The best way I’ve found to put the question is this: Are the Gates of Hell broken in, or broken out? Did Christ on Holy Saturday descend to Hell in his glory as the risen king, smashing the gates in as he strode forth to claim the souls of the patriarchs and prophets? Or did he ascend from the depths of Hell in his Resurrection, gathering up the souls around him and breaking open Hell from the inside as he ascended into Heaven?
Scientific progress “can be made only through research that is scrupulously ethical,” Nature magazine declared this spring. And why not? It’s a sweet thought, a pious thought in the church of right feeling: a sentimental dogma that all good things must cohere because, dammit, they’re all good, aren’t they?
From Pierre, South Dakota, to Annapolis, Maryland, state boards of education are all striving—with the best will in the world—to ensure that all children have computers in their little hands. From Juneau, Alaska, to Tallahassee, Florida, state governments are all working—in accord with a great moral certainty—to connect all children to the Internet.
In 2011’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, Harvard’s Steven Pinker painstakingly documented the fact that violence has declined over the course of human history and explored the reasons why. The book, like most of Pinker’s prior work, was stunningly well-argued and an indispensable treatment of its subject.
If you believe that the fundamental fact of the world is the mistreatment of women, you usually discover that each new thing you investigate—quelle surprise!—mistreats women. If you begin with an overwhelming presupposition of racism, you often find racism down at the root of everything. And if you start with the long history of oppressing the poor, you almost always find, at the end of the day, that the poor are being oppressed.
An important part of my education began with a discussion of fairies. Before orientation at my small midwest liberal arts college, I overheard a professor who would become my mentor and friend complain of a student who confessed the existence of fairies and other nature spirits. His elfen creed was this student’s act of resistance to the world’s desacralization, a gesture of defiance at modernity’s disenchantment. My friend understood the sentiment, sympathized with this desire for Narnia, but objected on the rather Chestertonian grounds that creation was plenty miraculous and magical enough without Puck dancing in sacred groves. He objected as a Christian and as a scholar of the early modern. The novelist Marilynne Robinson, had she met the student, might have gently responded in much the same way for much the same reasons.
Modern Europe—as an actual entity, rather than just an idea or some stray fact of geography—was born on June 5, 1947. That’s the day that George C. Marshall traveled up to Harvard to stand on the steps of Memorial Church and announce, “The United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health to the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace.”
Navigating the myriad complexities and cross currents of U.S.-Saudi relations since the end of World War II is a daunting process even for experienced foreign policy analysts. That journey is made easier by Bruce Riedel’s masterful new book, Kings and Presidents: Saudi Arabia and the United States since FDR. Currently a senior member at the Brookings Institution, Riedel brings decades of government experience from both the policy and intelligence sides to his work. Along the way he has dealt with countless Saudi and U.S. officials with direct responsibility for the bilateral relationship.