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Stanford Professor René Girard Dies at 91
Thursday, November 5, 2015, 10:08 AM

From the Stanford University website: Stanford professor and eminent French theorist René Girard, member of the Académie Française, dies at 91.

. . . In particular, Girard was interested in the causes of conflict and violence and the role of imitation in human behavior. Our desires, he wrote, are not our own; we want what others want. These duplicated desires lead to rivalry and violence. He argued that human conflict was not caused by our differences, but rather by our sameness. Individuals and societies offload blame and culpability onto an outsider, a scapegoat, whose elimination reconciles antagonists and restores unity.

In 2003 Girard was interviewed for Touchstone by Brian McDonald. Violence & the Lamb Slain.

Rene Girard is both one of the twentieth century’s most prominent theorists of culture and a devout Roman Catholic. Born and raised in France, Girard received his Ph.D. in history from Indiana University and has lived and taught for most of his life in America.

He combines a “deconstructionist” and “debunking” analysis of the origins and bases of human culture with an essentially traditionalist affirmation of Christianity. His cultural analysis has been praised by secular critics, even as his insistence that this very analysis should lead to Christian affirmation has shocked them. Christians are pleased that a giant of modernist and postmodernist thought is a solid Christian, but some are disturbed that he seems to “debunk” the propitiatory view of Christ’s death on the Cross. A brief outline of his thought and its development may therefore be useful before presenting the interview. Continue reading.

St. Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist
Monday, September 21, 2015, 3:25 PM

sept 21 2015 300x252 St. Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist

Here’s an article from the Touchstone archives in honor of the feast day of St. Matthew.

Matthew’s Portrait
by Patrick Henry Reardon

Edgar Allen Poe, in his penetrating review of Bleak House, remarked that no reader can comprehend the real wealth of that work in a single reading. Numerous shades of nuance, Poe explained, and dozens of subtle connections were woven so deeply into the fabric of Bleak House that their presence was not even suspected on a first reading.

On a second reading, however, the now enlightened reader knows what to look for; he will perceive treasures that eluded his attention the first time through. Innumerable lines will shine now with a new luster. Thus, concluded Poe, fully to grasp the meaning of Bleak House for the first time, the reader is obliged to go through it a second time.

One suspects here the presence of a permanent literary principle, namely, that any story truly worth reading is worth reading two or more times. Even little children seem to know this. I have never met a child content with a single reading of a good story.

Another test case for Poe’s principle, let me suggest, is the Gospel according to St. Matthew. I have long believed that the Missionary Mandate received by the apostles in the closing verses of that Gospel is the best key to understanding it as a whole. That is to say, after reading Matthew all the way to its memorable ending, it is most instructive to take that ending as an interpretive guide and go back through the Gospel again, considering everything else in the light of it.

An easy way to do this, I suggest, is to reflect on Matthew’s Missionary Mandate with respect to structure, theme, and imagery.

Continue reading . . .

Mere Links. September 10, 2015
Thursday, September 10, 2015, 11:14 AM

The sad truth about the Planned Parenthood videos
by Dr. Joel McDurmon, The American Vision
What follows will sound cynical and depressing, but it is merely a reality check. I do not believe any legal action or legislation will come of the recent Planned Parenthood videos, and I think we have already witnessed the decline or near-disappearance of what impact they will have. We need to start considering why and to learn from it. . . .

Cut It Out
by Peter J. Leithart, First Things
In a recent New Yorker piece on “Omission,” John McPhee puts in a word for concise writing. Inevitably, he quotes Hemingway: “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.” . . .

A court of one: Anthony Kennedy
by Richard L. Hasen, L. A. Times
. . . His power won’t lessen any time soon. This week the court said it would review a case that could kill public sector unions, overturning long-standing precedent. Kennedy will probably cast the crucial fifth vote. And, no doubt, the court’s upcoming decision on how far states can go in restricting abortion will depend on Kennedy’s view of what constitutes an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose. . . .

Mere Links. August 27, 2015
Thursday, August 27, 2015, 9:59 AM

What abortion rhetoric says about the state of our souls
by Joel J. Miller, Ancient Faith

If you want to understand how people justify their behavior, look at the language they use. The less emotional the words, the easier it is to rationalize the actions. We’re watching this play out with Center for Medical Progress’s ongoing Planned Parenthood exposé. But we’ve already seen where it’s going in the larger abortion debate—and the trajectory should give us pause. . . .

Learning to Love American Literature
by Joseph Pearce, The Imaginative Conservative

When I arrived in the United States, four days before the 9-11 attacks thirteen years ago, I was woefully ignorant of American literature. I had read very little and, it must be said, had little desire to read much more. In fact, it must also be said and, yes, confessed, that I had an ingrained prejudice against anything the New World might have to offer. Mea culpa! Indeed, mea maxima culpa! . . .

The Joys of Parenting
by Shannon Roberts, MercatorNet.com

Apparently parenthood makes a person more unhappy than divorce, unemployment and even the death of a partner, according to a study published this month in the journal Demography. If this is what journals and papers around the world are headlining, it doesn’t bode well for future birth rates. . . .

Kullervo: Tolkien’s fascination with Finland
by Hannah Sander, BBC

On Thursday JRR Tolkien’s early story The Story of Kullervo will be published for the first time. The dark tale reveals that Tolkien’s Middle Earth was inspired not only by England and Wales… but also by Finland.

Mere Links. August 25th, 2015
Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 10:37 AM

Embracing The Colson Way
Reviewed by Nathan Finn, Canon & Culture
. . . I’ve become convinced that many of these jaded millennial evangelicals think the way they do because they aren’t aware of some of the most thoughtful and winsome role models they could draw upon, especially from the previous generation. This is why Owen Strachan’s new book is so important. The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World (Nelson, 2015) is an appreciative biography of Charles “Chuck” Colson (1931–2012), one of the leading evangelical public intellectuals from the mid-1970s to his death in 2012. I believe this is a timely book for a kairos moment among evangelicals navigating American culture. . . .

Human Dignity in a World of Abortion Clinics
by Russell D. Moore, russellmoore.com
On a Sunday this January, probably of whatever year it is when you read this (at least as long as I’m living), I will probably be preaching somewhere in a church on “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.” Here’s a confession: I hate it. . . .

The Pope’s Visit
by William Doino Jr., First Things
When Pope Francis arrives in America next month, he will undoubtedly find a very different country than did Paul VI, John Paul II, or Benedict XVI. In the past decade, the culture of death has gained momentum (even as pro-life marches and valiant efforts to chip away at it continue), the sexual revolution has expanded into runaway legal and popular support for same-sex marriage and gender ideology, and religious liberty, once regarded as our country’s “first freedom,” has come under sustained attack. . . .

Mere Links. August 20, 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015, 10:05 AM

Today from Anno Domini 2015, the St. James Calendar of the Christian Year*:

august 20 300x216 Mere Links. August 20, 2015

Be Like Ryan (Broyles): Good News from an NFL Player
by John Stonestreet, Breakpoint

. . . While his NFL career hasn’t gone as well as he would have liked, he’s doing just fine in the example department. Chuck Colson would say that Ryan and Mary Beth are examples of one of the rarest and most counter-cultural virtues: the ability to delay gratification. And his character is the reason that one Washington Post commenter called Broyles his “new favorite wide receiver.” . . .

Science Contra Hubris
by  Edward R. Dougherty, Public Discourse

Good scientific training is strenuous and humbling, because science is unforgiving. To spare society from the imposition of subjective pipe dreams, the prudence characteristic of valid scientific thinking needs to permeate the entire intellectual order.

Is Cleanliness Next To Godliness?
by Brian Miller, The Imaginative Conservative

. . . The great philosopher says he does the household chores because it is an aesthetic undertaking. Bringing order brings about beauty. And so it does. But not because order is being done for the sake of order. . . .

* 2016 Calendars are now available.

Mere Links. August 13, 2015
Thursday, August 13, 2015, 9:34 AM

Lord of the Rings actor John Rhys-Davies decried Islamic terrorism and political correctness
by Daniel Nussbaum, Breitbart
“This is a unique age,” Rhys-Davies explained. “We don’t want to be judgmental. Every other age that’s come before us has believed exactly the opposite. I mean, T.S. Eliot referred to ‘the common pursuit of true judgement.’ Yes, that’s what it’s about. Getting our judgments right, getting them accurate.”

The Washington Post Is Super Confused About Where Babies Come From
By Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist
Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio took some heat for saying that he was skeptical of global warming activism. He was asked about the reaction to some of his comments and he noted some hypocrisy he’s witnessed on scientific consensus: …

The Coddling of the American Mind
by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Atlantic
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.

Mere Links. August 7, 2015
Friday, August 7, 2015, 9:33 AM

Doing Injustice to the Just Price
by  John B. Shannon, Public Discourse

An article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on the just price of cancer drugs in the United States contains an odd reference to a nonexistent book by Aristotle. Unraveling the origins of this error reveals an almost farcical series of misinterpretations.

Jon Stewart, Avatar of Progressive Culture
By Dorothy Rabinowitz, The Wall Street Journal

There was never any mistaking the aura of confident superiority from the host of ‘The Daily Show.’

The Rise of the Victim Bully
by Dwight Longenecker, The Imaginative Conservative

One of Christianity’s contributions to civilization has been a startling compassion for the victim. As René Girard has pointed out, from the beginning of time primitive peoples focused their animus on the outsider, the oddball, or the eccentric in their midst. It was the disabled, the alien, the poor, and the weak who most often took the blame for society’s ills.

Mere Links. August 5, 2015
Wednesday, August 5, 2015, 9:31 AM

What would the American culture wars look like if they were less about “values” and more about Jesus?
by Emma Green, The Atlantic

“Like any good Southern Baptist preacher, Moore knows how to unleash some spiritual whoop-ass, though that probably wouldn’t be his preferred choice of words. The straitlaced, suit-wearing preacher from Biloxi, Mississippi, included a whole passage in his book about how much he hates tattoos; he is studiously polite and clean-cut. Yet he rails against people who merely perform their Christianity, who assume that following Jesus is the same as being a ‘shiny, happy Republican.'”

Goliath Gates: Entrance to Famous Biblical Metropolis Uncovered
by Tia Ghose, livescience.com

A massive gate unearthed in Israel may have marked the entrance to a biblical city that, at its heyday, was the biggest metropolis in the region. The town, called Gath, was occupied until the ninth century B.C. In biblical accounts, the Philistines — the mortal enemies of the Israelites — ruled the city. The Old Testament also describes Gath as the home of Goliath, the giant warrior whom the Israelite King David felled with a slingshot.

Dr. Krauthammer’s Divided Soul
by Matthew J. Franck, First Things

There are few more gifted conservative columnists working in journalism today than Charles Krauthammer. On so many issues, from executive power to foreign policy to limited government, Krauthammer is reliable, insightful, and employs a gleefully sharp pen to eviscerate his adversaries. But every now and then he delivers himself of frustratingly ill-informed opinions, and this happens most often on the “social” issues such as the sanctity of life and the preservation of marriage.

Mere Links. July 29, 2015
Wednesday, July 29, 2015, 11:40 AM

Engaging Today’s Culture With the Gospel (Part 1 of 2)
Focus on the Family Podcast

Dr. Russell Moore discusses the challenges of living in a culture that doesn’t understand or embrace Christian values and suggests new methods for followers of Christ to engage the world around them.

LGBT grant-maker wants to win religious liberty fight within three years
by Kevin Jones, Catholic News Agency

A CNA investigation has found that millions of dollars have been poured into efforts to combat religious freedom exemptions in the United States.

Israel’s Choice: Conventional War Now, or Nuclear War Later
by Norman Podhoretz, The Wall Street Journal

There was no ‘better deal’ with Iran to be had. Now this calamitous one offers Tehran two paths to the bomb.

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