Christianity Today offers two articles on hymns today. The first is actually a slideshow of hymnals and hymn-singing from around the world. The second is an article by my college history professor, Mark Noll: "We Are What We Sing." Here’s the opening paragraph of Noll’s article, with which I heartily agree:
Evangelicalism at its best is the religion displayed in its classic hymns. The classic evangelical hymns contain the clearest, most memorable, cohesive, and widely repeated expressions of what it has meant to be an evangelical.I
I’m a fan of contemporary worship music, but I also think we should keep singing the best of evangelical hymns. Noll’s article helps me explain why.
Sunday, May 27, was the Global Day of Prayer. At the morning service, I spoke on the theme, "How to Pray for the World" from 1 Timothy 2:1-7.
The left prides itself on, and frequently boasts of, its superior appreciation of the complexity and depth of moral and political life. But political debate in America today tells a different story.
On a variety of issues that currently divide the nation, those to the left of center seem to be converging, their ranks increasingly untroubled by debate or dissent, except on daily tactics and long-term strategy. Meanwhile, those to the right of center are engaged in an intense intra-party struggle to balance competing principles and goods.
One source of the divisions evident today is the tension in modern conservatism between its commitment to individual liberty, and its lively appreciation of the need to preserve the beliefs, practices, associations and institutions that form citizens capable of preserving liberty. The conservative reflex to resist change must often be overcome, because prudent change is necessary to defend liberty. Yet the tension within often compels conservatives to wrestle with the consequences of change more fully than progressives–for whom change itself is often seen as good, and change that contributes to the equalization of social conditions as a very important good.
To be sure, some standard-order issues remain easy for both sides. Democrats instinctively want to repeal the Bush tax cuts, establish government supervised universal healthcare, and impose greater regulation on trade. Just as instinctively Republicans wish to extend the Bush tax cuts, find market mechanisms to broaden health care coverage and reduce limitations on trade.
But on non-standard issues–involving dramatic changes in national security and foreign affairs, the power of medicine and technology to intervene at the early stages of life, and the social meaning of marriage and family, the partisans show a clear difference: the left is more and more of one mind while divisions on the right deepen.
Read the whole thing to see what roils the right, and why.
- Religion and violence
- Are religious beliefs irrational?
- Are religious beliefs immoral?
- And, by way of summarizing his conclusions, does religion do more harm than good?
Over at First Things, Francis J. Beckwith reviews Hugh Hewitt’s new book about Mitt Romney: A Mormon in the White House? He argues that American Christians considering Romney’s candidacy for the presidency should not make "the Creedal Mistake," i.e., believing that "the planks of his [religious] creed are the best standard by which to judge the suitability of a political candidate." By the same token, however, he cautions Romney not to make "the Kennedy mistake." Citing Kennedy’s September 12, 1960, speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, Beckwith writes:
Kennedy’s speech reads like a complete acquiescence to American mainline Protestant notions of privatized faith and anti-clericalism, as well as its stereotypical, outdated, and uncharitable ideas about the Catholic hierarchy and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Kennedy could have argued that his Catholicism informs him of certain theological and moral doctrines that will make him a thoughtful and principled president. He could have consulted and mined from the works of Catholic scholars who were able defenders of liberal democracy and the natural law that grounds it. But he did not. Kennedy’s speech was a terrible concession. For it played to his audience’s anti-Catholic prejudices while saying that his religious beliefs are so trivial that he would govern exactly the same if they were absent.
Beckwith applies these lessons directly to Romney:
Romney, in order to pacify secularists and traditional Christians, may be tempted to emulate Kennedy and claim that his theology and church do not influence or shape his politics. But this would be a mistake. For it would signal to traditional Christians that Romney does not believe that theology could, in principle, count as knowledge; but this is precisely the view of the secularist who believes that religion, like matters of taste, should remain private. Yet if a citizen has good reason to believe her theological tradition offers real insights into the nature of humanity and the common good—insights that could be defended on grounds that even a secularist cannot easily dismiss—why should she remain mute simply because the secularist stipulates a definition of religion that requires her silence? Why should she accept the secularist’s limitations on her religious liberty based on what appears to many of us as a capricious and politically convenient understanding of “religion”? If Romney commits the Kennedy Mistake, it would give tacit permission to secularists to call into question the political legitimacy of not only Romney’s fellow religionists (including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) but also conservative Catholics and evangelicals.
Then he wraps up his discussion with this conclusion:
If one does not support Romney’s candidacy, it should not be because he is a Mormon. It should be because one has good reason to believe he is not the best candidate for the office. That is the message of Hewitt’s book. It is one that would resonate with Martin Luther, who once tersely said, “I’d rather be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian.”