From the Humanities to the Subhumanities

Part of the problem with the way the humanities are often taught today and part of the problem of postmodernist academia in general is that human beings and works of art are reduced from their complexity into ciphers of gender, sex, class, and race.  Instead of reading an author for what can be learned or appreciating the artistry of the work, he or she is “interrogated”–some scholars actually use that term, a metaphor from the totalitarian police state–for his or her ideological transgressions.

The estimable Anthony Esolen has a piece in the Intercollegiate Review that challenges this reductionism.  He does so with the help of Marilynne Robinson’s Christian novel Gilead. [Read more…]

Does anyone have power anymore?

Richard Cohen reviews The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be
by Moises Naim.

“Power is decaying,” Naim writes — and he provides all sorts of examples. Companies that once ruled the world (sort of) suddenly disappear. Kodak went bust (in a flash). Two huge American auto companies came to Washington with a tin cup. BlackBerry was once supposedly so addictive it was called “crackberry.” Now it’s nearly a goner. CEOs come and go at a dizzying pace — about 80 percent of the leaders of major companies are forced out before their terms are up, gridlocking golf courses all over America. Belgium veers to the ungovernable; the United Kingdom may not be united for long, the Northern League wants out of Italy, and in this increasingly fractured world, South Sudan in 2011 became the world’s 193rd nation, up from 51 in the 1940s. [Read more…]

Making churches pay taxes

We should make churches pay taxes. So say two recent articles.  Matthew Yglesias of Slate says that tax breaks force citizens to, in effect, fund religions they disagree with. Also, tax breaks don’t improve church productivity, since upgrading the building and other things churches spend money on won’t necessarily save more souls.  Also, eliminating the non-profit tax break would allow churches to proclaim their moral convictions more forthrightly and to endorse political candidates, which he thinks is perfectly appropriate.

Then Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post, expressing agreement with Yglesias, counts just how much tax breaks for churches cost the government and, following the assumption that all money belongs to the government so that not taking someone else’s money is an government expense and a giveaway, he concludes that “You give religions more than $82.5 billion per year.”

After the jump:  The links and excerpts giving their arguments.  Can you answer them?  Or are they right? [Read more…]

First sleep, second sleep

David T. Koyzis points to historical research that shows that people used to sleep differently than we do today.  Instead of sleeping for an 8-hour-or-so block of time, people would sleep three or four hours, wake up for two or three hours, and then sleep again until morning.  It would all take about 12 hours–go to bed when it got dark (say at 8:00 p.m.); wake up at midnight until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.; then enjoy what they called “second sleep” until 8:00 a.m.

This was the practice in the West from ancient times until the 17th century with the advent of street lights and then the industrial revolution, though it lingered on some places until the 20th century.  (And today in some people’s patterns of insomnia.)

Prof. Koyzis shows how this fact explains certain passages in Scripture.  Also the monastic prayer offices in the middle of the night.  Also, I would add, the various watches of the night, in which sailors, soldiers, and others out in the elements exposed to danger  took three-hour shifts standing guard through the night.   Details after the jump. [Read more…]

The Lutheran roots of Radical Orthodoxy

Not long ago we posted about the theological and philosophical movement known as Radical Orthodoxy, asking whether Lutherans could have a seat at that table.  Well, in another context, my friend George Strieter put me on to Johann Georg Hamann, a devout Lutheran who was friends with Kant and Hegel but who critiqued their philosophies with some extremely innovative philosophy of his own.   It turns out, Hamann’s thought is said to be a major influence on ” Oswald Bayer, John Milbank and David Bentley Hart.”  The latter two are the most prominent figures in Radical Orthodoxy.  And that Oswald Bayer , perhaps the favorite contemporary German theologian at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, is mentioned here puts him in the company of the radically orthodox. [Read more…]

A Constitutional convention?

Conservative pundit Mark Levin has written a book entitled  The Liberty Amendments (which debuted at #1 on Amazon) which calls for a Constitutional convention to propose amendments that would rein in the power of the federal government.  (Under Article V of the Constitution,  2/3 of the states could call such a convention.  That would mean 34.  It would take 3/4 of the states to ratify any amendments that were proposed.)

The idea is picking up supporters from Rush Limbaugh to Senator Tom Coburn, from Tea Party activists to Conservative think tankers.  And efforts are being organized to sell the notion to state legislators.

After the jump:  A list of Levin’s proposed amendments, an excerpt from a review discussing them, and thoughts from me.

What do you think of this idea?  Would it work?  Should it?  Could it get the support of enough states?  What do you think of the individual amendments he is proposing? [Read more…]