This week’s unicorns are an eclectic bunch–ranging from valuing children and the homeless to the poetry of forgiveness, parental rights, MLK Jr., Alexander Hamilton’s pocket pistols, and cultural Christians.
Beatrice Scudeler, whose review of Carrie Gress’s The End of Woman earlier this week is a must read, has a deeply moving essay at The Critic Magazine on “Parenthood Erased,” confronting the ethical nightmares that modern reproductive technologies keep unleashing. A taste:
Children born of artificial reproductive technologies today may well be loved by their “parents”, but, like the children imagined by Ishiguro in Never Let Me Go, they are born and live to fulfil the wishes of adults who see themselves as owners rather than guardians. Unlike the father in The Pearl, who learns that he cannot own his daughter, and that he must let her go, we now think of children as a means to our happiness, not as persons who have been entrusted to our care.
The world imagined by Ishiguro isn’t some far-off dystopian future. We are thinking and acting like that already. We have lost the medieval vision of parenthood of The Pearl, with the parent as earthly guardian and God as creator; instead, we make gods of ourselves. We make and destroy embryos so that infertile couples can have the child they always wanted. We tear newborns away from the woman who bore and gave birth to them and call her a mere “surrogate” mother, never thinking twice of what that does to the newborn who is being deprived of the care of the only person he or she knew while growing in the womb.
Marvin Olasky wrote on “How Christian Homeless Shelters Are Changing” this week in The Dispatch. A taste:
Over the years I visited other Christian shelters in California and Colorado, Texas and Missouri, and Illinois and Pennsylvania, and saw some fairly low common denominators. Hymn singing at rescue mission services was louder and lustier than what I’m used to as a Presbyterian elder, but that’s because many of the participants were drunk. I volunteered alongside a Miss America at a New York City mission, but except for her all the shelters were old and mostly ugly.
The picture around the country now is generally darker but with new points of light.
Dwight A. Lindley III’s essay “Homer and the Poetry of Forgiveness” in Church Life Journal is theologically deep and quite lovely.
Political scientist Joseph Griffith researches parental rights. Here is his new article “on the right of parents to direct their children’s education and the common-law origins of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Meyer and Pierce.” Of interest to homeschoolers in particular.
My favorite American historian has a thought-provoking piece in Christianity Today on “The Half-Truths We’ve Told About MLK.” A taste:
As a white evangelical Christian who is also an academic historian, I face three questions as I think about King: (1) How should I understand King as a historical figure, in the context of his own time and place? (2) How should my understanding of King affect my own understanding of Christian theology and the Bible? and (3) How should my understanding of King and Christian theology affect my response to issues of racial justice today?
We need to choose our Christian theology based on our understanding of biblical truth, not merely on our attraction to a particular way of life or our admiration of a Christian principle in action. But whenever we find evidence that our own theological tradition hasn’t adequately rejected a given sin, like racism, we should identify the theological blind spots that kept our tradition from seeing that evil…
Regardless of our understanding of King, we also need to answer the question of how we should respond to racial injustice today—and whether we should appeal to King’s words when we do so. Because it’s easy to quote King selectively or out of context, we need to be careful about using King to weigh in on current policy debates, especially if we’re tempted to use his words to argue against a particular form of Black activism.
At the same time, King’s example of active resistance to evil through nonviolent love is still just as inspirational as it was during his lifetime—it can still convict and inspire us, even if we might not agree with all his theological views.
On another note, did you get a lot of loose cash in your Christmas stocking? Looking for that one-of-a-kind buy to blow it on? You’re in luck. One of “only two surviving pistol pairs that belonged to Alexander Hamilton” will be included in next week’s auction at Christie’s in NYC! More details:
The pistols, estimated at around US $500,000, were personal possessions of Hamilton—both have his initials “A.H.” engraved on the mounts—and can be dated to the six-year period between July 1798 and July 1804, when Hamilton was killed in a duel by longtime rival Aaron Burr. The pair is one of only two known surviving pistol pairs that belonged to Hamilton, who was the first treasury secretary of the U.S.
“These pistols were among Hamilton’s most personal possessions,” Christie’s Americana specialist Martha Willoughby said, “so this is a rare opportunity for a collector to acquire national treasures that evoke the pulse of the new American nation.”
Known as pocket pistols or pistolets du voyage, the guns are small—each barrel is just 4.75 inches long—as they were made for civilians to easily carry one in each coat pocket, according to Christie’s.
Cultural Christians in the Early Church has now been out for two months, and it has been exciting to see it in the hands of readers. I am grateful for Coleman Ford’s very generous review this week for Christianity Today. A taste from his conclusion:
Rather than idolizing the early church, perhaps we should learn some sober lessons and apply them to our experience today. Williams’s work is far from an abstract exercise in social history; it presents a “usable history” of the best sort.
Recognizing our cultural sins ought to bring us back to the upside-down kingdom ethics of Jesus. Truly his kingdom is not of this world. There is no golden era of the church in history; only the one to come in eternity.
Here is an excerpt from the book that ran at Fairer Disputations right before Christmas.
And here’s the most recent podcast interview about the book—with much gratitude to Shifting Culture Podcast and its host, Joshua Johnson.
Finally, if you’re local-ish to Ashland, Ohio, I’m giving a public lecture on the book at Ashland University on Jan. 22nd at 7pm.