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Culture Briefs

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Anti-intellectuals

"In 1922 ... Lenin devoted astonishing time to handpicking intellectuals to be exiled from Russia. In missives to underlings, including ... Josef Stalin, he railed against these 'bourgeoisie and their accomplices, the intellectuals, the lackeys of capital. ...'

"Eighty-five years ago this month, on Aug. 16 and 17, the regime arrested scores of intellectuals. On two other dates, Sept. 28 and Nov. 16, the GPU (secret police) ushered more than 60 Russian intellectuals and their families onto German cruise ships in St. Petersburg. ... Involuntary passengers included the great Christian existentialist Nikolai Berdyaev, the philosophers Semyon Frank and Nikolai Lossky, and the literary critic Yuly Aikhenvald, who had translated Schopenhauer into Russian. ...

"Consider them all lucky. Within a few years, Stalin replaced Lenin, and bullets and labor camps replaced ship tickets."

— Carlin Romano, writing on "God Before Food: Philosophy, Russian Style," in the Aug. 17 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education

Faithless diversity

"[T]he structure of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was built on a theological framework, a framework expressly centered on the Cross. And that's a problem for any church organization that wants to be accepted by the right people and approved by the right institutions in 21st-century America.

"The ECLA, like other 'mainline' denominations, is effectively Universalist today. ... The ELCA still talks about the Cross, for the benefit of the rubes who actually sit in the pews and pay the bills, but the people in the upstairs offices mostly agree that there's really no such place as Hell. ...

"That comfortable theological slide, however, leaves the church with no important job description. If everyone is going to heaven regardless of faith or moral performance, there's not a lot of reason for anyone not to just sleep in on Sunday mornings.

"This is where diversity comes in. With heaven guaranteed to all, the church's only motivation becomes whatever difference it thinks it can make in this world. Multiculturalism being the flavor of the generation, they've re-imagined themselves as a dynamic force in its service."

— Lars Walker, writing on "The Race and the Not-So-Swift," Friday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

Social tastes

"People want music that's going to be good for them socially, so if you grow up, say, in Michigan, and you're a young male and you smoke pot, odds are you're listening to heavy metal and that you play guitar. It's not that the genetic structure of your brain required this. If you're a 19-year-old Jewish girl who's going to Brown University, almost certainly you like indie rock, and it's because it's good for you socially. ... Musical taste is very predictable. It depends where you were born, who you grew up with, what song you fell in love to, but it doesn't have to stay that way forever.

"It's why people almost always buy music that is new. If you look at top sellers in music it's not Beethoven, it's not Bach, it's not even the Beatles, it's what's out now that's new. You can't be hip liking that old music, even if it was really good."

— Tyler Cowen, George Mason University economics professor, interviewed by Kenneth Whyte, Aug. 13 in Macleans (www.macleans.ca)