Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Can a Christian Be a Pessimist?


Silver ChairI have been thinking about this a lot lately as the news gets darker and darker. We hear politicians talk about the need for “joyful warriors” and conservatives of all stripes indulge in black humor. I must admit I’ve chuckled a time or two at seeing the “Sweet Meteor of Death” in the polls.

When it gets right down to it though, I ultimately hold the conviction that living in a cloud of thunderous worry is not profitable or Christian. Plus, it is wearisome. How on earth do people sustain it?


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. On Finishing The Gulag Archipelago


solzhenitsyn 1I’ve been threatening to write a longish post on Alexander Solzhenitsyn (I’ve been reading books by him and about him for a year). And I still plan to do so.

But I could not help but share a couple of brief thoughts now. Last night, I finished Volume 3 of The Gulag Archipelago. It has been, at the same time, one of the most horrifying and edifying experiences of my life.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Not a Parody


As far as I can tell, this is not a delayed April Fools’ Day prank, a parody, or a joke but a straight news story. (If I’m wrong, correct me–please.)

TAUNTON, UK, April 2, 2015 – A judge has convicted and fined a street evangelist for quoting one verse of the Bible that condemns homosexuality on the streets of Taunton, Somerset — instead of quoting another verse.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Friedersdorf’s Challenge to SSM Supporters


1931_Frankenstein_img28Conor Friedersdorf has a long piece challenging Same-Sex Marriage proponents to answer whether they think the uproar over Memories Pizza is justified:

The question I’d ask those who want to use non-state means to punish mom-and-pop businesses that decline to cater gay weddings is what, exactly, their notion of a fair punishment is.. If their Yelp rating goes down by a star does the punishment fit the “crime”? Is there a financial loss at which social pressure goes from appropriate to too much? How about putting them out of business? Digital mobs insulting them and their children? Email and phone threats from anonymous Internet users? If you think that any of those go too far have you spoken up against the people using those tactics?


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Indiana: Saying What Needs to Be Said


shutterstock_158203232From the recent open letter, “Now is the Time to Talk About Religious Liberty,” an unapologetic statement of simple political, religious, and legal sanity:

In recent days we have heard claims that a belief central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — that we are created male and female, and that marriage unites these two basic expressions of humanity in a unique covenant — amounts to a form of bigotry. Such arguments only increase public confusion on a vitally important issue. When basic moral convictions and historic religious wisdom rooted in experience are deemed “discrimination,” our ability to achieve civic harmony, or even to reason clearly, is impossible.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Introducing the Winners of the Ricochet Glory Egg


Our weekend contecoronation_egg2st unexpectedly proved to be one of the most enjoyable I can recall in Ricochet history. Many thanks to everyone who submitted paintings, verse, hymns, Fabergé eggs, and commentary that ranged from the profound to the whimsical. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the entries.

The contest suffered–entirely my fault–from poor design. I should have known one of our members would identify Pierro della Francesca’s Resurrection within minutes. Merina Smith, congratulations: You were the first to identify the painting and the essay by Aldous Huxley:


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Happy Jewish Easter, Ricochet!


chineseAs you know, it is our new annual custom on Ricochet to celebrate a traditional Jewish Easter. Why a traditional Jewish Easter? For the same reason that—God forbid–should you need to go to the emergency room today, the odds are high that you will be treated by a nice, sober Jewish doctor. (So be sure to wear your best undies, ladies, just in case!)

Of course, on Ricochet we welcome everyone of any faith, creed or color, so long as she’s on the center-right side of the political spectrum and obedient to our sacred Code of Conduct.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Weekend Contest: The Greatest Easter Art and Literature


Ricochet, you’ve very narrowly been spared. Our discussion of the framework nuclear deal with Iran led to a suggestion by our resident curmudgeon Ball Diamond Ball that I carefully re-consider the work of Saul Alinsky for insight. I was game, and I was even on the verge of opening our weekend literature contest to those who wished to spend it reading Alinsky and tracing his influence on the Obama Administration.

Then it occurred to me that this could not possibly be how anyone on Ricochet would wish to spend this weekend. (I know for sure I don’t.) Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but I suspect we would all prefer to spend it with a great work of art or literature more suitable to the Easter holiday.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ‘Hell Took a Body, and Discovered God’


Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. What Does Tom Cruise Believe? And Should You Care?


Mission: Impossible III Premiere In HarlemNo one would deny that Tom Cruise is a remarkably successful actor and a smart businessman. For theater owners and studios, he has been box office gold for decades, arguably propping up an entire industry. Like many other actors, he has had a few unsuccessful marriages. Like any human being, he has had personal setbacks and tragedies. By all outward appearances, Mr. Cruise often seems like a likable fellow —someone with whom you would love to hang out…some of the time.

But what does Tom Cruise believe and should you be concerned about it? What if the belief system that he actively and aggressively promotes actually hurts people both psychologically and physically? Should the successful actor be called to answer for those beliefs and the organization that he promotes? Or should Americans and others around the world simply ignore his views and continue to pay their hard-earned money to watch his films, supporting him and, indirectly, supporting this organization?


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Which Economists Should I Teach In My Philosophy Class?

On the left: Marx

I teach the Modern to Contemporary Philosophy class at my university. I have decided to add a new lesson next time: After we cover Marx, we’re going to survey some other economist-philosophers from Marx’ time and afterwards.

On the right: Smith

Which economists should I cover? At present, my plan for this lesson covers Bastiat, Von Mises, Keynes, Hayek, and Friedman. If you’re going to cover, say, six to eight economists of the 1800s and 1900s in a philosophy class, does the best list consist of these guys + Marx?


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Moral Facts, Opinions, and Suppositions


478px-Vitrail_de_synagogue-Musée_alsacien_de_StrasbourgDiscussing a New York Times op-ed by a college professor about how young people are taught that all value statements are matters of mere opinion, Dennis Prager blamed the problem on a lack of religious faith. He went on to say that the kids have the logic, if not the conclusion: without religion, all moral statements have no truth claim:

If God doesn’t say “Do not murder,” murder isn’t wrong. Period, end of issue… Morality [becomes] just an opinion for “I like” or “I don’t like” if ultimately, there is no moral God in the universe that makes morality real. Without religion and God, there is no moral truth…


Member Post


The Presbyterians have voted to recognize homosexual “marriage”. Their definition of marriage has been altered to read “commitment of two people, traditionally a man and a woman…”. This is a major Christian denomination explicitly defying the plain word of God as set down in the Bible (homosexual behavior being “an abomination unto the Lord”). How […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Ricochet Weekend Essay Assignment


stllewisIn C. S. Lewis’s classic work the Screwtape Letters, you’ll recall, Screwtape, a senior demon, offers advice to Wormwood, his nephew, on the most useful techniques for leading humans, by slow degrees, to hell. Here, just a couple of sentences — and note that when Screwtape refers to “the Enemy” he is writing about God.

“There’s nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. What Makes Men Good?


shutterstock_105095180Nothing. If history has taught us anything, it is that mankind excels at doing bad while pretending to be noble and otherwise.

Sorry to be so pessimistic, but the last century has proved beyond doubt that human beings are not getting better. In fact, the opposite has occurred: we’ve regressed. The myth of progress be damned and forgotten evermore. Sure the last century saw many positive examples of growth – technology and applied science come to mind. And, yes, this growth has been at an unprecedented level too – since 1915 we have had the invention or upgrading of planes, automobiles, vaccines, indoor plumbing, freezers, dishwashers, modern medical advances such as the heart transplant and chemotherapy, television, radio, mobile phones, satellites, and the computer. I could go on and on, but I shall stop where I am. Human technology and its use has been a definite benefit.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Reckoning with Divorce


We’ve had a pair of gay marriage posts this week on the Member Feed [Editor’s note: Curious? Join!], and there have been a few comments along the lines that Christians focus all their anger on gays, and similarly comments about the easy forgiveness of heterosexual sexual sins. These comments bothered me, but I don’t want to hijack those threads.

In the 20 years or so since I’ve been an active member of congregational churches (yes, those of you doing the math, I started when I was about 10 years old; being a voting member is a matter of salvation and understanding of the doctrine through baptism, not age), and I’ve seen sexual sins brought up a number of times. Almost always heterosexual, and almost always aimed at fornication and adultery (with the balance being about how married people should have sex more frequently).


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Split-Religion Marriages and Conversions


When I was a young teenager, my dad got pulled into the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults when a neighbor asked my dad to sponsor him through the process of conversion. The man’s wife was Catholic, so he was considering the Church’s beliefs with charitable patience. My father has participated in RCIA ever since, in varying capacities.

These days, one of his favorite TV programs is The Journey Home in which host Marcus Grodi interviews converts to Catholicism about their conversion experiences. Baptists, Lutherans, Mormons, Jews, housewives, lawyers, scientists, preachers — The show is fascinating because of the endless variety of origin stories, which provide insights and nuances which cradle Catholics like myself often have never considered.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. I Don’t Believe in God, I Believe in Science


Scott Walker’s evolution question has been hashed over quite a bit. Themes that I’ve read include relevancy to the presidency (is that a good band name? or some sort of L. Frank Baum chant?), fear of the creationist’s inquisitional powers in the classroom, the hypocrisy of the question, and the ulterior motive of either tripping up or exposing Scott Walker as a rube.

Was this question a nascent litmus test of belief in science as a replacement for a belief in God for the office of president? But no matter, because….


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Why Marriage in America Is Wrong


Marriage equality has become a sticking point for many Americans, primarily from the conservative side of the spectrum. As we get closer to the point where SCOTUS could arguably settle the dispute, I have been thinking about why we have ended up with the entire argument in the first place.

The basis of the marriage equity camp’s argument is the 14th Amendment, while those opposed tend to argue on the basis of the First Amendment (even though we haven’t really gotten to the point where lawsuits are being filed to force religious organizations to recognize same-sex marriage.) Ben Carson ended up in a minor situation with the Southern Poverty Law Center over the fact that he publicly stated that gay rights organizations should not be able to define marriage. Sadly, I can’t bring myself to agree with him, at least not in the context of state recognition of marriage.


Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Self and Soul


Prompted by the great Casey, I re-read Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. First read it years ago, but I’m older now, and reading it again brings very different reactions.

One argument is that the modern world has done away with the Soul and has replaced it with the Self. That’s a quick way of describing a conviction I’ve held for a long time. A soul is an individual connected to God and the rest of the universe, striving to find harmony with all of it. A self has no such connection; it’s just a command center (with little control) over a sea of conflicting and confusing interior psychic currents. Or, as Bloom suggests, a soul is on the roof pondering the mysteries of the heavens, but a self is in the basement snooping around in the dark for Freudian rats.