tradition

Religious Liberty Wins Again in the Supreme Court

In its decision in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer this week, the Supreme Court took another significant step in furthering its contemporary jurisprudence emphasizing the free exercise of religion. Trinity Lutheran Church operates a daycare and early-learning center on its church property in Boone County, Missouri. The church explicitly states that its early learning program is one of [...]

Do Ideals Matter Anymore?

Man is a rational animal. From a moral standpoint, that means he aspires to act—and often does act—in accordance with principles that join together to form an ideal of life. He’s also social, so his ideals aren’t simply individual. In part that’s because they relate to social functions. What is it to be a proper [...]

The Crown: A Celebration of Traditionalism

Historical television dramas usually aren’t my cup of tea. They’re too preachy. Political correctness is irksome enough now; the last thing we need is to fight today’s culture wars yesterday. I realize how infuriating it must be for liberals that they are unable to bring deceased reactionaries back to life for their much-deserved tongue-lashings. Historical [...]

Should We Rely on Good Sense or Expertise?

In public discussion today, expertise has acquired the authority once held by good sense. The change reflects a change in attitudes toward society and politics. Educated, influential, and well-placed people now want a society run by global markets, financial institutions, and public administration based on supposedly neutral expertise. As such people's response to Brexit shows, [...]

When Should We Ignore Tradition?

In a recent column I noted that tradition is not self-contained or absolute. It's complex, so that superior, subordinate, and parallel traditions often come into conflict. Local tradition may say one thing, Church or national tradition quite another. Also, tradition is not about itself but about goods toward which it's oriented, so it's relative to something [...]

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 [...]

Tradition: A Guide for Better Living

Last month I suggested that the most effective argument for taking human nature, natural law, and natural human goods seriously is that doing so leads to a better way of life. It's not hard to see why it should. People do not in fact invent their own ways of life. They're too social, and the world is [...]

Coming Home to God: On Losing My Unbelief

Let us come home at last to you, O Lord, for fear that we be lost.  ∼ St. Augustine My recent conversion to Christianity (and although I was raised Catholic I feel the distance I’ve traveled in my spiritual journey warrants the name of conversion) has come about as the culmination of three different levels [...]

The Destruction of Thought

Thought is the attempt to understand the good, beautiful, and true in an orderly way. Man is naturally reasonable and oriented toward those things, so it’s a normal part of life. Even so, it depends on conditions that may not be present. It requires calmness and steadiness of attention, a world that is understood as [...]

Is Homosexual Marriage Even Possible?

The homilist, a priest of impeccable orthodoxy, was enumerating the challenges facing the Church today. But I quickly found myself being greatly annoyed at his mention of the attacks being made on “traditional marriage” which were threatening our cherished tradition of “religious liberty.” Now, to be sure, what annoyed was not that he chose to [...]

The Beauty of Catholic Order

We didn’t dance. It was an ironclad rule of the schools and religious communities of my youth that dancing was forbidden, a prohibition enforced with the same rigor as the edict to not “drink, smoke, or chew. Or go with girls who do.” Consequently, I first danced during my graduate school days at Boston College, [...]

The Recovery of Human Nature

Like other living things, human beings have a distinct nature as beings of a particular kind. We have conditions we try to bring about, conditions that help us thrive, and characteristic ways of acting, responding to events, and dealing with others. All these points are obvious. Nonetheless, if you mention human nature in public discussion [...]

A Vindication of Tradition

Modern times don’t like the authority of tradition, any more than they like prejudice or deeply rooted social stereotypes. We know more today than people did in the past, so why should we view the unreflective habits and attitudes they happened to fall into as somehow binding? People today believe in science, which relies on [...]

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 [...]

One Small Way To Restore Catholic Culture

If you ever visit the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, make sure you get a glimpse of the campus’ loveliest bit of architecture, the iconic St. Thomas arches. Built in 1947, these arches stand proudly astride the administrative building and the liberal arts center, displaying a statue of the university’s patron. At [...]

Choice and Repercussion

Jean Bethke Elstain, an author I greatly admire, made an astute observation when she remarked that “much that comes parading through town under the banner of ‘choice’ is actually a new set of constraints and compulsions.”  “Parading” is an appropriately descriptive word since this new attitude toward choice does not come to us through a [...]

Obama’s Disregard for Our European Inheritance Imperils American Freedom

Our quadrennial spectacle of electing a president brings out the relationship between political order and the nation’s cultural and social order. Take the question of “rights,” which is a concept at the heart of the American experiment.  Based on the nation’s revolt from England, and deeply grounded in the mother country’s common law tradition, rights [...]

Man, Proud Man

Paradox and irony immediately confront the historian of liberalism. Commonly understood as the tradition of political thought and action that exalts the liberty of the individual, liberalism has, nevertheless, always included within its ranks men such as John C. Calhoun who have defended the institution of slavery. And these theorists have by no means been [...]

Theodor Haecker

“Prussian idealism took the heart of flesh and blood from the German and in its place gave him one of iron and paper.” Theodor Haecker, 1940 For his open, published opposition to the German, National-Socialist “New Order,” the anti-Nazi humanist and writer Theodor Haecker (1889-1945) was prohibited from writing or speaking in public in his [...]

God Save the Queen

On February 6, Queen Elizabeth II marked her diamond jubilee, an achievement that Great Britain will celebrate throughout 2012. I am not a monarchist, but I’ll happily join in saluting the Queen, who embodies several qualities that are in short supply among 21st-century public figures. In one of a slew of diamond jubilee books, author [...]

An Interview with Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

A year and a half ago, while searching for a recording of Bach’s Matthäus-Passion to share with a friend, I stumbled across a YouTube clip entitled simply: ”St Matthew Passion. No. 1.” Filled with idle musical curiosity, I clicked away, and within moments, realized that I had discovered something extraordinary. This was breathtaking music; grandiose, [...]

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