A great irony of the Jewish and Christian faith traditions: One must be willing to accept suffering and sacrifice for a greater purpose that transcends one’s particular material and sensual needs and desires. Counter-intuitively, it is these transcendent qualities of faith that eschew utilitarian aims for a greater purpose that create the circumstances for greater material well-being.
Pillar: Education & Culture
The fourth pillar, education and culture, is built upon the recognition of two essential realities. First, the Western intellectual tradition requires a dedication to and desire for truth. Second, education takes place not only within colleges and universities but within our broader culture, whose institutions and practices form us as whole persons.
Each of the books I mention here can help us to be conscious—to be “in the know,” which is what Austen meant by the word—thus using the gift of speech in ways that accord with our nature as “the reflexive animal,” as Lewis calls us, governed by “the inner lawgiver” (Lewis again) of our conscience. And these conjoined obligations—to our nature and to our speech—are why even pronouns are a field of battle that truth-tellers should not surrender.
Catholic schools, along with other faith-based schools, are a vital gift to the families they serve and to our country. America’s COVID-19 relief efforts should support the educational choices of all families and work to save Catholic schools.
Wodehouse’s work, from virtually any period of his long career, is amazingly consistent. One learns after a while that when one begins a Wodehouse story, satisfaction is guaranteed. Like a fresh whisky and soda, his work promises an easing of the tensions of daily life, an invitation to merriment, and a quiet contentment that in the end all will be well.
A competent First Amendment jurisprudence must adequately account for the rich web of associations that enable human flourishing. To live in communities according to shared values is essential to our humanity.
Technology may permit us to supplement, but it should not lead us to discard, the personal Socratic education that does full justice to human nature and has contributed so much to the development of our civilization.
John Ford’s America is a good deal like Ford himself—loud, brawling, and hard-charging. Ford’s Americans are also honorable, self-sacrificing, and faithful to their promises. That’s not the whole truth about America, not by a long shot. But it’s true enough that in John Ford’s films, we will forever see something of ourselves.
In responding to the current crisis, the great pandemic, we can follow the example of Aeneas: we can reject despair in the face of horrible suffering and find strength in "the roots of our traditions."
Our current national experiment reveals how unpopular online education is. Its proponents on the political right should admit its limitations and end their infatuation with its novelty and presumed efficiency.
There is a great deal to be learned about the virtues and vices by following the long and eventful lives of D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. And isn’t this finally what good novels of any kind do for us—present the fullness of human characters for our consideration, so that we may reflect on our own characters?
What can human beings endure? How can they adapt to radical changes in their environment and in themselves? How will their choices reshape their society? Science fiction at its best invites us to consider such questions at the extremes of human experience.
As we accept the new normal—for however long this might last—maybe we can look to our past and reclaim our first communities, our neighborhoods, by reaching out to those nearest our quarantine bases. Hopefully we will find that, when we can finally resume life as we knew it, we will have more community, not less, richer connection, not poorer.
While you’re stuck at home, why not elevate your viewing with some classic films from the golden age of American filmmaking?
Shutting down the questions of Christian nationalists comes from a faith tradition of its own, a faith in collective humanity, international travel, and free exchange. Time will tell whether such a faith can remain vibrant.
My prayer for all of you—for all of us—is that God would not only intervene dramatically to kill this virus, but also that, in the course of doing so, God might strengthen us in our faith and trust, and in our understanding of our ultimate dependence on Him for all of life.
Reading good history books takes us out of ourselves and places us, for a time, elsewhere and elsewhen. In our isolation, with our minds so preoccupied with the pandemic and its economic and social effects, such an escape can be just what the doctor ordered.
So much of feminist thought is concerned with the idea that women need affordable, high-quality childcare options so that they can pursue professional success. But there is so little written on the ways we could use technology so that women could be with their children the vast majority of the time while still advancing in their careers.
While medical experts’ job is to save lives from the coronavirus, it is the responsibility of citizens to ask and decide what makes a worthwhile life. There is more to life than mere living; our own self-respect as responsible agents, who govern ourselves under the law (human and moral), ought not be so easily jettisoned.
The Good Place finale was hilarious, thought provoking, and profoundly moving. However, in failing to find our highest good and identifying the means to achieve it, the show could do little more than put a happy face on our current cultural despair. This article contains spoilers.
Our confrontation with suffering and death provides an important opportunity for reflection. What is it that we value most? What relationships need forgiveness or reconciliation? How should we understand our lives and our own mortality? Both empirical data and religious traditions show that, by engaging in such interior reflection, it can be possible to grow and flourish even amidst great suffering.
The Coronavirus epidemic has provided us with a lesson in how bureaucracies function in a time of crisis. It has also reminded us that education is more than merely transferring information. Real education takes place when the student and the professor meet face-to-face and just talk.
A friend is more than a form of entertainment. The utilitarian way app designers would have us pick friends off a menu reflects quite the opposite approach. Friendships are viewed as more comfortable and more disposable than Allan Bloom, C.S. Lewis, and the Talmud suggest they ought to be.
When our conception of relationships and relationship-building is based on a vision of the human person as an atomized choice maker who forms bonds for his or her benefit, we should not wonder why institutions decay. Our institutions are in crisis because we are in an identity crisis.
A major source of political division in America is the difference between those who believe in essences and those who follow intersectionality. Those who hold theories of intersectionality believe that human identity and much of reality itself is a construct that they can revise, not an objective reality that we can all know. This limits the possibility of political discourse: we cannot reason together if one side no longer believes in the capacity of reason to discern what is true.
We are all faced with a choice. Is meaning a futile attempt to mask the banal absurdity pervading everything? Or could there be divine purpose embedded within human existence?