The next Lewis…

August 15, 2008 at 5:25 pm

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Just as conservatives probably should get comfortable with the notion that there will never be another Ronald Reagan, Christians should probably reconcile themselves with the fact that there will never be another C.S. Lewis. Lewis’ writings, particularly his defense of the Christian faith, has stood the test of time and to date is considered in a class by itself.

Nonetheless, David Skeel, writing for the Wall Street Journal, explains that many continue to look for the next “Mere Christianity,” only to be let down time and time again.

Tim Keller’s new book, “The Reason for God,” is one of the mentioned succesors. I am halfway through this book myself, and while it is wonderful, I have to agree with Skeel (I bet Keller would too):

“The Reason for God” is as sensible and winsome as one would expect from the pastor of a latticework of churches that draw more than 5,000 attendees in New York City every Sunday, most of them young, single, urban professionals. But it too is no “Mere Christianity.” It does not have the original arguments or the magical prose of Lewis’s classic.

Why can’t evangelical authors produce a true successor to “Mere Christianity”? The main reason, I think, is that today’s best scholars, like Mr. Plantinga and Yale philosophy professor Nicholas Wolterstorff, can’t write for a general audience (or, in Wright’s case, are distracted by the pressures of trying to help hold the Anglican church together), and the writers who can accomplish this are no longer real scholars. Lewis was both, at a time when the two were thought to be compatible. No need to borrow his bona fides because he himself was a leading medievalist and literary critic.

Lewis’s real ambition was, he revealed in his letters and diary entries, to be numbered among the great English poets. He didn’t get there. Unlike his Narnia novels, Lewis’s poems are largely forgotten. But when we marvel at a metaphor or memorable passage in “Mere Christianity” — such as the famous claim that Jesus, given what he said, must have been either a lunatic or the very Son of God — we are the beneficiaries of a gifted dreamer’s not quite successful quest. And maybe that’s as good as it gets.

And if it is, it is still pretty damn good.

Skeel also has a blog that is worth bookmarking.

Warren’s faith forum already controversial

August 13, 2008 at 11:59 am

Mega-church pastor Rick Warren is hosting a candidate forum for Barack Obama and John McCain. He is also the focus if a recent Time Magazine feature piece. Throughout the piece there is much to admire from Warren. For one, his skepticism about government is laudable:

“I have never been considered a part of the religious right, because I don’t believe politics is the most effective way to change the world,” he says now. “Although public service can be a noble profession, and I believe it is our responsibility to vote, I don’t have much faith in government solutions, given the track record. It’s why I am a pastor, not a politician. None of my values have changed from four years ago, but my agenda has definitely expanded.”

Good for him. No pastor should be a tool of either party. But according to this statement, Warren is more conservative than he knows. A deep distrust of government schemes plus a belief that everyday people not politicians are the best agents of change — these are hallmarks of conservatism. But that is an aside in this post.

The real issue is that Warren should not shy away from advocating principles of the faith that will make candidates uncomfortable.

Excerpts from the piece like this have some worried:

A shift away from “sin issues” — like abortion and gay marriage — is reflected in Warren’s approach to his coming sit-downs with the candidates. He says he is more interested in questions that he feels are “uniting,” such as “poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change and human rights,” and still more in civics-class topics like the candidates’ understanding of the role of the Constitution. There will be no “Christian religion test,” Warren insists. “I want what’s good for everybody, not just what’s good for me. Who’s the best for the nation right now?”

Warren’s apparent desire to avoid divisive issues while focusing on uniting issues is a disservice to the forum. People of faith, who look to Warren to moderate this forum properly, want to see what divides the candidates as much as they do what unites them. That is how you make a proper assesment of a candidates worth — by knowing where they differ from each other.

Furthermore, as Hunter Baker points out in an open letter to Warren, ignoring the issue of abortion is a missed opportunity to highlight one of the greatest moral issues of our time:

If the year were 1958, instead of 2008, do you think it would be right to host such a forum and ignore segregation, knowing one candidate was ardently in favor of the separation of the races? You and I both know that it would be wrong to gloss over a glaring breach of that kind. We both know many in the church were wrong in just that way. (It is a terrible irony of history that Mr. Obama now stands with those who favor the persistent removal of an entire class of human beings from legal protection through legal fiat. How I wish it were not so.)

UPDATE: Wow…today comes news that the Democratic Party is officially lurching farther left on the abortion issue:

The Democratic Party platform of 2008 finally dropped its old abortion language (”safe, legal and rare”), which had asked that women not have abortions unless they absolutely must. The 2008 platform, just announced, says instead, “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.”

In other words, the Democratic Party is emboldened by Barack Obama’s candidacy and the unabashed liberalism that he stands for. Now the Party platform betrays the Left’s desire to convince Americans not of the necessity of a woman’s right to choose, but rather, of the morality of the act of abortion itself.

Full steam ahead on the Leftward Express…

It would be a shame for Warren to let these developments go unnoticed.

Where from here in Georgia

August 12, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Georgia, sadly, is a defeated nation in a matter of days, says Josh Trevino. The task now for the West is to play a significant part in the aftermath. Trevino lists some options.

Previous — Putin’s unchecked aggression

Don’t forget fraternity

August 12, 2008 at 9:05 am

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David Brooks, who was the first major columnist to highlight Danny Kruger’s work in the UK with regard to fraternity, pens a column this morning regarding individualism vs. collectivism. Brooks wonders if we are at the dawn of a new global conversation in which collectivism is given a second look.

The Chinese opening ceremonies in Beijing, with their repeated emphasis on the harmonious society plus the growing consensus that we now live in the Chinese century, may respark the conversation.

If Asia’s success reopens the debate between individualism and collectivism (which seemed closed after the cold war), then it’s unlikely that the forces of individualism will sweep the field or even gain an edge.

For one thing, there are relatively few individualistic societies on earth. For another, the essence of a lot of the latest scientific research is that the Western idea of individual choice is an illusion and the Chinese are right to put first emphasis on social contexts.

Scientists have delighted to show that so-called rational choice is shaped by a whole range of subconscious influences, like emotional contagions and priming effects (people who think of a professor before taking a test do better than people who think of a criminal). Meanwhile, human brains turn out to be extremely permeable (they naturally mimic the neural firings of people around them). Relationships are the key to happiness. People who live in the densest social networks tend to flourish, while people who live with few social bonds are much more prone to depression and suicide.

This would seem a natural spot in the column to mention the work of Kruger, who has himself posed the question about a new global conversation. But Kruger, as we have seen, throws a third topic into the mix:

In the late 20th century, politics was the clash between Liberty [individualism] on one hand and Equality [collectivism] on the other – a battle over the respective roles of the individual and the state. This remains the basic axis of our politics. But rather than a straightforward clash between Liberty and Equality, politics today is a contest for possession of the principle beyond them both: Fraternity.  

Fraternity — the loving bonds formed between free individuals, families, communities and civic associations — provides the proper context for individuals to thrive. Instead of pointing this out, Brooks unintentionally leaves his readers wondering whether the “densest social networks” in which people “flourish” exist in so-called harmonious and collectivist regimes like China’s.

It seems an odd omission from a columnist who has been a champion of Kruger’s work.

Putin’s unchecked aggression

August 10, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Vladimir Putin and other Russian hardliners have long desired control over pro-Western Georgia. Georgia has much to desire in way of agriculture and landscape, and hardliners never accepted the sovereignty of the nation anyway. Now, they seem intent on making their wish a reality.

As they drop bombs on civilian targets and roll their tanks into Georgian territory, the West seems asleep at the wheel. You have to hand it to Putin, his strategy was brilliant. Build up forces on the border but take no action until the world was distracted. This week we had the opening ceremonies in Beijing, the American Congress is out on a month-long recess and many European parliaments are as well.

A friend of mine — a Georgian native — tells me her family is fleeing the country. All able-bodied men of age are being called up to serve in the conflict. I am told it is a matter of days before the Russians completely decimate everything Georgia has worked so hard to build. My friend thinks the stakes are greater than we understand. “It is the start of a new Cold War, whether the rest of the world wants to recognize it or not,” she said.

Start of a new Cold War or not, it is certainly dangerous and illegal aggression from a regime whose nostalgia for the old USSR is far too great for my taste.

The Georgian President has called for a cease-fire, the West should demand Putin do so as well. Russia’s aggression must be put in check.

UPDATE: Some good perspective from James S. Robbins:

But international umbrage is wasted on Russia. They really don’t care what anyone thinks, and their veto power in the Security Council nullifies the possibility of meaningful U.N. action. Russia used force because they knew they could. No country would intervene militarily to stop them, especially the United States. And this is not because the U.S. is tied up in other conflicts; America would not send troops to that war zone even if we were at peace. There is not enough at stake to risk direct conflict with Russia. Meanwhile Georgia is pulling all 2,000 of its troops from Iraq, with the U.S. providing the rapid airlift, and one hopes we will do more to shore up our Coalition partners, such as give materiel or intelligence support.

Yet, short of fighting, there is a way the United States can take meaningful action. Some argue that the events of the past week demonstrate the unsuitability of Georgia for NATO membership, that the country’s leadership is too erratic and their neighborhood too dangerous. On the contrary, this is a perfect opportunity for the member nations of NATO to show their resolve. At the April 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest, the leadership agreed that Georgia would become a member of the alliance. It is critical to honor this commitment, and in fact to put Georgia on the fast track for membership. The member states must demonstrate to Russia that Moscow does not hold veto power over which countries may enter NATO. And this would be a fitting show of gratitude for Georgia’s participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Furthermore, it would cause Russia to think very clearly about the implications of future aggressive moves against Georgia, particularly actions outside the areas already occupied by Russian “peacekeepers.”

That does seem like a viable option. It would have the added effect of infuriating the Russians who have been doing everything in their power to block Georgian membership in NATO. Meanwhile, Jonathan Foreman says the situation in Georgia is a test for the United States.

Today America faces a big test. Will we stand up for Georgia? Or will we betray her in the way that the United States so often betrays its friends and allies abroad?

…As Russian bombs rain down on key Georgian military bases, Ukraine and the Baltic states know all too well that they are next on the list for Russian invasion — probably with the same pretext of protecting Russian citizens — if the Kremlin gets away with crushing Georgia.

UPDATE: Well said by John Hinderaker: “We appear to be witnessing the resurrection of the Brezhnev era. If so, the news is ominous indeed, for if Vladimir Putin looks like the second coming of Leonid Brezhnev, Barack Obama looks equally like the second coming of Jimmy Carter, whom Brezhnev treated as a lackey.”

Real Clear Sports?

August 7, 2008 at 7:40 am

Ummm, when did this happen? Great idea from the RCP guys.

On Fraternity

August 4, 2008 at 9:52 am

Danny Kruger, a special adviser to David Cameron — leader of the British conservative Party — has penned an excellent essay that American conservatives could learn a lot from. Now before any of my friends get angry and point out that the British conservatives are playing fast and loose with conservative principles when it comes to their policy prescriptions, let me say, I agree. However, that does not discount the ideas that Kruger has put forth in this essay.

On Fraternity puts the focus where it should be: making government work for people.

The battle of ideas is not over but entering a new and more interesting phase, according to Danny Kruger, special adviser to Conservative Party leader David Cameron MP. In the late 20th century, politics was the clash between Liberty on one hand and Equality on the other – a battle over the respective roles of the individual and the state. This remains the basic axis of our politics. But rather than a straightforward clash between Liberty and Equality, politics today is a contest for possession of the principle beyond them both: Fraternity. 

In his booklet On Fraternity, published by the independent think-tank Civitas, Kruger sketches the philosophical framework of the new battle of ideas, drawing on the writings of Locke, Burke and Hegel. He argues that Liberty, not Equality, is the natural ally of Fraternity, and that individual freedom, not state coercion, best protects the institutions of belonging and promotes the habits of solidarity.

At the heart of Kruger’s argument is a fundamentally correct understanding of human anthropology.  We are at our best when we are connected to others. We need fraternity. Fraternity provides the proper context for learning, for growing and for becoming properly socialised. The result is a vibrant and healthy civil society.

Society today is headed in the opposite direction, where individials are increasingly alientated from community, from family and therefore from society. No man is an island, and Kruger understands that. He argues that conservative policies are the proper prescription for reconnecting the isolated man with his community.

Of course the Left has hijacked this language. Liberal politicians talk of helping the least of these in society. They talk of social obligations and responsibility. But underneath their rhetoric is an unmistakeable truth: In the name of equal outcomes (instead of opportunities) the state will assume these obligations, not individuals. Or as Kruger writes, the promise of the modern liberal is that the state will erect “a great steel citadel to house everyone together and equally.” Behind this steel monstrosity, individuals will be protected from the “harsh winds of reality.”

Like most liberal prescriptions, this one hurts those it purports to help. The poor are further disconnected from communities as the state assumes the obligations that should be those of the community. The isolated in society are subjected to more loneliness, as their only connection with the society at large is through large and unfamiliar federal programs that create dependency and rob both the recipient and the would-be giver of the rewards that come with real charity on a personal level.

In this picture, the state with all its grandiose intentions is nothing more than a thief and deceiver. With its rhetoric about society it promises something that it has not the capacity to deliver and instead it indiscriminately doles out the addictive poison of federal aid with the purpose of nourishing itself, not society.

Kruger is on to something here. I highly recommend his essay, On Fraternity.

PS - For those of you still subscribed to this feed, you will be seeing the resumption of posts as my employment has changed. I won’t be as frequent as I used to be, but I do intend to write a few posts a week at least.

Chapman to DeMint’s Office

January 2, 2007 at 11:48 am

2007 brings a big change for me.

I recently accepted a position with South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint. Starting this week I will be leaving Heritage to serve as DeMint’s Senior Communications Advisor. In that capacity I will be helping Senator DeMint with speechwriting and communications strategies.

Of course, given my background I will be paying special attention to the blogosphere. Conservative bloggers will have a friend and a resource in Senator DeMint, no doubt about it.

DeMint was recently elected to chair the conservative Senate Republican Steering Committee. As leader of that group, I believe DeMint is poised to become an even more visible conservative leader in a Congress that is now ripe for such leadership.

Late in the 109th Congress observers saw Senator DeMint team up with Senator Tom Coburn to shut down the Senate favor factory much to the chagrin of many pork-addicted lawmakers. Those kind of heroics will become even more necessary now that the GOP is in the minority and in need of a righting of the ship. Keep an eye out for DeMint as he leads the charge on issues conservatives care most deeply about in the 110th Congress.

The Heritage Foundation will always be my ideological home. For decades now Heritage has been on the front lines of the battle fighting hard to build an America “where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society flourish.” In that fight Heritage has so often been the standard bearer for Reaganesque conservative principles that have been the anchor to which conservatives are tethered.

My affiliation with Heritage makes me proud.

Of late, Heritage has recognized the growing importance of new media and has made strategic decisions to be a leader in the field. Hiring me was part of that strategy and they have done one better in hiring my replacement, Rob Bluey from Human Events.

Under Rob’s leadership Heritage will continue to be a leader in the think tank world when it comes to new media.

As for TimChapmanBlog.com, I will keep the site and the archives up but my posting will be rare and will probably concentrate on less political topics — to be honest, I have yet to really work out what I will do with this space. Subscribe to the rss feed if you want to be notified of occassional new posts.

So for now, this is a sign off of sorts. I will still write, but it will be for Senator DeMint and Senate conservatives at the Steering Committee. I look forward to the challenge that this presents and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work for Senator DeMint.

Finally, thanks to all of you who have been regular readers of this blog. Without you guys checking in daily and joining in the conversation via email or comments, my blogging would not have been nearly as much fun.

Lieberman gets it

December 29, 2006 at 9:43 am

At least one Democrat clearly understands the stakes in Iraq. Joe Lieberman in a Washington Post OpEd today:

I’ve just spent 10 days traveling in the Middle East and speaking to leaders there, all of which has made one thing clearer to me than ever: While we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States. Iraq is the most deadly battlefield on which that conflict is being fought. How we end the struggle there will affect not only the region but the worldwide war against the extremists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001.