The sermons, political speeches, and protests about America’s origin rely on harmful myths. This is true not only of the 1619 Project’s, but also the traditional view of the Pilgrims. The task of history, however, ought to replace myth with the far more compelling chronicles of human complexity.
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.
Marilynne Robinson’s “Jack” dives deep into the protagonist’s mind in order, paradoxically, to show how our lives mean things that are only apparent to other people. She depicts Jack’s redemption as something that occurs partly outside his conscious awareness. By giving us Jack’s consciousness illuminated but not wholly transformed by his wife Della’s love, Robinson achieves an artistic analogue to forgiveness.
I have called books and authors “friends,” and that they are. Aristotle tells us the highest form of friendship is that which aims at another’s good as though it were one’s own, for in truth it is indistinguishable from one’s own. We reread our favorite books in gratitude, not only for the repeated pleasure of the experience but to know once again the good that our old friends have selflessly done us.
Thirty-five years ago, New York University professor of communications Neil Postman predicted the political and social implosion we have witnessed in 2020. We must learn to dominate digital media technology, lest it dominate us. Otherwise, we may very well amuse ourselves, and our polis, to death.
If we combine the beauty of art and the power of narrative with rational argument, we can convince people of the worthiness of marriage and family life more effectively than by argument alone. Anna Karenina is an example of how to do this. It beckons the reader to choose the better path, contrasting the destructive adultery of Vronsky and Anna with Levin and Kitty’s enchanting journey into the life of married love.
The uniting of differing spheres of excellence is a hallmark of John Henry Newman’s fully fleshed out idea of a university. What young men and women most need is adults in their midst who joyfully embody integration, integration of the parts of knowledge and integration of the intellectual, moral, and spiritual dimensions of human existence.
We often assume that unity is the norm in human affairs, and strife the exception. But a cold-eyed view of history suggests the reverse. Unity is what needs the special cause, and today we lack the cause.
Although kid-friendly movies continue to be made—usually animated ones rather than live action—the movie theater is no longer the safe space it generally was before 1960. Fortunately, the best family films of yesteryear are still available to us.
If life is sacred, food must be sacred too, since it makes life possible. And the higher the order of life which is given up to be food, the more sacred the food. That’s why vegetables are harvested, while animals are sacrificed. That’s why the Catholic Church considers the sacrifice of the Mass, when God offers his body as food for our corporal and spiritual nourishment, the source and summit of the Christian life.
All “dissidents” and men of good will need to give serious thought to the ways they might resist the regnant ideological lies all around us. In this task, Rod Dreher’s Live Not By Lies will remain indispensable for what might be a long time to come.
In order to win the undergraduates once more, the humanities have a clear course to follow. They must abandon identity politics, which only produce a tense and humorless classroom. More deeply, they must insist upon the old appeals to genius, greatness, masterpieces, beauty, and sublimity.
In this strange season of the academic year, as classes begin with students and teachers scattered about and many gathering only “virtually” through their computer screens, my mind is cast back to a fall semester 44 years ago, when I arrived as a freshman at Virginia Wesleyan College (now University). It seems an age of...
Our culture’s deep ingratitude is the long, nihilistic outworking of the logic of modern thought itself. When human experience is reduced to only will and power struggle, there no room for gratefulness. Those of us who have not renounced cosmic order and the providence that brings that order to fulfillment, by contrast, know that all things willed or permitted by God work for good. Thus we should be grateful—profoundly grateful—for everything.
Flannery O’Connor drew on her understanding of the evil within her in composing her brilliant fiction. Far from being the simple racist that recent attacks have made her out to be, she authored some of the most probing accounts of the psychology of racism in American literature.
To have any chance of seriously mitigating common misperceptions of religious freedom, Evangelicals must publicly demonstrate a sincere commitment to religious pluralism and its necessary counterpart, religious literacy.
Many students today lack a real formation in moral order and agency. Few adults have taught them what a worthwhile life looks like and what they could do to achieve it. University educators must give students access to authoritative moral claims, even as they allow them to judge and decide for themselves.
An integral part of the Christian calling is to pursue goods greater than ourselves.
What is it that makes screwball comedies so much fun? With their manic scripts and their depiction of characters of both sexes who will say anything and do anything for love, they bring together men and women—whose senses of humor often differ sharply—to laugh at the same crazy antics, and to see what mad joy love can be. In the summer of COVID, as we stay home with our loved ones, the screwball may be just what the doctor ordered.
Christian Wiman’s new collection of poetry creates a world in which the human being is never one thing or the other—believer or unbeliever—but both at once. As the speaker in the book’s first poem, “Prologue,” puts it, “I need a space for unbelief to breathe.” Survival Is a Style creates that space.
In many ways, Abraham Lincoln has almost loomed entirely too largely in our national consciousness, since it has now become difficult to get around the acknowledgment of his greatness to discover just what it was that made him great. Jon Schaff’s new book is an attempt to do just that.
True encounters with demonic activity ought to make today’s neopagans reconsider whether they should do more than cultivate eclectic spiritual identities.
All knowledge comes from sensory experience, including knowledge of the first principles of morality on which the natural law and moral reasoning build.
Even according to Protestant traditions with the gravest views of sin, fallen human beings do not get everything wrong when thinking about morality. Since Scripture itself affirms that the created order reveals God’s moral law, Christians should not turn their backs on natural law for the sake of promoting biblical teaching.
For reasons that pass all understanding, modern academic disciplines are where English prose goes to die. Fortunately, profound and compelling historical writing has a history of its own that predates the modern research university by two and a half millennia, stretching back to Herodotus in the fifth century BC. Such a tradition is resistant to the chloroform of the modern academy, so long as gifted storytellers find publishers and readers.
On Calypso’s island, we encounter both the allure and the dangers of the beach. There, Homer brings us right up against a mysterious fact: the fantasy of an undying beach body—even that of a love goddess whose collagen never loses its tensile strength—will not really make us happy. The best kind of lover will have skin in the game: skin that can age, that has aged, that is actively aging before our eyes. To escape the history that is written into our bodies is to escape the meaning, the meaningful struggle, of our lives.