Shying Away from Mercy

Though mercy is a Christian virtue, our post-Christian society shies away from relying on it. Lenient criminal sentences, pardons, and debt forgiveness all seem to undercut the demands of justice and public safety. We now speak the language of rights, instead of mercy, to justify helping the needy. Social programs have displaced Christian charity, and generic ­do-gooder benevolence has sup­planted mercy.
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Public Chastity, Private Chaos

Americans’ public and private lives are on a collision course. Our social system—the one we publicly engage daily—still unwittingly encourages and rewards chaste behavior (though perhaps not speech). Privately, our lives bespeak an emerging chaos, regardless of what we personally hold to be good or true or ideal. In other words, American life is becoming sexually bipolar. Continue Reading »

We Have Never Been Modern

Bruno Latour’s 1993 We Have Never Been Modern is a neglected masterpiece. Its argument is compressed, the terminology idiosyncratic. Latour is witty, ironic, and funniest when he’s outraged. It’s not an easy book, but it’s worth the effort. As a diagnosis of us “moderns,” it’s more penetrating, and rings truer, than many better-known works. Continue Reading »