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Humanity

The Humanity of God: Why Christianity Demands a Politics by Stanley Hauerwas.

One of the challenges Christians confront is how the politics we helped create has made it difficult to sustain the material practices constitutive of an ecclesial culture to produce Christians. The character of much of modern theology exemplifies this development. In the attempt to make Christianity intelligible within the epistemological conceits of modernity, theologians have been intent on showing that what we believe as Christians is not that different than what those who are not Christians believe.

Thus Alasdair MacIntyre’s wry observation that the project of modern theology to distinguish the kernel of the Christian faith from the outmoded husk has resulted in offering atheists less and less in which to disbelieve.

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Spike

Many U.S. Cities See Spikes in Murder, Violent Crime by Jesse Walker.

The New York Times reports that at least 35 American cities have been seeing more murders, more violent crimes, or more of both this year than last year. Some cities—Baltimore, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Washington—are undergoing unusually large leaps in the number of homicides.

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Disaster

The Coming Liberal Disaster at the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin.

The beleaguered liberals on the Supreme Court had a great deal to celebrate in the term that ended in June. Two epic cases, and even some lesser ones, went their way. In Obergefell v. Hodges, the Justices ruled, five to four, that all fifty states must recognize same-sex marriages. And in King v. Burwell, the Court, by a vote of six to three, dismissed a challenge to the Affordable Care Act that might have, as a practical matter, destroyed the law. A surprising victory in a housing-discrimination case and another where the Court allowed limits on judges’ soliciting campaign contributions completed a major run of progressive victories.

Don’t expect the streak to last. The liberals’ big victories last term arose from a very particular set of circumstances. Justice Anthony Kennedy has displayed a consistent respect for the rights of gay people, which made his alliance with the four liberals (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) on same-sex marriage almost a foregone conclusion. In King v. Burwell, a group of conservative legal activists pushed such a transparently fraudulent claim about the text of the Obamacare law that Chief Justice John Roberts and Kennedy (who are no fans of the law) had to reject the claim.

But the conservatives on the Court are poised for a comeback, and the subjects before the Justices appear well suited for liberal defeats.

More at The New Yorker.

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Lying

Christopher Kaczor reviews Lying and Christian Ethics by Christopher O. Tollefsen.

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Traumatic

Walter Brueggemann reviews Holy Resilience: The Bible’s Traumatic Origins by David M. Carr.

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Bigotry

Bigotry in Numbers: Why so Many Academics Look Down on Evangelicals by David Briggs.

The one finding I would most like to share after more than a quarter-century of traveling throughout this country reporting on issues of faith is how similar people are in their basic desires and ambitions.

Talk to people of faith of all ages in any region of the U.S., and what they are basically searching for is a sense of transcendent meaning that provides hope, optimism and purpose in the face of the struggles associated with being human.

They want to become better versions of themselves, more caring and loving friends, neighbors, parents and spouses. And they see in their faith both the support networks and community rituals and the interior resources such as prayer and meditation a path to a better life.

Yet there remains a disconnect in popular culture, and in many media and academic settings, between the preoccupation with the most radically polarizing figures speaking in the name of religion and what goes on in your neighborhood church, synagogue or mosque.

That disconnect would be comical if it were not so damaging to some of our most vulnerable populations.

So why do we have so many signs of becoming an increasingly polarized nation, where we are willing to apply negative stereotypes to entire groups of people, whether they are atheists or evangelicals, Muslims or blacks?

It is not because such indiscriminate attitudes have a strong basis in science. Behavioral and social scientists increasingly are finding evidence of how individual characteristics – a person’s image of God, the depth of their prayer lives, the number of friends they have in a congregation – transcend faith categories in predicting the impact of religion in people’s lives.

A recent study indicating widespread bias toward conservative Christians by college and university teachers provides some possible answers.

The unpleasant truth supported by this and other research: It is easier to judge people we do not know, and inhibitions about expressing prejudice tend to fall away if enough of your colleagues have the same beliefs.

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Fascists

The Next Front in the War on Religious Freedom by David Harsanyi.

Stop bellyaching about Washington. All the country’s best fascists are on your local city council.

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Deaf?

Has Congress Gone Deaf On Deficits? by Patrick Hedger.

In “Applied Economics,” one of his many great books, economist Thomas Sowell says, “Elected officials’ top priority is usually getting re-elected, and their time horizon seldom extends beyond the next election. Laws and policies that will produce politically beneficial effects before the next election are usually preferred to policies that will produce even better results some time after the next election.”

There is no better model for this political phenomenon than government spending. Politicians love to spend lots of money because it’s the easiest way to make it look like they’re trying to solve real problems. Politicians especially love to spend borrowed money because they can stick future taxpayers, not current voters, with the bill. When Congress returns from this year’s August recess, it appears we’ll be seeing this irresponsible behavior on full display.

To note, government funding for the current fiscal year is set to expire in October, which means Congress must approve new rounds of spending to keep the government open. Some politicians, with guilty parties on both sides of the aisle, are now calling for increases in spending next year above the spending caps lawmakers put in place back in 2013. President Obama has said he will veto any legislation that does not increase both domestic spending and defense spending.

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Wreckage

What The Left And Right Don’t Get About Campus Rape by Mona Charen.

College campuses, like the rest of American society, are struggling to contain the wreckage of the sexual revolution. That’s what both the Left and Right don’t get about the ‘campus rape epidemic.’

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Divide

What’s Driving the Marriage Divide? by Rachel Sheffield.

Although economic factors certainly play a role in the growing gap in marriage rates between higher income, college-educated Americans and those with lower levels of education and income, the impact of changing cultural mores should not be underestimated.

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Scared

When Did Parents Get so Scared? by Melissa Schorr.

When you were a kid, you probably spent hours outside and unsupervised. It’s not that way anymore.

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Trumpism

Blame Liberals for the Rise of Trump by S.E. Cupp.

I have a different explanation for ascendant Trumpism. It isn’t the result of conservatism but of liberalism. Thanks to unrelenting demands by the left for increasingly preposterous levels of political correctness over the past decade, people are simply fed up. Trump survives — nay, thrives! — because he is seen as the antidote, bravely and unimpeachably standing athwart political correctness.

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Lessons

The Lessons of Anwar al-Awlaki by Scott Shane.

Four years after the United States assassinated the radical cleric in a drone strike, his influence on jihadists is greater than ever. Was there a better way to stop him?

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Curse

ISIS and the Curse of the Iraq War by John Cassidy.

I’ve been reading up recently on the ancient history of Iraq and Syria, a region that is often referred to, not for nothing, as the cradle of civilization. Here is where rapid population growth, urbanization, the specialization of labor, manufacturing, written language, money, mathematics, and astronomy all originated.

Today, of course, parts of the region have fallen under the control of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, which, as part of its stated aim to create an Islamic caliphate, is destroying any traces of earlier religions and civilizations. (Evidently, in keeping with its Wahhabi roots, it regards them as antithetical to Islam, despite the fact that they existed thousands of years before the prophet Muhammad was born.) Earlier this year, after occupying Mosul, in northern Iraq, ISIS militants ransacked the city’s central museum, taking drills and sledgehammers to statues and relics from the empires of Akkadia and Assyria, some of which reportedly dated back to the start of the first millennium B.C.

More at The New Yorker.

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Forgiveness

The Science of Forgiveness: “When You Don’t Forgive You Release All the Chemicals of the Stress Response” by Megan Feldman Bettencourt.

Researchers are studying how we can let go of our grievances and live a healthier life. Here’s how it works.

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Ourselves

Why We Can’t Get Over Ourselves by Nicholas Epley.

Exposing the reasons we fail to understand the minds of others.

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Arminianism

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Arminianism by Joseph Dongell.

Do Arminians and Calvinists actually disagree as much as we think?

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Worse?

Did Religion Make the American Civil War Worse? by Allen Guelzo.

Faith may have inflamed the conflict, but one lasting legacy of the war may be the toll it took upon American faith.

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Hydra

Slaying the Hydra: Can Virtue Heal the American Right? by Rachel Lu.

We’ve come to that agonizing point in our political process when each political party must choose its champion. Republicans are trying to decide in whose hands to place their party’s fate. Perhaps the uninspired but reassuringly American Scott Walker? The inexperienced but well-spoken Marco Rubio? Rand Paul, a man of intelligence and conviction who nonetheless selected drone strikes as the issue most worthy of a filibuster? Or should we throw everything to the wind and pick a buffoon with a giant wallet for his soap box?

The stakes are high. America sits in the shadow of a militant secular culture that seems determined to subdue everything in its path. Liberal Democrats have lashed themselves firmly to the mast of that dominant culture, and by doing so have won a political edge. Our mainstream cultural institutions eagerly promote their values and often their candidates as well. Meanwhile, on the conservative side, we obsess about messaging, demographics, and electoral ground games, and while those do merit attention, the hard decisions will ultimately revolve around one central problem. Conservatism has become countercultural, and it’s hard to win elections from a countercultural platform.

At the heart of this debate lies a brutally simple dilemma: we can either move ourselves in the direction of the mainstream culture, or we can continue trying to persuade the culture to move back toward us.

As usual, the right choice is also the harder one. Our liberty will never really be safe among a citizenry that disregards virtue. If conservatism throws away its other commitments in order to compete for progressive hearts, it may as well just not exist. However far our compatriots stray from natural law, we must continue to call them back to prudent ways of living, reminding them of the manifold benefits of discipline, self-sacrifice, and virtue. Unfortunately, many of our allies have grown apathetic or even hostile to this fundamental work.

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Rank

John Stossel ranks the presidential candidates. (I voted for Gary Johnson in the last presidential election.)