Items of Interest: To Entertain Such Imaginations

by Benjamin Domenech on June 4, 2009

There were some who dared in the opinion of the multitude to immortalize themselves; and notwithstanding that the very sense of sight bore witness to their mortality, were ambitious to be called gods, and were honoured as such; to what a length of impiety would not many men have proceeded, if death had not gone on teaching all men the mortality and corruptibility of our nature? Hear, for instance, what the prophet says of a barbarian king, when seized with this frenzy. “I will exalt,” says he, “my throne above the stars of heaven; and I will be like unto the Most High.”

Afterwards, deriding him, and speaking of his death, he says, “Corruption is under you, and the worm is your covering;” but his meaning is, “Do you dare, O man, whom such an end is awaiting, to entertain such imaginations?” Again, of another, I mean the king of the Tyrians, when he conceived the like aims, and was ambitious to be considered as a God, he says, “You are not a God, but a man, and they that pierce you shall say so.” Thus God, in making this body of ours as it is, has from the beginning utterly taken away all occasion of idolatry.

Homilies Concerning the Statues

  • At the newly redesigned First Things online, Elizabeth Scalia responds to the death of George Tiller: “The Pauline paradox “when I am weak, then I am strong” carries a flipside: “When I am strong, then I am weak.” Relativism is dangerous because we can too easily slip into the belief that we so well comprehend God’s will that we can confuse our own will for God’s, and thereby do terrible damage to one another. God’s rain falls on “the just and the unjust,” and it is one of the challenges of the life of faith that we must leave to God the rendering of his Justice.”
  • At GetReligion, Mollie Ziegler Hemingway asks “How Muslim Are We?” in response to President Obama’s statement that the United States also could be considered as “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.” This is a bit of a stretch in the numbers department, but could he mean philosophically? An interesting question.
  • A piece on “Competitive Altruism” — otherwise known as what your grandmother called “being a showoff” — reminds us of the benefit of anonymous giving: “Traditionally, economists have presumed that if people are seeking status, they will simply buy the most luxurious product they can afford. But Griskevicius and his colleagues — Joshua Taylor of the University of New Mexico and Bram Van den Bergh of the Rotterdam School of Management — theorized that when given an eco-friendly alternative, competitive altruism would compel people to forgo luxury for environmental status. To test the theory, they conducted several experiments.”
  • The always entertaining P.J. O’Rourke reflects on the end of our love affair with the car (and GM) in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal.
  • Julie Vermeer Elliot is concerned by the belated discernment exhibited by evangelical viewers of Jon and Kate Plus Eight. She writes: “It was not until the recent allegations of sexual impropriety arose that a significant number of Christians began to question whether Jon and Kate were indeed the examples of faithful living that we had imagined. Somehow most of us missed the long trajectory that was, day by day, moving them farther from a life of Christian virtue. Sexual immorality—whether actual or merely suspected—caught our attention, but the materialism, narcissism, and exploitation of children that preceded it was largely overlooked.” Read the rest here.

Items of Interest: God Our Refuge

by Benjamin Domenech on April 23, 2009

Let every man and woman among us, whether meeting together at church, or remaining at home, call upon God with much earnestness, and He will doubtless accede to these petitions. Whence does this appear evident? Because He is exceedingly desirous, that we should always take refuge in Him, and in everything make our requests unto Him; and do nothing and speak nothing without Him. For men, when we trouble them repeatedly concerning our affairs, become slothful and evasive, and conduct themselves unpleasantly towards us; but with God it is quite the reverse. Not when we apply to him continually respecting our affairs, but when we fail to do so, then is he especially displeased. Hear at least what He reproves the Jews for, when He says, “Ye have taken counsel, but not of Me, and made treaties, but not by My Spirit.” For this is the custom of those who love; they desire that all the concerns of their beloved should be accomplished by means of themselves; and that they should neither do anything, nor say anything, without them…Let us not then be slow to take refuge in Him continually; and whatever be the evil, it will in any case find its appropriate solution.

Homilies on the Statues

  • In Commonweal, novelist and professor Liam Callanan writes about The Question and belief in the university context: “[T]oo often, I find, we transmit to our students the notion that healthy skepticism isn’t just a trait of scholarly inquiry, but its sum. Forget God: our students don’t believe. To have faith in something-Jesus, the Surgeon General (cigarettes are back, in a big way), or the president (they liked him better as a candidate, now he’s just another politician)-is to be marked as a dupe. Credulity is frailty.”
  • Gregory Pullum argues that Strunk & White is to blame for “50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice.” Well, it’s not that harmful — but Pullum is certainly passionate about it.
  • The controversies over philanthropy may seem complex at first, but in reality, they come down to a question that is quite simple: how much should philanthropy be directed by political correctness? The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy has called for at least 50 percent of a foundation’s grant dollars go to the poor and disadvantaged — an idea that sounds well and good, until you realize what this does to museums, conservation, medical research, and other fields.
  • Micah Mattix, The City’s Reviews Editor, has written several pieces over the last month for other outlets. It is well worth reading his essays on poetry and materialism and The Peculiar Life of Sundays.

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Items of Interest: Our Common Man

by Benjamin Domenech on February 3, 2009

So we learn from John to admonish our fellow servant as an equal. Do not shrink from the duty of chastising a brother, even though one may be required to die for it. Now do not make this cold reply: “What does it matter to me? I have nothing in common with him.” With the devil alone we have nothing in common, but with all humanity we have many things in common. All partake of the same nature with us. They inhabit the same earth. They are nourished with the same food. They have the same Lord. They have received the same laws. They are invited to the same blessings as ourselves. Let us not say then that we have nothing in common with them.

Concerning the Statutes