The Dark Side of Gratitude

In The Gift, first published in the 1920s, the French ethnologist Marcel Mauss describes several Pacific Rim “gift economies.” Mauss argues that exchanges among these tribes are radically different from exchanges in money economies. In capitalism, trade is a utilitarian pursuit of self-interest; you don’t need to befriend the baker or butcher so long as he provides useful goods and services… . Continue Reading »

Of Trinity Monuments and Totalitarianism

Crossing the border from Austria into the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, one is immediately overwhelmed by the standardized high-rise apartment blocks, badly aging holdovers from the Communist era. They now seem like a postmodern punchline amid thickets of billboards on which scantily clad women push casinos, liquor, and cars. But as these monuments to Communism and capitalism jostle for space, they are both alike overshadowed by the medieval castles and churches and monuments to the Holy Trinity… . Continue Reading »

Banking on the Fringe

Does this look like a United States coin to you? Federal prosecutors said it did and called it a counterfeit. I don’t see the similarity. It’s too pretty in the first place and in the second place it is composed of one troy ounce of .999 silver. There hasn’t been any silver in circulating U.S. coins since 1964… . Continue Reading »

A Mormon Scholar’s Journey to Catholic Faith

Early in the evening of May 28, 2010, I am attending Mass in the majestic Basilica di Sant’Apollinare next to the Pontificia Universit della Santa Croce in Rome. From Utah I have come as a scholar to deliver a paper at an international conference on the work of the great Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, and I have come as a tourist to see the Eternal City for the first time. Mass is being celebrated in the basilica for those attending the conference… . Continue Reading »

Another Coalition for Religious Freedom?

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith, a broad, bipartisan coalition quickly formed to restore to federal law a robust understanding of religious freedom, which many believed Smith had severely attenuated. RFRA, as the bill was known (abbreviating its title, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act), passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a voice vote, was adopted 97-3 by the U.S. Senate, and was signed into law by President Clinton on Nov. 16, 1993, its rapid and overwhelming passage a testimony to the strength of the pro-RFRA coalition… . Continue Reading »

Corralling the Cardinal

To many onlookers, particularly secular ones, the name “Timothy Cardinal Dolan” seems to evoke the attempt to make the Roman Catholic Church fill the role that once earned the Episcopal Church the nickname “the Republican Party at prayer.” The way conservatives have flocked to his rallying cry of religious liberty in the wake of the HHS mandate, and Dolan’s subsequent acceptance of an invitation to pray at the Republican National Convention, have greatly strengthened this impression… . Continue Reading »

Business and the Way of the Cross

A comment in a Huffington Post article on the “new monasticism” caught my eye a few months back. “Nobody wants their kid to get interested in new monasticism, ” joked Ben, a young seminarian from Michigan when he arrived at The Simple Way for a visit, “They want them to become businessmen. ” This joke is an exaggeration of what many Christian parents want for their children … Continue Reading »

The Sad Secular Monks

In the Atlantic, Hanna Rosin recently defended the hookup culture as essential to female success and equality. Given the pressure of a high-powered career, she claims, “an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.” In order to carve out time for work, women need the same option men have long enjoyed: “the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career.” … Continue Reading »

Is America Blessed by God?

In 2008, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly released a survey on how Americans view their country’s relationship to God: “Sixty-one percent agree that America is a nation specially blessed by God,” it revealed, “and 59 percent believe the United States should be a model Christian nation to the world.” These are the kind of results that inspire many Americans—and make others shudder with fear. … Continue Reading »

A President for Europe

The EU has been suffering a long, drawn-out economic disaster, but its economic woes hide a deeper rot: a lack of democratic accountability. My wife and I lived in Lisbon this past year while I studied international law, and most of the Portuguese people we spoke with no longer have illusions of true self-government. They assume that at the end of the day their national leaders follow the call of higher powers in Brussels, over which the people have no control. Political apathy reigns… . Continue Reading »