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A few notable excerpts from Conscience of a Conservative. We are only as good as our information, and if we lose our sense of objective truth, we lose everything. We must protect and preserve our healthy public sphere--that civic space in which we vigorously debate and negotiate, agree and disagree--or else. *** Giving away one's agency and becoming captive to such outlandish and vile alternative facts would be bad enough were one an average person, quietly living his or her life. But giving away one's agency to such a confusion of fact and fantasy when one has power--well, that is... Continue reading
A very important and serious essay in which Philip Zelikow reflects on the current global situation and how America should promote its values. "Strategically, we could ask: Where can we do the most to tilt the balance toward an open and civilized world? What states or regions or issues are pivotal? Where can U.S. actions have catalytic impact?" Continue reading
Peter Beinart writes about the anti-fa activists, what's wrong with them, but also why it is wrong to equate them with white supremacists. Continue reading
I watched yesterday's press conference in horrified disgust. This morning these are my thoughts: We always knew he was an insecure, pathetic, little man. We knew for years he was vile and disgusting. We have come over the last few months to realize he is mentally unstable. Yesterday we realized he is a sociopath. Continue reading
Here is our United Church of Christ minister for Justice and Witness, Traci Blackmon, who was present in Charlottesville, calling out the lies yesterday of President Trump. Here a Civil War historian writes refutes the President's lies about there existing two legitimate sides as she explains why one side was moral and the other wasn't. How sad that we must have this conversation, is what I'm thinking. Here David Brook once again criticizes the President and advocates for the intellectual virtue of modesty. The column reminded me of Amy Kittelstrom's Religion of Democracy. Continue reading
One of my Yale Writer's Conference friends, Jane Alessandrini Ward wrote this good words last night: Daily we are robbed of our peace and our ability to function as people who have families to care for and neighbors to care for and communities to care for. Instead we fear for our gay children, our black children, our Jewish children, all of our children who are learning no good lessons from this spectacle. All because of this pile of disgusting thoughts and vile impulses. Continue reading
A good post on the New Yorker site about Charlottesville and how it downplays its racist history and present and how this represents an American problem. "What happened in Charlottesville is less an aberrant travesty in a progressive enclave than it is a reminder of how much evil can be obscured by the appearance of good." Continue reading
One clergy woman's reflection on the cross as she risked her life to confront evil on Saturday. "That was the call: Be present; even if it means being present on your way to the cross." Continue reading
Theologian Brian McLaren was present in Charlottesville on Saturday and he has written his observation, reflections, and thoughts going forward, including the urgent practical work we must do. Here is an excerpt: We Christians, in particular, need to face the degree to which white Christianity has failed – grievously, tragically, unarguably failed – to teach its white adherents to love their non-white neighbors as themselves. Congregations of all denominations need to make this an urgent priority – to acknowledge the degree to which white American Christianity has been a chaplaincy to white supremacy for centuries, and in that way, has... Continue reading
Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle by Jeff Flake My rating: 3 of 5 stars A worthy book. I do not share Senator Flake's political worldview (even when I called myself a conservative, I wasn't his brand exactly) but it is a recognizable, legitimate, and rational American political position with which one can dialogue and compromise. But the bulk of this book is not Flake expounding a version of conservatism, it is his conservative critique of the current state of American politics, particularly his criticism of the Republican party selling its soul... Continue reading
An interesting essay on why utopias have failed and yet why they might be necessary. Can we craft a new utopianism? There are reasons, however, to think that a fully modern society cannot do without a utopian consciousness. To be modern is to be oriented toward the future. It is to be open to change even radical change, when called for. With its willingness to ride roughshod over all established certainties and ways of life, classical utopianism was too grandiose, too rationalist and ultimately too cold. We need the ability to look beyond the present. But we also need More’s... Continue reading
Of course, ridicule is not enough. It’s necessary to address the concerns and beliefs of those who are taken in by the fraud, or who don’t recognize the nature and significance of the issues for other reasons. If by philosophy we mean reasoned and thoughtful analysis, then it can address the moment, though not by confronting the “alternative facts” but by analyzing and clarifying what is at stake, whatever the issue is. Beyond that, what is needed is action: urgent and dedicated, in the many ways that are open to us. Read more of Professor Chomsky's discussion. I needed this... Continue reading
So how can we bring a halt to this march toward war? The answer lies in theology and ethics as much as it does in politics and strategy. Secular and religious people alike must be aware that moral arguments — whether or not they involve religious tropes — are not just political sideshows but rather can determine the outcomes of the most important policy decisions of this or any time. There is such a thing as incorrect theological and moral thinking, and the best way to neutralize it is with an intellectually and morally superior argument on the same terrain.... Continue reading
A very good essay defending Freud's importance in the history of the philosophy of mind. I was drawn to this paragraph: Freud’s critique of dispositionalism began with the observation that our mental life is not a smoothly flowing stream of consciousness. It is an interrupted stream that runs through tunnels and under bridges, disappearing on one side and reappearing on the other. ‘The data of consciousness,’ Freud wrote in ‘The Unconscious’ (1915), ‘have a very large number of gaps in them … Our most personal daily experience acquaints us with ideas that come into our head, we know not from... Continue reading
A beautiful essay on the Greek origins of the public square. Continue reading
This essay opens with a fascinating description of ancient Mesopotamian civilization and then reflect on the meaning of the past and the future for us. Living as they did among 2,000-year-old ruins and inscriptions, educated ancient Mesopotamians recognised that, even if their kingdom thrived for a millennium, it too would someday suffer the same fate. Mesopotamia weathered not one, but two dark ages in its tens of centuries of literate history. Surrounded by these cautionary tales from the distant past, Mesopotamian scribes instinctively dispatched messages to their unborn descendants: Voyager Records hurled toward a future they knew they would never... Continue reading
A former congregant sent me this article on the environmental disaster of Picher, Oklahoma, a town in my home county. We supplied the arms that won the World Wars and then resulted in generations being poisoned. I've written about this topic many times, since this first post back in 2004. This article gives a good update of the situation. Continue reading
Yesterday I borrowed these words for my pastoral prayer. Sweet Jesus, what has happened to your beloved world? What darkness is on the loose when those who hate their neighbors pray in your name and ask for your blessing? You have told us, O Lord, what is good: to do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with you, and yet there are those among us who wield machine guns to intimidate and chant vitriolic rhetoric to terrorize, and ram cars intentionally into crowds to kill. Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on... Continue reading
The Fall of Declan Curtis by John Jeremiah My rating: 4 of 5 stars What an enjoyable read. A fun story filled with fun characters. How sad (on many levels) that John (who was a classmate at the Yale Writer's Conference) died this summer and will not be writing further books in this intended series. View all my reviews Continue reading
This article on soft power is by far the most reasonable thing I've read on North Korea. Continue reading
The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai My rating: 1 of 5 stars I found the plot confused and was unsure of its purpose or meaning. I kept trudging through hoping for a payoff that never arrived. Not sure why he is mentioned as a potential Nobel recipient; maybe that reputation is based on other works? View all my reviews Continue reading