Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

The Culture Alliance’s latest in its work fostering a culture of liberty and personal responsibility in America brings readers news, opinion, reviews and excerpts from the world of popular fiction.

On Friday of each week, subscribers to TCA’s Weekly Update will receive the latest in reviews, excerpts, news and opinion concerning the world of novels and short stories. American society is besieged by a plethora of fiction tending to promote the modern zeitgeist – a relativistic, secular, antinomian worldview. TCA’s Fiction Friday is inspired by the idea that a culture of liberty will flounder without a well-nourished moral imagination.

Citing Russell Kirk’s essay “The Age of Sentiments,” Vigen Guroian writes,

Kirk advanced further his thoughts on the crisis of the moral imagination. In this intriguing essay, he argues that the Age of Discussion, which grew from the Enlightenment and earmarked modernity, is all but over. We are entering a new era in civilization, Kirk advises, where sentiments rule—indeed, we are entering the Age of Sentiments. And this momentous shift in mind and sensibility requires new cultural strategies for the nurture of the moral imagination.

Nothing enriches the moral imagination like a good story. T. S. Eliot noted, in his essay “Religion and Literature,”

The author of a work of imagination is trying to affect us wholly, as human being, whether he knows it or not; and we are effected by it wholly, as human beings, whether we intend to be or not. I suppose that everything we eat has some effect upon us other than merely the pleasure of taste and mastication; it affects us during the process of assimilation and digestion; and I believe that exactly the same is true of anything we read.

He went on to note that even what some might consider trivial works of pop culture can be the most significant when it comes to influencing our imagination. “I incline to the shocking conclusion,” Eliot wrote,

that it is just the literature that we read for amusement, or purely for pleasure, that may have the greatest and least suspected influence upon us. It is literature we read with the least effort that can have the easiest and most insidious influence upon us. Hence it is that the influence of popular novelists, and of popular playwrights of contemporary life, requires to be scrutinized most closely.

A few will seek out Shakespeare, Dante, Virgil, etc. for their pleasure reading, but when it comes to reading “for amusement” the majority will get the latest bestseller or mass-market paperback.
Therefore, rather than leaving it to the advertising divisions of some New York publishing house promoting work that meets with liberal sensibilities, we wanted to offer readers some alternatives they might have missed. TCA seeks to shed light on that which the publishing worlds’ powers-that-be neglect because it does not fit their presuppositions. We also want those who desire a culture of liberty and personal responsibility to have a reading list that goes beyond the latest polemics produced by Regnery Publishing, Encounter Books, etc. Perhaps, in time, we may inspire those few houses, like Regnery or Encounter to begin feeding their customer’s moral imagination with some well crafted fiction.

TCA’s Fiction Friday inaugural issue included S.T. Karnick’s review of The Red Right Hand, an excerpt from Richard Doster’s latest novel Crossing the Lines, and links to numerous stories from the world of novels and short stories including:

The following from R.V. Young’s, A Student’s Guide to Literature, included in Fiction Friday’s first issue, notes the central role fiction plays in “the transmission of culture throughout the history of Western Civilization”

A successful poem or story compels our attention and seizes us with a sense of its reality, even while we know that it is essentially (even when based upon historical fact) something made up – a fiction. The most memorable works of literature are charged with significance and cry out for understanding, reflection, interpretation; but this meaning carries most conviction insofar as it is not explicit – not paraded with banners flying and trumpets blaring. “We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us,” says John Keats. The role of literature in society is similarly equivocal. It can be explained simply as entertainment or recreation; men and women have always told stories ans sung songs to amuse themselves, to pass the time, to lighten the burden of “real life.” At the same time, literature has assumed a central place in education and the transmission of culture throughout the history of Western civilization, contributing  a sense of communal identity and shaping both individual and social understanding of human experience. The intimate part played by literature in cultural tradition has been a source of alarm to moralists and reformers from Plato to the media critics and multiculturalists of our own day.

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The essence of theological modernism is the denial of the supernatural (miracles, Christ’s divinity and resurrection, Heaven and Hell, the Second Coming, and the divine inspiration of scripture). These fundamentals of the faith are labeled “fundamentalistic”—modernity’s other F-word. Modernism reduces religion to morality, morality to social morality, and social morality to socialism.

In fact, its instinctive gravitation to socialism is natural. For socialism and religion are the only two answers to a problem Lewis poses in The Abolition of Man: the problem of the Controllers versus the controlled, the Conditioners versus the conditioned. To see this, we must first review his argument in that book.

Lewis’ argument in chapter 3 is absolutely stunning, both in the sense of intellectually brilliant and in the sense of emotionally terrifying. It is that “man’s conquest of nature” without the Tao must necessarily become nature’s conquest of man. For “man’s conquest of nature” must always mean, in the concrete, some men’s power over other men, using nature as the instrument. Lewis’ examples of the wireless, the airplane, and the contraceptive show this: some men wield the newly-won power over others as its patients. Perhaps they are its willing patients, but they are its patients. Now as long as both the agents and the patients of these powers over nature admit and work within a common Tao, or moral law, they have the same interests, rights, and values. Monarchy is not oppressive if the king and the people are working for a common goal under a common law and share a common dignity. But if the power elite, whether king, voting majority, or media elite, cease to believe in an objective Tao, as is clearly the case in our society, then they become Controllers, Conditioners, Social Engineers, and the patients become the controlled. Propaganda replaces propagation. Propagation is “old birds teaching young birds to fly.” Propaganda is programming parrots. Propagation is the transmission of tradition. Propaganda is the invention of innovation. Which of the two is piped into our brains daily by our media?

— Peter Kreeft, From “Darkness At Noon: The Eclipse of the Permanent Things,” Chapter 2 of C.S. Lewis For The Third Millennium

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Who says debate on embryonic stem cell research has to be either dry, boring academics going point – counterpoint or overheated pundits yelling and casting hate at each other?

Dream Theater has found another way to make a point.

For the literal minded, the lyrics are below the fold. (more…)

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“Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.”

C. S. Lewis in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

And to think, some people believe literature, especially that meant to entertain children, has little if any bearing on politics.

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parable-of-the-talentsIs the Christian Faith compatible with a Free Market economy? Many lay people and most clergy would probably answer that question negatively, especially during these times. But is this really the case?

Kevin Allen, at Ancient Faith Radio, discussed these topics and much more with Chris Banescu. The answers Mr. Allen received are very enlightening. This is a must listen to anyone, not just Christians, who work for a living, which means it is a must listen for everyone.

Do you treat your employees the way you treat your best customers? Do you work everyday to build long term profitability and increase long term value? Do you, each and everyday, work to meet and exceed your customer’s expectations?

An aside, I do not like the term capitalism. It is a disparaging term coined by socialists in the mid-nineteenth century. It has become an easy shorthand but that does not mean that I have to accept it. After listening to Chris Banescu’s interview I much prefer the phrase, an ethical and free market. A big reason the world, economically speaking, is in its current condition is because we have neither a free nor an ethical marketplace. Government picks winners and losers. Corporations treat their lowest employees worse than they treat their corporate jets and fleet of limousines. Consumers, just to save a buck, buy products made with slave labor.

No one, including myself, is pure. I’ve purchased Chinese produced products that were probably made by prisoners of conscience. I took advantage of past employers, thinking that they owed me rather than asking how can I increase the company’s long term value. There have been more days than I care to remember where I did the minimal work to meet others’ expectations rather than diligently working to exceed those expectations.

When it comes to being an echo of the Creator and building an ethical and free market we all fall short. No one is without sin. The question becomes will we now go forth and sin no more?

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The greatest minds of a generation gathered to discuss what should be done. A great evil threatens them all; war looms on the horizon, citizens are threatened, some are killed simply because, unknowingly, they were in evil’s path. The thing that those who would do evil most desire sits amidst these great leaders, enticing them, beguiling them, leading them to bicker and argue. While leaders and great minds of the time argue and debate, the least among them stands up and declares, he will do that which no one else seems capable or willing.

Put yourself in the place of the smallest and least among these great people. Would you have that kind of courage? Could you stand before so many who know so much more of the world and its ways than you do and say that you will do what they will not? Would you have the strength of character to carry a burden from which most either withdraw in fear or lust for greedily? Would you be willing to take on this burden and at the same time, acknowledge before all that you do not know how you will accomplish this great task?

These are the questions I ask myself when I watched this scene from The Fellowship of the Ring:

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