This week, the National Review published a statement to Catholics opposing Donald Trump’s campaign for president. Authored by right-wing eminences George Weigel and Robert George, and cosigned by an impressive list of Catholic intellectuals and leaders, the document joins a body of anti-Trump literature that is coming into its own stentorian rhetorical conventions.
Something subtle and remarkable has happened in American politics—and, it seems, in democracies across the developed world. The big arguments over what the state owes the people, in terms of services and public welfare, have been somewhat eclipsed. Now the focus is on who counts as people in the first place.
Writing at a safe remove from the fever swamps and the hate crimes—without, in fact, even mentioning them—Ross Douthat argues that pious Muslims must inevitably face conflict between the “lure of conquest, the pull of violent jihad” and the ambiguous, unsettled place of traditional religion in a secularizing culture.
In years and decades to come, we’ll remember the last two weeks. The Emanuel A.M.E. massacre, the sudden shift away from the Confederate flag, the Supreme Court’s reaffirmation of the Affordable Care Act and its extension of same-sex marriage to every state. Last Friday there was an awesome funeral service for Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of Emanuel and one of the victims in the shooting. And all of it while once again black churches have been burning, some under suspicious circumstances.
For all of America’s secularization, actual and expected, each event was resonant with religious significations—and each prompted a wave of public theology.
Last week the Nebraska legislature abolished the state’s death penalty, overcoming the governor’s veto to do it. First Things editor Matthew Schmitz, writing in National Review, adds a salutary note of caution to the celebration that followed: viewing abolition as moral progress allows us to “overlook the countless cruelties of our criminal-justice system as we congratulate ourselves on the elimination of a relatively rare punishment.”
Yesterday flags stood at half mast to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln. It was, to borrow the man’s own phrase, altogether fitting and proper that we should do this in recognition of our greatest president and his tragic end.
America’s conversation about race has, like all of our public conversations, come to consist largely of a running commentary on viral spectacles. Recent weeks have been rife with them—the Oklahoma University SAE video chant and the dreadful scene of the double shooting of police in Ferguson; the awesome images of a sitting and a former president crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, heading a massive multiracial and multigenerational crowd; the face of University of Virginia student Martese Johnson, bloodied by Alcohol Board of Control officers.
With an authorization looming in Congress for our ongoing war against the so-called Islamic State, a muddled conversation has sprung up about the group’s relationship to mainstream Islam, its relationship to American and European policy in the region, and the military and political measures needed to counter it. Graeme Wood interviewed scholars and activists to shed light on what ISIS is trying to accomplish and why. His resulting story—a long tour through the theology, history, and practice of this particularly brutal offshoot of Salafist Islam—is alarming, not least to Wood himself.
“Political correctness,” the stifling culture of left-wing taboos around race, gender, and sexuality remembered from campus battles of the 1980s and 90s, “has returned.” So claims New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait in an essay that has sent the small tinderbox of progressive media into skyward sparks. According to Chait, this revival is heralded by hashtag activism, privilege-checking and calling out, strict policing of online and in-class language, “trigger warnings,” and bumptious student responses to commencement speakers. The consequences, he says, are dangerous.
Not all of Francis's critics sound like a McCarthyite version of Foghorn Leghorn. But this refrain is common: the pope is beyond his competence in matters of science and public policy, at least where the environment is concerned.
The most troubling electoral result of the year, as far as I’m concerned, was the Scottish vote on independence. Not the referendum's failure itself—few people outside the UK had much of a stake in that either way—but the fact that elite opinion elsewhere seemed relatively unshaken by the implications when 45 percent of Scots voted to dissolve the United Kingdom.
America is extraordinarily tolerant of the NFL. “Pro football, it seems, can do anything but drive us away,” wrote the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal in August. He described moves the NFL has made that would ruin another business: undercut your partners, maintain a nonprofit status while paying huge executive salaries, accept unnecessary public subsidies, stay out of Los Angeles so your teams can use the prospect of moving there as leverage to keep demanding those subsidies.
And this: alienate women, who make up 45 percent of the NFL’s viewership.