Pluralism and Technocratic Power


Part 3 of my series on education in a pluralistic society is now up at EdChoice. Previous parts covered how we want transcendent things from education and how schools deliver them even in a pluralistic context. I now turn to why our growing use of technocratic accountability systems gets in the way – and why this danger is perennial in a pluralistic society:

Ask yourself why this kind of standardizing technocracy didn’t exist before the rise of the modern world with its freedom and pluralism. Disagreement about transcendent things was unthinkable in older, tradition-bound societies. They did not need to worry, as we do, about what might happen if we admit that we don’t agree about the things that matter to us most.

This is also why the temptation to embrace technocracy never goes away, no matter how many times we try these kinds of systems and find they don’t work. Once we claim our freedom to think for ourselves, we are always tempted to flee from our responsibility to think for ourselves.

Debating what is good, true and beautiful is hard. Giving power to a class of technocrats who promise us we won’t have to settle such uncomfortable questions is much easier…while it lasts.

As always, your thoughts are appreciated!

A Blast from the Past

OK, so in going through old docs, I found a small document called “MISC.TXT” and had to see what I’d left in such an odd little file. What I found was a transcript of a bunch of material from some of my earliest journals (started in my middle teens). In fact, some of the material in those journals, including at least a few of the items that follows, were first jotted on school book covers or clipped for my bulletin boards and later transcribed at least twice.

Anyway, if you really want to know a few of the things I thought were pellucid utterances that got at the heart of reality in my angsty teen years, here you go. I spared you the bad poem from the top of the page. You’re welcome.

If we will not die for freedom, we will die of slavery.

The hour of departure has arrived,
and we go our ways–
I to die,
and you to live.
Which is better, God only knows.The Apology of Socrates

The duty of government is to defend the freedom of all of its citizens by
enforcing justice.

There is a limit, however, at which tolerance ceases to be a virtue.Edmund Burke

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
for loan oft loses both itself and friend.Shakespeare: Pollonius’ advice to Laertes; Hamlet

Depression is the hangover after a pity party.

So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can.Emerson

The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a
favored few booted and spurred, by the grace of God.Jefferson

Equal and exact justice to all men … freedom of religion, freedom of the
press, freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial
by juries impartially selected– these form the bright constellation which has
gone before us.Jefferson

Yes, the un-cited ones are what I believe to by my own original apothegms. I shall probably rest uneasy in my grave, one day, until at least one of these has been popularly attributed to Churchill, Lincoln, Disraeli, la Rochefoucauld, or Talleyrand.

Justice and the Gospel on TGC


Today, TGC carries my response to those who complained about how I used the term “justice” in my last TGC article:

Although murder and theft are often focal points (and understandably so!) when Scripture describes justice, it also associates justice with a broader set of duties, including generosity: “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing” (Deut. 10:18); “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!” (Ps. 106:3); “It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice” (Ps. 112:5).

In his song of praise, Moses declares of God: “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice” (Deut. 32:4). Does “all his ways” include only promise-keeping and debt-paying?

I argue that the church’s gospel witness requires it to have a vision of justice and relate that vision to the gospel:

The gospel call to repent from sin and follow Jesus with our whole lives is meaningless without such a vision. What is sin? What is repentance? We cannot answer if we cannot say what justice is.

As always, whatever you think, your comments are greatly appreciated!

Ask MLK: Is Your Suffering Redemptive?


Over on The Green Room I have a new post in my series on suffering and work appreciating Martin Luther King’s perspective on connecting faith to labor, and evaluating his statement that “unearned suffering is redemptive”:

Suffering is the telltale mark of the fallen cosmos. We all bear that mark in ourselves. Just as Elihu said to Job, our suffering is God’s declaration to us that we and our world are not all right; we need him to transform us and our world.

But Paul says [in Romans 8] salvation transforms our suffering. It becomes eschatological. The same suffering that is, in all people, a mark of our need for redemption becomes, in the redeemed, a mark of God’s promise of salvation. We suffer, but not as those without hope; our suffering no longer says merely “you need God to come,” but “God is still coming for you!”

As always, your comments are welcome!

Work and Culture in TGC


Today TGC carries my article on why workplaces provide our best opportunity to influence culture:

Right now, many Christian efforts to “engage culture” or “contextualize the gospel” are focused on things like influencing elections or making Hollywood movies. It is very important for us to promote justice and beauty, simply because God loves those things, but politics and art alone cannot produce broader cultural impact. By themselves, they are incomplete pieces of the cultural whole. Daily work is where most people experience their cultures in its wholeness.

Consider joining us at the 2016 Faith@Work Summit this October 27-29 in Dallas! It’s the largest gathering of leaders in the faith and work movement, and we’ve been working hard to put together a fruitful program of speakers, breakouts and networking opportunities. Early bird discount ends Sept. 1!