America This Independence Day: One Nation, Dually Divided into Four Different Enclaves

In the Wilberforce Academy, we ask our international mentees to conduct analyses of their respective national cultures.  What are their ideals, symbols, and celebrations? What are the things that unify and divide?  What stories do the members of your societies tell and how do they make sense of those stories?On this US Independence Day in 2017, I offer an analysis of my beloved country, the USA.

Finding Hope for Rural America in St Johns

Today, rural America’s problems go much deeper than uncertainty over the price of grain or the latest weather forecast.  Rural America is becoming a wasteland for lost souls on drugs.  They find cheap old, semi-abandoned farmhouses to rent, and either waste away, cook the meth, or use the opioids that eventually kill them.  In either case, their children suffer, sometimes tragically.  Can the rural church make a difference?

Moral Outrage as Compensation for Guilt: An Explanation for 21st Century Campus Violence

The worst American campus violence since my college days at the University of Michigan in the late 60s and early 70s begs the question: Why?  It’s not just the violence at places like Berkeley and Middlebury, but also students’ increasingly aggressive demands to keep conservative speakers away, create safe spaces, publish trigger warnings, and protect themselves from macroaggressions. After 50 years of endlessly ridding ourselves of biases, instituting cultural studies programs, and parroting the diversity ethic through every campus fiber, sinew, and organ, why are students protesting with greater vigor than any time since those famed years?

From Fracture to Flourishing: Reclaiming the Middle in a Polarized Society

You don’t have to look far to see fractures in American society.  Rightly or wrongly, nearly every move by the new Trump administration has been met with steep opposition.  From the Dakota Access Pipeline, to Black Lives Matter and transgender rights protests, our political, economic, and cultural divides run deep.  In view of this moment in history, Yuval Levin’s The Fractured Republic (2016) is a timely book diagnosing what ails our divided America and why this moment is unique.

While Trying to Keep Terrorists Out, We're Breeding the Problem Within

Regardless of what you think about President Trump’s travel ban (suspended, thanks to multiple judges, as of February 9, 2017), we should all admit that there is something very good about a president trying to protect his people. My real concern is that almost everyone is overlooking the real elephant in the room: The vast majority of Islamic radicals in the USA are being radicalized after they come to the USA. 

Please, Please Mess with Culture

Should outsiders try to change others’ cultural practices?  Academic anthropologists have long boomed a resounding “No!”  And not a few Christians have swayed along to the beat of a cultural relativism that preserves cultural practices in the name of liberation from Western colonialism and cultural superiority.

Good News for the Bad News about International Aid

Nobel prize-winner Angus Deaton has some really bad news, especially so in this Christmas season of giving: Most international aid not only does not work, but it is harmful to countries who receive it.  Before you slam shut your checkbooks and stuff the credit cards back in your wallets and build an emotional moat around your Christmas-giving heart, let me explain why he is right but also what he misses (hint: The Good News).

Is Freedom Failing?

Ask any of the one million or so international college students what describes their host country, USA.  The word that leaps out of their mouths is “freedom.”  They relish it as much as their American classmates.  But something is perilously wrong in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave: heightened racial discord, a nonstop epidemic of illegal drugs, increasingly fragmented families and communities (especially amongst those without college degrees), and political corruption fueling a 2016 presidential election train wreck.  Is freedom failing?

Amidst the Train Wreck, a Symphony Conductor

In last week’s blog, I noted the Economist attributed post-truth politics, in part, to antiauthoritarianism.  And while I’m still persuaded that the root problem behind post-truth politics is the rise of postmodern thought, I wonder if some Americans are yearning for divine help to bring order out of our cacophony and chaos.

Why Truth No Longer Matters (But Should)

The September 10, 2016 cover story in one of the world’s most widely-read magazines, the Economist, is about “post-truth politics.”  The article argues that the main contenders in our torturous 2016 US presidential campaign have stunningly sacrificed truth with reckless abandon. I highly recommend the article, but with a major caveat: The writers fail to satisfactorily answer the question: “How did we get to the place where truth is at best a literary doormat for those bent on power and conquest?”  The answer to this question is the real story that will linger long after the presidency is decided in November.

Helping Others Join Us on the Social Escalator

More than six months ago, the Academy's Executive Director Dr. Bob Osburn was commissioned by the Center of the American Experiment's founder Dr. Mitch Pearlstein to join several dozen other essayists in addressing the question,   "Specifically, What Must We Do to Repair Our Culture of Massive Family Fragmentation?"   Dr Osburn's essay (scroll down about 75% of the way to page 43, past brilliant essays by the likes of Dr. Heather MacDonald, who is currently famous for her new book on race and policing) is titled "Helping Others Join Us on the Social Escalator."  Like some of the other essayists, he is convinced that family fragmentation, in all its forms, is one of America's greatest challenges, but one that also provides an enormous opportunity for the Gospel of the Kingdom to be proclaimed and lived by those who aspire to be redemptive change agents right here in the USA.

Christian Hospitality at the Frontlines of Islamic Terrorism

As the Lutheran bishop of the Mayo-Belwa Diocese of the Lutheran Church of Christ, Musa explained that setting up camps for refugees, or internally displaced people, was out of the question. So, their church (and churches in other denominations) had all agreed that the refugee crisis would be addressed by having their members open their homes to those who had lost theirs to Islamic radicals. 

One of History's Hobgoblins: Revisiting the Crusades

The storyline, or narrative, of Islamic tolerance is largely false, as is much of the narrative concerning Christians and the Crusades.  Boiled down to its essence, the idea that early medieval Christians were hopeless knaves and that Muslims were a scientifically advanced civilization known for its tolerance is a fabrication. 

Which Option: Wilberforce or Benedict?

Whittaker Chambers was a deeply-embedded spy with the American Communist Party during the 1930s.  After converting to Christianity, he left the Party, and, when he did, he wrote: “I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side, but it is better to die on the losing side than to live under Communism." So, what ought an evangelical to do when, by all appearances, we are on "the losing side" (at least in 2016)?  

The Secularists' Dilemma

Are Westerners misanthropists?   A few, perhaps.  But, the dramatic contrast in the way we respond to human fetal suffering versus animal suffering unveils a striking dilemma that most secularists, the vast majority of whom are materialists of some kind (whether naturalists, existentialists, nihilists, or postmodernists), would rather not think about.