Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor had a brilliant but short literary career. She died in 1964 at the age of 39 due to complications from lupus, yet managed to leave behind a legacy of keen insight into the human condition of sin, in ways some considered repulsive. Her best known story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, is a morality tale of stiff adherence to “good.” O’Connor manages to turn upside-down the moral code of the seemingly “good” people in the story while asking the reader to question religious beliefs that seem to be useful and right, but in the end, fall dismally short.

George Weigel, in the Denver Catholic Register, discusses O’Connor Catholic faith and how it can enlighten Holy Week. Saying she was not one for “cheap grace” or the “smiley-face” form of Christianity, Weigel asks the reader to meditate on a letter O’Connor wrote in 1955 to a friend.

…Flannery O’Connor looked straight into the dark mystery of Good Friday and, in four sentences explained why the late modern world often finds it hard to believe:

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, and of the saints, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive. Witness the dark night of the soul in individual saints. Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul.”

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, April 16, 2014

rand-laveyOver the past few years, Anton LaVey and his book The Satanic Bible has grown increasingly popular, selling thousands of new copies. His impact has been especially pronounced in our nation’s capital. One U.S. senator has publicly confessed to being a fan of the The Satanic Bible while another calls it his “foundation book.” On the other side of Congress, a representative speaks highly of LaVey and recommends that his staffers read the book.

A leading radio host called LaVey “brilliant” and quotations from the The Satanic Bible can be glimpsed on placards at political rallies. More recently, a respected theologian dared to criticize the founder of the Church of Satan in the pages of a religious and cultural journal and was roundly criticized by dozens of fellow Christians.

Surprisingly little concern, much less outrage, has erupted over this phenomenon. Shouldn’t we be appalled by the ascendancy of this evangelist of anti-Christian philosophy? Shouldn’t we all”especially we Christians”be mobilizing to counter the malevolent force of this man on our culture and politics?

As you’ve probably guessed by this point, I’m not really talking about LaVey but about his mentor, Ayn Rand. The ascendency of LaVey and his embrace by “conservative” leaders would indeed cause paroxysms of indignation. Yet, while the two figures’ philosophies are nearly identical, Rand appears to have received a pass. Why is that?

Perhaps most are unaware of the connection, though LaVey wasn’t shy about admitting his debt to his inspiration. “I give people Ayn Rand with trappings,” he once told the Washington Post . On another occasion he acknowledged that his brand of Satanism was “just Ayn Rand’s philosophy with ceremony and ritual added.” Indeed, the influence is so apparent that LaVey has been accused of plagiarizing part of his “Nine Satanic Statements” from the John Galt speech in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged .

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It’s All About Religion
Metropolitan Jonah, Juicy Ecumenism

In the West, we are blinded by our secularist world view. In particular, we are unable to understand other societies that reject our own way of understanding.

Where Did Your Tax Money Go?
Amy Payne, The Foundry

Major entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security) gobbled up 49 percent, while more federal benefits took another 20 percent. These additional “income security” benefits include federal employee retirement and disability, unemployment benefits, and welfare programs such as food and housing assistance.

Rugged Individuals: Revival Of American Calvinism
Stéphane Bussard, Worldcrunch

Calvin is discovering a new popularity in America. No, not the character from the Bill Watterson comic Calvin and Hobbes, but John Calvin, the 16th-century French Protestant Reformer.

Forgiving the unforgivable in Rwanda
Tim Townsend, CNN

At first, the prisoners thought he had been sent by the government – a spy in a clerical collar – to investigate their crimes. Even when they were satisfied that Gahigi wasn’t a spy, they were skeptical of his motives. Why would this man come to their prison to preach when he knew what they had done?

uncle-samIt’s tax day, and though I’m sure you’ve already begun your revelry, I suggest we all take a moment of silence to close our eyes and relish that warm, fuzzy feeling we get when pressured by the IRS to pay up or head to the Big House.

Indeed, with all of the euphemistic Circle-of-Protection talk bouncing around evangelicalism — reminding us of our “moral obligation” to treat political planners as economic masters and the “least of these” as political pawns — we should be jumping for joy at the opportunity. Nuclear warhead funding aside, progressive Christianity has elevated Caesar’s role to a degree that surely warrants some streamers.

Yet, if you’re anything like me, you did the exact opposite, writing off purchases, deducting charitable giving, and — gasp! — trying to get some of your money back. (more…)

29taxes.2-500In an attempt to trap Jesus, some Pharisees and Herodians asked him, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” In response, Jesus said,

“Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The Pharisees and Herodians “marveled” at Jesus answer, but had they asked an agent of the Roman IRS they likely would have been given a similar answer.

Governments have always had to contend with citizens who make what are considered “frivolous tax arguments” to avoid complying with tax laws. Such arguments rarely work (it’s usually not effective to try to present a creative interpretation of tax law to the people who interpret tax laws) but people keep trying.

The IRS has an entire list of responses to the most common frivolous tax arguments. Here are four of my favorites:
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A failed charter school and someone looking to start a charter school in Kansas can only look to Kansas City, Mo., and wonder what impact high-performing public charter schools may have for kids in the state.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7figures[Note: '7 Figures' is a new, occasional series highlighting data and information from a variety of surveys and reports.]

1. The average federal tax rate for all households (tax liabilities divided by income, including government transfer payments) before taxes is 18.1 percent.

2. Households in the top quintile (including the top percentile) paid 68.8 percent of all federal taxes, households in the middle quintile paid 9.1 percent, and those in the bottom quintile paid 0.4 percent of federal taxes. (Quintiles — fifths — contain equal numbers of people.)

3. Social insurance taxes (e.g., Social Security, Medicare) account for the largest share of taxes paid by households in all but the top quintile.

4. The U.S. tax code is approximately 2,600 pages long (about 1.5 times longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace and 2.5 times longer than Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged).
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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11

jeremiah29

Jeremiah 29:11 is a popular verse among many of today’s Christians, as Evan Koons humorously points out in a new article at Q Ideas.

Christians love this verse,” he writes. “It has all the ideas and values we crave: prosperity, safety, security, hope, longevity. It’s the verse we most associate with the book of Jeremiah.”

Yet, as Koons is quick to remind us, the “bigger picture” of Jeremiah 29 is far less rosy. Jeremiah is writing to a displaced people living in a strange land struggling to understand how they might live peacefully and fruitfully in the here and now even while keeping their sights and spirits ultimately focused on the not yet.

“Somehow, we’ve forgotten that Jeremiah 29:11 is written in the midst of unspeakable calamity,” Koons writes, and perhaps it’s because “we fail to recognize that all of Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles, not just Jeremiah 29:11, still applies to us today.” (more…)

scholarshipChristian’s Library Press has just released a new translation of Abraham Kuyper’s Scholastica I and II, two convocation addresses delivered to Vrije Universiteit (Free University) during his two years as rector (first in 1889, and then again in 1900).

The addresses are published under the title Scholarshipand demonstrate Kuyper’s core belief that “knowledge (curriculum) and behavior (pedagogy) are embedded in our core beliefs about the nature of God, humanity, and the world,” as summarized by translator Nelson Kloosterman.

To celebrate the release, CLP will be giving away three copies of the book. To enter, use the interface below. There are three ways to enter, and each will increase your odds. The contest will end Thursday night at 11:59 p.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: Winners who live outside of the United States will be awarded an ebook version of the book only.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lesson For April 15: Why Government Can’t Replace Charity
Howard Husock, Forbes

Maybe it’s because of the impending tax filing deadline, but we are seeing a sudden spate of muscular defenses of a government safety net against the alleged conservative view that private charity could assist those in need—and replace government

Christian Magnanimity
Bryan Wandel, Humane Pursuits

Christian magnanimity is an overflow of grace to bear with the immaturities and shortcomings of people around us – for their benefit.

Catholic Schools Pressed to Give Up Morality
Anne Hendershott, Crisis Magazine

After decades of well-documented dissent on many Catholic college campuses over Church teachings on abortion, contraception, and same sex marriage, a new front in the Catholic culture wars has opened on Catholic K-12 campuses as increasing numbers of gay and lesbian teachers and administrators at these schools are lobbying for the right to marry their same sex partners—and keep their jobs.

Playgrounds, Religion, and Regulation
Brian Baugus, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

A long list of man-made rules restricts creativity and the ability to pursue opportunities in a society. It is man, seeking to steal God’s role – whether it be as priest or as king— that lays all the extra rules on top of God’s law and stifles flourishing.