Wenesday, 1/15/14

    1. Pete Fountain of Youth
    2. Redeemed by emoticons
    3. Having and being
    4. Outsourcing the red button
    5. Change ≠ Reform


Did you know there is a study proving that listening to music about aging causes subjects to become younger? (Leah Libresco, A Guide to Lies, Significant Lies, and Statistics)


Wesley Hill wrote something that I thought was wonderfully succinct and accurate:

I’ve been reading a few recent essays on sexual ethics written for a popular audience. A couple of them have focused specifically on homosexuality, and each one draws a strikingly similar contrast. On the one hand, these essays describe a kind of Christian faith that is focused on “certainty,” on “black and white answers,” on “knowing what’s right,” and the arrogant rigidity and coldness that goes along with that. On the other hand, these essays talk about a different sort of Christian faith, one that is more interested in “exploration,” in “questions,” in “living with tension,” in “loving real people where they’re at,” in being willing to brave the “messiness” of “life in the trenches.” (All the quotes here are paraphrases because I’m not trying to single out one author or essay or book for critique. I’m more interested in observing a trend in the reading I’ve been doing.)

In response, I find myself wanting to ask, over and over again:

  • Is it possible that the “certainty” that pre-marital sex is a bad idea is itself the result of profound “exploration,” of “living in tension,” or “loving real people”?
  • Is it possible that the “black and white answer” of marriage being a covenant between one man and one woman is an answer that’s been forged as Christians have “wrestled” with the “messiness” of “real life”?
  • Is it possible that the “rigid, arrogant knowledge” that divorce is something Christians ought to work hard to prevent is the result of a profound “struggle” to “meet people where they’re at”?
  • Can we at least entertain the idea, for the sake of argument, that the Christian tradition’s “answers” on sexual ethics aren’t just the product of unexamined patriarchal assumptions and power moves on the part of greedy bishops and priests?
  • Can we at least consider the idea that the tradition might have been crafted, in part, from a hard-won, long-sought-after, humane wisdom that knew things about humanity and sexuality that we, in our time, may have forgotten? …

I’ve quoted more than half the blog post because the surprise to me was how – I’m struggling for the right characterization; “Invincibly ignorant?” – some of the comments were.

I guess some of us cannot entertain possibilities other than that the Christian traditions is dark and evil and oppressive. And I guess you can say all kinds of adolescent “sez who” things if you apply a smiley-face or winky-face emoticon to it.


With the title The Spiritualist Origins of “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul, Mathew Block compelled me to save a link to his article until time allowed me to read.

It turns out that he was cautioning about something that has never, to my recollection, tempted me: the gnostic idea that the body is dispensible, or even an impediment, to soul-thriving. No, I fully accept that the body is part of who we are, whence the Christian doctrine of “the resurrection of the body,” not of “the immortality of the soul.”

What has intrigued me is an Occam’s Razor-like questioning of the distinction between soul and spirit, and even the possibility that “soul” is an apt word for the totality of the human person, whether that person in theory is (a) body and spirit or (b) body, soul and spirit.

In Genesis 2:7 it is written, “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

(DennisM commenting on Block’s piece) I believe I’ve seen glimpses in the Orthodox liturgy that Orthodoxy affirms body, soul and spirit. I don’t know if that comes from a careful deliberation, trinitarian reflex or otherwise.

So many questions, so little time. Some of the questions even matter.


Senate bill S.1881 … virtually hands over the decision on war to Bibi Netanyahu who is on record saying: “This is 1938. Iran is Germany.”

The bill repeatedly asserts that Iran has a “nuclear weapons program.”

Yet in both 2007 and 2011, U.S. intelligence declared “with high confidence” that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.

Where is the Senate’s evidence for its claim? Why has Director of National Intelligence James Clapper not been called to testify as to whether Tehran has made the decision to go for a bomb?

Why are the American people being kept in the dark?

Are we being as misled, deceived, and lied to about Iran’s “weapons of mass destruction,” as we were about Iraq’s?

(Pat Buchanan)


Ravitch’s particular contribution is to unpack the philosophical assumptions guiding the [education] reform movement. Reformers’ goals—higher test scores for all students and a reduced gap in achievement between affluent and poor, white and nonwhite—seem admirable. But Ravitch argues that their achievement comes at the cost of replacing both the ideal and the experience of education as a public good—provided by publicly financed, publicly controlled institutions that aspire to educate future citizens for their public responsibilities and adult lives—with an understanding of education as a private commodity chosen by parents. This commodity, like others, would be produced by rival corporations motivated by profit. Corporations would seek to educate not for the responsibilities of citizenship but for success in competitive markets. The philosophical and ideological commitment to the corporate over the public, Ravitch contends, threatens real damage not only to the education of mostly low-income children, but, more broadly, to our republic and the social compact and civil society on which it rests.

Reformers do well in political debates because few voters and parents are satisfied with the state of inner-city and rural public schools. It is hard for defenders to fight apparently damning statistics. But reform is not simply about change; it is about improvement. And, as Ravitch understands, the belief that corporate control is better able to secure universal access to good education relies on an impoverished notion of what education is for, a notion that thrives on and fosters the diminution of civic life.

(Review of Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error. H/T The Browser)

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.