The Rights of Aphrodite
W. E. Knickerbocker on C. S. Lewis & the New State Paganism
In the essay “We Have No ‘Right To Happiness,’” C. S. Lewis tells his readers of a conversation he had with a woman who was one of his neighbors. The subject of the discussion was two neighbor couples, Mr. and Mrs. A and Mr. and Mrs. B. Mr. A had divorced Mrs. A to marry Mrs. B, who had divorced Mr. B. Mrs. A’s looks were not what they once were, one cause of which was the number of children she had borne to Mr. A. Mr. B had been disabled in the war and was out of a job. The neighbor with whom Lewis was having the conversation justified these divorces and the remarriage by saying that Mr. A and Mrs. B “had a right to happiness.”
Lewis says the neighbor who justified this behavior was “rather leftist” in her politics and a teetotaler, who would certainly not approve of a ruthless businessman whose happiness consisted in making money or of an alcoholic who was happy when he was drunk. Rather, the happiness to which this neighbor said Mr. A and Mrs. B had a right was solely “sexual happiness.” The right to sexual happiness justified breaking vows solemnly made and legally validated.
Dear Mere Comments readers, here’s an early look at the March/April 2014 issue of Touchstone. Subscribe today! Type in “TNP” in the special offer code box for five dollars off of a new subscription.
Touchstone is a journal which I highly esteem. Touchstone exemplifies, in my mind, true ecumenical conversation and cooperation, in furthering the mission of Our Lord Jesus Christ in our personal lives and in the world. I look forward to receiving each issue and usually find myself reading each issue in its entirety. Certainly, Touchstone has helped me to think more deeply about many aspects of the Christian faith and of its practice in a pervasively secularized society. It is my hope and prayer that Touchstone will continue its service, as we say in Latin, ‘ad multos annos,’ for many years. May God bless all who continue the noble and important work of Touchstone!
—Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal
of the Apostolic Signatura
I love everything about Touchstone—the writers, the topics they write about, the tone. As an adult convert to Christianity, I have a lot of ground to make up. Touchstone is an enormous help.
Executive Editor, Weekly Standard
“Touchstone is a voice that greatly needs to be heard in today’s Christian world. If this is what robust ecumenism means, we need more of it!”
Bishop of Diokleia
“Touchstone serves the most significant form of ecumenical endeavor today: the rallying and coalescing of those in all the churches who stand for doctrinal, moral, and devotional orthodoxy. The fact that Touchstone exists to serve this purpose gives it great importance.”
—J. I. Packer
Author, Knowing God
It’s now become a December favorite, from Touchstone‘s December 2003 issue, William Tighe’s Calculating Christmas.
Here are a few other December articles from our Archives for Advent/Christmas:
Grace & Truce
On the Cutting Edge of God’s “Peace on Earth”
by David C. Brenner
The Recycled Goat
The Adventures of Gift-Giving in a Large Family
by Rebecca Sicree
Food, Noise, Fire!
On the Bethlehem Baboon & Other Christmas Traditions
by Rebecca Sicree
A Card for Aunt Hilda
Christmas Letters & Vanishing Connections
by Gary A. Fritz
Looking for Wenceslaus
The Real Men Behind the Christmas Carol
by Michael H. Baum
Savior in a Manger
Early Christian Teaching on the Incarnation & Redemption
by Patrick Henry Reardon
by Anthony Esolen
The Family History a Winter Festival Doesn’t Tell
by Joanna Bogle
God Rest Ye Merry
On Celebrating the Darker Meaning of Christmas
by Wilfred M. McClay
Yes, Aquinas, There Is a Santa Claus
by Nathan Schleter
A Mighty Child
by Anthony Esolen
Finally, while you’re thinking about Christmas and gifts, consider today a gift subscription to Touchstone or a subscription for yourself! Get such “Archives” in print! Have Blessed Advent!
If you live in the Chicago area, please join us for a special talk by James M. Kushiner, executive editor of Salvo magazine, to mark the publication of the 80-page Salvo supplement On Science & Faith. The talk, free of charge, will take place on Thursday, November 14, 2013, at 7:30 p.m. at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, 28W770 Warrenville Road, Warrenville, Illinois 60555. Phone: 630-221-0901.
If you would like to download the flyer for the event, it is available here at the (newly designed) FSJ website. Take a look.
Fellowship and refreshments will be provided!
The new issue of Touchstone is heading to your mailbox. See the table of contents and articles available for online reading at www.touchstonemag.com, like this one by Anthony Esolen.
The Great Epics Are Theological & Mark the Hard Path to Beatitude
Some years ago I got into a rather tense conversation with a couple of students in the office of the English department. We were talking about The Lord of the Rings, and I remarked that nothing like it could be written now, because our culture—for want of a better word, I must use the word “culture” to describe our mass habits, after the reality of culture has withered away—no longer possesses a vision of the world and of man that would sustain such a work. Tolkien himself could write his trilogy only because he was something of an anachronism, as he was steeped in the medieval epics—the sagas of Snorri Sturluson, the Finnish Kalevala, the Nibelungenlied, Beowulf, and so forth—and was a devout Catholic, seeing all things by the light of revelation and three thousand years of meditation upon the ways of God to man.
The students resisted. No youngster likes to hear that he lives in an age of decline and decrepitude. But over the years I’ve grown more convinced that my hunch was correct. Not only about the decrepitude—the palsy of the soul that mistakes cynicism for sophistication, and cold-hearted lust for love. Consider the ringing verse from Isaiah: “For my ways are not your ways, nor are my thoughts your thoughts, saith the Lord. For as high as the heavens are above the sea, so far are my ways from your ways, and my thoughts from your thoughts.”
That’s a verse that would set Homer himself to thinking. It expresses the vast distance between the divine and the human. But it is also addressed to man: it is a clarion call for man to set out on a journey to cross that distance, even as God reaches out to man in the events of human life. The sentiment on the part of the prophet is not despair but fear and wonder, and the appeal of an adventure in being itself.
by John Basie
Some months ago I had the opportunity to lead a seminar for recent college graduates, all of whom had been following Christ faithfully for at least a few years. The focus of the seminar was the nexus of vocation, cultural transformation, and the role of grace. When I got to the part of the material that called for an introduction to the Manhattan Declaration and the opportunity we have as Christ-followers to make a difference in our culture, I immediately saw a variety of reactions. Some were energized, but some not so much. With respect to the latter, one young man piped up and basically said, “I went to a state university, and I know what most people on that campus think about marriage, sanctity of life, and religious liberty. Frankly, I just see what a lost cause it probably is, given the mindset out there today. I’m not sure it’s worth the battle.” I could immediately understand where he was coming from. He very much doubted that it was worth the risk of having hope, and he went on to say that his posture at present was to withdraw from these battles and focus on other worthy Kingdom pursuits.
In his work The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, The 18th century Scottish theologian and minister Thomas Chalmers once pointed out the difference between a practical moralist and one who has a deep sense morality that rests on a substantive hope only found in Christ. He said “There are two ways in which a practical moralist may attempt to displace from the human heart its love of the world–either by a demonstration of the world’s vanity, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon simply to withdraw its regards from an object that is not worthy of it; or, by setting forth another object, even God, as more worthy of its attachment, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon not to resign an old affection, which shall have nothing to succeed it, but to exchange an old affection for a new one.” To be sure, Chalmers was interested in exploring how Christ-followers actually come to be more like Christ and lay down their personal and communal sin, but the application here is clear enough. It isn’t sufficient to withdraw our affections from the bad stuff–we have to have something good that is far more powerful to fill the void. The young man who held the right convictions but had chosen to disengage hadn’t yet seen that expulsive power available to us and to our culture through a deep hope in Christ’s work. Millennials need to experience that deep and abiding hope for themselves. Theirs is the largest generation among us, and they will be leading all of us soon enough.
Christian Schools & Racial Realities
Hunter Baker on Desegregation & the Rise of Christian Education in the South
I live in Jackson, Tennessee. Our town of about 100,000 people sits between Memphis and Nashville. One of the outstanding features of Jackson is that it features an unusually large amount of Christian and other private schooling. Three public-school-sized parochial (or semi-parochial in one case) entities occupy positions on the north side of town. Another smaller one with a Great Books emphasis (the paradoxically new thing in Evangelical Christian education) is the proud owner of a smaller building outgrown by one of the three flagships. It also happens that the public schools of Jackson only recently gained their independence from federal supervision dating back to the racial tensions of segregation and desegregation.
Many view Christian schools with suspicion because a significant number of them began operation in the period when the United States was grappling most earnestly with desegregating American school systems in the hopes of vindicating our fundamental belief in equal opportunity. Statistics buttress this suspicion. From 1961 to 1971, enrollment in non-Catholic private schools doubled. The natural inference is that enthusiasm for Christian schooling was little more than a cover for racism. Some even referred to emerging Christian schools as “new segregation academies.”
Fundamental to our nature is the fact that we communicate. God speaks; as his image-bearers, so do we. God is a community of persons; we were made to live and can thrive only in community, to know who we are by virtue of communicative relations with others. Because communication and community are so basic to our existence and our sense of identity, technologies that enable and direct how we communicate can have a powerful effect on how we imagine who we are.
All technologies shape the way we engage with things and people, and they thus encourage certain ways of understanding things and people. Technologies do not just enable us to perform tasks; they work on our imaginations. They give us metaphors for understanding that shape our experience and our desires. They also establish patterns of everyday practice that arrange our perception of reality. And often, if we perceive things in certain ways, we easily begin to conceive of them in certain ways. This is why communications technologies—gadgets and systems of gadgets that structure our giving and receiving of ideas and experiences, that mediate the world to us—have such a powerful impact in shaping our culture.Read the rest here.