Could the Scandinavian model work here?

Bernie Sanders is proposing that the United States adopt the “democratic socialism” of the Scandinavian countries (though they reverse the emphasis in calling their ideology “social democracy”).  As a follow up to my recent visit to Denmark and Norway, I came upon two articles that touched on the cultural factors–including their Lutheran heritage–that make that system work, not only in Europe but with Scandinavian immigrants in America. [Read more...]

The 1st use of the Law and the new commenting system

We theology nerds talk quite a bit about the Second Use of the Law (the theological use, the “mirror,” which convicts us of sin and drives us to the Gospel), and we argue about the Third Use of the Law (the didactic use, the “guide,” which shows Christians how to live).  We don’t usually say much about the First Use of the Law (the civil use, the “curb,” which enables sinners to live in societies).

The First Use of the Law concerns only external righteousness.  There is no merit to it, no question of earning salvation by external compliance.  Jesus teaches us that we violate the commandment against murder when we hate our brother, and we violate the commandment against adultery when we lust after someone in our hearts.  That inner state is where our status as sinners is evidenet, and it is this inner condition that the Gospel addresses.  But it is also important not to murder anyone externally or to actually commit adultery.  This external righteousness is absolutely necessary if human beings are to live together in families, nations, and societies.  Even someone boiling over with sinfulness on the inside can, on the outside, be a good citizen.

Our sinful nature has to be “curbed.”  The Law achieves this by means of things like parental discipline, the state’s legal system, and social sanctions.  The Law’s first use can make us feel guilt and shame.  We would be ashamed to actually do some of the things we fantasize about.  Many harmful enterprises are held back when the question arises, What if someone finds out?  Being held back by such considerations does not make us a moral person–we shouldn’t have had those fantasies in the first place–but they make civil society possible. [Read more...]

Freedom and the new comment system

Thanks, everybody, for trying out the new World Table comment system.  I can relate to the frustrations some of you are registering.  Thanks also to Jack Donaldson of World Table for commenting on the various threads.  We should rate him as “helpful,” “strongly agree.”  He wrote me an e-mail with the subject “Wow! Loving your community!”  That shows a great attitude, given how many of you were “rating” his system rather poorly, but he is right to be impressed with your thoughtfulness and your high level of discourse.  He said this:  “Great feedback coming in so far. I’ve been in the thread answering people’s questions this morning. So far, most everything mentioned is in the works, but we are feeling the pressure, having heard a ton of feedback from your folks.”  We’ll see what happens with all of this.

Anyway, one larger point was raised that deserves discussion in itself.  Is this attempt to create a climate of civility by means of an algorithm part of the same syndrome that has given us politically correct speech codes, trigger warnings, and the hypersensitivity to being offended that shuts down the freedom of speech?  The syndrome that we have mocked and criticized on this very blog?  Do we have such thin skins that we need to be protected from other commenters, lest our feelings be hurt?

I’d like to hear what you think about this, but I think there is a difference in what this new comment system is trying to do, which I will explain after the jump. [Read more...]

Are Liberals Losing the Culture Wars?

It seems as if cultural conservatives are losing battle after battle, with the American public embracing gay marriage, sexual permissiveness, drug legalization, and on and on.  But an article in the usually liberal Atlantic, looking at last week’s election results and other indicators, argues that liberals may be overplaying their hands and that Americans are not as culturally progressive as has been assumed. [Read more...]

Why the left doesn’t believe in free speech

Michael Barone has a fascinating column, excerpted after the jump, about how leftists, on campuses and elsewhere, are trying to silence anyone who disagrees with them.  But this should not be surprising.

The hard left, whether of the Marxist variety or the post-Marxist variety (which substitutes oppression of women, races, or other groups for the Marxist focus on economic oppression and class struggle) nearly always rejects free speech, as well as other civil liberties, whenever they get into power, as we have seen in communist regimes  If you reject individualism in favor of collectivism, believe that liberty is a bourgeois value designed to promote capitalism, and think that those in power always almost by definition suppress those who oppose them, then, yes, you will reject free speech.

The left certainly holds the power at most college campuses and in some other political and cultural circles, so of course they will impose speech codes and punish dissenters. [Read more...]

A sense of place

Paul Greenberg is an acclaimed nationally-syndicated columnist who has spent most of his life and career in small town Arkansas.  A recent column deals with a quality we have been hearing more about lately from the localist movement (see, for example, the Front Porch Republic); namely, “a sense of place.”  He says of those who do not have this connectedness to a specific land and community, “they inspire a certain pity, the way anyone homeless does.” (Excerpt and link after the jump.)

What he is describing is exactly what I am experiencing, now that we have moved back to our native Oklahoma. [Read more...]