Category: Virtue

children1With our newfound economic prosperity and the political liberalization of the West, we have transitioned into an era of hyper consumerism and choice. This involves all sorts of blessings, to be sure, but it brings its own distinct risks.

Whether it be materialism or a more basic idolatry of choice, such distortions will be sure to diminish or disintegrate any number of areas across society. But the deleterious effects on the family and children are particularly pronounced.

Throughout most of human history, children were most often the brightest light in an otherwise bleak existence of poverty, toil, and high mortality. For those with little freedom, few resources, and zero opportunity, children were a blessing and a bounty: a gift (and not just for the labor). Now, however, presented with a range of vocational options and the wealth and leisure to support them, our priorities have significantly shifted. We are prodded toward career or education or adventurism first, teased by a platter of technological tools to further prevent a child’s intrusion into our planned prospects. (more…)

carolerAs Christians living in a secular age, there’s a temptation to use Christmas as a wedge to wage epic new battles to restore Christendom.

But despite the flurry of hackneyed “War on Christmas” tropes, there is, alas, something rather amiss. Though the battlefront may not be a petty replacement of “Merry Christmas” with “happy holidays,” society is obviously devoid of a true understanding of the season, diluting a celebration about the invasion of heaven to a shallow idolatry of tradition for tradition’s sake.

Yet, as Andrew Ferguson reminds us, despite its best efforts, culture cannot, and indeed, doesn’t want to escape the “true meaning of Christmas” after all. In many ways, Ferguson writes, alluding to G.K. Chesterton’s famous words, it’s impossible to live in a post-Christian age.

Some things can’t be undone, and chief among them is the Light that was lit the first Christmas morning, while choirs of angels sang above,” Ferguson writes. “It can be ridiculed and parodied, satirized and scoffed at, obscured and sentimentalized, but it won’t be extinguished. So even a secular age continues to go through the motions, singing the same songs, sometimes the old songs, without quite knowing why.

And those songs — they bring such revelation and power, wherever they find a welcome set of lungs. (Yes, wherever.)

It is with Christmas music, Ferguson argues, that we see the Christian witness endure at its finest, not via an antagonism of tacky cultural kitsch, but through an elevation of the true and serious joy of Christ:

A good carol, said the great musicologist Percy Deamer, “was witness to the spirit of a more spontaneous and undoubting faith.” The effusions were organic, growing from the bottom up, and like the Gospels themselves, filled with metaphors taken from field and hearth…

…To take life”—and hence Christmas—”with real seriousness is to take it joyfully,” Deamer went on. “For seriousness is only sad when it is superficial: the carol is thus nearer to the truth because it is jolly.” The opposite isn’t necessarily true, by the way. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” [by Mariah Carey] might be described as jolly; no one would describe it as serious. “Joy to the World,” on the other hand, is both. A Christmas carol is meant to liberate us from phony seriousness and phony good cheer.

In the past that lesson has often been lost, at times even more thoroughly than in our own day—a reminder that should cheer us up, if you’ll forgive the expression. The serious joy, or the joyful seriousness, of Christmas is offensive to the grim Christian.

Carols offer a profound example of cultural engagement done right, shining a blinding light that, by virtue of its truth, goodness, and beauty, welcomes a lost world even as it wages war against hell.

Thus, as we worship and magnify Jesus this Christmas season, let us avoid petty battles against petty gods, whether of blind consumerism or nostalgic knick-knackery. Instead, let us exude and share the serious joy that comes from being a child of the living God. Let us simply sing, and sing of Jesus.

And let earth receive her King.

Blog author: dpahman
Thursday, December 10, 2015
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Over at the blog of the Catholic University of America’s School of Business and Economics, Drs. Chad and Brian Engelland, authors of an article on consumerism and the cardinal virtues for an upcoming issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality, share their insights on the challenge of consumerism in a commercial society:

Is consumerism an inevitable by-product of capitalism?

Brian: Capitalistic systems do come with the inherent risk that the acquisition of private property can turn into an excessive drive for money, power and prestige, rather than as a means for authentic human development. But people living in socialistic economic systems also fall victim to consumerism.

Chad: Companies provide many goods and services that solve genuine problems and improve lives. But consumerism trains us to think of products as the solution to all our problems, and to think about only problems that advertised products might be able to solve. Practice of the cardinal virtues offers us an antidote. Our article is intended to help both consumers and producers avoid this ever-present possibility. The cardinal virtues enable us to engage in business and buy products without compromising human development and happiness.

Read more . . . .

Riding to LaGuardia at the end of a business trip to New York City this past Saturday, my cab driver complained of the traffic in Midtown. In a non-malicious way (for a New Yorker), he suggested that the general increase in recent times might be due to the ride-sharing service Uber.

Generally speaking, I like Uber. I can only say “generally,” because I haven’t actually tried it yet. It’s a good idea though, as far as I’m concerned (shhh, don’t tell Hilary Clinton).

Nevertheless, call me old-fashioned or sentimental, but I still prefer a yellow cab. This is likely in part due to the fact that Grand Rapids, MI, where I live, has never had a thriving taxi business. For the most part, everyone either owns a car or takes the bus, so riding in a taxi feels like I get to be a part of every movie ever set in New York City to me. It’s at least a little magical, you know, like Die Hard 3.

Anyway, to get back to my cab driver, whose name I regret to have forgotten, I wondered if perhaps he was right. A recent article at FiveThirtyEight by , and actually explores some data on NYC taxi and Uber business. They write that in the Manhattan core area,

The increase in total Uber and taxi pickups during evening rush hours and later at night wasn’t spread evenly between the two competing services. Instead, Uber pickups surged by more during that time than they did the rest of the day, while taxi pickups experienced their biggest drops.

So Uber isn’t just poaching cab rides, it’s getting some business from people who wouldn’t have taken a taxi. And outside of the Manhattan core the effect is even sharper: (more…)

Conversations about justice tend to quickly devolve into debates over top-down solutions or mechanistic policy prescriptions. But while the government plays an important role in maintaining order and cultivating conditions for society, we mustn’t forget that justice begins with right relationships at the local and personal levels.

In Episode 4 of For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, Evan Koons explores topic from the perspective of hospitality, a theme we find throughout the Biblical story.

How do we approach and treat our neighbors? How do we act and interact, collaborate and exchange, relate and participate alongside each other? Are approaching our neighbors as co-creators made in the image of a holy God, and structuring our associations and institutions in a way that reflects his design for creation? (more…)

Although popular in his own day, C.S. Lewis has become even more influential since his death on November 22, 1963—52 years ago yesterday. One of the most enduring of Lewis’s works is his book Mere Christianity, which started out as a series of radio lectures that aired on the BBC during World War II.

A YouTube channel called CSLewisDoodle contains a number of videos that illustrate some of Lewis’s selected essays to make them easier to understand. The video below is from the third radio talk (Chapter 4 of Mere Christianity) in which Lewis explains what lies behind the moral law.

Excellent Credit ScoreA few days ago a young friend asked me if I could recommend reading material on what a person should look for when dating. Being a serious-minded Christian gentleman he’d consider any serious dating partner to be a serious candidate for his future spouse. So what should someone read to get an idea of who to date/marry?

Having given it some thought, there are two things I’d recommend reading: Proverbs 31:10-31 and the dating partner’s credit score.

Let’s start with the last chapter of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs ends with a heroic poem, a type of Hebrew poetry that recounts a hero’s mighty deeds. Rather than recounting great battles or courageous military exploits, though, the poem describes the domestic and economic work of a woman in heroic terms. “A heroic poem for someone engaged in domestic labor is remarkable in the ancient world,” says Peter Leithart, “and shows something of how God regards the work of women.”
(more…)