John Witte, Jr.’s The Blessings of Liberty offers a wonderful overview of the development of human rights in the West. He contends that natural rights are found in the Bible, were developed by Christian thinkers, and played an important role in the West long before Enlightenment thinkers wrote about them. Witte also focuses on religious freedom more narrowly as the preeminent right.
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Moral differences over abortion need to be understood as differences of vision. While pro-life advocates rightly appeal to fundamental human equality, they also must respond to those who have difficulty seeing early human life as fully amongst us. Overcoming this difficulty requires developing a sense of awe and reverence before the sheer fact of human existence, as well as addressing common ways of looking away from the full moral reality of abortion.
Just as justice requires us to protect all unborn children, so too does it require us to protect access to life-affirming medical treatment for pregnant women facing grave medical complications. This is part of the pro-life ideal, not an exception to it. While children at all stages of development ought to enjoy the law’s protections, political realities may make it impossible to achieve this fully and immediately in many jurisdictions. When that is so, enacting the most pro-life law realistically possible is justified.
If Governor Newsom signs California’s transgender youth “refuge” bill into law, it will be one of the most explicit and radical assaults on parental rights that our nation has ever seen. While debates about how best to care for children with gender dysphoria are ongoing, one thing is clear: encouraging troubled children to run away from home and dividing them from their parents is certain to inflict great harm.
Being perplexed means allowing other people and ideas to change or move you at times. Perplexity doesn’t seek cheap or easy answers to serious questions. And it isn’t satisfied with momentary highs from oversimplified and triumphant assertions, but prefers the rewards of prolonged contemplation. Perplexity also turns its sights from the grotesque, and doesn’t abuse its objects for the sake of stimulation or entertainment.
Yoram Hazony’s Conservatism: A Rediscovery offers a valuable new take on non-Lockean political theory, grounded in the Biblical tradition and relevant to our current affairs. Part one of a two-part review.
Traditional conservatives and others committed to the principles of limited government have nothing to fear from natural law-based accounts of the political common good. In fact, natural law accounts offer the strongest principled basis for defending liberty and limited government by showing how such values are themselves core aspects of the common good.
Harry Jaffa and Allan Bloom represent two ways of understanding the political philosophy of Leo Strauss, particularly in relation to the concept of classical natural right. The creative tension between Jaffa and Bloom, as well as their respective students, has produced some of the finest scholarship of the last half century or more.
The evangelical embrace of natural law must continue to mature, and “hopeful realism” is a meaningful step forward in this respect. However, a postliberal would be quick to detect some slippage in the authors' statements about the most important common political good that must guide any functional society: its religious vision. Additionally, one area for further development in their proposal is a more explicit basis for how their proposal is “evangelical.”
Throughout the twentieth century, American evangelicals have neglected the natural law tradition, leaving us without a serious and coherent grounding for our political deliberations and judgments. We need a theologically grounded framework that articulates our principled and prudential convictions, provides us the language with which to deliberate about them amid disagreement, and helps find commonality around real goods. We believe that a revitalized Augustinian natural law theory can help provide such a framework for evangelical Christians.
Administrative rules don’t require broad consensus, so they don’t enjoy the benefits of a diverse group’s deliberations. Instead, they reflect the will of the president or administrators. It falls to the Supreme Court to defend Congress’s authority to legislate against the encroachment of the administrative state. Thankfully, the Supreme Court recently did just this in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency.
The prevailing zeitgeist of American medical education is an almost complete and unthinking acceptance of a “woke” mentality. The demonstrations at academic medical centers and medical schools throughout the United States following George Floyd’s killing led to widespread declarations of the need to purge “systemic racism” from American medicine and to adopt “antiracism” as a dominant aspect of the medical ethos.
Articulating and responding to common misconceptions concerning the ethics of abortion will help to clarify and advance the debate, moving past misleading slogans to engage in a forthright and respectful public dialogue in the wake of Dobbs, and seeking to build a genuine culture of life that supports the needs of both women and children.
With the overturning of Roe, if we do not take a serious accounting of our approach to disabled lives outside the womb, we stand a huge chance that the lives of unborn disabled children will remain a viable bargaining chip in state legislatures across the country.
Christians today should participate in efforts to preserve our polity and ensure that our laws, policies, and political actions hew as closely to truth as possible in our time and context. But we need to acknowledge the potential limitations of our time and seek ways to make the case for truth in terms that our fellow citizens might accept. We should also recognize that the society for which are striving is unlikely to be much better than what we have had in America. To the extent we desire more we should seek it in the Church.
Dobbs may be the most important, magnificent, rightly decided Supreme Court case of all time. It is restorative of constitutional principle. It upholds the values of representative, democratic self-government, and the rule of law, at the same time that it supports the protection of fundamental human rights. It is literally a matter of life and death. It is potentially transformative of American society, for the better. It is a rare act of judicial courage and principle. In every way, Dobbs is a truly great decision.
The past half century has seen the breakdown of institutional Christianity on which Jacques Maritain’s political project relied. Nonetheless, the limits of his thought do not vitiate the valuable insights Maritain offers for Christian politics in the twenty-first century. He reminds us that politics is about how to order our life together, not just creating ideals or defeating our enemies. He teaches us that we can order a society toward the temporal truths of Christianity, but that the temporal power of the state is no substitute for the spiritual power of the faith.
Examining the bodily autonomy argument for abortion highlights a crucial pro-life point: abortion is wrong not only because strangers shouldn’t kill each other but also and especially because parents have special obligations to their children, and it isn’t governmental overreach to require parents to fulfill those obligations.
Beauty, properly understood, offers us a way of self-transcendence. Beauty leads us to participate in a truth that’s bigger than us. When we learn to participate in that beauty, we experience joy, and in some ways experience the true meaning of freedom.
Today, Jacques Maritain’s optimistic vision of Christian liberalism is often contested or dismissed as outdated, but a revival of his emphasis on Christian participation in society and politics is urgently needed—and is in many ways already in evidence in Christian political activity in America.
For P. D. James, we are drawn to detective fiction because it shows that even when social evils such as war, terrorism, and pandemic cannot be conquered, individual crimes can be solved by rational means—thus confirming our hope that peace and order can be restored from disruption and chaos.
In a post-Roe America in which the question of abortion will likely be in the hands of citizens and state lawmakers, it will be particularly important for Kansans to undo their supreme court’s recent error of removing the legal foundation for basic regulations on abortion.
It is strange to reflect that someone who died in 1937 at the age of forty-six with no obvious legacy has exerted more cultural influence than most of his successors, but Antonio Gramsci’s “long struggle” of the intellectuals continues to shape our political, educational, and artistic landscape in regrettable ways.
In their rigorous sociological account of Christianity in America today, George Yancey and Ashlee Quosigk provide many important insights, particularly in relation to progressive Christians, though overall the book simply confirms the enduring truth that Christians have always disagreed among themselves about faith and politics.
The prospect of a post-Roe America calls not only for celebration, but also for a realistic appraisal of the road ahead, which will require the pro-life movement to rebuild itself as a movement that goes beyond partisan divisions and that also helps create a social, political, and economic order in which life is encouraged and supported.