Reformation Day

It was around two o’clock in the afternoon on the eve of the Day of All Saints, October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, hammer in hand, approached the main north door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg and nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses protesting the abuse of indulgences in the teaching and practice of the church of his day… . Continue Reading »

The Apologetics of Transcendence

When the anonymous Christian in Nicholas of Cusa’s dialogue “On the Hidden God” is asked by his pagan interlocutor to explain the difference between Christians and pagans, he answers that followers of Christ know they cannot comprehend the divine. This seems a strange mode of apologetics, one particularly unsuited for the age of science… . Continue Reading »

Campaign 2012: What Voting Means

American political campaigns have never been for the squeamish. With the sole exceptions of George Washington’s two uncontested elections, every presidential campaign has seen its share of vulgarity, skullduggery, and personal disparagement… . Continue Reading »

What Will Become of the Middle East’s Christians?

In the fall of 2010, a few months before revolution swept the Muslim world, I happened to be in Yemen for work. The trip coincided with the start of the Eid holiday, which provided ample free time to see much of the capital, Sana’a. One afternoon, en route to the hotel from the historic Old City, the driver pointed out the window at a group of men standing on a vacant corner. “Look!” he said with the excitement of happening upon a rarity. “Those are Jews.” … Continue Reading »

Why Catholics Can’t Comply with the HHS Mandate

The Department of Health and Human Services has mandated that most large employers include in their health plans, at no cost, pharmaceutical contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and certain forms of so-called “emergency contraception.” Catholic philosophers and theologians have been debating whether complying with the mandate would be morally acceptable. … Continue Reading »

The Lexicon of Pussyfooting

Fifty years. It seems like a long time. But if you pick up Jacques Barzun’s searching analysis of modern education, The House of Intellect, the half century melts away. Barzun points out the way in which our egalitarian ethos encourages an “amiable stupidity.” The best man for a committee is someone who is cheerful, optimistic, and incapable of disturbing others with critical thoughts… . Continue Reading »

Voice of the Martyrs

Last week, gunmen from the Islamic sect Boko Haram attacked the Church of the Brethren in the village of Atagara in northern Nigeria, killing two and torching the church on their way out. Over several days, the terrorist group killed dozens in the same region and forced hundreds to flee. In the northeastern city of Potiskum, thirty-one people were murdered over a three-day period recently, and a church was burned… . Continue Reading »

The Achievement of Jacques Barzun

One of the last of the generation of critics that included Edmund Wilson, Irving Howe, and Lionel Trilling, Jacques Barzun, who died yesterday at the age of 104, developed a historically informed critical approach that, without descending into polemic, didn’t shy from defining or diagnosing Western culture. For Barzun, “the historian can only show, not prove; persuade, not convince.” To do that required both sureness of judgment as well as respect for the unpredictability and vagaries of history… . Continue Reading »

Why Can’t Lutherans Take Catholic Communion?

No, I have never snuck into a Catholic mass for Holy Communion. Not the first time anyway. I politely asked, and when I communed I had the permission of the archbishop of Washington, D.C. That was 1978 when I was one of the chaplains at a Scout summer camp in Virginia and still a Lutheran seminarian. There was a Catholic priest on staff, and I approached him for communion… . Continue Reading »

Dead White Guys

At the time of my high school graduation, I embodied minority educational empowerment. I was a poor, Mexican-American boy, a first-generation college student; itinerant and bright, raised in the Catholic Church, full of pious ideas and wet dreams and, thanks to the philanthropy of Bill and Melinda Gates, enrolled at a devout Catholic college to study the great books, philosophy, and all that jazz. I was even invited to pray at a LULAC banquet, as an exemplar to the Latin@ community… . Continue Reading »