Friday, January 25, 2019
As the new Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Trinity Forum, I have a few confessions to make:
First, you need to know that “we are Russian sympathizers.” It’s true!
We have great admiration, respect, and regard for the works and thoughts of Leo Tolstoy, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In fact, we spread their works (and those of other renegade thinkers) via our Trinity Forum Readings (one of our most popular is Tolstoy’s short story How Much Land Does a Man Need?) in hopes of ushering in a revolution in public thinking.
Second, we believe that Goethe got it right when he said that “Ignorant men raise questions that wise men answered a thousand years ago.” So, it isn’t surprising that when we consider issues like, say, the proper relationship between church and state, we do it through the lens of St. Augustine’s work City of God, not just through recent Supreme Court cases. We believe including the wisest voices and best minds of history enriches the current conversation.
Third, we are convinced that studying STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) is wholly inadequate for the creation of an educated person. As C.S. Lewis said, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” In contrast, we aim to contribute to the preservation and enrichment of the liberal arts and the best of Christian thought, and believe that the arts and humanities play an important role in the development of creativity, community, compassion, and civility.
Finally, and most importantly, we believe in what T.S. Eliot described as “the permanent things.” Along with many of the West’s greatest minds, we believe that the source of such immutable wisdom is found in the historic Christian faith. We are profoundly at odds with the secularist spirit of this age, as well as the distorting tribalism that has infected so much of our culture. Rather than enabling progress, freedom without faith, virtue, and love for God and neighbor creates only a Waste Land inhabited by T.S. Eliot’s “hollow men,” C.S. Lewis’s “men without chests,” and Evelyn Waugh’s “vile bodies.”
With this as background, it is easy to see why the Trinity Forum’s mission is so relevant, so crucial, and so timely in our current landscape filled with a cacophony of voices seeking to distract, distort, and divide rather than encourage, inspire, and connect:
The Trinity Forum connects leading thinkers with thinking leaders in
engaging the “big questions” of life in the context of faith, and provides a
platform for the best of Christian thought leadership to consider timely issues
by the light of timeless truths.
I also confess I am excited to assume the role of Chairman of this extraordinary organization. As I survey the landscape, it is hard to avoid the conclusion: there is much work to do. And I ask you to join us in the exciting efforts head. There are a few steps each of us can take:
- Send a gift membership to The Trinity Forum Society to one or two like-minded friends. And, to thank you for subscribing to this newsletter, we want to share with you a free (normal cost is $100) Trinity Forum Society gift membership to send a friend. For 48 hours, you can click on this link, and provide the name and contact information of the friend to whom you would like to send the membership, and we’ll do the rest.
- Resolve to form a reading group in 2019. We believe that hosting reading groups is one of the most powerful (if modest and enjoyable) counter-cultural actions one can take to push back against the increasing distraction, isolation, triviality, and polarization of modern society. Trinity Forum Readings are custom-tailored to make reading groups enjoyable and enriching. (See more below on how to start a Reading Group.)
- Follow us on Facebook… and… invite your friends to follow us.
- Read at least one of the articles in the daily list of What We’re Reading e-mails you receive from us as a benefit of your Trinity Forum Society membership. This curated list of readings is a great way to stay focused on the signal, not the noise.
- Join a Trinity Forum Evening Conversation! We have regular events in Washington DC, Nashville, and Atlanta. If you can’t join us in person, we live stream and video record virtually all our Evening Conversations and invite you to join in.
I’ll end this note as I began, as a Russian sympathizer, by quoting from a comrade-in-spirit, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:
“No, all hope cannot be pinned on science, technology, or economic growth.
The victory of technological civilization has also instilled in us a spiritual
insecurity. Its gifts enrich, but enslave us as well. All is interests, we must not
neglect our interests, all is a struggle for material things; but an inner voice
tells us that we have lost something pure, elevated, and fragile. We have
ceased to see the purpose.”
We are blessed by having you as a co-laborer in the mission of the Trinity Forum and a believer in the permanent things.
Blessings in 2019,
Chairman of the Board of Trustees
The Trinity Forum
Byron’s Recommended Trinity Forum Readings to Start 2019:
St. Augustine of Hippo, “City of God,” The Trinity Forum Reading, 2011
Leo Tolstoy, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” The Trinity Forum Reading, 2011
Aldous Huxley, “Brave New World,” The Trinity Forum Reading, 2018
Dante Alighieri, “The Divine Comedy,” The Trinity Forum Reading, 2017
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “The Grand Inquisitor,” The Trinity Forum Reading, 2015
Wendell Berry, “The Loss of the University,” The Trinity Forum Reading, 2013
Byron Smith is a Principal at Mountain Group Partners and Chairman of the of the Trinity Forum Board of Trustees.