What Do We Owe All the Valjeans?

valjean bishop

Since Les Mis seems to prompt endless reprises on this blog, you won't be surprised to find I'm over at First Things today talking about Valjean, Javert, and what we owe to the prisoners in our criminal justice system. When Jean Valjean appears for the first time in the stage musical Les Misérables, he is in the process of being paroled, and he is in an argument with his former jailer. When Inspector Javert barks out “You are a thief,” Valjean replies, “I stole a loaf of bread.” For Valjean, his … [Read more...]

Help Me Keep A New Year’s Resolution

dnd character sheet

New Year's is a time for cached thoughts.   When people ask about resolutions, my first thoughts are "Should I be not eating something?  Or doing cardio?"  We tend to run down the list of cliche resolutions and decide which we should take on.  The standard resolutions may not be particularly well-tailored to you, but it's about as hard to ignore the defaults as to not think of an elephant.So, I have a wacky workaround.  Instead of thinking of disciplines to take on (we tend to grade New Year … [Read more...]

How do you finish being angry?

bruce banner hulk

This review of Lawrence Cunningham's The Seven Deadly Sins: A Visitor's Guide is part of the Patheos Book Club, and my copy was free.My college debate group had many aphorisms, one of which was, "All sins are pride."  So I read The Seven Deadly Sins: A Visitor's Guide waiting to see what Cunningham had to say about my sin.  I didn't expect to be caught by his meditation on anger/wrath, which I've always thought of as the most boring sin.Coming from a background of stoicism, I just see ang … [Read more...]

The Inspector Javert Medley [Sequence Index]

Isn't moral conviction dreamy?

I may not have drawn little hearts in my middle school notebooks labelled "Leah + Inspector Javert" but I've loved him far too much since the first time I saw Les Miserables.  (And, this year, I immediately dibsed his part when organizing a Les Mis flashmob).  But some of the things I've loved most about the adamant Inspector are the things I've had to set aside in order to be a Christian.  So, to mark the occasion of the movie's release, I wrote three meditations on the  … [Read more...]

Javert: No Quarter Asked or Given

javert

I first saw Les Miserables when I was in middle school, I think, and I was on the edge of my seat from the opening number.  But the moment that transfixed me was Javert's joyous "Stars."  I was in love.There was nothing I wanted so much as to be like that man, ramrod-straight, inviolate, and wholly consecrated to duty.  In fact, when informed of my conversion, one friend, initially puzzled, said, "Well, I guess you've always been a bit of an absolutist."  But my Javertian tendencies are a … [Read more...]

More on accepting sacrifices

In re the discussion of accepting gifts, a recent post by Eve Tushnet seemed apropos.  (Note, she's discussing her experiences working with women at a crisis pregnancy center, and I would prefer any discussion not be derailed by an argument about crisis pregnancy centers, since that's not the part of the story I'm highlighting). I've been struck recently by how many of my clients are ashamed to go to their friends for help: both material or financial help, and emotional support, the love in ti … [Read more...]

Winning a Moral Arms Race?

The first person to comment on my post about The Hunger Games and not seeing gifts as debts had a pragmatic concern: I don’t see this as moral progress. If more people would see a sacrifice as a debt the world would be a better place. I've got a (richly deserved) reputation as a not-so-soft paternalist when it comes to social policy, so I'm sympathetic to this critique.  Isn't there a benefit to chafing under a debt insofar as it spurs us on to better acts?  How is this kind of inducement dif … [Read more...]


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