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"A More Perfect Union", delivered in Philadelphia on March 18, 2008.
Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias. But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
"Address to a Joint Session of Congress on Health Care" (Sep 9, 2009).
You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter — that at that point we don’t merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.
Faith and Criticism: The Sarum Lectures 1992 (Oxford University Press: 1994), p.49.
I looked at the Gita and was deeply moved, as who could fail to be, but I was not convinced. When it came to the point I found myself quite unable to believe that what happened in the world as the result of my actions was not of ultimate importance. To be sure it mattered little what I, as a single individual, did as the German tanks rolled into France, but what thousands like me did might make a crucial difference to the course of human history. At that moment I discovered myself to be profoundly occidental. ¶ I do not suppose that even now I can render fully explicit what lay behind that conviction, but it had, I believe, something to do with the Christian pattern of Creation and Redemption and a consequent vision of the world as the theatre of irrevocable choices.
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Macmillan: 1909), pp. 88-89.
My list of virtues contained at first but twelve; but a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud, that my pride showed itself frequently in conversation, that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing and rather insolent, of which he convinced me by mentioning several instances, I determined to endeavor to cure myself, if I could, of this vice or folly among the rest; and I added humility to my list, giving an extensive meaning to the word. ¶ I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it. I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others and all positive assertion of my own. I even forbid myself, agreeably to the old laws of our Junto, the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a fixed opinion; such as certainly, undoubtedly, etc., and I adopted instead of them, I conceive, I comprehend, or I imagine, a thing to be so or so; or it so appears to me at present. When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition; and in answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but that in the present case there "appeared" or "seemed to me" some difference, etc. The conversation I engaged in went on more pleasantly; the modest way in which I proposed my opinions procured them a readier reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevailed with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right.
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Macmillan: 1909), p. 94
In the conduct of my newspaper I carefully excluded all libeling and personal abuse, which is of late years become so disgraceful to our country. Whenever I was solicited to insert anything of that kind and the writers pleaded, as they generally did, the liberty of the press — and that a newspaper was like a stage-coach, in which any one who would pay had a right to a place — my answer was that I would print the piece separately if desired, and the author might have as many copies as he pleased to distribute himself, but that I would not take upon me to spread his detraction, and that having contracted with my subscribers to furnish them with what might be either useful or entertaining, I could not fill their papers with private altercation, in which they had no concern, without doing them manifest injustice. Now many of our printers make no scruple of gratifying the malice of individuals by false accusations of the fairest characters among ourselves, augmenting animosity even to the producing of duels; and are, moreover, so indiscreet as to print scurrilous reflections on the government of neighboring States, and even on the conduct of our best national allies, which may be attended with the most pernicious consequences. These things I mention as a caution to young printers, and that they may be encouraged not to pollute their presses and disgrace their profession by such infamous practices, but refuse steadily; as they may see by my example that such a course of conduct will not on the whole be injurious to their interests.
The Quotable Bertrand Russell, Lee Eisler, ed. (Prometheus, 1993), p. 106.
It is the things for which there is no evidence that are believed with passion. "Nobody feels any passion about the multiplication table or about the existence of Cape Horn, because these matters are not doubtful. "But in matters of theology or political theory, where a rational man will hold that at best there is a slight balance of probability on one side or the other, people argue with passion and support their opinions by physical slavery imposed by armies and mental slavery imposed by schools.
Brennan Manning on Faith said...
The Ragamuffin Gospel, (Questar Publishers, 1993), 54.
The scribes were treated with excessive deference in Jewish society because of their education and learning. Everyone honored them because of their wisdom and intelligence. The "mere children"(napioi in Greek, really meaning babes) were Jesus' image for the uneducated and ignorant. He is saying that the gospel of grace has been disclose to and grasped by the uneducated and ignorant instead of the learned and wise. For this Jesus thanks God... The babes (napioi) are in the same state as the children (paidia). God's grace falls on them because they are negligible creatures, not because of their good qualities. They may be aware of their worthlessness, but this is not the reason revelations are given to them. Jesus expressly attributes their good fortune to the Father's good pleasure, the divine eudokia. The gifts are not determined by the slightest personal quality or virtue. They were pure liberality. Once and for all, Jesus deals the death blow to any distinction between the elite and the ordinary in the Christian community.
Brian Miller on Family said...
"Holiday Film" in The Seattle Weekly (December 14, 2000)
Today, with hectic, work-centered lives, busy social calendars, and precious little free time, people feel obligated yet resentful while gathering with kin during the holidays. Granted, a nice seder or Christmas dinner isn't in itself so unpleasant. If one could just arrive, shovel down the food as quickly as possible, then bolt for the door, such occasions would be tolerable. The problem is that for all denominations these feasts have been institutionalized in American culture; they're compulsory, a sign of good citizenship and family values. This enforced proximity with blood relations naturally builds to a breaking point. There's only so much you can hear about your batty aunt's goiter. There are only so many times you can coo over the new baby or suffer small children poking action figures into your eyes. And don't let's start with your mother about when you're finally going to get married! As breakfast drags on to brunch drags on to dinner, surrounded by family members, there's this mounting revulsion that you share their same receding hairlines, their same tendency toward cellulite, their same horsy, nasal laughs, their very same DNA. That's usually the trigger that sets you fleeing in fear and disgust.
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