Politics
John Milbank’s Beyond Secular Order (or: Why I Can’t Sleep at Night: A Theo-Political Inquiry)

John Milbank’s Beyond Secular Order (or: Why I Can’t Sleep at Night: A Theo-Political Inquiry)

My Learn to Play Bridge program talks to me. Upon entry, “Welcome to Bridge Baron 23.” Upon exit, “Hope to see you again soon.” Mere visuals don’t work because, well, the voice is extraneous, but it’s hard to play a social game in solitude. I’m probably playing it alone, at any given time, only because I can’t find people to play with. The voice acts as an assurance, a psuedo-human element in an enterprise in which the human element could not be more glaringly absent.

The idea of depersonalization occupies us more and more: social media in particular serves as a…

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Cruzin’ to the Future (One Coloring Book at a Time)

Cruzin’ to the Future (One Coloring Book at a Time)

Recently a news story has surfaced about a certain Ted Cruz coloring book. Cruz to the Future (get it?) has already sold out of its second printing. And just in case you’d rather not feast your eyes on that brand of politics, the same St. Louis based coloring book company has published a similar illustrated diddy for fans of Occupy Wallstreet.

What struck me about this endeavor wasn’t really the politics of it so much as it was who the politics were intended for. The coloring book company has made it clear that these publications were not intended to be gag…

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The Virtue of Just Showing Up (at the Hospital)

The Virtue of Just Showing Up (at the Hospital)

It probably won’t come as a surprise that my personal favorite book of the year, which actually came out in 2012, was Tim Kreider’s We Learn Nothing. A collection of essays on everything from Busyness and Friendship to Identity and Politics and Family to Death and Books (sometimes in the same paragraph), it’s as funny as anything I’ve ever read, grounded in personal experience (much of which is anything but funny), and unified by Kreider’s unwavering knack for gazing behind the curtain of everyday life (esp his own). If I had to describe his perspective, I’d borrow a phrase from…

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The Idiot Forgiveness of Nelson Mandela

The Idiot Forgiveness of Nelson Mandela

I spent a semester during my Junior year of high school at a boarding school in the countryside of South Africa. It is a beautiful country with a vibrant cultural heritage. Yesterday, God called one of South Africa’s proudest sons home, Nelson Mandela, and I thought it would be apropos to celebrate the ways in which his life illustrated God’s idiot forgiveness.

Mandela was a political activist in South Africa under the brutal and repressive Apartheid system. Apartheid was a system of government largely run by the Afrikaners (descendants of the German and Dutch colonists of the area) which functioned by…

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John Gray and the Politics of Grace

John Gray and the Politics of Grace

“To think that human beings are freedom-loving, you have to be ready to view nearly all of history as a mistake.”

So says pessimistic philosopher John Gray, in his wonderful recent book The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths. If it’s already beginning to sound a bit glum, well, he can’t really help himself. The first word we need to hear is so often a “no”, a judgment, or a deconstruction.

Have you ever known someone who had a truth sitting right in front of them and couldn’t recognize it? Someone who always exonerates her child – bad grades…

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Anthony Weiner and The Court of Public Opinion

Anthony Weiner and The Court of Public Opinion

The recent hubbub surrounding Anthony Weiner’s second exposure for “sexting” is immensely difficult to write about, but relevant. Recidivism? Check. Judgment? Check. Grace? We’ll see.

The media has spent a good portion of the past week trying to classify the New York mayoral candidate’s behavior. Is he a punchline? A sex addict? A narcissist? Classifications are easy, especially when they allow us to exempt ourselves. But the story clearly has broader implications, for example, the role of social media and the instantaneous affirmation we derive from it. We might look at exhibitionism as a misplaced instance of the fundamental desire to…

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Another Week Ends: Millennial Churchmice, Papal Forgetfulness, Meaningful Happiness, Postpartem Mirrors, Teaser Culture, Michael Vick, Anthony Weiner, and TV on the Radio

Another Week Ends: Millennial Churchmice, Papal Forgetfulness, Meaningful Happiness, Postpartem Mirrors, Teaser Culture, Michael Vick, Anthony Weiner, and TV on the Radio

1. The question of why millennials are leaving the church came back into public view this week via an opinion piece by Rachel Held Evans on CNN, the key line being, “What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.” Accessibility and format are not really the issue in other words; if anything, church-as-performance appears to be symptomatic of an insecurity in modern believers that has alienated as many as it has attracted. Evans believes the real problem is the What, not the How. Fair enough–the substance of much of what…

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Meet The New Boss (Same As The Old Boss): Birthday Party Panic and The New Puritanism

Meet The New Boss (Same As The Old Boss): Birthday Party Panic and The New Puritanism

Talk about a lob over the plate. The New Republic posted a piece last week by Mark Oppenheimer entitled “The New Puritans: When Did Liberals Become So Uptight?” in which the NY Times columnist laments the rise of progressive piety–and the attendant anxiety–that one finds in blue-state circles these days. It’s an especially cogent summary of what Portlandia lampoons so well, and Oppenheimer adopts the same affectionate lighten-up attitude. But like many of the skits on that show, the insights are much broader than they might initially appear–regardless of which political filter you find most accurate and/or comfortable, the article…

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Gideon’s Army and the Best Attorney There Is

Gideon’s Army and the Best Attorney There Is

HBO has been on fire with their summer documentary series, but the highlight thus far has definitely been Gideon’s Army. Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that everybody deserves legal representation in the court system, and if somebody cannot afford representation, then the state must provide an attorney for them. Gideon’s Army follows the lives of three of those attorneys who are called “public defenders.”

The job of a public defender is difficult and under-appreciated. A public defender might represent about one hundred clients at a time for very little money, which often falls far short…

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Another Week Ends: This American Life’s 500th, Dustin Hoffman’s Female Perspective, Midlife Crises, Man-Children, Spitzer, and Chickens

Another Week Ends: This American Life’s 500th, Dustin Hoffman’s Female Perspective, Midlife Crises, Man-Children, Spitzer, and Chickens

1) Heather Havrilesky, at it again, this time over at Aeon. Writing from the perspective of a “successful” middle-ager, she describes how nothing can really be enough nowadays. The avenues for comparison are as numerous as the avenues for self-expression. She has this to say about her own experiences:

This is the shape my mid-life crisis is taking: I’m worried about what I have time to accomplish before I get too old to do anything. I’m fixated on what my life should look like by now. I’m angry at myself, because I should look better, I should be in better shape,…

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Another Week Ends: Successful Blueprints, Redemptive Politicians, Don Draper’s Truth, Marital Advice, Humanist Blasphemy, Mavis Staples, Bono, and Dropping Keys

Another Week Ends: Successful Blueprints, Redemptive Politicians, Don Draper’s Truth, Marital Advice, Humanist Blasphemy, Mavis Staples, Bono, and Dropping Keys

1. This is embarrassing to admit. As much as I love The Replacements, it is The Wilson Quarterly that has truly been rocking my world this past week. Two articles in particular, both from their Spring issue, are worth mentioning here. First, there’s Sarah Courteau’s “Feel Free to Help Yourself”, in which the author surveys not only the history of self-help but allows herself to dabble in it sincerely. All very relevant and, well, helpful–but also not nearly as patronizing as some of us might be tempted to be. She writes, ht WB:

Self-help, along with the rest of the culture,…

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God is Not the NSA

God is Not the NSA

The National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has been all the rage in the blogosphere these past couple weeks. The debate over whether or not he is a traitor or a patriot is not dying down and, amidst this fray, it almost seems that we have forgotten about Snowden’s actual revelations, that the American Government has a massive surveillance system in place.

Regardless of where you “stand” on that debate, there’s a natural unease that comes with this news. You may not be coordinating terrorist activities, you may even feel you have nothing to hide, but the thought that somebody behind a…

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The Law of Lightbulbs

The Law of Lightbulbs

Andrew Sullivan alerted his readers to a new study whose results should come as no surprise to readers of this blog. The study came from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was picked up by grist.org. Here is how grist.org described the study:

With a fixed amount of money in their wallet, respondents had to “buy” either an old-school lightbulb or an efficient compact florescent bulb (CFL) . . . . Both bulbs were labeled with basic hard data on their energy use, but without a translation of that into climate pros and cons. When the bulbs cost…

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Grace From the Very Top

Grace From the Very Top

1993 is, I’m sure, notable for many things.  But for some, it was most notable as the year of the second straight “Fab Five” appearance in the NCAA National Championship game.  The year before, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson, and Chris Webber had become famous for being an all-freshman starting five at the University of Michigan, introducing what has been referred to as “a hip-hop element” into the game, and getting all the way to the championship game before losing to Duke. The next year, as sophomores, the Fab Five was even better. Again, they went all…

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Another Week Ends: Gucci Addictions, Narcissism Epidemics, DFW, Phone vs. Heart, PZ on Drones (on CNN), R. Crumb, Tale of Two Suedes, and Kung Fu Grandpa

Another Week Ends: Gucci Addictions, Narcissism Epidemics, DFW, Phone vs. Heart, PZ on Drones (on CNN), R. Crumb, Tale of Two Suedes, and Kung Fu Grandpa

1. The author of the original Friday Night Lights, Buzz Bissinger, dropped as offbeat and not-quite-repentant a tale of addiction on GQ this month as I have ever come across. A convergence of shopping and sex addiction rooted in Law-induced despair (never being able to measure up to initial success) and plain old powerlessness, the circumstances are so outrageous you almost wonder if it’s a prank. Like many an addict/human being, Bissinger is peculiar mix of self-loathing and self-indulgence, both fearful and proud at the same time, his smatterings of wisdom covered up by layers of misanthropic confusion and a…

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