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News Analysis: To Engage North Korea or Not?

With all of the news coming out of Washington about the investigation into Russian interference in 2016's presidential election, alleged collusion by the Trump campaign with the Russians, former FBI Director James Comey's testimony about President Trump's possible obstruction of justice, and today's reveal of the U.S. Senate's healthcare bill, it's easy to forget that the world continues to spin beyond America's borders.  No where is spinning faster though than North Korea and there is one recent news article and two blog posts you should read now about it.
Since President Trump came into office, one of the most dangerous international crises has been North Korea's continuing nuclear and ballistic missile tests.  Tensions have been high and any misstep could lead to conflict with thousands, even millions, of people dead within the first few hours alone.  But there is some diplomatic movement on this front.  In yesterday's New York Times, there was …
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Feel the Power of Love: The Lessons of Victor Hugo's "Les Misérables"

As long as through the workings of law and customs there exists a damnation-by-society artificially creating hell in the very midst of civilization and complicating destiny... as long as there are ignorance and poverty on earth, books of this kind may serve some purpose. - Victor HugoLes Misérables by Victor Hugo is rightly considered one of the great novels of the 19th century.  The reason why is because Hugo touches upon themes that are universal and transcend race, religion, politics, etc.   Indeed, there is a reason why this book is so beloved by people and spawned one the greatest Broadway musicals of all time.
Frankly, I am a little nervous to be adding my own provincial scribblings to this fine work of art, as if a mouse had anything of worth to say to a demigod.  Nevertheless, I am going to try to put into words some of the things that I have learned as I have struggled through this novel for the past 10 months(!) in the hopes that others will not be intimidated by this book&#…

The Non-Secular Struggle for Modernity: Lessons from Christopher De Bellaigue's "The Islamic Enlightenment"

For nearly three hundred years, the West has been militarily and economically triumphant around the world with only a few exceptions.  It has enjoyed the fruits of past empires and advanced democratic and bureaucratic practices developed over those centuries.  And when we look back at our history, we feel a certain sense of pride in our progress from intellectual and financial poverty during the Middle Ages to our current heights today.
It can be easy for the West to look at places like the Middle East and ask, "Why can they get it together?  Why can't they be more like us?  Where is Islam's Reformation?  Or the Middle East's Enlightenment?"  It's ignorant and hubristic questions like these that make books like The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle Between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times by Christopher De Bellaigue so important.  They teach us that not only have places like the Middle East tried to modernize their countries, but that the West is som…

Supplemental: The Rise of the Religious Left

Not long ago I wrote about the things I had learned from the book The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape Americaby Frances FitzGerald (you can read the original blog here).  Among one of the things I learned from that book was how the Gospel message in the 2000s became tarred when the Christian Right so closely allied itself with the failures of the George W. Bush administration.  That plus the death or retirement of so many leaders of the Christian Right with no leaders with enough credibility to replace them, the Christian Right no longer seems to have as much influence as it once did.
Ms. Fiztgerald  also talked about how evangelical members of the Christian Left began to assert themselves and their political goals during the Obama administration.  She didn't expand too much on that as it is such a recent political movement, but that is where a recent article in The New York Times, "Religious Liberals Sat Out of Politics for 40 Years. Now They Want in the Game,"is …

A Show of Liberty: Lessons from Tom Holland's "Dynasty"

There has been a recent spat of published works within the last few years about Ancient Rome, particularly the period between the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire.  There are some good reasons for that.  Aside from New Testament Judea, it is one of the best preserved periods in ancient history.  There are scores of contemporary documents from that time.  We even have the personal accounts of the conquest of Gaul (modern France) and the civil wars from the hand of the man who instigated both, Julius Caesar.  However, I think this recent popularity is due to how our own period in American history feels similar to their time.  The rise of populist leaders like Donald Trump make one wonder if, like the rise of the house of Caesar, are our freedoms truly being restored or are we being given the show of freedom while our essential liberties are being taken away from us?

That's  why this book, Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar by Tom Holland, is such a wel…

In the World, Not of the World: The Lessons of Frances Fitzgerald's "The Evangelicals"

The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances Fitzgerald was a very hard book to read for me and not just because there were some editorial problems I felt should have been addressed before publication.  No, I found this book hard to read because I identify myself as an evangelical Christian.  I grew up in an evangelical church and was baptized there.  Many of my best friends are evangelical Christians and they are the nicest people I have had the privilege of knowing.  However, evangelical Christianity has jumped into the messiness of worldly politics in America for one particular side of the political spectrum and now not only have many evangelical Christians become disillusioned with politics in America, but the Gospel message has been discredited in the eyes of Millennials, if the surveys cited in here are correct.  If the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the salvation of man in a fallen world, then the church's inability to attract younger men and wom…

Destruction and Corruption: The Lessons from Sheelah Kolhatkar's "Black Edge"

Across the political spectrum, there was enormous outrage over the the widespread fraud and pay-to-play structures going on in Wall Street that led to the collapse of the economy and the bailing out of the big banks.  What I think most people to umbrage tow was the fact that, except for a few cases, the bankers themselves did not face any kind of prosecution for their financial malfeasance.  Lives were ruined and they got to walk away from it with billions in salaries, stock options, and bonuses.  The question is, if there is so much fraud on Wall Street, why haven't there been more major prosecutions?