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A False Choice

The performance of populist parties in Europe should be a warning for American conservatives. Those European parties (while they often vary greatly from one country to another) are consistently winning the votes of working-class white voters who feel abandoned by the political class. Similar forces are at work in America. The right can’t win (or can only win the narrowest and most fragile of victories) without them, so it must speak to them. Continue Reading »

#WeAreN

As a kid growing up in Evangelical churches, I would occasionally hear about the ultimate in Christian travel—the Holy Land tour. And the tour would be followed up some months later by a slide show showing where its members had gone. The slides featured ancient stone buildings, panoramic views of Jerusalem, and sunglass-wearing Americans standing atop of the Mount of Olives with the golden Dome of the Rock in the background. But I don’t remember anyone ever talking about the Christians living there. There were pictures of churches, sure, but did anyone actually go to church there? Continue Reading »

Regensburg Vindicated

On the evening of Sept. 12, 2006, my wife and I were dining in Cracow with Polish friends when an agitated Italian Vaticanista (pardon the redundancy in adjectives) called, demanding to know what I thought of “Zees crazee speech of zee pope about zee Muslims.” That was my first hint that the herd of independent minds in the world press was about to go ballistic on the subject of Benedict XVI’s Regensburg Lecture: a “gaffe”-bone on which the media continued to gnaw until the end of Benedict’s pontificate. Continue Reading »

An International Problem

Threats to religious liberty in recent months in the United States—forcing employers to buy abortifacients, compelling professionals and tradesmen like photographers and bakers to apply their talents to support “same-sex marriage”—have perhaps diverted Americans’ focus from similar assaults on religious liberty abroad. Two recent episodes in Poland, however, merit attention. Continue Reading »

My Favorite Heretic

I had a friend in graduate school who had come to the United States from England to pursue his Ph.D. in Philosophy. This was the 1960s, and he was much more enamored than I was with the “Ordinary Language Philosophy” that drew heavily on Wittgenstein’s approach. He was fond of quoting one of his Cambridge mentors, Professor John Wisdom, whom he reported as having said in a lecture that “all philosophical claims are either true and trivial or false and illuminating.” Continue Reading »

A Theory for Tattoos

The motives for tattoos are many, but they all have a common subtext. A tattoo can mark a group identity—sailors, soldiers, inmates, gangs, motorcyclists. It can memorialize a person or event, as in a virtual archive of snapshots of tattoos showing names and faces of deceased loved ones (I attended a presentation of the archive by two academics in Toronto last year). Sometimes they happen by blunt peer pressure, a set of 20-year-olds on Saturday night getting drunk, knowing not what to do until one of them blurts, “Let’s go get a tat and a ring!” (a good friend tells me of pulling out just as his turn came up). Continue Reading »

Theology Through Friendship

In over two decades of friendship, Richard John Neuhaus and Wolfhart Pannenberg conspired together to bring religion back to the forefront of the public square. Their correspondence speaks of many things—the joys of intellectual conversation, the driving, dogged hope for ecumenical unity, and the intimacy of genuine friendship. Some letters focus on the mundane—logistics and inquiries about health—others rise to questions of the divine, and still others slide fluently from the mundane to the divine and back again. This ease of conversation is rare, and both Neuhaus and Pannenberg knew it. Their friendship was a private manifestation of their public commitments, and their public collaboration spoke of their deep friendship. Continue Reading »

Remember the Prisoners

“Nobody criticizes us. We have no enemies,” Warden Burl Cain tells me as the servers load our plates with Big Lou’s brisket, ribs, chicken, grits-n-shrimp casserole, and baked beans. “I have the number for the head of the local ACLU on my cell phone, and she has my number on hers.” Continue Reading »

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