- Civility & Rhetoric (53) : Discourse, Persuasion, Respect
- Activism & Revolt (16) : Making Change
- Family (1) : The Family
- Government, Law, Politics (57)
- War & Peace (31) : War & Peacemaking
- Journalism (10) : All that's fit to print
- Education (15) : Scholarship and Pedagogy
- History (11) : History and Method
- In/Tolerance (20) : Living With Differences
- Church & State (37) : God & Country
Robert Neelly Bellah, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, Steven M. Tipton (University of California Press: May 1, 1996), 410 pages.
Habits of the Heart is required reading for anyone who wants to understand how religion contributes to and detracts from America's common good. Describes the social significance of faiths ranging from "Sheilaism" (practiced by a California nurse named Sheila) to conservative Christianity. It's thoroughly readable, theologically respectful, and academically irreproachable. ~ Michael Joseph Gross • First published in 1985, Habits of the Heart continues to be one of the most discussed interpretations of modern American society, a quest for a democratic community that draws on our diverse civic and religious traditions. In a new preface the authors relate the arguments of the book both to the current realities of American society and to the growing debate about the country's future. With this new edition one of the most influential books of recent times takes on a new immediacy.
Religion and Philosophy in Germany (1834), quoted in Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (2010: Thomas Nelson), p. 115.
Christianity — and that is its greatest merit — has somewhat mitigated that brutal German love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered, the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. This talisman is fragile, and the day will come when it will collapse miserably. Then the ancient stony gods will rise from the forgotten debris and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and finally Thor with his giant hammer will jump up and smash the Gothic cathedrals. ... Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder ... comes rolling somewhat slowly, but .. its crash ... will be unlike anything before in the history of the world. [W]hen you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world's history, then you know that the German thunderbolt has fallen at last. At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead, and lions in the remotest deserts of Africa will hide in their royal dens. A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.
In Defence of the Imagination (Harvard University Press: 1982), pp. 2-4.
More disturbing than this wilful and self-indulgent use of language was the dismissal of the author as the creator of the work and the denial of objective status to the text. The author gave place to the reader, on the ground that the text has no existence as 'an object exterior to the psyche and history of the man who interprets it'. Since the reader may be any and every reader from now to the end of time, texts were to be regarded as susceptible of an infinite number of meanings, and, since no criteria were proposed by which any meaning could be rejected or accepted, were in fact meaningless. The critic, therefore, regarding it as impossible to fulfill what has always been regarded as his prime duty — to illuminate the author's meaning, now declared to be totally irrecoverable — created meanings within the void (le vide) of the text, or, to put it another way, imported meanings into a text that had no determinate meaning of its own.
"An American Myth" in The Democracy of the Constitution: And Other Addresses and Essays (C. Scribner: 1915), pp. 208-9.
Every one who has studied history is familiar with the myths which crowd its pages. I do not mean by this the frankly mythical tales which tell of gods and goddesses, of the divine founders of nations, tribes, and families, or those in which the Middle Ages delighted and which were replete with angels and devils, with witches and sorcerers, with magic and miracles. The myths to which I refer are those which masquerade as history, which are moden as well as ancient, which make no pretence to the supernatural, but which, being either pure invention or a huge growth from some little seed of fact, possess all the characteristics of their great namesakes which have rejoiced the world for centuries, awakened almost every emotion of which the human heart is capable, and from which the historian and the man of science have been able to learn innumerable lessons as to the toughs and beliefs, the hopes and fears, of primitive man. These historical myths grow up silently. Some of them reign for centuries. Modern research has exposed many of ancient lineage and long acceptance, has torn away the mask and revealed them in their true character. Yet the historical myth rarely dies. No exposure seems able to kill it. Expelled from every book of authority, from every dictionary and encyclopedia, it will still live on among the great mass of humanity. The reason for this tenacity of life is not far to seek. The myth, or the tradition, as it is sometimes called, has necessarily a touch of the imagination, and imagination is almost always more fascinating than truth. The historical myth, indeed, would not exist at all if it did not profess to tell something which people for one reason or another, like to believe, and which appeals strongly to some emotion or passion, and so to human nature.
Joe Carter and John Coleman (Crossway: Jan 2009), 176 pages.
Uses Jesus' words and actions found in the New Testament to systematically evaluate his rhetorical stylings, drawing real lessons from his teachings that today's readers can employ. Jesus of Nazareth never wrote a book, held political office, or wielded a sword. He never gained sway with the mighty or influential. He never took up arms against the governing powers in Rome. He was a lower-class worker who died an excruciating death at the age of thirty-three. Yet, in spite of all odds — obscurity, powerlessness, and execution — his words revolutionized human history. How to Argue like Jesus examines the life and words of Jesus and describes the various ways in which he sought-through the spoken word, his life, and his disciples-to reach others with his message. The authors then pull some very simple rhetorical lessons from Jesus' life that readers can use today. Both Christian and non-Christian leaders in just about any field can improve their ability to communicate effectively by studying the words and methods of history's greatest communicator. ~ Book Description
Nathan Jacobson » Reflections on Christopher Hitchens' God is not Great
Christopher Hitchens' god is not Great is an expression of the profoundest moral outrage at the transgressions of religious people. As such, Hitchens follows in a long and honorable tradition. Indeed, in his life and teaching, Jesus also was a consummate critic of corrupted religion. In particular, it was the religious authorities of his time and place — the pharisees — that he most roundly denounced. His criticisms were many, but included charges of hypocrisy, pride, legalism, and unkindness. Like Hitchens, a consistent theme in Jesus' criticism is how inhumane their religious strictures had become. For example, in one of a number of confrontations over Sabbath observance, Jesus reminds the pharisees that the Sabbath was instituted for the sake of humankind, not vice-versa. Furthermore, the letters of early church leaders follow Jesus' precedent in confronting the failings of his earliest followers. And they all stood in a long line of prophetic voices that, according to the biblical record, were called by God to correct the recurring degeneration of Hebrew, and then Christian, religion. Finally, today you can browse the bookshelves of any Christian bookstore to find volume after volume lamenting this or that shortcoming of the Church. Clearly religion can be corrupt, even poisonous, and it is hardly exempt from criticism. But though Hitchens is in good company in his indictment of religious transgressions, god is not Great is something of a missed opportunity. Because his rhetoric evinces such a profound contempt for people of faith, Hitchens fails to speak persuasively to the very people he thinks need saving. If intended merely as a call to arms for his compatriots, god is not Great is a tour de force. But if he hopes to deconvert the converted, to liberate those captive to religion, another course is needed. If that is the aim, here's how to criticize religion.
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