Fathers and Sons of the Bible

A couple of weeks ago, the fourth of our ten children got married. We’re down to three at home, our version of empty-nesting. And it’s not over. Soon enough, the other children will leave, and my wife and I will be back where we started, just the two of us. Then we’ll both die, and the Peter Leithart family will vanish. This is as it should be. Families exist to die… . Continue Reading »

Why Read Literature?

In this week’s New Yorker, Adam Gopnik attempts to answer the question: “Why Teach English?” The fate of the English major is, as Gopnik notes, all the rage, but defenses of it are surprisingly unconvincing. He rightly points out that the two most common ones”that English majors make for better people and better societies”are patently false. Nor is studying literary texts, I might add, always the most effective means of improving reading or writing skills (though it certainly helps). “So why have English majors?” Gopnik asks … Continue Reading »

We Must Learn to Be a Minority

Former First Things editor Joseph Bottum’s Commonweal essay, “The Things We Share: A Catholic’s Case for Same Sex Marriage,” left me puzzled at first. I am pretty certain neither friends nor opponents can really grasp quite what he is after with only one reading. Blame him for that… . Continue Reading »

Buzzfeed as a Cultural Battleground

The hugely popular online meta-site Buzzfeed has spent the last few years solidifying a reputation as one of the most frequent web destinations for web-browsing Millennials. For those who aren’t familiar with the site’s distinctive blend of pop culture voyeurism, quirky videos, and obscure lists, clicking through the homepage can be more than a little overwhelming. Yet more than 25 million unique visitors consume its content each month, most of them coming via social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr… . Continue Reading»

Living Inside the Bible

Cracow, Poland”The village of Pasierbiec is in the south of Poland, about thirty miles from the old royal capital of Cracow. Its church, the Basilica of Our Lady of Consolation, is full of votum gifts testifying to favors received through the intercession of the basilica’s namesake… . Continue Reading »

The Reader’s Progress

In the summer of 2006, I was luxuriating in the sunlit plazas of a city in Southern France, drinking in Mediterranean languor and la belle langue. Montpellier was seductive in its invitation to lie back and let the culture wash over its visiting students”an image, perhaps of modern day Vanity Fair. As it happens, however, I was also toting a copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress, with its insistence on the need to get up and go on more urgent business… . Continue Reading »

Why Von Balthasar Was Wrong About Holy Saturday

Hans Urs von Balthasar is justly famous for his creative reflections on Holy Saturday. The thesis of his book, Mysterium Paschale, is that Jesus Christ suffers not only a physical death on the cross but a spiritual death in hell. Von Balthasar’s speculations are inspired by the creedal phrase descendit ad inferna as well as 1 Peter 3:19, which says that Christ, after he was put to death, preached to the spirits in prison. Von Balthasar’s critics typically argue that he went too far in putting Christ in the actual precincts of hell… . Continue Reading »

My Doubts About the Internet

Humor site McSweeney’s Internet Tendency recently posted an article with this promise: “Our Internet Speeds Are So Fast You Will Lose Your Faith in God.” Finally, McSweeney’s says, that whole religion and science debate is dead; with the right technological gadgets, faith evaporates as nonessential metaphysical baggage. But rather than triumphantly defeating religion in a head to head battle, this high-speed Internet will just slowly drown out the religious impulse … Continue Reading »

The Elite Project of Gay Marriage

Same sex marriage has become the issue of our time. Michael Kinsley summed the situation nicely: “You may be in favor of raising taxes on the rich, increasing support for the poor, nurturing the planet, and repealing Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, but if you don’t support gay marriage, you’re out of the club”… . Continue Reading »

No Squishy Love (Part II)

I really did not intend to ignite a theological firestorm when I wrote my On the Square column, “No Squishy Love.” I simply pointed out that the committee preparing a new hymnal for the Presbyterian Church (USA) had voted to omit the much loved hymn “In Christ Alone,” because of its offending line, “Till on that cross as Jesus died / The wrath of God was satisfied.” I tried to place this decision in a wider historical context. But then “No Squishy Love” went viral generating thousands of comments and spin-off articles not only on the Internet and in religious publications but also in USA Today, The Washington Post, and even The Economist! What’s going on here? … Continue Reading »