1. Screwtape in the 21st century
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent interview with New York magazine turned a lot of heads, not least because he mentioned he believes the devil actually exists. While sharing some further thoughts on evil, he referenced The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, prompting Casey N. Cep (@cncep) to write for the New Yorker on the question of Screwtape’s continuing intrigue 70 years after publication:
For believers, the letters are theology in reverse, teaching the love of God through the wiles of the Devil, but for all readers, regardless of belief, the letters frame human experience as a familiar sequence of trials, from how you take your tea and what parties you attend to the sort of person you choose for a partner and the sort of politics you espouse. As Justice Scalia said when he invoked “The Screwtape Letters,” “That’s a great book. It really is, just as a study of human nature.” The novel remains wildly popular because whether or not you agree with Lewis and Scalia that the Devil is real, the evils promoted by Screwtape—greed, gluttony, pride, envy, and violence—most certainly are.
2. Philanthropy’s original sin
Does the presence of one virtue cancel out the absence of others? William A. Schambra writes in The New Atlantis:
Philanthropy has many wonderful qualities — and never tires of proclaiming them, for one quality it sorely lacks is humility. It regularly thumps itself on the back, for instance, for devoting some $300 billion a year to good causes. And though philanthropic spending on social causes is dwarfed by that of the government, foundations proudly claim that dollar for dollar their spending is in fact more effective than the government’s. While government tends to stick with the safe and the routine, philanthropy regularly and energetically seeks out the next new thing; it claims it is at the cutting edge of social change, being innovative, scientific, and progressive. Philanthropy, as legendary Ford Foundation program officer Paul Ylvisaker once claimed, is society’s “passing gear.”
The statistics are grim. As of 2009, the U.S. had the highest incarceration rate in the world (0.743 percent). Two-thirds of former prisoners repeat offenses within three years of confinement, and more than half are re-incarcerated in the same time. In light of these bleak realities, the ideas of restorative justice might seem to herald a promising – even Christ-like – solution for change. But can such an idealistic ethic work for public justice? Is forgiveness something that governments can do, and if so, is it even desirous for them to do so? In other words, can restorative justice ideas begin to inform the way public justice is done, especially in the context of the government’s criminal justice work?
4. The limits of hospitality
Andi Ashworth, whose husband produces hauntingly beautiful music, has a knack for a different sort of creativity, in the form of hospitality. Her book, Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring, by the way, comes highly recommended by someone who does hospitality as well as anyone I know. But Ashworth says she has learned that sustaining a lifestyle of hospitality for the long haul requires setting boundaries:
Hospitality, simply put, is a lifestyle of sharing. It’s big enough to extend across a lifetime, and small enough to elevate a simple cup of tea and conversation into something important. The needs we come across, including our own, will guide us. Whether sharing a meal, an afternoon, or a bed for the night, there’s a time for everything. A time to offer and a time to rest, a time for family and a time for strangers, a time to refresh others and a time to be refreshed.