Not many people…


English: W. Somerset Maugham British writer

English: W. Somerset Maugham British writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not many people know how much bitterness, how much bargaining, how much intrigue goes into the awarding of a prize or the election of a candidate.

From the Preface of W. Somerset Maugham, A Writer’s Notebook

This is true regardless of profession, and it shows up even among Christian leaders. Perhaps no one is above campaigning on his own behalf for something he thinks he deserves from his constituency or the general public. This includes authors, public speakers, and university professors.

Virtue vs. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism


Mike Austin has a new post today at Being Good.com: Virtue vs. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. MTD is a challenge to America’s teenagers and emerging adults. It is a challenge to parents. And it is a challenge to America’s churches. I urge you to read Mike’s post!

Announcing “Being Good News”


There’s a new dedicated website for the book Being Good, edited by Doug Geivett and Mike Austin. It’s called “Being Good News.” The website features content related to the book, which has just been released. Included is a Newsletter section, where issues of the new “Being Good Newsletter” can be downloaded. For more information about the website and the newsletter, click here.

To download the first issue of the Newsletter, click here: Being Good Newsletter 1.1 (January 2012).

For future issues, go to the Newsletter page at “Being Good News.”

Being Good: Christian Virtues for Everyday Life—New Book Announcement


Doug Geivett and Michael Austin have co-edited a new book, to be released by Eerdmans January 2012. Being Good: Christian Virtues for Everyday Life discusses eleven vital virtues from a Christian philosophical perspective. Each chapter is devoted to a particular virtue and is written by a Christian philosopher with special interest in that virtue. Contributors include:

  • Paul Moser, on the virtue of Faith
  • Jason Baehr, on the virtue of Open-mindedness
  • Jim Spiegel, on the virtue of Wisdom
  • David Horner and David Turner, on the virtue of Zeal
  • William Mattison, on the virtue of Hope
  • Steve Porter, on the virtue of Contentment
  • Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, on the virtue of Courage
  • Charles Taliaferro, on the virtue of Love
  • Michael Austin, on the virtue of Compassion
  • Doug Geivett, on the virtue of Forgiveness
  • Andrew Pinset, on the virtue of Humility

The book is organized into three parts:

  • Part 1: Faith
  • Part 2: Hope
  • Part 3: Love

Each chapter discusses a particular virtue, with careful description of the virtue, attention to philosophical difficulties related to the virtue, treatment of important Bible passages that deal with the virtue, and practical application of the virtue. Chapters conclude with though-provoking discussion questions to aid in personal reflection or small group discussion.

The book can be ordered now, directly from Eerdmans here.

Betray Yourself, Not Your Sponsors—California Beauty Contestant Scorned by Her Own Handlers


Miss USA

Carrie Prejean, the 21-year-old Miss USA contestant from California, stood up for her values and stood down for the tiara that was almost hers. During the interview phase of the contest on Sunday, Judge Perez Hilton asked Ms. Prejean whether she believes in gay marriage. Prejean answered:

“We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. . . . And you know what . . . I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.”

Ah, yes, but we do no longer live in a land where you can give an answer like that and still win a beauty contest. North Carolina’s Kristen Dalton won the crown and Carrie Prejean got “first runner-up.” Most believe it was her answer to gay advocate Perez Hilton that sunk Prejean’s chances. Some even believe it’s a travesty that she was the acknowledged runner-up after such an “insensitive” and “hateful” public statement about the definition of marriage.

Observe:

  1. Carrie Prejean gave an unpopular but honest answer. She could have been dishonest and probably won the contest. To her credit, she stood by her values. But it isn’t her answer that bothers gay rights activists; it’s her attitude about gay rights and the definition of marriage.
  2. Carrie Prejean’s attitude is that marriage should be between a man and a woman. She cannot be accused of “gay bashing.” What she said is not a form of hate speech. As she said, she intended no offense to anyone. She simply said what she believes, as asked. My view? If you’re going to ask a question like that one, you’d better be able to handle the answer. Notice, no one has objected to the question, or to Hilton Perez for asking the question. So Prejean should have been free to answer, without recrimination, the question she was asked.
  3. Carrie Prejean was not “inclusive” enough in her answer, say her critics. But if she had answered that she approved of gay marriage, she would have excluded many Americans who also disapprove, including all those from her own state who passed Proposition 8 with their vote in November.
  4. Gay rights advocates are bound to take offense even if Carrie Prejean meant no offense. Gay rights advocates are duty-bound by their cause to take offense. It is a strategic requirement in their effort to persuade others of gay rights. “Being offended” is an acquired taste. It comes natural when you’ve trained for it.
  5. A beauty pageant is a popularity contest. Because of her answer, Carrie Prejean is unpopular with certain people. Which people? Gay rights activists. Who are gay rights activists? This is an important question. Some gays are not gay rights activists. Many gay rights activists are not gay. Gay rights activists are engaged in a strategy to marginalize anyone who believes that there is no “right” to gay marriage. You may believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. But do you have a right to believe this? Do you have a right to say so? Doesn’t matter. Gay rights activists will do anything in their power to ensure that if you believe it you will be made a pariah.
  6. Perez Hilton took umbrage at Carrie Prejean’s answer to his pagaent question. AssociatedContent.com reports that the way Prejean “worded her answer seems to have infuriated Perez Hilton, who called her a ‘dumb bitch’ on his video blog, then apologized, but only for calling her a ‘dumb bitch.’ (Apparently, the ‘half a brain’ lines were still valid.)” So Hilton, in contrast to Prejean, is an intelligent and broad-minded person of good will who thinks Carrie Prejean deserved to lose the crown because of her “unfortunately worded remarks” (as they’re called over at AssociatedContent.com).
  7. Former Miss USA, now director of the Miss California USA pageant, Shanna Moekler has also made it publicly known that she’s disappointed in Carrie Prejean. As state pageant director who sought sponsors for Prejean’s participation in the pageant, Moekler was embarrassed and indignant, and said that Prejean had betrayed her sponsors. Apparently, Prejean should have betrayed herself and her own values, instead. This is very revealing about Moekler’s own moral compass. We should like to know who the sponsors are and which ones are so offended. In view of serious economic reversals in this country, it’s become imperative that Americans know more about the moral compass of corporate leaders. So tell us, Ms. Moekler, which sponsors are embittered by Prejean’s integrity?
  8. In the general election of November 2008, Californians voted to approve Proposition 8, affirming traditional marriage and prohibiting gay marriage. So it is especially poignant that Miss California defied gay rights activists’ opposition to Proposition 8. Talk about an embarrassment to the prickly denizens of the entertainment community in our state. I’m betting that future California contestants will be vetted for their views on gays rights issues.
  9. I admire Carrie Prejean’s courage. She knew she might be asked about gay marriage, and she hoped she wouldn’t be. She knew it would be risky to answer with honesty. She now says she would give the same answer over again. The test she passed may be much more significant than she realizes. Prejean’s courage will be rewarded with greater courage. That’s how growth in virtue works.
  10. She didn’t win the crown, but Carrie Prejean may now have more of a platform to inject greater judgment into public discussion of the gay rights debate. Greater judgment is sorely needed. But it won’t be enough to explain traditional convictions by saying only “this is how I was raised.” Prejean was pressed for time to answer a serious question tossed off by a cynical activist. Tender-hearted people need to ask the gay rights activists tough questions. Carrie Prejean is a tender-hearted person. May she and others equip themselves with knowledge of the sober facts about gay rights strategists and the plight of the gay community, and marshal these facts in the public square for the public good. For this purpose, I commend the work of Voddie Baucham on this sensitive topic.

Coming Post: Are you a Gay Rights Advocate?

Hacking the ABD Life: Part 2 — The Intellectual Virtues


The academic life has an intellectual component. Duh. But what does that mean?

It means, in part, that an exemplar of the academic life manages his or her life with intellectual virtue. An intellectual virtue is a character trait that improves the chances of believing well—of conducting inquiry in a responsible way and living responsibly on the basis of what is learned through inquiry.

I believe that all members of the human community are called to intellectual virtue, insofar as they are able. Intellectuals should be models of acting from intellectual virtue. I question whether a perceived intellectual is a genuine instance of such a person if he or she is severely lacking in intellectual virtue. The true intellectual must have a suitable measure of intellectual virtue. Diplomas are no assurance of that.

The Ph.D. candidate has already been initiated into academic life—the life of the guild, as it were. One can only hope that this also has included initiation into the intellectual life. The ABD life is a test of intellectual virtue, and an opportunity to grow in intellectual virtue. Certain particular virtues are especially salient to commendable intellectual practice at the ABD stage in one’s career. Here are three of them:

  • Curiosity
  • Courage
  • Moderation

Intellectual curiosity is a natural goad to dissertation research. Intellectual courage is needed to sustain research and overcome obstacles. The virtue of moderation curbs excesses of various kinds. Dissertation research tests the expression of these virtues.

Curiosity stimulates creativity and supplies the initial energy to launch a dissertation project. It’s often difficult to sustain that level of curiosity throughout the research and writing process. The Ph.D. candidate needs to have ways of staying engaged with the chosen topic. As long as new questions emerge with the progress of research, there is evidence of curiosity.

Courage helps the researcher stay at it. The intellectually courageous person believes in the good to be achieved by the research that has been undertaken. Courage fills the void when curiosity dries up, and finds fresh sources of curiosity in the act of persevering. This virtue is threatened in numerous ways. Among the most sinister are the negative judgments of others.

Moderation is probably the least appreciated of the three. Moderation protects the researcher from excesses that would lure him or her away from efficient realization of the primary objective. One can research to excess. The sociology of the ABD experience reinforces the sense that it isn’t possible to “over-research” a topic. Turning over every rock, however promising it may seem in advance, feels responsible; but it is really counter-productive, and hence irresponsible.

Future installments on “Hacking the ABD Life” will focus on specific intellectual virtues. Please chime in with thoughts you have about the connection between the intellectual life and doing scholarship from virtue. Let me know what virtues you think are most salient to realizing that dream of passing from ABD to Ph.D.

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