June 19, 2019

Every so often, one runs across an argument that is so spectacularly flawed it cannot even be described as “bad”—one that suffers from a category error so profoundly flawed, it’s ttantamount to walking into an Apple store and complaining that they don’t have any Fujis or Granny Smiths. Kathryn Joyce’s recent diatribe against natural law thinking (and against Princeton professor Robert George, its prominent exponent) in the pages of The New Republic is one such argument. In a nutshell, the piece… Read more

June 2, 2019

Last week, one of the more long-simmering disputes in contemporary conservative thought flared up pretty dramatically. Sohrab Ahmari—erstwhile Wall Street Journal contributor, current New York Post writer, and prominent conservative Catholic—fired off a sharp polemic in the pages of First Things against a certain strain of conservatism epitomized by National Review writer David French. (French issued a rejoinder shortly thereafter.) I don’t want to paint over too many nuances, but much of the online chatter surrounding this dust-up has framed the debate as… Read more

April 9, 2019

I’ve hesitated to write anything about the storm currently brewing at my alma mater, mainly because the phenomenon of “conservative writers bashing the schools they attended” is practically a cliché. But as I’ve pondered the story a little longer, the more I think it raises some profoundly important questions about what educational institutions are really for. A few weeks ago, the Yale chapter of the Federalist Society hosted Kristen Waggoner, an attorney from the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom… Read more

January 2, 2019

A few weeks ago, I found myself reading a recent essay by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat—and it’s a good one. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the most interesting pieces he’s penned in quite some time. Here, he argues a position that (as he acknowledges) goes well beyond the theories advanced in his own book Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation of Heretics. In Douthat’s updated telling, the American socio-religious zeitgeist is evolving (or, to be… Read more

December 22, 2018

Last week, Samuel Moyn—a professor of law and history at my alma mater—published a provocative article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Contra the widespread assumption that leading universities are incubators of progressive political ideas, Moyn argues that elite law schools are profoundly amoral, philosophically denuded environments. To support his claim, Moyn points to schools’ reverence for judges qua judges, wholly irrespective of those judges’ actual decision-making histories; schools’ uneasy juxtaposition of activist “clinical education” training programs alongside institutional funneling… Read more

December 9, 2018

My reading goal this year was 250 books—and happily, it’s looking like I’ll finish up 2018 slightly ahead of schedule. I’m posting here because most of these volumes touch on theological concerns, in one way or another—though admittedly some do so more explicitly than others. The Politics of Virtue: Post-Liberalism and the Human Future (John Milbank & Adrian Pabst) Dissatisfied with mainstream American conservative defenses of the liberal-democratic project (see Jonah Goldberg’s “Suicide of the West’)? Tired of doomsday proclamations… Read more

December 6, 2018

Let’s get one thing clear from the start: the new Suspiria is a strange, horrible, beautiful, sprawling, and challenging film. And oddly enough, that’s a good thing. Dario Argento’s original 1977 film is in a class of its own. It’s a baroque fantasia of geometry and magic and blood, suffused with vivid colors and backed by Goblin’s twinkling prog-rock theme. At the same time, though, it never really strives to rise above the category of surrealist pulp—from beginning to end,… Read more

October 10, 2018

I’ve written in the past about the fascinating rise of “exvangelical” or Christian culture—created largely by those who grew up in conservative churches but have since repudiated aspects of their theological upbringing. Maybe one reason I find this content so intriguing is that I understand where it’s coming from: as someone who grew up in 90’s-00’s Christian culture, I think there’s more than a kernel of truth in some of the critiques of American McReligion (did anyone really need a… Read more

September 14, 2018

A few days ago, I wrote for Conciliar Post about the natural law themes that underpin effective horror films. As it so happens, earlier this week I watched The Nun—the latest installment in the burgeoning Conjuring cinematic universe, and a movie that serves as a particularly interesting test case for my model. Set in 1952—a few years before the first Conjuring film—The Nun unfolds against the backdrop of a lonely Romanian abbey. When a young nun hangs herself under suspicious… Read more

September 5, 2018

You’d be forgiven for thinking that many American churches these days are desperately trying to be something they’re not. A drive through my North Texas suburb takes one past massive churches bearing names like “Freedom,” “Sojourn,” “The Ridge,” “Bent Tree,” and—my personal favorite—“fellowshipchurch.com.” Stodgy designators like Methodist and Presbyterian and Lutheran are out; sleeker, more “seeker-friendly” names are in. (Some groups conceal their crypto-Baptist sensibilities better than others.) On some level, though, these rebranding campaigns make sense. Broadly speaking, organized… Read more

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