Reading such an article as this in the NYTimes just has to make you scratch your head, and also realize to what extent someone there wants to discredit both those supporting the Governor of Wisconsin against the public employee unions and those whom it considers Right Wing Christians. As to the final quote by Julie Ingersoll about Augustine having any relevance here: Augustine was certainly known to many, many influential Christians over the course of more than a thousand years, and openly acknowledged as an influence. So there's a parallel here with….Gary North? The fact that she uses that argument itself should make one wonder about her ability to see connections rightly and argue without bias.
It has gotten back to me that my ambivalent approval of some elements of Ayn Rand's work may not have been ambivalent enough for some. Along those lines, I think it may be useful to offer readers a chance to see what John Piper has written on the topic. Here's a clip:
To this day, I find her writings paradoxically attractive. I am a Christian Hedonist. This is partly why her work is alluring to me. She had her own brand of hedonism. It was not traditional hedonism that says whatever gives you pleasure is right. Hers was far more complex than that. It seems so close and yet so far to what I find in the Bible . . .
Cogent Christian responses to Ayn Rand are few. Positive Christian assessments are almost non-existent. I aim for this treatment to be both Christian and primarily positive, even though Ayn Rand was an atheist and outspokenly anti-Christian. I trust I will be forgiven the presumption of stepping outside my own specialty: My field is neither literary criticism nor philosophy but biblical, theological and pastoral. I write this because I take pleasure in extending to others the delight I have had in learning from Ayn Rand.
The story proceeds from a fascinating premise: what if the most able were to go on strike and take their gifts away from the broader society (like Lebron taking his from Cleveland!)? These talented individuals stop producing because society (in the form of government) has begun to take their contribution for granted and seeks to control the conditions under which they live, work, and create.
Government action occurs under the rubric of equity, but these people who “move the world” — as one conversation in the film expresses — do not understand what claim the government has to order their lives or to confiscate the fruits of their labor. The villains of the piece are not so much any welfare class as much as corporatists who want to link their companies to government arrangements so as to assure profit without the need for strong performance. They go on about loyalty and public service, but it is a mask for mediocrity and greed. The heroes (Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggert) want to make money, but they are virtuous because they give obvious value for every cent they earn.
The underlying moral is that we must not make too great a claim to control the inventors and entrepreneurs lest we frustrate them into inactivity. Though we think we gain by taxing and regulating their efforts, there is a strong possibility that we will lose a great deal more by blocking the creative impulse and inspiring a parasitic ethic of entitlement.
Rand’s atheism, materialism, and reduction of the human being’s value to economic productivity are all severely problematic for a variety of good reasons. But one might compare her political and economic thought to chemotherapy, which is basically a form of poison designed to achieve a positive outcome. You don’t want to take it if you can avoid it. You hope the circumstances in which you would use it don’t arise. However, in an age of statism, it is a message that may need to be heard. Not so much in the hopes that it will prevail as much as to see it arrest movement in a particular direction which will end badly if it continues.
An interesting piece from Family Edge on the link between marital happiness and babies, and then some. What sort of happiness do people need vs. what they think they need? Many people will attest that developing character is more satisfying than hankering for what seems to be happiness to the mind formed by advertising and film. Marriage is supposed to make guys into men. The culture says forget that, just have playmates.
This story from April 28 relates that Francis Cardinal George of Chicago has suspended the sacramental facilities of Fr. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina's parish on the South Side. This is big news in Chicago and a real showdown. Pfleger has been at the parish for many years longer than is customary for any archdiocesan priest–concerns about ramifications of moving him apparently contributed to his being excepted. Now, the question is will he and the Cardinal come to an understanding, and if not, will he attempt to take the South Side congregation with him (he is quite popular, as they say).
This posting tells one story of Tom Lee and a Christian father's love for his children and his sacrifice in the midst of one of the killer tornadoes that swept through Alabama.
When a new issue of Touchstone is mailed out, three or four of the articles are also put up online. But in addition to those new articles, we also make available online the issue of Touchstone from two years back. For example, this time the May issue from '09 is now up on the Touchstone archives in its entirity. Here is one article from that issue by Fr. Reardon.
Patrick Henry Reardon on the Transcendent Vocabulary of Mundane Signs
I suppose that if we always thought about the meanings of the individual words we use, we should probably speak so slowly as to lose track of our sentences, to say nothing of our paragraphs. Weighing each word, as each word on its own deserves, we would probably speak a great deal less. Speaking less, on the other hand, we may actually finish by saying more.
Perhaps the best times to reflect on the meanings of words are those occasions when we are not obliged to say much, or anything at all. I am thinking of those instances when nothing much is happening, and we are simply thrown back on the contents of our own heads.
Now I confess my good fortune in only rarely being reduced to the contents of my own head. Usually there is at least a bit of reading material lying around. One doesn’t need much to read if he pays attention to the words.
Four Rich Words
One day, for instance, several years ago, I found myself waiting for a bus in a small town, and I was obliged to make do with just four words of text. As it turned out, those were words particularly dense with meaning, and they occupied my mind richly for about 45 minutes until the bus arrived.
The full text was composed on a sign on the hardware store in front of which I was waiting for the bus. The sign read: “True Value Home Center.” Even though I regretted the lack of a verb, and therefore the absence of a sentence, those four words are arguably among the richest in our vocabulary. One could feast on them all day.
The first thing to be observed was the balanced blend of Saxon and Norman sounds in “True Value Home Center,” a combination suggesting the entire drama of 1066. The alternating, reconciled, and utterly free-spirited juxtaposition of a pair of Northern words (“True” and “Home”) with two Southern words (“Value” and “Center”) stood like the solid four sides of a castle.
Here is a link to a FoxNews video report on an art exhibit, Passion in Venice, at the Museum of Biblical Art in NYC. It includes brief comments by clergy, including Fr. Joseph Fessio. I saw the exhibit earlier this year; it was very good. But it was also strange viewing "art" that was originally created for sacred space, and viewing in the midst of casual conversations of other visitors. "Is it nothing to you who pass by?" kept occurring to me, but I took that not so much as directed to anyone but myself. Indeed, knowing Christ "and the fellowship of his sufferings" is not something to be taken for granted. But we do stand united at the foot of the Cross to the extent that we are willing to remain there.
The religious skeptic David Hume is not often cited by cultural and social conservatives, but Russell Nieli at the Public Discourse writes a surprising article about Hume's explicit, and reasoned, objections to easy divorce and polygamy. His arguments considered today make for an interesting "reasonable" defense for tradition marriage, by which is meant marriages that are lifelong, monogamous, and of course "heterosexual," which he didn't need to point out. "Gay marriage" is a recent "invention" and not serious, but a reflection on how unserious marriage itself has become.