1. With the passing of Antonin Scalia last week there has been much discussion of the friendship of ideological opponents, Scalia and Ginsburg. There have been many retellings of the surprising friendship, but it is worth recounting again because it represents the sort of principled and humane opposition that we need to model as Christians. The link is to the NPR story on it, below is Ginsburg's statement that was released upon Scalia's death.
Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: "We are different, we are one," different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve. From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies. We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots — the "applesauce" and "argle bargle" — and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh. The press referred to his "energetic fervor," "astringent intellect," "peppery prose," "acumen," and "affability," all apt descriptions. He was eminently quotable, his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader's grasp.
Justice Scalia once described as the peak of his days on the bench an evening at the Opera Ball when he joined two Washington National Opera tenors at the piano for a medley of songs. He called it the famous Three Tenors performance. He was, indeed, a magnificent performer. It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend.
2. It is common in economic debates, especially those between Liberals and Conservatives, for Liberals to accuse anyone who advocates for small government and free-market principles a Libertarian. Here is a longish, but informative explanation and critique of Libertarianism from a Conservative perspective.
Modern liberals tend to call anyone who defends the free market and limited government a “libertarian,” but this is incorrect, and serves merely to protect them from seriously engaging the issues. Whereas modern liberals relegate economic liberty to a secondary status, libertarians root it in self-ownership and regard it as the most fundamental right, without which no other rights are meaningful. Libertarians therefore are “minarchists.” They believe that the only legitimate use of the state power is to prevent coercion.
At the same time, libertarians differ from classical liberals, who also hold economic liberty in high regard but place it within a social order that gives equal value to civil and political liberty. Classical liberals therefore recognize a wider range of public goods than security—such goods as roads, education, and assistance to the poor, all of which can justify state action. Libertarians also differ from anarchists (or “anarcho-capitalists”), who believe that the state is unnecessary and illegitimate and should be abolished altogether and replaced by private, voluntary associations.
Tellingly, just as modern liberals tend to regard anyone who defends the free market as a libertarian, so libertarians tend to regard anyone who defends anything other than minarchy as a “statist.” Libertarians and modern liberals are like two people gazing at one another through opposite ends of a telescope, which distorts the image of each side while obscuring from view any alternatives but the extremes.
3. This summer a new movie will be released about a rebellion in the South during the Civil War. The history is disputed, but this Smithsonian Magazine article about the so-called "Free State of Jones" is both interesting and says something about the need for racial reconciliation in the South today.
In October 1862, after the Confederate defeat at Corinth, Knight and many other Piney Woods men deserted from the Seventh Battalion of Mississippi Infantry. It wasn’t just the starvation rations, arrogant harebrained leadership and appalling carnage. They were disgusted and angry about the recently passed “Twenty Negro Law,” which exempted one white male for every 20 slaves owned on a plantation, from serving in the Confederate Army. Jasper Collins echoed many non-slaveholders across the South when he said, “This law...makes it a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”
Returning home, they found their wives struggling to keep up the farms and feed the children. Even more aggravating, the Confederate authorities had imposed an abusive, corrupt “tax in kind” system, by which they took what they wanted for the war effort— horses, hogs, chickens, corn, meat from the smokehouses, homespun cloth. A Confederate colonel named William N. Brown reported that corrupt tax officials had “done more to demoralize Jones County than the whole Yankee Army.”
In early 1863, Knight was captured for desertion and possibly tortured. Some scholars think he was pressed back into service for the Siege of Vicksburg, but there’s no solid evidence that he was there. After Vicksburg fell, in July 1863, there was a mass exodus of deserters from the Confederate Army, including many from Jones and the surrounding counties. The following month, Confederate Maj. Amos McLemore arrived in Ellisville and began hunting them down with soldiers and hounds. By October, he had captured more than 100 deserters, and exchanged threatening messages with Newt Knight, who was back on his ruined farm on the Jasper County border.
4. There are some newly developed copy editing symbols that are worth a look:
5. Bradley Green writes about Augustine, Modernity, and true education. This is a long read, but worth the time to contemplate the benefits of Liberal Arts for Christian scholarship, the long tradition of Christian Liberal Arts, and the importance of the resurrection in gaining knowledge.
And here is perhaps one of Augustine’s key contributions—often overlooked—to Christian discussions of the intellectual life. Augustine contends that one can only “get” to the knowledge of God via the cross. When this insight is taken, and extrapolation is made to apply it to every aspect of human knowledge, one has a powerful critique of autonomous human reasoning and intellectual inquiry—whether in its pre-modern or modern forms. That is, Augustine provides an example of, and a theology for, a gospel-centered understanding of the intellectual life. To know is to know with a mind transformed by the gospel. To truly acquire knowledge—whether knowledge of God or knowledge of the created order—is to know via mind that has been transformed by the cross. It is important to note that I am here “extending” Augustine in hopes of bringing an Augustinian insight to bear on our own contemporary setting. Augustine’s main concern was to wrestle with who the Trinitarian God is that he already believes in due to Scripture and tradition. He has argued that we will one day see God face to face, and that to actuallysee God requires that our minds be cleansed by the cross itself. In affirming the centrality of the cross in a construal of the face-to-face vision, Augustine is distancing himself from any position (neoplatonist or otherwise) which would affirm the possibility of seeing God apart from the cross. My suggestion is that we might take Augustine’s basic insight (that seeing and knowing God—in the fuller sense—requires minds transformed by the cross), and apply it to knowledge more generally. It then might be argued that to know God and His world—at least to “know” or “see” it in a more truer and fuller sense—is to “see” or “know” God via a mind that has been transformed by the gospel.
The power to love, then, flows only from him who bled for our sad ability to revile virtually anyone but ourselves. It flows from him who rose in the very resurrection power that’s still at work today—in every person bound to Jesus by faith. To the degree the Holy Spirit empowers us to see the horror of our pride and the beauty of his grace, we’ll find ourselves freed from the twin traps of “loveless truth” and “truthless love”—liberated instead to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). We’ll be enabled to critique, correct, and confront without succumbing to slander, even in the silent confines of our own hearts.