Kobani, Then and Now

For the past several weeks, the world has been watching Kobani (in Kurdish, Kobanê), a small city on the Syrian-Turkish border. In September, militants from ISIS, the Sunni Islamist group that has declared a restored caliphate in the Middle East, laid siege to the city, which is mostly Kurdish and currently in the hands of the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish group that opposes the Assad government. Kobani’s strategic significance is debatable, but the city has symbolic importance, and its fall would be a huge morale boost for ISIS. Consequently, the US has instituted a bombing campaign to push ISIS back. As of this weekend, the siege was at a standstill. Continue Reading »

Conquering Christ

The martyrdom of Christians throughout history, and particularly in the Middle East today, is a living example of what Gustaf Aulén called Christus victor—an ancient understanding of the atonement which points to the basic model of the work of Christ as a warrior overcoming sin, death, and the demonic. 
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The Wisdom of Peter Thiel

Last night, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute hosted a banquet at the University Club in New York City, with Peter Thiel as the guest speaker. Thiel is one of the titans of the Digital Age, famous as the founder of PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook. Less known are his fight against multiculturalism in higher education (he was at Stanford during the infamous days of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western civ has got to go!”), love of Great Books, and faith in God. Continue Reading »

“Confusion Is of the Devil” Indeed

I don’t often read Michael Sean Winters, who blogs at the National Catholic Reporter site, and his attack the other day on Archbishop Charles Chaput (which I discovered thanks to RealClearReligion) confirmed the wisdom of my habitual negligence. On the basis of a few words reported by another journalist who attended Chaput’s Erasmus Lecture hosted by First Things on Monday evening, Winters leapt to the most unjust and uncharitable conclusions, beginning with the proclamation in his headline that Chaput offered a “Remarkable Challenge to Pope Francis.” Since I was there Monday evening, I was interested in what “challenge” Winters could mean. Continue Reading »

An Emerging Irony for the Professors

When you talk to humanities professors, especially those at elite institutions, it doesn’t take long for the complaints to begin. They say that the administration doesn’t support them, choosing to invest in the sciences and business school, not language, literature, and culture. They witness the number of majors plummet—English used to collect nearly 8 percent of majors; now it’s close to 3 percent—and they feel unappreciated. (At my own institution, the number of majors has dropped by more than 50 percent since I arrived in 1989.) The overall drift toward the “corporate university” reflects values they abhor, and many of them would like to move, but the job market is terrible. Continue Reading »