By: Kevin Belmonte|Published Date: August 25, 2014
In December 1880, readers of The New York Times were introduced to one of the finest phrases to come from the pen of Julia Ward Howe. “Education,” she said, “keeps the key of life.”
What a telling metaphor—beckoning, as it does, to promise, potential, and opportunity. To give young people this key opens the door on a wider world. Gifted teachers impart a legacy as rare and fine as any we may discover.
Everyone is telling everyone to wake up. Wake up to the desperate plight of Christians in Iraq! Wake up to religious freedoms being trampled under in the West! Wake up to the horrors of sex trafficking! Wake up to the crisis at our borders! Wake up to institutional racism that just keeps hanging on! Wake up to the unending murder of babies in the womb! It goes on and on, doesn’t it?
Do you ever get worn out from all these wake-up calls? Read More >
We shouldn’t be here. And, if any one of dozens of parameters had been different by a smidgen, we wouldn’t be.
For instance, the formation of stars, planets, and matter itself hinges on the relative masses of the proton, neutron, and electron, and on the relative strengths of the electromagnetic and gravitational forces. The habitability of Earth depends on precise values for the sun’s size, mass, and intensity; the Earth’s size, tilt, orbit, and rotation; and the distances from the sun to the Earth and Earth to the moon, as well as the size and number of Earth moons. The viability of a biological gene—the smallest thing nature can “select” in the Darwinian struggle for survival—is determined by hundreds to hundreds of thousands of base molecules arranged in a particular sequence. And that’s just for starters. Read More >
Critics sometimes like to charge that Christianity is a fairy tale for adults. Now some are saying that religious belief hinders children from understanding the difference between fact and fairy tales.
According to a study published last month in the July issue of Cognitive Science, five and six year olds who have “exposure to religious ideas” in church or parochial school find it harder to distinguish fact from fiction than do less-religious children. For example, they were less likely to be able to tell the difference between Snow White and George Washington.
Prominent atheists were quick to trumpet the study, which had all of 66 participants, as proof that religion is bad for kids and their cognitive development. Hemant Mehta, the self-styled “friendly atheist,” blogged, “Religion blurs the lines between fact and fiction. You only hope kids exposed to it figure it out soon enough. . . . It’s just more evidence for those who believe religious indoctrination is a form of mental child abuse.”
It all began with a book that nearly went unread. The setting was England, the time, October 1916. Amid the whistle and clatter of steam engines, and the sound of a porter shouting out arrival and departure times, a well-dressed young man, age 16, pored over the books set out on a railway station bookstall. He had done so before, times without number, for he was an avid reader. He prospected for books like a miner in search of buried treasure.
But not just any book. He was looking for titles that held some promise of a great literary experience. He had been reading Edmund Spenser’s epic allegory, “The Faerie Queene,” with rapt attention. Its stories of martial valor and chivalric virtue had stirred something deep within him. He wanted to revisit that world, or something like it, if he could.
This Joe Klein piece on the border crisis and the president’s feckless response to it is filled with unintentional irony and reminds me of why I am a man without a political party and not likely to ever vote again.
I’ve been trying not to read about the predicament of the 57,000 unaccompanied Central American minors accumulating and rotting at our southern border because thinking about it brings words like “accumulating” and “rotting” to mind. Read More >
I understand your position. My wife, Sara, and I didn’t have those options available for most of our children’s school years, either. (It’s only been in the past few years, anyway, that I’ve developed the strong beliefs I wrote about in last month’s column.) We homeschooled Jonathan and Lisa through a few grades, but most of their education was in public schools. Read More >
That’s the question that occurred to me after viewing the trailer for “Seventh-Gay Adventists,” a documentary about homosexuals in the church. The answer I gave on the BreakPoint Blog and a Facebook page promoting the film was as follows:
“The same way they should have been [receiving] heterosexual individuals and couples whose lifestyles are at odds with Scripture and church teaching: For non-members, enthusiastically welcome them and invite/include them in all programs, events, and services the church has to offer (Matt. 11:29); for those seeking membership, call them to repentance (Acts 2:38); for those who are already members, invoke church discipline for the purpose of restoring them into the fellowship (Matt. 18, Gal. 6:1); and for those who willfully remain in unbiblical lifestyles, disfellowship (1 Cor. 5)."
I also shared my suspicion, given the endorsement of gay advocacy groups and statements made by the filmmakers, that the purpose of the documentary is to convince Christians “to ‘get over’ their fetish with biblical teaching and ‘get on’ with the full integration of non-celibate homosexuals in all aspects of church life, including leadership, lay and ordained.”
In retrospect, I could have worded that more delicately. One of the filmmakers who read my comments took me to task for rushing to judgment on her work without seeing it. She offered to send me a complimentary DVD, which I accepted and recently viewed.
The non-religious word that comes to mind when reading about the events leading to the establishment of Israel in 1948 is “improbable.” (The religious word is of course “miraculous.”) More than 18 centuries after the Bar Kokhba Revolt, a Jewish state was not only reconstituted, but it spoke Hebrew, a language that had not been spoken as a vernacular since before the time of Jesus.
How it happened is a long and complicated story. (If you are interested, I would suggest three books to start with: “A History of the Jews” by Paul Johnson, “A Peace to End All Peace” by David Fromkin, and my favorite, “Righteous Victims” by Benny Morris.) There was the vision of Theodor Herzl, whose book “Der Judenstaat” (The Jewish State) created modern Zionism. There was the organizational genius of Chaim Weizmann, who turned Herzl’s vision into a political movement.
Vision and organizational genius wouldn’t have mattered without the tenacity, dedication, and discipline of the pre-1948 Jewish settlers, known collectively as the Yishuv (from the Hebrew word for “return”), led by David Ben-Gurion, who made the desert bloom and turned back the attempt by their neighbors to drive them into the sea after the 1947 partition of Palestine.
Over the last two decades, more than three-fourths of Iraq’s Christians have fled the country, driven out by a combination of Muslim fanaticism and economic and social collapse. Iraq, however, isn’t the only place to experience a mass Christian exodus in recent years.
Look at the Presbyterian Church (USA), the 10th largest denomination in this country. But you’d better look fast. The PC(USA), which is the nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination (at least for now), is driving out members through its own brand of leftist fanaticism.
“Deliver Us from Evil,” a supernatural thriller starring Eric Bana, Olivia Munn, and Édgar Ramírez, opens in theaters today. The film was inspired by the book of the same name, written by New York Police Detective Ralph Sarchie, about his actual experiences with demonic possession and exorcism.
In the film, Sarchie becomes convinced that something other than human evil is responsible for some of the horrific crimes he investigates—a view shared by his renegade priest friend, Joe Mendoza. Together, through the ancient rite of exorcism, they take on the demonic forces destroying the lives of their New York neighbors, which ultimately direct their rage against Sarchie's family.
“Deliver Us from Evil” is rated R for “bloody violence, grisly images, terror throughout, and language.” I interviewed Scott Derrickson, who both directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay, to learn more about the movie and why he decided to make it. Read More >
In a recent BreakPoint broadcast, Eric Metaxas spoke about a “Christian colleague” who, despite having recorded every episode of the fourth season of “Game of Thrones,” hadn’t watched a single minute and suspected that he never would.
Well, I’m that “Christian colleague.” As Eric told listeners, the show’s nihilism was (and is) the primary reason I no longer care (if I ever did) about what happens in Westeros. But something John Piper wrote about the show’s graphic nudity has got me to thinking. (That BreakPoint’s resident Catholic is approvingly citing a well-known critic of Evangelicals & Catholics Together is a delightful irony for another day.)
Two years ago, I would have taken issue with some of what John Piper had to say about nudity and “Game of Thrones.” Now, while I’m not sure I would agree that watching the show amounts to “re-crucifying Christ,” I am much more inclined towards bright lines, and for many of the same reasons. Read More >
Just yesterday, we bid farewell to a treasured friend from the UK who’d come for a weeklong visit: Lady Davson, a great-granddaughter (to the third degree) of the great anti-slavery reformer William Wilberforce. She is 76 years young, and a beloved “extra grandma” for our eight-year-old son Sam.
We spent hours enjoying the summer sun in our back garden—talking, gathering flowers, reading books, having meals, and picking wild strawberries. Time slowed, and brought us so many things to savor.
Being with Lady Davson, or Kate, as she prefers to be called, reminded me anew why so many friends in England cherish gardens. There, even the smallest patio, or backyard plot, is enchanted ground. Flowers cover all available space around a patch of lawn that may only be 10 feet square. But it matters not: Ten feet of lawn, with flowered palisades, makes up a kingdom all its own.
I have a risky prediction to make today. Maybe it’s more of a hope than a prediction, maybe even an impossible, hopeless hope, but I don’t think so. I think there is substance to it.
Here is my prediction and my hope. Elite leadership in Western society today leans strongly toward the secular end of the polarization spectrum. I think that could reverse itself in the next generation.
I believe it’s possible, maybe even likely, that 15 to 25 years from now, America’s leadership will be heavily influenced, if not dominated, by men and women who were homeschooled or attended schools with curriculums based on a classical Christian education model including logic and rhetoric. The reason? Unlike far too many young people in too many other educational situations, these students are learning how to think and to communicate.
Read More >
In 1977 George Lucas struck box-office gold with the epic adventure “Star Wars.” Mystic luminaries, anthropomorphic androids, light sabers, and computerized special effects captured the imaginations of young and old alike. But perhaps the most lasting impression was left by Obi-wan Kenobi’s Delphic disclosure:“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. . . . It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."
An invisible source of staggering energy, permeating the cosmos that common folk could summon for noble or ignoble ends, was the perfect hook for audiences brought up in the dawning age of high technology and Western mysticism. At the height of the film’s popularity I was playing on a community soccer team named “The Force”; we co-opted the film tagline, “May the Force be with you,” for our game whoop.
That tagline may have contained more truth than Lucas and Co. realized.
Read More >
Back in the days of the Vietnam conflict, a hippie slogan gained a lot of cultural currency: “Make love, not war.” Today Pope Francis is advocating a new slogan: “Have babies, not pets.”
Okay, the Roman pontiff isn’t actually pushing for a memorable catchphrase, but he is urging married couples to remember that procreation is different than adopting a dog or a cat. In a homily on June 2, Francis decried what he termed a “culture of wellbeing.”
Read More >
The American poet and man of letters James Russell Lowell left us with many a memorable line. Few did more than he, in the 19th century, to foster a love of literature, through his essays and work as an editor. His writings were learned and captivating. Dante, Chaucer, Spenser, Milton and Shakespeare—these were but some of the great writers Lowell commended through his books.
For four years, Lowell was editor of The Atlantic Monthly, and during that time, he introduced readers to the finest authors from his native New England. He was also Smith Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard, succeeding none other than Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Are you a Christian? Then there’s something dreadfully wrong with you. You’re unthinking; you’re unscientific; you can’t see how badly Christianity botches morality. You represent a deeply defective culture that’s been getting all the most important things wrong for a hundred generations.
Did you know that?
You should; or at least, that’s the message many skeptics and atheists want to convey about you and me.
Whether it is gaining members or retaining members, concern over church growth consumes the thoughts of church people, clergy and lay members alike.
Consider the metrics. With the possible exception of “tithes and offerings,” nothing is followed more meticulously than weekly attendance and membership. And nothing can create more angst than when a downturn develops.
Imagine more than 200 female, mostly Christian teenagers in an all-girls school getting kidnapped by an al-Qaeda-linked terror group whose name means “Western education is a sin.” Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. This nightmare scenario is Nigeria’s grim reality right now.
One night in mid-April, presumed members of the Boko Haram terrorist group invaded the school, which is situated in the Christian enclave of Chibok in northeastern Borno State. They took approximately 300 girls, aged 16 to 18, captive, and disappeared into the forest. While several dozen girls escaped from the open trucks of their kidnappers, the rest have not been heard from.