A Dad’s Life | The Weekly Standard

From Jonathan V. Last:

As a general rule I try not to talk in the conditional mood, especially when it comes to family life. Everyone has their own circumstances and I respect that. I really do. But if you aren’t otherwise engaged in some duty that precludes it—say, the priesthood—and you have the opportunity, then you should be a father. There is nothing more vexing, exhausting, noble, or manly. 

Read the whole thing: A Dad’s Life | The Weekly Standard.


Review of ‘The Seven Deadly Virtues,’ edited by Jonathan V. Last

The-Seven-Deadly-Virtues Jonathan V. Last, ed., The Seven Deadly Virtues: 18 Conservative Writers on Why the Virtuous Life Is Funny as Hell (West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2014). Hardcover / Kindle

It is a vice to judge a book by its cover, but one that I’ll indulge in this instance. The book’s title and subtitle mislead. Its authors essay sixteen virtues, not seven (and none deadly), and while they do so hilariously, the funniness of the virtuous life is not the point of their essays. That said, The Seven Deadly Virtues is an insightful book, humorously written, and well worth reading.

The book divides into two sections. The first examines the traditional virtues, seven in number and divisible by two: prudence, justice, courage, and temperance are the cardinal virtues; faith, hope, and charity are the Christian virtues. The second looks into everyday virtues: chastity, simplicity, thrift, honesty, fellowship, forbearance, integrity, curiosity, and perseverance.

In the Introduction, Jonathan V. Last defines virtues as “the internal qualities that allow us to be our best selves and enable us to lead complete and fulfilling lives.” He warns against “extremism in the pursuit of virtue,” saying instead that virtue is “additive.” “No single virtue is sufficient in and of itself, and each one, taken on its own is corruptible. Yet each virtue becomes more valuable with the addition of others. And for any single virtue to be brought to its full bloom, it must be surrounded by its sisters.”

Picking favorites among the individual essays is difficult. How do you choose between P. J. O’Rourke and Christopher Buckley? Rob Long and Matt Labash? Andrew Ferguson and Jonah Goldberg? You don’t. You read, laugh, and learn.

Instead of picking a favorite, let me highlight Sonny Bunch, a younger, not-as-well-known author whose chapter, “Forbearance: Opting Out of the Politicized Life,” seems particularly apt for the politicized times in which we live.

The politicized life is “the growing, pernicious trend in American society where politics are injected into every moment of one’s existence.” For example, if you eat (or don’t) at Chick-Fil-A because you love (or hate) Truett Cathy’s support of traditional marriage rather than because of its delicious chicken sandwiches (not to mention peach shakes!), then you’re leading a politicized life.

Unfortunately, the Internet exacerbates the viciousness—in both senses—of politicization. “In real life,” Bunch points out, “you forbear those around you because you never know who thinks what, and forbearance makes it easier for the whole neighborhood to get along. There is diversity of thought, in part because no one really cares what the guy who lives next door thinks about marginal tax rates. But in virtual life, everyone in the self-selected group pretty much thinks the same way thing, about everything. And the occasional deviations become opportunities to enforce the communal norms, to show how super [serious] we all are about the righteousness of whichever cause binds the community together.” This politicized viciousness makes appearances on the social media of both the left and the right of the political spectrum, as both my Right and Left friends will quickly attest. (It’s easier to spot the lack of forbearance in those who differ from you online than in those who agree with you.)

Forbearance doesn’t mean avoiding politics, of course. (Avoidance isn’t possible, even apart from the ubiquity of social media, for the simple reason that politics is how we organize our common life, and you cannot avoid your neighbors.) Bunch writes: “there’s nothing wrong with standing up for your beliefs and attempting to persuade those with whom you disagree. But,” he goes on, “there’s a difference between having polite, rational discussions and declaring those with opposing views to be the enemy and, therefore, worthy of destruction, infamy, and impoverishment.” So, “the next time a Two Minutes Hate ramps up,” Bunch advises, “step away from your computer and get a cup of coffee. You’ll be a better person. And you’ll feel better too.” Yes, and amen!

If what Bunch has written resonates with the better angels of your nature, my guess is that you’ll both profit from and enjoy reading The Seven Deadly Virtues. Though written by conservatives (but not only for conservatives), the book contains insights that are widely applicable because appropriately wise.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In “The Dangerous Mind of Peter Singer,” Joe Carter wonders whether there’s an ethical minimum that scholars need to meet before being treated seriously by others:

While it is necessary to consider and debate unpopular views, there should be a minimum standard for ethical discourse whether on the elementary playground or in the lecture halls of Princeton. There are certain moral issues that are all but universally recognized as self-evidently wrong by those in possession of rational faculties. Rape is wrong, torturing babies for fun is objectively morally bad, and the Holocaust was not just a violation of utilitarian ethic, but an event of grave moral evil. If someone cannot meet this basic requirement, they can safely be ignored, regardless of where they received a paycheck.
For far too many years, Singer’s ill-conceived sophistry has been considered and debated by some of our country’s best minds. It’s time to end such silliness. Let’s assign a sophomore philosophy student to rebut his arguments and the rest of academia can move on to squashing the bad ideas being championed by morally and intellectually serious people.

In case you’re wondering why Carter goes so hard after Singer, check out “The Wit and Wisdom of Peter Singer,” in which Carter reveals some of the Princeton ethicist’s very disturbing beliefs:

To give a representative taste of Singer’s thoughts, I’ve selected a few choice quotes from some of his most popular works. There is always the danger that taken out of context the quotes could be misconstrued, which is why I recommend that whenever possible the passages be read in their original. Taken in context only makes his positions appear even more disturbing and absolutely chilling in their banality.


“The War Against Girls: Since the late 1970s, 163 million female babies have been aborted by parents seeking sons.” In this article, Jonathan V. Last reviews Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl. Last highlights a fundamental contradiction in Hvistendahl’s perspective:

Despite the author’s intentions, “Unnatural Selection” might be one of the most consequential books ever written in the campaign against abortion. It is aimed, like a heat-seeking missile, against the entire intellectual framework of “choice.” For if “choice” is the moral imperative guiding abortion, then there is no way to take a stand against “gendercide.” Aborting a baby because she is a girl is no different from aborting a baby because she has Down syndrome or because the mother’s “mental health” requires it. Choice is choice. One Indian abortionist tells Ms. Hvistendahl: “I have patients who come and say ‘I want to abort because if this baby is born it will be a Gemini, but I want a Libra.’”

This is where choice leads. This is where choice has already led. Ms. Hvistendahl may wish the matter otherwise, but there are only two alternatives: Restrict abortion or accept the slaughter of millions of baby girls and the calamities that are likely to come with it.


Check out June’s “Ask the Superintendent,” a monthly live webcast in which Dr. George O. Wood—the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God and my dad—fields questions from ministers about issues relevant to the fellowship.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

June 21 “Ask the Superintendent” with George O…., posted with vodpod

“The Heart Has Reasons” is a review of Existential Reasons for Belief in God by Clifford Williams. I agree with the reviwer’s assessment of the book, which I have read, and which I hope to review myself at some point in the near future.

As the New Atheism becomes old news, debates about how to best justify faith have been rekindled. Certainly, Existential Reasons can be read as a volley against those who place confidence in reason alone. In Williams’s work, one finds echoes of “postconservative” theologians, who remind us that Christianity is about transformation, not just information. But the genius of this book is that it doesn’t swing the pendulum too far. Or perhaps more appropriately, Williams shows that reason and emotion are not opposing poles on a single continuum at all; each has its place in the cultivation, strengthening, and defense of Christian belief. For those of us who need a faith at once meaningful and reasonable, that is good news.


“Polling Prejudice Against Mormons: Democrats Worse than GOP”:

…in an era when religious pluralism is an unquestioned element of American culture, it is somewhat baffling that Mormons remain the object of hate. Some may put it down to the rigid beliefs of conservative evangelicals who think Mormons are not Christians, but considering the rude treatment the Mormons have gotten on both Broadway and HBO, it must be considered that some sophisticated liberals may be among the prejudiced 22 percent Gallup has discovered. Indeed, the survey says 27 percent of Democrats said they would not vote for a Mormon as opposed to only 18 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Independents. All of which goes to show when it comes to religious bias, so-called liberals may turn out to be less tolerant than conservatives.

The challenge facing Southern Baptists is whether or not the internal political polity of the denomination can embrace a “blue state” reality without fracturing along the dividing lines of conservative political issues. Advancing the gospel, not proving conservatism, must be the goal.


“One SBC: Slightly Divided”:

The challenge facing Southern Baptists [and other evangelical denominations] is whether or not the internal political polity of the denomination can embrace a “blue state” reality without fracturing along the dividing lines of conservative political issues. Advancing the gospel, not proving conservatism, must be the goal.


“Pawlenty’s prominent pastor not a political pawn.” A good article about Leith Anderson’s studied non-partisanship, but what editor approved the alliteration of the title?


“Until Adultery Do Us Part?”: in which an Episcopal priest argues that questions about adultery need to be asked in pre-marital counseling.


“Is Revivalist Spirituality Still Relevant Today?” Given that nineteenth-century revivals were also hotbeds of social reform, I should think so.


“The Geography of the Gospel”:

The gospel also frees us geographically: no longer needing to be in a certain place, known by certain people, on the social mountaintop, we are free to be anonymous, unknown, in the valley. Grace renders a verdict of acquittal not only over our identity but also over our location. A deep rest, a settled “okayness,” lands not only on who we are but also on where we are.

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