Thinking with the Early Middle Ages

“When the thinker thinks rightly, he follows God step by step; he does not follow his own vain fallacy.”1

14472374900_4a7e643a33_oStudying the Middle Ages is a complex process, not only for the plethora of information one must process in order to have a halfway-informed perspective into the period, but also for the multitude of ways in which contemporary—modern and postmodern—attitudes that illuminate Christian opinions of this important period of Christian history. One need look no further than the recent kerfuffle over President Obama’s remarks concerning the Crusades to realize that perspectives on the Middle Ages are varied and often ill-informed. Some commentators reacted along political lines,2 others out on religious grounds,3 and still others from a historical basis.4 But what everyone functionally agrees on is the fact that contemporary Western culture does not really understand medieval Western culture, at least not on their own terms or with any sort of sophistication or charity when it comes to something as verboten as the Crusades.5 Continue reading

A (Free) College Education for Everyone?

This article originally appeared at Conciliar Post.
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Magdalen College, Oxford

You may have heard that last week President Obama announced an initiative to provide “free” community college education for qualifying students, tentatively defined as those maintaining a “C” average in school. As noted several months ago here at Conciliar Post, the status quo of the American education system needs reform, as the overall monetary and policy prioritization of K-12 education has done relatively little to effectively educate America’s youth and prepare them for their future vocations.1 Few deny that something needs to change in education, though conclusions as to just what that something is remain debated. The purposes of this article involve neither rehashing these concerns nor reacting to our President’s particular proposal—for actual details are scant at this point.2 Rather, this article considers the generalities of “free college education” for everyone, just one part of the greater “education question” that faces our nation. To these ends, I reflect on three questions concerning the cost, need, and implications of a program offering “free” community college education. Continue reading

Immediate Reaction: SCOTUS and Hobby Lobby

hobby_lobbyBy now you’ve likely heard: the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby’s (and other companies) contention that it should not be forced to provide certain types of contraception for its employees due to the religious beliefs concerning abortion (click here for the full text of the ruling). Below are some immediate thoughts on this ruling:

First, this is a victory for those in favor of religious freedom. While certain media organizations and the Oval Office have tried to frame this discussion in terms of ‘healthcare’ or ‘basic contraceptive care,’ that’s not what this case is really about. The health insurance which Hobby Lobby already provides its employees actually includes most of the ‘contraceptive’ and birth control options required under the Affordable Care Act. Yes, you read that right: Hobby Lobby already provides its employees with ‘birth control.’ This case was therefore about whether or not the United States government can force companies to provide medical care which may lead to the death of a human being, an important, long-standing issue for people of many religious persuasions across our country.

Second, there will be much said in the next few days (weeks, months, years) similar to this piece by Richard Cizik in the Huffington Post. Pro-life and pro-freedom advocates must take these concerns seriously and respond appropriately. There has already been enough rhetoric surrounding this case; it’s time for sustained clear thinking about how we may continue to defend human life and freedom.

Third, this case is yet another in a long-stream of SCOTUS cases in which the Obama Administration has been on the losing side. There have been exceptions, of course (namely the ruling on the Constitutionality of the ACA itself). But the White House has not had a ton of good news lately, and it will be interesting to see how our President and his supporters respond to this setback.