Modern, Western culture wants us to concentrate on ourselves, all little Narcissuses staring at our reflections in the pool. That’s a problem for people made for community and for love, not merely the transmission of a gene pool.
Our friends at Minneapolis-based Intellectual Takeout have just published Bob Osburn's latest blog, which explores a scenario rarely if ever discussed these days: The beginning of America's slide into tyranny (which is no foregone conclusion, by any means) will begin with the Social Security trust fund crisis that will explode into prominence no later than 2028, ten years from now. Dr. Osburn suggests that Congressional inaction and polarization will make fo the US president (whomever that is at the time) a hero. And why? For acting as an autocrat who, by executive or emergency decree, will solve the problem and thus rescue America from a mortal policy crisis while creating a tyrannical presidency. What do you think about this scenario? Will the five-step program (that Dr. Osburn designed and recommends) help avert this outcome?
As I suggested in my last blog “The Rejection of a Christian Moral Consensus and America’s Political Polarization,” the best hope for our divided nation would be the re-embrace of Christian culture. But, absent that ideal outcome and notwithstanding the Economist magazine’s doubts, I settle for a better hope that goes by the wonderfully prosaic name “Better Angels.”
Politically centrifugal forces--- those that drive Americans from the moderate (not mushy) center to radical political extremes on the Left and Right ---are winning the day in America because the Christian cultural consensus that once united them is long gone. And the elite-motivated effort to substitute a progressive culture is not only failing, but actually drives Americans farther apart.
Economic growth does not produce political freedom. That just several hundred Chinese Communist Party leaders will make Xi Jinping president for life confirms China’s citizens lack political freedoms, even while they become richer. Most scholars once imagined that growing wealth would generate political freedom in China. But, this hasn’t happened in China, as I almost forecasted nearly a quarter century ago.
Why did I feel such revulsion when our American president uttered a profane description of nations in Africa (and the nation of Haiti)? First, I work with international students from around the world, and I do not want to unnecessarily offend them. Secondly, I am deeply concerned that our president is degrading the American people, and especially members of his political party as well as his core support base (evangelicals) in ways previously unimaginable and tragic.
I never took a music appreciation course, but, with carols playing in our family room this Christmas Eve, something is very clear: Christmas music is beautiful. Where else in the pantheon of the world’s great religions and philosophies is there anything that rivals this aural beauty? Could it be that not only has the Gospel produced unparalleled masterpieces that are feasts for the eyes and ears, but that Christianity is the only plausible explanation for beauty itself?
Ever since the 1960s when confident, brassy Baby Boomers rejected what I often call the Christian cultural consensus, we have been struggling to find what unites Americans. Sports? Ephemeral and fleeting. Freedom? A treasured ideal twisted into a license to speed past all the traditional sexual stop signs. Flag? A valuable symbol that, apart from our armed forces, inspires far less sacrifice than it ought. It seems as if we are so brittle that we break into cultural and political ice floes, our separate groups adrift on rolling, turbulent seas.
Rather than meaningless slugs whose only satisfactions are power, prestige, sex, and drugs, every one of us are invested with a two-fold purpose: 1) Wisely steward the natural resources God has given us in the first place; and 2) Apply God-given rationality and creativity in order to create, out of those natural resources, new products and services that can further enhance God’s glory and ensure human flourishing.
I want to make the case that evangelical campus ministry needs to shed its guerrilla image and embrace an institutional presence where Jesus is the vital, dynamic center and reason for everything we do.
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.
The Academy's founder and executive director recently wrote at Firstthings.com about a jailed Indonesian Chinese evangelical politician known as Ahok. His is not only a story of courage and valiance, but carries lessons for American evangelicals tempted to retreat from a culture that has left them.
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?
The Academy's latest blog is a contribution to a Center of the American Experiment symposium: Was Trump and Clinton's Campaign Silence Regarding Family Fragmentation Golden? In it, Bob Osburn discovers that the Prophet Hosea had much to say in answer to the symposium question!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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).
Here in Northeast India, as I watch Indian commentators try to make sense of the “shocking” election of Donald Trump, the question asked by my international student friends is “How did this happen, and what does it mean for nations around the world?”