- Civility & Rhetoric (53) : Discourse, Persuasion, Respect
- Activism & Revolt (16) : Making Change
- Family (1) : The Family
- Government, Law, Politics (57)
- War & Peace (31) : War & Peacemaking
- Journalism (10) : All that's fit to print
- Education (15) : Scholarship and Pedagogy
- History (11) : History and Method
- In/Tolerance (20) : Living With Differences
- Church & State (37) : God & Country
Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (Dodd, Mead & Company: 1906) pp. 276-8.
When we have for some few frantic centuries tortured ourselves to save minkind, it will then be "time enough" to discuss whether they can possibly be saved. When, in the case of infant mortality, for example, we have exhausted ourselves with the earth-shaking efforts required to save the life of every individual baby, it will then be time enough to consider whether every individual baby would not have been happier dead. We are to remove mountains and bring the millenium, because then we can have a quiet moment to discuss whether the millenium is at all desirable. Here we have the low-water mark of the impotence of the sad reformer. And here we have the reason of the the paradoxical triumph of the happy one. His triumph is a religious triumph; it rests upon his perpetual assertion of the value of the human soul and of human daily life. It rests upon his assertion that human life is enjoyable because it is human. And he will never admit, like so many compassionate pessimists, that human life ever ceases to be human. He does not merely pity the lowness of men; he feels an insult to their elevation. Brute pity should be given only to the brutes. Cruelty to animals is cruelty and a vile thing; but cruelty to a man is not tyranny, it is rebellion, for man is loyal. Now, the practical weakness of the vast mass of modern pity for the poor and the oppressed is precisely that it is merely pity; the pity is pitiful, but not respectful. Men feel that the cruelty to the poor is a kind of cruelty to animals. They never feel that it is injustice to equals; nay, it is treachery to comrades. This dark, scientific pity, this brutal pity, has an elemental sincerity of its own; but it is entirely useless for all ends of social reform. Democracy swept Europe with the sabre when it was founded upon the Rights of Man. It has done literally nothing at all since it has been founded only upon the wrongs of man. Or, more strictly speaking, its recent failures have been due to its not admitting the existence of any rights or wrongs, or indeed of any humanity. Evolution (the sinister enemy of revolution) does not especially deny the existence of God; what it does deny is the existence of man. And all the despair about the poor, and the cold and repugnant pity for them, has been largely due to the vague sense that they have literally relapsed into the state of the lower animals.
Orthodoxy: The Romance of Faith (John Lane Company: 1909), p. 73-4.
The Jacobin could tell you not only the system he would rebel against, but (what was more important) the system he would not rebel against, the system he would trust. But the new rebel is a sceptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a certain moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. ... In short, the sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. ... Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.
Eugenics and Other Evils, by G.K. Chesterton (Cassell : 1922), p.76-77.
The thing that really is trying to tyrannise through government is Science. The thing that really does use the secular arm is Science. And the creed that really is levying tithes and capturing schools, the creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that really is proclaimed not in sermons but in statutes, and spread not by pilgrims but by policemen — that creed is the great but disputed system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics. Materialism is really our established Church; for the Government will really help it to persecute its heretics. Vaccination, in its hundred years of experiment, has been disputed almost as much as baptism in its approximate two thousand. But it seems quite natural to our politicians to enforce vaccination; and it would seem to them madness to enforce baptism.
"Fight or Flight?" in World (March 27, 1999), pg. 31
And Christians should remember that the culture war is not going to be like Desert Storm, in which victory and defeat were settled in a matter of days. It will be more like the Thirty Years War. Or the Hundred Years War. If Christian are serious about waging a war for the culture, they must not be discourged by single defeats or unrealistically elated by single victories. They must be in it for the long haul.
"Fight or Flight?" in World (March 27, 1999), pg. 30
Actually, Christian have made inroads into many culture-making professions, but they are often too timid and too eager to be liked to be waging a war. Christian colleges have the potential to be a powerful resource for the church in the intellectual battles against unbelief. And yet, Christian academicians are often so eager to seem intellectually respectable to their non-Christian peers that they capitulate at the first sign of blood. Instead of entering into intellectual combat by trying to refute the untruths of today's intellectual establishment, many evangelical theologians are busy trying to find a way to make them compatible with a revised version of Christianity.
Only One Way Left (The Iona Community: 1956), p. 38.
The cross must be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am claiming that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap, at a crossroads so cosmopolitan they had to write His title in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. At the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble, because that is where He died and that is what he died about and that is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen should be about.
All Too Human (Back Bay Books: 2000)
Because I believe in original sin, because I know that I'm capable of craving a cold beer in a village of starving kids, because I know that selfishness vies for space in our hearts with compassion, I believe we need government. A government that forces us to care about the common good even when we don't feel like it, a government that helps channel our better instincts and check our bad ones. I don't think government is good, just necessary.
"To the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island", August 1790, in Peter Wiernik, History of the Jews in America (New York: 1931), pp. 99-101.
The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support ... May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the Father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths and make us all in our several vocations useful here and, in His own due time and way, everlastingly happy.
"No One Blushes Anymore", Washington Post (Sep 15, 1985), p. D7.
Rock music has become a plague of messages about sexual promiscuity, bisexuality, incest, sado-masochism, satanism, drug use, alcohol abuse and constantly, misogyny. The lyrics regarding these things are celebratory, encouraging or at least desensitizing. By making these subjects the common currency of popular entertainment, the lyrics drain the subjects of their power to shock – their power to make people blush. The concern is less that children will emulate the frenzied behavior described in porn rock than that they will succumb to the lassitude of the demoralized – literally, the de-moralized.
Give War a Chance: Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind's Struggle Against Tyranny, Injustice, and Alcohol-Free Beer
PJ O'Rourke (Grove Press: Nov 1, 2003)
O'Rourke runs hilariously amok by tackling the death of Communism, sanctimonious liberals, and America's perennial bad guy Saddam Hussein in a series of classic dispatches from his coverage of the 1991 Gulf War. Here is our most mordant and unnervingly funny political satirist on: Kuwait City after the Gulf War: "It looked like all the worst rock bands in the world had stayed there at the same time." On Saddam Hussein, O'Rourke muses: "He's got chemical weapons filled with ... chemicals. Maybe he's got The Bomb. And missiles that can reach Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Spokane. Stock up on nonperishable foodstuffs. Grab those Diet Coke cans you were supposed to take to the recycling center and fill them up with home heating oil. Bury the Hummel figurines in the yard. We're all going to die. Details at eleven."
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