Category: Virtue

On the short list of the most enduring Christian books of the twentieth century is C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. The book originated from 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. In this video, Lewis talks about the reality of the universal natural law.

Americans are growing in their distrust of the U.S. government and its leaders, with polls typically showing approval of Congress somewhere around 11%. As Senator Ben Sasse put it in his first remarks to the U.S. Senate, “The people despise us all.”

“No one in this body thinks the Senate is laser-focused on the most pressing issues facing the nation,” he said, “No one. Some of us lament this; some are angered by it; many are resigned to it; some try to dispassionately explain how they think it came to be. But no one disputes it.”

In a recent interview with Peter Robinson on Uncommon Knowledge, Sasse expounds on this further, noting that the problems in Congress have less to do with nefariousness (though that surely exists) than with efficacy. “There is a gigantic deficit of vision,” he says. “We have generational challenges, just at the level of federal policy.”

Sasse traces the decline of American government from Teddy Roosevelt onward, highlighting the 1960s as the eventual tipping point away from constrained constitutional governance. The federal government has now expanded into far too many areas, he argues, and the culture has responded in turn. (more…)

During World War II, when Britain was fighting against the evils of Nazism, the director of religious programming at the BBC, asked C.S. Lewis to give some talks about faith. The Oxford professor reluctantly agreed, and on August 6, 1941, at 7:45 in the evening he gave his first broadcast.

This first broadcast on right and wrong would go on to become the most read radio series in British broadcasting history, and was used as the first chapter of Mere Christianity, one of the most influential Christian books of the twentieth century.

All but one of the original broadcast have been lost, but CSLewisDoodle has produced this animated recreation which highlights Lewis’s argument about how the natural law provides a clue to the meaning of the universe.

generosityMost Americans believe that it is very important for them to be a generous person. Yet almost half did not give to charity in the past year, and less than a quarter gave more than $500.

That’s the latest findings in a new Science of Generosity survey. An even more disconcerting discovery is that quarter of Americans were neutral on the importance of generosity and 10 percent disagreed that generosity was not a very important quality.

As David Briggs of the Association of Religion Data Archives notes,
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person-pewDespite the widespread complaints about the attitudes, ethics, and attention spans of millennials, it can be easy to forget the failures of generations gone by.

Not unlike the baby boomers of yore, we millennials were raised in a world of unparalleled prosperity and opportunity. This has its blessings, to be sure, but it also brings with it new temptations to view our lives in grandiose terms, punctuated by blinking lights and marked by the vocabulary of “world change” and “social transformation.” Behold, we are the justice seekers, sent to “make the world a better place” and put society to rights.

But how does real transformation actually take place?

In an article for Providence, Walter Russell Mead offers some lessons from the boomers, noting how the next generation might learn from their fruits…or lack thereof:

Most of us [boomers] (at least of that part of the generation that was interested in public service) ended up putting our energy into anti-poverty programs, human rights NGOs, environmental organizations, and so on. All of these are much stronger now than when my generation first got involved with them. The enormous growth of the NGO sector both in the United States and abroad has been one of the hallmarks of the Boomers’ engagement with the world.

Looking back, I think we got it wrong. In our eagerness to change the world, and to embrace the tumult and challenge of our times, we overlooked the most important NGO of all: the Church of Christ.

Alas, for as important as various programs and policies may be, the church provides the spiritual and cultural lifeblood that connects the dots between the individual and society. The church coordinates the contours of man’s efforts and institutions, conducting them toward the mysterious harmony we sometimes call “flourishing.” (more…)

There is something about an election season that tends to focus the mind on the problems in the world and, for many of us, cause us to feel uneasy. We may try to blame this anxiety on the state of the world, but there must be something more to it. We have a sense that something is truly wrong, as if objective standards are being violated.

In a BBC broadcast from August 1941 (which would later become a chapter in the book Mere Christianity), C.S. Lewis explains why we have reason to be disturbed: because there exists a Moral Law, because there is a Mind behind this Law who expects us to act in a particular manner, and because we have all fallen short of meeting this expectation.

23-VIEW-master675Under the feudalistic societies of old, status was organized through state-enforced hierarchies, leaving little room for the levels of status anxiety we see today.

For us, however, status competition ranges wide and free, leading to multiple manifestations and a whole heap of status signaling.

Such signaling is as old as the free society itself, of course. Whether sending their children to fancy classes and fencing lessons, accumulating ever-expensive luxury goods, or boasting in the labels of their fair trade coffee and the nobility of non-profit activism, aristocrats have always found ways to signal their superiority.

Yet these preferences have shifted over time, the present form of which is carving out its own unique space. In a recent report from the Adam Smith Institute, Prof. Ryan Murphy explores the situation, noting that while past generations were more concerned with “conspicuous consumption” and “keeping up with the Joneses” – chasing faster cars and bigger diamonds – the current pursuit of status has adapted toward “conspicuous authenticity.”

We are now seeing a “new status signaling,” Murphy observes, where society has “moved beyond associating ostentatious displays of wealth with high status,” opting instead for behavior that signifies we are above and beyond such base behavior. (more…)