Duty and Vocation

Reflecting on the beards of the Red Sox made me think about the Victorians and a concept that was a major preoccupation of that era but that is hardly talked about anymore today:  Duty.   This is not the same as virtue or morality.  Rather, it is the obligation associated with a particular vocation.

The duty of a husband is to be faithful to his wife, support her, and protect her.  The duty of a soldier is to obey orders, remain at his post, and hazard his life for his country.  The duty of a worker is to do a good job, etc., etc.

Significantly, the place in Luther’s Small Catechism that teaches about vocation, giving the Biblical teachings about “the various holy orders”–such as pastors and laity, rulers and citizens, husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and workers–is called the Table of Duties. 

After the jump is William Wordsworth’s “Ode to Duty,” in which the pioneering Romantic poet writes about how he is sick of living just for himself and how he craves “the spirit of self sacrifice.”  Maybe our culture will get to that point. [Read more...]

Self-interest vs. ideology

Is it better in the realm of politics to stand on principle or to pursue self-interest?  Most of us would probably say the former.  But Robert J. Samuelson argues that self-interest is superior, even morally, to following an ideology, which breeds conflict, governmental paralysis, and the demonization of opponents.

Mr. Samuelson shows that the left and the right are both fixated on ideology and that their rhetoric and tactics are pretty much identical to each other.  After the jump, you can see how he makes his case. [Read more...]

The casino-government complex

More and more states are not only legalizing gambling, they are cashing in on it, raking in lots of revenue through mutually cushy deals with big casinos.  Michael Gerson discusses the problems with what he calls “the casino-government complex.” [Read more...]

Virtual evil in video games

“How Evil Should a Video Game Allow You to Be?”  That’s the title of a provocative essay for the New Yorker by Simon Parkin.  When you read a work of literature featuring an evil person, you are in the mode of an observer.  But when you  play certain popular video games, you enter into the point of view of the evil person and are implicated in what he does (since, after all, you cause them).  The article isn’t against video games as such–indeed, it shows how this ability to put the player into a particular point of view has great artistic possibilities.  But still, as the article recounts some of the depravity that video games cause us to act out, it raises important questions, especially for Christians for whom sin “in the heart” can be as soul-destroying as sin acted out. [Read more...]

Cohabitation requires too much commitment?

The number of unmarried couples who are just living together skyrocketed in the last decades of the 20th century.  But since 2000 the cohabitation rate  has stalled.  Experts are saying that one reason may be that living together has become so common that it has become traditional, rather like marriage.  And, like marriage, living together is perceived as requiring too much commitment. [Read more...]

Pathological generosity

In Brazil a man  suffered a stroke, whereupon he started giving away his money, giving food to street children, and being so kind to everyone that he has been diagnosed as having “pathological generosity.”  Interestingly, his condition made him lose his job as a manager for a large corporation. [Read more...]


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