“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”— Frank Herbert Beginning. Middle. Ending. In a good book, all three rush by and you turn that final page satisfied, disappointed, or wanting more. Today marks the end of Education & Culture. The beginning was unexpected, Read More
While Father Hartley’s original and primary focus was on evangelism, over his first few years in the DR, he began to see that evangelism and social activism could not be separated. To teach his parishioners that they were beloved children of God, created in God’s image, without advocating for their full personhood politically, their full human rights, was not possible. And so along with celebrating mass every day, baptizing and catechizing, and building a church, the father also sought to provide food, education, and medical care. He worked closely with Noemí Méndez, a lawyer who spent her early life in the bateyes, to attempt to bring legal justice to the stateless Haitians. The powerful plantation owners . . . pretended to cooperate, but ultimately ended up blocking the priest at every turn, leading the calls for him to leave the country.
In his mid-thirties, the late French thinker René Girard experienced an intellectual and religious conversion, which he credited with granting him the dense insight he would gradually unfold over a wide-ranging career as a literary critic, anthropologist, and Christian apologist. In “Everything Came to Me at Once,” cultural journalist Cynthia L. Haven gives us an elegant, accessible account of Girard’s transformation from skeptical nonbeliever to Catholic Christian. The slender booklet is excerpted from Evolution of Desire, her full-length biography of Girard, to be published by Michigan State University Press in the spring of 2018. Yet it stands on its own as a look into events that changed a young professor’s life, and as a test case of Girard’s own thesis that the highest forms of literary and intellectual creation spring from a humbling deflation of pride.
Brief news reports about ISIS atrocities against girls and young women in Iraq and Syria elicit gasps of anger and fulminations about retribution (with an emphasis on military strikes). This account by Nadia Murad —who belongs to the Yazidi community singled out for special persecution —of what she went through day by day as a sabaya or sex slave ought to have a more useful influence . . .. [S]he challenges us to take in the facts, compare them to our own happy experience of human rights, and try to come up with a reason that, when she came of age, she needed to be in a more vulnerable category of humankind than the one we inhabit.
“The world must be remade,” as Raoul Vaneigem wrote half a century ago—but how? Berardi’s argument in his recent work—and it must be said that Futurability repeats arguments made in The Soul at Work and Heroes—is that ordinary people are overwhelmed by despair because of their impotence to produce the kinds of radical change in social structures that are so obviously required if we want our lives to be, well, livable in any meaningful sense. This impotence leads to the by now all-too-familiar phenomena of resurgent ethno-nationalism, mass murder, and suicide, as well as to resistance in the form of heartening but short-lived movements like Occupy.
In January 2017 Mike received the Mark O. Hatfield Leadership Award from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities for “uncommon leadership” in the Christian values of higher education. The award was a wonderfully appropriate recognition of his contribution to the understanding of religion and public life in America today. Under his guidance, the EPPC set the gold standard, especially for clarifying Christianity’s role in modern society. He managed to challenge both liberal trendiness and conservative traditionalism while retaining the respect of both sides—no small achievement.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Native leaders were often torn about the best approach to dealing with their white neighbors—sometimes attempting to forge treaties in order to maintain control of their territory (despite the government’s very poor record of honoring such agreements), other times choosing outward defiance in the face of relentless pressure to shrink their power and landbase. But no matter which policy they were pursuing, many Indian leaders concluded it would be useful for their children to be educated in the ways of their neighbors.
Getting people to commit themselves and their resources to tackling pressing social problems can be a very good thing, but when it turns out that “tackling” never quite amounts to “solving,” we can be left with such bitterness, frustration, and anger that we might wonder if the original project is even worthwhile. I think what Niebuhr’s body of work suggests, and this might be his greatest gift to us, is that it is often indeed worth it, since to ignore those pressing problems amounts to violating Christ’s commandment to love our neighbors, but that it will just as often disappoint us, sometimes deeply.
True to his own foundation, Lear’s writing demonstrates a great deal of creative freedom, exploring the ironic interplay between Plato and Kierkegaard, the psychoanalytic dimensions of Shakespeare, J.M. Coetzee, and Marilynne Robinson, and the connections between Aristotle’s ethics and Native American cultural heritage. In relationship to psychoanalysis proper, Lear is not offering a belated entry in the Freud wars or an attempt to repristinate what’s become an unfashionable legacy. Instead of settling or fixating on Freud, Lear argues, we need to work through him: “if psychoanalysis is to live up to its promise of being a moral psychology—one that contributes as it comes to understand what it is to lead a full, rich, meaningful human life—it must find ways to mourn Freud’s legacy and move on.”
Interest in their lack of sentimentality is not necessarily full-throated endorsement. In the chapters on Sontag and Didion, Nelson sharply brings forward the limits of a self-consciously unsentimental pose, which can devolve into smugness or self-satisfaction. Still, she insists, what links the six women discussed in the book is not simply their toughness but a need for reality, a move toward the painful. If there’s not a sisterhood, there is at least a school of unsentimentality here. In their attitudes toward their subjects, they sought to comprehend, to rebuke, to pay attention, but not to justify or to comfort. One could characterize them as seeking, in every instance, to be deliberately uneasy.