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Mideast Christians, Dhimmis Once More?

Recently, an Islamist group in the Syrian opposition, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), captured the town of Raqqa and imposed on its Christian inhabitants the dhimma, the notional contract that governs relations with Christians in classical Islamic law. The dhimma allows Christian communities to reside in Muslim society in exchange for payment of a poll tax called the jizya and submission to social and legal restrictions. In Raqqa, for example, Christians have “agreed,” among other things, to pay ISIL a tax of $500 per person twice a year—poorer Christians can pay less—and to forgo public religious displays. Continue Reading »

John XXIII and John Paul II

Pope Francis’s bold decisions to canonize Blessed John XXIII without the normal post-beatification miracle, and to link Good Pope John’s canonization ceremony to that of Blessed John Paul II, just may help reorient Catholic thinking about modern Catholic history. For what Francis is suggesting, I think, is that John XXIII and John Paul II are the twin bookends of the Second Vatican Council—and thus should be canonized together. Continue Reading »

Religion’s Social Goods

A growing number of legal scholars question whether a justification exists for protecting religion as its own category. Yes, the text of the First Amendment refers specifically to religion, they concede, but that’s an anachronism. As a matter of principle, religion as such doesn’t merit . . . . Continue Reading »

The Stubborn Myth of the “Warfare” between Science and Religion

Have science and religion historically been at war with each other? This idea is pervasive, deeply ingrained, and often goes unquestioned. But no serious historian of science accepts it today. It was largely the creation of two 19th century authors, who confected it for personal and political reasons. And yet, the myth remains powerful and is endlessly repeated. 

Join Lawrence Principe, professor of the history of science and technology at Johns Hopkins University, for a talk exploring the foundations of this myth and how it rose to the realm of “common knowledge.” Sponsored by the the Society of Catholic Scholars of Delaware, the public lecture will begin at 7:30 tomorrow at the University of Delaware. Visit UD’s event page for more details.

From Death to Life

Science teaches that the cosmological line between death and life is tenuous and fragile: Were the earth to wander beyond her normal orbit, her florid and rich life would be destroyed by excessive heat or cold. On our planet torrential rains or droughts are all that is needed to destroy vegetation . . . . Continue Reading »

The Joy of Orthodox Pascha

One spring, a few years before I converted to Eastern Orthodoxy, my wife and I vacationed in Greece. On the plane we became friendly with a happy elderly Greek-American gentleman who told us excitedly that he was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain (the monastic polity of Mount Athos) for Pascha. “Pascha?” I asked. “What’s Pascha?” . . . Continue Reading »

Could You Not Watch One Hour with Me?

Tonight I’ll partake in the Maundy Thursday custom of making a mini-pilgrimage to nearby churches in order to pray before repositories of the Blessed Sacrament—to “watch one hour” with our Lord during his agony in Gethsemane. My friends and I will travel down Manhattan’s East Side, starting after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, going to St. Catherine of Sienna, Our Lady of Peace, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Agnes, Our Savior. Continue Reading »

Easter with Flannery O’Connor

This coming August 3 will mark the golden anniversary of Flannery O’Connor’s “Passover,” to adopt the biblical image John Paul II used to describe the Christian journey through death to eternal life. In the fifty years since lupus erythematosus claimed her at age thirty-nine, . . . . Continue Reading »

The Dangers of Internet Orthodoxy

Three years ago or so I received a Facebook message from a thoughtful young friend-of-a-friend. After studying Christian history, she concluded that she knew too little about the Orthodox Church, so I answered her questions as best I could.I also admonished her to discover the Church through its . . . . Continue Reading »

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