Matthew Schmitz is deputy editor of First Things.

Can Harvard Solve the Problem of Religious Illiteracy?

When Ralph Waldo Emerson addressed the 1838 graduating class of Harvard Divinity School, he began with an invocation: In this refulgent summer, it has been a luxury to draw the breath of life. The grass grows, the buds burst, the meadow is spotted with fire and gold in the tint of flowers. The air is … Continued


Marx vs. Faith on ‘The Americans’

Study the history of civilizations, open your fridge, look in the mirror: everywhere you will see the unmistakable signs of decay. Entropy is as inescapable in the realm of culture as in nature, which is why so much of what we see on screen seems so familiar—or so I believed until I began watching The … Continued

Entertainment, Television

Seven Books that Should Be Banned

Every fall the publishing industry—excuse me, the “national books community”—engages in the self-promotional frenzy known as “Banned Books Week.” It comes complete with #BannedBooksWeek hashtags, events at public libraries, and high-minded declarations from authors. This may help book sales, but it only harms our ability to take books seriously. The first dishonest thing about “Banned … Continued


The Latest Victims of Political Correctness? Gilbert & Sullivan

After canceling their upcoming production of the Mikado in the face of complaints that it is racist, the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players said that they “never intended to give offense.” If so, it is hard to understand why they were producing the Mikado in the first place. Gilbert and Sullivan operas are not exactly the … Continued


Wes Craven’s Nightmare Faith

Over centuries, we are told, fire-and-brimstone preachers have perfected the art of exploiting our darkest fears—damnation, hell, torture, exposure, guilt, transmission—to pack the house and fill the coffers. Some of these hucksters may be more obviously fraudulent than others (Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry has nothing on James Joyce’s Fr. Arnall in Portrait of the Artist … Continued


Dr. Dre: Violent Man, Mediocre Talent

In November 1990, Dr. Dre picked up hip-hop journalist Dee Barnes and began slamming her face against a wall. After unsuccessfully trying to throw her down a flight of stairs, he pursued her into a bathroom where he held her to the ground, grabbed her by the hair, and began punching her head from behind—all … Continued

Celebrities, Entertainment, Music

What Does Hollywood Have Against Marriage?

Mindy Kaling, creator of The Mindy Project sent a tweet this weekend saying she was fed up with negative portrayals of marriage in television and film. “Does everyone in LA hate being married?” she asked. “It’s sure how you make it look in TV and film!” Does everyone in LA hate being married? It’s sure … Continued


Chris Rock’s Uncertain Ode to Matrimony

There is nothing remarkable in the mere fact of another celebrity breakup, but the announcement of Chris Rock’s break from Malaak Compton-Rock, his wife of nineteen years, deserves notice because Rock happens to be the creator of I Think I Love My Wife—a film that is one of the most extensive and least convincing odes … Continued

Culture, Entertainment, Movies

Serial’s Sin

I spent the weekend scrubbing my kitchen and listening to Serial, the critically acclaimed podcast that follows reporter Sarah Koenig as she looks into the 1999 murder of Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee. The man convicted of the crime, Lee’s ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, gains Koenig’s attention and sympathy as he tries to persuade her … Continued