Flipping between reality television and footage of the war in Iraq, Susan Collins was inspired to pen The Hunger Games. The dystopian young adult trilogy has been a runaway success both of page and screen: book sales number in the tens of millions, and in 2012, the first film took in nearly $700 million worldwide. (The next film, Catching Fire, releases tomorrow.)
Initially, I resisted the books for fear they were too violent — but then, at the urging of friends, family, and coworkers (all of whom I believed to have respectable taste), I devoured them in a weekend, and my husband did the same. The Hunger Games are literary alchemy, a breathless amalgam of all the tropes I loved as a child: romance, survival, and the poster child for strong female protagonists, Katniss Everdeen. When the first film came out, my husband and I rushed to the multiplex.
Collins’ trilogy provides, at turns, masterful commentary on class disparity and violent voyeurism: Katniss and her companions excoriate the citizens of the Capitol for their decadence and rabid consumption of the Games. (Their disdain was contagious: for weeks after reading the books, I found myself asking, “Would someone from the Capitol do this?” before doing or saying anything.)
But while watching the films, my husband and I felt uneasy. This discomfort ran deeper than the typical distaste any reader feels when watching a beloved book adapted for the screen. Watching children slaughter each other was very different than reading about it.
Even though the author of this essay in Catholic World Report is careful to make distinctions, this would seem to be the choice: Thomas Aquinas or Ron Paul. It is, in fact, how the indispensable Real Clear Religion website framed the debate this morning.
To compare a religion with an intellectual and moral tradition that goes back thousands of years with a quasi-political movement that is more known for what it is against than what is for is worse than comparing apples and oranges. Yet the Catholic view of the world does seem to be in tension with one that values freedom most of all and pleads agnostic on other important issues. Brian Jones focuses on three areas of disagreement: 1) the necessity of government, 2) law as moral pedagogy and 3) the proper order of politics.
Having studied both economics and political philosophy as well as worked in the field of Catholic social teaching for the Holy See, I’m more than a bit interested in the matter. I readily admit to having libertarian instincts and preferences in economics, while also believing in the primacy of the political in a social order that has a supernatural end. Jones puts it well when he writes, “In Catholicism, there is always the realization that in order for politics to be itself, and accomplish what it is meant to in accord with man’s nature as a social and political animal, it must point to that which is ultimately not political.”
So does that make me suspect on Catholic AND libertarian grounds? Or can I coherently believe in free markets and the truth about God and man as taught by the Church? Catholic teaching thankfully does not require its adherents to share the same opinions on prudential matters. I know this may seem like a cop-out to the more strictly (harshly?) principled, but it also happens to better reflect the realities of the messy world we live in. Or am I alone in this view?
While we’ve grown accustomed to finding conservatives longing for a mythical Mayberry-era that never, in fact, actually existed, we expect those on the left to be perpetually forward-looking. So it’s rather disconcerting to see ‘progressives’ get nostalgic for the mostly mythical past. Usually such longing for the good ol’ days comes from ex-hippies missing the free love and cheap drugs of the 1960s. But on rare occasions the radical left dips back even further. Like to the 1930’s-era anarcho-syndicalism of the Industrial Workers of the World (aka “Wobblies).
That seems to be the period favored by the avowed socialist and Seattle City Councilmember-elect Kshama Sawant. The machinists union of the Washington-based Boeing recently rejected a contract guaranteeing jobs for the next eight years in exchange for new workers giving up their guaranteed company pensions. Now Boeing is threatening to take those jobs to other states. Instead of advocating for a compromise, Sawant has a different plan:
Kathryn Jean Lopez, at National Review Online, has interviewed Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, on his newest book, Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Human Flourishing, a Free Economy and Human Flourishing. To begin, Lopez asks Gregg about the title of the book.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Tell us about the title of the book. Does the Tea Party have anything to do with the Catholic Church?
SAMUEL GREGG: Tea Party Catholic itself has very little to say about the contemporary tea-party movement. But for those Americans who haven’t imbibed Progressivist ideology and who don’t think that the real America began when Franklin Roosevelt was elected president, the expression “tea party” is an especially evocative phrase. It immediately conjures up in people’s minds the American Revolution, the American Founding, and the American experiment in ordered liberty.
Church and State (Dept.): John Kerry Gets Religion
Melissa Steffan, Christianity Today
New adviser will (hopefully) make faith less foreign in foreign affairs.
Not a “Prosperity Gospel”
Greg Forster, Kern Pastors Network
Churches should not only empower people to do their work well, but should help them to have a broader vision of economic flourishing and how communities can achieve it.
Greece: Taxpayer-Funded Mosque Planned in Athens
Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute
… plans for building a large state-sponsored mosque remained stalled until the Muslim Association of Greece—a group that claims to represent all Muslims in Greece, and is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood—staged a series of highly provocative mass public prayer sessions across Athens aimed at pressuring the government into building an official mosque.
What Can the New Testament Teach Us About Fighting Poverty?
David Kotter, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics
The New Testament says a lot about the underlying causes of poverty. Does it also have anything to say about poverty’s possible solutions?
Peter Robinson, host of the Hoover Institution’s Uncommon Knowledge program, interviews playwright David Mamet about his book The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture and his conversion to conservatism. The blurb on the video notes that, “Mamet explains how, by studying Jewish and Christian texts such as the Talmud and the Bible, he came to approach arguments from a new perspective that aligned itself with conservative politics.” Throughout the interview, which runs about 35 minutes, “Mamet discusses his newly found conservative position on several issues, including social justice and civil rights, the decline of the family and the sexual revolution, affirmative action and race, and domestic politics and foreign policy.”
While overall crime rates are falling, in major U.S. cities the untold story is that crime is now more concentrated among the underclass. For example, the New York Times ran a cover story of the concentration of crime in the city of St. Louis to show the reality of this trend. St. Louis, like many other cities, is highly divided by race and class, demonstrated in the city’s crime statistics. The highest crime areas are also the areas that are predominantly black and lower-class. The story of how this decline came to be is quite complex, but one thing the Times story gets right is that these neighborhoods declined sharply when the middle class moved out to the suburbs. The article recounts the experience of one of the residents:
Ms. Gordon has seen a diverse middle-class neighborhood of white and black families transform into one of abandoned, overgrown lots and boarded-up houses. As in many downtrodden parts of St. Louis, the middle class fled for the suburbs, leaving behind those with less economic mobility and causing property values to drop, the education system to crumble and feeding a sense of desperation that leads people to sell drugs and steal.
The most stabilizing group of residents in inner-city communities has always been the black middle class. During the era of racial segregation, it was the black middle class that stabilized many of these communities as blacks migrated from the South to the northern cities after World War II. Many of these neighborhoods have had low-income residents for decades but they did not have the same social pathologies and economic degradation that we find in the northern sections of St. Louis. Without a resurgence of the black middle class, their virtues, and their values, it is unlikely that these neighborhoods will stabilize in the near future. (more…)