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In an effort to find common ground in these divisive times, we at First Central have launched a new weekly podcast entitled The Prairie Citizen. Here's episode one: Continue reading
David Brooks writes, [George] Marshall lived in the world of airplanes and the nuclear bomb, but in many ways he was formed by the moral traditions of classical Greece and Rome. His moral make-up owed something to Homer, to the classical emphasis on courage and honor. It owed something to the Stoics, with their emphasis on moral discipline. But particularly later in life it also owed something to the ancient Athenian Pericles, who embodied the style of leadership that we call magnanimity, or great-souled. The magnanimous leader is called upon by his very nature to perform some great benefit to... Continue reading
On Ministry Matters a post that gives a concise summary of Ministry Matters™ | 6 tasks for Christians struggling with Trump 6 tasks for Christians struggling with Trump. Continue reading
A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz My rating: 3 of 5 stars My response to this memoir written by the great Israeli novelist is complicated. Huge sections of this very long book are five stars in quality, while other sections, not so much. 538 pages to cover mostly childhood and adolescence is simply too much. The book could have used some good editing, particularly because it often repeats a detail, sometimes more than once. Oz's writing is rich with detail, beautiful descriptions of physical objects and scenes and compelling characters fully drawn. Here is a brief snippet:... Continue reading
Adam Frank writes why it might be a bad idea, but he's going to march anyway, because the very fact that such a thing is being organized is a sign of how bad everything is. Continue reading
In an excellent essay in The Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch writes about how civil society can prevent the worst potential abuses of a Trump administration. He writes that institutions will push back on unconstitutional acts, like they've already done this week. The bigger worry is that Trump flaunts the norms of civil society and so all of us must push back against that coarsening of culture. He writes: To help the body politic resist de-norming, you need to make an argument for the kind of government and society that the norms support. You have to explain why lying, bullying, and coarsening... Continue reading
This essay in the New Yorker explains how the 9th circuit ruling didn't just block the ban, but also rejected key tenets of Trumpism. Yippee!! Continue reading
Here is a very thorough, measured, conservative analysis of the executive order against refugees. It is still critical. But it is the most thorough and should guide critics in what specifically to be critical of. Continue reading
While we sadly spend the early days of 2017 battling an effort by our new national leadership to put America First and close off our society, we should be reminded that global community is nothing new (nor is the reaction against it). Reading today in The Birth of the Modern by Paul Johnson, the British historian who is also a conservative, I encountered this description of the world in the early 19th century, which description arose out of a discussion of Western European trade relations with China: Such cultural confrontations were inevitable as trade spread across the world and increasingly... Continue reading
A Creighton professor explores the rationale for Trump's travel ban in a very rational essay published in today's Omaha World-Herald. His conclusion might surprise you. Continue reading
Even as a child, Dorothy Day was "filled with a natural striving, a thrilling recognition of the possibilities of spiritual adventure" (her own words). She is the next person discussed in David Brook's exploration of character. Despite her childhood spirituality, the saintly Day emerged from a life of struggle and a very bohemian young adulthood. Brooks uses her as an example of how character emerges from struggle and suffering. Brooks uses the opportunity of recounting Day's life to explore the impact of suffering on building character. He makes an important point near the beginning of that discussion, "When it is... Continue reading
"Moderation is a generally misunderstood virtue," writes David Brooks in his discussion of the moral character of Dwight Eisenhower (a previous blog post explored some other elements of this discussion). "Moderation is not just finding the mid-point between two opposing poles and opportunistically planting yourself there." "On the contrary," he writes, "moderation is based on an awareness of the inevitability of conflict." Moderates don't think the world can be fit neatly together. Brooks adds, "If you think all moral values point in the same direction, or all political goals can be realized all at once by a straightforward march along... Continue reading
Let Your Light Shine Matthew 5:13-20 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational UCC 23 January 2011 One can make a pretty good argument that the phrase "the city on a hill" has been one of the most influential in American life. It has sure been used frequently in our political discourse the last generation. In the 2008 presidential campaign, Governor Sarah Palin used the phrase often, every time quoting Ronald Reagan rather than Jesus, which always amused me. Reagan, of course, eloquently used the phrase in his calls for America to look forward with optimism rather... Continue reading
Here is an intriguing list of recommended changes to the Supreme Court, including expanding the number of seats to 19. One goal of such a move would be that every president would then likely get a few appointments, lessening the fighting over each seat and bringing a wider diversity of people and voices to the court. The author's main objection to 9 is that we have invested far too much power into a small number of people and often the one moderate who becomes the decisive vote. Most nations now have far larger highest courts than we do and generally... Continue reading
I have been energized by the strong opposition to Trump from the Right, even the Far Right. I've watched Republican college and high school friends--Southern Baptist pastors, mothers, Army guys--daily post their opposition to Trump Which is one reason I'm worried that so much of the organized opposition is taking on a Leftward bent. Now is the time to build grand coalitions that cross traditional ideological divides. After twenty years of bitter partisan division, I actually hopeful for a new bipartisan consensus to develop in opposition to Trump. At the current moment John McCain looks willing to lead. Which, of... Continue reading
When Trump named Carl Icahn as a chief advisor, I sat at my office desk and wept openly, for Icahn is the villain who laid waste to the economy of my hometown. Now a new book details how Icahn did the same to Lancaster, Ohio. Here is a review of the book, on Slate. And the article's conclusion reveals the sad state of affairs in US and the puzzle of many of us who grew up in this era for why our fellow citizens didn't learn the same lessons we did: When push came to shove, however, 59 percent of... Continue reading
Ida Stover Eisenhower was "strict in her faith but fun-loving and humane in practice" raising her boys on the difficult Kansas plains in "a harsh environment covered by a thick code of respectability and propriety." David Brooks writes in The Road to Character that The fragility and remorselessness of this life demanded a certain level of discipline. If a single slip could produce disaster, with little in the way of a social safety net to cushion the fall; if death, or drought, or disease, or betrayal could come crushingly at any moment; then character and discipline were paramount requirements. This... Continue reading
American Gods by Neil Gaiman My rating: 1 of 5 stars Didn't care for the writing style, and the story didn't live up to the concept. View all my reviews Continue reading
Ida B. Wells, in her late 19th century anti-lynching campaign, laid the groundwork for newly organized civil rights activities. Which is why she is the second "Apostle of the New Abolition" in Gary Dorrien's The New Abolition about the black social gospel movement (Henry McNeal Turner was the first, and here is my blog post about him). Wells' family was devastated by an epidemic, leaving her as a young woman to care for her siblings. She became the first African-American woman to own and run a newspaper, in Memphis. She eventually had to flee the South for safe haven because... Continue reading
A sobering estimate from the Economist regarding Trump's impact on the global order and what other nations must due to weather the storm. An excerpt: Mr Trump also needs to be persuaded that alliances are America’s greatest source of power. Its unique network plays as large a role as its economy and its military might in making it the global superpower. Alliances help raise it above its regional rivals—China in East Asia, Russia in eastern Europe, Iran in the Middle East. If Mr Trump truly wants to put America First, his priority should be strengthening ties, not treating allies with... Continue reading
Conservative columnist David Brooks has opposed Trump and the Trump allies throughout his rise to power. His latest column is the harshest yet, focusing his attention on the Republicans who have sold their souls to the devil (thus the Faust analogy). He details what is wrong with the Trump administration, including that it is a "a small clique of bloggers and tweeters who are incommunicado with the people who actually help them get things done" and "it is hard to think of any administration in recent memory, on any level, whose identity is so tainted by cruelty." At the close... Continue reading
Columnist Matt Hansen writes in today's Omaha World-Herald that the consensus of national security experts is that the immigration and refugee executive order actually makes the national less safe. For example: “This ban gives unprecedented life to the worst jihadist narrative — the idea that the West has declared war on Muslims,” wrote Robert Pape, a leading expert on terrorism, who as director of the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Threats has analyzed each of the 5,000 suicide terrorist attacks worldwide since 1980. “This narrative is not just talk. It is the principal catalyst for ISIS and other... Continue reading
Finally following upon my last blog post from David Brooks' The Road to Character. To focus his discussion of vocation, Brooks writes about Frances Perkins, one of the architects of the New Deal and the first woman to serve in a Presidential Cabinet. Perkins grew up in a New England Protestant family where she received a traditional upbringing--"parsimonious, earnest, and brutally honest." He continues, "Yankees were reticent, self-reliant, egalitarian, and emotionally tough." Politically, Yankees were different from what we are used to today, they "combined what you might call social conservatism with political liberalism. Traditional and stern in their private... Continue reading