Stealing Pears

Iniquity, O Lord, can be delicious:always in season, always tender, sweet,blushing, and aromatic. Not capriciousit always hangs low, begging us to eat.One night, I stripped a neighbor’s tree of pears—not grade A pears, but seconds grown for swine—taking them not because the fruit was . . . . Continue Reading »

The Ties that Bind

Recently I attended my son’s installation ceremony as a member of the student government at his elementary school. The passage into office was marked by a series of oaths in which students made vows to uphold the integrity of their charges and the duties that flowed from those vows. In the ancient Roman world, the term most employed to refer to the civic relationship to which such vows bound a person was pietas. Continue Reading »

Pope Francis and the Two Cities

For a class on Catholic Social Teaching this past fall, I assigned my college students Robert Hugh Benson's dystopian novel Lord of the World. I thought the book would pair well with our extensive studies of the thought of Pope Francis, in part because Francis has conspicuously mentioned Benson’s . . . . Continue Reading »

In Honor of David Steinmetz

David Curtis Steinmetz, one of the leading church historians of our time, died this past November at age 79 on Thanksgiving evening. He spent most of his distinguished academic career at Duke Divinity School, where he was the Ragan Kerns Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the History of . . . . Continue Reading »

Whatever Happened to Sacral Kingship?

In an average college course, the history of Western political theory typically follows a simple plot: A flowering of secular, republican rationality in Ancient Athens and Republican Rome foundered on a combination of Imperial overstretch and civil war.