Two Koreas

While in North Korea, President Trump held back on schoolyard insults to Kim Jong-un, and focused on the damage that Kim’s regime has caused to North Koreans: “Far from valuing its people as equal citizens, this cruel dictatorship measures them, scores them, and ranks them based on the most arbitrary indications of their allegiance to the state. Those who score the highest in loyalty may live in the capital city. Those who score the lowest starve. A small infraction by one citizen,… Read more

The Original Structuralist

Adam Kuper reviewed Emmanuelle Loyer’s Claude Levi-Strauss in a 2016 issue of the TLS. A few noteworthy tidbits. It’s intriguing that the great classifier of kin relations should come from a densely interconnected family: “Lévi-Strauss grew up in a densely intermarried family circle made up exclusively of cultivated Parisian Jews of Alsatian descent. . . . All his three wives came from the same milieu. The first, Dina Dreyfus, was the sister of a schoolfriend, Pierre Dreyfus. The second was Pierre Dreyfus’s… Read more

Liturgy of Liberalism

Adrian Vermeule has a brilliant review of Ryszard Legutko’s Demon in Democracy. He begins with Tocqueville’s observation that the French Revolution “developed into a species of religion” but one without ritual. Legutko, and Vermeule following him, dissent: “The Revolution’s descendants not only possess a theology and eschatology, but a central sacrament and an accompanying liturgy. Indeed, they compulsively, helplessly re-enact that liturgy, with mounting anxiety, while priding themselves on their freedom from all superstition.” Legutko seeks to demonstrate that “communism and… Read more

Secularizing Covenant

In an essay on covenant as a political concept, Daniel Elazar briefly traces the development of covenant, and its relation to natural law, from Philo to Spinoza. Reformed theorists like Althusius loom large, what with their recovery and expansion of the biblical conception of “covenant.” Elazar writes, “The federal theology which they articulated (federal is derived from the Latin foedus, which means covenant) stimulated the renewed political application of the covenant idea which was given expression first by political theologians and… Read more

The Politicization of Everyday Life

How did everything get politicized – every choice of a favorite beer, every style decision, every nook and cranny of everyday life? Bruce Schulman blames it on Rolling Stone magazine. As he writes, “/the magazine embraced the countercultural ideal of authenticity — living life to the fullest, right now, within a community of like-minded, liberated persons. Why bother with protest, columnist Ralph Gleason asked, when the ‘new music has established a Stranger in a Strange Land head community, vibes in… Read more

Albanian as Literary Language

Albanian isn’t usually considered an important literary language, but Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare explained in an interview with the Paris Review how the language merges classical and modern forms of literary expression: “Albanian is simply an extraordinary means of expression—rich, malleable, adaptable. As I have said in my latest novel, Spiritus, it has modalities that exist only in classical Greek, which puts one in touch with the mentality of antiquity. For example, there are Albanian verbs that can have both a… Read more

This Little Babe

Infants and toddlers can’t dress, feed, or transport themselves. Yet in the paradoxical world of the Bible, their very weakness makes them strong. One Child, the Davidic one with the government on His shoulders, is strong enough to overthrow Satan. As a prep for Advent, sing this once a day, preferably in Benjamin Britten’s setting, until you can do it break-neck. This little babe so few days old, is come to rifle Satan’s hold; All hell doth at his presence… Read more

One Lord, One Faith, One Music

In The Whole Church Sings (41), Robin Leaver summarizes Andreas Karlstadt’s 53 theses against Gregorian chant (1521): “It is a consecutive tirade, not particularly well-organized, against all forms of liturgical music then current, not just Gregorian chant, which is dismissed as the ‘mumblings of the unlearned’ (Thesis 31). Chant sung in the Mass and daily Office ‘withdraws the mind from God’ (Thesis 7) and is ‘nothing other than a noisy din’ (Thesis 14). Organs and other musical instruments are for theaters… Read more

Apocalyptic Job

Job is described as blameless (tam) at the outset of the book. It’s the same word used for Noah, Abraham, and Jacob but it is also used in the sacrificial system. Read more

Jesus and the Children

Children have a high profile already in the Hebrew Bible. Jesus raises the stakes immeasurably. He is the Word made flesh, Word made baby. Read more

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