In The Federalist No. 51, James Madison famously states that, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” For reasons unknown to myself, Christians of our own day yet repeat this proverb in discussions of statecraft and human nature as though it were obviously true. While I have respect for the aphorism, and I appreciate a counterintuitive maxim, the saying in question is laughably unacquainted with Scripture.
In my first year as a teacher, I desperately needed my literature students to talk, however, I asked a lot of banal questions, which made it difficult for them to have anything interesting to say. Their silence spoke to my incompetence, and I believed that discussion and conversation would cover over the fact I did not really know what to say or how to say it.
A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.
In the many debates currently raging over race in this country, one often hears the claim that the historic, centuries-old wrongs enacted by whites against African Americans still matter. We may not pretend as though slavery did not happen, or that slavery is sufficiently far in the past that we can forget about it. Time does not heal all wounds. Rather, past wrongs ferment like wine and become more potent the longer they sit in the dark.
1. If Early Christians were tempted to Gnosticism, Modern Christians are tempted to materialism.
2. The abiding power and testimony of Early Christian thought and deed (especially martyrdom) suggests that our own materialism is more a problem for us than Gnosticism was a problem for Early Christians.
Yesterday my Modern European Humanities class began with their catechism, but not a full recitation. I asked my students to stand, but asked them to not have their catechisms in hand. “Let’s see how much you have memorized already. I will read the longer answers in the catechism and occasionally pause. When I pause, you supply the next word.” Most of the catechism is longer excerpts from the curriculum, including some ornate passages from Burke and St. Paul.
Earlier today, I walked into a beer joint looking for a little refreshment. The place was having a slow afternoon. A bartender, myself, and one other customer made three. I had my choice of sixty beers on draught and another sixty in bottles from a cooler. I began talking through the possibilities with the bartender, accepting samples of beers I inquired about. Something from Perennial, something from Dogfish Head, something imported from Munich I had never heard before. The other patron offered helpful and critical comments as we talked through highlights from the menu.
Generally speaking, teenagers are a selfish and spoiled lot. When they do not like the rules, they complain, and when complaining does not work, they simply break the rules. Teenagers have a hard time comprehending the rather simple idea that they are not yet ultimately responsible for how things turn out, and that this means they don’t get to write the rules. Power and accountability go hand in hand, and the man who is not yet legally accountable for his actions has no place determining the law.
Living in a consumerist society, Americans very rarely have to choose between what is good and what is bad. Truly awful things rarely survive in a free market. However, we do have to choose between the good and the mediocre.
Markus performed a forty day fast and then castrated himself, despite discouraging words from his teachers. This was to be the crowning laurel of his Stoic education, and yet only a week later, before he was physically recovered, word came his parents were dead—a sudden fever— and all his learning was as for nothing. Like a crown of hair grown out for a lifetime— as long as the body itself (licking the floor)— suddenly lopped off with a pair of shears. Like it was never there. Like it never happened.