Mary on the Prairie

The city of Bismarck was founded in 1872 in what was then the Dakota Territory, at a bend in the Missouri River where Lewis and Clark had stopped on their famous expedition to the West. Bismarck was chosen as the city’s name after the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck in hopes of luring German settlers and German investments to a part of the world far removed from the Rhineland. And the settlers came, Germans and others, attracted in part by a gold rush in the Black Hills not far away. Continue Reading »

The Dominican Option

There’s been a long conversation in America about the degree to which Catholic Christianity is compatible with liberalism. From the beginning of the American founding, bishops and theologians claimed that for all the flaws of liberal political philosophy, the American founders “built better than they knew.” And yet Pope Leo XIII could warn Cardinal Gibbons to avoid the errors of an “Americanism,” which would distort the teaching of the Church on the proper relationship between politics and the church. Continue Reading »

Suffer the Children

The discussion preceding the synod of bishops on the family has ignored the most vulnerable party in divorces and remarriages: children. In so doing, it mirrors the discussion of sex and marriage in western culture more broadly, which focuses on the gratification of the desires of adults—however legitimate—while paying no attention to the needs of children. Continue Reading »

Muslim Scholars vs. ISIS

On Wednesday, September 24, 2014, “More than 120 Muslim scholars from around the world joined an open letter to the ‘fighters and followers’ of the Islamic State.” The signees represent the Sunni branch of Islam (with the exception of one Sufi person), and include important Muslim figures such as the former and current Grand Muftis of Egypt and the Muftis of Jerusalem, Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Malaysia. They live and teach on Islam in the Middle East, North, Central, and West Africa, Europe, North America, and the Far East. The letter relies heavily on the Qur’an and various “trustworthy” sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as classical Sunni writings and interpretations. It attempts to rebut the ideology of ISIS with cardinal Islamic texts that ISIS itself has cited. Continue Reading »

Lethal Ageism

story out of Belgium vividly illustrates how our elderly are becoming personae non gratae in a society increasingly obsessed with avoiding difficulty. Francis and Anne are healthy and happily married octogenarians. Not wanting to live without each other, they plan to die together on their sixty-fourth anniversary. Rather than engaging suicide prevention, their children procured a doctor to euthanize them. Continue Reading »

Protestantism in the Desert

I admit to having experienced perverse enjoyment when first hearing the story Episcopal Bishop James Pike. The cautionary tale is featured in Joan Didion’s The White Album, and more recently, in two sobering chronicles of Protestant decline, Ross Douthat’s Bad Religion and Joseph Bottum’s AnAnxious Age. Following an impressive revisionist binge, Pike finally cast off Christianity completely. In pursuit of some kind of Gnosis, he drove into the Jordanian desert in a Ford Cortina with two Cokes and his third wife, where he lost his way and died. Such a fitting illustration of the Protestant condition, I once thought: an ill-equipped Ford Cortina hurtling to desert doom. Continue Reading »