progress

The New Secular Puritan Covenant

Thanksgiving brings back memories for Americans of the Pilgrims and Puritans, carrying out their “errand into the wilderness” to build a “city on a hill,” surviving that first bleak Massachusetts winter of 1620-21. As a kid, I remember that cutting out Puritan hats from black construction paper and taping them to the school windows was [...]

Benedict Foresaw Today’s Revolutionary Iconoclasm

Recently, some American activists have ignited a movement to usher in an urgent iconoclasm of vile symbols of culture and history, such as the removal of statues bearing the likeness of General Robert E. Lee, inter alia. Whether these symbols ought to fall is an important question, and more astute thinkers have written on the [...]

Don’t Let a Foolish Idea Go Unchallenged

Father, I must confess: I have made comments on social media. There is at least one thing that social media illuminate, and that is the unwillingness or the incapacity of people to reason. I attribute it in part to “critical thinking,” which turns otherwise intelligent people into perpetual sophomores, ready to play what they think [...]

Tradition: Its Necessity and Its Discontents

I noted last month that living well is difficult apart from a definite and well-developed tradition of life. Otherwise we simply won't know what we're doing, and we'll have to make up everything as we go along without any idea of ultimate results or significance, or of what we might be missing. Such claims for the necessity [...]

The Return of the Absent Clockmaker

At a certain point in modern times, it was decided that God, the Creator of heaven and earth, should stay out of the business of running the world he created. Supposedly, men could do it much better without him. All this was done, mind you, with a certain amount of tact and propriety so as [...]

How “Progress” Led to the Dehumanization of Man

The controversy over a Super Bowl ad for a snack chip that allegedly “humanized,” of all things, a pre-born human being highlights the deliberate rejection of reality of the “abortion rights” objectors. On its face, as others have noted, the controversy exposes the pernicious obfuscation that a fetus is nothing more than a “meaningless blob [...]

Why Catholics Celebrate the New Year

We are beginning the Year of the Lord 2016. The marking of the dawn of a new year is no secular holiday, because time and history have been drawn into the coming of God into the world. We keep track of our time as either BC (Before Christ) or AD (Anno Domini) to demonstrate that [...]

How Progressives Stole Christian History

The Greeks invented philosophy. They gave us Herodotus, the father of history, too. Their philosophy of history was cyclical, meaning they believed history had highs and lows, but lacked purpose. The Christian intellectual tradition first proposed that history moves in a linear fashion, corresponds with progress, and culminates with a utopian end point. Modern day [...]

The Apocalypse in Angers

I recently stumbled upon a rare treasure: the Apocalypse Tapestry of Angers, France. Displayed in a special wing of a local chateau, the 400 foot long, double-wide fourteenth-century tapestry depicts more than 70 scenes from the Book of Revelation, the New Testament’s last book. Comprehensive depictions of the Apocalypse are not too common, so I [...]

“Progress!” The World’s First Three-Way Gay Marriage

Three homosexual men have "married" each other in Thailand in what is being billed as the world’s first three-way same-sex "marriage." This was, of course, inevitable. It’s inevitable in every country that redefines marriage as anything but one man and one woman. When the culture’s only standard for “marriage” is that the parties love each [...]

What is Civilization?

Is civilization worth defending? Should we aim to conform to it so that we can be considered civilized? Should we aim to bring our children up according to its norms so that they can also be considered civilized? Should we try to make our country and our world as civilized as possible? The chances are [...]

A Frankenstein for Our Time

Each generation gets a cinematic Frankenstein made in its own image. Now, as I, Frankenstein is released, we have ours. On a wet night, I stood in line and bought a ticket, almost 200 years after Mary Shelley had created her work of fiction, one that has re-incarnated in the cinematic age to become a [...]

Can a Generation Own the Earth?

“The earth belongs always to the living generation.” These are not Thomas Jefferson’s most famous words, but they are quite famous among students of politics. They have been used for generations to justify radical political change. And, like the soaring rhetoric of the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, these Jeffersonian words have gained him [...]

The Church’s Growing Role: Oppose Anarchy & Totalitarianism

Is the world getting better or worse? It’s an important question, since the value of current social policy depends on the answer. Ordinary people tend to see current tendencies as a problem, but opinion leaders are more likely to discredit the past in favor of youth, novelty, and progress. With that in mind, mainstream public [...]

Berry, Boomers, Stickers, and American Catholics

I am a long-time reader and admirer of the work of Wendell Berry.  On April 23, I was privileged to be among those in attendance at the Kennedy Center to hear his 2012 Jefferson Lecture.  With Berry nearing the end of his career, I had not expected to hear anything particularly new from him that [...]

Benedict XVI, Still Soldiering on

With the celebraton of his 85th birthday, this makes Benedict XVI, the sovereign of the Vatican City State, the eighth oldest world leader. Although insiders say that Benedict is slowing down, he lives at a pace which would kill younger men: a relentless succession of trips in Italy, trips overseas, daily speeches, a multitude of [...]

Progressive Inhumanity, Part Three: Hatred of the Past

 I have long thought that the term “progressive” was a dodge, because no one could tell me exactly where we were supposed to be headed and why.  It seemed to me that the term was teleological but without a telos, as if someone were to practice archery without a target, or shoot a basketball without [...]

Keep Those Ideas Coming: How the Constitution Encourages Inventiveness

The Constitution of the United States was the world's first written national constitution. In 1787 it was the only one; now approximately 160 nations have written constitutions — more than half of them less than 15 years old. What accounts for the remarkable stability and longevity of our Constitution? Its durability can probably be best [...]

Illusions and Realities: Against the Necklace

Since no one else seems outraged, let me raise a small voice against the cruel method of torture that is being practiced in South Africa. It is not often shown in all its horror on TV. It is called "the necklace," and it is symptomatic of troubles ahead. Suppose that you were trying to be [...]

Quodlibets: Needing More Mores

A generic thing to be said in favor of the recent pastoral letters of our bishops, those published and those dying of a dozen drafts, is that they are efforts to stand in judgment on the world, to assess and appraise economic activity and weapons systems in the light of the doctrines of the Roman [...]

Dissent in the Church

What are the proper roles and limits of dissent? What are the demands of orthodoxy? These have become, once again, basic questions for all Catholics. "No longer can we speak about the perennial theology or the perennial philosophy," writes one distinguished American Catholic theologian, whose work and practice I very much ad­mire. "There are many [...]

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