Category Archives: History

Understanding Evangelicalism: A Primer

Evangelicalism has played an important role in American society for hundreds of years, and today “evangelicals” remain an influential voting bloc. The term “evangelical” is thrown around a lot in historical scholarship and political rhetoric, but its meaning is less clear than most people imagine. Twenty-first century evangelicalism shares some tenets with evangelicalism of years past, and it has changed in other ways. If we are going to understand evangelicalism’s impact on society and politics, we need to try to understand what exactly it is and where it came from.

I’m not going to get into specific leaders or institutions known for their influence on contemporary evangelicalism. That would require delving into the countless parachurch organizations, leaders, churches, radio stations, colleges, seminaries, etc. Evangelicals are interconnected yet fundamentally decentralized. Thus, it would be very difficult to make sense of that aspect of the movement (if it can even be called a movement) in a blog post. Rather, I’ll speak generally about fundamental beliefs and concepts that broadly describe evangelicals.

D. G. Hart’s Deconstructing Evangelicalism and Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind are good places to start if you are interested in this topic and want to know more about contemporary evangelicalism. John Fea recently wrote a book called Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. This book may shed light upon current trends in evangelicalism, but I haven’t read it, so I can’t say for sure.

Continue reading Understanding Evangelicalism: A Primer

SEEKING CHRISTENDOM Now Available

I’m very proud to announce our third publication for SPIRIT OF CECILIA books, SEEKING CHRISTENDOM: AN AUGUSTINIAN DEFENSE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION.

This was a book–roughly 82,000 words–I wrote over Christmas break, 2002-2003, and then revised four times between 2003 and 2008. I wrote it in between writing the biographies of J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Dawson as a way to understand Christian Humanism. I wanted to know its scope as well as its limits, hoping to find something to move well beyond the simple and deceptive left-right spectrum.

Here’s the opening to the original version:

The nineteenth century witnessed the flourishing of progressivist thought in social relations, politics, religion, and biology.  Everything was evolving, or so it seemed, toward the better.  Smiles were more frequent, and lives just kept getting happier, as the citizens of the world were becoming one, homogenized, contented mass.  The blessings of modernity entangled everything, East to West, claiming that no more perfect offerings needed to be made.  Once properly educated and the childhood superstitions of the race outgrown, the prophets of modernity assured us, the masses collectively would speak as a god.  In a word, according to intellectuals such as Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells, it would soon be “utopian.” 

It was a lie.  

Modernity was a trap, and we were its greatest victims.  We failed to resist, and it greedily fed on us.  In democratic regimes, the brightly colored and candy-coated machines of bureaucracy and large corporations mechanized us, making us far less than human.  In non-democratic regimes, the damage proved much worse, nearly irreparable.  Beginning with the assassination of a relatively minor figure by an equally obscure terrorist group in 1914, the twentieth century drowned in its vast killing fields, gulags, holocaust camps, trench warfare, and weapons of mass destruction.  Whether in the camps of the European or Asian ideologues, some humans, convinced of the righteousness of their cause, viewed all other human persons as nothing more than a collection of parts, ready to be dismembered and reassembled in a Picasso-esque fashion, or perhaps simply quartered and then quartered again.  Armed with the ideological doctrines of fascism, National Socialism, and Communism, the twentieth-century became a century of the inverted vision of Ezekiel: wheels within wheels, endlessly spinning, the abyss ever expanding, ever within reach.  All that was sacred became irrelevant.  All who remained relevant were shot.  And, the State and its faithful companion, War, demanded the sacrifice of much blood to the restored gods.  Demos, Mars, and Leviathan became ascendant, taking possession of the field, and claiming victory, their appetites insatiable.

And, the Logos wept.

If you’re interested, here’s the link to the amazon Kindle version ($4.99). If you’re interested in a copy to review for a print or online publication, please let us know through the contact button.

Thanks! And, enjoy.

Ronald Reagan’s Creative Society

The Creative Society, in other words, is simply a return to the people of the privilege of self-government, as well as a pledge for more efficient representative government–citizens of proven ability in their fields, serving where their experience qualifies them, proposing common sense answers for California’s problems, reviewing governmental structure itself and bringing it into line with the most advanced, modern business practices. Those who talk of complex problems, requiring more government planning and more control, in reality are taking us back in time to the acceptance of rule of the many by the few. Time to look to the future. We’ve had enough talk–disruptive talk–in America of left and right, dividing us down the center. There is really no such choice facing us. The only choice we have is up or down–up, to the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down, to the deadly dullness of totalitarianism.

–Ronald Reagan, The Creative Society (1968)

Our New e-press: Spirit of cecilia books

I am extremely proud to announce and launch our ebook publishing concern, SPIRIT OF CECILIA Books.  As with the website, St. Cecilia is our patron, and we will be publishing several books a year–dealing with art, culture, film, biography, science fiction, music, etc.

Our inaugural book, Reflections on Reflections: A Close Reading of Edmund Burke, is now available at amazon.com as a Kindle version.  We will soon be releasing it in other e-book formats.  The price is $2.99.  Please support us with your purchase.

Founder James Wilson

Some of my favorite quotes from the lectures of James Wilson, signer of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, delivered at what is now the University of Pennsylvania, 1790-1791.

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“Government, in my humble opinion, should be formed to secure and to enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government, which has not this in view, as its principal object, is not a government of the legitimate kind.” [Wilson, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals,” 1061]

“In his unrelated state, man has a natural right to his property, to his character, to liberty, and to safety.  From his peculiar relations, as a husband, as a father, as a son, he is entitled to the enjoyment of peculiar rights, and obliged to the performance of peculiar duties.  These will be specified in their due course.  From his general relations, he is entitled to other rights, simple in their principle, but, in their operation, fruitful and extensive.  His duties, in their principle and in their operation, may be characterized in the same manner as his rights.  In these general relations, his rights are, to be free from injury, and to receive the fulfillment of the engagements, which are made to him: his duties are, to do no injury, and to fulfil the engagements, which he has made.  On these two pillars principally and respectively rest the criminal and the civil codes of the municipal law.  These are the pillars of justice.”  [Wilson, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals,” 1062]

“Under some aspects, character may be considered as a species of property; but, of all, the nearest, the dearest, and the most interest. . . . By the exertion of the same talents and virtues, property and character both are often acquired: by vice and indolence, both are often lost or destroyed.  The love of reputation and the fear of dishonour are, by the all-gracious Author of our existence, implanted in our breasts, for purposes the most beneficent and wise.”  [Wilson, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals,” 1063]

“But to that honour, whose connexion with virtue is indissoluable, a republic government produces the most unquestionable title.  The principle of virtue is allowed to be hers: if she possesses virtue, she also possesses honour.”   [Wilson, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals,” 1065]

“It is unwarrantable to bestow reputation where it is not due.”  [Wilson, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals,” 1066]

“Property must often–reputation must always be purchased: liberty and life are the gratuitous gifts of heaven.”  [Wilson, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals,” 1066]

“With consistency, beautiful and undeviating, human life, from its commencement to its close, is protected by the common law.  In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb.  By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction, but from every degree of actual violence, and, in some cases, from every degree of danger.”  [Wilson, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals,” 1068]

“Slavery, or an absolute and unlimited power, in the master, over the life and fortune of the slave, is unauthorized by the common law.  Indeed, it is repugnant to the principles of natural law, that such a state should subsist in any social system.”  [Wilson, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals,” 1077]

“As a man is justified in defending, so he is justified in retaking, his property, or his peculiar relations, when from him they are unjustly taken and detained.”  [Wilson, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals,” 1083]

The above, all taken from James Wilson, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals” in Kermit L. Hall and Mark David Hall, eds., Collected Works of James Wilson (Indianapolis, Ind: Liberty Fund, 2007), vol. 2.

Submit Your Proposals: Fifth Annual Midwestern History Conference

The Midwestern History Association and the Hauenstein Center at Grand Valley State University invite proposals for papers to be delivered at the Fifth Annual Midwestern History Conference, to be held May 30-31, 2019 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

This conference continues a discussion which has grown significantly over the last four years, at collaborative conferences designed to spark – and sustain – a revival of Midwestern studies in American historiography. Infused with varieties of original research pursued by scholars from many different career paths and stages, this annual gathering strives to cultivate rigorous historical understanding of a complex, dynamic, changing, and often misunderstood region.
— Read on mailchi.mp/c52375433445/call-for-proposals-fifth-annual-midwestern-history-conference-1262039

Sponsored and created by two great men: Gleaves Whitney and Jon Lauck.

When In Gotham . . . | Front Porch Republic

So far as the politics of our debased republic go, the mid-twentieth century quarrel of the leftist C. Wright Mills with his liberal critics comes to mind.  Said Mills by way of response to their demand for what he acidly termed “A Balanced View”: “I feel no need for, and perhaps am incapable of arranging for you, a lyric upsurge, a cheerful little pat on the moral back.”2  In our pitiable circumstance, we all, whether we’re making policy or casting votes, face nothing more immediately hopeful than prudential choices for compromised parties, positions, and politicians—which is not to say that all such options are equal.  We have real choices to make.  To my mind, the most urgent political action today centers on our systemic needs: protecting and promoting (negatively) the separation of powers and (positively) citizen rule.  Such a stance at least will keep us, whatever our take on globalism, from succumbing to nationalist fantasies of repristinated bliss.
— Read on www.frontporchrepublic.com/2018/12/when-in-gotham/