Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. On Patriarchs and Presidents with Feet of Clay


I’ll admit to mixed emotions about the protests against Woodrow Wilson at Princeton University. I first read about the racism of the former president (of both Princeton and the United States) in junior high in a piece claiming he endorsed the film Birth of a Nation as being “History written in lightning.” Though I subsequently learned that the quote is dubious, Wilson’s favorable writings about the Ku Klux Klan were not, nor was his work to promote segregation in the federal government and in the armed services.

Seeing a man formerly considered a hero of liberals and the Democratic Party torn from a podium of honor like communist statues after the fall of the Wall has its appeal for me. But another part of me — a better part, I think — sees the foolishness of a cultural revolution to purify unpleasant history from our presence. I think a healthy perspective comes from my faith and knowledge of Scripture.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The Truth About Relativism, and the Neopuritans on Campus


shutterstock_238305598Just as the sacraments are an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace, so is irrational activism an obnoxious and virulent sign of inner spiritual torment. Rational activism is sober, respectful, and seeks to convince; the irrational activism we’re seeing today is meant partly to intimidate and mostly to make the activists feel better about themselves. Today’s college students are among the most privileged people in human history, which is perhaps why they regularly command others to check their privilege. A century ago — when the finest colleges were the preserve of white gentile men — the most privileged Yale man had neither smart phone nor Google. He lacked million dollar sports facilities and the Internet. But he had something that today’s students lack: a confident faculty that had the discipline to impress thousands of years of civilization into their students’ souls, transforming them from children into adults.

Childhood should be a time of play, and we regularly make exceptions for children’s misbehavior that we wouldn’t tolerate in adults. That means that we don’t call the cops when a two year old has a temper tantrum in the grocery store or when ten year olds scuffle and wind up with bloody noses. But we do call the cops when twenty-year-olds behave thus. It’s only natural for children to want to stay in the Edenic state of freedom from responsibility. But it’s the job of their parents to see that children learn that only with responsibility comes any measure of freedom. And it is the job of the university to continue this civilizing process with a liberal education: making citizens fit for liberty. By infantilizing their students, the universities have failed in their duty.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Thousands Leave the LDS


salt-lake-mormon-temple71Now you might have missed this news, what with the attacks in Paris and the childishness in the universities, but breaking news: The Church of LDS believes homosexuality sinful. Gasp! Who knew such beliefs lurked deep in their ways? Oh wait, everyone. Still, last week, that didn’t stop a few thousand from making a scene over a recent policy: the church will not baptize children of same-sex couples until they turn 18 and denounce same-sex marriage. So of course my social network feed exploded in outrage, of which I’d estimate 10 percent came from actual Mormons.

The latest news is that recently a few thousand made a public stand to quit the church, with at least 1,500 showing up in person, and another 2,000 (approximately) sending in legal representation to affect the same. (Side note: my lovely wife Amanda is unimpressed by sending your lawyer to submit your resignation. As she knows, you just need write a letter saying that you’re out.)


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Kasich Got the Worst Line of the Debate


I was, until recently, positively disposed towards Governor John Kasich. Sure, he made some compromises about Obamacare that cast doubt on his conservative credentials. Sure, he mentions his faith too many times in order to justify some executive decisions. Sure, he got lucky — as Donald Trump says — when he struck oil in Ohio (though he also deserves some credit for getting on the right side of the shale revolution unlike, say, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo). But overall, I liked his experience and track record.

But then, Kasich disappointed me on Tuesday night with what may be one of the worst lines ever spoken in a debate: “Philosophy doesn’t work when you run something.”


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Don’t Fix the Problem; Mitigate It


IMG_0695For the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that climate change is real, caused in part by fossil fuel consumption, and poses a real — if hardly a cataclysmic — threat to the world’s ecology. According to prevailing wisdom the only (and obvious) response is to address the underlying problem and do everything we can to cut carbon emissions, be it through conservation or switching to renewable and/or green power sources (the two are not synonymous). That’s the thinking behind the proposals likely to come out of the summit in Paris later this month.

This approach has three minor drawbacks: it’s extremely unlikely that developing countries will agree to it, it’d be massively expensive — in both economic and human costs — if it somehow did happen, and it’d accomplish very, very little even if everything went according to plan. As Bjorn Lomborg reports via Ron Bailey:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Notre Dame Goes Catholic


A professor of history at Notre Dame, Rev. Wilson Miscamble — “Father Bill” to his countless friends — has just launched a new website, NDCatholic. Why? Below, a screenshot from the website itself:

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 11.14.02 AM


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Huge Scoop from The Hill: Michele Bachmann Is a Christian

Nic Neufeld /

Peter Sullivan of The Hill has rocked the Beltway with a shocker of a story:

Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) calls in an interview for converting as many people as possible to Christianity because Jesus is “coming soon.”


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. René Girard, R.I.P.


imageUntil his death in yesterday’s early hours, René Girard lived across the street from us, and becoming his friend — we used to get together for lunch or coffee — represented one of the signal joys of my life. Born in Avignon on Christmas Day 1923, René studied medieval history in Chartres while modern history, in the form of the German occupation, took place all around him. (Visiting Paris once during those years, he was once stopped by a gendarme, who asked him to produce his papers. When René displayed his passport, the policeman recognized it as a forgery at once. René thought the policeman would arrest him. Instead, he gestured to the other end of the street, where German soldiers stood peering at them, returned the passport, and told René to go back the way he came. ” Instead of putting me in jail,” René explained, “that man saved my life.”)

Traveling to the United States to pursue an academic career — René taught at Indiana University (where he met his wife, Martha, who survives him) and at half a dozen other institutions before settling at Stanford — René began to study myths, anthropology, and theology. In the course of a long career, he produced some thirty erudite, profound volumes. Much of his thought is complex; I’ve found myself pausing to consider a single paragraph or passage for minutes at a time. Yet, perhaps his best-known insight — certainly the one that has meant the most to me — is quite simple and turns one of the most famous works of comparative religion ever published, Frazer’s The Golden Bough, upside down.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Week of Cough Misery by DEA Schedule Change


keep-calm-and-swig-the-tussionex“That drug is [expletive],” muttered my usually genteel personal doctor this morning, as he wrote me a new prescription for the opioid narcotic Tussionex to ease the hacking cough that has wreaked havoc in my lungs and life for the last week. I had explained my confusion of that name for the non-narcotic Tessalon the Med Check nurse practitioner had prescribed five days before. My diagnosis was a bronchial virus and only its symptoms are treatable. That Saturday morning, desperate for more cough relief and sleep than provided by over-the-counter Mucinex, I had suggested Tussionex to the NP. I recalled the great effect that a drug close to that name had had on my cough symptoms several years ago. She wrote me up for Tessalon and suggested I keep dosing with Mucinex and add cough drops to my regimen. This morning, seven days, four bottles of cough syrup, and a hundred cough drops later, I dosed myself with Tussionex. I slept for four blissful hours. I awoke wanting answers.

Just after midnight, two days ago, I was wrenched from sleep to cough. Awaking to that violent urge, I could not at first even inhale enough air to cough! This was out of control. I dressed and drove to the ER. I was prodded and X-rayed and the physician assistant said there was nothing more they could do. Keep taking the Tessalon, Mucinex, and cough drops. Add in an Albuterol inhaler. Drink lots of fluids. The attending nurse mentioned Tessalon’s cough suppressant effects were hit-or-miss in her experience. I replied that I thought I had taken something called Tussionex before. She did not reply. She did not say that might be just what I needed.


Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review cheer the election of a conservative governor in Kentucky, the GOP holding the Virginia Senate and voters rejecting liberal initiatives in Houston and Ohio. They also groan as TransCanada asks for its Keystone XL pipeline request to be to be postponed and they slam the Obama administration for its endless delay in deciding on the pipeline. And they unload on the Department of Education for forcing an Illinois high school to allow a male who “identifies” as a female to dress and shower with the girls on his team.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Pain Demands An Explanation


shutterstock_314240933There are two truths about pain that every good conservative believes. First, pain is the most straightforward incentive; people need pain to correct their behavior. Second, we believe in “no pain, no gain;” i.e., that pain is a necessary sacrifice in the pursuit of accomplishment. In either case, pain is useful. At least, that is our moral ideal of pain and how it ought to act to fulfill its purpose.

That pain, whether of the body or the psyche, serves a useful purpose is easy enough to see. We need only consider what happens when it’s absent. Lepers and CIPA patients become horribly disfigured because they can’t feel pain. Lepers lose sensation in their extremities. CIPA patients cannot feel pain at all. They only avoid injury and disfigurement through a tedious process of consciously checking themselves, which is much less effective than simply feeling pain. Similarly, mania and psychopathy both reduce a person’s capacity to feel the psychic pains — shame, remorse, etc. — that keep us on the straight and narrow, and both mental states are quite sensibly regarded as dangerous.


One of the most important conservatives of the 20th century now has his definitive biography, in Russell Kirk: American Conservative, by Bradley J. Birzer of Hillsdale College.

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, Birzer describes the life and legacy of Kirk, how he became the first researcher to gain complete access to Kirk’s papers, and what Kirk would think of the conservative movement today, a generation after his death.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Sell Your Souls or the Homeless Folks Are Gonna Get It


The Grace Youth and Family Foundation’s Winter Relief Center is Butler County’s (PA) only homeless shelter.

If the Bureaucrats of Butler County (wait for it on DVD) have their way, the homeless will have no refuge there this winter.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Church in a Post-Racial America


When the Reverend Wright Story broke in 2008, I was taken aback by then-Senator Obama’s offhand reference to church being the “most segregated hour” in American life; I was even more surprised to learn that the comment was a variation on a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. In my own experience — admittedly, hardly representative — church had been one of the places I was most likely to interact with people less pasty white than I. Was the quote simply antiquated? A lie? Was I missing something?

To shed some light on the matter, I commend to your attention this study led by University of Connecticut researchers regarding racial inclusivity in American churches. Their findings were remarkable, if not terribly surprising. To wit, Mainline Protestant churches — despite being more politically liberal and likely to hold racial diversity as an explicit value — were more racially monolithic than either Evangelical or Catholic churches and more likely to treat potential congregants differently based on their apparent race. Equally of interest, Evangelicals — the most politically conservative and least likely to be openly interested in racial diversity — were the most racially diverse and showed the lowest disparity in response. Catholics were generally a close second.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Religion and Politics


cb7b676628d6873de6af2c428e6ccaabYes, I know it’s an old argument–whether our religious organizations should be preaching politics from the pulpit — or in my case, speaking politics to the sangha. As a Zen Buddhist, I’ve become increasingly distressed at the dominance of the left in almost all Buddhist communities. For many years I belonged to a Zen community (sangha) that was guided by the belief that participants ought to decide, from their own research, values, and discussions (outside the community) what they believed in and supported. But in the last ten years, leading Buddhists and lesser ones have moved from subtle support of the left to blatantly stating their leftist views, leaving out the segment of conservatives (however small) of their communities. So much for “we are all one.” Choose any leftist cause — climate change, gay marriage — it’s supported in mainstream Buddhist publications. I finally left the larger Buddhist community (and lead my own meditation group), but still consider myself a Zen Buddhist. Of course, when I tell Buddhists about my decision, they assume I support “Japanese Zen” so they think I must believe, for example, in treating women as second class citizens. Even though their assumptions are wrong, I guess my holding to the Buddha’s original teachings makes me a “fundamentalist Buddhist.” So be it.

Has anyone else thrown up their hands and abandoned their religious communities because they just couldn’t take the propaganda of the left anymore? How’s that worked out for you? Do you still consider yourself a practitioner of your religion? I’d love to hear from you.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Is Mexico Still Catholic?


shutterstock_138057008Let me preface this by pointing out why non-Catholics and non-Christians might find this discussion worthwhile. First, Mexico is the United States’ largest source of immigrants (legal and illegal) and influential states like Texas are heavily colored by Mexican culture (the Texas population is already nearly half hispanic), so its culture is a significant influence on our own. Second, religion is the foundation of culture: it encapsulates many of the most basic perceptions and priorities on which political decisions are made. Thus, the ideas Mexican immigrants bring with them impacts all Americans.

Though more than 80% of Mexican citizens identify as Catholic, I’m hearing a different story from Catholic educators in Texas. American Catholics often complain generally about the state of catechesis (education about the faith), but it seems to be even worse down in Mexico, where many people are ignorant of the beliefs and traditions they claim as their own.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. I Am the Very Model of a Modern German Cardinal


Now that the “Synod on the Family” has concluded, a brief (and anonymous) musical appreciation — with apologies, of course, to Gilbert and Sullivan:


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Amnesty International Pushes Abortion with Anti-Catholicism


Last year, Amnesty international in Ireland announced that they would be campaigning not just for the legalization of prostitutes but also the repeal of Ireland’s Eight Amendment. This amendment guarantees that equal protection will be granted to the life of the unborn child within its mother’s womb and that, outside of life threatening illness and events, it cannot be aborted.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Libertarians: How to Win Friends & Influence People


Libertarians: Please stop telling me I’m no better than the Left.

As for libertarians who don’t believe that, you need to call out your fellow travellers who go too far. In the past week I’ve been told by self-proclaimed libertarians that I don’t believe in property rights, that my belief in liberty is no better than Obama’s, and that I don’t really believe in individual rights in general.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Why the Doctrine of Sustainability is Anti-Catholic and the Pope Should Reject It


Back in May, I noticed an article on CRISIS magazine’s website that I knew I wouldn’t have the proper time to devote to reading. It was titled, What Does “Sustainability” Really Mean?, so I added it to my menu bar for later perusal. It was worth the wait.

“Sustainability” is one of those watchwords which has found common usage across the political spectrum. On the left, it typically raises concerns about the environmental impact of humans using limited natural resources like water and fossil fuels. On the right, there’s more worry over the sustainability of a government or economic system burdened by $18 trillion of debt. Having read William M. Briggs’s excellent article hasn’t changed my mind about the latter, but it has given me pause about the concept of sustainability generally. There’s just so much we simply don’t (and can’t) know.