Some readers know that I am a big fan of James Martin, the best-selling Jesuit author who is one of our most powerful Christian communicators today. Fr. Martin summarizes, in this short video, why the new papal encyclical is so important for all Christians.
Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home, the much-discussed encyclical of Pope Francis on human care for the creation, embraces what the pope calls a “very solid scientific consensus” that humans are causing cataclysmic climate change that has been endangering the planet for decades. This conclusion has caused some conservatives, especially talk-show hosts and their followers, to trash the pope’s thought and motives.
One evangelical talk-show host/author called Pope Francis a socialist liberal. He told his audience that the pope has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to the real science of environmentalism. But he has bought an agenda and misled the church and the public. Another suggested that the pope needed to study science more closely, an odd criticism since this pope has seriously studied science and is surrounded by an entire body of serious scientists who served his writing of this encyclical.
Liberals and conservatives are waging, it seems to me to the bitter end, a constant debate about the role of government. Conservatives generally do not trust government and want to see it decreased. Such conservatives often call the other side a bunch of socialists while Liberals say the conservatives are heartless and greedy business owners. “Conservatives do not care about the poor or the well-being of society,” they tell us.
Last year I heard a noteworthy conservative say that the problem with most conservatives is they end up turning modern government into a “private sector bidding war.” The result, he added, was that they gave us: “Government by entrepreneurship.” That was one of the most honest reflections on the dangers of conservative views of modern government that I’ve heard. One can hope that both sides would learn to see their own weaknesses and then learn how to work for the common good. So far I’ve not seen much of this since the 1970s. I’m not holding my breath but I am hoping for better leadership, eventually.
The American patriots who were directly responsible for the founding of our nation were considered, by almost all orthodox Christian ministers at the time, to be “radicals” and “atheists.” So goes the essential claim of philosopher/author Matthew Stewart in his exciting new book, Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic (W.W. Norton, New York, 2014). His claim is, at least to my historical mind, beyond reasonable doubt. What is more intriguing to me is why and how we have lost our collective awareness of the real philosophical and religious origins of our nation.
The standard narrative goes something like the following as I understand it:
American was founded by deeply religious men. Some of these men were deists but even these deists respected Christianity. For this reason they favored it, at least in terms of the dialogue about the nation’s political and religious future. Most of the framers and founders were members of churches and most all of them were honest, Bible-believing, orthodox Christian men. Yes, they used ideas they borrowed from men like John Locke but even
I have come to the conclusion that the media rarely gets the “tone” right when it comes to reporting on religion. This is true in reporting on all religion but in particular it is true with regard to Christianity in particular. I have some ideas about why this is so. But none of them involve conspiracies or the demonic. On the whole I believe that journalists and reporters have little or no first-hand experience of the church. They provide honest reporting with an interpretative angle that is often slanted by presuppositions about Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular.
I’ve seen this once again in Chicago over the last two weeks as the media has covered the story of the next Archbishop of the Diocese of Chicago, Bishop Blase Cupich (pronounced sue-pitch) of Spokane, Washington. After various television and print media sources said the pope had sent a “message” by this appointment to which Bishop Cupich stated very humbly, “I think he sent a pastor not a message.” Yet the Chicago Tribune headline still read: “Pope
I was reading the “Notable Deaths” page in my Sunday newspaper (September 14) and came across the news of the passing of the famous Irish Presbyterian minister, Ian Paisley. The AP report said: “Paisley [was] the Protestant firebrand who devoted his life to thwarting compromise with Catholics in Northern Ireland only to become a pivotal peacemaker in his twilight years.” Paisley was 88 when he passed away last Friday.
Ian Paisley was bigger than life in so many ways. (He was a big man and his voice and size could intimidate you very quickly!) I never heard Paisley preach in person but I listened to him a number of times via audio tape, online audio and television. He was a marvelous orator.
Oddly enough I was browsing in a Christian bookstore in suburban Toronto (Ontario) about twenty years ago when I heard this distinctive voice and turned to see if it really was Ian Paisley. It was the real Ian Paisley in the flesh. My first instinct was to draw back and avoid him. (Like I noted, he could intimidate one
Author Steven Garber wrote one of those rare modern books that I have read twice. Some years ago I developed an answer that I cleverly gave to folks who, upon seeing my immense library (before I sold nearly 15,000 books over the last few years), would gasp at my floor-to-ceiling library shelves and ask me, “Have you read all of these?” I calmly answered, “I’ve read some of them twice.” This was true. Hoping I could read them all was only a pipe dream but unless pressed hard I did not admit to that until I gave up reading them all in my late 50s and realized I should break up the Armstrong collection sooner than later.
Steven Garber’s book, The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior (IVP), was one of those books that I actually did read twice. It is a truly magnificent book. I recommend it to everyone who reads this blog.
Steven Garber taught for many years on Capitol Hill in the American Studies Program and then became scholar-in-residence for the Council of Christian
The word dialogue is very important to me, and my view of truth, at least in terms of the way Christians live with one another, and with non-Christians, in the modern age. What do I mean by dialogue? Could it be that the very idea behind this word is deeply flawed, as some cultural and religious conservatives maintain?
Back in 1971 I was in the candidate process for the assistant pastoral role in a church near Wheaton, where I had begun graduate theological studies in mission and theology. The senior pastor preached a sermon one Sunday that fatally finished my intent to work with him. The title of his sermon is one I shall never forget: “Dogma or Dialogue?” He made the case, rather poorly I thought, that dialogue was always the enemy of Christian dogma and true belief. I could not tell you why he was wrong, at that time, but I knew that he was. I began a journey to figure out why I thought that he was wrong. I was only a twenty-one year old
Michael Novak, in his stirring memoir of a journey from left to right, devotes an entire chapter to community, as I noted yesterday. He writes: “One of life’s most time-consuming tasks is to achieve disagreement with an ideological opposite. Without blinking, you might object; ‘It’s not had to disagree. Heck! Most people do it all the time” (282). But aren’t disagreements really inevitable? After all we have different understandings of terms, widely varying perspectives on history, and unique sets of fears and rosy scenarios that we all entertain? But, says Michael Novak, “We are most often like two ships passing in the night” (282). Is he right? Could this really be true? I think so.
One of America’s most wise and important Catholic thinkers in the last century was the Jesuit John Courtney Murray. Novak says that Murray once said two people cannot (to use Novak’s description of Murray’s point) come to a “real disagreement without sticking to the argument for a very long time–maybe long enough to work through a case of brandy together as they ruminate.
The Carter years profoundly convinced Michael Novak of the bankruptcy of his previous economic ideas. While Novak explains Carter’s personal love for Jesus Christ as genuine, and easily misunderstood, he rightly separates the good heart of the man from some of his very bad ideas about what makes for a free and prosperous society. During the Carter years Novak’s own views were taking new shape. He was writing more about economics and making new friends globally. When Ronald Reagan was elected the president in November of 1980 he asked Michael Novak, lifelong Democrat, to become his ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights. After a time in Geneva Novak returned home but then was sent back again in 1982. This work had an immense impact on Novak’s view of the world.
Novak’s new friends, which he cultivated in the late 1970s, began to gravitate to his home for meals and thus came into his personal life as confidants. These friends included Fr. Robert Sirico, Bill Bennett, Jack Kemp, Mort Kondracke, Ben Wattenberg, Irving Kristol, George Weigel, Henry