Monday, July 31, 2006

Damon Linker v. Fr. Neuhaus - Response & Commentary

See also our compilation of reviews and discussion on Fr. Neuhaus' Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth (Basic Books. March 2006)]

  • "The Christianizing of America" - Without a Doubt, by Damon Linker. The New Republic March 24, 2006.
  • Response: The Dangerous Neuhaus, by James M. Kushiner. Mere Commments March 24, 2006.
  • Response: TNR on Fr. Neuhaus, by Rick Garnett. Mirror of Justice March 25, 2006.
  • Discussion of Fr. Neuhaus, Damon Linker, et al. @ Amy Welborn's Open Book March 29, 2006.
  • Joining the Conversation The American Scene March 30, 2006.
  • American Theocrat, by John Wilson. Christianity Today May / June 2006.
  • $160,000! - Rod Dreher muses on Damon Linker's hatchet job on Fr. Neuhaus. The number refers to the advance given to him by his publishers, as relayed by Fr. Neuhaus in the latest First Things "Public Square":
    A few weeks later, [Damon] told me he was thinking of writing a book about First Things and its editor in chief. He explained that the book would be a critical appreciation of the achievements of the magazine. I said I would be happy to cooperate with such a project but I didn't think there would be enough interest in the subject to elicit a large advance from a publisher. Moreover, this would be a first book by a relatively unknown writer. In early December, he told me that several publishers had indicated intense interest in the book he was proposing and that Doubleday had offered an advance of $160,000. He wanted to leave at the beginning of 2005 to start writing. Surprised but pleased by his good fortune, I congratulated him and renewed my offer to be of assistance wtih the book. I then said it might be helpful in that connection if I could see the proposal he had submitted to publishers. At this he blanched and, with obvious embarrassment, said that would not be possible. This was the first indication that he had agreed to write what in the publishing business is knowns as an "attack book," which, unfortunately, is the genre to which "The Theocons" belongs.
  • Theocracy, Theocracy, Theocracy, by Ross Douthat. First Things 165 (August/September 2006): 23-30. A review of American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, by Kevin Phillips; The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans for the Rest of Us, by James Rudin; Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, by Michelle Goldberg, and Thy Kingdom Come: How The Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical’s Lament by Randall Balmer:
    This is a paranoid moment in American politics. A host of conspiracies haunt our national imagination, and apparent incompetence is assumed to be the consequence of a dark design: President Bush knew about the attacks of September 11 in advance, or else the Israelis did; the Straussians took us to war in Iraq, unless the oil companies did; the federal government let the levees break in New Orleans, unless it dynamited them itself.

    Perhaps the strangest of these strange stories, though, is the notion that twenty-first-century America is slouching toward theocracy. . . .

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Here and There . . .

An occasional roundup of links that may be of interest to our readers . . .

  • Separation of Church and State: Some Things Never Change - Reviewing a book by (Separation of Church and State Philip Hamburger. Harvard UP, 2004), Justin Dziowgo (Democracy of the Dead) provides a detailed history of the understanding of this term and the development of religious liberty in America.

  • Willmoore Kendall revisited. Enchiridion Militis June 29th, 2006. Paul J. Cella introduces us to one of his favorite conservatives.

  • Ten Years On: A Caelum et Terra Reader?. Featuring contributions by Thomas Storck, Maclin Horton, Dan Nichols and Robert Gotcher (among others), Caelum et Terra was born of a state of disattisfaction with the state of the Church, "the domination of faith by politics" (whether left or right), and the calumny of sectarian Catholic polemics. It is also known for its criticism of what they perceived to be a misinterpretation of Catholic social doctrine by Fr. Neuhaus, George Weigel and Michael Novak. Some of their articles are contained online here, along with their statement of purpose. The publication lasted from 1991-1996 -- Maclin Horton reflects on its history:
    Looking back, ten years on, from a somewhat altered perspective, having experienced marriage, fatherhood, and a brush with death, there are things I would do differently: a little more realism, perhaps, a bit less romanticism. And I certainly wish I'd paid more attention to the neoconservatives' global political agenda instead of focusing solely on their nefarious attempt to reorient Catholic social teaching, as crucial as that battle was and is.

    All in all, though, our effort was a worthy one, and I believe that Caelum et Terra has stood the test of time.

  • Dan Mitsui vs. Popular Culture - Responding to the release of The Da Vinci Code in American cinema, the blogger of The Lion and the Cardinal makes his case for a general abandonment of popular culture:
    He should not see it.
    He should not see another movie in its place.
    And he should never see another movie again for the rest of his life.
    And he should never watch television again, and he should never listen to popular music again.
    As best he can manage.
    It's really quite simple.
    Gee, you think? -- In part II of the post, Daniel tackles the question of engaging and evangelizing contemporary culture having taken this approach:
    We evangelize it by being a people set apart. By creating art and living lives that reflect the beauty and profundity of our faith. By making visible how much happier we are for having done so. Popular culture can warp minds, but it cannot kill the desire for truth and beauty and meaning inscribed on every human soul. Popular culture ultimately cannot satisfy - Catholicism can, but not only if it is authentic and not an imitation of something base.

    Evangelizing modernism is not like evangelizing paganism. Paganism is at least natural. It is at least sane. It is at least human. You can convert a barbarian, but you cannot convert a vampire. And you certainly cannot convert a vampire by drinking his blood.

    Stop drinking the vampire's blood.

  • Paul Zummo of The Political Spectrum -- "A thoughtful, intelligent, albeit somewhat snarky view of politics, law, and culture" -- offers a 7-Part Series on American Conservatism. (The link goes to the final discussion, on neoconservatism, with links to previous installments.

  • Logic, Natural Law, and Right Reason, a discussion by Jordan J. Ballor on the Acton Powerblog, with contributions by G.K. Chesterton and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

  • “The Eye of the Needle: Economic Lessons from the Parables" was the subject of the 2006 Lord Action Lecture, presented by the Rev. Robert A. Sirico. The Acton Institute has provided the lecture in MP3 format (10 mb mp3 file).

  • Would Adam Smith Approve? National Review's Larry Kudlow takes a look at the convicted Enron crooks Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling and asks the pertinent question: "Of course, we all knew they were crooks before this week’s verdict. But do they represent the moral core of American capitalism?"

  • Thoroughly Modern Mill - "A utilitarian who became a liberal--but never understood the limits of reason." British philosopher Roger Scruton takes a look at the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Stuart Mill, "the greatest exponent of 19th-century liberalism," and offers his usual insightful criticism of the consequences of his philosophy.

    Disagree with him or not, one can but only marvel at the quality of his education:

    "His home-schooling at the hands of his father, the economist and historian James Mill, was a model of rigor, causing him to read and write Greek aged 6, to master Latin aged 9, and to have acquired a thorough grounding in history and mathematics aged 10, when he began work on a history of Roman government. Mill later developed a taste for poetry, acquired a perfect knowledge of French, and, despite his agnostic upbringing, read deeply in the Bible, which he believed to be one of the two Great Books, the other being Homer.

  • Can, and Should, Constitutional Liberalism Survive?, by Maclin Horton Caelum Et Terra May 19, 2006:
    I can probably also assume that we all agree that liberalism in its pure philosophical sense is incompatible with Catholicism, because it (liberalism) is silent, or at least pretty quiet, about fundamental questions: what is life for? how do we know what's wrong and what's right? We can probably also agree that we're watching the collapse of philosophical liberalism into nihilism, because, as Chesterton warned long ago, it was living off the inherited capital of Christianity, which is now pretty much spent.

    The question, then, is whether the political apparatus produced by or at least associated with liberalism--self-government based on the rule of law--can and should survive.

  • Hammer & Tickle: "joke-as-resistance" to Communist nations, by Ben Lewis. Prospect May 2006: "Communism is the only political system to have created its own international brand of comedy. The standard interpretation is that communist jokes were a form of resistance. But they were also a safety valve for the regimes and jokes were told by the rulers as well as the ruled—even Stalin told some good ones."

  • Re-Examining Bonhoeffer "There have been few personalities throughout history who have encapsulated the theological tension within Christianity with reference to pacifism and war like Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer’s dilemma, as he watched his country descend into the horror and depravity of Naziism, speaks in a larger sense to all Christians who wrestle with matters of conscience, war, and civil resistance." Wolf offers his own theological analysis of Bonhoeffer's development from a pacifist (one completely opposed to any Chrisian involvement in politics whatsoever) to a minister in active opposition to National Socialism to the point of involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler, asking::
    Was this shift informed by a new theological understanding, or “merely” by a visceral carnal reaction to abhorrent government policies? And most important of all, who had the better of the theological question: the early Bonhoeffer (with [David] Lipscomb), or the later?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

July 4th, 2006 - America's Independence Dayf

Readings for the 4th of July, as the United States of America celebrates its 230th birthday . . .

  • "Because It's Worth Reading" -- David Michael Phelps reminds us to read the founding document of our nation.
  • A magnificent reflection on the principles of the Declaration of Independence is offered by Fr. James V. Schall in Do We Deserve To Be Free? On The Fourth of July, 2006 (Ignatius Insight).

  • "That Honorable Determination", by Christopher Flannery [The Claremont Institute]:
    American children are not born understanding the principles of their country, and most American college students—if reports can be believed—are still largely unfamiliar with them when they graduate. So it is a useful tradition, as the Fourth of July comes around each year, to reflect again—and again—on the American political principles famously proclaimed on the original Independence Day, which, as many college graduates know, happened sometime in the past, possibly during summertime. Lest we seem to rest all our political expectations on the capacity of the next generation for self-government, let us admit that the grownups, as well, can benefit from an annual refresher. . . .
  • Citing some relevant texts from the Catechism, Joe at Deo Omnis Gloria reminds us of our obligations pertaining to Catholicism, Citizenship, & the Political Community.

  • Drawing from Abraham Lincoln's speech of July 10, 1858 (a rebuttal to his campaign rival Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas), and President Calvin Coolidge's 1926 address on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Indepence, Scott Johnson (Powerline) remarks on The eternal meaning of Independence Day.

  • Fourth of July weekend: assimilation at the park - observations by "Neo-Neocon":
    . . . If I were to have taken a poll of that group on the grass and under the tall shade trees at the park the other day, I wonder what I would have found. How many of the adults were in basic acceptance that their children would become part of American culture? How many were hoping--and taking strong steps to ensure--that their children would resist? How many of the adults were determined to learn English? How many were legal, how many illegal; how many expected a temporary stay, how many a permanent one? How many were happy to be here, how many not?

    I don't know the answers. What I do know is that they looked happy--but of course, it was a lovely day, and a vacation time at that--and the children were all speaking unaccented English. And I know that the vista, to me at least, was a pleasant one, and part of what I consider to be the age-old American dream, on this Fourth of July weekend.

  • Americans also have the freedom to dissent. Catholic Anarchist, finds himself
    "wishing customers a good holiday, consciously not saying “Happy Fourth of July.” It occurred to me later that the word holiday is, of course, shorthand for “holy day,” and I had to amend my well-wishing to “Have a good evening.” Alas, it is difficult to notice sometimes that we Christians take part in the empire’s subversion of our own theological language.
    Um, yeah.

  • Greg Mockeridge talks about Our Founding Fathers, Reluctant Revolutionaries: "Because it is called the American “Revolution,” some seize upon this opportunity to characterize our Founding Fathers as though they are the patron saints of those who look for any excuse to just buck the establishment. Does this description fit our Founding Fathers?"
  • Michelle Malkin kicks off her Independence Day 2006 News & Notes with Zel Miller's Republican National Convention speech ("Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier. And, our soldiers don't just give freedom abroad, they preserve it for us here at home. . . ."); and The Anchoress has rounded up more good reading (along with a tribute to Normal Rockwell) in Jonah to Hitchens to Betsy, a 4th Round-up from The Anchoress.
. . . and a few gems from the past:

Watching the historic July 4th launch of Space Shuttle Discovery was probably the highlight of today. Fireworks pale in comparison to the thrill of watching (even if on TV) of a man-made contraption hurtling toward the starts at five times the speed of sound. Details on Discovery's crew and their mission here [.pdf format].

It seems fitting to close this post with the following words from Pope John Paul II to the American Ambassador to the Vatican in 1998 (courtesy of Phil Dillon):

"The Founding Fathers of the United States asserted their claim to freedom and independence on the basis of certain “self-evident” truths about the human person: truths which could be discerned in human nature, built into it by “nature’s God.” Thus they meant to bring into being, not just an independent territory, but a great experiment in what George Washington called “ordered liberty.”…

“The American democratic experiment has been successful in many ways; millions of people around the world look to the United States as a model in their search for freedom, dignity, and prosperity. But the continuing success of American democracy depends on the degree to which each new generation, native-born and immigrant, makes its own moral truths on which the Founding Fathers staked the future of your Republic.”

“I am happy to take note of your words confirming the importance that your government attaches, in its relations with countries around the world, to the promotion of human rights and particularly to the fundamental human right of religious freedom, which is the guarantee of every other human right. Respect for religious convictions played no small part in the birth and early development of the United States. Thus John Dickinson, chairman of the Committee for the Declaration of Independence, said in 1776: “Our liberties do not come from the charters; for these are only declarations of preexisting rights. They do not depend on parchment or seals; but come from the King of Kings and the Lord of all the earth.” Indeed it may be asked whether the American experiment would have been possible, or how well it will succeed in the future, without a deeply rooted vision of divine Providence over the individual and over the fate of nations.”

Happy 4th of July!

G.K. Chesterton: "What I Saw in America"

The American Constitution does resemble the Spanish Inquisition in this: that it is founded on a creed. America is the only nation in the world that is founded on creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism. and it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things.

G. K. Chesterton, What I Saw in America. (Via Eagle & Elephant).