Tag: Religion

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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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What is Oregon Governor Kate Brown talking about here? Most of us probably struggle to convey our religious beliefs but she almost sounds like she has never given it any thought. Giving some rambling response about spirits and yoga when asked about your religious beliefs is…quite Portland. Brown seems, for some reason, unwilling to acknowledge […]

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Suckers for Jesus! Or, Holy Kitsch!

 

I can’t call it “only in America,” because kitschy and silly, though harmless, religious trinkets seem to be a universal phenomenon. Still, there is something endearingly American about this online Christian storefront, selling Testamints, crucifix-shaped lollies, gourmet Scripture suckers, chocolate tulips (must be for the Calvinists), and little gummy Jesus “footsteps”: show that you walk in His footsteps by eating His feet!

“Take and eat… do this in remembrance of me.” In a religion based on the Eucharist, I suppose it’s not exactly blasphemous to consume Jesus in gummy form, though I doubt my grandmother would have agreed: she would have seen candy shaped like all or any part of Jesus as blasphemously irreverent, even if abstract religious symbols were commonplace in eats where she came from. Part of the wider Christian culture in America is to downplay aesthetic differences: high church or low, contemporary or old-fashioned, why argue adiaphora, huh? At the same time, aesthetics go to the heart of worship: whatever we think “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” means, it only seems fitting to give of our best (whatever that is) in acts of reverence. Religious kitsch occupies a funny place, not just strange, but amusing — and not just amusing to snobs who wish to disdain the rubes. The Babylon Bee, a favorite site of many of us here, often pokes fun at Christian kitsch, and it could hardly be said to disdain American Christians: it pokes fun at the kitsch because it’s run by American Christians.

What even counts as kitsch depends on your background. My grandmother, raised very Lutheran, had pretty exacting standards for what wasn’t kitschy. Were the sanctuary and music too contemporary and informal? Kitschy. Were they too ornate? Kitschy. Most religious statuary and paintings? Also kitschy. That she was Lutheran may have had less to do with her severe standards than the kind of Lutheran she was: she came from a place where Lutherans and “Papists” (Catholics) didn’t quite get along, and when she arrived in America, she was (mostly) eager to assimilate. More eager, she thought, than her Italian neighbors, who might plant a bathtub Madonna in the midst of their front lawn.

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There is a lot of justifiable concern about Islam in the United Kingdom and other western democracies. Terror attacks, no-go areas and restrictions on speech are concerns of lots of people. Douglas Murray has recently wrote a book (I have not read it at the time of this writing) titled, “The Strange Death of Europe.” […]

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William F. Buckley Jr. was a strong Catholic and probably the most influential conservative of his generation.  Recently, Dennis Prager wrote a column titled, Conservatives, too, undergo secular indoctrination.  In that column Prager wrote  in American terms, the American conservative I most admired, William F. Buckley Jr., the founder and publisher of National Review, was […]

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“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” ~John Adams – 2nd President of the United States, 1st Vice President, and assisted in drafting […]

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Deep Dive on the Declaration of Independence and Its Relevance Today

 

In honor of Independence Day, for this week’s Big Ideas with Ben Weingarten podcast I take a deep dive into the Declaration of Independence, discussing:

  • Its unique place in human history and the cause of freedom
  • The link between natural law and natural rights, faith and freedom
  • The Founders’ emphasis on virtue and morality to sustain a free system of limited government
  • Parallels between the charges laid out against King George III in the Declaration and modern America from the administrative state to sanctuary cities
  • The Founders’ views on slavery, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and failing to live up to the values and principles of the Declaration
  • The imperative to defend liberty against tyranny
  • And much more

You can find the episode on iTunes, everywhere else podcasts are found or download the episode directly here.

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LeBron James and I have something in common – we are both native Ohioans. We live within 30 minutes of each other. I will always celebrate and thank him for bringing NE OH the 2016 NBA championship, but he’s left us again and is moving to LA. But there is a silver lining to this […]

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Is It Really the Protestant Work Ethic?

 

Why are the United States, England, and northern Europe rich while southern and eastern Europe poor? You will hear many answers, and a popular one cribs from Max Weber — Protestantism. I am a Protestant myself, so one might think that I should like this answer, but as a historian, I believe in studying history to learn from it, not merely have my own biases confirmed. And frankly, I don’t really like this answer.

The argument is that Protestants — by which are normally meant Calvinist lineages, not Lutherans — have several beliefs that encourage hard work, living modestly, and investing.  The first is the doctrine of predestination and the elect. At the beginning of the world, God elected who would be saved. One can never know whether is in the elect, but material success was a strong suggestion of it. Thus, financial prudence was encouraged. Second, the iconoclastic tendencies meant that churches did not collect funds from their parishioners for elaborate and ornate decoration, leaving more money in the hands of the people. Going along with that point, virtually every form of wasteful spending — luxurious clothes, food, furniture, entertainments, gambling — was condemned as sinful. Finally, charity to the poor was kept extremely minimal in honor of Paul’s statement that those who will not work will not eat.  All this, according to Weber, added up to a society that generated wealth and had nothing to spend it on except more capitalistic investment, and these societal elements continued to encourage wealth creation even as the Calvinist denominations shrunk in favor of Methodists and Baptists who didn’t share the inciting doctrines.

Well, allow me H.L. Mencken: “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” Frankly, the “Calvinism makes people rich” theory strikes me as being one of those explanations, because it ignores so many other factors that distinguish Protestant Europe from Catholic and Orthodox Europe.

Quote of the Day: Savoring the Enemy’s Losses

 

“Grant had captured an army of at least 13,000 men, a record of the North American continent. He showed mercy toward the conquered force, giving them food and letting them keep their side arms. Avoiding any show of celebration, he refused to shame soldiers and vetoed any ceremony in which they marched. ‘Why should we go through with vain forms and mortify and injure the spirit of brave men, who, after all, are our own countrymen,’ he asked.” — from Grant, by Ron Chernow

“If your enemy falls, do not exult; if he trips, let your heart not rejoice, lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and avert his wrath from him.” —Proverbs, 24: 17-18

For all his overindulgence with alcohol, Ulysses S. Grant was a brilliant general. Although he had some embarrassing losses, he was relentless, strategic and smart. Yet he agonized over those left dead on the battlefield, whether they were his own men or the men of the Confederate army. He was not only determined to lessen their misery, but tried to treat the wounded and dead on both sides, with dignity and compassion.

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Do you recognize the author? “My modest goal is to re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities. For the Lord has chosen each one of us “to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1:4). We are never completely ourselves […]

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While the Left has been pre-occupied with giving rights to just about everyone else, Donald Trump decided to make a move that will finally protect our health care workers’ religious rights.   : More than 300 individuals filed a complaint with the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department over the last month, saying that their religious or conscience rights […]

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Another Democrat Senator Questions Trump Nominee’s Religious Views

 

In confirmation hearings for Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo, Senator Corey Booker chided the Presbyterian Sunday School teacher for holding to the same view of same-sex marriage that most Americans held just a few years ago. Pompeo, you will be shocked to learn, is against it.

The senator went on to justify his marriage questions by alluding to the persecution of homosexuals in other countries. Here is a part of their exchange, according to The Federalist:

Quote of the Day: Socialism

 

“The old argument about the science of socialism was that it would be more efficient than capitalism and markets. Eliminate all that waste of competition and plan what is to be produced, by whom, where, and we’ll all have more stuff. We’ll be richer in short.

“Then we went and tested the contention to destruction and 1989 showed that it was incorrect.

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After reading @simontemplar’s post, my hackles are up. I tried not to rend my clothes or pull my hair, but stay rational after reading in his post that George Washington University (note the name) is hosting a forum to combat “Christian Privilege.” I almost bit a hole in my lip. http://ricochet.com/508074/the-assault-on-western-civ-continues-unabated/  I’m sure this is […]

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Marriage and Love In high school my friend Josh and I once discussed marriage and love. Was true love even real? Do people marry other people for reasons of character or more material considerations? Was anyone even capable of keeping their virginity for marriage? He and I had different answers to these questions. Preview Open

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How Christian Are Christians?

 

Last Wednesday, I caught a bit of Glenn Beck’s show while driving across town. The subject kept me from turning the dial, even though I don’t usually listen to him. The subject? How Christianity is losing the culture.

In an interview with Jonathan Bock, they went over some Pew Research and Gallup poll numbers that show alarming statistics for church attendance, Bible reading habits, and tithing.

Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

 

This is a project our company has been working on for the last couple years in Knoxville, TN. It is the new seat of the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville, which serves all of eastern Tennessee, and was dedicated this weekend. Here is a recording of the Mass and Rite of Dedication for those that would like to breeze through all four hours and 44 minutes of it. More than 100 priests, 21 bishops and archbishops, and five cardinals participated in the dedication ceremony.

The new cathedral increases the seating capacity of the old facility from 580 to 1,358 worshipers and square footage from a previous 7,500 to 28,000. The total project cost was $30.8 million, has 100 pews, and 100 seats in the choir loft. Ceiling height in the nave is 50 feet with the dome soaring 144 feet above the floor at the peak. There were 111 concrete piers drilled into bedrock. Construction took over 400 tons of steel and over 5,000 cubic yards of concrete. There are estimated to be 41 miles of wood blocking and trim, 20,000 pieces of Indiana limestone, 300,000 Roman style bricks, and 50,000 concrete blocks.

Trump and the Evangelicals

 

Ever since Trump’s election, the lopsided statistics concerning Evangelical involvement in his victory have not gone away. They continue to be trotted out as though they were a shocking revelation of some kind of hypocrisy within the Christian right. So, of course, in response to the National Prayer Breakfast, NPR had several guests on to discuss Christianity in relationship to the Trump Presidency.

Larry Mantle began by questioning Professor Marie Griffith of Washington University: