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Our Potemkin Life

Several weeks ago, I was having dinner with friends in the town of Bridgewater, PA—a sliver of land at the confluence of the Beaver and Ohio Rivers northwest of Pittsburgh. As tends to happen whenever orthodox Christians gather, the conversation turned to cultural decline. As we discussed the latest outrages, though, I couldn’t help but observe our surroundings.We were on the patio of a casual restaurant within sight of the gentle Beaver River. Between us and the riverbank was a pristine lawn, crisscrossed by walking trails. The weather was mild and clear. Around us, people conversed contentedly while dining wholesomely and affordably, in perfect security. To all appearances, here was the very image of the good society: pleasant, safe, and prosperous. Continue Reading »

On Retreat

David Mills, inspired by a Facebook post from Robby George, has exhorted mostly unnamed proponents of the “Benedict Option” to reverse their various avenues of retreat and remain in the political fight. Now I can only guess the identity of the defeatists who have “left the front lines to read books in the library and argue causes and effects in the coffee shop.” But the charge puts me in mind of the colloquium discussion in the January issue of First Things which treated the debate between so-called “liberal” and “radical” Catholics, perhaps because my contribution to that discussion has elicited similar accusations of political irresponsibility or moral cowardice from people sympathetic to the liberal line of thought. Continue Reading »

Apostolate of Death

On November 1, after posting a Facebook message stating, “Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer,” twenty-nine-year-old Brittany Maynard took a lethal dose of barbiturates, prescribed by an Oregon physician, and . . . . Continue Reading »

To See Things as They Are

For some time now, the cultural crisis besetting the United States has been taking ominous political and legal forms that threaten the exercise of religious freedom and that otherwise call into question the character of American democracy, as that character is expressed in law and public policy. . . . . Continue Reading »

To Defend the Disposable

Dr. Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is best known these days for an imprudent lecture in which he suggested that the Obamacare bill (of which he was an intellectual architect) was deliberately crafted to be so complex that the stupid American people couldn’t possibly understand it. Gruber’s lecture opened a window into the arrogance of the secular clerisy: those enlightened members of the professoriate who know best and who, as a matter of duty, are going to give the dimwitted people what’s best for them—and give it to us good and hard. Yet many who found Dr. Gruber’s condescension akin to fingernails scraping down a blackboard were even more appalled by a paper Gruber wrote in 1997, which came under scrutiny during a recent congressional hearing at which the MIT professor was a witness. Continue Reading »

It’s the Culture, Stupid!

What really happened in the 1992 presidential election? And what does it tell us about American politics at the turn of the century? Although postmortems are always a tricky business, interpreting the 1992 election is particularly so. The defeat of an incumbent President, the election of the first . . . . Continue Reading »

The Homosexual Movement

I. The New Thing Homosexual behavior is a phenomenon with a long history, to which there have been various cultural and moral responses. But today in our public life there is something new, a novum, which demands our attention and deserves a careful moral response.The new thing is a movement that . . . . Continue Reading »

Evil: Back in Bad Company

Most Christian thinkers have viewed evil as a privation, a derivative reality, like a shadow. Shadows are privations of light; they are real things, but dependent on the bodies that cast the shadows. They are darkness where light should have been. Similarly evil, a secondary reality, is only the . . . . Continue Reading »

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