Historical Ignorance, Moral Arrogance

My generation tends to think of itself as the first generation to be moral, tolerant, decent, and good. We abhor racism, sexism, nationalism, and homophobia, crimes we set at the center of past societies—all of them. We have avoided the bloody vices of slavery, torture, pillaging, religious . . . . Continue Reading »

The Appomattox Compromise

On a “what if” radio program sixty years ago, I heard the newly inaugurated President Lincoln persuade Robert E. Lee that his loyalty to the United States Army should outweigh his allegiance to the state of Virginia. In short order, Lee quells the rebellion; in 1868 he is elected to succeed . . . . Continue Reading »

Our Secular Theodicy

I live in Berkeley, one of the most religious cities in America. Its churches are being converted into mosques and Buddhist temples, but its one true faith endures. A popular yard sign states its creed: “In This House, We Believe: Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights are Human Rights, No . . . . Continue Reading »

Döllinger’s Unquiet Grave

The Pope and the Professor:  Pius IX, Ignaz von Döllinger, and the Quandary of the Modern Age by thomas howardoxford, 312 pages, $45 John Henry Newman aside, Ignaz von Döllinger (1799–1890) was the greatest Catholic theologian of the nineteenth century. He came of age amid a golden . . . . Continue Reading »

He Went There

He was not a refugee, not an immigrant, not a displaced person. Or, rather: yes and no. When he and I became close friends, he once said to me: “Sometimes Americans ask, ‘When did you come to this country?’ I did not come to America; I went there.” And if he was asked . . . . Continue Reading »

Luther at 500

It all did start with the ninety-five theses, in a sense. Luther probably did not actually nail them to the church door—at least no one at the time tells us so. And if he did, it was not in anger or protest against the church. He was trying to arrange an academic discussion, and evidently . . . . Continue Reading »

An Integrated Humanist

John Senior and the Restoration of Realismby francis bethel, o.s.b.thomas more, 452 pages, $34.99 H igher education has survived the end of the American century, if just barely. American colleges and universities are like a naval mothball fleet that’s still afloat but not seaworthy. Some schools . . . . Continue Reading »

By Starlight Undiminished

On behalf of the Second Continental Congress in declaring America’s independence, Jefferson in the first paragraph of the Declaration drew upon authority greater than the Crown, the British Empire, and the long traditions of English law and government. “With a firm Reliance on the protection of . . . . Continue Reading »

Shock of the Real

Journey to the Land of the Real:  A Translation of Equipée by victor segalen translated by natasha lehrer atlas, 136 pages, $17.20 The death of Victor Segalen (January 14, 1878–May 21, 1919) was perhaps an enviable one. This is not to say that it was not also tragic: He was still quite . . . . Continue Reading »