Friday, June 15, 2007

Thomas Woods

In a recent post I mentioned a conference to be held in Wichita. The keynote speaker will be Thomas Woods. Kevin Miller sent me a link to some essays by him. He seems to be pretty libertarian and paleoconservative. I can't say that I find his political views congenial, although i certainly agree with him, and Russell Kirk, whom he quotes, about militarism.

I probably shouldn't say this without taking the time to explain it, but my sense is that these type of political theorists are simply too exclusively masculine in their approach to political life. David Schindler has made the point that the public life of our society needs to be more fully informed by the feminine and the contemplative, nurturing values of active receptivity. The Enlightenment and rationalism, which seems to be the stream from which these thinkers drink, is too informed exclusively by the masculine principle of active activity--the flight from woman. This leads to an attempt to replace the providence of God the Father with human action and results in a pelagianism of culture and a fairly intolerant moralism when it comes to those in poverty.

Or am I wrong?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Why I think that true art is always more than simply a recording of experience, no matter how authentically portrayed.

Experience is itself a kind of text, and texts need interpreters. How often have we thought that we understood our experiences, only to realize later that we had only the barest understanding of our own motives and impulses? We all know how flexible memory can be, how easy it is to give an overly gentle account of our own motivations, how hard it is to step outside our lifelong cultural training and see with the eyes of another time or place. To my mind, Johnson’s approach places far too much trust in personal experience. He views our experience as both more transparent and less fallible than it is. To take personal experience as our best and sturdiest guide seems like a good way to replicate all of our personal preferences and cultural blind spots. Scripture is weird and tangly and anything but obvious—but at least it wasn’t written by someone who shared all our desires, preferences, and cultural background. At least it wasn’t written by us. And so it’s necessary to turn at least as much skepticism on “the voice of experience” as Johnson turns on the voice of Scripture. It’s necessary to look at least as hard for alternative understandings of our experience as for alternative understandings of Scripture. [Eve Tushnet]
Discovered by Maclin Horton here, but taken from Commonweal here. If art doesn’t provide an interpretation of experience that goes deeper than the interpretation of the person having the experience or the interpretation of the times, then it is very likely perpetuating a distorted interpretation of reality as such.

Walker Percy makes a similar point in his acceptance speech for Notre Dame's Laetare Medal in 1989. HT Amy Welborne.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization

Another Summer Institute opportunity:

Summer Theology Institute, July 19-21, Catholic Diocese of Wichita Event to explore, rediscover Catholic roots in Western Civilization

“How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization,” is the title of this year’s Summer Theology Institute (STI) being hosted at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita. Now in its ninth year, the STI is set for July 19-21 and features nationally known scholars presenting a slate of classes designed to educate and inspire.

The Institute opens on Thursday, July 19 with an evening keynote address. Classes are held Friday and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“This year’s STI theme is a response to the words of Pope Benedict XVI who calls upon Europe and the United States, to rediscover its Christian roots,” explains Jeri Holladay, Director of Adult Education at the Center and the driving force behind the Institute. “Benedict believes that the West will not survive without a return and deep understanding of our heritage that brings dignity to the human person. This heritage is truly a gift to the world and one we want to reintroduce during the Institute.”

The featured keynote speaker and faculty member for the 2007 STI is Thomas Woods, Ph.D., a best-selling author and senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute ( based in Auburn, Alabama. This year’s theme is taken from Dr. Woods’ book of the same name (2005, Regnery Publishing, Inc.). He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History.”

Father Meinrad Miller, O.S.B., chaplain and lecturer in Theology at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, joins Dr. Woods on the STI faculty. Father Meinrad will teach a course called “The Monastic Contribution: From Europe to Kansas.”

In addition to duties as coordinator of the Institute, Mrs. Holladay will also teach a course on The Crusades.

The Summer Theology Institute is an intense religious education program with nationally recognized scholars filled with energy and inspiration designed to introduce and explore the Catholic Tradition. Created in 1999, the Institute offers catechists, RCIA team members, Catholic schoolteachers, DRE’s and anyone else deeply interested in their faith an opportunity to learn in a dynamic and supportive Catholic environment.

Overnight guests may reserve a private room at the Center, including a full slate of meals prepared and served on site. The Spiritual Life Center is considered one of the finest retreat centers in the Midwest and is easily accessible. Earlybird discounted registration for the Institute is available now through June 22, with registration closed after July 5. A detailed brochure can be viewed and downloaded by logging onto the Spiritual Life Center web site , and going to the Calendar of Events page. Phone registration is available by calling the Center in Wichita at (316) 744-0167.

HT Fr. Meinrad.