith neckties. In the back of conservative magazines, there are likely to be one-column advertisements for Tocqueville neckties, Madison neckties, even Burke neckties. . . . When liberal essayist Robert Reich summarizes a conservative policy in his collection of essays The Resurgent Liberal and Other Unfashionable Prophesies, he invariably begins his account with its intellectual roots. . . . But when Reich subsequently sets out to revivify liberal ideology, he makes scant reference to what used to be called The Great Books. There is seemingly no one Mr. Reich can wear on his necktie.
—The Necktie Gap
by David Brooks,
If one is going to be a socialist, Michael Harrington’s variety is perhaps the best kind to be. Before his premature death from cancer this past year, Harrington worked with Dorothy Day to help the poor in New York slums, wrote sixteen books, made a major impact on national policy by calling attention to the scandal of poverty in our midst by his The Other America, and brought hundreds of disenchanted “old left” leaders from the thirties and perhaps thousands more of the alienated “new left” activists from the sixties into the mainstream of democratic participation.
—Michael Harrington’s Socialism
by Max L. Stackhouse,
In a recent conversation, a sociologist in Spain who has studied the great changes that have occurred in the Roman Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council said something that struck me as very insightful. Christians who consider themselves “progressives,” he said, always tell us to “read the signs of the times”; has it never occurred to these people, he asked, that they might write some of these signs? At least in recent years, the stance of Christians (and by no means only Roman Catholics) in the face of the “wisdom” of the modern world has been largely passive, even supine—a “reading” rather than “writing” attitude.
The gospel was subjected to the judgment of this or that worldly standard; rarely did the reverse occur.
—Worldly Wisdom, Christian Foolishness
by Peter L. Berger,
During the public controversy over the film version of The Last Temptation, a conservative commentator snarled that Kazantzakis, in addition to being a disseminator of heresy, was “hard left.” True, he was hard left, but he was also hard right—and sometimes both at the same time. . . . The sheer comprehensiveness of his political error recalls the old joke about the bigot who denies any specific form of racial or ethnic bias. “I’m not prejudiced,” he says, “I hate everybody.”
—A Man of Contradictions
by Matthew Berke,
Demons surface. For most people, demons surface in nightmares, but for us, for Jews, demons seem to surface in history. Pharaoh, Amalek, Nebuchadnezzar, Titus, Torquemada, Chmielnitsky, and Hitler were real demons. They killed real Jews. The night demons can be forgotten, but not the demons that remain when the morning breaks. These demons have changed something in the Jewish soul. I cannot say what the change is precisely, but it amounts to this at least: We Jews cannot fully trust the world again.
—The Demon in the Jewish Soul
by Marc Gellman,
I have since wondered if some of those writers of moral tales for youth knew just what they were doing. Even Louisa May Alcott—unquestionably a writer of substantial gifts—included puzzling things in her books.
Think of Little Men, which I read with avidity. One of the little men is a boy called Ned, and he is a boy of wavering moral character; but at Plumstead School he comes under the influence of Professor Bhaer, a German pedagogue who has an unusual method of discipline. When Ned is naughty, the Professor does not punish him; oh, no—the Professor makes Ned strike him on the hands with the cane, as hard as he can, until Ned is reduced to tears, because he dearly loves and admires the Professor.
Even as a boy, I thought there was something decidedly kinky about the Professor.
—Literature and Moral Purpose
by Robertson Davies,
The theocratic or the Christocratic ways of representing the divine will for the public orders are both thoroughly reprehensible, though they are always temptations for true believers who deplore the secularization of life and wish to put God back into the “naked public square.”
We must, therefore, oppose the current efforts to re-Christianize the public orders and to legislate the will of the churched upon the unchurched, as though Christians have a special revelation for the political and social conditions of life today.
—God in Public Life
by Carl E. Braaten,
Christians cannot be genuinely faithful to their covenantal commitment by regarding themselves as essentially Jewish derivatives. And Jews cannot remain genuinely faithful to their covenantal commitment by regarding themselves as essentially proto-Christians. The view of accommodationism is one that is only theological, taking theology in the strictest sense, namely, without the incorporation of philosophical and historical perspectives.
—A Jewish Theological Understanding of Christianity in Our Time
by David Novak,
The churches sponsored higher education before there were any state-sponsored colleges or universities; indeed, before there were states. For most of the history of the nation those Christian foundations set the patterns and carried most, then much, of the enrollment. And now, out of that galaxy of institutions founded by believers so that faith could house and nurture learning, there are few—very few—that in any effective and outright way are confessional. There has been, from earliest times, a tendency toward alienation. And that tendency has been continually associated with a striving toward academic excellence on the part of the educators and a diffidence toward venturesome thinking (or at least expression) on the part of churchmen.
—The Decline and Fall of the Christian College
by James Tunstead Burtchaell,
There is a dubious link between genuine scholarship and such fashionable courses as peace studies, feminist literature, seminars in social activism, consciousness raising, semiotics, and a host of other current preoccupations. But since the argument could be made that these courses fall into the realm of “curriculum enrichment,” and since taxpayers and unwary parents appeared willing to pay for them, there was little resistance to their approval and implementation. But now the financial well is running dry, and a number of formerly sacred cows are coming under careful scrutiny.
—The Case for Educational Retrenchment
by Herbert London,
As every schoolchild knows, Christopher Columbus, a Genoese navigator, discovered America in 1492. Or perhaps it would be better to say that every schoolchild used to think these were the facts about the European arrival in these lands. For several years now, a chorus of voices (growing larger and louder as we approach the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage in 1992) has assaulted every certainty, except the date, about the Columbus story.
—1492 and All That
by Robert Royal,
Landmarking a building for its historic or cultural value stretches the police power beyond its traditional limits of protecting public health and safety, and then stretches it still further. Landmarking does not depend upon a plan that affects every parcel of property. It affects only those buildings that happen to be older than the statutory minimum age and that possess certain attributes, not previously identified, that led the members of a commission to designate them landmarks. That decision is inevitably more personal, less objective, than the mathematically expressible standards of a modern zoning law.
—Religion in the Unheavenly City
by Roger Starr,
Religion is communal, and for religious men and women, the challenge is not only to keep the faith for ourselves but also to hand it on to the next generation. Only with difficulty and imagination can we transmit our experiences to those after us who feel, think, and act differently than we do. For the task of handing on the faith, the warm heart is insufficient, as the parent who is “born again” or “converted” soon realizes when facing the task of religious instruction.
—The Christian Intellectual Tradition
by Robert Louis Wilken,
We would seem to have some use for moral guidance in our political economy, and that is what the popes offer us. Whether and to what extent we should accept it is a matter that we may discuss and debate in our political forums. But to reject it out of hand because it is morality and not economics is to fall back into the liberal individualism that is currently the greatest weakness of both our economic and political systems.
—The Popes and the Economy
by Francis Canavan,
In this scheme of things, tradition was always backward, always that which must be overcome. And in the putting down of tradition, it was women who were the losers, their generations-old streams of practical reason brought under pressure to succumb to the superior force of scientific management in all its guises—medicinal, educational, nutritional. That is a long, long story. My mother versus the scientific child-rearer was but one border skirmish in an extended and continuing war.
—My Mother, the Expert
by Jean Bethke Elshtain,
The News can’t be fixed. There is something about daily publication, all by itself, that distorts reality. That is why the addiction to News that so many of us share has brought on a kind of stupidity. Our whole society shares this stupidity, and so we have a hard time recognizing it.
—Why the News Makes Us Dumb
by C. John Sommerville,
Jane Addams asked that women make the political a personal obligation. She would be appalled at the therapeutic society, at our reliance on officials and experts, and our insistence that the state take over the responsibilities she appropriated for Hull House. She maintained a deep suspicion of the overweening power of the state. Moreover, she saw feminism and militarism in opposition to one another. She would no doubt find it difficult to understand how militant feminists today want to send women to combat—especially to ship mothers who would otherwise be suckling their babes out to war.
by Suzanne Fields,
Part of the problem facing Notre Dame is that there are people there who are embarrassed by the fact that it is a Catholic university and are working to hasten the day when it no longer is. But it is not actually these who pose the greatest threat to the Catholic identity of the University. The real danger comes from a much larger group of persons who believe that Notre Dame can strive for ever-higher standards of academic excellence—and use the same criteria of excellence by which the best secular universities in the land are judged to be excellent—without forfeiting the Catholic character of the University.
—Can Notre Dame Be Saved?
by David W. Lutz,
The religion clause of the First Amendment, it is clear, not only saves citizens from the domination of uncongenial faiths, it spares churches the frustrations and embarrassments of courting the powerful. It also spares them from unkind turns of the wheel of history; unless, like Oxnam’s Methodists, they look for trouble. If all you want to do is change the world, what do you do when the world changes (mostly in ways you didn’t anticipate)? G. Bromley Oxnam couldn’t have said, and neither could his church, which is one reason why he is history, and it is no longer news.
—The Earnest Methodist
by Richard Brookhiser,
The intellectual hostility directed toward Catholicism seems at times to be only incidentally about Catholicism as such. It is true that Catholicism, or teachings rightly or wrongly ascribed to Catholicism, are frequently targeted with special venom. That criticism, however,
May be only part of a larger assault against a broader political and moral heritage, a heritage for which the Church just happens to be a particularly strong and articulate exponent in the modern world.
—The Catholic Public Servant
by James L. Buckley,
Contrary to popular American opinion, New Yorkers are by and large a gentle and long-suffering lot.
—Notes from Underground
by Midge Decter,
Natural law seems an unlikely topic for extensive television coverage, nor would one expect United States senators to develop high anxiety over the subject. Yet the confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas brought both of those improbable events to pass. Thomas and Senator Joseph Biden grappled repeatedly with the concept of natural law and its relation to constitutional law. The educational benefits, however, cannot be said to have been great, or even modest. Most commentators thought the subject remained “murky.”
—Natural Law and the Constitution
by Robert H. Bork,
One of the signs that a bureaucratic organization is in serious trouble is that its priorities become displaced from carrying out its original function to protecting the symbols, even if they have become largely meaningless, of its authority (as distinct from real power).
Thus the endless empty rituals of the later Byzantine Empire or of the decayed Chinese Empire as portrayed in The Last Emperor. Thus also the insistence of American public education on its “exclusive franchise” on legitimacy even though millions of children attend nonpublic schools.
—Hairy Men and Smooth Men
by Charles L. Glenn,
During the climactic hours of the Communist fall, someone—Boris Yeltsin perhaps—observed that it was a pity that Marxists had not triumphed in some smaller country, because “we would not have had to kill so many people to demonstrate that Utopia does not work.” What more is there to say?
by David Horowitz,
The good news about prime time . . . is that network television viewership has declined by 25 percent since 1980. One must hope that Hollywood will get the message—or else that viewership will continue to decline until it does. And one must hope, too, that artists on the other side of the culture war from those who currently dominate Hollywood will find opportunity there.
The question for the future is not whether Hollywood will again support the status quo or support authority but whether its offerings will continue to reflect and advance the moral shallowness—indeed the emptiness—of yuppie liberalism.
by Terry Eastland,
Jonathan Kozol has made a well-publicized and lucrative career as a professional outrage merchant, of which the present volume is but the latest example. Every few years, beginning in 1967 with Death at an Early Age, Kozol has brought forth another book exposing what he regards as some grave injustice of American society.
—The Education Reform Dodge
by Chester E. Finn Jr.,
To come to Jerusalem from Paris, or even Tel Aviv, is to succumb to the uncanny feeling that one has left the center of the West, or even its periphery, and delved into what used to be called the mysterious East.
—Letter from Jerusalem
by Werner J. Dannhauser,
Contrary to established opinion, the disagreement over abortion is not, at root, a legal one. . . . None of the various possible legal outcomes will settle the dispute or even ease the tensions between these two groups, because the abortion controversy is in its nature a cultural controversy. No matter what happens in courts and legislatures the abortion issue will not disappear until we somehow reach a greater consensus with respect to the standards of justice and goodness our communities will abide by.
—What Americans Really Think About Abortion
by James Davison Hunter,
I am a Catholic, but I married Protestant. My husband has steeped me in Protestant lore: Protestants get results. Protestants think ahead. Protestants save (Catholics spend). My Protestant in-laws had to endure our Catholic wedding, their faces rigid with polite distress as they took in the crucifix over the altar with its bleeding Christ and the candles flickering in front of the portrait of the dusky, brilliantly garbed Virgin of Guadalupe. In turn, I politely endure my mother-in-law’s Protestant cooking: no garlic, no onions, no spices, no wine at the table. Catholics invented Côtes du Rhone and cannelloni; Protestants invented the airplane and the thirteen-week T-bill.
—The Protestant Ethos
by Charlotte Allen,
There is no such thing as a Christian method, or code, or set of rules that would apply to the whole realm of human life in order to tell us at each step what is the proper way to do things. There is a Christian behavior toward oneself, but Christianity will not tell you whether you should sleep on your back or on your stomach, or with which hand you should bathe yourself. There is a Christian way of playing one’s part on the political scene, but there is no Christian politics, let alone a specifically Christian policy applicable to any given case. There is a Christian attitude toward man as a fellow citizen, but no Christian law.
—Christ, Culture & the New Europe
by Rémi Brague,
Roger Rosenblatt wants you to know that he has solved the abortion problem. Really. He’s written a whole book about it called Life Itself. Of course, the middle third of the book is just a summary of other people’s research on the history of abortion from the beginning of time, and there is one section at the back describing the results of some opinion polls and another section listing lots of books about abortion (although Rosenblatt doesn’t actually discuss any of them). But altogether the book is nearly 200 pages long, so you know it must have some answers.
by Elizabeth Kristol,
It is difficult to imagine someone like Mariette Baptiste living today, in the wake of the sweeping changes and liberalizations of the post–Vatican II years. The spirituality of the convent depicted in Mariette in Ecstasy would be condemned by many in the Catholic Church today as psychologically unhealthy and preoccupied with personal salvation at the expense of social justice. And yet, despite the allegedly morbid tendencies of the preconciliar Church, it is hard not to feel that something has been lost in the process of change.
—Mystery and Desire
by Gregory Wolfe,
When we read every day of the affairs of some medieval institution—the papacy, the British Parliament, the rabbinate, or the Deir ul-Islam—we are looking into the Middle Ages.
—Back to Our Future
by Robin Darling Young,
Today’s civil-rights orthodoxy is to denounce as racist ordinary people’s revulsion at behaviors among blacks that offend and threaten them, as well as policies such as affirmative action that strike them as basically unfair. . . .
What Booker T. Washington understood—something as true today as it is difficult to say out loud—is that attending to the sensibilities of whites is directly in the interest of blacks. Because we live in a democracy, we bear the burden of persuading our fellows of the worth of our claims upon them.
—Two Paths to Black Power
by Glenn C. Loury,
When my autistic daughter Abby was three years old she grabbed my finger one day and, whining “cackee, cackee” in a high, distorted voice, pulled me along the hall toward the pantry. Halfway down the hall she stopped. She turned and looked me in the eyes, for perhaps the first time in her life, and said, in a normal tone of voice, “I used to say ‘cracker.’” Abby is now thirty-six.
Nothing like that ever happened again. I have sometimes asked myself since whether it really could have happened. But it did. I can offer no interpretation of this event, nor even speculate on how or why it happened, nor do I believe that anyone else can explain this bizarre and mysterious incident.
—The Unfathomable Mystery of Autism
by Molly Finn,
It is a cliché that no counterrevolution is ever quite that, that the status quo ante is never fully restored. In the case of history, what will stand in the way of a full restoration of traditional history is not, as one might think, ideology; one can foresee a desire to return to a more objective and integrated, less divisive and self-interested history. What will be more difficult to restore is the methodology that is at the heart of that history. A generation of historians (by now, several generations as these are reckoned in academia) lack any training in that methodology. They may even lack the discipline—moral as well as professional—required for it.
—Tradition and Creativity in the Writing of History
by Gertrude Himmelfarb,
One arena in which the theory of the new class proved to be quite prophetic was in its prediction that cultural conflict would replace economic conflict as the dominant political fact of modern societies. . . . Animal-rights activists, anti-smoking crusaders, and euthanasia advocates share certain similarities, they argue. They must market their positions, assuming risks in the process. Although often critical of American society and its priorities, they must necessarily imitate the entrepreneurial character of that society if they are to succeed.
—The New Class Reconsidered
by Alan Wolfe,
What a happy slave—this Artificial Life! And our possessing this “artificial life” absolves us of guilt over our possessiveness. . . . As idol, artificial life is a dead sign, but the death it reflects is the spiritual death of its perpetrator and its patrons.
—The Inescapability of Metaphysics
by Marion Montgomery,
If Judaism is about covenant, then it is in equal measure about consent to obligations not all of which could ever pass muster before the bar of the individual moral conscience however situated or expanded. In our consent to the laws of our American polity, we accept much we disapprove of and dissent from. Nonetheless we consent and belong. The same is true of the Jewish polity.
—Judaism and Postmodernity
by Alan L. Mittleman,
We live at an odd moment. One mark of that oddness is the corruption of words that name important virtues. “Diversity,” for example, these days often turns out to be little more than a code word for intellectual gerrymandering, while “tolerance” appears largely as a synonym for trivialization and moral complacency.
—Taking Dialogue Seriously
by Roger Kimball,
Blasphemy is the derogation of God. To conceive of God apart from His holiness is intrinsically impossible. But to derogate God is precisely to deny His holiness. Therefore blasphemy is intrinsically impossible.
While I’m not sure the syllogism above would withstand severe logical examination, it crystallizes my own more diffuse reflections on the failure of two well-established writers in two unusually inept and ugly books, Live From Golgotha, by Gore Vidal, and Jesus: A Life, by A.N. Wilson.
—Assassins of a Lesser God
by Paul V. Mankowski,
There is a state, twilit but real, somewhere between life and death. Those with terminal disease inhabit it. They are, for want of a better term, emigrants of the spirit. What citizenship they possess subtly shifts; the air about them somehow changes. They become alien in their own residency.
by James Andrew Miller,
Despite a widespread impression to the contrary, “creationism” was not a traditional belief of nineteenth-century conservative Protestants or even of early twentieth-century fundamentalists.
by Mark A. Noll,
Throughout most of recorded history, theologians and philosophers have extolled propriety and correct social behavior as virtues akin to morality. It is chiefly in this century that they have come to regard etiquette as a dispensable frill, at best; at worse, they have denounced it as a sin. Hypocrisy is the damning label now attached to any polite inhibition that disguises a sincerely held opinion or restrains a righteous impulse for action.
But I would contend that obeisance to etiquette, far from being a weak and optional virtue, much less a sin, is the oldest social virtue, and an indispensable partner of morality. Rather than being the crowning touch of good behavior in the upper reaches of a stratified society, etiquette is civilization’s first necessity.
—The World’s Oldest Virtue
by Judith Martin,
For a believer to remain “a mere child” may add to his charm, but it deprives him of a prime lesson of adulthood: Orthodoxy is no servility; gratitude, no indignity.
—The Skimpole Syndrome
by Paul V. Mankowski,
Nor does it inspire much confidence in our guide [Lawrence Wright, in his book Saints & Sinners] to note the superior air with which he recalls the “snooty, pious, and sanctimonious” Christians of his childhood in Dallas—which seems a pretty snooty, pious, and sanctimonious remark itself. . . . Only a man undergoing “enlargement” could show so little humility. It seems not to occur to Mr. Wright that a sneer is perhaps not the best starting point for a spiritual journey. Regarding with pity those superstitious types he has since outgrown, he fails to notice that, whatever their faults, they undertook a journey of faith long before he himself got around to it.
—A Modern Pilgrim’s Progress
by Matthew Scully,
The painful truth is that both liberals and conservatives have forgotten how to account for character and creed. They have ignored the fact that the fate of the moral order depends on the state of the soul.
—Crime and the Cure of the Soul
by Charles Colson,
One of the more controversial events in our cultural life this year has been the opening of Washington’s Holocaust Museum. The Holocaust was not an American tragedy, the arguments against the structure went; why give it Mall real estate that elevates its status in our history to that of the events recalled by the Smithsonian or the Washington Monument? The strongest case against the museum’s location, and one made by a group that included many Jews, was the case against the “Americanization” or “federalization” of the tragedy of a specific group.
by Amity Shlaes,
Historically, the birth of the “rights of man” is tied to a transformation of the conception of politics: Classical politics had attached itself to the promotion of the rules of life, whereas modern politics in its liberal version limits itself to establishing the rules of the game.
—The Languages of the Rights of Man
by Philippe Bénéton,
How did it happen that Europe’s intellectual elite came to be capable of flouting all rules of reason in the name of reason and of condoning the total contempt of morality in the name of a higher morality? . . . In their attitude toward Russian Communism, French intellectuals displayed an astonishing stubbornness for maintaining positions that flew in the face of all possible evidence.
—The Betrayal of the French Left
by Louis Dupre,
Americans tend to think about every social problem in terms of “rights,” a mode of thinking we find convenient and comfortable. And few rallying cries or slogans have been more appealing and seductive than that of the “right to die.” Few are also more fuzzy, more misleading, and more misunderstood.
—“Right to Die”—Good Slogan, Fuzzy Thinking
by Yale Kamisar,
The tendency to invest in population theories with an almost religious zeal—as well as to harness them to the service of political movements buoyed by public hysteria—might be considerably reduced if there actually were a body of knowledge demonstrably capable of explaining population change or of connecting this change predictively with various determinants or consequences. Unfortunately, such an understanding of the process of population change does not exist.
—Population Policy: Ideology as Science
by Nicholas Eberstadt,
If any further proof were needed that the Woodstock generation has taken over the federal government, President Clinton’s “AIDS Czar,” Kristine Gebbie, gave a speech a few months ago at a conference on teen pregnancy that should put the matter to rest. . . . Now, as we all know, over the past thirty years this nation, and the entire West, have been through something aptly named the “sexual revolution.” Centuries-old codes of morals and manners have been overturned. We have become a society drenched in sex and sexual themes. . . . In the wake of this revolution, what is Miss Gebbie’s reform agenda? That we should stop being such a “repressed, Victorian society.”
—Woodstock Comes to Washington
by Gary Bauer,
Many of Mordecai M. Kaplan’s contemporaries and students—he had plenty of both over the 102 years of his life—considered him a brilliant religious thinker, perhaps the greatest that American Judaism has produced. Anyone today who struggles through Kaplan’s ponderous prose setting forth such banal and simplistic propositions as that Judaism is a “civilization” rather than a “religion,” that American Jews live in “two civilizations,” that the Jewish religious system is a collection of folkways, and that God is an idea rather than a personality must wonder what all the fuss is about.
—The Limits of Reconstruction
by Lawrence Grossman,
For most people marriage and family is the most important project in their lives. For it they have made sacrifices beyond numbering; they want to be succeeded in an ongoing, shared history by children and grandchildren; they want to transmit to their children the beliefs that have claimed their hearts and minds. They should be supported in that attempt.
—The Homosexual Movement
by the Ramsey Colloquium,
The question of how Christians “talk the talk” in American public life will not go away, because it cannot go away; this is a fact of demographics, as well as a reflection of the nation’s historic cultural core. For the foreseeable future the United States will remain at one and the same time a democracy, a deeply religious society, and a vibrantly, gloriously, maddeningly, and, in some respects, depressingly diverse culture.
—Christian Conviction & Democratic Etiquette
by George Weigel,
Such works as The Lonely Crowd and The Organization Man contributed immeasurably to the tenacious image we have of the fifties as an era of torpid complacency and other-directed conformity. But that image is, of course, far from being the whole truth, especially about the intellectual ferment of those years.
—The Hipster and the Organization Man
by Wilfred M. McClay,
Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.
by Mother Teresa,
Many people now regard a fertilized egg as sacred life, entitled to all the protection we can afford it. I have no quarrel with them. Other people regard an embryo in the early weeks of pregnancy as not deserving of unqualified protection because, before we feel it to be human, we feel an obligation to spare the human-that-is-to-be unnecessary pain. I have no quarrel with them. My quarrel is with those women who, knowing that they carry within them life by anyone’s definition, refuse to confront that fact, insist on pulling the veil of self-regarding ignorance over what they bear, and abort because they are endowed with rights that trump all other rights and interests.
—Abortion Facts and Feelings
by James Q. Wilson,
The distortions that result from the efforts of activists, aided and abetted by the press, dramatize and simplify the issues with the clear purpose of persuading Americans to embrace one or another unambiguous position—to declare themselves for or against “choice,” for or against “life.”
—Culture Wars, Shooting Wars
by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese,
For three centuries, modernity has been supremely fruitful in its practical discoveries—in, for example, its magnificent institutions of political and economic liberty. But it has been spectacularly wrong in its underlying philosophy of life. An age wrong about God is almost certain to be wrong about man.
—Awakening from Nihilism
by Michael Novak,
It is one of the remarkable features of human existence how things wondrous and awesome become familiar and banal, how we live in the world complacently and self-satisfiedly blind to its marvels. Such sightless trust is in some respects helpful, in some respects harmful, but it is nonetheless eerie how much of our lives are lived within this unknowing familiarity.
—Educating Father Abraham
by Leon R. Kass,
I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in a sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view.
Of course, I am entirely in favor of policies aimed at removing the root causes of violence against abortionists. Indeed, I would go so far as to support mandatory one-week waiting periods, and even nonjudgmental counseling, for people who are contemplating the choice of killing an abortionist. I believe in policies that reduce the urgent need some people feel to kill abortionists while, at the same time, respecting the rights of conscience of my fellow citizens who believe that the killing of abortionists is sometimes a tragic necessity—not a good, but a lesser evil. In short, I am moderately pro-choice.
—Killing Abortionists: A Symposium
by Robert P. George,
To be consistently pro-life—in ethics and action—one has to be against capital punishment and war and all other forms of violence, including murder. The killing of an abortionist makes one the mirror image of the abortionist. I am not an absolute pacifist. If the only way to defend one of my children would be by force, I would do that—and be inconsistent. But that is not an ideological act of violence. Ideological acts of violence ultimately lead to more and more murders. And in this case, the killings have weakened the pro-life movement, thereby resulting in the state giving more support to the abortion clinic—increasing the number of abortions.
—Killing Abortionists: A Symposium
by Nat Hentoff,
We do not possess the truth in the sense of owning it or having it at our service. It is precisely our commitment to the truth that is always beyond our secure apprehension that requires us to respect those who offer alternative accounts of the truth, both within the Church as well as outside. In other words, tolerance is not against the truth; it is the truth that makes tolerance imperative.
—Christianity and the West
by Wolfhart Pannenberg,
In future histories of popular culture, The Giving Tree will be seen as a period piece—a nursery tale for the “me” generation, a primer of narcissism, a catechism of exploitation. It will be catalogued with pop hits like “I want it all, and I want it now.”
—The Giving Tree
by Mary Ann Glendon,
What natural-law theory essentially opposes is the notion that moral law is subjective, evolutionary, pragmatic, or existential. What it excludes is a distillation of moral law from the transcendent supernatural, that is, from divine revelation. What it affirms is that all human beings share a set of ethical norms and imperatives that they commonly perceive without dependence on supernatural disclosure and illumination.
—Natural Law and a Nihilistic Culture
by Carl F.H. Henry,
It might seem perverse for honestly religious people to group their faiths with those of the sadists and megalomaniacs who run most cults, but a growing number are doing just that. A substantial sector of religious America, for example, sees the firefight in Waco as an attack on radical religion and places the cutting edge of religious freedom in the defense of cults’ free exercise rights.
—The Scent of a Cult
by Benjamin Wittes,
At one extreme, there are Jews who seem to hear flutterings of the messianic dove, afraid only that “peace-wreckers” may drive it away. At the other extreme there are those who fear that catastrophe may overtake redemption, that the state itself, the very “beginning of the growth” of that redemption, has been placed in jeopardy.
—The Zionist Imperative
by Emil L. Fackenheim,
It cannot be an accident, or a mere concurrence of countless misperceptions, if, after thousands of years, people of different epochs and cultures feel that they are somehow parts and partakers of the same integral Being—carrying within themselves a piece of the infinity of that Being—whose very relative aspects are not just categories of space and time, but of matter and consciousness as well. I do not believe it is merely by chance that all cultures assume the existence of something that might be called the “Memory of Being,” in which everything is constantly recorded, and that they assume the related existence of supra-personal authorities or principles that not only transcend man but to which he constantly relates, and which are the sole, final explanation of a phenomenon as particular as human responsibility.
—Forgetting We Are Not God
by Vaclav Havel,
It is not mere nostalgia that induces my regret over the erosion—at both ends of the theological spectrum—of Lutheran distinctiveness. The only point of remaining Lutheran in an ecumenical age is if one believes that Lutheranism has something of continuing value to offer within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
Confessional Lutherans rightly insist on the centrality of the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. That is the touchstone of the Reformation heritage, and Lutherans who depart from it have forsaken their reason for being Lutheran in the first place.
by James Nuechterlein,
The prosecutors and the judge repeatedly insisted that “the government is not on trial here.” Sara Bain and other jurors evidently thought it should have been.
—Waco: A Massacre and Its Aftermath
by Dean M. Kelley,
The unhappy truth is that rejection of orthodoxy has become a nearly inevitable phase in adolescent development; the happy sequel is that many people work their way back to church or synagogue through excursions into the New Age or other “alternative” religions. After all, how long can one dally with pastel-and-pink Aquarian cherubim before longing for an encounter with Gabriel’s stately beauty? . . . Everyone hungers for real spiritual food; it is our job to make it available.
—The Strange Shipwreck of Robinson Crusoe
by Philip Zaleski,
Late one night, as I viewed an abortion slide, my youngest child, then a sleepy three-year-old, unexpectedly entered the room. I heard his sharp intake of breath as he saw the body of a three-month-old, dismembered by a D & C abortion. With great sadness in his voice he asked, “Who broke the baby?” Here was a child too young to have his sight clouded by semantic subterfuge, and, with a wisdom that often escapes the learned, he could mentally assemble the body parts and call what he saw a broken baby.
—Who Broke the Baby?
by Jean Garton,
In these days when the satisfaction of human wants is taken to be the only important activity, those who devise our systems of education are apt to find a place for all that I have called “play” only if they can regard it as “work” of another sort. In this situation, generations may be deprived of that acquaintance with the activities of Homo ludens that was once thought to be the better part of education.
—Work and Play
by Michael Oakeshott,
This is not faith’s difficult search for understanding but understanding’s impossible search for faith. And all that remains for the poet is a delicate, aesthetic, self-conscious almost-spirituality—a detached and wistful watching of himself, watching himself, watching.
—What T.S. Eliot Almost Believed
by Joseph Bottum,
It has become fashionable in some circles to argue that science is ultimately a sham, that we scientists read order into nature, not out of nature, and that the laws of physics are our laws, not nature’s. I believe this is arrant nonsense. You would be hard-pressed to convince a physicist that Newton’s inverse square law of gravitation is a purely cultural concoction. The laws of physics, I submit, really exist in the world out there, and the job of the scientist is to uncover them, not invent them.
—Physics and the Mind of God
by Paul Davies,
Armed to the hilt by Iran, Iraq, China, and others, Khartoum declared a jihad against the south. The result has been the escalation of one of our century’s greatest human tragedies. No southerner, it seems, has been exempt from its horrors. Women have been raped by the tens of thousands, their children torn from their arms and compelled to convert to Islam. Young men have been kidnapped and forced to fight against loved ones. Entire villages and towns have been burned to the ground, their people burned alive or taken into slavery.
—Murder in the Sudan
by Paul H. Liben,
Historicism forms a barrier between us and the understanding of time that defined the Judaic and the Christian encounter with God through the Scriptures of ancient Israel. The givenness of the barrier between time now and time then yields for us banalities about anachronism, on the one side, and imposes upon us the requirement of mediating between historical fact and religious truth, on the other.
—The Conundrum of Historical Consciousness
by Jacob Neusner,
Roger Penrose, the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at Oxford, has gone a long way toward burying materialism, which is remarkable since Penrose is apparently a materialist himself.
—The Atheism of the Gaps
by Stephen M. Barr,
Culture, for modern scholars (and also in colloquial use), has nothing to do with Matthew Arnold’s deployment of universal standards of reason and taste to identify “the best which has been thought and said in the world.” Today’s advocates of multiculturalism uphold rival propositions: that there are many cultures, that Western standards are invalid for understanding non-Western cultures, that all truths are ideological, and that cultures should therefore be placed on a roughly equal plane.
—The Crimes of Christopher Columbus
by Dinesh D’Souza,
The poetry of the Psalms, like any great poetry, is nicely adjusted to the formal conventions of its own medium, and when these are ignored in the interests of dynamic equivalence, a certain amount of fine focus is lost. In the semantic parallelism, for example, that generally obtains between the two halves of a line of biblical verse, there is often an intensification of meaning accompanied by a miniature narrative development.
—Retuning the Psalms
by Robert Alter,
Fat’hi ash-Shiqaqi, a well-educated young Palestinian living in Damascus, recently boasted of his familiarity with European literature. He told an interviewer how he had read and enjoyed Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Sartre, and Eliot. He spoke of his particular passion for Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, a work he read ten times in English translation “and each time wept bitterly.” Such acquaintance with world literature and such exquisite sensibility would not be of note except for two points—that Shiqaqi was, until his assassination in Malta a few weeks ago, an Islamist (or what is frequently called a “fundamentalist” Muslim) and that he headed Islamic Jihad, the arch-terrorist organization that has murdered dozens of Israelis over the last two years.
—The Western Mind of Radical Islam
by Daniel Pipes,
These are the kinds of full sentences that are constantly being unleashed on children, at a sound level that assures everyone on the bus is privy to them. Moral instruction is not private here. . . . It’s the voice that urges reason, like that of an obviously divorced dad on a lunch outing with his two offspring, as he alternated between ingratiating, smiling inquiries and the following gambit with the girl: “You’re acting up and you’re taking away the pleasure of a nice lunch. Is that what you want to do?”
—Habermas on the Upper West Side
by Elizabeth Powers,
Mrs. Clinton’s carefully worded speech was just one of many signs that the U.S. had drastically overhauled its strategy since Cairo. Throughout the Beijing conference, the American delegation avoided taking the initiative on controversial issues. They maintained an appearance of cordiality toward the Holy See, skirting open confrontation in negotiations. Members of the U.S. delegation frequently described the Vatican delegation to the press as “conciliatory”—as though we, not they, had changed since Cairo. Some of the beans were spilled by one American negotiator, after she had piped up briefly in favor of rights based on sexual orientation. Later, she told two members of the Holy See team she had momentarily forgotten that “we were told not to speak out on that one.”
—What Happened at Beijing
by Mary Ann Glendon,
These so-called sympathizers who rise to defend or excuse every tyranny that prevails or social evil that persists in an Arab or Islamic country are, in effect, saying, “We would not for one moment tolerate this in our own country, but it is good enough for you, and is probably all that you are capable of achieving.” Those who really study—and therefore respect—Islamic history and civilization are at once more critical, more compassionate, and more hopeful.
—Islam Partially Perceived
by Bernard Lewis,
To put the matter baldly, a person of religious conviction should not want to enter the marketplace of ideas but to shut it down, at least insofar as it presumes to determine matters that he believes have been determined by God and faith. The religious person should not seek an accommodation with liberalism; he should seek to rout it from the field, to extirpate it, root and branch.
—Why We Can’t All Just Get Along
by Stanley Fish,
It was inevitable, perhaps, that the “culture wars”—the debate that continues to rage over the impact of political correctness, multiculturalism, and their allied ideologies—would spawn a genre of liberal apologetics designed to exonerate liberalism itself from its role in abetting the establishment of radical doctrine as a mandatory standard of judgment in mainstream cultural life. It is in the nature of modern liberal thought, after all, to see its ideas and its passions as wholly innocent of malign consequences.
—Instructing the Laity
by Hilton Kramer,
Students of the Republic will know that Plato proposed to abolish the family, not merely to undermine it but to abolish it altogether. Less well known, perhaps, is Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s response, which is very much in point here. Plato, he said, would have us believe that there is no need “for a natural base on which to form conventional ties; as though the love of one’s nearest were not the principle of the love one owes the state, as though it were not by means of the small fatherland which is the family that the heart attaches itself to the large one; as though it were not the good son, the good husband, and the good father who makes the good citizen!”
by Walter Berns,
The true Resurrection is based not on the mythical lie of the guilty victim who deserves to die but on the rectification of that lie, which comes from the true God and which reopens channels of communication mankind itself had closed through self-imprisonment in its own violent cultures. Divine grace alone can explain why, after the Resurrection, the disciples could become a dissenting minority in an ocean of victimization—could understand then what they had misunderstood earlier: the innocence not of Jesus alone but of all victims of all Passion-like murders since the foundation of the world.
—Are the Gospels Mythical?
by René Girard,
We need to develop the trust and the courage that will enable us sometimes to decline to do what medical technology makes possible. There are circumstances in which we can save life—even our own or that of a loved one—only by destroying the kind of world in which we all should want to live. In learning to say no, in becoming people who give thanks for medical progress but do not worship it or place our trust in it, we may bear a different kind of life-giving witness to our world.
—Second Thoughts About Body Parts
by Gilbert Meilaender,
Much of the recent literature about Jesus is pure hokum. It is, on the most charitable reading, poor scholarship; at worst, it is cynical manipulation of the media and the public.
—Faith and History
by Richard B. Hays,
Big government is like a big bull in civil society’s china shop. It breaks things on the way in and while inside, and we know from experience that it will break things on the way out. Together with Marvin Olasky and others, I believe that civil institutions both can and should do more, government less. But we should be realistic. The problems of making this historic transition are many and severe—one point with which I am finally in agreement with welfare-state apologists and the heads of government-supported megacharities.
—The Truth About Crime and Welfare
by John J. DiIulio Jr.,
The most unexpected classical-music recording I’ve run across recently is Sacred Music of the Twentieth Century, a compact disc chiefly devoted to a cantata by John Boyle called Requiem for the Unborn. . . . All of which is, to put it mildly, leading with the chin. I know of no group of people in the United States more reflexively liberal than classical musicians, and none more unanimous in the belief that abortion should remain legal and wholly unrestricted in its availability.
—Abortion, Set to Music
by Terry Teachout,
The Christian Right is tagged with the responsibility for unsettling our national politics by injecting the issues of abortion and school prayer. A former adviser to George Bush asks, earnestly, “Can’t we just agree to get this issue (of abortion) out of national politics?” And he was evidently taken aback when I said, “Yes, we might make that deal—if by the ‘national’ government you also mean the courts.” For what was it, after all, that made abortion into a national issue?
—The End of Democracy?
by Hadley Arkes,
Americans are not accustomed to speaking of a regime. Regimes are what other nations have. The American tradition abhors the notion of the rulers and the ruled. We do not live under a government, never mind under a regime; we are the government. The traditions of democratic self-governance are powerful in our civics textbooks and in popular consciousness. This symposium asks whether we may be deceiving ourselves and, if we are, what are the implications of that self-deception. By the word “regime” we mean the actual, existing system of government. The question that is the title of this symposium is in no way hyperbolic. The subject before us is the end of democracy.
—The End of Democracy?
by the Editors,
The postmodern aesthete, that homo erectus appetitus, this featherless biped possessed of desires and wants, who makes contracts of convenience and who is vacant of love but vibrant with lust—this is very much the man of the hour. When social historians look for the time when this originally “antiestablishment” world was finally awarded the robes of cultural dominance, they might do well to look to the premieres of these works at the Met. From that perspective, they may prove to be the most enduring legacy of Maestro Levine’s first twenty-five years.
—Redemptive Sex at the Met
by Michael R. Linton,
Like coyotes and roadrunners, writers and editors are natural enemies. Writers suspect that all editors are misanthropes who compensate for their crabbed lives and creative frustrations by exercising petty tyranny over the efforts of their literary betters. Editors, for their part, regard most writers as paranoid egomaniacs ungrateful for the selfless efforts that extract a modicum of literacy and coherence from unpromising texts.
by James Nuechterlein,
When distinguished conservatives begin to ponder civil disobedience, and whether or not the United States has “betrayed” the democratic idea, and the prospects of American “despotism,” it has—for this reader, at least—the effect of concentrating the mind.
—The End of Democracy? A Discussion Continued
by William J. Bennett,
We will make no converts by raising the specter of violence. . . . If a judge is shot, some reporter will be sure to mention the symposium’s brief and cool discussion of violence as an option. The right in America has been burdened by a history of bigotry and craziness. Do we really want to evoke that history again?
—The End of Democracy? A Discussion Continued
by John Leo,
Whether democracy will take root as well in the soil that has until now proved the most resistant—the world of Islam—remains to be seen. Its prospects are more likely to be enhanced by honest reckonings with Islam’s present democratic shortcomings than by apologetic exercises in cultural relativism or by pretending that the meaning of democracy is obscure or infinitely elastic.
—Islam and Democracy
by Joshua Muravchik,
The American Academy of Religion attracts more than ten thousand to its annual meetings, and several hundred doctoral degrees in religious studies are awarded every year in the United States. But the appearance of health is deceptive. The discipline is like those stalks of corn that grew from the seed that fell upon stony ground in the parable of the sower: They have grown quickly and they look luxuriant, but they haven’t the root-system to sustain life and are quickly withered by the sun.
—Withered by the Sun
by Paul J. Griffiths,
The soul, of course, is a complex thing. Long ago Plato suggested that we consider it as divided into three parts—the appetitive, spirited, and rational—that correspond to the three basic kinds of human desires: the desire to satisfy physical appetites, the desire for recognition, and the desire for truth. Once this tripartite division is recalled, tobacco’s relation to the soul becomes clear: The three prevalent types of smoking tobacco—cigarettes, cigars, and pipes—correspond to the three parts of the soul.
—Tobacco and the Soul
by Michael P. Foley,
Jewish life in America began, at least for the vast majority of Jewish families, in the decision of European Jews to leave their parents, their synagogues, and their homes to go to America. That decision was part of a process their descendants now continue: the confrontation between Jews and life in the modern age. Their decision to come to America brought them the challenges that Jews today have inherited: how, and indeed whether, to live as Jews in a society that is overwhelmingly Christian and increasingly secular; what parts of Judaism to cling to and what parts to abandon; and whether the community would define itself as Jewish by faith or ethnic inheritance.
—Judaism or Jewishness?
by Elliott Abrams,
There is more than enough, from Chambers’ text and from letters already published, to testify to the poetic powers of the most eloquent American witness to the greatest trials of the century: in the great arena, the Communist claim for the world; in the arena here, the fight of Alger Hiss to defy reality and let live the webs of his great deception.
—A Passionate Witness
by William F. Buckley Jr.,
Ideas don’t only have consequences, they have companions. For thirty years a ragtag trio has been running across the cultural landscape, linked like escapees from a chain gang and causing similar havoc: “sexual liberation,” “economic independence,” and “reproductive choice.” Even as the bad news is that these notions rose and flourished together, the good news is that hints of their common fall are becoming discernible.
—Now for Some Good News
by Frederica Mathewes-Green,
The aspirations to liberty, equality, and fraternity have their origin in Christian faith. So also their future depends upon Christians who know that, despite all their misadventures, these aspirations are not in vain. They are not sentimental idealism or utopian delusion. They are human responses to God’s love. . . . Even when others despair, we Christians must, for our sake and for the sake of all humanity, keep the faith.
—Liberty, Equality, Fraternity
by Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger,
There are certain hopeful signs that the campaign to publicize the international persecution of Christians has begun to succeed. . . . But coverage of the issue of religious persecution by the mainstream prestige press remains important. It provides critical information to the public and to policymakers, and it sets a standard for smaller media outlets. Moreover, it sends a message to foreign despotisms—whose embassies scour these papers—that America cares. The foreign desks of America’s major newspapers must abandon their prejudices and end the self-censorship of reporting on history’s worst century of the persecution of Christians.
—Atrocities Not Fit to Print
by Nina Shea,
To understand why the United States has the highest divorce rate in the world, go to some weddings and listen to what the brides and grooms say. In particular, listen to the vows: the words of mutual promise exchanged by couples during the marriage ceremony. To a remarkable degree, marriage in America today is exactly what these newlyweds increasingly say that it is: a loving relationship of undetermined duration created of the couple, by the couple, and for the couple.
by David Blankenhorn,
The social motivations of syncretism should not be underestimated. The exponential increase in the rates of all kinds of intermarriage in America and the general decline in ethnicity have added a powerful impetus to this additive resolution to religious conflict. Indeed, those who suggest that the elements of various religious traditions cannot fit together with integrity are sometimes characterized as the theological equivalent of supporters of the antimiscegenation laws of yore. Just as there are no pure races, we are told, so are there no pure religions.
—The Problem with Salad Bowl Religion
by Jon D. Levenson,
Justification is central to the scriptural account of salvation, and its meaning has been much debated between Protestants and Catholics. We agree that justification is not earned by any good works or merits of our own; it is entirely God’s gift, conferred through the Father’s sheer graciousness, out of the love that he bears us in his Son, who suffered on our behalf and rose from the dead for our justification.
—The Gift of Salvation
Evangelicals and Catholics Together,
Abortion is personal to me, as personal as my adoption. It is personal not only to the woman who aborts, but to me; to me, to the unborn children like me, it is personal. It is our person that is in jeopardy. Fear of abandonment, the psychiatrist told me, fear of rejection, of death. Gosh, whatever gave her that idea?
—A Fear of Abandonment
by Russell E. Saltzman,
A century-long effort to secure acceptance of American revolutionary ideals has culminated in spectacular vindication. Having labored so assiduously to make its imprint on the world, the United States cannot withdraw from the leading role it has taken on in international affairs. Indeed, those who prattle about the dangers of isolationism only divert attention from more pressing concerns. Yet if the United States cannot divorce itself from the world, neither can it indulge in utopian dreams that fuel expectations of sustaining American dominance on the cheap. Neither the process of economic globalization nor continuing efforts to spread democracy will free the United States from its vexing and morally perilous responsibilities. The position to which America has ascended demands that we shed our outmoded pretensions of republican innocence and accept the necessity henceforth of living with an uneasy conscience.
—The Irony of American Power
by Andrew J. Bacevich,
One weekend in that tumultuous year 1968 I was on call at a parish church outside of Baltimore. At the end of my Sunday Mass I came into the body of the church to make my thanksgiving, and as I knelt in the pew I noticed that the pulpit from which I had preached had on its front a banner with the inscription “God is other people.” If I had had a magic marker within reach, I would not have been able to resist the temptation to insert a comma after the word other.
—The Ways We Worship
by Avery Cardinal Dulles,
It should be noted that joggers who, for whatever reason, do not dispense waves to others worthy of them are socially deficient. Like line-cutters, talkative theater-goers, and church ladies who promise to supervise coffee hour but fail to show up, non-waving joggers are, quite properly, held in low esteem in the serious jogging community.
—The Jogger’s Wave
by Preston Jones,
The United States of America was founded on the conviction that an inalienable right to life was a self-evident moral truth, fidelity to which was a primary criterion of social justice. . . . Whenever a certain category of people—the unborn or the sick and old—are excluded from that protection, a deadly anarchy subverts the original understanding of justice. The credibility of the United States will depend more and more on its promotion of a genuine culture of life and on a renewed commitment to building a world in which the weakest and most vulnerable are welcomed and protected.
—The American Experiment
by John Paul II,
Compassion, taken alone and severed from deeper, richer understandings of our nature and destiny, kills morality. Taken as the sole moral principle it undercuts our ability to articulate an ideal for human life.
—Affirming Ourselves to Death
by Gilbert Meilaender,
My students don’t want to go to Mass because they don’t, indeed, get “anything out of it.” . . . They have been taught—by words, and more importantly by silence—that religion is basically an emotional response, either to good music, effective preaching, or a feeling of belonging to a community. The problem is, they can find all those things elsewhere.
—Why Go to Mass?
by Amy Welborn,
Okay, I’ll admit it: I am twenty-two years old and still a virgin. Not for lack of opportunity, my vanity hastens to add. Had I ever felt unduly burdened by my unfashionable innocence, I could have found someone to attend to the problem.
by Sarah E. Hinlicky,
No moral claim is safe from deconstruction. The humanities, where one might most hope to find a basis for moral guidance, have been effectively immobilized for that purpose.
—Liberating Academic Freedom
by George M. Marsden,
Recent thought has it that ours is a world in which death, the passing away of life beyond being into nothingness, is an ultimate horizon. It is suggested that only within this horizon does ethics acquire an ultimate seriousness. For if we are all terminally fragile, then our temporary lives assume an ultimate value, since we can offer our own lives for the sake of others. A death without return ensures that the choice of the good exceeds any self-interest. . . . I want to argue against this, instead proposing the opposite position—that only with faith in the resurrection is an ethical life possible.
—The Ethics of Self-Sacrifice
by John Milbank,
Dante’s claims for the absolute veracity of the Divine Comedy offend, one might say, only two classes of reader: believers and nonbelievers.
—Dante: A Party of One
by Robert Hollander,
Jesus has ascended in triumph to God’s right hand; yet the subdued “authorities” of this age, St. Paul held, “persist” (Rom. 13:6) in order to approve good conduct and “to execute God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” According to Paul, then, the reign of Christ in heaven left civil authorities with exactly one task: that of judging between innocent and guilty. We should observe that this was an unprecedentedly lean doctrine of civil government. Judgment alone never comprised the whole of what ancient peoples, least of all the Jews, thought government was about. Paul’s conception stripped government of its representative, identity-conferring functions and said nothing about law. He conceded, as it were, the least possible function that would account for its place within God’s plan.
—Government as Judgment
by Oliver O’Donovan,
Baptists have always been a fractious and fissiparous folk. There is no reason to think that this will no longer be the case once the infighting stemming from The Controversy has ceased (which will not likely happen until most of the veterans have died). My hope is not for the removal of conflict, but for the elevation of dialogue, for the kind of substantive historical and theological engagement that has always been central to the cultivation of a vibrant Christian orthodoxy. This is a distinctive mark of the Baptist tradition at its best.
—Southern Baptist Ghosts
by Timothy George,
The twentieth century experienced the lethal consequences of the political madnesses set loose in the world by the French Revolution. And this made it all the more striking (and perhaps indicative of the divine sense of irony) that the collapse of totalitarianism as a plausible political model came in 1989, two hundred years after the Jacobin fire had first melted men’s minds and consciences in the name of a false idea of freedom. . . . John Paul II’s role in the collapse of European communism rid his Slavic brethren of that particular political plague, challenged the assumed preeminence of politics and economics in our understanding of history, and taught the world a lesson about the real engine of change: culture.
—John Paul II and the Crisis of Humanism
by George Weigel,
The strength and importance of The Black Book of Communism is that the compendium of horrors it presents is itself an answer to all the spurious arguments of Communist apologists. It establishes not just that Communist states committed criminal acts but that they were essentially criminal enterprises.
—The Great Terror
by Ronald Radosh,
Huxley’s novel [ Brave New World] is, of course, science fiction. But yesterday’s science fiction is rapidly becoming today’s fact. Prozac is not yet Huxley’s soma; cloning by nuclear transfer or splitting embryos is not exactly Bokanovskification; MTV and virtual-reality parlors are not quite the “feelies”; and our current safe-and-consequenceless sexual practices are not universally as loveless or as empty as in the novel.
But the kinships are disquieting, all the more so since our technologies of bio-psycho-engineering are still in their infancy—and it is all too clear what they might look like in their full maturity. Indeed, the cultural changes technology has already wrought among us should make us even more worried than Huxley would have us be.
—Brave New World
by Leon R. Kass,
Other interpretations may rightly seek understanding through the historical disciplines, but they cannot replace or sit in judgment over the New Testament interpretation. History is an invaluable servant in faith’s effort to render intelligible the reality of Jesus, to be sure, but it is not the master. The present abundance of fanciful lives of Jesus reminds us that particular historical interpretations derive from prior assumptions and commitments that often go unacknowledged.
—Beyond the Historical Jesus
by Francis Martin,
The social sciences have many more practitioners than they do ideas and principles. I would even argue that they rest upon one sole principle, the separation of facts and values, which sets them apart from philosophy and testifies to their scientific character. The demise of political philosophy is of a piece with the triumph of this principle.
—The Return of Political Philosophy
by Pierre Manent,
As is often the case with intellectual revolutions, these movements were splendidly right in what they affirmed but dangerously wrong in what they denied. The eschatology movement recovered the Christological basis for hope. . . . Yet that recovery was undermined by those who would reduce it to political hope or would empty out its concrete meaning with evasions like “resurrection in death.” The liturgical reforms recovered the ideal of the whole Church as the body of Christ but tended too often to reduce that ideal to a this-worldly model of egalitarian fellowship.
—In Defense of Immortality
by Carol Zaleski,
Economic growth has religious significance because it allows us to alleviate poverty. Judaism’s early sages had the sanest view of poverty I know, and they did so because most of them were poor men. They refused theologically to anaesthetize its pain. They would utterly have rejected Marx’s description of religion as the opium of the people. In Judaism, poverty is not, as in some faiths, a blessed condition. It is, the rabbis said, “a kind of death” and “worse than fifty plagues.”
—Markets and Morals
by Jonathan Sacks,
“God save the United States and this Honorable Court!” From the beginning, every session of the Supreme Court has opened with that prayerful injunction. Now that five Justices have given their constitutional blessing to partial-birth abortion, we’d clearly be better off if the prayer were hereafter printed at the conclusion of Court decisions.
—The Supreme Court 2000
by Michael M. Uhlmann,
If we had reached consensus on three key issues—Was the Indochina problem worth the level of U.S. effort devoted to it? Was the early problem of Indochina ever solvable, or the later war ever winnable? If so, why was the problem not solved, or the consequent war not won?—there would not be nearly so much interest in the war within any generational cohort. We are still arguing over whether the Vietnam War, in its essence, was a civil or an international war. But as far as American politics was and remains concerned, it is a civil war, seen by the light of our continuing disagreement about it.
—That Lousy War
by Adam Garfinkle,
Heaven is not simply a theological, literary, or artistic phenomenon. It is experiential: In moments of play, of love, of passion, of unity, of selfless giving, of freedom, of being moved by music or art, in our urge to compassion, to surrendering—in all these we sense heaven.
—The Beatific Vision
by Jeffrey Burton Russell,
Future historians of Christianity may well describe the century just past as the age of ecumenism; some have already given it that label. Yet the modern ecumenical movement has almost completely failed to attain its one overriding goal: the reunion of divided Christian communities.
—Who Really Cares About Christian Unity?
by Bruce D. Marshall,
The problem with this whole line of argumentation is not just that the intelligent-design partisans need to reread their Hume, although they do. The man they really need to consult is, once again, Cardinal Newman, who leveled devastating artillery against the argument from design, especially in The Idea of a University, which despite its well-deserved fame has long gone underutilized by philosophers of religion, perhaps because his critique of their work is so devastating. In any event, he rightly calls any attempt to read the nature of God directly from the universe “physical theology,” which, he says, he has ever viewed with the greatest suspicion: “True as it may be in itself, still under the circumstances [it] is a false gospel. Half of the truth is a falsehood.”
—Newman, Yes; Paley, No
by Edward T. Oakes,
The discipline of history is the science of incommensurable things and unrepeatable events. Which is to say, it is no science at all. We had best be clear about that from the outset.
—Clio’s Makeshift Laboratory
by Wilfred M. McClay,
At a recent conference on the ethics of withdrawing nourishment and fluids from mentally incompetent patients, I was approached by an acquaintance who is close to retirement age.
“Richard,” he said in a grave tone, “when I become seriously ill, I want you to promise me one thing.” I told him I’d do my best. “Whatever you do,” he said, “keep those damn bioethicists out of my hospital room.”
—Matters of Life and Death
by Richard M. Doerflinger,
A contradiction obstructs the path to improving American education. We live in a society that thrives on democratic capitalism. This is a statement of fact that no one—from Jesse Helms on one end of the political spectrum to Hillary Rodham Clinton on the other—will dispute. Yet we operate our education system by principles diametrically opposed to democratic capitalism.
—Putting Parents in Charge
by Theodore Forstmann,
In their editorial “In a Time of War” (December 2001), the editors of First Things declare: “One matter that has been muddied in recent decades should now be clarified: Those who in principle oppose the use of military force have no legitimate part in the discussion about how military force should be used.” Silenced. I have been silenced and I find it tempting to accept being silenced. September 11, 2001, and its aftermath have filled me with a saddened silence. Every thought I have about that terrible day seems to suggest a certainty I do not possess. However, the editorial has made it impossible for me to remain silent. The gross and distorted characterization of pacifism, as well as the defense of the American response to September 11, requires a response.
—In a Time of War
by Stanley Hauerwas,
Legal legitimacy cannot rest simply on the process through which a law is enacted. Liberal democracy rests also on the idea that there are fundamental principles of justice to which laws should cohere. At minimum, these principles enable us to tell good laws from bad ones, so that we know which laws to favor and which to oppose. In addition, some theorists believe that the principles of justice enable us to impose a just order on the society, notwithstanding contrary acts that meet all the requirements to be recognized as laws. In other words, a law’s inconsistency with the principles of justice on which the society rests can be proof of its invalidity.
—Liberalism’s Religion Problem
by Stephen L. Carter,
It is once again time for Catholic universities to serve as monasteries, preserving the deepest things, in the midst of the current barbarian ravages. They are uniquely qualified to preserve the most precious of legacies: the Western intellectual tradition, which is linked to an openness to the human condition wherever it is found. . . . In an academic culture that no longer affirms individual freedom, responsibility, accountability, and dignity, Catholic universities must preserve the belief that freedom and dignity have an ontological status that is a precondition of our full humanity. They must bear witness to the belief that freedom is a gift that distinguishes us from the beasts.
—Pluralism and the Catholic University
by Alan Charles Kors,
While my views on the morality of the death penalty have nothing to do with how I vote as a judge, they have a lot to do with whether I can or should be a judge at all. To put the point in the blunt terms employed by Justice Harold Blackmun toward the end of his career on the bench, when he announced that he would henceforth vote (as Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall had previously done) to overturn all death sentences, when I sit on a Court that reviews and affirms capital convictions, I am part of “the machinery of death.” My vote, when joined with at least four others, is, in most cases, the last step that permits an execution to proceed. I could not take part in that process if I believed what was being done to be immoral.
—God’s Justice and Ours
by Antonin Scalia,
The call for reparations for slavery is not, I believe, an ignoble one. But . . . the call for reparations opens itself up to a charge of willful forgetfulness so massive that resentment, anger, and bitterness, rather than justice, will (I fear) be its real legacy. The evils of slavery were real evils; so were the deaths of boy after boy, white and black, blue and gray, as well as the lag of postwar wages for Northern workers and the pauperization of Southern agriculture. In whose balances shall we say the one fails to measure up to the other?
—Reparations Then and Now
by Allen C. Guelzo,
Bin Laden and his associates in the fatwa of course lack the religiously mandated authority to wage such war, as they do not bear the mantle of succession to the Prophet. That is why they try to describe the war against America as a defensive one. By painting the entire nation of America as guilty of “aggression,” the fatwa can set aside the limits imposed on warfare by normative Islamic tradition, which includes no direct, intended killing of noncombatants and no use of fire, which is prohibited among Muslims because it is the weapon God will use in the last days. Bin Laden’s jihad not only pits Islam against America, the West as a whole, and ultimately the rest of the non-Islamic world; it also seeks to overthrow the contemporary Muslim states and mainstream views of Islamic tradition among the great majority of contemporary Muslims.
—Jihad and Just War
by James Turner Johnson,
There has never been, and there will never be, an institutional means of making people brothers. Fraternity under compulsion is the most malignant idea devised in modern times; it is a perfect path to totalitarian tyranny. Socialism in this sense is tantamount to a kingdom of lies. This is not reason, however, to scrap the idea of human fraternity. If it is not something that can be effectively achieved by means of social engineering, it is useful as a statement of goals. The socialist idea is dead as the project for an “alternative society.” But as a statement of solidarity with the underdogs and the oppressed, as a motivation to oppose Social Darwinism, as a light that keeps before our eyes something higher than competition and greed—for all of these reasons, socialism, the ideal not the system, still has its uses.
—What Is Left of Socialism
by Leszek Kolakowski,
The most powerful of the pro-choice arguments was that failure to legalize abortion would leave five to ten thousand women a year bleeding to death from coat-hanger abortions or dying from systemic infections incurred at the hands of “back-alley butchers.” Had anyone bothered to research that claim, then or since, they would have learned that every aspect of it was a myth.
—Thirty Years of Empty Promises
by Candace C. Crandall,
The motto of the World State with which Huxley’s Brave New World opens is “community, identity, stability.” I suspect our own path to biomedical despotism will be guided by the words “progress, compassion, and choice.”
—Debating the Human Future
by Diana Schaub,
A realistic sense of the boundaries of the humanly possible in given situations is not foreign to the classic moral tradition of the West; prudence, after all, is one of the cardinal virtues.
Nor is patriotism necessarily “pagan”; indeed, in a country culturally configured like the United States, patriotism is far more likely to be sustained by biblical rather than “pagan” moral warrants.
As for “moralism” and its emphasis on good intentions, I hope I shall not be thought unecumenical if I observe that that is a Protestant problem, and that Catholic moral theology in the Thomistic stream is very dubious about voluntaristic theories of the moral life and their reduction of morality to a contest between the divine will and my will.
—Moral Clarity in a Time of War
by George Weigel,
Hate allows us to keep our guard up, to protect us. When we are facing those who seek nothing but our destruction, our hate reminds us who we are dealing with. When hate is appropriate, then it is not only virtuous but essential for Jewish well-being.
—The Virtue of Hate
by Meir Y. Soloveichik,
All told, it is good that God has left us without exact information. If we knew that virtually everybody would be damned, we would be tempted to despair. If we knew that all, or nearly all, are saved, we might become presumptuous. If we knew that some fixed percent, say fifty, would be saved, we would be caught in an unholy rivalry. We would rejoice in every sign that others were among the lost, since our own chances of election would thereby be increased. Such a competitive spirit would hardly be compatible with the gospel.
—The Population of Hell
by Avery Cardinal Dulles,
Only 5 percent of college-educated women will have a child outside the bonds of wedlock. Nearly 20 percent of women with a high-school education or less will have a child outside wedlock.
Divorce is also much more prevalent among the poor. Thus, the rural and urban poor are much less likely to marry and stay married than their middle- and upper-class peers, therefore losing out on the social, economic, and moral benefits of marriage.
—Children at Risk
by W. Bradford Wilcox,
Reading First Things may disqualify you from sitting on a jury, at least if a lawyer decides that such reading shows that you are too involved in the practice of your religion. Just ask the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the federal appellate court with jurisdiction for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
—A Jury of One’s Godless Peers
by Robert T. Miller,
What are we to make of l’affaire Gibson now that his film has turned out to be a huge box-office success? Those who, like me, were deeply moved by The Passion of the Christ and judged it to be not anti-Semitic have no reason to gloat.
The cultural clashes over the film opened wounds we thought had healed, and they exposed currents of hostility toward Christianity that one would have hoped had disappeared. The freewheeling commentary in the general media, with a few notable exceptions, was pitched at too low a level to call this a teaching moment.
But it certainly was a moment to listen and learn—and, at times, to laugh.
—The Passion’s Passionate Despisers
by Kenneth L. Woodward,
It hardly seems necessary to argue that religion must be allowed a voice in public policy discourse. It is more than evident that the voices of conservative Protestants, Roman Catholic bishops, Jewish leaders, and others are neither excluded nor silenced.
Of course, many people still believe that those who actually forge policy are not paying sufficient attention. But that is another matter. If anything, I would say that, on balance, religious opinions are more frequently voiced and heard today in America than they were twenty years ago.
by Harvey G. Cox Jr.,
I have witnessed a great deal of damage from sex reassignment. The children transformed from their male constitution into female roles suffered prolonged distress and misery as they sensed their natural attitudes. Their parents usually lived with guilt over their decisions—second-guessing themselves and somewhat ashamed of the fabrication, both surgical and social, they had imposed on their sons. . . . We have wasted scientific and technical resources and damaged our professional credibility by collaborating with madness rather than trying to study, cure, and ultimately prevent it.
by Paul McHugh,
I can’t believe I’m losing to this idiot. So said John Kerry during the presidential campaign. Judging from the news stories following the election, many of his supporters appear to have had the same reaction—with no sense that the condescension inherent in their candidate’s statement helps illuminate the reasons for the election results.
—Bob Casey’s Revenge
by William McGurn,
More liberal Jews—and I include here many who take the practice of their religion seriously—gladly “dialogue” with secularism even as they decline to acknowledge cultural common ground with their Christian brethren.
Though usually ascribed to the legacy of persecution, this indifference to, and ignorance of, Christianity is part of the American academy’s tendency to marginalize religion and deprecate religion’s intellectual resources.
—Orthodoxy and Reticence
by Shalom Carmy,
The abandonment of fasting and abstinence was symptomatic of a more widespread leveling down and disappearance of much that was distinctive in the symbolic lives of Catholics. That drift continues. Holy days of obligation are celebrated on the nearest Sunday so as to avoid inconvenience or the interruption of secular patterns of living. Sunday Mass can be heard on a Saturday to make way for a day’s work or cleaning the car or a morning in bed with the papers, like our pagan neighbors. From time to time there is talk of a fixed date for Easter and Pentecost Sunday—all part of the minimizing of symbolic distinctiveness, in the service of secular convenience, and a slow form of ritual suicide for any religious tradition.
—To Fast Again
by Eamon Duffy,
The conciliar tradition of the American hierarchy is here to stay. Two recent documents from the Holy See— Pastores Gregis, the post-synod apostolic exhortation of Pope John Paul II, and the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops from the Congregation for Bishops—vigorously affirm the value and necessity of national episcopal conferences while refining and clarifying their proper role. The prelates of this country feel that they need conciliarism, they know that they enjoy it, and they believe that it can be transformed to serve their purposes.
—The Bishops in Council
by Timothy M. Dolan,
A false notion of conscience still carries many away from Catholic practice and Catholic faith. This is the obverse of Newman’s claim that true conscience helps us to recognize the one true God. A debased notion of conscience—a barely concealed enthusiasm for autonomy disguised as an appeal to the primacy of conscience—weakens our sense of obligation, damages our purity of heart, and makes it harder to see God.
—The Inconvenient Conscience
by George Cardinal Pell,
The execution of Michael Ross works more or less as we demand from such stories. It has a completeness, a satisfaction, a narrative arc. It gives the feeling of rightness and a sort of balance restored to a universe gone wrong with the taking of innocent life. It aims, as satisfying stories must, at what we used to call poetic justice: the killer killed, the blood-debt repaid with blood, death satisfied with death. Unfortunately, it is also, in its essence, a pagan story, and Jesus—well, yes, Jesus turned all our stories inside out. Especially the old, old ones about blood and blood’s repayment.
—Christians and the Death Penalty
by Joseph Bottum,
It is, in historical perspective, entirely understandable that civil rights is what sent Lyndon Johnson’s political dreams up in smoke. Race is the one issue that Americans have never even come close to getting right. It is our original sin and our abiding conundrum. It continues to divide the nation black and white, liberal and conservative, as post-1960s debates over mandatory integration, diversity, and racial preferences remind us. Given all this, it is ironic but unsurprising that, in trying to achieve racial progress, Lyndon Johnson not only came up short but did enduring damage to the liberalism in whose name he put the issue forward.
—How Race Wrecked Liberalism
by James Nuechterlein,
The religious community must do its part by keeping the tragedy foremost on the political agenda, as it did for the southern war. Though the Bush Administration did not always follow the specific wishes of activists on southern Sudan, it placed a priority on peace because the issue had politically mobilized a critical mass of the American Christian community. A kind of stewardship obligation, especially for evangelicals, involves doing the same on Darfur. Fulfilling that obligation can transform a potential stain of neglect into another human-rights triumph for people of faith.
—The Shame of Darfur
by Allen D. Hertzke,
The great blessing of the Internet is that it lets people find each other. Of course, this is the great curse of the Internet as well—for not only can model-train collectors share their joint enthusiasm, but so can anti-Semites, child molesters, and gang members.
But even at its best, the Internet is a weakening of reality, and with its consumer satisfactions, politicizing impulses, and substitutions for the body, it constantly lures us up into thinner and thinner air. Isn’t religion supposed to enrich the world around us instead? Shut off your computer. Take a deep breath. Go to church.
—God on the Internet
by Jonathan V. Last,
What is the true definition of Europe? Where does it begin, and where does it end? Why, for example, is Siberia not considered part of Europe, even though many Europeans live there, and it has a European style of thinking and living? To the south of the community of Russian peoples, where do the borders of Europe disappear? Which Atlantic islands are European and which are not? Europe is a geographic term only in a secondary sense: Europe is rather a cultural and historical concept.
—Europe and Its Discontents
by Benedict XVI,
The randomness of neo-Darwinian biology is nothing like that [of randomness in other sciences]. It is simply random. The variation through genetic mutation is random. And natural selection is also random: The properties of the ever-changing environment that drive evolution through natural selection are also not correlated to anything, according to the Darwinists. Yet out of all that unconstrained, unintelligible mess emerges, deus ex machina, the precisely ordered and extraordinarily intelligible world of living organisms. And this is the heart of the neo-Darwinian science of biology.
—The Designs of Science
by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn,
However exalted their conception of their calling, however remarkable their achievements, even the best of the Abstract Expressionists failed to penetrate the mystery of what is required of people if they are to live well on this earth. Color and mass and line were what these painters knew of salvation, and what they knew was not enough.
—Spirit in the Abstract
by Algis Valiunas,
Cardinal Schönborn asserts that “the randomness of neo-Darwinian biology is nothing like” that in other branches of science, where there is a “deeply mathematical and precise conceptual structure.” But starting with Gregor Mendel, a great deal of precise mathematical analysis using statistical concepts has been done in biology and forms part of the foundations of neo-Darwinism. It is no argument against the putative randomness of genetic variations to say, as Cardinal Schönborn does, that they were of “exactly the sort” needed to bring about plants and animals.
That begs the question, by assuming that a special sort is needed to make plants or animals. Just as no special sort of molecular motion is needed to make crystals, but random ones will do, so also it may be that natural selection can work with genetic mutations that are statistically random.
—The Miracle of Evolution
by Stephen M. Barr,
It is the rare reader of fiction who does not at some time or other consider becoming a writer. It comes and goes over the years for many, and some carry it about forever as an unredeemed promissory note to themselves. In their heart of hearts, they regard themselves as writers. When my first novel appeared, I got a note from a senior colleague to the effect that it was sly of me not only to think of writing a novel but actually to do it. The capacity, apparently, like depravity for Calvin, was taken to be universal.
—The Writing Life
by Ralph McInerny,
Prowling Washington’s poorer neighborhoods some years back, John Allen raped, stole, mugged, assaulted, pimped, and dealt narcotics, until a bullet in the spine, received during a botched robbery, crippled him. Confined to a wheelchair, he found he really missed the criminal life. “It was really something, but it was a lot of fun,” he reflected. “I know one thing: Out of all the things I’ve done—and I done more bad than good—I done some cruel things, I done some unnecessary things, but I am not really sorry for maybe three things I done my whole life. ’Cause I like to have fun in my life.”
—The Way of the Wicked
by Brian C. Anderson,
A book should not be judged by its cover; nor, perhaps, should it be judged by its opening pages. The opening pages of [ Out of Due Time] are plagued by the sort of wooly-mindedness that its subject devoted his life to combating. It does not do Wilfrid Ward justice, and it does him a veritable injustice when it implies he subscribed to views he would have spurned or condemned.
—The Watch and Ward Society
by Joseph Pearce,
It is important to grasp that American society embraced the principles of voluntarism and tolerance in faith in a spirit not of secularism but of piety. Almost unconsciously the consensus grew that voluntary adherence to one faith, and tolerance of all others, was the foundation of true religion.
—An Almost-Chosen People
by Paul Johnson,
In today’s America, [religiously framed] arguments are constantly taking place—over issues ranging from abortion to foreign policy; over the potential, and potential limits, of interfaith cooperation; over the past and future of the Religious Right. But they are increasingly drowned out by cries of “theocracy, theocracy, theocracy” and by a zeal, among ostensibly religious intellectuals, to read their fellow believers out of public life and sell their birthright for the blessing of the New York Times.
—Theocracy, Theocracy, Theocracy
by Ross Douthat,
There is today no rational disagreement that the child in the womb is, from conception, a living being that is undeniably a human being. Barring natural tragedy, as in miscarriage, or lethal intervention, as in abortion, this being will become what everyone recognizes as a human baby. It is false and pernicious to claim that the unborn child is, at early stages of development, only a potential human being. No life that is not a human being has the potential of becoming a human being, and no life that has the potential of becoming a human being is not a human being.
—That They May Have Life
Evangelicals and Catholics Together,
In the case neither of the skeptics nor of Socrates is the modesty concerning truth predicated on alienation from logos; instead, an orientation to logos, understood as the best way of life for human beings, undergirds judgments regarding better and worse ways of life and restraint regarding peremptory claims to having comprehended the truth. That such a philosophically foundational conception of truthfulness finds no place in what otherwise might seem an exhaustive overview tells us a good bit about the continuing limitations of Anglo-American philosophy.
—The Truth About Lies
by Thomas S. Hibbs,
Either mushiness or hardness of heart prompts nearly all personal sins, P.D. James suggests, from the great to the small, from murder to gossip. The only antidote lies in the pity that seeks firm justice while acknowledging that everyone, even the worst, suffers irremediably. What we do with our suffering is what matters. Our sins most often spring not from mere ignorance, James teaches, but from false innocence.
—Murder in the Vicarage
by Ralph C. Wood,
In 1900, Africa had 10 million Christians representing about 10 percent of the population; by 2000, this figure had grown to 360 million, representing about half the population. Quantitatively, this may well be the largest shift in religious affiliation that has ever occurred, anywhere. If we focus on the Catholic population alone, Africa had 1.9 million Catholics in 1900, but by 2000 the continent’s Catholic population had risen to 130 million, representing a gross increase of 6,708 percent.
And yet another figure for the Catholic world should give us pause. In 2000, there were more Catholic baptisms in the Philippines than in France, Spain, Italy, and Poland combined. By 2025, approximately 60 percent of Catholics around the world will probably live in Africa and Latin America alone—not counting the Philippines, China, or India—and the proportion should reach two-thirds before 2050. At that point, European and Euro-American Catholics will be a small fragment of a church dominated by Filipinos, Mexicans, Brazilians, Nigerians, and Congolese.
—Believing in the Global South
by Philip Jenkins,
Regardless of the openness with which one reads Balthasar’s works or the sympathy one may have for him personally, it is undeniable that his theology of Christ’s descent entails a de facto, and sometimes even conscious, rejection of Catholic tradition. Thus, Balthasar’s work fails to adhere to an essential element of Catholic ecclesial theology and its standard of truth.
Indeed, he contradicts it on a matter central to the gospel of redemption and to Christian faith. Confronted with this curious circumstance of an admired theologian whose work stands in opposition to the faith of his professed ecclesial community, even the most respectful inquiry would have to conclude, however reluctantly, that something went gravely awry in Balthasar’s execution of the task of ecclesial theologian.
—Balthasar, Hell, and Heresy: An Exchange
by Alyssa Lyra Pitstick,
My chief worry about Pitstick’s position is not her totalizing attack on Balthasar. We are, after all, dealing with Christian theology’s most crucial issue: God’s intentions for the world. What worries me instead is that she seems to have an alternative vision of the gospel that would, in time, turn Good News into bad, hope into despair, trust into anxiety, and love into fear—and this despite John’s admonition that “there is no fear in love, for perfect love drives out fear.”
—Balthasar, Hell, and Heresy: An Exchange
by Edward T. Oakes,
It’s one thing in a labor camp: You break your back the livelong day and, just as you lay your head on a straw pillow, you hear: “U-u-u-up you get!” No nocturnal thoughts here. But in the merry-go-round of our modern life, so frayed and fragmented, thoughts have no chance to ripen and settle during the day, and are abandoned. It is at night that they return to claim their due. No sooner does your mind’s fog begin to lift, they lunge, they flood your flattened consciousness, jostling with each other. And one of the more caustic and audacious of the lot coils in front, ready to sting.
by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,
Generally speaking, Daniel Dennett’s method in all his books is too often reminiscent of the forensic technique employed by the Snark, in the Barrister’s dream, to defend a pig charged with abandoning its sty: The Snark admits the desertion but then immediately claims this as proof of the pig’s alibi (for the creature was obviously absent from the scene of the crime at the time of its commission).
—Daniel Dennett Hunts the Snark
by David B. Hart,
A theologian friend recently made the plaintive observation that our generation seems to lack thinkers of the stature of previous generations. Is that so surprising? We lack the coherent church culture that gave their theologies precision, depth, and scope. Theologians can innovate to their hearts’ content, but without a standard theology the total effect of our efforts is far less than the sum of its parts.
—Theology After the Revolution
by R.R. Reno,
Even the most ardent modernist might feel some misgivings about a rejection of the dead as complete as San Francisco’s. And such misgivings reflect, however dimly, a deep political insight—for a city without cemeteries has failed at one of the first reasons for having cities at all. Somewhere in those banished graveyards was a metaphysical ground for politics, and buried in them was a truth that too much of modern political theory seems to have forgotten: The living give us crowds. The dead give us communities.
—Death & Politics
by Joseph Bottum,
If we ask, “What could have gone so wrong and caused such a decline in religious life?” we realize that this is a dull tale extending over a period of more than forty years. Yet it comes as no surprise to anyone who knows Church history and understands anthropology. You cannot go against the laws of human nature reflected in psychological anthropology—even laws such as liminality that apply only to a select few—without disastrous results. The current tampering with family life and marriage is another example of foolish intervention into the laws of anthropology. Such endeavors are like trying to grow figs from thistles.
—The Life and Death of Religious Life
by Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.,
The intelligence that one’s runaway daughter had given her life to Christ, been baptized in a bathtub, and taken up residence with a bunch of barefoot, long-haired, guitar-strumming, tongues-speaking twenty-year-olds in a place called Maranatha House was only marginally less disturbing to the average Methodist mother than the news that the same daughter had moved in with a professional tabla drummer and changed her name to Windflower.
—Grooving on Jesus
by Sally Thomas,
It is an issue that has acquired popular traction, even among people who do not share the radical goals of the larger movement, thanks to deliberate alarmism; and it is now firmly entrenched in our public discourse, especially in our politics. I suspect that it will stay there until the temperature starts to decline again, at which point, as in the 1970s, we’ll hear more about the inevitable return of an ice age.
—The Politics of Global Warming
by Thomas Sieger Derr,
The Sermon on the Mount is a long way from the Qur’an, but the Christian soldiers of the sixteenth century knew well enough that weakness in the face of the Ottoman galleys sweeping the Italian coast meant death or conversion. Until the next world, violence alone ensured the survival of Christendom—and so, after their victory at the great Battle of Lepanto, Spanish and Italians butchered scores of defeated Turkish seamen thrashing in the bloody seas, determined that the sultan would lose all his skilled bowmen and rowers. In their way of thinking, any Jihadist left alive would mean only more Christian dead in the near future.
—Don John of Austria Is Riding to the Sea
by Victor Davis Hanson,
Have we been summoned, or are we just talking to ourselves? Are there signs and patterns, clues to something beyond the day-to-day tumult, which could justify America’s faith in the national “errand”? If so, then we ought to accept it and explore its implications—work with it. If not, then perhaps the time has come to follow the example of our European brethren: Cough it out of our system once and for all.
—The Blue, the Gray, and the Bible
by George McKenna,
If, as I have suggested, the future of Anglicanism lies in a revival of the key Reformation and evangelical principles that shaped the Church of Uganda and our mother Church of England, then our instruments of communion need to find a way to serve that vision. I fear, however, that our conciliar instruments are in danger of losing their credibility and being rendered irrelevant. The resolutions of the Lambeth Conference of Bishops have always had a moral authority among the communion’s autonomous but interdependent provinces, yet some of those resolutions are now flagrantly defied and even mocked.
—What Is Anglicanism?
by Henry Luke Orombi,
What did Achilles do when his ruler Agamemnon stole his slave-girl? He raised the stakes. He asserted that the trouble was not in this loss alone but in the fact that the wrong sort of man was ruling the Greeks. Heroes, or at least he-men like Achilles, should be in charge rather than lesser beings like Agamemnon, who have mainly their lineage to recommend them and who therefore do not give he-men the honors they deserve. Achilles elevated a civil complaint concerning a private wrong to a demand for a change of regime, a revolution in politics.
—How to Understand Politics
by Harvey Mansfield,
Two millennia of creative and brilliant adaptation to powerlessness had a tendency of turning moral seriousness in on itself. “The loss of Jewish sovereignty was the defining political event in the life of the Jewish people,” Ruth Wisse’s Jews and Power opens, and though the Jews should be proud that they have survived since the loss of ancient Israel, “this pride in sheer survival demonstrates how the tolerance of political weakness could cross the moral line into veneration of political weakness.” Powerlessness, too, tends to corrupt.
by William Kristol,
“When you give alms,” Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “sound no trumpet before you.” Good advice, but, one must note, it is also forbidden by law in the United States—at least, for those who give alms through foundations. Beginning with the first rules in the 1913 tax code (and growing enormously since the Tax Reform Act of 1969), American regulations require foundations to make their finances public knowledge through disclosure on their tax forms.
—Spending the Future
by Peter Thiel,
Despite trends toward secularization, most Americans continue to profess religious faith, which, I suggest, enables them to understand the importance of faith-based practices and the value of accommodation. As American society and law remain grounded in moral norms and faith-based traditions, those asserting claims grounded in religious freedom may strike sympathetic chords. But to strike such chords, they first must speak. Only by the energy and perseverance of their voices can our nation retain in its fullest form the freedom for which it was designed.
—The Curious Case of Free Exercise
by Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain,
The famed nineteenth-century mystic Nettie Colburn Maynard wasn’t a professional writer—her time spent communing with the Next World left little energy for the literary arts—but she did have a gift for salesmanship. So when she authorized the publication of her memoirs in 1891 she chose a title sure to grab the attention of paying customers: Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist? Lincoln’s name in a title has always been catnip to American book buyers, and they made Mrs. Maynard’s tell-all a great popular success. It helped, too, that the answer to the title question, spread over nearly two hundred pages of breathless reminiscence, was: You bet.
—Lincoln and the Will of God
by Andrew Ferguson,
It would have required a lot of prescience to predict in 1965 that American politics, for so many decades based on economic divisions, would soon split over social issues and, especially, abortion. But not even a very prescient observer could have correctly predicted which party would take which side in the coming battles. On abortion, in particular, it looked obvious which way it would break: The Democrats were the party of Catholic Northerners and Southern whites, the party that believed in using the power of government to protect the weak; the Republicans were the party with historical ties to Planned Parenthood.
—What McGovern Wrought
by Ramesh Ponnuru,
To young people today, Vatican II reposes in a haze with Nicaea II and Lateran II. Their guileless ignorance at least frees them from the animus of some aging liturgists who thought that the Second Vatican Council defined a whole new anthropological stage in the history of man. The prolix optimism of many interpreters of that council has now taken on a patina—not that of fine bronze but more like the discoloration of a Bauhaus building.
—The Spirit of Vatican II
by George W. Rutler,
In every African country in which HIV infections have declined, this decline has been associated with a decrease in the proportion of men and women reporting more than one sex partner over the course of a year—which is exactly what fidelity programs promote. The same association with HIV decline cannot be said for condom use, coverage of HIV testing, treatment for curable sexually transmitted infections, provision of antiretroviral drugs, or any other intervention or behavior. . . . What the churches are called to do by their theology turns out to be what works best in AIDS prevention.
—AIDS and the Churches
by Edward C. Green and Allison Herling Ruark,
Perhaps it was all a nightmare, but Goodman Brown could never rest easy, or lift up his heart to a psalm, for the rest of his life. But the Romantics were always excessive! One must not jump to the conclusion that Hawthorne thought human nature as utterly debased as Emerson thought it sublime. Hawthorne just took everything to an extreme in order to make a point. Human beings all suffer temptation; all sin; all lie about it. So they had better temper their self-congratulations and utopian ambitions with some candor, truth, and love.
—Our Stillborn Renaissance
by Walter A. McDougall,
The two Thomisms and the two Modernisms do not line up, but their interplay helps explain how St. Thomas’ moral, legal, and political thought was gradually detached from his metaphysical and theological thought. And it helps explain, as well, why John Paul II used so much of his papacy in an effort to reunite the Church’s understanding of both Thomas Aquinas and modernity.
—Two Thomisms, Two Modernities
by Russell Hittinger,
It would take a heart of stone not to find at least some of what’s now out there funny as hell. There is the ongoing empirical vindication in one arena after another of the most unwanted, ignored, and ubiquitously mocked global teaching of the past fifty years. There is the fact that the Pill, which was supposed to erase all consequences of sex once and for all, turned out to have huge consequences of its own. There is the way that so many Catholics, embarrassed by accusations of archaism and driven by their own desires to be as free for sex as everyone around them, went racing for the theological exit signs after Humanae Vitae—all this just as the world with its wicked old ways began stockpiling more evidence for the Church’s doctrine than anyone living in previous centuries could have imagined.
—The Vindication of Humanae Vitae
by Mary Eberstadt,
Even while we may remember the names of the old denominations, we tend to forget that it all made a kind of sense, back in the day, and it came with a kind of order. The genteel Episcopalians, high on the hill, and the all-over Baptists, down by the river. Oh, and the innumerable independent Bible churches, tangled out across the prairie like brambles: Through most of the nation’s history, these endless divisions and revisions of Protestantism renounced one another and sermonized against one another. They squabbled, sneered, and fought. But they had something in common, for all that. Together they formed a vague but vast unity. Together they formed America.
—The Death of Protestant America
by Joseph Bottum,
In The Quest for Shakespeare, Joseph Pearce claims that the “real Shakespeare” was a secret Catholic. Pointing in the preface to his own “robust muse” and “Bellocian bellicosity,” Pearce goes on to mock contemporary writers on Shakespeare as “vultures,” “carrion critics,” “gossip and gutter-oriented ‘scholars,’” and “silly asses of academe.”
A promising beginning, you might think. Unfortunately, The Quest for Shakespeare proves to be a patchwork of other people’s work, indiscriminately selected, hastily stitched together, and served up with self-congratulatory fanfare. Seldom has such a slight book managed to combine ignorance and arrogance on such a grand scale.
—Thy Canonized Bones
by Robert Miola,
Golden ages are not measured by their major figures, since genius comes when it comes, in or out of season. The real advantage of a golden age for a literary genre is the elevation of its second-rank authors: Merely good writers become great writers when they happen to live at the right moment.
—Children’s Books, Lost and Found
by Joseph Bottum,
The God Delusion, by the atheist writer Richard Dawkins, is remarkable in the first place for having achieved some sort of record by selling more than a million copies. But what is much more remarkable than the economic achievement is that the contents—or rather lack of contents—show Dawkins himself to have become what he and his fellow secularists typically believe to be an impossibility: a secularist bigot.
—A Reply to Richard Dawkins
by Antony Flew,
No event during the first millennium was more unexpected, more calamitous, and more consequential for Christianity than the rise of Islam. Few irruptions in history have transformed societies so completely and irrevocably as did the conquest and expansion of the Arabs in the seventh century.
—Christianity Face to Face with Islam
by Robert Louis Wilken,
In every nation but one of the ancient Near East, the king made the law. In Israel alone, kings were not supposed to promulgate law but to obey a law given by someone else. It was the prophet’s task—not always an easy one—to make sure they did.
—A Level Praying Field
by Gary A. Anderson,
Over the past fifteen years, the pro-life movement has succeeded in enacting some modest limitations on embryo-destructive research. Passage of these depended heavily on Republican control of the Congress, and their defense in the past eight years depended heavily on a Republican president willing to use his veto pen. The new political environment puts all of these achievements at grave risk and makes further steps essentially impossible for the time being.
—Biotech: What to Expect
by Yuval Levin,
Reading The Naked Public Square in the mid-1980s was like finding a home. Here was someone who viewed religiously informed social activism as an expression of, not a violation of, democratic ideals. Someone who saw emerging evangelical political involvement as a contribution—but urged the faithful to adopt a universally accessible moral language. Someone who asserted that American history is unimaginable without political commitments rooted in faith—though some tried to imagine it. Someone who warned that such secularist dreams did not result in tolerance or neutrality but rather in the outlawing of the moral basis for law itself.
—Pilgrimage to Fifth Avenue
by Michael Gerson,
It was always morally wrong for conservatives to attempt to segregate the emotionally charged issues of public morals from the conservative growth agenda. We know now that it was also incompetent from a purely economic point of view. Without life, there is no wealth; without families, there is no economic future. The value of future income streams traded in capital markets will fall in accordance with our impoverished demography. We cannot pursue the acquisition of wealth and the provision of upward mobility except through the reconquest of the American polity on behalf of the American family.
—Demographics & Depression
by David P. Goldman,
This is what the leaders of Notre Dame need to grasp, along with those at Georgetown, Xavier, Sacred Heart, and all the rest. . . . They lack the cultural marker that would make them distinctively Catholic in the minds of other Catholics. Abortion is not the only life issue, but it is the one that bears most directly on the lives of ordinary Catholics as they fight against the current to preserve family life. And until Catholic universities get this, they will not be Catholic—in a very real, existentially important sense.
—And the War Came
by Joseph Bottum,
Humanity is more than ever the author of its own fall because it has become able to destroy its world. With respect to Christianity, this is not just an ordinary moral condemnation but an unavoidable anthropological observation. Therefore we have to awaken our sleeping consciences. To seek to comfort is always to contribute to the worst.
—On War and Apocalypse
by René Girard,
Many people congratulate me after, as if I had something to do with all that. “You must be very proud,” they say, but the opposite is true. I am embarrassed at how poor a part I have played in their lives. I am humbled into silence to see the girls I helped bring into the world, diapered, assisted with homework, watched on playing fields, paid tuition for—now turned into holy persons of God, missionaries, radiant with presence and power.
—Sisters & Daughters
by Robert Miola,
Elective abortion changes everything. Abortion absolutely prevents the birth of a child. A woman’s choice for or against abortion breaks the causal link between conception and birth. It matters little what or who caused conception or whether the male insisted on having unprotected intercourse. It is she alone who finally decides whether the child comes into the world. She is the responsible one. For the first time in history, the father and the doctor and the health-insurance actuary can point a finger at her as the person who allowed an inconvenient human being to come into the world.
—Her Choice, Her Problem
by Richard Stith,
The classical spirit of challenge and self-discovery is a fundamental human trait. By showing how the risk-taking activity of individuals contributes to social benefits, economics helps societies to accommodate what Augustine called our “restlessness of heart.” This is the better part of our human nature. Societies that suppress this restlessness stagnate and die. The issue of morality in economics is neither the fairness of income distribution nor the stability of financial systems. It is how human institutions can be shaped to correspond to human nature—to man’s nature as an innovator.
—Economic Justice and the Spirit of Innovation
by Edmund Phelps,
In squeezing the Church and other mediating institutions out of the public square, government naturally assumes more power over the nation’s economic and social life. Civil society becomes subordinated to the state. And the state then increasingly sees itself as the primary shared identity of its citizens. But this is utterly alien to—and in fact, an exact contradiction of—what America’s founders intended.
—A Charitable Endeavor
by Charles J. Chaput,
Let’s welcome the good news whenever we can get it. The public furor this fall over Roman Polanski’s rape of a thirteen-year-old girl many years ago has forcefully revealed that, in most of America, yesterday’s itinerant savoir-faire about sex with minors has been pushed from the mainstream and forced back underground. It is a consensus that did not exist in such force a decade ago, and the priest scandals are largely responsible for it.
—How Pedophilia Lost Its Cool
by Mary Eberstadt,
It is a sad day when medical professionals and facilities have to be protected legally from coerced participation in life-terminating medical procedures. But there is no denying the direction in which the scientific and moral currents are flowing. With ethical views in society and medicine growing increasingly polyglot, with the sanctity of human life increasingly under a cloud in the medical context, and given the establishment’s marked hostility toward medical professionals who adhere to the traditional Hippocratic maxims, conscience clauses may be the only shelter protecting traditional morality in medicine.
—Pulling the Plug on the Conscience Clause
by Wesley J. Smith,
Begin with Barack Obama and his startlingly ambitious program for extending the reach and influence of the federal government. Nothing unifies political parties like the presence of a formidable enemy, and Republicans, whatever their internal differences, can agree that the most expansive liberal agenda since the New Deal and the Great Society must be opposed without reservation. Republicans are not terribly popular these days, but conservatives still are (twice as many Americans call themselves conservatives as call themselves liberals), and there remains among Americans a bedrock conservative suspicion of a government too big for the individual liberty they cherish.
by James Nuechterlein,