Category : Books

(LARB) Multiculturalism and Mental Illness: An Interview With Mira T. Lee

ELEANOR J. BADER: Lucia, the younger sister in Everything Here Is Beautiful, suffers from schizoaffective disorder, and the novel tracks her many psychotic breaks with compassion, terrifying realism, and multilayered complexity. Did you know about this disorder from personal experience?

MIRA T. LEE: There is a lot of mental illness in my family, with multiple family members with schizophrenia. I’ve seen breaks from reality, psychotic behavior where people believe the TV is talking to them or that the FBI is bugging their computers. I’ve seen people stop making sense and become unable to string words together to form a sentence.

I’ve dealt with doctors, hospitals, and social workers, and I am very familiar with the frustrations involved in trying to help someone with this kind of illness, so a lot of the emotions I include in the book are emotions I’ve felt. I know what it’s like to walk on eggshells because someone is disoriented and you don’t want to make the situation worse. Manuel, the undocumented Ecuadoran immigrant Lucia lives with after she leaves her first husband, consistently tries to appease Lucia. Through him, I was able to show how scary it is to see the person you love all but disappear.

But I didn’t just rely on my own experiences. I read many memoirs and blogs about mental illness. There are so many! Just Google first-person accounts of schizophrenia and you’ll see tons of stuff written by people who’ve been there. For a while I also researched post-partum psychosis because after Lucia gives birth to daughter Esperanza she is unable to care for either herself or her newborn.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Mental Illness, Psychology

Andrew Wilson–Inequality, Privilege, and the Upper Middle Class

Inequality is one of the most entrenched, persistent and socially divisive problems in the modern West. Yet most of us misdiagnose the problem. We imagine that the issue lies with those much better off than us—the 1%, the super-rich, or whatever we call them—rather than with people like us. (More than a third of the Occupy demonstrators in 2011 had annual earnings of over $100k.) Richard Reeves sees things differently. In his Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What To Do About It, he argues that the top 20%, rather than the top 1%, is the real problem, and he admits that this puts both him and the vast majority of his readers in the firing line. “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Books, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Theology

(TLS) In the Name of the Godfather–Misha Glenny on the survival of Global Mafias

Things changed dramatically in the 1990s. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union was accompanied by a drastic weakening of the state, unable and unfit to cope with the dramatic shift from a planned to a market economy. Those people engaged in Soviet and East European studies had no choice but to write about the emergent mafias of the late 1980s and 90s because they comprised one of three constituent parts of a new polity, along with the new class of oligarchs and what remained of state institutions. Ignoring the Russian mafia would have been akin to writing a history of the United States in the 1970s without mentioning the CIA, big business, the FBI or the Supreme Court.

As coherent policies started to melt in Russia, another equally important one was already coming into being elsewhere. The Big Bang of 1986, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s most important joint initiative, lifted restrictions on corporate capital movement. This persuaded the political elites of countries such as India, Brazil, China, Indonesia and South Africa to adjust and accept more open markets. To varying degrees, the commercial law systems of these countries found accommodating these changes a difficult challenge.

The conjuncture of these two historical moments with a specifically criminal development injected immense vigour into the business of organized crime. This was supercharged by Reagan’s affirmation of the disastrous War on Drugs at a time of rapid growth in cocaine consumption in certain markets during the 1980s, and later by an upsurge in heroin production and distribution in the first half of the 1990s as Afghanistan’s security situation deteriorated.

Federico Varese was among a number of young students in the 1990s whose doctoral research coincided with these events. He went to Perm, located halfway between Moscow and Novosibirsk, where he recorded in minute detail the emergence of the local mafia organization, eventually leading to his seminal work, The Russian Mafia (2001). Others were undertaking similar work in various countries including South Africa, China, Brazil and India. Most framed their research with some reference to The Sicilian Mafia: The business of private protection (1993) by the Italian social scientist Diego Gambetta. More than anyone else’s, Gambetta’s work has changed our fundamental understanding of mafias and organized crime groups. Mafias usually emerge, he argues, at times of social or economic upheaval when the state finds itself unable or unwilling to regulate markets. In order to ensure the smooth running of commercial activities, mafias, or “privatized law enforcement agencies” as another researcher named them, assume the role of arbiter….

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, History, Law & Legal Issues

(FT) Bibles, cookery books and the birth of the knowledge economy–An ambitious project aims to trace the early years of Europe’s printed revolution

A knot of academics is huddled over a large bound volume in the soft light of the Bodleian Library at Oxford university, attempting to unlock the secrets buried within its 500-year-old pages.

The beautifully tooled leather binding protecting this late-15th-century Hebrew Bible — a rare survival once held in the library at Holkham Hall in Norfolk — has helped keep its printed pages in a fine state of preservation. But it is not the words of the text that hold the attention of these experts. Instead, they are interpreting and recording the fleeting evidence it retains of previous owners, whether revealed in hand-painted heraldry, scholarly annotations, scribbled thoughts or simple underlining.

It is a process they and their colleagues have gone through many times in the service of a five-year project of sweeping academic ambition: an attempt to trace the flowering of knowledge, ideas and trade in the first 50 years of Europe’s printed revolution.

Read it all (may require subscription).

Posted in Books, Europe, History, Science & Technology

(TAC) Rod Dreher’s interview w/ Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen about his new book, ‘Why Liberalism Failed’

We can say, then, that liberalism is the political operating system of America. Our different parties are like “apps” that operate on that liberal operating system, reflecting its deepest commitments in what are most often its main political agendas: on the Right, the picture of the emancipated individual chooser that animates libertarian economics; and on the Left, the vision of the emancipated individual chooser that animates their libertarian “lifestyle” aspirations, particularly relating to sexuality and abortion.

You write that liberalism “has failed because it has succeeded.” Explain the paradox.

The aspiration of the liberated individual was always moderated by many other historical and cultural influences, especially – in the West – by orthodox forms of Christianity. For a long time, many people of good will understandably could be strong supporters and proponents of the official liberal political philosophy of the American order because of those moderating influences. However, I argue that those moderating influences have been eviscerated by the “success” of liberalism, by its coming fully into being. In this sense, it is an ideology that remakes society in its image – not in the violent manner of those competing and defeated ideologies of fascism and communism, but, rather, in most cases, through the invitation to regard individual liberty as the highest aspiration of the successful life. However, understanding its basic commitments, we can see ways that the liberal regime has certainly been extended through the powers of the state, including through such avenues as the HHS mandate as well as less obvious ways, such as transportation and housing policy, that moved most Americans out of communities and into suburbs.

I argue, then, that we see liberalism failing because it has succeeded. As liberalism has “become more fully itself,” it becomes more immoderate and reveals the falseness of its anthropological assumptions. The breakdown of our political order as well as the loss of any kind of common culture and even civil comportment is, in a sense, the reflection of the successful artificial creation of a state of nature. We are now seeing the results of a 500-year experiment that aims at liberating the individual from social, religious and familial ties, now held together only by the belief that what we have in common is the fact that we are all rights-bearing individuals.

Read it all (2nd emphasis mine).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Books, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, History, Philosophy

(Church Times) Philip Welsh reviews ‘The Joy of Being Anglican’ edited by Caroline Hodgson and Heather Smith

The Joy of Being Anglican does not aim at being a systematic, searching, or critical examination of Anglicanism, but, rather, at celebrating what a variety of Anglicans love about the Church they belong to. That said, issues do get raised. Ruth Gledhill writes warmly of the “understated, modest, anonymous way” in which churches get on with doing good, but offsets this against “the hurt felt by many LGTB people, who are also part of the Church family”. Trevor Dennis vividly evokes the joy to be had from scripture — “Really? For an Anglican? Are you quite sure?” — but admits that “sometimes, let’s face it, the Bible is very wrong,” and accuses preachers of evasiveness in confronting difficult passages.

Rachel Mann has a penetrating chapter on the Anglican tradition of poetry, admitting that to some extent it has been tied in with authority and privilege. And, in a volume that generally has little to say about Anglican theological thinking, she does affirm that “To be Anglican is to be free of the need for doctrinaire safety or dogmatism,” and offers W. H. Auden and R. S. Thomas as examples. Casual references to “Hegelian rigour” and “dialectical encounter” seem to have slipped through the publisher’s declared policy of using “simple, everyday language”.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Identity, Books, Theology

(TGC) Ed Shaw–Figuring Out Faithfulness with Same-Sex Attraction

There has been a recent avalanche of books from a biblical and traditional perspective on same-sex attraction. Each brings a different viewpoint, with many writing from their own experiences of same-sex attraction. Both of us also experience same-sex attraction; we’ve benefited immensely from the variety books on this topic and trust that the church has as well.

The latest addition is from Nate Collins in All But Invisible: Exploring Identity Questions at the Intersection of Faith, Gender, and Sexuality. Collins—a partner associate at The Sight Ministry, a Christian organization based in Nashville that provides resources and support for individuals, families, and Christian organizations regarding LGBT issues—likewise writes out of experience and from a traditional, biblical approach.

But what justifies yet another book on these subjects? More books are justified by the other, more powerful cultural avalanche that has nearly buried us all—the new attitudes and approach to gender and sexuality created by the sexual revolution of the last 50 years. More recently, acceptance of same-sex marriage has slipped in the evangelical church through the influential books of James Brownson (at an academic level) and Matthew Vines(at a popular one).

In response, those of us coming from a traditional perspective have had a lot of rescue work to do. But both avalanches have left us with a new landscape where some differences of opinion have emerged among those who espouse a traditional view on same-sex attraction….


Read it all.

Posted in Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology

Bob Mayo (the Vicar of St Stephens Shepherds Bush)–Reflections on a recent visit to America and the danger of cheap grace

I had occasion to spend 10 days in the USA before Advent. I learnt that in Oregon you can buy rifles in a supermarket and in Texas church ushers and sometimes the preacher may be wearing a pistol. I learnt that the Episcopal Church is not obsessed with finding a solution to the debate about same sex marriages. ‘Never mind sex’ I was told, ‘what about people in poverty? Economic issues are far more important’. America is not the land of mega churches: 75% of Americans worship in churches of less than 100. These churches are not full of Donald Trump supporters. People that I met were both embarrassed and hostile towards their President.

I was in Oregon for the launch of Professor Roger Newell [2017] new book Keine Gewalt! No Violence! The book outlines how the role played by the German Church in the 1940’s laid down the foundations for her part in the ending of the Cold War in the 1980’s. In the first half of the century the German church withdrew into pietism and individual spirituality leaving the political area to the Nazis. In the second half of the century the German church actively engaged in the civil society leading to the peaceful overthrow of Communism.

The underlying question in Roger’s book is how the Church relates to society. This question is especially relevant in the UK and USA with the Trump phenomenon on one side of the Atlantic and Brexit on the other. Being anti American is seen as the last acceptable form of racism but it is the American policies with which we disagree and not the people. The people are warm-hearted and, when I was there, asked me no end of times about whether I was having a ‘nice day’.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CC)Jason Byasee–The value of apocalypse

Who is the most influential thinker in the history of American culture? A case can be made for John Nelson Darby, the 19th-century former Church of Ireland priest who cooked up what we now call premillennial dispensationalism—an es­chatological scheme by which disasters natural and supernatural presage the return of Christ.

Anthony Aveni and Lisa Vox describe how American culture, politics, and apocalypticism have been braided together in ways that tend toward paranoid conspiratorial fearmongering peddled as Christianity. Darby’s mistake—I would call it a heresy—has shaped the politics that rule our country and our world. That’s a much grander claim than these two good books by appropriately modest historians would ever let themselves make. Yet I think it’s the clear conclusion they offer.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church History, Eschatology, History, Religion & Culture

Today in History

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, History, Race/Race Relations

(JE) 100 Influential Protestants You Ought to Know

Instead of attempting to repeat the more well-known names you probably already know, what follows is IRD’s list of Evangelicals and Mainline Protestant movers and shakers who fly under the mainstream radar. Others on our list are better known but missed making the Newsmax list. Many are folks IRD’s staff have interacted or collaborated with during the course of our work. All are leading Evangelical and Protestant influencers who you should know.

Note that while the list is numbered, it is in no particular order.

1. Greg Thornbury – Previously president of The King’s College in New York City, Thornbury was recently named Chancellor of the school. He has been dubbed “America’s first hipster college president” by The American Spectator. A respected writer and speaker on pop culture and its relationship to faith, Thornbury has a forthcoming book titled Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Books, Religion & Culture

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd Jones and read by David Suchet – Fish Out of Water

Posted in Books, Children, Theology

CS Lewis on CS Lewis Day (IV)–On the importance of reading old books

There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.

This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself.

Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why – the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (“mere Christianity” as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook – even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united – united with each other and against earlier and later ages – by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century – the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?” – lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

I myself was first led into reading the Christian classics, almost accidentally, as a result of my English studies. Some, such as Hooker, Herbert, Traherne, Taylor and Bunyan, I read because they are themselves great English writers; others, such as Boethius, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Dante, because they were “influences.” George Macdonald I had found for myself at the age of sixteen and never wavered in my allegiance, though I tried for a long time to ignore his Christianity. They are, you will note, a mixed bag, representative of many Churches, climates and ages. And that brings me to yet another reason for reading them. The divisions of Christendom are undeniable and are by some of these writers most fiercely expressed. But if any man is tempted to think – as one might be tempted who read only con- temporaries – that “Christianity” is a word of so many meanings that it means nothing at all, he can learn beyond all doubt, by stepping out of his own century, that this is not so. Measured against the ages “mere Christianity” turns out to be no insipid interdenominational transparency, but something positive, self-consistent, and inexhaustible. I know it, indeed, to my cost. In the days when I still hated Christianity, I learned to recognise, like some all too familiar smell, that almost unvarying something which met me, now in Puritan Bunyan, now in Anglican Hooker, now in Thomist Dante. It was there (honeyed and floral) in Francois de Sales; it was there (grave and homely) in Spenser and Walton; it was there (grim but manful) in Pascal and Johnson; there again, with a mild, frightening, Paradisial flavour, in Vaughan and Boehme and Traherne. In the urban sobriety of the eighteenth century one was not safe – Law and Butler were two lions in the path. The supposed “Paganism” of the Elizabethans could not keep it out; it lay in wait where a man might have supposed himself safest, in the very centre of The Faerie Queene and the Arcadia. It was, of course, varied; and yet – after all – so unmistakably the same; recognisable, not to be evaded, the odour which is death to us until we allow it to become life: “An air that kills From yon far country blows.”

We are all rightly distressed, and ashamed also, at the divisions of Christendom. But those who have always lived within the Christian fold may be too easily dispirited by them. They are bad, but such people do not know what it looks like from without. Seen from there, what is left intact despite all the divisions, still appears (as it truly is) an immensely formidable unity. I know, for I saw it; and well our enemies know it. That unity any of us can find by going out of his own age. It is not enough, but it is more than you had thought till then. Once you are well soaked in it, if you then venture to speak, you will have an amusing experience. You will be thought a Papist when you are actually reproducing Bunyan, a Pantheist when you are quoting Aquinas, and so forth. For you have now got on to the great level viaduct which crosses the ages and which looks so high from the valleys, so low from the mountains, so narrow compared with the swamps, and so broad compared with the sheep-tracks.

–C.S. Lewis, On the Incarnation: the treatise De incarnatione Verbi Dei (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993), pp. 3-7.

Posted in Books, Church History

(NYT) Sheri Berman reviews William Drozdiak’s new book “Fractured Continent: Europe’s Crises and the Fate of the West”

The collapse of the Soviet Empire left Europe more united than ever before. Most of its countries shared a political (democratic) and economic (capitalist) system; Germany and Russia — the great powers that had caused so much instability in the past — were no longer threats, and the European Union was on the verge of incorporating much of Eastern Europe and creating a single currency. At the end of the 20th century, the view that a “united Europe” was on its way to becoming “the next global superpower,” and the West was at the dawn of a new golden era, was widespread.

Could history prove itself any more unpredictable? Today, there are growing fears that Europe and the West have entered a period of terminal decline. How did we get from there to here? How did the unified, peaceful Europe of the late 20th century turn into the fractured, discordant continent of the early 21st?

William Drozdiak, a former editor and chief European correspondent for The Washington Post, has written a book examining the current crisis from the vantage point of various European capitals — providing a colorful narrative of how it is being experienced differently in each place.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Europe, History

(NR) Russell Moore–The Reformation at 500

Ryrie shows his hand at the book’s conclusion. His narrative of a Protestantism willing to jettison even the Bible in the name of protecting the Gospel allows him to conclude that the churches’ opposition to the sexual revolution is culturally maintained and that the Biblical texts on sexual morality will go overboard, just as slavery did, when the rejection of traditional sexual morality is ubiquitous. For Ryrie, both sides of the current debates on gender and sexuality rending Protestant communions (such as the Anglicans) are “driven by society, not theology.” In his view, Protestant theology is little more than the ratification of social trends, a bit after they have been normalized in the rest of society.

Is this often the case? Yes. I have spent most of my life arguing against a kind of nominal, cultural Christianity that embraced slavery and Jim Crow and often was (and is) made up of what I’ve called “slow-motion sexual revolutionaries” — those who accept such social trends as premarital sex and divorce culture 20 or 30 years after the outside world. That is hardly unique to Protestantism (see some of the moves of Western European Roman Catholic bishops on communion for the divorced and remarried). It also, though, is far from the whole story. Even Ryrie concedes that abortion is an exception, as the more orthodox versions of Protestantism continue to buck the cultural consensus.

Moreover, what Ryrie misses is that this is often the case within conservative Protestantism (and other orthodox forms of Christianity). Luther’s Reformation was not limited to cultural trends, heart-religion, or the bucking of ecclesial authorities. Luther’s stand launched a movement that (Ryrie concedes this fact but leaves it underdeveloped) shaped global culture virtually alone, by rediscovering the truth about God and man found in the Biblical Gospel. The slave trade and Jim Crow segregation were dismantled, despite being a cultural given, at least in some parts of the world, and at least in part (again, Ryrie concedes this but does not integrate it into his argument) because figures ranging from William Wilberforce to Martin Luther King Jr. pointed to a Gospel that teaches individual human dignity and a Bible that announces that there is no partiality with God. R

Ryrie’s arguments here notwithstanding, his chapters on King and Billy Graham are perhaps the best parts of the book, and constitute exceptions to his sola-sociology viewpoint….

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Theology