Posts tagged with: John Zmirak

che quevara tWouldn’t it be nice if we could all just get along? We could share all our stuff. You know, you could borrow my cashmere sweater that I saved up for, and I could borrow your Che Guevara t-shirt you got at in the dollar bin at the local flea market. Isn’t that what Christians are supposed to do?

John Zmirak thinks otherwise. At The Stream, Zmirak takes on those Christians who have a warm, fuzzy spot in their misguided hearts for what he calls “friendly fascism.” He reflects on Elizabeth Stoker-Bruenig’s latest piece in the New Republic, in which she scolds conservatives for “fighting” Pope Francis’ attempts to open the Church up to new economic ways of thinking.

She credits her discovery of Catholicism to the influence of a priest who called himself a “Christian socialist.” You remember socialism — the ideology that was denounced by Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XI even before its most orthodox forms claimed the lives of some 94 million people. It’s the system which still governs North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, and in more diluted versions is slowly poisoning Western Europe.


Are you now or have you ever been a Randian?

Are you now or have you ever been a Randian?

Over at The Stream, John Zmirak takes on a new McCarthyism which he says smears small-government Catholics as libertarian heretics. He compares the “outrageous instances of red-baiting” during the 1950s to the current practice by some leftist Catholics who tar conservative opponents indiscriminately as devotees of Ayn Rand, whether or not they have actual evidence of such sympathies. Zmirak:

The idea of a detailed, consistent, morally binding body of economic and political policies imposed by the Church on believers on pain of sin is nonsense on red velvet stilts. Elsewhere I argue the point at some length without going to an opposite extreme. Broad principles that inform our life and our politics, such as the dignity of the individual and the family, solidarity, subsidiarity and all the rest? Absolutely. A political platform? Absolutely not.

Nor has the Church ever made such a claim. Most Catholics with any knowledge of history have learned to forgive and forget individual outrageous statements by popes from the past, fully aware that the charism of infallibility is narrowly defined and almost never invoked — twice at least, eight times at most, and never on issues of economics or politics. Catholics are not obliged to support book-burning just because Gregory XVI did.

Rand-baiting is being used today as red-baiting was in the past, by those who support a deeply immoral institution, to silence those who object to it by equating them with extremists. What is that deeply immoral institution? The bloated, secularist, immoral and coercive governments that rule over most Western countries, including the United States.

Read “‘Rand-Baiters’ Target Conservative Catholics” by John Zmirak at The Stream.

Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk

To kick off this special Summer/Fall 2014 double issue of Religion & Liberty, we talk with scholar Bradley J. Birzer whose new biography of Russell Kirk examines the intellectual development of one of the most important men of letters in the twentieth century. We discuss the roots of Kirk’s thought and how it developed over time, in a characteristically singular fashion. Kirk, the author of The Conservative Mind, was not easily pigeonholed into ideological categories – fitting for a man once described as “the most individual anti-individualist of his day.”

I want to thank Bradley Birzer, a Hillsdale College prof who is currently Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado Boulder, for offering Religion & Liberty an advance look at his forthcoming book on Kirk. A special thanks also to Annette Y. Kirk for her gracious help locating photos of her late husband in the archives of The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in Mecosta, Michigan, and sharing these with our readers. Be sure to check out the website of the Kirk Center for news about its academic programs and publications.

Kirk was a long time advisor to the Acton Institute. Here is the audio from his last public lecture, hosted by Acton in 1994, on “Lord Acton and Revolution.”

In this issue of Religion & Liberty, we review two new books. Economist David Hebert tells us that Russ Roberts’ How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life – An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness is a helpful reminder about the “limits of pure economics.” Even though the books and film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythic fantasies are phenomenally popular today, John Zmirak points out that his “bourgeois virtues were widely sneered at” by his contemporaries. He reviews The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom that Tolkien Got and the West Forgot by Jonathan Witt and Jay Richards. (more…)

RaceSaveCentury-finalforrealthistimeWe are only 14 years into this century, and things are grim…but not hopeless. That’s the message of the book, The Race to Save Our Century: Five Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom and a Culture of Life. The book is a collaboration between Jason Scott Jones and John Zmirak. Jones is a human-rights activist and filmmaker (his works include Bella and Crescendo.) Zmirak is a prolific author, known best for his theologically accurate but tongue-in-cheek books on Catholicism, such as The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Catechism: A Faithful, Fun-Loving Look at Catholic Dogmas, Doctrines, and Schmoctrines.

The Race to Save Our Century is a slim volume, but not a quick read. There is much to mull over here. With chapters like “Total War” and “Utopian Collectivism,” it’s best to take this book slowly. You don’t want to miss any of the good stuff. (more…)

nuns on the busIf you were told by your doctor to lose weight, you’d likely do what most people do: exercise more and eat healthier food. Jason Scott Jones and John Zmirak have a better plan in mind:

Step 1: Start a fitness blog, collecting the best arguments you can find against obesity.

Step 2: Comb the Bible, Pope Francis’ Tweets, and the work of your fellow bloggers, for the choicest quotes on the deadly sin of Gluttony. Then post them in the comments threads of every article that seems relevant — such as blatantly fattening recipes that foodies selfishly post on their blogs.

Step 3: Spend at least four hours on Facebook and Twitter each day, sharing links and memes on the importance of physical fitness. Post photos of celebrities who have fallen out of shape, with snarky comments about the likely effects on their health and their careers.

Step 4: Write your congressman, your senator, and the President about the need for national legislation restricting the use of high fructose corn syrup in foods, and healthier school lunches in public schools.

Step 5: Add witty pro-fitness bumper stickers to your car.

Step 6: Join an activist group that pickets restaurants which refuse to post calorie counts.


green_eyed_monster_by_citrisblossoms2-294x300There are, according to Christian teaching, 7 deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. Unchecked, these dark places in the human heart will lead to the ultimate death of Hell (yes, some of us still believe in that.)

There is much discussion today about “income inequality.” President Obama has declared it the most important issue of our time. He says it is not about equal incomes, but equal opportunity, referencing the rise of Abraham Lincoln from poverty to presidency. CNN is now declaring such inequality “the great destroyer” and notes that it includes not just opportunity, but wealth and income as well.

I am left wondering: has “income inequality” become code for “envy?”

John Zmirak, in a piece from Crisis, asks us to test our envy, and I think it’s a good idea. First, let’s be clear as to what envy truly is. St. Thomas Aquinas breaks it down into four parts, and it is the fourth that really drives home the point: (more…)

We live in a society that really wants us to feel good. We have weight-loss programs, 24-hour gyms, hair color for men and women, and scads of “self-help” books. We laugh at videos on the internet of people doing dumb stuff, just so we know we are better than that. If we’ve got a job, a reasonably well-trained dog and no parking tickets to pay, we are good. Right?tea party catholic

John Zmirak begs to differ. He takes us to an imaginary land to prove his point:

Imagine a small country in Central Asia – call it Soregonadistan – where prospectors discovered an otherwise rare and extremely precious metal, contrafactium. The country sells the right to mine contrafactium to the U.K.-based Leviathan, LLP., which duly pays the country $100,000 per year for every native, and contracts that it will do so for at least the next 70 years. The once-impoverished citizens of this camel-blighted republic vote in a populist government, which declares that it will divvy up the money every year among the people. And how do the citizens decide to spend it? They legalize heroin, and contract with their southern neighbor, Lotusland, for a cornucopian supply of its precious poppies. Then the Soregonadis hire Lotuslanders as servants to make them dinner and keep them healthy, while each Soregonadi enjoys a lifetime of opiate ecstasy. No one is coerced into taking the stuff, but that blissed-out look on people’s faces proves mighty contagious – and soon 90% of the adult population consists of opium eaters. (What kids they still manage to have are farmed out to dutiful, sober nannies from Lotusland.) (more…)

At Aletetia, John Zmirak gives an interesting treatment of “solidarity”, a word we don’t talk about too much, either in government, philosophy or theology. However, as Zmirak points out, without solidarity, “tyranny creeps in.”

The central principle of solidarity in practice is simple and timeless – the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This ethical maxim, which Jesus quoted from the Old Testament, exists in some form in every culture on earth – as C. S. Lewis documented in The Abolition of Man, where he called it the Tao. It is so ubiquitous that it’s easy for us to assume that it’s universally accepted – at least in theory – while far too rarely practiced.

But in fact, things are darker than that. We have another maxim, which crept into Western souls via “worldly philosophers” such as Machiavelli and Hobbes – the principle of the “consenting adult.” Any time someone uses this phrase, he is saying (under his breath) that none of us is the least bit responsible for each other. If folks make stupid choices, that’s not our problem. Even if we are the ones who tempted them to make such a choice – if we have exploited them personally, economically, or sexually – we are still scot-free: “She was a consenting adult;” “That schmuck should have known better,” we tell ourselves, and smirk.

Instead of an ethic that rests on reciprocity, on admitting the unique value of every person because he’s a fellow human, we treasure a heartless, pragmatic ethos that shrugs at suffering and confusion, a Darwinian willingness to pounce on our neighbor’s mistakes. So “consenting adults” work in sweatshops overseas making our iPads, or sweat before cameras enacting our porn, or wake up alone in the bed where we’ve left them when we were finished with our desires. No individual rights were violated, no crime was committed or contract broken – so the modern secular conscience has nothing meaningful to say.

Solidarity is not a power relationship, but one based on justice and love, Zmirak says. It is certainly not socialism, either; it is, rather, a term borrowed from Catholic Social Teaching that allows a community of people to bond, to live together with concern for each other’s needs, regardless of what the government is up to.

Read “The Deadly Myth of the ‘Consenting Adult’ ” at

When most folks (Catholic and non-Catholic alike) hear “papal infallibility”, they often think “Catholics have to believe everything the pope says. They have to believe he’s never wrong.” Except that sometimes he is wrong, and that idea is too. In light of all the commentary we are going to hear in the coming weeks as the Church prepares to elect a new pope, it’s a good time to take a look at this particular Church teaching.

First, Catholics believe that Christ himself established the papacy by declaring Peter “rock” (Mt. 16:18) Thus, the “Chair of Peter” is the one the pope occupies as Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Church. All popes are heir to the legacy of Peter. As John Zmirak explains, “What the bishop is for his diocese, the pope is for the whole church.” (more…)

John Zmirak, author and Editor-in-Chief of The Intercollegiate Review, wants voters to know exactly what is at stake in the looming Presidential election. In a guest blogger piece at the National Catholic Register, Zmirak pointedly states that the choice between the two candidates isn’t just about whose economic agenda seems more reasonable or who won which debate:

…it’s about what America means: At heart of our Constitutional democracy is the freedom of individuals, even those with unpopular opinions, to pursue the good as they choose—and their right to form groups outside the government and push back against its policies. That’s why we have Amish communities, Catholic schools, associations of kosher butchers, hippie home-schools, gun clubs, organic farms… and all the other free institutions that build up our “ordered liberty.” Take all that away, quash every organization that displeases the federal government, and what you have is a country full of naked individuals, shivering in every wind that blows from Washington, D.C.

Read “First they came for the Catholics” at the National Catholic Register.