Category: Breaking Glass

Home Breaking Glass
Praying Alone
Post

Praying Alone

When Americans look back on 2020, the year of the virus, they will see multiple transformations. I fear that some of the most sweeping changes will come in the realm of religion, marking a grim turning point in the story of American faith. Historically, pandemics have played a major role in shaping religion, by undermining...

And a Little Child Shall Mislead Them
Post

And a Little Child Shall Mislead Them

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has become a vastly influential force in the discussion of global climate change. Even so, policy makers are reluctant to challenge her because her global reputation verges on the hagiographic. Conservative Italians denounce her fanatical disciples as gretini—a heavy-handed pun on the Italian word for cretins, cretini. Even so, the joke...

Remembering the Twenty-Teens
Post

Remembering the Twenty-Teens

Decades provide a useful, if not infallible, structure for organizing and understanding our historical experience. However frayed and disputed their limits, terms like “the twenties,” or “the eighties” each conjure their particular images and memories. Whatever we call the decade we have just completed—the twenty-teens?—it is one with landmarks arguably as important as any in...

Which Terrorism?
Post

Which Terrorism?

The U.S. is about to make a disastrous blunder in its terrorism policies. In recent months, a series of savage shootings has drawn attention to the dangers posed by far-right, or white-supremacist, terrorism. Commentators from across the political spectrum have demanded a robust response, and law enforcement agencies are clearly listening. In principle, such a...

Remembering Slavery
Post

Remembering Slavery

The topic of slavery and reparations has been much in the news of late and might feature prominently in next year’s presidential elections. Slave ownership taints the reputations of historical figures, to the point of provoking campaigns against their commemoration. Modern dismay over slavery is quite justified, but a couple of reality checks might be...

Missing the Main Story
Post

Missing the Main Story

In 1946, the U.S. intelligence community published a series of studies on the current and future dangers threatening global peace, and among these was a surprisingly detailed essay entitled, “Islam: A Threat to World Stability.” Those remarks obviously carry a special weight in light of subsequent decades. I am not the first person to discuss...

The Last of the Royals
Post

The Last of the Royals

When historians survey Europe’s 20th century, rarely do they question the fundamental evil of the old irrelevant monarchies and aristocratic regimes, and the obvious necessity of replacing them with progressive socialist and nationalist substitutes.  A strong case can in fact be made that those ancien regime states disappeared some decades too early, and that had...

How the Crusades Were Won
Post

How the Crusades Were Won

The Christian Crusades of the Middle Ages are today deployed for a wide range of political and rhetorical purposes—to make claims about the Church’s betrayal of Christ’s teaching, the evils of European imperialism, or the inextricable link between intolerant religion and ghastly violence.  Any or all of those claims might be justified.  One problem, though,...

Post

The Wrong War

The assault on American history continues apace, with the further removal of Confederate monuments and symbols, and the expunging of anything relating to slavery or slaveholders.  Mounting any defense against this cultural warfare has been next to impossible, because it would seem to demand justifying slavery.  The same considerations prohibit any criticism of the Union...

Post

The Forgotten Secret War

This past December, the United States commemorated the 75th anniversary of Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.  Most commentators rightly played down any conspiratorial suggestion that Franklin Roosevelt had deliberately provoked that particular attack, although they agreed that the U.S. had been putting heavy diplomatic pressure on Japan in the months leading up to it. ...

Post

Buddha Nature and Gender Nature

I have decided that the only way to understand American liberal society is through the mystical practices of Asia’s ancient religions.  Let me explain. Hundreds of millions of the world’s Buddhists have at the heart of their faith a seemingly irreconcilable mystery.  For two millennia, they have been taught that emptiness (sunyata) is a fundamental...

Post

Survivors and Liars

Lauren Stratford might be called the woman who never was, or rather the woman whose existence we dare not admit.  Even the soberest retelling of her fantastic story makes nonsense of so many contemporary assumptions and pieties. Over the last generation, ideas about child abuse have grown to the status of social orthodoxy in the...

Post

Conquering History

I recently obtained a copy of a British newspaper published in 2025, which discussed the country’s favorite television program in that year.  The reviewer gives a crisp summary of the latest incarnation of Downton Abbey, and the episode in question is a crowd-pleaser.  Everything is bustling in the historic English mansion in 1925, as butlers,...

Post

Are You a Bigot?

A major function of liberal society is inventing new forms of bigotry.  You take an obvious idea—something believed always, everywhere, and by all—and show that in fact it is not just false, but a vicious form of hatred and discrimination.  As a current case in point, I offer transphobia, which is defined as holding antagonistic...

Gone With the Wind
Post

Gone With the Wind

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Appomattox.  In recent times, academics studying the Civil War have reached a striking degree of consensus about how that war should be understood, and its practical implications today.  Sadly, that consensus has one enormous omission. Overwhelmingly, scholars agree that the war was about the defense and preservation of...

Post

The Christmas War 1914

This past year, we have heard a great deal about the centennial of the outbreak of World War I.  Throughout that commemoration, though, we have rarely paid due attention to the religious language of Holy War and crusade deployed by all combatants. Think, for instance, of the great historic moment that many will remember this...

(Not) The Age of Aquarius
Post

(Not) The Age of Aquarius

I may be stereotyping Chronicles readers unfairly, but I suspect that not many read witches&pagans.  If your subscription has lapsed, I draw your attention to a recent feature that actually has far-reaching consequences for more mainstream believers of all kinds. In an interview, well-known pagan author Diana L. Paxson complained that The generation that founded...

Post

The Way to Translate

There are people who think the classics are a dated luxury.  Anyone who believes that should stay far away from the Christian Bible. It’s been many years since I was able to read the New Testament in English.  Now, don’t think I’m showing off there.  My Greek is not wonderful, and I find a parallel...

Post

Back to the Trenches

Stand by for a barrage of centennials.  For some years to come, we will be facing very regular commemorations of the various horrors of World War I and its aftermath, so expect a great many books, documentaries, and newspaper pieces on Sarajevo, the Armenian massacres, the Lusitania, the Russian Revolution, and on through the 2020’s. ...

Post

The Night the World Didn’t Change

Most sober historians have little respect for counterfactuals, those extrapolations of alternative worlds where matters developed differently from the world we know.  Yet such alternatives are actually hard to avoid.  How can you claim that Gettysburg was a significant battle unless you contemplate the other paths that American history might have taken if the South...

Post

The Stafford Disaster

If you didn’t hear about the social and medical catastrophe that occurred at Stafford Hospital, in the English Midlands—a disaster that claimed some 1,200 lives—then you must have been following the U.S. news media.  The Stafford experience should be a nightmarish wake-up call for Americans, and a crushingly definitive argument in the nation’s debate over...

Post

A Modest Proposal for Speech Control

Can we be adult about this?  Can we finally say publicly what so many people believe privately—namely, that the whole Bill of Rights thing was a nice idea in its day, but it’s time to move on? Now, before you take offense, let’s think practically about this.  Yes, the Bill of Rights has all these...

Post

The Revolution of Greed

Do you remember Gordon Gecko in the film Wall Street proclaiming that “Greed is good”?  Unwittingly, he may have formulated a law about how religions rise and fall.  Worldwide, the churches that succeed and boom, that win and retain members, tend to be the “greedy groups”—greedy, above all, for your time and commitment.  They don’t...

Post

Predators

In an earlier phase of my career, I researched the subject of serial murder.  What struck me repeatedly was how many of the cases defied the common stereotype of the lone Jack the Ripper figure, always a white male.  In fact, multiple homicide is an equal-opportunity career: Many offenders are female, and all ethnic groups...

Post

Forgetting China

I am unusual among American conservatives in feeling quite positive about the rise of a strong and prosperous China.  Not long since, I was exploring Beijing’s thronged Wangfujing Street, which is consumer heaven, and it was sobering to realize that the ancestors of virtually all those prosperous customers would have been permanently hungry peasants who...

Post

VENONA

I faithfully read the New York Review of Books as a prime source of hilarious writing and self-parody.  Sometimes though, the absurdities reach such a height as to demand comment. Recently, a Gail Collins rant in NYRB described “How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us,” claiming that the economic power of that state’s educational system...

Post

Progress and Poverty

While it never pays to get upset about the American public’s periodic fits of moral outrage, the rhetoric sometimes becomes so near obsessive, and so ridiculous, that it demands a response.  In this instance, I am thinking of the last few years’ debates about the national standard of living, an issue that has surfaced so...

Post

And Pastures New

Suppose you had to choose the single motion picture that dealt most seriously and challengingly with religious matters.  What might it be?  Offhand, I can think of a dozen or so possible answers from various countries, and probably most cinema-literate people would agree on at least a common short list.  It’s a reasonable bet, though,...

Post

The Christian in the Cave

I have a continuing interest in popular historical mythology—that is, the yawning gulf that separates what really happened in the past from what large numbers of even quite well-educated individuals think occurred.  Given contemporary cultural debates, it is scarcely surprising that such myths commonly focus on religious themes, usually to the massive disadvantage of religion,...

Post

The Miracle Program

I wrote recently about the silly contemporary myth that portrays Christianity as implacably opposed to science and progress.  The legend is thoroughly disproved by an abundance of counterexamples, but some of the available correctives are so powerfully convincing that they startle, and it is odd that Christian apologists have not used them more freely against...

Post

Wisdom and Science

Societies live by their mythologies, which become so passionately held that it’s usually risky to challenge them.  Having said that, one major component of contemporary secularist mythology really has to be confronted, because it is so influential, so widely reflected in even the saner mass media, and so totally wrong.  I’m referring to the familiar...

Post

Peace With Zulus

Like most literate Brits of my generation, I grew up immersed in the book 1066 and All That, the brilliant parody of historical writing published in 1930 by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman.  Among the large chunks of the book I can still recite verbatim is the catalogue of Victorian colonial wars, which mimics with...

Post

Killing No Murder

Don’t they wish they had listened to her!  Back in 2003, when the United States was planning to lead the invasion of Iraq, my elderly Welsh aunt was appalled by the prospect of war: “I hate all the violence.  I’m not an educated woman; I don’t understand politics.  I just hate to think of all...

Post

The Lost Secret of Kells

When I tell you that I was recently shocked by the treatment of history in a children’s cartoon, you may wonder what kind of pompous buffoon I might be.  (“I cannot begin to list the fundamental errors in marine biology that The Little Mermaid parades before our vulnerable children . . . ”)  Yet watching...

Post

Unto Them a Child Was Born

Normality is a fragile concept, and that observation is nowhere more true than in sexual matters.  In making that point, I am not questioning the existence of absolute moral standards—quite the contrary.  Rather, I am suggesting that, once a society loses its religious moorings, it drifts into startling novelties with a haste even more vertiginous...

Post

Forgetting a Villian

Imagine it is the year 2030, and you are talking to some young adults.  To your horror, you find that they have never heard the name Osama bin Laden.  As you begin to rant about the ignorance of the young, you find to your still greater astonishment that none of your older friends have any...

Post

Europe’s Dark Roots

In April 1945, a world of avengers was closing in rapidly on Berlin.  Trapped in the bunker complex, Hitler’s dwindling band of followers faced mounting despair, until the news broke that Franklin Roosevelt had died.  The glorious word of relief ran through the surviving Nazi leadership: “The Empress Elizabeth is dead!”  However baffling that reference...

Post

Myths of Terrorism

It’s been a bad year for terrorism in the United States.  Not bad, fortunately, in the number of actual attacks (at least at the time of this writing), but in the continuing debasement of the word terrorism, so that it ceases to be a useful characterization of behavior and becomes merely a propaganda slogan for...

Post

The Daughter of Time

There are many familiar signs that one is growing old, but I would like to propose a new candidate for the list.  You know you have lived a long time when ideas and theories that would once have been regarded as fatuous nonsense suddenly become respectable and mainstream. Earlier this year, the British government finally...

Post

Designed to Fail

Over the past year, American elites have spent a vast amount of time discussing proposed reforms in healthcare, arguing about the social and financial costs of producing an apparent social good.  In March, Congress approved a law that many observers see as a potential catastrophe, in terms of its devastating effects on our economic future,...

Post

Well, Naturally, We’re Gullible

I love Sarah Palin.  That’s not necessarily because of anything she believes or advocates, but because of the pleasure I derive from watching the apoplexy she causes in liberals, especially in a university setting.  Not only is Palin a strong conservative, but she has a regular middle-class background and a passionate religious commitment.  This combination...

Post

An Inconvenient History

Over the past decade, climate change has been a permanent fixture in the headlines, and its implications are frightening.  Depending on whom you believe, the earth might be on the verge of a warming trend that could devastate much of human civilization.  If this is even partially true, we might need to consider radical solutions,...

Post

Once There Was a War

“Sut mae?  Sut rydych chi?” I’m going to assume that most readers did not understand those phrases, which translate roughly to “How are you?  How are things going?”  And that lack of comprehension is a critical historical fact, because, if a generation of British historians and archaeologists is correct, then you should have no problem...

Post

Looking Backwards

Hard cases make bad law, and since 2002 the exposure of some ugly criminal cases has stirred legislators in several states to contemplate dreadful legal innovations.  However far removed these crimes may appear from regular mainstream American life, the legal principles involved threaten to wreak havoc in the coming decades. As all the world knows,...

Post

The End of the Chain

The global decline of fertility rates may well be the single most important trend in the contemporary world, a phenomenon that will transform our societies into something radically different from anything in recent history.  The worldwide birth strike will cause upheaval in the ethnic and social structure of familiar nations and will echo through financial...

Post

Holes in the Plot

Can I ask for some help? I am trying to write a novel—a futuristic political thriller—but at present, the plot is ridiculously implausible.  I would like some advice about making it credible. This is my scenario.  It is 2011.  A hugely popular Barack Obama is cruising toward an inevitable second term.  He is, however, at...

Post

Yes We Can!

The word transformational surfaced often in the 2008 election season, and for once, the cliché might have had some validity.  America assuredly is entering an era of transformation, even of revolutionary change, but on nothing like the lines that many expect.  The political right stands to benefit enormously, provided its adherents understand the dramatically altered...

Post

The Psychopathic Press

According to medical consensus, a psychopath is a person who feels no connection with other people, and who cannot therefore know the slightest remorse, any shame or guilt, no matter how horrendous the sufferings he inflicts.  And that brings me, neatly, to the New York Times, the nation’s newspaper of record, and an exemplar of...

Post

Return to Short Creek

Recently, the state of Texas undertook a police action that amply demonstrates the radical transformation of public attitudes to family, children, and the role of the state over the past half-century.  In April 2008, Texas authorities staged mass raids on a polygamist compound near San Angelo, in which they took custody of several hundred children. ...

Post

The Country of the Blind

In the 1960’s and 70’s, when European countries were admitting large migrant populations from predominantly Muslim regions, Western governments had a powerful vested interest in encouraging the growth of politicized Islam of the straitest sect.  European political attitudes were shaped absolutely by the Cold War confrontation, and the Middle East featured chiefly as a theater...