The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Author Archive

Should You and Your Kids Skip the Zoo?

by Sean Johnson
child zoo glass gorilla scare

Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo. I don’t believe it.

I know two young children between the ages of five and ten and, while it will seem that I’ve invented them for the purposes of this essay, I assure you they are real. Their names have been changed to protect the innocent (me, in this case). Let’s call them Sancho and Dulcinea, we being an optimistic people, after all. They are almost never allowed to play outside, but not for lack of opportunity—they have good-sized front and backyards, and live in a safe (read: gated) neighborhood patrolled by security guards. No, they are kept indoors by their mother for fear that they might come into direct contact with dirty, germy things; living things; unknown things.

Sancho and Dulcinea are allowed to visit the zoo, and therein lies the genius of modern parenting. Read more…

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Some American Typology: The Gadsden Flag

by Sean Johnson

I was cruising down the road recently when a hog passed me. Not one of the sweaty, hairy, toothy things that live in the brush; one of the rumbly, metallic, two-wheel things that live in the garage—all of its valves and cylinders and carburetors and handlebars being as rumbly and metallic as they could manage. There was, however, something sweaty, hairy, and toothy seated on top of the hog. As his ilk is wont to do, he had swaddled himself in many fine leathers. He was rumbling metallically along at too great a clip for me to know just how many and how fine were his leathers, but I did notice the colorful design on the back of his jacket: a fanged serpent ready to strike. Now, someone seeing such an image on such a fellow might very well assume that the Hell’s Angels had finally traded in their skulls and demon wings for a more traditional and historical Satanic sigil (after all, graphic depictions of the Devil don’t get more historical or traditional than the serpent). But, they would be wrong (and maybe a little right).

They would be wrong because, in actuality, what I saw on the back of the swaddled fellow was the Gadsden flag—a flag depicting a coiled snake and the words “Don’t Tread On Me” dating from the time of the American War for snake yellow field Dont Tread On Me rebelIndependence. Since its creation, when it was flown by the Colonial Navy’s flagship (there’s a pun there, somewhere, I’m sure), the flag has represented at least one aspect of the nation’s international demeanor: mess with the snake, get the fangs. More recently, though, it has sometimes been adopted to represent the demeanor of individual citizens or citizen groups over and against their own Federal Gov’t.

They may be a little right, or at least justified in their mistake, because the talking snake is an awfully evocative image and its adoption by an ostensibly Christian nation or ostensibly Christian citizens could be puzzling. Of course, I can understand why the serpent would say “Don’t tread on me;” he knows by heart the whole bit about having his head crushed and we shouldn’t be surprised if he tries to talk his way out of it, that’s part of his modus operandi after all. Read more…

Review: Seven Men by Eric Metaxas

by Sean Johnson

In saying, “everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher,” the Lord gave us not merely a fundamental truth about the end education and discipleship, but about the means. As the surrounding context in Luke 6 confirms, the Eric metaxas seven men and the secret of their greatnessprocess has a great deal to do with exemplification: anyone following you is going to end up wherever you end up—if you’re blind, that will be a ditch—and your poor vision will perpetuate theirs. In the schoolhouse we are recovering this wisdom (acknowledging that the best teachers do not just dictate accurate information, but model a lifestyle of wisdom and faithfulness); in the broader sphere of life, however, we never lost our innate understanding of it.  It has been codified in the concept of the “role model.” Many life lessons are best learned through images and the most vivid images are often human lives themselves. Therein lies one of the greatest values of biography: moral and spiritual formation via exemplification and imitation. And therein lies the greatest value of Eric Metaxas’, Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness.

Metaxas consciously places his Seven Men in the tradition of Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans or Foxe’s Book of Martyrs—biographical works intended chiefly to hold up the conduct and character of certain men as examples for readers to emulate (or avoid). He has sketched the lives of seven famed Christian men in order to commend their exemplary behavior to all readers, but especially to young men, who Read more…

A Man and an Art for All Seasons

by Sean Johnson

Christian kitsch

All great cultural produce (that is, art) is religiously motivated—the stylized mythologies of the Mediterranean, the architectural triumphs of Roman civic religion, the gothic style, the hagiographic painting and sculpture of the Renaissance, the scientific innovations motivated at various times by extreme love of God or extreme love of man, etc., etc., etc. In recent years, though, the Church has experienced what many would acknowledge as a crisis of art. The fruit of this historical circumstance has been, among other things, the hot mess of contemporary Christian music, Kinkadean depictions of crosses and cottages aglow with the radiation of sentimentality, and Kingsburyian baptized pulp fictions.

As a people we are still in a moment of uncertainty about how to regain the artistic potency of our forbears, and reinfuse our art with that intangible-but-unmistakable clarity and power—like lightning and cold steel—that truly biblical art cover art Malcolm Guite Englishhas always possessed. Read more…

Double Vision Check

by Sean Johnson
eye test lenses double-vision anagogical vision
Recently, some comments from Peter Leithart got me thinking about the ways different folks interpret Revelation, which in turn got me thinking about the ways they interpret current events. It seemed, in my armchair musings, that our interpretations of the news have a lot to do with our eschatology, and I’m not just talking about the 666-handbasket-of-the-whore-of-Babylon-Five folks, either. Read more…

Boston Bomber’s Future Prospects

by Sean Johnson

Amidst the terribly tragic events of the last week, countless smaller news items were understandably forgotten, but at least one now bears remembering.

Earlier this month Kathy Boudin, former domestic terrorist who spent almost twenty years in prison on second-degree murder charges, was named to a position of scholar-in-residence at NYU Law School. Already a Columbia University professor since 2008, she spent the years between 1984 and 2003 behind bars for her involvement in the killing of two police officers and a security guard during an armored car robbery that she and her accomplices described as anti-imperialist activism.
weathermen most wanted 1970's Chicago

Boudin and her accomplices were also members of Weather Underground, a domestic terrorism group created to Read more…

Apples of Gold and Apples of Discord

Sean Johnson is a husband and father, graduate student and teacher, living in Texas and raised in the Northwest (the land of apples).proverbs 25:11 apples of gold settings of silver, golden apple

I am always miffed when fellow Christians misunderstand a certain apple in the Bible (if you’re thinking Garden of Eden, don’t; those weren’t apples). Before I explain exactly what I mean, let me tell a little story to give some background.

The “apple of discord” comes down to us from Greek mythology. As the story goes, there was a celebration up on Mount Olympus (the wedding feast of Achilles’ parents, in fact), and everyone was invited except for Eris, goddess of discord. Of course, no one would blame you for leaving someone with a title like that off of your guest list, but Eris was quite upset about the whole elitist business. To get even, Eris crept to the edge of the banquet and hurled a golden apple into the midst of the guests. It landed with a crash among the plates and goblets, rolling ominously along the length of the vast banquet table, Read more…

Bring Out Your Dead!

church graveyard, cemetery

How often do you see cemeteries? Do you know, off hand, where the closest one is? Do your children? It is a sad state of affairs when we can’t answer these questions with certainty and, if you’ll allow me to indulge in a few preliminary comments, I’ll tell you why.

One of the best ways to engage literature is to pick a work you want to be shaped by and to read it again and again. I was recently rereading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy with that end in mind, and the following passage struck me:

“But if it comes to clear ideas and the intelligent meaning of things, then there is much more rational philosophical truth in the burial at the crossroads and the stake driven through the body…there is a meaning in burying the suicide apart.”
“….And then I remembered the stake and the crossroads, and the queer fact that Christianity had shown this weird harshness to the suicide. For Christianity had shown a wild encouragement of the martyr. Historic Christianity was accused, not entirely without reason, of carrying martyrdom and asceticism to a point, desolate and pessimistic. The early Christian martyrs talked of death with a horrible happiness. They blasphemed the beautiful duties of the body: they smelt the grave afar off like a field of flowers. All this has seemed to many the very poetry of pessimism. Yet there is the stake at the crossroads to show what Christianity thought of the pessimist.”

It struck me not because of the particular topic but of the more general implication. Regardless of your convictions about the burial of suicides, these remarks demonstrate something powerful, and something contemporary Protestantism (at least in my circles) has begun to forget—our treatment of the dead translates into a meaningful theological statement. Read more…

What Should a Christian Game Show Look Like?

planet of the apes ending, heston, david bentley hart, statue of liberty

As I set about writing an introduction for this piece, I realized that I would be hard-pressed to invent anything more fitting than the following from David Bentley Hart: 

It is one of the most indelibly memorable scenes, and certainly the best twist ending, to have come out of the cinema of the 1960s: Charlton Heston riding his horse along the beach, Linda Harrison mounted behind him with her arms wrapped around his waist, both quite fetching in their late Pleistocene dishabille, until they come upon some gigantic object, visible to the viewer at first only from behind, and just fragmentarily familiar from the ruinous silhouette of its torch and spiked coronal. Heston dismounts, an expression of dawning understanding on his face. The surf breaks about his feet. “Oh, my God!” he exclaims and falls to his knees. “They finally, really did it!” Beating the sand with his fist, he cries out, “You maniacs! Read more…

Could a New Pope Mean the End of a Celibate Priesthood?

new pope, Pope Francis, Jorge Bergoglio, pontiff, sede vacante

Early in the week, Uri Brito briefly outlined the array of challenges that would face the next pope. Since that time, the white smoke has risen to signal the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the office of Pontiff.

Among the major challenges facing him are the still frequent occurrence or discovery of sexual scandal within the priesthood, and the rising tide of cultural consensus regarding homosexual marriages. For the Roman church as an organization, the sexual misconduct is arguably the more pressing. One solution proffered by a minority within the Roman church has been that priests be allowed to marry.
Read more…

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