Best Reads - May 4, 2020
“Do You Feel My Pain? Empathy, Sympathy, and Dangerous Virtues” - Joe Rigney, Desiring God
Is empathy a bad thing? Surely not. Take some time to read this essay and think about it. One of the strongest cultural tides we face is the victimhood culture, and while there is certainly a grain of truth in viewing the world through the lens of human oppression, it is a drastically different way of viewing the world than the one the Bible presents. Sympathy and empathy are different. Rigney argues that the Bible calls us to sympathy - not to empathy. It’s the difference between feeling for something and feeling with someone. When you feel with someone to too great an extent, you become incapable of doing anything for them.
That already sounds cold and judgmental - which Rigney takes as a sign of how powerful this cultural shift has been. Maintaining some emotional distance, even from those we deeply love, is essential to being able to help them, and Rigney argues this does not mean we retreat to apathy. It also makes us susceptible to manipulation. This is my pick for the week - if you only read one link, make it this one!
"Maga Babe, Al Gore and Hilary Toiler Paper: Welcome to the Wierd World of the 2020 Virtual Campaign" - Michael Cruse, Politico
This is a presidential campaign season like no other. This is also a profile like no other. Trump and Biden have been holed up for close to 60 days without any public appearances, rallies, fundraisers, or events. But that's not keeping them from campaigning. The way candidates raise money and support is changing right in front of us. Kruse goes inside the campaigns and talks about what its been like during the quarantine. The Trump team is business as usual, without the rallies. Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager banked on Trump's virtual presence in 2016 and he's raised the stakes for 2020. His operation dwarf's the Biden campaign by orders of magnitude. Biden and his staff are slowly getting up to speed. Kruse gives a feel for the different avenues the candidates are using to reach people and rally their support. He gives you the sense that something is permanently changing in our politics.
“Why We Must Teach Western Civilization” - Andrew Roberts, National Review
“Western civilization, so important to earlier generations, is being ridiculed, abused, and marginalized, often without any coherent response. Of course, today’s non-Western colonizations, such as India’s in Kashmir and China’s in Tibet and Uighurstan, are not included in the sophomores’ concept of imperialism and occupation, which can be done only by the West.” I’m increasingly concerned about the self-hatred of Western elites. To even say that we should be proud of our history in the West, or to assert that Western technology and innovation have done the greatest good for humanity in the history of civilization, is to run the risk of being called racist, elitist, or xenophobic.
Contrary to popular opinion among Ivy League faculties and the blue checkmarks on Twitter, some ways of things are better than others. The freedoms of the West, emphasized in the Atlantic charter after WWII, freedom of speech and religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear comprise some of the most important contributions of human history. We should be teaching our kids and our college students what freedom is and what it costs - not to mention technological advancement, capitalist and free-market economics, representative democracy, and the abolition of slavery. So much of this has been motivated by Christians living out their faith, serving God and loving their neighbors. Roberts has written a masterful defense of Western Civ and the great ideas of the west. In America right now, it seems as though we’re willing to fight each other, but we’re unwilling to fight together. We’re willing to fight against the ideals of our founding, but are we still willing to fight for them? He ends with a hopeful conclusion; yes, “it’s worth fighting for.”
“What Do Famous People’s Bookshelves Reveal?” - Gal Beckerman, The New York Times
What a fascinating question. As more interviews and meetings are being held over Zoom, we’re getting to see a different side of people. Bookcases seem to be a common background choice for video calls, and they tell us something about the people speaking. When it comes to these celebrities, you might be able to learn more by looking at their shelves than by listening to their interviews. Their shelves are full of the books they’re supposed to be reading; the ones on the NYT bestseller list, the ones about deconstructing power and telling stories that have been suppressed, novels about sexual minorities, and Marxist visions of the world. What’s interesting about the books the NYT chose to point out in this column is that they all reinforce their worldview. There are a few bright spots. I love Prince Charles’ books about horses. I’m glad the OED made an appearance. This is a great idea for a column, even if the results were predictable.
Cole Feix is the founder and president of So We Speak.