The Trial that Still Must Come — The Death of Osama bin Laden and the Limits of Human Justice

As is always the case, we are left with a sense that a higher court is still needed. Christians know that Osama bin Laden escaped the reach of full human justice and a trial for his crimes, but he will not escape the judgment that is to come. Bin Laden will not escape his trial before the court of God. Until then, sober satisfaction must be enough for those still in the land of the living.

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The Marketplace of Ideas — Why Bookstores Matter

Being in a bookstore helps me to think. I find that my mind makes connections between authors and books and ideas as I walk along the shelves and look at the tables. When I get a case of writer’s block, I head for a bookstore. The experience of walking among the books is curative.

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Bankruptcy in the Cathedral

It turns out that Robert Schuller offers the best analysis of this crisis with his own words. “No church has a money problem; churches only have idea problems.” The theological crisis in Garden Grove is far more significant than the financial crisis.

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On Getting Boys to Read

There is ample documentation to prove that boys are falling behind in reading skills at virtually every age level. In many cases, boys are semi-literate at best, and many never develop adequate reading skills. They never know the pleasures of a book.

Writing in today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, publisher Thomas Spence offers helpful advice and insight in “How to Raise Boys Who Read.” After expressing appreciation for the fact that many authorities and parents now recognize the problem, Spence asserts: “The bad news is that many of them have perfectly awful ideas for solving it.”

He writes:

Everyone agrees that if boys don’t read well, it’s because they don’t read enough. But why don’t they read? A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the “stuffy” literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must “meet them where they are”—that is, pander to boys’ untutored tastes.

For elementary- and middle-school boys, that means “books that exploit [their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor.” AP reported that one school librarian treats her pupils to “grossology” parties. “Just get ’em reading,” she counsels cheerily. “Worry about what they’re reading later.”

Spence isn’t buying that argument, and for good reason. It turns out that boys are not finding an easy path from the “gross-out” books to the love of reading.

There are several enemies of reading in the lives of boys. The educational system is largely feminized, and boys are often not challenged. We must remember that boys have always been boys, as the saying goes. There is nothing in the constitutional makeup of boys that is opposed to reading. Generations of boys grew to love books and lost themselves in stories, adventures, historical biographies, and the like.

The most direct enemies of reading in the lives of today’s boys are video games and digital media. These devices crowd out time and attention at the expense of reading. Spence cites one set of parents who tried to bribe their 13-year-old son to read by offering video games as a reward. Spence is exactly right — don’t reward with video games. Instead, take the games away. If parents do not restrict time spent with digital devices, boys will never learn to read and to love reading.

In another interesting section, Spence cites C. S. Lewis, who expressed agreement with both Aristotle and Plato in arguing, without apology, that boys must be trained in matters of taste. Lewis wrote: “The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likable, disgusting, and hateful.”

That is worth savoring, especially if you have those little human animals in your house.

The Survival of the Book — A Word from James Billington

James H. Billington, the nation’s Librarian of Congress, writes in today’s edition of The Washington Post about the survival of books. The occasion is the 10th anniversary of the National Book Festival on Saturday. As the day approaches, Billington answered the question some might be asking — will the book survive in the digital age?

Billington writes:

Why, you may ask, celebrate books at a time when everything is going digital? Certainly the book business is in a transitional state like all print media. But books are not going away. New technologies tend to supplement rather than supplant older ones. Television did not destroy radio; the VCR and DVD players did not keep people from movie theaters. While the technologies we use to read books may change, the value of reading them does not; and the values of the book culture that helped create our nation must not be left behind. In an era of 140-character messages and the increasing destruction of the basic unit of civilized discourse (the sentence), it is critical that we continue to encourage the production and reading of books.

It is good, even essential, that the Librarian of Congress would defend the book against its detractors. But it is also important that he understands the digital revolution and the usefulness of electronic readers.

“Both electronic and analog media will have their place in the future of reading and research. Electronic books offer the ability to pinpoint a word or phrase in seconds, and there is a tsunami of information and much new knowledge on the Internet,” he writes. Yet, the printed book is still the best medium for most reading.

It is not news that the Librarian of Congress would defend books, but it is noteworthy that he would defend them in this way . . . and so well.

No Need for God? Stephen Hawking Defies Divine Creation

Professor Stephen Hawking is a remarkable human being. His courage and tenacity are an inspiration to all. His work on the theory of gravity has changed the way the field of physics is taught. But, when he crosses that border from science to theology, his worldview leads him into abject disaster.

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