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Fireside Reading For Christmas

December 8, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

This Christmas, good readers should celebrate good writing. And we should also share it. In the spirit of Christmas cheer, we offer here some suggestions that should brighten any smile and invite another log on the fire in every home.
We begin with Faith and Politics (Ignatius Press), a selection of Pope Benedict XVI’s writings that cover a wide range of issues touching on politics while “insisting on the centrality of the question of God.” Wasting no time, the Pope gets right to the point: “the unredeemed state of the world consists precisely in the failure to understand the meaning of creation, and the failure to recognize truth; as a result, the rule of pragmatism is imposed, by which the strong arm of the powerful becomes the god of this world.”
Pope Benedict’s treatment of Augustine, focusing on his City of God, brilliantly drills into the tension between this world and the eternal. But this is not a history text — he immediately takes us on a tour that brings us to the present, addressing the notion of nationalism that so obsesses a faction of the current political conversation.
There is something here to stoke the imagination, whatever one’s political persuasion, because the faith is prior to and beyond politics. The Pope’s discussion of Augustine alone makes this book a must-have, but one could argue that its careful consideration of conscience is equally superb.
Pope Benedict includes a valuable consideration of the issues that confront our own legal community, explaining how positivism has infected not only the law but the culture.
Hans Kelsen, the founder of legal positivism in the early years of the twentieth century, lived long enough to consider in retrospect both world wars. When asked about the atrocities of Hitler and Stalin, Kelsen insisted that there was no basis on which to consider them immoral, because, after all, the campaigns of extermination and annihilation were all legal under the laws of Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism. Positivism admits of no higher law by which to judge them.
Pope Benedict is undoubtedly the greatest living Catholic intellectual. This book is a tribute to his humility and his lucidity with which he approaches so many timeless questions. It is indeed a treasure.

While The Getting Is Good . . .

Things are tough all over. The Church is in turmoil and the collateral damage of the sexual revolution abounds. Twenty percent of millennials see the American flag as a “sign of intolerance and hatred.” College debt is in the trillions, with students paying more each year for education that is increasingly worth less.
While 90 percent of high school teachers consider their graduates to be ready for college, less than a fifth of college profs agree. The government school unions (one hesitates to call their members “teachers”) are among the most radical factions on the left, and yet we are taxed to finance them — refuse, and we lose our homes.
Hannah Arendt’s warning half a century ago is ignored: “The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.” Instead of being taught to think, pupils are trained to feel — although, as Thomas Sowell laments, “When they tell you how they feel, they think they’re thinking.”
Now come two authors to tell you the real news — and it’s bad news. Things are even worse than you think. Mary Rice Hasson and Theresa Farnan have written not a book but an ultimatum: Get Out Now! Why You Should Pull Your Child From Public School Before It’s Too Late.
The authors are the daughters of longtime Wanderer contributor and pro-life hero Charles E. Rice, and the apples didn’t fall far from the tree. We’re all too familiar with the failure of public education, of course. Hasson and Farnan consider that failure to be “the elephant in the room” in public discourse regarding the fraying, tearing, and all-too-frequent shredding of America’s social and cultural fabric.
No one wants to talk about it. You might hurt somebody’s feelings. After all, some 90 percent of Americans went to public school, didn’t they — and they’re OK, right?
That won’t work anymore, the authors report, because of the government school culture’s newest perversion: gender.
“America’s high schoolers, college students, and young adults are storming the barricades of human nature on the behalf of a ‘gender revolution’ that denies the reality of sexual difference. They are embracing progressivism with a speed and uniformity beyond anything we have seen in past generations.”
Reports from across the country relate how parents have demanded removal of such foul perversion from school curricula. They have failed, say the authors, because “school boards, superintendents, and teachers follow the lead of the activists, bureaucrats, unions, tech titans, academics, and litigators of the left and the courts that serve as their enforcers. The truth is that nearly everything in America’s public schools — the culture, discipline, curriculum, hiring practices, school policies, even the names of the schools themselves — is determined by progressive ideologues, both inside and outside the school systems.”
When you read this book — and it is required reading — you will experience the classic “light bulb” moment: “I’ve always thought that way, but you have put it into words.” And note: This is a hard teaching, because the authors report that there is little that parents or communities can do to challenge this ideological Pearl Harbor.
Once upon a time, it was possible for parents and children diligently working together to benefit from a public school education. Those days are over. For the authors, “gender” has changed everything — public schools are now a concentration camp. If the landscape ever changes, it will be long after your children or grandchildren are grown. There’s only one solution: “Get Out Now.”

A Chronicle Of A
Genuine Education

For many who seek the truth, that “light bulb moment” can come late in life. In The Conservative Rebellion (Saint Augustine Press), political theorist Richard Bishirjian recounts his own journey from his days in Plato’s Cave to his discovery of genuine education under the guidance of what was once a truly blessed cadre of teachers at the University of Notre Dame.
These days, the notion of “Political Science” implies a hackneyed academic version of Hans Kelsen’s Legal Positivism. Freed from the chains of human nature, natural law, the common good, and reality itself, the “professional” field serves as little more than a technique for the acquisition and preservation of power. Bishirjian’s experience with devoted teachers Gerhart Niemeyer, Eric Voegelin, and Fr. Stanley Parry was truly providential.
“At Notre Dame,” he writes, “in the recesses of the Department of Government and surrounded by representatives of Thomistic propositional metaphysics in the throes of being remaindered by a Catholic Church rushing toward a cultural crackup, our teachers pursued truth without impairment by the acid of skepticism, ideology, and dogmatism and were sowing the seeds of a political renaissance.”
Bishirjian calls that experience the “Conservative Rebellion,” and his book constitutes an informal but penetrating insight into what constitutes genuine political theory. The reader breathes a side of relief, discovering, like Pope Benedict, that there are indeed truths that inform political reality and our place in it. Sure, ideological advocates of the manufactured paradigms, algorithms, abstruse formulae and jargon that constitute today’s “political science” abound, but so did the prisoners in Plato’s cave.
Bishirjian argues not only for a rebellion, but for a renaissance of truly theoretical study of politics in the light of truth, and this book constitutes a roadmap for that valiant and welcome effort.

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