The Company We Keep

Permit me a praise of First Things, once marketed as “the intellectual center of the conservative movement.” I’m impressed, especially today, by numerous writers who creatively explore the deeper issues of public life.  I don’t always agree. I almost always feel challenged.  That’s the kind of company I enjoy.

In Sin and Cinema Tim Perry notes notes that some of Hollywood’s most popular villains — Voldemort, The Joker, Magneto, Michael Corleone, Sauron — communicate “the traditional, rich, and incisive language that Christian cultures once used to describe the human condition.”  We must not become monsters to fight monsters.

R.R. Reno offers layman’s logic why it’s “fair” taxpayers will bailout Wall Street. “The net worth of all Americans who have [housing and] stock and bond-based assets was supported by exactly the economic dynamics that have produced the mess that we—statistically the very same people—are now going to pay to unwind in what I hope is an orderly fashion. My friends, most of us did profit from the sub-prime [or lax lending] debacle.”

Junior Fellow Stefan follows the culture war skirmish between Citadel cadet’s fists and Princeton Marching Band’s sass.

Editor Father Richard John Neuhaus reflects on trajectory “faith in public life.”  While extreme separationists worry about the Coming Theocracy, they “tolerate, or may even assiduously protect, the public expression of marginal religious opinion, of opinion that is not likely to influence our common life. But they take alarm at the voice of the majority.”

RJN continues, “In the Constitution, the majority imposes upon itself a self-denying ordinance; it promises not to do what it otherwise could do, namely, ride roughshod over the dissenting minorities.” Why would a majority do this to itself?  RJN concludes by unearthing the religious values that inspired this system.

A number of answers suggest themselves. One reason is that most Americans recognize, however inarticulately, a sovereignty higher than the sovereignty of “we the people.” They believe there is absolute truth but they are not sure that they understand it absolutely; they are, therefore, disinclined to force it upon those who disagree.

It is not chiefly a secular but a religious restraint that prevents biblical believers from coercing others in matters of conscience. We do not kill one another over our disagreements about the will of God because we believe that it is the will of God that we should not kill one another over our disagreements about the will of God. Christians and Jews did not always believe that but, with very few exceptions, we in this country have come to believe it. It is among the truths that we hold. And by which we are held.

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