Japan flirts with World War II ideology again

Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party has just won a 2/3 majority in both of its houses of legislature, enabling it to amend its Constitution, which had been imposed by the United States after World War II.  The party wants to change the Constitution because it enshrines “the Western European theory of natural human rights,” including the freedom of speech.

Many in the party, including the Prime Minister, belong to a group that believes Japan was in the right during World War II.  These lawmakers want to rebuild Japan’s military capacity and to return to worship of the Emperor. [Read more…]

The nun who faced down Billy the Kid

Sister Blandina Segale was a nun who served in the wild West.  Her exploits in frontier New Mexico are legion, including when she faced down Billy the Kid.  Twice.  She also battled the cruel treatment of Indians, worked with prisoners, tended the sick, and fought the sexual trafficking of women.

Now she is being considered for sainthood.  Also for a TV series. [Read more…]

Missing the smoke-filled room

Delegates opposing Donald Trump disrupted the choreography at the Republican national convention.  They booed, yelled (“shame!”  “roll call vote!”), and walked out after their petition to have the convention vote on freeing the delegates was gaveled down without a roll call vote.

In other news, Donald Trump defied the tradition that the candidate only appears on the last night to receive the nomination, showing up to introduce his wife Melania, who was the main speaker of the night.

After the jump, Jonah Goldberg argues that picking a candidate at an open convention, with pols negotiating in smoke-filled rooms, is a superior way of fielding a strong candidate, as opposed to all of the primary mini-elections, in which even non-party members can often have a say. [Read more…]

The history of the word “mercy”

The word “mercy” is gaining more and more currency in Christianity these days.  It has long been a favorite word of LMCS president Matthew Harrison, and, more recently, of Pope Francis.  Kory Stamper, a lexicographer with Merriam-Webster dictionary, gives its history after the jump.

Originally, “mercy” meant clemency for an offender.  The word came from the same root a “merchandise,” referring to a “payment.”  So a plea for mercy meant that “the object of mercy was not deserving of compassion, that the party showing mercy was literally bearing the cost of the crime or debt on themselves.”  That is to say, the word “mercy” was all about the gospel.

Later, the term began to be used for compassion to any one in need.  But the gospel, enshrined in the very etymology of the word, applies there too. [Read more…]

Confessions of an ex-liberal theologian

Thomas C. Oden is a prominent theologian who formerly was a major practitioner of liberal, modernist theology.  But then, after reading the Church Fathers, he did an about face, turning to orthodox, historical Christianity.  He tells his story in A Change of Heart:  A Personal and Theological Memoir.

This is the most stimulating and illuminating book that I have read in a long time, giving an inside look at the construction of liberal theology, explaining what happened to mainstream Protestantism, and describing in novelistic detail how a prominent scholar came back to an authentic Christian faith.

Reading this book, published a couple of years ago, was an especially strange experience for me because Oden’s background and mine are so similar!  Though he is 20 years older than I am, our experiences have been so similar or at least parallel that reading about them is like reading about my own life.  [Read more…]

The magnitude of human sin

One of my most formative memories is when I was ten years old and the Holocaust administrator Adolf Eichmann was on trial.  The four TV channels covered his trial, as he sat smirking behind a screen of bullet proof glass, and showed a number of documentaries about the Nazi genocide.  Those black and white television images of piles and piles of human bodies, along with the accounts of what happened in the death camps, shook me to my core.  My parents let me watch it, and I’m glad they did.  It showed me in a way I have never forgotten the magnitude of human sin.

The memories came back because Elie Wiesel, the Auschwitz survivor and chronicler of the Nazi genocide, died at the age of 87. [Read more…]