The Pope’s sermon to America

Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress, taking the opportunity to preach against tenets of both liberalism and conservatism.  Liberals were zinged by his remarks opposing abortion, redefining the family, and infringing upon religious liberty.  Conservatives were zinged by his remarks on the necessity of supporting immigrants, measures to combat climate change, the elimination of the death penalty, tempering the excesses of capitalism, offering help for the poor, and (interestingly) opposing “fundamentalism.”

To his credit, the Pope twice mentioned “vocation” in a more or less Lutheran sense (as opposed to the medieval Catholic application of the term to church professions alone):

A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.

“Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129).

Here is an annotated text of the speech (click the yellow highlights for the annotations).  After the jump, a detailed account of what the Pope said and how Congressmen and Senators reacted. [Read more…]

Criticism leads to revision of AP History Exam

The last version of the Advanced Placement History exam, which allows high schoolers to test out of college courses–as well as the material required to prepare for it–bought into the leftist revisionist history movement, portraying American history mainly in terms of how oppressive it was.  (See this and this.)

Conservative parents and academics pushed back.  And now they have won a rare victory, with the College Board revising the exam to eliminate bias and to include more of the good things about America.  Some critics are pleased with the revision, while others don’t think it goes far enough.  But still. . . . [Read more…]

The Declaration of Independence and natural law

Legal scholar Randy Barnett offer a fascinating section by section reading of the Declaration of Independence, which he says succinctly states the political theory of the American founding.  He summarizes it this way:

  • The rights of individuals do not originate with any government, but pre-exist its formation.
  • The protection of these rights is both the purpose and first duty of government.
  • Even after government is formed, these rights provide a standard by which its performance is measured and, in extreme cases, its systemic failure to protect rights—or its systematic violation of rights—can justify its alteration or abolition.
  • At least some of these rights are so fundamental that they are “inalienable,” meaning they are so intimately connected to one’s nature as a human being that they cannot be transferred to another even if one consents to do so.

But I’d like to draw your attention to his exposition of the first paragraph and his explanation of “The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”  In quoting a clergyman of the time, he gives a helpful explanation of what we mean by that much-misunderstood concept of “natural law,” as well as showing how that was a fundamental assumption of the American founders. [Read more…]

Celebrating America, in light of everything

People on the left often have problems being patriotic on the 4th of July, since they consider the nation whose birthday is celebrated to have been built on slavery, imperialism, and a predatory capitalism.  But now conservatives, usually the big flag wavers on Independence Day, might also feel disillusioned with the USA.

We live in a country that seems to stand for license without freedom.  We are ruled by trends instead of by law.  We are radical individualists and, at the same time, conformists.   We have a good constitution, but no one follows it much anymore, and our Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches all seem out of whack.  To be sure, America should not be confused with its government, but even worse than our government and the source of its errors is our culture.  Oblivious to our history and traditions, today’s culture seems shallow, materialistic, irrational, and immoral.  America may have been a good idea back in 1776, but the reality is not measuring up.  Or so we might think in 2015.

I think even those who think that way–or the way the Left thinks–should celebrate on July 4.  I’ll explain why after the jump. [Read more…]

All of the state flags need to be changed?

States whose flags incorporate the Confederate Battle flag are probably going to be re-designing their banners.  But Alexandra Petri says that all of the states should get rid of their state flags and just start over.  She then launches into humorous critiques of all 50. After the jump, a link to her article and samples of what she considers the really bad ones. [Read more…]

“Voting Republican will not save us now”

Rod Dreher takes a bleak look at the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.  It is now clear, he says, that we really do live in a post-Christian culture.  Now that homosexuality has been given the status of race, the government and the public really are going to go after those who don’t believe that homosexuality is moral.  The institution of marriage as a whole is going to be affected, since, if it can be redefined at will, it will no longer have any boundaries.  So Christians will have to live as exiles in their own country.  Dreher goes on to advocate “the Benedict option.”

What do you think about this?  Is Dreher over-stating the problems?  Are things really going to be that bad? [Read more…]


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