Category Archives: American Culture

Why We Need Social Norms

David Brooks“The health of society,” writes New York Times columnist David Brooks, “is primarily determined by the habits and virtues of its citizens.” These, he says, are reinforced by social norms that have been “destroyed by a plague of nonjudgmentalism.” Society will not become stronger, he says, “unless we are more morally articulate, unless we have clearer definitions of how we should be behaving at all levels.”

“The Cost of Relativism,” by David Brooks. The New York Times, March 10, 2015.

Malice Toward None

Lincoln's Last Night NGCUS -  Ep Code 4578One hundred and fifty years ago this week, Abraham Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address. The address, at its core, is a discourse on slavery, war, and God’s justice. The speech, in its entirety, is inscribed in the walls of the Lincoln Memorial. Lincoln was killed a month after delivering it. The original is presently on display at the Library of Congress.

Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln, March 5, 1865.

Perpetual Outrage

kim k GQHaving observed that there seems to be a new “outrage” every day, Slate magazine kept track for all of 2014 and produced a year-end piece on the cumulative effect of perpetual outrage. “Over the past decade or so,” write the authors, “outrage has become the default mode for politicians, pundits, critics and, with the rise of social media, the rest of us. When something outrageous happens—when a posh London block installs anti-homeless spikes, or when Khloé Kardashian wears a Native American headdress, or, for that matter, when we read the horrifying details in the Senate’s torture report—it’s easy to anticipate the cycle that follows: anger, sarcasm, recrimination, piling on; defenses and counterattacks; anger at the anger, disdain for the outraged; sometimes, an apology … and on to the next. Twitter and Facebook make it easier than ever to participate from home. And the same cycle occurs regardless of the gravity of the offense, which can make each outrage feel forgettable, replaceable. The bottomlessness of our rage has a numbing effect.”

“The Year of Outrage,” by Allison Benedikt, Chris Kirk, and Dan Kois. Slate, December 17, 2014.

Conservatism as a Temperament

AngryPeter Wehner writes in the New York Times that a conservative temperament is an important part of conservatism. “Conservatism is famously anti-utopian,” he writes, “understanding life’s imperfections and the limitations of politics. Knowing this, those on the right shouldn’t become enraged or forlorn when the world itself doesn’t fully conform to their hopes. Conservatism considers one of the cardinal virtues to be prudence.”

“Conservatives in Name Only,” by Peter Wehner. The New York Times, January 14, 2015.

David Barton Wins Defamation Suits

bartonChristian historian and activist David Barton has successfully taken some of his critics to court, including a pair who said he was “known for speaking at white-supremacist rallies” and another who called him “an admitted liar” whose “books have been picked apart time and again and exposed as fallacious.”

“David Barton Wins Million-Dollar Defamation Suit: Christian historian warns more may follow “to protect reputation and livelihood,” by John Aman. WND, December 20, 2014.

Houston Mayor Backs Down on Sermon Subpoenas

antireligionHouston mayor Annise Parker has backed down on her subpoenas for sermons related to homosexuality. Many, however, see the episode as a harbinger of things to come.

“Houston Mayor Tries to Calm Uproar Over Transgender Ordinance,” by Nathan Koppel and Tamara Audi. The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2014. [PAY WALL]

Why Evangelicals Didn’t Embrace “Calvary”

CalvaryMark Rodgers compares the artistic merits of Calvary to the remake of Left Behind and finds a paradox. “[T]he more a film (or song, or book for that matter) is fine tuned for the evangelical appetite, the less salient it is for the culture at large. Ironically, evangelicals want their culture products to be attractive to the world, to draw people into the truth that profoundly transformed them.”

“Leaving ‘Left Behind,’ Embracing ‘Calvary,” by Mark Rodgers. Clapham Group, October 8, 2014.

Walls and Ramps: David Brooks on Christian Culture

David BrooksNew York Times columnist David Brooks, who is Jewish, accepts an invitation to observe the good and bad ways Christians engage mainstream culture.

“Transcript of David Brooks,” The Gathering 2014.

David Brooks’ 2004 New York Times column on John Stott was much discussed at the time and is worth a second read ten years later.

“Who is John Stott?” by David Brooks. The New York Times, November 30, 2004.

‘Good Friday’ for American Christianity

Robert GeorgePrinceton Professor Robbie George says it is “Good Friday” for American Christianity.  Unlike before, there is now a cost associated with our faith.  Will we, like John and Mary, stick with Christ all the way to the Cross, or will we, like Peter, insist that we don’t know the man?  As cultural elites grow increasingly intolerant of all traditional religious and cultural views, George suggests we borrow from the countercultural movements of the ’50s and ’60s in crafting a strategy for pushing back.

“Princeton Professor: Cultural Elite Can No Longer Tolerate Christians.” Sunday Leaders with Ginni Thomas. Daily Caller, September 28, 2014. [Scroll down for part two.]

See also: “The Conservative-Christian Big Thinker,” by David D. Kirkpatrick. The New York Times, December 16, 2009.

Are We Being Persecuted?

Anti-ChristianKevin DeYoung, senior pastor at University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, writes about how we should define “Christian persecution,” and whether or not it applies to American evangelicals.

“Are Christians in America Persecuted?” by Kevin DeYoung. The Gospel Coalition, April 15, 2014.