Ross Douthat: The Case for Old Ideas

Spot on.

What I find most provoking, though, is Harari’s insistence that in dealing with these problems, “nothing that exists at present offers a solution,” and “old answers” are as “irrelevant” now as they were (allegedly) during the Industrial Revolution.

He means this as a critique of religious revivalists in particular: Not only the Islamic State’s seventh-century longings, but any movement that seeks answers to new challenges “in the Quran, in the Bible.” Such seeking, he argues, led to dead ends in the 19th century, when religious irruptions from the Middle East to China failed to “solve the problems of industrialization.” It was only when people “came up with new ideas, not from the Shariah, and not from the Bible, and not from some vision,” but from studying science and technology, that answers to the industrial age’s dislocations emerged.

This argument deserves highlighting because I think many smart people believe it. And if we’re going to confront even modest versions of the problems Harari sees looming, we need to recognize what his argument gets wrong.

New ideas, rooted in scientific understanding, did help bring societies through the turbulence of industrialization. But the reformers who made the biggest differences — the ones who worked in the slums and with the displaced, attacked cruelties and pushed for social reforms, rebuilt community after it melted into air — often blended innovations with very old moral and religious commitments.

When technological progress helped entrench slavery, the religious radicalism of abolitionists helped destroy it. When industrial development rent the fabric of everyday life, religious awakenings helped reknit it. When history’s arc bent toward eugenics, religious humanists helped keep the idea of equality alive.

Read and reflect on it all.

This Day in Maney Family History: Some Reflections

Speaking of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Augustine’s mentor, Augustine writes:

But I had no notion nor any experience to know what were his hopes, what struggles he had against the temptations of his distinguished position, what consolation in adversities, and the hidden aspect of his life—what was in his heart, what delicious joys came as he fed on and digested your [God’s] bread. He for his part did not know of my emotional crisis nor the abyss of danger threatening me. I could not put the questions I wanted to put to him as I wished to do.

—Confessions, 6.3.3

John F. ManeySeventy two years ago today, March 10, 1943, my dad was inducted into the U.S. Army in Van Wert, OH. He was 20 years old at the time. A week later on St. Patrick’s Day, he left on a train for Camp Perry up by Lake Erie to begin his basic training. I never asked him what he felt like the day he was inducted (or at least I do not recall asking him because I do not know how he felt). Neither did I ask him about his thoughts and feelings as he left for basic training a week later (or at least I do not remember us ever talking about that). As I reflected on this, I wondered why I didn’t ask him about these things when he was alive? I wondered what it is about me that stayed my hand so that I didn’t ask him the questions I would love to ask him about today but can no longer do so.

Then I read the above passage from Augustine and realized that perhaps my experience is not all that uncommon. To be sure, maturity helped me take a much deeper interest in my parents’ lives as I began to realize that they too were human, just like me, and had similar hopes, fears, dreams, and worries that I have. But even now, I think of a million questions I would like to ask them but never did. Why did I not think to ask them about these things when they were alive? It is both baffling to me and frustrating.

Why is it that often we do not realize what we have until it is gone or taken from us? I suspect one answer to this perplexing question is that it is a product of alienation that our sin and self-centeredness has caused, an alienation that often exists between God and us and between humans. I know that when I was a young man, I thought I had better things to do and think about other than my parents and their experiences. I simply didn’t realize how impoverishing that was.

So on this day, I am thankful for my dad’s service to his country. I am proud of what he did in Europe during World War II. I am thankful that God kept him safe during the war and gave him to me as a father. I am also thankful for the men and women of my dad’s generation. They truly did save the world from the unspeakable evil of Nazism and militarism.

Take time today and do two things. First, stop and give thanks to God for blessing us with the “Greatest Generation,” and for the sacrifices they made for this country. Second, if you have parents, grandparents, or other family members still living, take time to talk with them and get to know them better. Ask God to help you learn about their hopes and dreams, their fears and worries, and share yours with them. Doing so will help you appreciate God’s great gift of family and friends.

Thank you, young soldiers, and thank you, God, for blessing us with them.

Dr. Miriam Grossman: A Psychiatrist’s Letter to Young People About “Fifty Shades of Grey”

iStock_000039660002Medium-1024x682There’s nothing grey about Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s all black.

Let me explain.

I help people who are broken inside. Unlike doctors who use x-rays or blood tests to determine why someone’s in pain, the wounds I’m interested in are hidden. I ask questions, and listen carefully to the answers. That’s how I discover why the person in front of me is “bleeding”.

Years of careful listening have taught me a lot. One thing I’ve learned is that young people are utterly confused about love – finding it and keeping it. They make poor choices, and end up in lots of pain.

I don’t want you to suffer like the people I see in my office, so I’m warning you about a new movie called Fifty Shades of Grey. Even if you don’t see the film, its message is seeping into our culture, and could plant some dangerous ideas in your head. Be prepared.

Fifty Shades of Grey is being released for Valentine’s Day, so you’ll think it’s a romance. Don’t fall for it. The movie is actually about a sick, dangerous relationship filled with physical and emotional abuse. It seems glamorous, because the actors are gorgeous, they have expensive cars and private planes, and Beyonce is singing. You might conclude that Christian and Ana are cool, and that even though their relationship is different, it’s acceptable.

Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated by a Hollywood studio. The people there just want your money; they have no concern whatsoever about you and your dreams.

Abuse is not glamorous or cool.  It is never OK, under any circumstances.

Read it all.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Abraham Lincoln pictureToday is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. He would be 206 years old! The president is one of my heroes, primarily because of the role he played in saving this country. Mr. Lincoln had a wonderful spirit about him and his humility, compassion, and willingness to forgive his enemies arguably saved this country from a terrible aftermath following our Civil War. Reconstruction was hard enough as it was, but at least we did not have guerrilla warfare to contend with, something that would have probably done us in as a country forever.

We healed as well as any country could following a civil war. If you don’t believe me, check out other countries who have suffered through a civil war. Most of the time it didn’t turn out well. The reason our country’s reconstruction went relatively well is because of president Lincoln. He set the tone for U.S. Grant and the other Union commanders by insisting that they treat the vanquished with dignity and respect. Lincoln insisted that the rebels would not be treated harshly or punitively and as a result, everyone else followed suit, including the Confederate commanders.

Of course, this wasn’t all Lincoln’s doing, but as president he set the tone for others to follow. It would have been just as easy to hang all the rebel commanders and make life miserable for the vanquished. But Lincoln knew better. He knew how that would turn out. It would have been interesting to see how much more quickly we would have healed as a nation had Lincoln lived to serve a full second term. Instead, the zealots and self-righteous decided to “fix” Lincoln’s initial proposals for reconstruction and nearly managed to destroy all that president Lincoln had sought to establish in the process.

I am convinced God put Abraham Lincoln in our history for a reason. His presidency is more evidence that God has blessed this country. Whether that blessing continues today is debatable.  But that’s a different story for a different day. Today, it is fitting that all Americans honor our 16th president and give thanks to God for placing the right man in the right situation at the right time. Happy birthday, Mr. President, and thank you for your service to our country.

Jonah Goldberg: Comparing Today’s Terrorists to Inquisition is Apples to Oranges

From the Columbus Dispatch. Goldberg is spot-on in his analysis. This is what happens when we parrot soundbites and don’t do the hard work of studying history. And if you doubt that, check out the comments that follow the column in the Dispatch. They speak for themselves.

But the Inquisition and the Crusades aren’t the indictments Obama thinks they are. For starters, the Crusades — despite their terrible organized cruelties — were a defensive war.

“The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual response to the jihad — a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war,” writes Bernard Lewis, the greatest living English-language historian of Islam.

As for the Inquisition, it needs to be clarified that there was no single “Inquisition,” but many. And most were not particularly nefarious. For centuries, whenever the Catholic Church launched an inquiry or investigation, it mounted an “inquisition,” which means pretty much the same thing.

Historian Thomas Madden, director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University, writes that the “Inquisition was not born out of desire to crush diversity or oppress people; it was rather an attempt to stop unjust executions.”

In medieval Europe, heresy was a crime against the state. Local nobles, often greedy, illiterate and eager to placate the mob, agreed to execute people accused of witchcraft or other forms of heresy. By the 1100s, such accusations were causing grave injustices (in much the same way that apparatchiks in Communist countries would level charges of disloyalty to have rivals “disappeared”) .

“The Catholic Church’s response to this problem was the Inquisition,” Madden explains, “first instituted by Pope Lucius III in 1184.”

I cannot defend everything done under the various Inquisitions, especially in Spain. But there’s a very important point that needs to be made here that transcends scoring easy, albeit deserved, points against Obama’s approach to Islamic extremism. Christianity, even in its most-terrible days, was indisputably a force for the improvement of man.

Read it all.

Happy Birthday Dad

JFM at BooteryToday would have been my dad’s 92nd birthday, something I’m really struggling to wrap my mind around. He’s been dead for almost 11 years and I still miss him. Oh, don’t misunderstand. I know where he is and I am not unhappy for him because he is enjoying his well-deserved rest with the Lord as he awaits his new resurrection body. So no regrets there.

No, I just miss him. I miss being around him and enjoying his company. I miss his gentle humor and his great wisdom. I miss his big heart and him being the patriarch of our family.

God blessed me richly in giving me a father who loved me and served as a great role model for me and the community in which he lived. For that I am thankful. I’ll look forward to being reunited with him (and the rest of my family) someday. And when God ushers in his new creation, it will be more glorious than I dare imagine. In the meantime, I will try to live faithfully and conduct myself in ways that would make dad proud.

Happy birthday, dad. I love you. Thank you for giving me the greatest gift a son could ever want—you.

 

Columbus Dispatch: Punxsutawney Phil Forecasts More Winter; Buckeye Chuck More Optimistic

What do those crazy Pennsylvania rodents know anyhoo??? My money’s on Buckeye Chuck!

650x366_02021415_screen-shot-2015-02-02-at-9.15.27-amThe handlers of Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, said today the furry rodent has forecast six more weeks of winter.

Members of the top hat-wearing Inner Circle announced the “prediction” this morning.

Buckeye Chuck did not see his shadow at 7:39 a.m. today, signaling that spring will come soon for Ohioans.

The Marion Star reports local officials say Chuck is accurate about 75 percent of the time. The groundhog has predicted an early spring in Ohio for five years in a row.

Read it all.

Commentary Magazine: John Kasich Shows Republicans How to Talk About Values

Spot on. See what you think.

What Governor Kasich is doing is to show Republicans how to speak about our culture and moral aspirations in a way that is quite different than Republicans have in the past–in ways that are more uplifting, self-reflective, generous in spirit, and appealing. No one is going to confuse John Kasich with Franklin Graham. Some social conservatives won’t like that; they will consider it a capitulation.

I don’t think that’s right, in part because I find Governor Kasich’s temper of mind and the orientation of his heart to be more aligned with the precepts and spirit of his faith, Christianity, than others who speak in its name. One does not have to be angry, brittle, and condemnatory to be faithful–and humility, forbearance, kindness, and grace in the public square are not signs of weakness or apostasy. One can be both principled and pleasant at the same time.

Read it all.

Froma Harrop: Today’s Communities are Less Bedford Falls, More Pottersville

What is it that makes the holiday movie classic It’s a Wonderful Lifefeel so ancient? It’s the relationships, but which ones?

Not George Bailey’s warm and loving family. We have close families today. It’s not the far-off relationships, as with long-lost school friends. We have more of them than ever, thanks to Facebook and other digital communities.

The relationships they had in Bedford Falls that are often missing today are those between the very intimate and the quite distant. Townspeople like Gower the druggist, Ernie the cabdriver, Bert the cop — George knew them all by name, and he knew their stories.

George’s family, owners of a building and loan, was fairly prosperous. But the Baileys remained tightly woven with people of varying incomes, education and ethnicity. Each of them was an individual, not just a useful provider of a good or service.

This is society’s middle ring, so strong in the Main Street America of 70 years ago but much weakened since by several forces. One is the clustering of like-minded people from similar backgrounds in the same neighborhood. Another is the migration of social life and shopping to the Internet.

Read it all.