Why You Must Read Shakespeare to Understand OITNB’s Second Season

 In its first season, Orange is the New Black (OITNB) was a show about a motley crew of women prisoners premised on the fact that these women were much more than criminals. They were mothers, wisecracks, lovers, entrepreneurs, dreamers and, most of all, friends (albeit among racial lines). It was also, on the other hand, a show about how there are “criminal” desires in all of us, even in bourgeois, educated people like Piper, the protagonist in the first season, who finds herself mal … [Read more...]

On “Drunken” Christianity

Today, many Americans will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo, a holiday celebrated in America and Mexico that commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory in the Battle of Pueblo. In America, most of the celebration is accompanied by copious amounts of partying. Unlike most Americans, I see today as a different sort of holiday: the 201st birthday of Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard’s thought offers an interesting reflection for us on this tequila-drenched holiday.For Kierkegaard, the Modern Age has ushe … [Read more...]

The Gospel of Authenticity

In last Saturday’s New York Times, Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster critique the “pursuit of authenticity” that has pervaded American spirituality in the past few decades. Titling their piece, “The Gospel According to ‘Me’,” Critchley and Webster describe America’s transition from a society rooted in Judeo-Christian morals to one characterized by “a weak but all-pervasive idea of spirituality tied to a personal ethic of authenticity and a liturgy of inwardness.” Spirituality has become an “ea … [Read more...]

Literature and the Moral Life

During a class discussion in college, I recall one of my English professors off-handedly commenting, “Well, we study literature to become better people, right?” The question struck me as odd then, as it does now. Certainly reading classic works can improve a reader’s analytical skills; perhaps it also aids intellectual and personal development.  But that doesn’t mean it always makes us more moral. I was a physics major in college, and this point seemed clear-cut to me at the time. I could learn t … [Read more...]

Why I’m Not Going to Talk About “Culture” Anymore (or Bill O’Reilly and the Guinness Shamrock)

Bill O’Reilly, primetime gladiator, walks into a bar. Specifically, it’s an Irish pub. Bill is traveling, covering immigration in El Paso, Texas, and he’s thirsty. He pulls up a stool at the bar, orders a Guinness. The bartender pours it and hands it over. “You’re a patriot,” says Bill. Bill picks up the chilled glass (made in Mexico). He sees that in the beer’s luxuriant head, the bartender has drawn a frothy shamrock. He tips the glass back, then replaces it on the bar top with a satisfied sigh … [Read more...]

Ethics, Tribal and Global

 We live in a moment that is at once pervaded by guilt and dismissive of its reality. This was the paradox set forth by Wilfred McClay last Thursday in his talk, co-sponsored by Trinity Forum and the Pepperdine University, “The Strange Persistence of Guilt in a Post-Religious World: How it Affects our Public Life, and What We Can Do About It.”McClay notes that his students seem to be feel guilty about almost everything: colonialism, environmental problems, structural poverty, and so … [Read more...]

Christianity’s Declining Moral Capital

Richard Gunderman touts the benefits of honesty in his recent piece for The Atlantic, “Is Lying Bad for Us?” Considering factors from physiology to personal awareness, Gunderman makes a case for value of truthfulness in a piece that reflects the difficulty of justifying virtues on their intrinsic merit in a society with a declining sense of moral objectivity. Gunderman’s piece begins by surveying the current state of honesty in America. He reports that people lie not only to avoid embarr … [Read more...]