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What?

What Did Lincoln Really Think of Jefferson?

“Lincoln hated Thomas Jefferson.” That is not exactly what we expect to hear about the president who spoke of “malice toward none,” referring to the president who wrote that “all men are created equal.”

Presidents have never been immune from criticism by other presidents. But Jefferson and Lincoln? These two stare down at us from Mount Rushmore as heroic, stainless and serene, and any suggestion of disharmony seems somehow a criticism of America itself. Still, Lincoln seems not to have gotten that message.

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Future

The Future of the Christian University by Samuel W. Oliver.

As I stood before more than seven hundred college graduates and their families during our annual ritual called commencement, I wondered if our graduates’ children will be allowed the privilege of the kind of education they received in a Christian liberal arts university. The future is not certain. I feel sure that universities can solve concerns about cost. We will survive the online revolution. The quality of the educational experience speaks for itself.

Instead, the threat that worries me most is the infringement of religious freedom by our own government.

More at FT.

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Assault II

Joe Rigney responds to the David Brooks’ column linked right below.

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Symposium

After Obergefell: A First Things Symposium by Various.

How should we respond to the ruling by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage? What’s next?

These are the question that we asked the following contributors—male and female, gay and straight, Christian and Jewish, Protestant and Catholic and Orthodox—to answer in this First Things symposium.

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Assault

The Next Culture War by David Brooks.

Christianity is in decline in the United States. The share of Americans who describe themselves as Christians and attend church is dropping. Evangelical voters make up a smaller share of the electorate. Members of the millennial generation are detaching themselves from religious institutions in droves.

Christianity’s gravest setbacks are in the realm of values. American culture is shifting away from orthodox Christian positions on homosexuality, premarital sex, contraception, out-of-wedlock childbearing, divorce and a range of other social issues. More and more Christians feel estranged from mainstream culture. They fear they will soon be treated as social pariahs, the moral equivalent of segregationists because of their adherence to scriptural teaching on gay marriage. They fear their colleges will be decertified, their religious institutions will lose their tax-exempt status, their religious liberty will come under greater assault.

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Regulating

Regulating Sex by Judith Shulevitz.

This is a strange moment for sex in America. We’ve detached it from pregnancy, matrimony and, in some circles, romance. At least, we no longer assume that intercourse signals the start of a relationship. But the more casual sex becomes, the more we demand that our institutions and government police the line between what’s consensual and what isn’t. And we wonder how to define rape. Is it a violent assault or a violation of personal autonomy? Is a person guilty of sexual misconduct if he fails to get a clear “yes” through every step of seduction and consummation?

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Flaws?

5 “Flaws” That Make You More Lovable by Juliana Breines.

You may think that people love you despite your flaws, not because of them. But some of the traits that you see as flaws may be more attractive than you realize.

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Culture

Sentimental Nihilism And Popular Culture by Kit Wilson.

If last year’s debates about Britishness demonstrated anything, it’s that a culture cannot be reduced to a checklist of its most popular dishes and landmarks. Society is built, instead, upon the countless habits and rituals of its members, both living and dead. Since collective identity emerges imperceptibly from these everyday experiences, our understanding of ourselves is always rather nebulous and imprecise — like one of those optical illusions that, when one focuses too hard, dissolves back into the page. As each generation passes, we forget something essential — if intangible — about ourselves. With the final breath of every dying person, some small spirit of the age escapes irretrievably into the air.

Throughout history, civilisations have compensated for this loss by stowing their shared memories in communal institutions. But today, for perhaps the first time in history, large chunks of our culture appear indifferent, even hostile, to their own past.

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Marriage

The Atlantic reviews The Marriage Book: Centuries of Advice, Inspiration, and Cautionary Tales From Adam and Eve to Zoloft by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen Adler.

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Publishing

The Crisis in Non-Fiction Publishing by Sam Leith.

When it comes to high-calibre non-fiction, risk-averse trade publishing houses are producing too many copycat ‘smart thinking’ books that promise more than they deliver. But praise should be given to the university presses.

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Terrible

Why Twitter is Terrible by James Poulos.

“There’s no way around it,” I tweeted in September. “Twitter is getting markedly worse. I’m nervous.” Since then, the world has caught up. Celebrities have gone dark. Kids have moved to Snapchat. The scarred and the scared have locked down their accounts. Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo has been hounded out of office.

But these are all symptoms, not the sickness. Business critics say Twitter is falling because the suits don’t know what do to with the service. In reality, it’s failing because our social mobs know just what to do with it. Twitter is getting worse because it helps us argue — and believe — that everyone else is getting worse.

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Exiles

Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country by Rod Dreher.

No, the sky is not falling — not yet, anyway — but with the Supreme Court ruling constitutionalizing same-sex marriage, the ground under our feet has shifted tectonically.

It is hard to overstate the significance of the Obergefell decision — and the seriousness of the challenges it presents to orthodox Christians and other social conservatives. Voting Republican and other failed culture war strategies are not going to save us now.

Discerning the meaning of the present moment requires sobriety, precisely because its radicalism requires of conservatives a realistic sense of how weak our position is in post-Christian America.

The alarm that the four dissenting justices sounded in their minority opinions is chilling. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia were particularly scathing in pointing out the philosophical and historical groundlessness of the majority’s opinion. Justice Scalia even called the decision “a threat to democracy,” and denounced it, shockingly, in the language of revolution.

It is now clear that for this Court, extremism in the pursuit of the Sexual Revolution’s goals is no vice. True, the majority opinion nodded and smiled in the direction of the First Amendment, in an attempt to calm the fears of those worried about religious liberty. But when a Supreme Court majority is willing to invent rights out of nothing, it is impossible to have faith that the First Amendment will offer any but the barest protection to religious dissenters from gay rights orthodoxy.

Indeed, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito explicitly warned religious traditionalists that this decision leaves them vulnerable. Alito warns that Obergefell “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,” and will be used to oppress the faithful “by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”

The warning to conservatives from the four dissenters could hardly be clearer or stronger. So where does that leave us?

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Gnosticism

Gnostic Mysticism Grounds Modern Progressive Ideology by Peter Burfeind.

We cannot understand what’s going on with gay marriage without understanding the spiritual pathology of our Gnostic cultural revolution.

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Gone Fishing

Time for the annual 3-day wine trip to the Healdsburg area. No new posts until Sunday or Monday.

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Interference

King v. Burwell versus Marbury v. Madison by Robert Tracinski.

It’s time to add another item to the list of discarded liberal pieties: judicial review.

The Supreme Court is no longer here to hold the executive branch accountable to the Constitution or the letter of the law. It’s here to run interference for the executive, to help it rewrite the law to fit its needs. And yesterday’s ruling in King v. Burwell doesn’t really make any bones about that. What the majority decision says is that in order to fit the larger context of the legislation’s overall goals, they had to interpret the language in a way other than the “most natural sense”—and “natural” here is a weaselly term for “the plain, obvious meaning of the words.”

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Related: John Roberts’ Judicial Abdication by Damon Root.

American conservatives are furious once again with Chief Justice John Roberts. For the second time in three years, Roberts has led the Supreme Court in saving the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from legal doom. In 2012 Roberts upheld Obamacare’s constitutionality. Yesterday, in King v. Burwell, he interpreted the law in accordance with the wishes of the Obama administration to allow tax credits to be available in connection with federally established health care exchanges.

Writing at The Week, conservative pundit Matt K. Lewis says “John Roberts abandoned conservatives” in King v. Burwell and abandoned “the conservative legal philosophy [he] is supposed to hold true to.”

In a word, no. John Roberts may have infuriated many conservatives, but that’s not the same thing as abandoning his conservative legal philosophy. In fact, when you take a closer look, you’ll find that Roberts’ behavior in the two Obamacare cases is quite consistent with one particular school of conservative legal thought. That school is committed to the idea of judicial deference.

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Wisdom

The Practical Wisdom of Chief Justice Ellsworth: Reconsidering the Separation of Church and State by Anthony Esolen.

If good morals are essential for a free republic to endure, and if a certain group of institutions successfully promote those morals, then it follows that a well-governed state may be friendly to those institutions—even if they are churches.

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Apostates

Darren E. Sherkat reviews The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam by Simon Cottee.

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Pornucopia

Pornucopia by Maria Konnikova.

Critics say that porn degrades women, dulls sexual pleasure, and ruins authentic relationships – are they right?

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Come Back?

Can Islam Come Back to the Light of Science? by Ross Pomeroy.

Sunday was the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. As Earth’s axis tilted, the sun reached its highest position in the sky, bathing the upper latitudes in enduring light. Residents of Fairbanks, Alaska experienced a day lasting nearly 22 hours, while denizens of Duluth, Minnesota witnessed a day lasting a more modest 16 hours.

In this, the International Year of Light, it is only fitting to mention the man who literally wrote the book on light: Ibn al-Haytham. A devout Muslim captivated by science, he believed that seeking truth and knowledge about the natural world would bring him closer to God. His quest — one that was both scientific and spiritual — led him to produce his masterpiece: the Book of Optics. Published roughly a thousand years ago, the tome described light more accurately than ever before, and most importantly, did so with meticulously detailed experimental evidence. Pivotally, Ibn al-Haytham outlined his experiments so that anyone could repeat them. His actions may have constituted the birth of the scientific method, itself.

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Debt

Public Debt, Political Paralysis, and the West by Samuel Gregg.

“There is not a more important and fundamental principle in legislation than that the ways and means ought always to face the public engagements; that our appropriations should ever go hand in hand with our promises.” Current Congressman and future President of the United States James Madison spoke these words in a 1790 speech to Congress during contentious debates about whether the US government should assume the states’ considerable debts.

Madison was seeking to remind Americans that balanced budgets are a basic element of sound public finance. Sadly, this is advice that most contemporary Western governments appear unable to embrace, judging from their public debt levels. There are perfectly legitimate debates about the economic benefits and perils associated with different public debt levels. Nonetheless, the very high public debt carried by many developed nations today and their apparent inability to stabilize—let alone reduce—such debts also reflect particular political challenges that contemporary Western democracies are failing to master.

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