Two Misleading Images: Vietnam, 1968 & Minneapolis, 2020

Photographs mislead. Just as with Eddie Adams’s famous 1968 photo from the Vietnam War, the images of Derek Chauvin and George Floyd only tell us part of the story. Reading reports on the current trial of former officer Chauvin makes it almost impossible to believe that the man will receive a fair trial. Everyone—bystanders, the jury pool, racial malcontents—has seen the now-infamous video clip. The public mind is made up; all have judged Floyd an innocent and Chauvin a murderer. The defendant has been convicted, a priori, by an image. Continue Reading
USCCB Voter Guide: Clarity Be Damned

The USCCB’s voter guide, updated in advance of the 2020 election, was an evasive inventory of issues that, by sheer volume, effectively sidelined abortion. The manic jumble gave cover to Catholics who preferred abortion-happy Biden to Donald Trump. My essay “Politics As Spiritual Warfare”, in the November issue of Chronicles, cited a Wisconsin bishop’s slippery advice:
Doublespeak does not edify. Writing a column entitled, “How to vote according to our Catholic faith,” Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin repeats the USCCB’s position that “abortion surpasses all other moral issues,” though he adds a caveat.
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The Annunciation: Tidings From A Painter & A Theologian

Today is the feast of the Annunciation. The Gospel story of an encounter between an angel and a peasant girl in ancient Judea has provided us with a treasury of luminous depictions. Much as I love the inventory of them as works of art, only one draws me to wonder and to prayer. The essential commitments of faith do not begin in intellectual assent. That comes later. Intellect ratifies what the heart has already glimpsed. And the eye grasps certain things in an instant; the mind takes longer to grant approval to reasoned argument. Continue Reading
The Irish: Slaves By Another Name

When the U.S. government starts paying reparations to the descendants of slaves, let them begin with the Irish. White Cargo, co-authored by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh, two journalists living in London, was published in 2007. Drawing on letters, diaries, and court and government archives, the book earns its subtitle: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America.   The brutalities associated with black slavery in this country were inflicted previously on whites. It does not detract at all from the enormity of black suffering to note that poor whites suffered agonies in common with blacks. Continue Reading
Do The Arts Make Us Better?

Do the Arts make us better? Oxford’s John Carey asked that question in What Good Are The Arts? (2005).  A provocative little book, it rankled readers on both sides of the Atlantic when it appeared. It sank its fangs into a reigning cultural assumption that art’s mission is to improve people.
The belief that art can make people better dates back to classical times. Aristotle taught that music was character-forming and should be introduced into the education of the young. In listening to music, he maintained, “our souls undergo a change.”
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