Sociologist Robert Bellah calls individualism “the default mode” of American culture. It provides the rhetoric and political convictions to which people instinctively turn—whether or not it makes sense in the situation.
I had the opportunity to meet members of one of the world’s oldest and most heroic churches recently when I spoke to the national youth conference of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East. The meeting was held, of all places, in San Jose, California.
Leave it to Lutherans to address the issue of gay clergy with repeated references to a “bound conscience.” The term echoes the words of Martin Luther, who when he was put on trial for his critique of the Catholic Church declared that he would not recant, for he was “bound in conscience by the word of God.”
Most Americans seem to have been persuaded by President Obama’s argument that Iraq was the wrong war to fight—and that the war in Afghanistan is the right one. The war in Afghanistan is seven years old and escalating, and the future is uncertain. Twenty-one thousand additional American troops have been committed, and some leaders are calling for more. It is time to ask: What is the U.S.
It’s the world’s least desirable club: the league of failed and failing states. Every year, the Fund for Peace presents its list of the world’s shakiest political entities. Qualifications for entry into the club include such factors as demographic crisis, economic decline and bloody intergroup conflict.
The Military Advisory Board, representing all branches of the military, has issued a study about the national security implications of global warming. The report says that “climate change impacts are already accelerating instability in vulnerable areas of the world and are serving as catalysts for conflict.” The board calls for “coordinated and well-executed actions to limit heat-trapping gases and increase resilience to help prevent and protect against the worst projected climate change impacts” (Forbes, November 14).