Cultural conservatives face a time when it is not simply a question of debating the nature of our culture on some commonly agreed foundation. It is a time when we face the complete transformation of our culture into an anti-culture.
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.
For many college students today, to say that man is made for the knowledge (and perhaps even love) of God suggests that those who do not acknowledge God are somehow inadequate, incompetent, or ignorant. For them, such a claim amounts to condescension. This generation distances itself both from the vitriol and virulence of “the new atheists” and the naivete and fundamentalism of religionists in the pursuit of otherwise serene and humane existence.
What started as a rebellion against bourgeois conformity and oppressive technocracy ultimately ushered an age of triumphant individualism and economic globalization. The rediscovery of Marxism by the young rebels of the sixties started a long-term transformation of the left from advocate of the working class to political home of the professional elites. How did that happen?
The story of Sohrab Ahmari is one of extremes. By turns, he was a rebel, Iranian expat, an atheist, a bohemian dissident, an anti-Mormon provocateur, a communist, a lawyer, a teacher, a libertine, and finally, a Christian.
Why are progressives so intent on winning control of the public square? In his new book, Steven Smith argues that they are motivated by the same battle that was waged in ancient Rome: Paganism vs. Christianity, immanence vs. transcendence.
Why does Orthodox Judaism center so intensely upon law, when the modalities of poetry and philosophy are available? Is it possible that, for most members of the culture, study of the law develops the areas of the soul that elsewhere are nurtured by poetry and philosophy?
To defeat the Modern Heresy, we must promote truth in the face of relativism, structures of justice and mercy in the face of those of power, traditional familial love in the face of “the modern family,” and the redemption of sinful lives in the face of a tolerant culture that seeks to do away with sin altogether.
Women visiting Iran for international sports and game tournaments should not have to wear an Islamic headcover to be eligible to compete. US athletes should not have to wear a political symbol to play soccer. Everyone should have the freedom to compete without garment coercion.
How should Catholics understand the contradiction between the nineteenth-century papal teachings on integralism and the twentieth-century teaching of the Second Vatican Council? We follow the solution of John Paul II and Benedict XVI: we take both sets of teachings at face value, admit that they contradict each other, and explain that the earlier teachings were merely doctrina catholica, which are not absolutely binding and are thus subject to future change.
David Pinault’s new book provides a readable and scholarly comparison of Islam and Christianity. It is the fundamental question raised by Jesus himself (“But who do you say that I am?”) that divides Muslims and Christians. This candid book shows how we might improve interfaith dialogue by not shying away from difficult issues.
In politics, charity requires that we not assume the worst of those we disagree with politically, at least not without substantial proof. Charity is not some fuzzy feeling; it is the principle that motivates people to seek all of the facts about a situation prior to judgment.
We simply cannot ignore theology when looking at social problems. For Christians, the notion of sinful structures is based on the difficult but ultimately liberating admission that the existing social positions we occupy are often not in conformity with the order of God.
You do not need a license to practice history. Instead, all you need to do is work hard, do research, go to the sources, make the past meaningful, and write in a way that attracts readers.
According to Rémi Brague, the dialectic of modernity results in a paradox. Man is both the conquering lord of nature and a part of nature to be controlled. His well-being is the purpose of the modern project, which simultaneously places his distinct dignity in doubt.
If our pursuit of simplicity is not informed by the concept of Christian charity, focusing on mere minimalism will come up short. Too often, we cling to our “stuff” out of a desire for security. This failure to trust in God’s providence results in attachment to our earthly possessions that distracts us from more valuable eternal things: our faith and our duty to love and care for others.
The alternative to the ideology of radical self-sufficiency is not reliance on the state, but the kind of community-based brotherly love and mutual aid that could be found even during midwestern American farmers’ darkest days. In the end, neither individuals nor governments, but communities, are the real vehicles for peace, harmony, and human flourishing.
Reading recommendations from The Witherspoon Institute staff.
Though its practitioners may be well-intentioned, comprehensive sex education does not offer a solution to sexual exploitation. On the contrary, it is part of the problem, since it fails to develop students’ capacity to differentiate between genuine love and sexual exploitation.
In the midst of a Church sex abuse scandal, many serious questions arise about the Church’s relationship to civil authorities. Any question of the state’s role or the freedom of the Church is obviously secondary to the moral urgency of ensuring that children are kept safe. Now is the time for the Church to contend deeply and thoroughly with its sins and to build structures consistent with the call to holiness.
In a time when “safetyism” dominates many college campuses, the United States Military Academy at West Point can serve as a useful case study, offering important lessons in how to combat coddling in academia more broadly.
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.
True peace is not merely the absence of struggle or strife. Only through engaging with one another in debate and even disagreement can we arrive at the highest truths.
If by “objectivity” we mean approaching social research with no pre-commitments and no need for interpretive work, then true objectivity is impossible. Still, sociology should not be merely a vehicle for enacting a particular moral and political vision. It should be the systematic, disciplined pursuit of the truth about human social life.
We must have the fortitude to exorcise the shrill voices and influence of the angry mob from our souls. Parents, educators, and clergy: be wise, good, and courageous, and teach your children and students to be the same.
The fortieth anniversary of the Jonestown massacre should remind us to beware of utopian causes with totalitarian methods, on either political extreme. Though they promise social justice, they only deliver deadly power.