The Making Men Moral conference at Union University is over, but there are some takeaways.
This was a unique engagement of many natural law thinkers such as the Catholics Robert George and Francis Beckwith with Southern Baptists like Russell Moore and Greg Thornbury. In that connection, Russell Moore delivered a message that I think would be considered a highlight of the conference by anyone who attended. He addressed the differences between Catholics and Evangelicals irenically without being ecumenical in any mushy way and spoke eloquently about the joint engagement by the two groups with the culture.
This was a wholly edifying address that shied away from nothing. For that reason, I’m linking the audio. It is well worth your time if you are interested in the relationship between the two traditions.
Again reporting from the Making Men Moral conference at Union University . . .
The evening panel featured Robert George, Jean Bethke-Elshtain, David Novak, and Harry Poe. Their primary subject was the life of Richard John Neuhaus. Lots of great material, but Robert George spoke very movingly of Neuhaus’ career.
In the 1960′s, Neuhaus was a friend and associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. During the next decade, Neuhaus moved into position to become the most prominent religious liberal in the United States, perhaps succeeding Reinhold Niebuhr in the esteem of the media and cultural elites. It was a position that would have been attractive to the talented Rev. Neuhaus.
Then, Roe v. Wade happened. At first, there was such a thing as a pro-life liberal. Teddy Kennedy was one. Jesse Jackson was one. Albert Gore was one. So was Richard John Neuhaus.
But the center failed to hold and the pro-life liberals pronounced fealty to Planned Parenthood in serial fashion. Richard John Neuhaus could have done that, too, had he wished to preserve his chance to succeed Niebuhr as the most prominent mainline Protestant.
Abandoning the unborn child, the defenseless and innocent human being who desperately needed protection, was a step too far for Neuhaus. So, he left “the left” behind.
The tenor of the story fit a persistent theme of this conference with speakers cognizant of the presence of young evangelicals in the room. Hold your ideals more dear than your lust for applause. The temptation to make oneself acceptable to the dominant zeitgeist is terrible in its power. Do as Richard John Neuhaus did. Resist.
Still reporting from the Making Men Moral Conference in honor of Robert George at Union University . . .
I’ve had the chance to hear some great lines offered up by conservative academics. Here are a couple:
Paul Kerry (BYU) on the difference between Robert George and Cornel West:
“Last year, Robert George was invited to meet with Pope Benedict XVI. Cornel West was similarly honored to be invited to meet with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.”
Russ Moore (Southern Seminary) on better relations between evangelicals and Catholics:
“Very few evangelicals today would still say the Pope is the Anti-Christ. Bill Maher might, but evangelicals wouldn’t.”
Union has done a tremendous job of putting this conference together. They may be on track to become another conservative favorite like Hillsdale, the graduate school at Claremont, and the political theory program at LSU (represented here by the delightful James Stoner).
Later, I’ll have a report about the events of this evening. Richard John Neuhaus was slated to speak at the conference, but died recently, thus leaving a substantial hole in the conservative tapestry. It’s a hole, thankfully, that we have men like Robert George and Father Robert Sirico to help fill.
Tonight, Robert George, Harry Poe, and others will host an informal conversation with the assembled guests. I’m guessing we’ll have a great time hearing stories about the exploits of Father Neuhaus.
In the wake of Joseph Lawler’s piece on George Mason economists evaluating conservative magazines’ affinity for liberty on the basis of their treatment of sex, gambling, and drugs, Princeton’s Robert George is the perfect antidote. He could have reminded the measurers of liberty that those who favor laissez faire with regard to vice are often much less friendly to consensual acts of capitalism between adults. It’s a point he made in his seminal book Making Men Moral.
I’m currently attending a Union University conference honoring the work of Robert P. George. If conservatives are to have a chance of winning the argument over the proper balance of liberty and virtue, they could do no better than to look to Professor George as an example. As Russell Moore reminded the audience this evening, Robert George has never imitated the tendencies of many conservative and/or Christian academics to make themselves or their work more palatable to the ambient culture. Instead, he has unapologetically argued for a robust conception of the natural law and has mentored many academics to follow in his footsteps.
My favorite radio station (conservative talk format) regularly runs commercials featuring the “Beach Bum Ty Coughlin” who created the Reverse Funnel System to help you make $52k a month without selling! What cracks me up is that whether it is Ty Coughlin or someone giving a testimonial, the voice and cadence are essentially the same. You can tell the guy is trying to make his voice sound deeper or he’s talking a little slower, but there are definite tells that the same person is speaking.
I just decided to google the Reverse Funnel to see if there is any scam alert material associated with it and found a fellow named Jonathan Budd appearing on websites a commenter bravely defending the validity of the system and the integrity of Ty Coughlin. He even made a youtube video making fun of those who call the Reverse Funnel a scam. Check it out:
The great thing is that Jonathan Budd, too, has the voice pattern of Ty Coughlin. I get this great picture of a guy recording this stuff in his home office. It’s a sock puppet selling system!!! Go make your fortune friends!
I have come to know about a situation which causes me to understand why people can sometimes become obsessed with getting the truth out about something. As an example, you occasionally see a person in a high position called out for some sin they are committing and you wonder why it was so important they be exposed. Was it worth the damage?
I think I understand why these things get exposed.
If you learn about a lie and then watch it go on long enough, you begin to crave the truth. You begin to want it like you want a breath of air for your lungs.
And you don’t just want the truth for yourself. You don’t just want a few people to know. You begin to want the truth to be broadcast on as broad a scale as will be meaningful. You just want the truth to dispel the layers of obfuscation, partial disclosure, and lies with the destructive force of a bomb.
Will it hurt? Yes. But it will restore the truth. And that has a high value of its own. We need truth in our lives. It is a terrible thing to have to live with an unraveling tapestry of lies. Every day something else is lost.
Just burn down the corrupt edifice of deceptive fiction and start over.
The promise is there that God can find a way to make all things new. Let us be committed to the truth.
I have read all of Lars Walkers books, which fit in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. After reading his books, I got addicted to his blog. Lars appears to hate many things about life, including pickles. I offer this gem of prose from his list of foods he can’t stand:
3. Pickles. Sweet or sour, I hate them all. If I had a nickel for every pickle I’ve picked off a hamburger, I’d have enough money to buy a big jar of pickles, which I’d then throw away.
I’ve been reading America’s Secular Challenge by NYU professor and president of the Hudson Institute Herb London. The book is essentially an extended essay about how elite, left-wing secularism undercuts America’s traditional strengths of patriotism and religious faith during a time when the nation can ill afford it. The assault on public religion and love of country comes in a period when America faces enemies who have no such crisis of identity and lack the degree of doubt that leaves us in semi-paralysis.
The best compliment I can pay the book (by a Jewish social critic) is that it reminds me of the outstanding work of John Courtenay Murray (the great Catholic church and state scholar) who wrote:
And if this country is to be overthrown from within or without, I would suggest that it will not be overthrown by Communism. It will be overthrown because it will have made an impossible experiment. It will have undertaken to establish a technological order of most marvelous intricacy, which will have been constructed and will operate without relations to true political ends: and this technological order will hang, as it were, suspended over a moral confusion; and this moral confusion will itself be suspended over a spiritual vacuum.
I recently bought a couple of the old Firing Line episodes with William F. Buckley interviewing Tom Wolfe (on modern architecture) and Malcolm Muggeridge (on the culture of the left). Just watched the Wolf episode.
I am stunned.
So mature, so lacking in ersatz showmanship, and so edifying. It is very much like enjoying a dinner with two very learned people.
And no big applause from the audience at any point. They simply listen respectfully.
Where has that world gone?
Ran into this at the Get Religion blog:
How many Orthodox Christians does it take to change a light bulb?
Change? What is this change?
Some years ago, I testified at the Georgia state capitol in Atlanta on the subject of abortion regulations and their constitutionality. I will never forget the testimony that day of women who have had abortions and have come to greatly regret that choice. In particular, there was a young, black woman who tearfully recounted her dreams of a son who asked her why she ended his life. Moving past the intense power of her story, she went on to tell what she knew about the disparate racial impact of abortion on the African-American community. Afterwards, an African-American state senator from the Democrat party questioned her about whether her claims were really true.
Do African-Americans have more abortions? The answer is yes. A number of pro-life academics have created the website Moral Accountability to encourage the group of evangelical and Catholic intellectuals who supported Obama on the basis that he would reduce the incidence of abortion to keep him morally accountable. Writing for that website, Union University’s Micah Watson (a former student of Princeton’s Robert George) offers detailed statistics on African-Americans and abortion.
Read it all, but here’s a sample:
Consider the following: African-Americans make up 26% of the population of Alabama; they account for 54.7% of the abortions; 29.6% of Georgia’s roughly 8 million citizens are African-Americans yet African-Americans make up 57.8% of the abortions; in North Carolina the population percentage is 21.3% while the proportion of black abortions is 44.2%; in my adopted home state of Tennessee, African-Americans are 16.6% of the population yet make up 41.6% of the abortions; most egregious, however, is Mississippi where African-Americans make up 37.1% of the population and a mind-boggling 77.2% of the abortions. In fact, in every state where African-Americans make up more than 10% of the population, the black abortion rate far exceeds the population percentage, often by a factor of two or three.
I’ve been working with Crossway on bringing The End of Secularism to publication. In the process, I have compiled some of my favorite quotes from the manuscript. Here they are:
Because advocates of secularism present it as a solution to the “problem” of public religion, we become the audience for a caricature of the ways the two concepts are opposed to each other. Instead of “without reference to God” versus “with reference to God,” the antonyms expand to look more like “reason and tolerance” versus “prejudice and superstition.” This misunderstanding has not been accidental, but is instead the thrust of the presentation pushed by advocates of a particular side. Thus, rational thinking processes, empirical verification, and social harmony are said to accompany a secular outlook. Religious associations, on the other hand, are tied to mysticism, violence, ignorance, and coercion. The secular take on religion is more Torquemada, Jim Jones, and Osama bin Laden than Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Newton, and Pascal.
. . .
On [the secularist] view, religion is like white phosphorus. It should be submerged lest it ignite.
. . .
Given a right understanding of secularism as the separation of religion from public life and the separation of church and state as nothing more than formal institutional independence of church and state, citizens should value church-state separation as the healthier and more justifiable state of affairs.
. . .
The advocates of real theocracy among Christians are very few. The live debate between Christians in the present has more to do with the degree to which the Christian faith should inform politics and how explicitly Christians should appeal to their faith in political debate and policy formation. It seems to be the consensus of Christians in this millennium that the church is a voice calling the state to righteousness and justice rather than to be a state or a supervisor of the state itself.