The Domestication of Goodness

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In a piece for the The Imaginative Conservative, Bruce Frohnen bemoans our contemporary glorification of ‘niceness’ as an intellectual and cultural virtue. Niceness, he explains, is the “enemy of excellence” because it is:

A rather shallow set of habits and attitudes more concerned with comfort than engagement, ease than excellence, contentment than striving to do one’s best. It was and is the perfect complement to our contemporary liberal insistence on ‘tolerance’ as the chief virtue. … The result also is students, and graduates, who increasingly are immune to any call to excellence and virtue, more likely to take umbrage than to increase their efforts if called on to do better… [They are] spoiled by a cultural sensibility that values emotional comfort more highly than reality can support.

While I think Frohnen is absolutely right, the root of the problem goes much deeper, to a fundamental domestication of the definition of goodness. The goodness of niceness, it seems to me, is of an easy going and non-threatening kind. It is nothing more or less than moral tepidity writ large. Continue reading

A to Z with C.S. Lewis: L is for Love

loveChristians are fond of declaring that “God is love,” and we are right to do so (1 John 4:16).  But what do we mean when we say God is love?  How could God have been love in that timeless time that preceded his creation of us and our world?  Before God spoke the universe into being, there was nothing to love, so how can we say that God is love?

In answer to this question, Lewis reminds us (Mere Christianity IV.4) that the Christian God is not radically singular (as he is in Islam) but exists as an eternal Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Continue reading

On Flying with Children

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During the pre-boarding period for a flight from Heathrow to Houston, I couldn’t help but notice that there were more “pre-boarders” than “boarders.” The pre-boarding group was mostly composed of families with small children. “Families of small children” might be a more accurate term.

I kid you not—for every solitary traveler on my flight, there seemed to be family of forty-five, forty-three of them children. Even the captain made a point of announcing the obvious fact that there was an extraordinary number of children on board. All being transported to Houston.

A general boarder myself, I soon came to regard my delayed entry as a mark of specialness, peculiarity, eccentricity—dare I say privilege? One is an odd number.  Continue reading

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