Category : History

(WSJ) Nathan Diament–What Neil Gorsuch Sees That Antonin Scalia Didn’t

What comes through in these opinions is a recognition that seems to have eluded Scalia in 1990: The law is meant to be a bulwark against the infringement—whether by government or other powerful entities—upon a person’s religious conscience and practices. It is not enough to allow Americans to believe as they wish; they must also be able, generally, to act in conformity with their beliefs.

Accommodations for religious observance are welcome from the legislative or executive branches, but the Framers put freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights to guarantee it. The First Amendment applies to people of all faiths, and shouldn’t depend on political power. What is required is enforcement by jurists sensitive to the needs of religious minorities.

Whether Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed to the Supreme Court remains to be seen. But his record suggests that those who care about religious liberty may want to pray that he gets the chance to rule on it.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(The IC) Bruce Frohnen–T.S Eliot’s Christianity and Culture: the Problem of Establishment

Liberalism is fundamentally negative in its teleology. Its inherent purpose is to liberate individuals from constraints of tradition, social structure, and cultural context. It can have good effects (some structures are, indeed, oppressive) but if not checked it will corrode the social framework, producing anarchy and brutal responses to that anarchy. Here, obviously, Eliot is referring to the rise of totalitarianism, perhaps most obviously in response to the anarchy of post–World War I German society. He also points to the discomfiting fact that Western democracies share significant affinities with totalitarian regimes. Totalitarian regimes simply have advanced more fully (and ironically, more efficiently) on the road to paganism, a destination toward which our society continues to move.[5]

Clearly there is a prescriptive element to Eliot’s argument. Few people of sense and goodwill would choose either the totalitarianism or the cultural death naturally succeeding to a neutral society that is not brought back to its religious roots. But Eliot’s explanatory goal is to point out the nature of our choices as a vestigial Christian society. He seeks to eliminate the inconsistency (whether adopted from ignorance or the intention to deceive) of those whose real values “are of materialistic efficiency” yet who claim also to value Christianity (CC, 16). “The Liberal notion that religion was a matter of private belief and of conduct in private life, and that there is no reason why Christians should not be able to accommodate themselves to any world which treats them good-naturedly, is becoming less and less tenable” (CC, 17). This view is an unsurprising outgrowth of liberalism’s genuine good fruits, peace and toleration.

But the liberal secular viewpoint has become increasingly untenable due to the difficulty of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society.

The problem of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society is now very present to us, and it is a very different problem from that of the accommodation between an Established Church and dissenters. It is not merely the problem of a minority in a society of individuals holding an alien belief. It is the problem constituted by our implication in a network of institutions from which we cannot dissociate ourselves: institutions the operation of which appears no longer neutral, but non-Christian. And as for the Christian who is not conscious of his dilemma—and he is in the majority—he is becoming more and more de-Christianized by all sorts of unconscious pressure: paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space. (CC, 17–18; emphasis in original)

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Posted in Church History, History, Religion & Culture, Uncategorized

(Atlantic) Peter Beinhart– Breaking Faith The culture war over religious morality has faded; in its place is something much worse

In his book Twilight of the Elites, the MSNBC host Chris Hayes divides American politics between “institutionalists,” who believe in preserving and adapting the political and economic system, and “insurrectionists,” who believe it’s rotten to the core. The 2016 election represents an extraordinary shift in power from the former to the latter. The loss of manufacturing jobs has made Americans more insurrectionist. So have the Iraq War, the financial crisis, and a black president’s inability to stop the police from killing unarmed African Americans. And so has disengagement from organized religion.

Maybe it’s the values of hierarchy, authority, and tradition that churches instill. Maybe religion builds habits and networks that help people better weather national traumas, and thus retain their faith that the system works. For whatever reason, secularization isn’t easing political conflict. It’s making American politics even more convulsive and zero-sum.

For years, political commentators dreamed that the culture war over religious morality that began in the 1960s and ’70s would fade. It has. And the more secular, more ferociously national and racial culture war that has followed is worse.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks on Rod Dreher’s new Book–The Benedict Option

Rod is pretty conservative. “There can be no peace between Christianity and the sexual revolution, because they are radically opposed,” he writes.

Specifically, “L.G.B.T. activism is the tip of the spear at our throats in the culture war. The struggle over gay rights is what is threatening religious liberty, putting Christian merchants out of business, threatening the tax-exempt status and accreditation of Christian schools and colleges.”

Rod shares the fears that are now common in Orthodox Christian circles, that because of their views on L.G.B.T. issues, Orthodox Christians and Jews will soon be banned from many professions and corporations. “Blacklisting will be real,” he says. We are entering a new Dark Age. “There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization….”

Maybe if I shared Rod’s views on L.G.B.T. issues, I would see the level of threat and darkness he does. But I don’t see it. Over the course of history, American culture has tolerated slavery, sexual brutalism and the genocide of the Native Americans, and now we’re supposed to see 2017 as the year the Dark Ages descended?

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Evangelicals, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Has Preaching Had its Day?

5. Ensuring that preaching connects with culture and everyday life

The death-knell for preaching is to place it in a self-contained world of the spiritual or the ‘Christian’ detached from everyday life. It is a theological imperative to make it engage with and draw from the day to day world of its listeners and speakers. This is why humour matters, and why I almost always begin my sermons with a practical question. (Doesn’t all preaching, all theology, actually start from a presenting question? Jesus is the answer…). This raises questions about our worship (does it connect with life?) but also about the preacher’s own life. Does it connect with the experiences of the congregation from day to day?

4. Preaching ‘as one without authority’, inviting testing and questioning

Bill Hybels argues that we need to build in an experiential apologetic to our use of Scripture, showing that it offers insights that make a difference in everyday life, and the same is true of our preaching. We need to be willing to invite questioning, and have a robust but flexible sense of the authority of what God is saying…too much of our authority is brittle….

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Posted in History, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture

Food for Thought from Elliot Neaman on the 2 “countercultures in 1968”

There were actually at least two countercultures in 1968. The street mutineers dreamed of a political revolution, which was acted out as theater, using old scripts. In the second, politics became personal; emancipation came in the form of consumer choices. The first was collectivist and failed, the second was libertarian, individualistic, futuristic, and carried the day.

Hat tip: Scott Beauchamp.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., History

(Economist) The amazing story of “Les Misérables”, a book that changed the world

Save for Hugo’s literary rivals (Alexandre Dumas likened it to “wading through mud”), everybody loved the long haul of Valjean’s rehabilitation in the company of characters who soon entered folklore: the street-girl Fantine, her daughter Cosette, the urchin Gavroche, the student Marius. Shorn of its condemnation of slavery, the novel even circulated in a pirate edition among Confederate soldiers during the American civil war. In a weary pun on their commander’s name, they dubbed themselves “Lee’s Miserables”.

From the humane treatment of ex-offenders to the care of street children, “Les Misérables” spearheaded calls for reform and contributed to “the future improvement of society”. Few books really change the world. This one did, long before it broke box-office records on stage. In the musical Hugo’s hero intones—in a song loved by television talent-show contestants—“Bring Him Home”. Mr [David] Bellos does just that, as he restores “Les Mis” to its maker and his times.

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Posted in Books, France, History

(C of E) Hidden gems from Londons chapels uncovered

Hidden gems from London’s ecclesiastical past – and present – are uncovered through a new project exploring the capital’s Anglican chapels through the eyes of a unique chronicler of church buildings.

London’s Unseen Chapels: From the Notebooks of Canon Clarke, a Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project, will leaf through the pages of Canon Basil Fulford Clarke’s (1907-78) notebooks.

The project uncovers the ways in which institutions such as Temple Church and Charterhouse Chapel provided spiritual care to those from all gradations of society, and continue to do so successfully today.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(NYTBR) Ibram Kendi–A History of Race and Racism in America, in 24 Chapters

Many Americans might not know the more polemical side of race writing in our history. The canon of African-American literature is well established. Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, James Baldwin are familiar figures. Far less so is Samuel Morton (champion of the obsolete theory of polygenesis) or Thomas Dixon (author of novels romanticizing Klan violence). It is tempting to think that the influence of those dusty polemics ebbed as the dust accumulated. But their legacy persists, freshly shaping much of our racial discourse.

On the occasion of Black History Month, I’ve selected the most influential books on race and the black experience published in the United States for each decade of the nation’s existence ”” a history of race through ideas, arranged chronologically on the shelf. (In many cases, I’ve added a complementary work, noted with an asterisk.) Each of these books was either published first in the United States or widely read by Americans. They inspired ”” and sometimes ended ”” the fiercest debates of their times: debates over slavery, segregation, mass incarceration. They offered racist explanations for inequities, and antiracist correctives. Some ”” the poems of Phillis Wheatley, the memoir of Frederick Douglass ”” stand literature’s test of time. Others have been roundly debunked by science, by data, by human experience. No list can ever be comprehensive, and “most influential” by no means signifies “best.” But I would argue that together, these works tell the history of anti-black racism in the United States as painfully, as eloquently, as disturbingly as words can. In many ways, they also tell its present.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Race/Race Relations, Theology

(America) Ed Block–The transformational world of Jon Hassler

In an interview for Image magazine in 1997, I asked Hassler about the origin of his Catholic worldview. He responded, “I’m indebted to those first few grades in parochial school for teaching me that everything in life is connected.” A bit later he added, “I guess maybe I see life as a whole.” It is part of Hassler’s gift, throughout his career, to see life as a whole, juxtaposing events and characters, thus yielding new meanings and interrelationships, making the entire work appear to fly. In a word, Hassler’s style is not “magic realism” but realism magically transformed.

Again and again Hassler transforms the banality of evil into Flannery O’Connor-type characters and events. A crazed woman kills a burnt-out teacher; a brilliant teacher stricken by multiple sclerosis turns psychotic in his despondency; an unloved juvenile delinquent is crushed beneath a walk-in cooler like the Wicked Witch beneath Dorothy’s Kansas cottage. But like St. Augustine, who speaks of God’s love treating “each of us as an only child,” Hassler (who includes many only children in his fiction) treats every character in that way. Jon Hassler discovers God’s presence in everyday life, as his novels throw a grace-filled light upon caring teachers, open-hearted wives and lovers, priests and spinsters””and a latchkey child who responds to an old man’s need for friendship and for love.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(CT) Rod Dreher–The Benedict Option's Vision for a Christian Village

In my 2006 book, Crunchy Cons, which explored a countercultural, traditionalist conservative sensibility, I brought up the work of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, who said that Western civilization had lost its moorings. MacIntyre said that the time is coming when men and women of virtue will understand that continued full participation in mainstream society was not possible for those who want to live a life of traditional virtue. These people would find new ways to live in community, he said, just as St. Benedict, the sixth-century father of Western monasticism, responded to the collapse of Roman civilization by founding a monastic order.

I called the strategic withdrawal prophesied by MacIntyre “the Benedict Option.” The idea is that serious Christian conservatives could no longer live business-as-usual lives in America, that we have to develop creative, communal solutions to help us hold on to our faith and our values in a world growing ever more hostile to them. We would have to choose to make a decisive leap into a truly countercultural way of living Christianity, or we would doom our children and our children’s children to assimilation.
Today, Christians who hold to the biblical teaching about sex and marriage have the same status in culture and, increasingly, in law, as racists. The culture war that began with the sexual revolution in the 1960s has now ended in defeat for Christian conservatives. The cultural left””which is to say, the American mainstream””has no intention of living in postwar peace. It is pressing forward with a harsh, relentless occupation, one that is aided by the cluelessness of Christians who don’t understand what’s happening.

I have written The Benedict Option to wake up the church, and to encourage it to act to strengthen itself, while there is still time.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Books, Children, History, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

PBS–How well do you know presidential history?

Are you an expert on the presidency?

Presidents Day is as good a time as any to test your knowledge of the 45 men who have held the highest elected office in the country. Take this 15-question quiz to see where you rank.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President, Politics in General

Washington’s Birthday Documents (III)–His circular letter to the States, June 8, 1783

I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field; and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.

I have the honor to be, with much esteem and respect, Sir, your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble servant.

–George Washington
Head-Quarters, Newburg,
8 June, 1783.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

Washington’s Birthday Documents (II): George Washington’s First State of Union Address

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:

I embrace with great satisfaction the opportunity which now presents itself of congratulating you on the present favorable prospects of our public affairs. The recent accession of the important state of North Carolina to the Constitution of the United States (of which official information has been received), the rising credit and respectability of our country, the general and increasing good will toward the government of the Union, and the concord, peace, and plenty with which we are blessed are circumstances auspicious in an eminent degree to our national prosperity.

In resuming your consultations for the general good you can not but derive encouragement from the reflection that the measures of the last session have been as satisfactory to your constituents as the novelty and difficulty of the work allowed you to hope. Still further to realize their expectations and to secure the blessings which a gracious Providence has placed within our reach will in the course of the present important session call for the cool and deliberate exertion of your patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President, Politics in General

History Buzz: a Washington's Birthday Quiz : How well do you know our chief executives?

Here are a few questions to whet your appetite:

What president and his wife were Stanford graduates?

Who is the only president to serve two terms that weren’t consecutive?

What president was born in Iowa but orphaned at age 9 and sent to live in Oregon?

What president died 10 months after his wife died of lung cancer? (He was out of office when he died.)

Read it all and see how you do.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President, Politics in General