Quiet Hope: A New Year’s Resolution
Despair is the unforgivable sin, for the despairing conclude that God will not or cannot act, that the universe is fundamentally unfriendly and inhospitable to the true, good, and beautiful, and that humanity has lost the imago Dei. To judge in this way is to deny the goodness of the world and its Creator and sustainer, and that is the sin of all sins.
Faith and Family at Public Discourse: A Note from the Editor
Faith and family: for many of us, these are not only the most important parts of the Christmas season. They’re also the things that make life most worth living.
A Decade of Debates
The team at Public Discourse doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, but we do think we’re asking the right questions, and getting the right thinkers to propose some of the answers. That’s one thing that we hope will always be our hallmark: thoughtful, reasoned discourse, which is rigorous yet still accessible to the educated layman.
Christmas and Western Civilization
Though Christmas is a religious holiday, secularists should appreciate its great contribution to Western Civilization: the lesson that all men are equal in their fundamental human dignity.
The Incarnation and Our Everyday Lives: A Christmas Meditation
Christianity is so much more solid, and real, and human, than the “spiritual, but not religious” imitations of today. Christian faith touches every aspect of our lives—material, social, cultural. It does so because our God was born as a human baby in a stable and nurtured by a teenaged girl named Mary.
Surprised by Christ
The small surprises and sacrifices of Christmas—the time, resources, and care our loved ones expend in order to place under glowing trees those bright bundles upon which our own names are written—recall the marvel of Christ’s entry into the world in order to sacrifice himself for those he calls by name. This is the unexpected gift that we ought to be surprised by, over and over, every Christmas—indeed, every morning.
Joyous Surrender: A Rhapsody in Red (and Green)
Christmas isn’t tasteful, isn’t simple, isn’t clean, isn’t elegant. Give me the tacky and the exuberant and the wild, to represent the impossibly boisterous fact that God has intruded in this world.
Heroes and Villains: A Chanukah Meditation
In the popular imagination, both Jewish and Gentile, the story of Chanukah is the saga of outnumbered but plucky Jews battling the more numerous and nefarious Greeks and their alien culture. In truth, it’s about much more than that.
Refreshing, Rejuvenating, and Improving Our Public Discourse: 2019 Holiday Book Recommendations
Reading recommendations from The Witherspoon Institute staff.
The Classical Alternative to Liberal Theory
Once we recognize the insufficiency of liberal political theory, we should turn back to classical political philosophy, which offers us a deeper understanding of the American tradition and invaluable guidance in reforming our contemporary politics.
The Real Failure of Liberal Theory
Conservative critics of “liberalism” are right to identify major flaws in liberal theory. But a deeper appreciation of those flaws should prevent us from blaming the American political tradition for them. Liberal theory is so erroneous that neither the Founders nor any other Americans could ever really put it into practice.
Promoting Human Rights Consistently: The Trump Administration Should Stop Advancing Controversial LGBT Ideology at the UN
The first recommendation of the U.S. Commission on Unalienable Rights should be directed to the same State Department that houses it: Stop using the UN to advance sexual ideologies that have no basis in international human rights law.
Free Speech Cannot Save Us
Unless they acknowledge a divine transcendence, our universities, like our culture at large, are sentenced to pointless “debate,” full of sound and fury, no matter how free our speech is. The marketplace of ideas alone cannot save education.
Catholicism, Modernity, and Ground-Up Politics
Pope Francis’s theology of the people gives us a new ecclesial lens and paradigm through which to understand earthly politics. And the clerical abuse scandal, like the Church’s loss of temporal power, may well do Catholics a service in the long run, freeing us up to a better, more “ground-up” conception of how societies and their economies work.
A Modern-Day Saint: Rosario Livatino and a Judge’s Life “Under God”
The life of the murdered Sicilian judge Rosario Livatino serves as a testimony of honesty, moral righteousness, and charity. He serves as an example to many people around the world, especially to those involved in law and politics.
Speech and Conscience in Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life
How does one film the work of the conscience, hidden as it is? How does one capture the internal struggle to speak when confronted by the demand for conformity? Terrence Malick successfully recreates this struggle for us in his latest film, A Hidden Life; and while his story focuses primarily on the struggle of one historical individual, the experiences Malick captures on film deepen our understanding of and sympathy for the precarious condition we all share.
Andrea Long Chu Says You Are a Female, and He’s Only Partly Wrong
Transgender performance of femaleness can only be a parody, because no amount of “bottom surgery” will make a male into the kind of human being who has the natural power to bear a child. The woman has the spontaneous, natural power to make space for the other, which embodies the spiritual reality to which all human beings are called.
Saving Human Rights from the Human Rights Movement
Without a proper understanding of human beings that is grounded in natural law, human rights will always fall short of the lofty goals set by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If the U.S. Commission on Unalienable Rights is to help the U.S. protect human rights, it needs first to try to understand their nature.
Physical Interventions on the Bodies of Children to “Affirm” their “Gender Identity” Violate Sound Medical Ethics and Should be Prohibited
Rather than teaching children to identify based on how well they fit prevailing cultural expectations on sex, we should be teaching them that the truth of their sexual identity is based on their bodies, and that sometimes cultural associations attached to the sexes are misguided or simply too narrow. There is a wonderfully rich array of ways of expressing one’s embodiment as male or female.
Mindful Business Leadership
Mindful business leadership must connect mindfulness to the moral principles of the traditions in which it originated. It must also situate itself convincingly in relation to models of leadership, either assimilating into an existing model or offering a new one. And it ought to show how a mindful leader might concretely figure into a corporate governance structure in a way that is reasonably expected to advance the firm’s social responsibilities.
Fitting the Punishment to the Crime: The Justice of Contemporary Criminal Sentencing Laws
Were the criminal sentencing reforms that began in the 1970s too harsh? Rachel Barkow’s new book says they were. But most Americans would likely call these changes progress: our worst offenders now get something closer to what they should get than in the days when the experts were more in charge of punishment. Perhaps the real question is whether we should ground our criminal law more on justice as retribution.
Religious Freedom, the Church, and State Coercion
The Church must exercise its authority over temporal matters in a way consistent with its spiritual mission, of which the exercise of temporal jurisdiction is a betrayal. The human person is drawn by nature to seek out and hold the truth whose fullness is revealed in God’s revelation in Christ, but this vision of human fulfillment implies a human subjectivity whose freedom must be respected as it seeks out the truth which fulfills it.
Health Care: The Greatest Pro-Life Political Battle of Our Time
Patient freedom would not survive a single-payer federally controlled health care system. The right to life would not survive a single-payer health care system. The right of religious freedom and faithfully Catholic health care would not survive such a federally controlled single-payer system.
Compelled Sexual Affirmation in the School Bathroom
The case against compelled affirmation policies needs to be more explicitly and vividly sexualized. The argument against these policies must be rooted in the civil liberties of objecting students and the right not be forced to be the object of another’s sexual gaze. Opening intimate facilities to anyone of the opposite sex imposes psycho-sexual trauma on countless non-consenting youths, and constitutes a form of sexual exploitation.