Christian Stories for Atheists

When I first read “Harry Potter,” I secretly waited for a letter from Hogwarts. Part of growing up was realizing the letter would never come. It’s like the young C.S. Lewis said, when confronted with the confrontation between poetic myth and hard rationalism: “Nearly all that I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless.” Continue reading “Christian Stories for Atheists”

Summary: Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution chapter 1, The Meaning of Revolution

This chapter summary is part of my reading summaries series. Click here for more information on the series. Click here fore more chapter summaries from On Revolution.

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Antiquity knew well that “tyrants rise to power through the support of the plain or the poor people, and that their greatest chance to keep power lies in the people’s desire for equality of condition.” Prior to the modern era, political overthrows and upheavals, “prompted by interest… depended on a distinction between poor and rich which itself was deemed… natural and unavoidable in the body politic.” In the modern age, however, “men began to doubt that poverty is inherent in the human condition,” and the “social question”, the question of poverty and inequality, began to play a revolutionary role. Continue reading “Summary: Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution chapter 1, The Meaning of Revolution”

The Church I Disagree With

The following column was published in The Observer on Thursday, October 30, 2014.

I recently gave a lecture in which I tried to take a clever stab at the idea that one indeed can be a Catholic who disagrees with the Church’s teachings. I said something to the effect that I had realized, in my own life, that I couldn’t be “spiritual, but not religious.” I knew my spirituality would consist primarily of self-worship and accommodation, creating a God in my own image. I still think this is a clever argument, but one of the problems with being clever is that someone might ask you to explain what you mean. That’s what happened.  Continue reading “The Church I Disagree With”

Friendship: The Foundation of Reason

The following column was published in The Observer on Thursday, October 16, 2014.

“I will always consider the possibility that I might be wrong.” So states the commitment to humility in the Center for Social Concerns’ “Virtues of Discourse” pledge. As one of the seven “virtues” in the pledge, humility means, “When I realize that I have been wrong, I will readily acknowledge it.”

This might bring to mind the humble Socrates, who was confounded when the oracle at Delphi announced that none was wiser than he. Conscious that he was “not at all wise,” Socrates thereafter began a search to find a man of greater wisdom. In his search, he discovered that “those with the best reputations seemed … nearly the most deficient … while others with more paltry reputations seemed to be … more fit in regard to being wise.”  Continue reading “Friendship: The Foundation of Reason”

Studying Death

The following column was published in The Observer on Thursday, September 4, 2014.

When students first read how Athens put Socrates to death they either balk at the injustice of the Athenians or at the uncalculating stubbornness of Socrates. Socrates was charged with corrupting Athens’ youth and refused to yield when faced with death. I myself sided with Socrates as my PLS Great Books seminar grappled with the story. My professor helped me to understand the other side: “If your children were abandoning their jobs and educations to follow an old man around, asking bothersome questions to strangers, what would you do? What would Notre Dame do if a professor convinced a bunch of students to stop attending class and, instead, sit out on the quad and talk about being all day?”  Continue reading “Studying Death”

The Awkward Avoidance of Biblical Interpretation

In contemporary biblical interpretation, much emphasis is placed upon such questions as: Which book or chapter was written first? Which stories have greater historical credibility? What other biblical stories or texts was this book’s author aware of? How far back did the oral tradition of this text go, and, consequently, how true are the words to the original?

In understanding the Bible in relation to Christendom, these are remarkably strange questions. They skip around the fact that, though these texts have long histories and stories surrounding their authorship, their significance for Christianity comes primarily from a selection of texts by a particular Christian community. That is, the relation of the texts to each other finds its significance more from the Christians compiling the Bible for a communal identity, than from the individual authors and histories of the texts themselves. Continue reading “The Awkward Avoidance of Biblical Interpretation”

Infantile Questioning and the Contemporary Theologian 

I recently attended a conference on women in the church. During one panel, two young Catholic women sought to present the Church’s teachings on women and gender through an orthodox perspective, offering advice and ideas on the roles of women in the Church. One woman stated that she would not be discussing the issue of women’s ordination, as it was not germane to her paper. Her co-panelist did the same, quoting Pope Francis’s statement that the door to women’s ordination “is closed”.  Continue reading “Infantile Questioning and the Contemporary Theologian “

Compliance Questions

The following column was published in the Irish Rover on Thursday, March 20, 2014. 

On February 12, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held an oral argument in Notre Dame’s case against the HHS mandate. Among the more surprising moments was Judge Posner’s question to Notre Dame attorney Matthew Kairis, asking whether the use of birth control was a mortal or a venial sin. Even more surprising was the admission of ignorance by Kairis, a graduate of Notre Dame’s Program of Liberal Studies, followed by Judge Posner’s answer that it is a mortal sin.

Continue reading “Compliance Questions”