Women, Family, and Economy

rosieI’m not sure what it takes for something to qualify as having “gone viral,” but my latest post on feminism and women in combat is hinting in that direction. It isn’t that it got so many hits all at once, but (more interestingly) it is getting very diverse traffic, some friendly and some not so much. And so instead of leaving well enough alone, I figured I should be like the Apostle Paul and not let a small-scale riot be an opportunity wasted. For those who were confused, bothered, or enraged, let me say that while yes, I do believe some very radical and outrageous stuff and wish to persuade you all of it as well, I probably don’t quite mean what you think.

For starters, I don’t condemn or even blame women living in our society who have sought to go be their own persons and do what they believe. I think they are wrong, of course (as are also most of the men), but they’re doing exactly what you would expect, given our culture’s values and the basic framework of our society and economy. Frankly, it wouldn’t make any sense if they weren’t trying to make it to the top. To quote Mrs. Sayers again, women are human. Continue reading

Women at War

GijaneG.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Feminists are, as their name implies, opposed to anything feminine.” We are now seeing this come to its most poignant fulfillment, as “women’s equality” has reached the point of the US government putting them in full military combat roles. Many conservative Christians are outraged, but this shouldn’t be seen as anything new. Women have already been in mostly non-combat positions in the military, and women firefighters and policepersons are commonplace. Women are taught from the earliest ages that they should do anything that they desire, no matter the perceived restrictions. We could trace this development back much further, of course, as it goes back at least to the middle of the 19th century. We are simply at the logical end of all of that. The women’s movement would say that they are finally winning “the war on women,” but I would suggest that the sides have been misnamed. It is true that there is a war against women. It’s just that the feminists are the ones waging it, and they’ve nearly won. Continue reading

Obama’s Epiphany

epiphany_starI don’t normally blog about overtly political matters. I like to talk about theory and philosophy, of course, but for the last few years I’ve been reluctant to name names and point fingers. But this past week has brought a number of issues to my mind in a very pointed way, and chief among these is the President’s inaugural address. The President made several bold statements on Monday, fully embracing a radically progressive program for the future. His supporters have even called him the “Liberal Reagan.” Conservatives have become even more outraged and terrified. On both sides, the message was received.

The most memorable line from the President’s speech, and the one that people are already calling “historic” is this one:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall, just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone, to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

Here we have political theater and civil religion in full form.

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The Sin/Crime Distinction

So I do a bit of writing on politics, law, and religion.  I was even fortunate enough to have one article published by an academic journal last year.  This isn’t my primary vocation, but it’s a solid second calling.  It’s more than a mere hobby.  And the further I’ve gotten into this field, the more convinced I am that Christians really don’t know how to think about law and politics.  There are very large segments of the Christian population who have severed themselves completely from Christian jurisprudence, namely the far-Left progressives and the Libertarians.  These folks can certainly be true Christians.  They are just very mistaken about how that relates to politics.  The majority of “Evangelicals” find themselves in the middle of the GOP spectrum, some reluctantly and some happily.  And a few other well-intentioned Christians stick with the “moderate” and “independent” labels.  Hardly any of them, however, are terribly confident as to whether this is actually a consistent Biblical outlook, and those that are “very confident” are also often very mistaken.

Now let me quickly add that I don’t think I’ve got it all quite figured out either.  There are a number of contemporary political issues of which I am not totally sure what the best approach is.  But one thing I have managed to do over the last few years it to get a  comfortable grasp of the guiding principles of traditional Christian legal thought.  Notice that I said principles.  Principles are different than positive commands and prohibitions.  They go back to basic concepts and founding themes and ideas.  Principles can often take different expressions depending on the rest of the context.  Still, basic morality never changes.

One of the perennial questions is always regarding what role religion should even play in politics. Continue reading

Why I Loved Les Mis

The 2012 movie version of Les Miserables reminds me of the reception of Mumford & Sons’ latest album.  Throngs of adoring fans, having awaited the releases for some time, made both huge commercial successes, both were then widely panned by critics for being too earnest (and thus unbelievable), and both were sorta Christian.  The differences are important too. Whereas Babel generated a surprisingly hostile review from a significant number of critics, Les Miserables is holding out at a respectable 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been nominated for 8 Academy Awards.  Another key difference, from my point of view at least, is that I mostly didn’t like Mumford’s new album (really liked the first one, but am now a little worn out by the monotony), but I absolutely loved Les Miserables.  I came very close to feeling those dreaded emotions after watching it, and you can ask around, that’s not a common occurrence for me.

Now, I’ve read a lot of criticisms of Les Miserables.  The New Yorker, somewhat predictably, turned their collective noses up at it.  Anthony Lane did his usual cynical routine, and David Denby, usually the good cop, was even worse, saying that, “It’s terrible; it’s dreadful. Overbearing, pretentious, madly repetitive.”  Oh well.  At least Adam Gopnik liked it.  I’m not too bothered by The New Yorker.  It’s a publication for people who think of themselves as intellectuals, which is a distinct group, actually, from mere intellectuals.

More relevant to my circles, and more directly challenging towards my own sentiments, are those critiques coming from Christian viewers.  I’ve seen the basic concern that Victor Hugo was himself not a Christian, along with other criticisms about the too-heavy emotions of the movie, the perils of Romanticism, and the overshadowing of any true message of grace by a sort of Enlightenment humanism.  Here I was thinking that I’d seen a profound presentation of the impossibility of lawbut perhaps I’d been mistaken.  What are we to think of these observations? Continue reading

Death is Swallowed Up in Victory

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.  Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

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12 Days of Christmas Carols- Here We Come A-wassailing

Wassail2The Christmas season concludes with Twelfth Night.  Associated with merrymaking and even mischief, Twelfth Night serves as a bridge between Christmas and Epiphany.  It seems appropriate then to finish up our survey of Christmas Carols with a wassailing song.  Wassailing was a practice that, in some ways, goes back to pre-Christian Europe, but took on most of its popularity in the middle ages.  It involved door-to-door caroling and, of course, the drinking of wassail.  “Wassail” is actually an expression, of Anglo-Saxon and possibly older Norse origins, which means “be hale” or “be healthy.”  The name was transferred to the drink, typically a hot mulled cider, over the years as people would offer “Wassail” as a toast.  And so the tradition of wassailing was that of door-to-door caroling with the drinking of wassail and the wishing of God’s blessing upon the residents of the house, and it was typically done on Twelfth Night.

Of course, wassailing also took on some other associations.   Continue reading

12 Days of Christmas Carols- Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

rosa“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” is a German hymn first printed in 1582.  Written anonymously under the title “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,” this song originally had about 19 stanzas.  As we’ve seen, those Germans really love their long songs.  In 1599 they even bumped it up to 23, but these days it’s usually trimmed down to 5 or 6.  A lot of hands have been involved in the transmission and translation of the words to the hymn.  In the 19th cent., Theodore Baker gave us the first two stanzas in English, translating from the German original.  Friedrich Layritz wrote two more stanzas around the same time, and these have been translated by Harriett R. Spaeth.  John C Mattes added another stanza in 1914.  Catherine Winkworth even got involved by translating a variant version of the hymn.  There were so many different options because of all those earlier stanzas, quite a bit of source material I’d say, and because of the fact that this hymn has been theologically redacted in a big way.  Most of us assume the “Rose” is Jesus.  That’s how our current English versions present it, and I bet you’ve never thought a thing about it.  But that’s actually not what the original meant.  You see, the Rose used to be Mary! Continue reading

12 Days of Christmas Carols- What Child is This?

206px-Greensleeves-rossetti-modHere we have a Christmas song whose original tune might still be more famous than the new seasonal lyrics.  “What Child is This?” is set to the old Renaissance love song “Greensleeves.”  A series of folks songs and ballads about “the Lady Greensleeves” were written in England between 1580-1584.  Often played on the lute, “Greensleeves” is a classic Renaissance “lover’s lament,” where the singer cries over lost love and longs for the day that he might win back his lady.  I’m sure that this song was considered public domain and freely modified over the years.  At one point it had 18 verses, each followed by the chorus.  It’s still fairly common to hear this tune with no intended relation to the Christmas carol, and I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about using this one in worship services.  Still, it’s awfully pretty. Continue reading