“The Incomprehensible Witness of Forgiveness”: John Inazu

rounds up some commentary and adds his own: ...Nor is forgiveness reconciliation. Reconciliation is only possible when forgiveness meets repentance. And meaningful social change requires the kind of social reconciliation that can only emerge through aggregated instances of both forgiveness and repentance. In South Africa, during the process of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the failure of widespread repentance among whites to match widespread forgiveness among blacks constrained the … [Read more...]

The Martyred Crowd: “Cathedral of the August Heat, A Novel of Haiti”

This is a short, feverish, seamy, painful book from 1987 about a revolutionary upsurge among the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere. It's written by a dissident journalist exiled by the Duvaliers. It's Communist in rhetoric, and there are moments toward the end when the rhetoric and also the optimism feel really flimsy. But most of the book is given over to tales of life at the bottom: sultry dreamscapes and violent nightmares, phantasmagoric beauty and brutal suffering, … [Read more...]

Forgiveness and Social Justice

Does Christ's command to love our enemies and bless those who curse us place especially heavy burdens on the marginalized and disadvantaged?On its face the answer is obviously "yes." The more vulnerable you are to others' abuse of power, the more they will hurt you and the more you will have to forgive. Women so often appear as icons of forgiveness in men's stories (last point) because we are more vulnerable to them than they are to one another.This is part of the reason for something … [Read more...]

Voices from the Fire: Medieval Jewish Martyr Laments

Part of my Lenten reading was Susan L. Einbinder's Beautiful Death: Jewish Poetry and Martyrdom in Medieval France. It's a very readable adapted thesis which makes a few arguments--for example, that Jewish martyr laments shifted over time from proclaiming God's covenant with the community, to depicting individual transformation of the martyrs; that the laments shift from emphasizing demographic diversity to exalting scholars as a sort of martyr elite; and that the laments show the degree to … [Read more...]

Marriage as Work vs Marriage as the Cross

From the department of Those Who Can't Do and/or Fools Rush In, so as always, this post is worth at most what you paid for it:Conservatives often argue that Americans have a Disneyfied, "soulmate" view of marriage, which makes us unprepared for the fact that marriage--like all vocations--can be terribly hard. I don't think that's quite right. We do have a cultural vocabulary for talking about the "hard parts" of marriage. The problem is that we have only one vocabulary, only one metaphor; … [Read more...]

“Domestic Tranquility”: I review Andrew Cherlin on working-class families

for the Weekly Standard:When the sociologist Timothy Nelson asked low-income men who didn’t live with their children what the ideal father was like, eight of them spontaneously mentioned the same man: Ward Cleaver, the dad from Leave It to Beaver. That might make sense if Nelson’s interviews had taken place in the 1950s-60s, when the show aired; but these men were interviewed in the late 2000s. Why did they hark back to a man old enough to be their own grandfather? Maybe it is because the … [Read more...]

“America’s Imperial Mental Illness”: I’m in AmCon

reading Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche. I finally got around to Ethan Watters’s 2010 Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, an exposé of the exporting of American concepts of mental illness.Watters writes with justified outrage about the corporations, humanitarian organizations, and mass media which have acted as pushers of both drugs and therapies. He depicts charities descending on post-tsunami Sri Lanka, ignoring local cultural practices and ba … [Read more...]


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