Reading Groups

Faith and Law sponsors several reading groups that meet periodically to discuss timely writings. While the essays may come from any viewpoint, our goal is to engage the subject matter from a Christian perspective or to discern what that is. Links to our readings and other interesting essays are below.

America Wasn't Built for Humans

Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine, September 19, 2017

The Strange Persistence of Guilt

Wilfred M. McClay, The Hedgehog Review, Spring 2017

How to Deal with North Korea

Mark Bowden, The Atlantic, July/August 2017

FOLLOW-UP READINGS:

Senators’ questions for judicial nominee draw accusations of anti-Catholic bias

Michael J. O'Laughlin, America: The Jesuit Review, September 7, 2017

Christians are part of the same dating pool as everyone else. That’s bad for the church.

Mark Regnerus, The Washington Post, September 5, 2017

What Criminologists Don't Say, and Why

John Paul Wright and Matt DeLisi, City Journal, Summer 2017

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY CONSERVATISM

R.R. RENO, First Things, June 2017

THE CASE AGAINST CHRISTIAN POLITICAL PARTIES

JUBILEE CENTRE – Michael Shluter

“… While Christians should agree about values or principles, they may, and often will, disagree about policies…”

THE CASE FOR CHRISTIAN DEMOCRACY

JUBILEE CENTRE – Ram Gidoomal

” Christian Democracy is a long-established and successful political force across Europe, providing decades of stable government and economic growth in a continent ravaged by the Second World War and the sourge of fascism. But its antecedents go back further, to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and the political witness of figures such as Abraham Kuyper, Prime Minister of the Netherlands and great Reformed theologian…”

RED FAITH, BLUE FAITH

THE WASHINGTON POST – Michael Gerson

” Is ‘Christian America’ dying? And if so, should we mourn or cheer? … The religious right, at least in its cruder expressions, is indeed a phenomenon without a future…”

POLITICAL PULLBACK FOR THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT?

THE WASHINGTON POST – Kathleen Parker

” Is the Christian right finished as a political entity? Or, more to the point, are principled Christians finished with politics? These questinos have been getting fresh air lately as frustrated conservative Christians question the pragmatism — defined as the compromising of principles — of the old guard. One might gently call the current debate a generational rift…”

OBAMA’S ‘SCIENCE’ FICTION

THE WASHINGTON POST – Charles Krauthammer

” … I am not religious. I do not believe that personhood is conferred upon conception. But I also do not believe that a human embryo is the moral equivalent of a hangnail and deserves no more respect than an appendix… I suggested the bright line prohibiting the deliberate creation of human embryos solely for the instrumental purpose of research – - a clear violation of the categorical imperative not to make a human life… a means rather than an end… On this, Obama has nothing to say. He leaves it entirely to the scientists. This is more than moral abdication. It is acquiescence to the mystique of ‘science’ and its inherent moral benevolence. How anyone as sophisticated as Obama can believe this within living memory of Mengele and Tuskegee and the fake (and coercive) South Korean stem cell research is hard to fathom…”

THE HAPPINESS OF THE PEOPLE

AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE – Charles Murray

” …Do you want the United States to be like Europe? … In short, the question has suddenly become urgently relevant because President Obama and his leading intellectual heroes are the American equivalent of Europe’s social democrats…”

THE WELFARE STATE AND THE MEANING OF LIFE

THE WIHTERSPOON INSTITUTE: PUBLIC DISCOURSE – Greg Forster

” …But Murray’s analysis, though otherwise excellent, is missing a crucial element: an appreciation that these spiritual dangers ultimately arise from disregarding the moral law… America shows all the signs of entering a generational political crisis such as we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. It is now an open question whether we will continue to be a quasi-capitalist nation, in defiance of fashionable international opinion, or follow the example of our European betters and become a quasi-socialist nation…”

THE END OF CHRISTIAN AMERICA

NEWSWEEK – Jon Meacham

” …the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent. Then came the point he could not get out of his mind: while the unaffiliated have historically been concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, the report said, ‘this pattern has now changed, and the Northeast emerged in 2008 as the new stronghold of the religiously unidentified.’ As Mohler saw it, the historic foundatio nof America’s religious culture was cracking.”

RED FAITH, BLUE FAITH

THE WASHINGTON POST – Michael Gerson

” … A younger generation of evangelicals and their leaders, while generally remaining culturally conservative, tends to view the religious right’s model of social engagement as narrow in focus and too negative in tone. And the loose language of creating or re-creating a ‘Christian America’ has always been a heresy, a historical error and a blunder. A hereesy because no kingdom, however admirable, can be properly identified with the Kingdom of God. A historical error…”

SANGER’S VICTORY: HOW PLANNED PARENTHOOD’S FOUNDER PLAYED THE CHRISTIANS—AND WON

Allan Carlson, Touchstone

“THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT EVANGELICALISM” 

Byron Johnson, First Things  

“THE INNER RING”

CS Lewis, “The Inner Ring”

ADDRESS OF SENATOR KENNEDY

A CHARGE TO REVIVE THE ROLE OF FAITH IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE

This week we will discuss Senator John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association and Senator Rick Santorum’s speech from last week at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. The two speeches represent different perspectives on the role of religion in the public square. Should make for a great discussion.

THE WEIGHT OF SMUT

Mary Eberstadt, First Things

“…But while we’re on the subject of bad habits that can turn unwitting kids into unhappy adults, how about that other epidemic out there that is far more likely to make their future lives miserable than carrying those extra pounds ever will? That would be the emerging social phenomenon of what can appropriately be called “sexual obesity”: the widespread gorging on pornographic imagery that is also deleterious and unhealthy, though far less remarked on than that other epidemic—and nowhere near an object of universal public concern…”

MARRIED FATHERS: AMERICA’S GREATEST WEAPON AGAINST CHILD POVERTY

Robert Rector, The Heritage Foundation

“The mainstream media, liberal politicians, activists, and academia bewail child poverty in the U.S. But in these ritual lamentations, one key fact remains hidden: The principal cause of child poverty in the U.S. is the absence of married fathers in the home…”

ATLANTA PROGRESSIVE NEWS FIRES REPORTER FOR TRYING TO BE OBJECTIVE

FRESH LOAF

” … In an e-mail statement, editor Matthew Cardinale says Springston was asked to leave APN last week ‘because he held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News.’…”

IN ‘VEGETATIVE STATE’ PATIENTS, BRAIN SCANNERS SHOW SOME ALERT MINDS

WASHINGTON POST – Rob Stein

“Many of the patients were labeled with the same grim diagnosis: ‘vegetative state.’… But an international team of scientists decided to try a bold experiment using the latest technology to peek inside the minds of 54 patients to see whether, in fact, they were conscious…”

PULLING THE PLUG ON THE CONSCIENCE CLAUSE

FIRST THINGS – Wesley J. Smith

” … The ongoing transformation in the methods and ethics of medicine raises profound moral questions for doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others who believe in the traditional virtues of Hippocratic medicine that proscribe abortion and assisted suicide and compel physicians to ‘do no harm.’…”

IN ‘VEGETATIVE STATE’ PATIENTS, BRAIN SCANNERS SHOW SOME ALERT MINDS

WASHINGTON POST – Rob Stein

“Many of the patients were labeled with the same grim diagnosis: ‘vegetative state.’… But an international team of scientists decided to try a bold experiment using the latest technology to peek inside the minds of 54 patients to see whether, in fact, they were conscious…”

THE END OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM?

Christianity Today – Editorial

“…The CLS v. Martinez decision will be widely cited, no matter the outcome. But as CLS made clear in its own briefs, it’s very much a separate battle. (The CLS case is mostly about speech at a university forum, and money is not central.) If CLS loses, it is far from a foregone conclusion that religious groups that partner with the government will lose their ability to consider faith commitments when hiring. And it’s a far journey from that step to the much-discussed scenario of protesters joining organizations en masse to nullify the groups’ religious identity or ethical commitments. Defenders of religious identity safeguards are not scaremongers. The scenarios they propose are actually quite likely if government entities like Hastings or the Supreme Court treat biblical principles as invidious discrimination and then shun organizations with faith commitments…”

A TIME TO KILL

THE NEW REPUBLIC – Jon A. Shields

” … Violence in the pro-life movement has emerged relatively late in the abortion conflict, only recently cliaming the lives of abortion providers. To really understand Tiller’s death, therefore, we need to look beyond his own biography to some of the peculiar historical developments that have made abortioin politics in America so distinctive and tragic…”

THE MAKING OF A FUGITIVE

THE NEW YORK TIMES – David Samuels

“… The ease with which the prayerful defender of life has since eluded a Federal-local task force of more than 50 agents, assisted by authorities in Canada, Mexico and overseas, suggests that Jim Kopp’s interest in disguise may have run deeper than he let on. Kopp is wanted on a Federal material-witness warrant in connection with the fatal shooting of Dr. Barnett Slepian on Oct. 23, 1998, in Amherst, N.Y….”

COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM: ITS BRIEF HISTORY, DEMISE, AND FUTURE PROSPECTS

Evan Baehr

” Many allege–or, arguably, observe–that conservatives are without message. ‘Conservatives are not for anything–only against things,’ they suggest. It is a good question to ponder: what are conservatives for? What is our agenda or platform?…”

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

THE CHARTERS OF FREEDOM

” When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation…”

THE INSPIRATION OF THE DECLARATION

President Calvin Coolidge

” We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. The coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching beyond our vision, that only makes it the more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation…”

AN ELECTION SERMON

THE ONLINE LIBRARY OF LIBERTY – Gad Hitchcock (1718-1803)

” …The safety of society greatly depends on the disposition of rulers, and the regard they have to equity in their measures of government. If they rule in the fear of God, they will make his laws their pattern in framing and executing their own…”

GOD IS BACK: HOW NED FLANDERS WON THE EVANGELICAL CRUSADE

TIMES ONLINE – John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge

” … But is Ned really such a loser? Look around the world and you find that risible old Nedward – or at least the phenomenon he epitomises – he won one of the great intellectual battles of the past two centuries. And now, far from being put down, Flanderism is spreading around the world, an American export with a potency at least the equal of the very Hollywood products that mock him…”

THE END OF CHRISTIAN AMERICA

NEWSWEEK – Jon Meacham

” …the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent. Then came the point he could not get out of his mind: while the unaffiliated have historically been concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, the report said, ‘this pattern has now changed, and the Northeast emerged in 2008 as the new stronghold of the religiously unidentified.’ As Mohler saw it, the historic foundatio nof America’s religious culture was cracking.”

RED FAITH, BLUE FAITH

THE WASHINGTON POST – Michael Gerson

” … A younger generation of evangelicals and their leaders, while generally remaining culturally conservative, tends to view the religious right’s model of social engagement as narrow in focus and too negative in tone. And the loose language of creating or re-creating a ‘Christian America’ has always been a heresy, a historical error and a blunder. A hereesy because no kingdom, however admirable, can be properly identified with the Kingdom of God. A historical error…”

THE HAPPINESS OF THE PEOPLE

AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE – Charles Murray

” …Do you want the United States to be like Europe? … In short, the question has suddenly become urgently relevant because President Obama and his leading intellectual heroes are the American equivalent of Europe’s social democrats…”

DEMOGRAPHICS & DEPRESSION

FIRST THINGS – David P. Goldman

“Three generations of economists immersed themselves in study of the Great Depression, determined to prevent a recurrence of the awful events of teh 1930s. And as our current financial crisis began to unfold in 2008, policymakers did everything that those economists prescribed… In other words, the government tried to do everything right, but everything continues to go wrong. We labored hard and traveled long to avoid a new depression, but…”

FAITH & FINANCE

FIRST THINGS – Gary A. Anderson

“… As it happens, the problem of trust–of faith–appears in places beyond the current credit crisis. Most of us think of trust as an interiior spiritual disposition. But, linquistically, faith and finance are closely linked: It is no accident…”

“The Dialectic and the Double Helix: How the compatibility of Christianity and democracy in America is confusing to Europeans”

Thomas Albert Howard, First Things

“The Good News About Evangelicalism”

Byron Johnson, First Things

 
According to Byron Johnson, evangelicalism isn’t shrinking and the young are not becoming liberals: “Leading religious observers claim that evangelicalism is shrinking and the next generation of evangelicals is becoming less religious and more secular, but (as we social scientists like to say) these are empirical questions, and the evidence shows that neither of these claims is true. The number of evangelicals remains high, and their percentage among practicing Christians in America is, if anything, rising. Young evangelicals are not turning to more liberal positions on controversial social issues; in some cases they are becoming more conservative than their parents. Perhaps young evangelicals have become more socially aware and have a longer, broader list of social concerns, but they remain socially conservative”

Truth and Tyranny

Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo

We will be reading Chapter 2 of Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning. “…Dr. Nancy Pearcey offers an unflinching analysis of the profound personal and social devastation wreaked by secular worldviews in every area of life. The assault is being launched from the classroom to the courtroom, from the talk shows to the television screen, from the pulpit to politics…Pearcey, a former agnostic, also exposes the stealth secularism that is transmitted through stories and images, where people are often unaware of its insidious impact on their minds, choices, and behaviors.”

An Alternative View of Culture and Cultural Exchange

James Hunter, To Change the World

We will be reading Chapters 2 and 4 of To Change the World. “…The ability to change the world, he suggests, does not come as is often assumed from the conversion of the hearts and minds of people, so they will have the right values and make the right choices and thus change the world. It is this view of changing the world that leads some faith communities to see evangelism as the primary means of culture change…”

Rethinking Power: Theological Reflections

James Hunter, To Change the World

“…The ability to change the world, he suggests, does not come as is often assumed from the conversion of the hearts and minds of people, so they will have the right values and make the right choices and thus change the world. It is this view of changing the world that leads some faith communities to see evangelism as the primary means of culture change…”

Truths Still Held?

George Weigel, First Things

“…My purpose here is not to sort out the arguments over Murray’s analysis of the Founding, and still less to judge the metaphysics and epistemology that buttressed his church–state theory. Rather, I want to review the “American Proposition” he sketched in We Hold These Truths as a template for measuring the health of the American republic and its public culture as we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century…”

Roe, Doe, DOA: How Abortion is Killing the Democratic Party

Joe Carter, First Things

“…Last night 219 members of in the House of Representatives proved what many of us have suspected for decades: Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton are the twin pillars of the Democratic Party. The refusal to prohibit federal funding of abortions in the health care bill shows that the Democratic leadership is either remarkably dedicated to the principle that woman should have the right to use federal funds to kill their unborn children or they are the dumbest politicians in history. However, if they truly support abortion on demand they should stand by that conviction no matter how many elections it will cost them. And as history has shown, it has cost them plenty—and will cost them many more…”

Is Capitalism morally bankrupt? Five moral flaws and their social consequences

Cambridge Papers, Jubilee Centre – Michael Schluter

“…Capitalism sets out a framework within which individuals, and society at large, make decisions governing their business and financial affairs. It will be analysed here in terms of its contemporary manifestations, including the corporation as its main actor and engine, and with national governments and international agencies intervening to set many of the rules in a manner which often promotes scale and ‘leverage’. …”

Parliament’s Equality Bill

First Things – Edward T. Oakes

“…When speaking in terms of employment, what does the word discrimination mean? It is now almost universally admitted in liberal democracies that discrimination according to extraneous categories like skin color is morally wrong, and for that reason in most democracies it is also illegal. But the word is ambiguous…”

Moral Conflict and Liberty: Gay Rights and Religion

Beckett Fund – Chai R. Feldblum

“…Those who advocate for laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation tend to talk simply about “equality.” Those who seek to stop such laws from coming into existence, or who seek religious exemptions from these laws, tend to talk about “morality” and/or “religious freedom.” … My goal in this piece is to surface some of the commonalities between religious belief liberty and sexual orientation identity liberty and to offer some public policy suggestions for what to do when these liberties conflict….”

Cicero Superstar

First Things – Mary Ann Glendon

” More rare than athletes who have played both baseball and football in the major leagues are individuals who have achieved great distinction in both politics and philosophy, the vocations that Aristotle deemed most choiceworthy….”

Think Again: God

Foreign Policy – Karen Armstrong

“…These writers are wrong — not only about religion, but also about politics — because they are wrong about human nature. Homo sapiens is also Homo religiosus. As soon as we became recognizably human, men and women started to create religions. We are meaning-seeking creatures…”

Economic Justice and the Spirit of Innovation

First Things – Edmund Phelps

“When the word morality comes up in connection with economics…”

Can America Fail?

The Wilson Quarterly – Kishore Mahbubani
Capitol Reading Group, June 4, 2009

” In 1981, Singapore’s long-ruling People’s Action Party was shocked when it suffered its first defeat at the polls in many years,.. [Dr. Goh Keng Swee} replied, ‘Kishore, we failed because we did not even conceive of the possibility of failure.’ The siimple thesis of this essay is that American society could also fail if it does not force itself to conceive of failure…”

Last Man Standing

The Wilson Quarterly – Tyler Cowen

” … Amid the flood of alarming commentary, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the financial crisis has underscored the continuing strength of American global influence. Although the United States has been the epicenter of the economice problem, it has exhibited enviable economic and political stability,…”

President Obama’s Notre Dame Commencement Address

Notre Dame – President Barak Obama

” I want to thank you for this honorary degree. I know it has not been without controversy… Your class has come of age at a moment of great consequence for our nation and the world – a rare inflection point in history where the size and scope of the challenges before us require that we remake our world to renew its promise; that we align our deepest values and commitments to the demands of a new age. It is a privilege and a responsibility afforded a new generation – and a task that you are now called to fulfill…”

Blowing Out Moral Lights Around Us

STAN GUTHRIE BLOG – Rob Schwarzwalder

” President Obama was disarming Sunday at Notre Dame. Yet his winsome candor makes him all the more dangersous, because implicit in it is a wholly, coolly condescending view of the American people…”

Doubt, Dialogue and Demonization

CATHOLIC PREACHING – Fr. Roger J. Landry

” In his commencement address on Sunday, President Obama, rather than vindicating the university’s decision against its countless critics, reinforced the validity of the critics’ arguments and the wisdom of the U.S. Bishops’ policy. For beneath his ever genial tone, uplifting images and eloquent delivery, President Obama made several major points contrary to the Catholic faith…”

Obama at Notre Dame

FRCBLOG.COM – Chuck Donovan

” As for his speech, it was un-Barakesque in one sense… But he was Barackesque in striving to minimize those differences…”

The End of Christian America

NEWSWEEK – Jon Meacham

” The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades. How that statistic explains who we are now–and what, as a nation, we are about to become.”

God Still Isn’t Dead

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL – John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge

” … Has the model really run out of steam? Betting against American religion has always proved to be a fool’s game… Look closer and the new poll numbers are not quite as simple as headlines suggest..”

Mission from Africa

THE NEW YORK TIMES – Andrew Rice

” … Revival is an eternal theme in the history of Christianity… Today the process is reversing itself, as the populatin of churchgoers dwindles in Europe, remains fairly static in the United States and erupts in the ‘global south’… Christianity is practiced differently in the global south, and especially in Africa, where it has been invested with cultural values that long predate the first missinary efforts…”

Red Faith, Blue Faith

THE WASHINGTON POST – Michael Gerson

” …The religious right, at least in its cruder expressions, is indeed a phenomenon without a future. A younger generation of evangelicals and their leaders, while generally remaining culturally conservative, tends to view the religious right’s model of social engagement as too narrow in focus and too negative in tone..”

Light Out For Christian America?

NPR – Damon Linker

” … Actually, what Meacham’s statistics show is something far less monumental, but far more interesting, than his headline would have us believe. Fights over the role of religion in American public life nearly always concern the question of which theology (and how much) should be incorporated into the country’s civil religion–that is, into the spiritual dimension of its national identity..”

Christians unite to deter Olympics sex traffickers

CANADIAN CHRISTIANITY – Frank Stirk

” … British Columiba already has a problem with sexual exploitation and human trafficking that the influx of upwards of one-million visitors will only exacerbate… Plans by Christians to confront the problem are taking the form of a two-pronged attack: reducing the supply of children and women who can fall prey to traffickers; and lessening..”

NC Senator Introduces Bill for Human Trafficking Commission

CHRISTIAN ACTION LEAGUE – L.A. Williams

” ‘The ordinary person would have no idea that this is going on right under our noses.’ – That’s how N.C. Senator Ellie Kinaird (D-Orange) describes human trafficking, one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world, and the subject of Senate Bill 353, the latest legislation she has introduced to battle this modern day slavery. ”