The Elect and the Accursed

Princeton University at the dawn of the twentieth century is a place marked by chauvinism, racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism (that “old and much feared enemy,”) as presented in Joyce Carol Oates’ latest novel, The Accursed. Yet its greatest sin is that of presumption… . Continue Reading »

A Contemporary Review of the Trial of Jesus

A few weeks ago, Matthew Schmitz posted a story on First Thoughts about a Kenyan lawyer bringing a case in the Hague against Israel and Italy. His legal claim? Jesus of Nazareth was unjustly executed and the modern states of Italy and Israel”the supposed successors in interest of the Roman Empire and Ancient Israel”should be accountable to “uphold the dignity of Jesus.”… The case is frivolous, of course. But the story got me thinking as a contemporary lawyer about the facts of the matter and the differing legal standards that apply now… . Continue Reading »

Unlucky Places: On Deconsecrated Churches

The day after I arrived in New York City, I got lost. I had left the First Things office for lunch and could not find my way back. Eventually, however, I spotted a church: remembering that there was a church near the office, I headed for it with a sense of relief. But it wasn’t a church, as it happened; it was a shopping center. So I stayed lost. . . . Continue Reading »

A Pro-Work, Pro-Working-Class Agenda

The skills gap in unemployment is huge. Workers with at least a four-year college degree have an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent and a labor force participation rate of 75.5 percent. Workers with less than a high school diploma have an unemployment rate of 11 percent and a labor force participation rate of 45.4 percent. Over the last thirty years, wages for workers with a four year college degree have risen while wages for male workers with less than a high school diploma have declined sharply. And yet some economists argue that, despite the high unemployment rate and declining wages, the US faces a shortage of low-skill workers… . Continue Reading »

Dickens Revived and Reviled

London’s TheatreUpClose recently announced a new production of A Tale of Two Cities, with a twist. Based on an earlier adaptation by Terence Rattigan and John Gielgud, the play “reimagines Dickens’ dangerous and doomed antihero Sydney Carton as a member of the 27 Club (which includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse).” … Continue Reading »

The Civil War Sesquicentennial: Summer Reading

As I remember it, the Civil War centenary, which coincided with my middle school years, got far more public attention than the war’s sesquicentennial has received. There were a flurry of Gettysburg sesquicentennial columns and book reviews in July; the Civil War Daily Gazette provides a reminder, in detail and every 24 hours, of the drama that was unfolding across the land, 150 years ago; Tommy Lee Jones did the impossible by rendering Thaddeus Stevens an attractive character in the Spielberg film, Lincoln. But it would be a stretch to say that this colossal event, which made the United States an “is” rather than an “are,” is prominent in the nation’s consciousness in this anniversary period… . Continue Reading »

Both an Original and a Man of His Time

American poet and critic John Hollander died this weekend. He was 83. Beginning with A Crackling of Thorns, which won the Yale Younger Poets Series in 1958, Hollander published over twenty volumes of verse and several works of criticism and anthology. He was both an original and a man of his time, which is perhaps true not just of all writers but of all people. Yet it is nevertheless particularly true of him… . Continue Reading »

Patrick Henry’s Very Modern Proposal

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison squared off against Patrick Henry and his bill for “Establishing A Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion” for Virginia in the mid-1780s. Jefferson and Madison won the day, and the Virginia legislature did not enact Henry’s bill… . Continue Reading»

The Weird Rhetoric of Environmental “Holocaust”

A 2006 Vanity Fair photo spread on environmentalist heroes pictured long-time National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) official Richard Cizik walking on water. The New York Times had hailed him as the “Earthy Evangelist” in 2005. He had helped make environmentalism, and global warming, major issues at NAE. Cizik’s career at NAE ended with resignation after he endorsed same-sex unions during a 2008 NPR interview… . Continue Reading »

The Pope’s Theology of Sin

By now, the Pope’s impromptu press conference, on his flight back from Brazil, has been analyzed the world over. But in all the discussion over Francis’ comments, very little has been said about the key line in his now famous exchange on homosexuality. “This is what is important,” declared Francis to reporters, “a theology of sin.” That is what should have made headlines after the papal press conference”not that Francis used the word “gay,” or expressed a merciful (and thus deeply Christian) attitude toward those seeking reconciliation with God. “This is what is important: a theology of sin.” … Continue Reading »