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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Americans’ public and private lives are on a collision course. Our social systemthe one we publicly engage dailystill 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 »
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 »