Tag: Morality

Real Enemy, Real Freedom


Why is America eroding? Why does it seem like we can’t get “unstuck” from the inevitable cycle of decline? I believe it has to do with what we might not yet identify as the real enemy of our Republic. The truth might be uncomfortable. And what we might fail to remember is real freedom.

Os Guinness’s 2012 book, A Free People’s Suicide, takes St. Augustine’s basis for politics as the starting point for freedom. Augustine suggested “loved things held in common” are the basis of freedom. Guinness goes one step more with the saint. We may use loved things held in common to diagnose the health of our nation.

What do we hold in common? Is it enough to sustain our freedom? Or is our freedom eroding because our loved things held in common have been debased—or are vanishing?

The Dominance of Amorality or How to be a Superhero


Do you realize how difficult it must be to become an amoral person in a Judeo-Christian country? Depending on your viewpoint about morality, it seems like you would have to be raised in a cave to avoid exposure to moral and immoral ideas. And then I realized that the usual places where a child would receive moral instructions are disappearing: the nuclear family (which is falling apart), religious institutions (which are denigrated and ridiculed), and the education system (which has been corrupted by Marxism and other socialist ideologies).

Instead of growing up with traditional morality, people are free to make up their own beliefs and standards. And some do. But I’d like to step back and spend some time looking at the outcome of creating our own morality, and reflect on the daunting path we have to travel to overcome the dominance of amorality and resurrecting the commitment to morality.

First, I’ve always had difficulty understanding the definition of amorality. How can people admit they have no moral distinctions or judgments, ideas which are neither moral nor immoral? Even if the usual learning venues aren’t available, there are a myriad of social and cultural avenues for being exposed to morality.

What’s Your Basis for ‘Reason’ and ‘Morality?’


A Catholic cathedral in France taken by my nephew Luke Renoe. This visual art hangs in our home, a marker of transcendence.

I was transported back to the 1980s and ’90s on my drive to university this morning listening to a podcast. I could hear myself making the same arguments to my high school students then. Kate Cohen in a Washington Post article was pushing back on “religious exemptions” used by some to exclude themselves from the mandate of law. Ms. Cohen then suggested as someone who is “not a believer” she would like exemptions from “religious laws.” Cohen’s basis for her belief? It is “in contravention of reason and morality.”

Now those who follow me on social media, my websites, and teaching videos know that I have deep respect for other points of view. But everyone who knows me also realizes that my first response will always be to ask straightforward questions. So here are the questions I would ask Kate Cohen.

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Happiness or emotional peace signals a harmony between the external and the internal. When what we witness or experience in circumstance conforms with who and how we are, then we are content.  The catch is that every one of us is imperfect. We are not exactly who we hope to be or who we think […]

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QotD – Morality


Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike. – Oscar Wilde

This quote sums up the essence of Wokism. It is weaponized morality. Define everything as a moral absolute and use it as a club to beat those you dislike with. After all, if they are immoral, then you can dismiss them as not quite human.

Love Thy Neighbor


It is when we have the most cause to hate and reject our neighbors that we most need to remember the command to love them. Yes, my fellow Christians, it is a command and not merely an invitation. Though no challenge could be so difficult to fulfill, it is the foundation rather than the pinnacle of Christian love. It is a challenge not reserved only for the holiest saints but rather put to every one of us. Our Lord and Creator doesn’t even stop there. “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

A philosophy professor and friend once caught me off guard by claiming that the Golden Rule is nothing special. Any person raised in a good home knows not to mistreat others as oneself doesn’t want to be abused.

On Empathy


If I were a drinking man, I’d play a drinking game: Open a dating app, the comments section of a Washington Post article, a feminist blog, or any other place where people of a left-wing persuasion congregate, and take a shot every time someone writes a paean to empathy.

Whatever your neighbor’s teenage daughter may say, empathy is not a virtue. Empathy is a useful and morally neutral psychological phenomenon, one which might underlie certain virtues, but one which is not itself sufficient as the basis for any coherent ethical system.* The world would not ipso facto become a better place if “everyone had more empathy.” On the contrary, it might degenerate into some version of what we see now: quivering masses of emotional gelatin demanding therapeutic self-affirmation in the form of safe spaces and coloring books; a people paralyzed in unending anguish merely because somewhere, someone is suffering. As a moral principle, empathy is self-defeating. Too often, appealing to the “capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference” is akin to saying, “Every action or belief is legitimate from the point of view of the person who experiences it, and therefore every action or belief is legitimate.” Empathy easily descends into excuse-making. (Take the canonical example of an abused girlfriend: Is she really better off for “showing empathy” to her abuser?) Once empathy is removed from the psychological realm and introduced to the ethical one, it negates the very purpose of ethics, which is to establish a series of principles by which actions can be judged.

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One of the more discouraging things about modern life is the tendency of the media to take every little thing to DEFCON 1* without investigation or thought. That is certainly true of things connected to politics, but the tendency has flowed far beyond that realm. Take for example the revelation that the Houston Astros had […]

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“I’m going to have a Secretary of Education that this young trans person interviews on my behalf, and only if this person believes that our Secretary or Secretary of Education nominee is absolutely committed to creating a welcoming environment, a safe environment, and a full educational curriculum for everyone will that person actually be advanced […]

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Unselfing, Marys and Marthas: Winter of Discontent, or Mind of Winter?


“One must have a mind of winter… And have been cold a long time… not to think / Of any misery in the sound of the wind,” the January wind. So says Wallace Stevens in his poem, The Snow Man. Misery and discontent aren’t identical, but a series of small miseries — unrelated to wintry weather — means February snuck up on me this year, almost as if January never happened, so misery must do for my “winter of discontent”. To “the listener, who listens in the snow,” hearing the sound of the wind, the poem promises if he becomes “nothing himself” he’ll “behold[] / Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” People “cold a long time” can go numb, of course, and numbness is a kind of “nothing” obliterating misery. But numbness seems insufficient for a “mind of winter”.

For our own survival, we see winter’s cold as hostile. Our success as biological beings depends on our sensing discomfort, in order to mitigate risk before it’s too late. Concern for our own comfort is a form of self-regard that isn’t optional, if we care to live. Nonetheless, necessary self-regard is still self-regard. A mind of winter leaves self-regard behind. And so, it sees wintry beauty — the snowy, frozen world lit with “the distant glitter / Of the January sun” — simply because it is there to see, irrespective of what it might mean to the self. Winter in itself isn’t hostile, just indifferent: self-regard makes the indifference seem hostile. A mind of winter is “unselfed”.

Quote of the Day: Empowering the Poor


“Creating a separate set of moral standards according to socio-economic status is not an act of mercy. It is a crime against the poor. It is an abdication of our social duty to hold one another accountable. It is shameful that our self-styled elites are so afraid to preach the very secrets to success they so readily practice in their own lives.” — Arthur C. Brooks, Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America

It is a travesty that the Progressives, and some misguided on the Right, have conditioned those who are poor to believe their false doctrine. The poor learn from them that they are hostages of the culture, that they have little to no power to grow and improve themselves, that the white majority (substitute white supremacy) culture is determined to keep them down and impoverish them. I simply can’t reconcile the calls for compassion from the Left, with their arrogance about the ability of others to thrive in this great country. Their beliefs are so devastating to the soul.

I think Donald Trump, by helping to improve the economic conditions of the country and of so many minorities, has given them the opportunity to re-consider their situations and to strive to be part of not only this great recovering economy, but of the country that wants its people to succeed. 

The Bad Guys? Part 2


For most of my life, Johnny Lawrence was a bad guy. The student leader of the Cobra Kai dojo in 1984’s The Karate Kid was my generation’s bully prototype. But that all changed last year when YouTube produced a continuation of the franchise centered on Johnny called Cobra Kai. The show is far from great (I skim through several sections in each episode), but I keep watching because I’ve been impressed with how the writers managed to cast Johnny in an entirely different light.

The show depicts an older Johnny as he scrapes up enough cash to reopen his old dojo. Just as he begins to have some success, Daniel Larusso – now a successful business owner – becomes a bully to Johnny, using his fame and influence to smash the upstart business before it can take root in the community.

After only two episodes, I found myself rooting for Johnny and his new Cobras against Daniel, and Daniel’s thoroughly unlikable new protege.

The Bad Guys? Part 1


The scene is one of the most iconic in film history. The Battle of Atlanta near the middle of Gone With The Wind depicts the carnage of war. As Scarlett O’Hara searches for Dr. Meade among several wounded and dying Confederate soldiers, the camera pulls back to reveal dozens more, then hundreds of bodies, 1,600 in all. It was at this point of watching the film when my daughter asked if Joshua Chamberlain (her namesake) was there.

“No,” I told her. “He was a Union officer. But remember earlier, when they were reading the dispatches from Gettysburg? He was in that battle.”

The nine-year-old absorbed this, then followed up her question. “So these are the bad guys?”

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Sohrab Ahmari’s latest piece in First Things cause quite a stir and rightfully so. I am a big fan of Ahmari and First Things- though both have disappointed in this episode. I appreciate David French, but he is far from my favorite conservative. David’s cultural tastes are different than mine. He likes the NBA, blockbuster […]

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Morality and Politics: Do You Try to Make Moral Choices?


I am cringing while I write this post, in a way I never have. I don’t trust that we can have a civil conversation about this topic; that I may open old wounds and create havoc. I’ve asked myself over and over whether I can trust all of you to be decent, moral human beings. I think I can trust you; I hope I can because this question has been nagging at me for months, and I need your help to resolve it. Let’s make this an opportunity to do it together, in our search for truth and understanding. That means putting aside the need to win or be right; I don’t think either of those efforts will be successful.

All that said, I have been struggling with my own morality related to politics.

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The week of Easter 2019 was difficult, personally and as a Christian. I lost my mother in law, our last remaining parent. Notre Dame caught fire and burned, doing massive damage. The small Christian community of Sri Lanka suffered terrorist attacks, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Another shooting at a Jewish synagogue in California. I […]

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One topic that is being talked about often among the intellectual dark web is the relationship between religion and morality. Ben Shapiro argues that non-religious morality can only be developed to a limited extent. Sam Harris argues that we can derive our morality without reference to a deity or a Holy book. The discussion of […]

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