Philocrites : Scrapbook : November 2004 Archive

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Lessons learned in the Church of U2

Quoted 11.30.04:

Get Up Off Your KneesIs it any wonder this book [Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog] exists? For more than two decades, U2 has been preaching basic biblical principles to its chosen congregation of America. Three of the four band members once nearly left the band before it really got going when the Christian community of Shalom, in which they were deeply involved, advised them they could not serve both God and the rock guitar. The three disagreed.

Scott Calhoun, Books & Culture Nov/Dec 2004

What is a just war?

Quoted 11.30.04:

Just and Unjust Wars, Michael Walzer[Michael Walzer] says that his protest against the Vietnam War made him realize that a way had to be found to object to actions as basically immoral, not just ineffective in terms of "realism." This meant asking basic questions all over again, including Augustine's initial one—when (if ever) is it permissible to kill other human beings?

Garry Wills, New York Review of Books 11.18.04; via Altercation

Fundamentalist Anti-Defamation League

Quoted 11.30.04:

[I]t might be good to look back in history and be reminded that some of these Christian fundamentalists served a significant part in our great nation's birth. From Sir Isaac Newton [unitarian!] to George Washington Carver, from Abraham Lincoln [ha!] to Woodrow Wilson to Martin Luther King Jr. [a theological liberal!], these were all what liberal elites such as Andy Rooney would define as "uneducated, uninformed Christian fundamentalists" simply based on their religious beliefs. [Tears are rolling down my cheeks, I'm laughing so hard!]

Bernard Moon, Boston Globe 11.30.04

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Textbook warning stickers galore!

Quoted 11.28.04:

This sticker covers a pre-existing sticker designed to subtly undermine the teaching of evolution in your class. To see the full text of the original sticker, examine the books of children of school-board members, who mandated the stickering.

Colin Purrington, associate professor of evolutionary biology, Swarthmore College; via TBogg

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Faith-based publishing

Quoted 11.27.04:

Religious books now represent 11 percent of trade sales, or $1.9 billion out of a $13.7 billion market, according to Book Industry Trends, an annual report.

Rachel Donadio, New York Times Book Review 11.28.04, reg req'd

Mormons spruce up their aging Hawaiian outpost

Quoted 11.27.04:

Laie itself might be considered a little Provo in the Pacific. The home of B.Y.U.-Hawaii has some of the trappings of a typical college town: Domino's Pizza, a launderette, a bank. But no alcohol is sold, and stores are closed on Sunday. And instead of Blockbuster, students rent movies from Clean Flicks, which edits them first for profanity and impure content. Dating couples can grab an ice cream sundae after visiting the local cinema, where a sign in the window says, "Quality family entertainment is always our first priority."

Michele Kayal, New York Times 11.27.04, reg req'd

Friday, November 26, 2004

Hollow Pledge: The problem with 'under God'

Quoted 11.26.04:

If one considers Elk Grove Unified School v. Newdow theologically, with the conviction that God ultimately refers to the Creator-Redeemer met in Israel and Jesus Christ, then the “God” Americans are to pledge their nation to be “under” is at worst an idol and at best the true God’s name taken in vain.

Rodney Clapp, Christian Century 11.16.04

The Rev. Max Lucado on U.S. Christian politics

Quoted 11.26.04:

A person’s not a Christian because of their political beliefs; a person is a Christian because they believe in what Christ did for them on the cross. And so we cannot let the sacrifice of Christ on the cross be forgotten; that’s what unifies us. Beneath the shadow of the cross is where we have these conversations, albeit very difficult ones. I would say to Christians in the Democratic Party, ”Stay strong. Stay faithful. If God has placed you there, God’s placed another person in the Republican Party. But remember the purpose is not to promote a party; the purpose is to find God.”

Interview by Deborah Caldwell, Beliefnet 11.17.04; via Jesus Politics

Langdon Gilkey's theological legacy

Quoted 11.26.04:

The author of more than a dozen books, Dr. Gilkey was considered a pre-eminent interpreter of the work of the theologians Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. In his own writing, his concerns were ecumenical, ranging from interpretations of post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism to explorations of Protestant belief through the lens of autobiography.

Throughout his career, Dr. Gilkey explored the often slippery terrain where religion, technology and culture converge.

A Protestant of liberal social conscience, he often argued publicly against the initiatives of Christian fundamentalists, including school prayer and creationism. As an expert witness for the American Civil Liberties Union, he testified in a highly publicized 1981 case in which an Arkansas law requiring the teaching of creationism in public schools was struck down.

Corporate PACs backed Republicans 10 to 1

Quoted 11.26.04:

Of 268 corporate PAC's that donated $100,000 or more to presidential and Congressional candidates from January 2003 through the middle of last month, 245 gave the majority of their contributions to Republicans, according to an analysis released Wednesday by Political Money Line, a nonpartisan campaign finance tracking service.

Associated Press, New York Times 11.26.04, reg req'd

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

One hundred years of 'The Protestant Ethic'

Quoted 11.24.04:

maxweber.jpgIn order for capitalism to succeed, everyone had to believe that earning more money, even if he had no particular need for it, was a good thing. But why would anyone believe that?

This is where Martin Luther and, perhaps even more pertinently, John Calvin come in. [Max] Weber’s argument has several steps—or, if you prefer, leaps—and in a highly summarized form his reading of Reformation history runs as follows. Thanks to the doctrine of predestination, early Puritans believed that there was no way to affect—or even to know—one’s eternal fate. At the same time, they believed that the faithful were obligated to live as if they knew themselves to be among the elect. Constant, uncomplaining labor came to be seen as the way to banish doubt. In this way, work acquired an ethical dimension.

Deeply opposed to sensual pleasure, the Puritans and members of other ascetic Protestant sects toiled away but didn’t spend. Instead, they acquired capital, which, prudently invested, produced still more capital. Nothing, of course, was further from their minds than refashioning the world to suit Mammon, but, as is so often the case, their zeal had unintended consequences.

Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker 11.29.04

Theologian Langdon Brown Gilkey dies

Quoted 11.24.04:

Langdon Gilkey, 85, an eminent Protestant theologian who wrote of the relevance of God in a "time of troubles," died of meningitis Nov. 19 at the University of Virginia hospital in Charlottesville.

He once quoted theologian Edgar Brightman as having said, "I believe in God because I believe that history represents a steady, moral progress."

To Dr. Gilkey, whose formative experience was spending World War II in a Japanese internment camp, the opposite was true: "I believe in God because to me history precisely does not represent such a progress."

Adam Bernstein, Washington Post 11.22.04, reg req'd

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Wal-Mart begins selling 15-inch Angel Moroni statue

Quoted 11.23.04:

Wal-Mart's bronze MoroniComplete with removable trump, it's touted by the packaging as "a unique keepsake to brighten any decor" that "makes an especially thoughtful gift. . . . The statuesque pose of the hornsman gives an essence of revelry. A great addition to your precious collection."

While many may well be turned off by the hawking of one of the faith's signature symbols — made in China for Wal-Mart and selling at $19.86 — there are few better clues about the growing market for LDS products, and the money to be made from some 12 million Latter-day Saints. Once considered a tiny niche market, the church's rapid growth in the past two decades portends more targeted marketing by both LDS and secular retailers to an ever-growing audience.

Carrie A. Moore, Deseret Morning News 11.21.04

Monday, November 22, 2004

Conservative Christianity, Inc.

Quoted 11.22.04:

Corporate America has seen Christians as a lucrative demographic that is consistent enough in certain beliefs that "formulaic" marketing can be effective (and here I'm not just talking about advertising, but marketing). I believe this trend first started in the mid- to late-80s and is responsible for a lot of the "political" shifts we've seen in church attitudes today. . . .

Importantly, this directed marketing has given Christians a sense of separate identity. They are no longer Americans who happen to be Christians and happen to be Republican or Democratic. They are Christian Americans — separate from (and some believe, superior to) the rest. . . . This has led to more and more of an "us" vs. "them" attitude, which the marketers have picked up on. (Which, in turn, has led them to market more and more to this attitude directly, until we have Christian bookstores selling in-your-face t-shirts, books about "taking back America", etc.) Christians more and more believe that they are persecuted in this country, that their faith is under attack from all sides, that they are in the minority.

Shock, DailyKos 11.22.04; via The Revealer

Can bloggers win the war on comment spam?

Quoted 11.22.04:

Mark Glaser, Online Journalism Review 9.16.04

Dialogue across Salt Lake City's religious divide

Quoted 11.22.04:

The 1 1/2-hour open-mic conversation was punctuated not by verbal bashing between Mormons and others, as was feared, but with applause for comments like this from Susan Deal: "There are many opportunities for me to love much more every day."

Heather May, Salt Lake Tribune 11.18.04; via Christianity Today Weblog

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997)

Quoted 11.17.04:

Joshua Cherniss and Henry Hardy, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Democratic faith delusions

Quoted 11.17.04:

Many voters turned away from Kerry because they viewed him as on the wrong side of the culture war. He was never going to convince religious conservatives that he was one of them but he would have competed better if he had convinced centrist, traditional independents and Democrats that he, like Clinton, understood Americans' real fears and aspirations. If liberals want to learn how to connect with people of faith, they're going to have to do more than brush up on their scripture.

Steven Waldman, Beliefnet 11.4.04; see also "Let's Talk About Faith," Steven Waldman, Slate 11.5.04

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Perverted, God-hating Frenchies vs. inbred, sex-obsessed yokels

Quoted 11.16.04:

Why can't liberals and conservatives get along? Because they fundamentally misunderstand each other.

Steven Waldman, Beliefnet 11.12.04 (?)

Pro-choice legislator asked to leave church music post

Quoted 11.16.04:

The pastor at St. Augustine's Catholic church has asked state Rep. Barbara L'Italien to step down as cantor and head of the youth choir because of her pro-abortion rights stance. . . .

"I was told that because I am a legislator and a Democrat I was being asked to step down," she said. "This has upset my whole home. I am a pretty unlikely and undeserving target of this."

AP, 11.16.04

Evolution foes see opening to press fight in schools

Quoted 11.16.04:

With the new federal No Child Left Behind education law mandating a broad review of science curriculum in every state over the next two years, [challenges to teaching evolution] may accelerate, as religious activists and evolution opponents seize on opportunities to shape guidelines on what public school students learn about the natural world.

Raja Mishra, Boston Globe 11.16.04

Monday, November 15, 2004

How conservatives spread their message

Quoted 11.15.04:

The conservative political revolution of the last half-century could not have taken place without the alternative media revolution — the rise of political direct mail, talk radio, cable TV and the Internet. That's been equally true for that subset of the conservative movement earlier known as the religious right. In the 1970s and '80s, groups such as the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition used direct mail, as well as religious radio, TV and print outlets to promote their social and political agenda. Today's conservative Christians have the added firepower of the Web.

Richard A. Viguerie and David Franke, Los Angeles Times 11.15.04, reg req'd

The 'Dungeons & Dragons' revolution

Quoted 11.15.04:

Dungeons & Dragons dieWith a copy of "The Fellowship of the Ring" at my side and Styx on the record player, I was looking for something to help me rise above being bored, lonely, and unfulfilled. One day at school, a kid approached me. Having sensed in me an ally — the same urgent need to avoid getting beat up that day — he timidly asked if I wanted to play "D&D" after school.

From then on, I never had another forlorn afternoon. And to think, from that first fateful day when I decided I would be known as the half-elf wizard Vendel, I was joining a revolution. But what exactly were we transforming?

Peter Bebergal, Boston Globe 11.15.04

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The religious right's new kingmaker

Quoted 11.13.04:

dobson.jpg[Focus on the Family's James] Dobson is now America's most influential evangelical leader, with a following reportedly greater than that of either [Jerry] Falwell or [Pat] Robertson at his peak.

Dobson earned the title. He proselytized hard for Bush this last year, organizing huge stadium rallies and using his radio program to warn his 7 million American listeners that not to vote would be a sin. Dobson may have delivered Bush his victories in Ohio and Florida.

He's already leveraging his new power. When a thank-you call came from the White House, Dobson issued the staffer a blunt warning that Bush "needs to be more aggressive" about pressing the religious right's pro-life, anti-gay rights agenda, or it would "pay a price in four years."

Michael Crowley, Slate 11.12.04; via Talking Points Memo

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Comic Book of Mormon!

Quoted 11.12.04:

Moroni / 'The Golden Plates: The Sword of Laban and the Tree of Life'The LDS Church canon of scripture, The Book of Mormon, has inspired many musical, dramatic and literary projects, and last year was adapted as a commercial theatrical film, "The Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1: The Journey."

But the latest adaptation is raising a few eyebrows, the Comic Book of Mormon, if you will. . . .

To [Michael] Allred, the fact that people are already talking about the project makes it a huge success. "Of course, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want this to sell like hotcakes. I'd love for it to reach thousands of people, and not just those who are already of the faith.

"I would love to be able to spread the word about the church and what I know in my heart to be the true gospel. And the fact that I may be able to do that with my art makes me truly blessed."

Jeff Vice, Deseret Morning News 10.29.04; thanks, Dan!

Wait till Archbishop Akinola hears about this!

Quoted 11.12.04:

[Trinity Episcopal Church in Copley Square] was founded as a congregation in 1733; its current church building, designed by H.H. Richardson, was dedicated in 1877. The congregation says it has 4,000 households as members, up about 25 percent during Lloyd's tenure, and has seen dramatic growth in two relatively new constituencies to the parish, gays and lesbians and Nigerian immigrants.

Michael Paulson, Boston Globe 11.12.04

Thursday, November 11, 2004

How to talk like a conservative (if you must)

Quoted 11.11.04:

[George] Lakoff, a professor at the University of California–Berkeley and a founder of the Rockridge Institute, has emerged as the left’s message guru, the go-to guy for anyone interested in understanding why conservatives are winning the language wars and how liberals can retool their message. . . .

Liberals shouldn’t even bother trying to win over hardcore conservatives, says Lakoff. But he thinks they have a shot at the middle-of-the-road swing voters who share parts of both worldviews. To do this, Lakoff says liberals must reframe every issue from tax cuts to the war on terror.

Dave Gilson, Mother Jones 10.18.04; via Rebecca's Pocket

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Without a doubt

Quoted 11.10.04:

[A senior Bush advisor] said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine 10.17.04; via Rick's Rants

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Religious and moral values aren't new to American politics

Quoted 11.09.04:

In truth, American politics has frequently been gripped by moral issues. It is one of the aspects of our history and culture that makes us different from most European democracies. We have become morally engaged by the struggle against slavery and against liquor and for civil rights. David L. Chappell, in his splendid history of the civil rights movement, reminds us that this was not simply or even mostly a political struggle about well-understood rights but rather a religious effort to define those rights and to motivate people to recognize them. It is easy to forget that there were religious leaders on both sides of that struggle. Those who defended segregation urged followers to confine preaching to the word of God and not to meddle with cultural matters; those who attacked segregation said that the word of God required them to prevail by changing the culture.

James Q. Wilson, Wall Street Journal 11.8.04; American Enterprise Institute

Blue cities

Quoted 11.09.04:

Here in the big coastal cities, we have reason to fear for the immediate safety of our lives and our families—more reason, it must be said, than have the residents of the “heartland,” to which the per-capita bulk of “homeland security” resources, along with extra electoral votes, are distributed. It was deep-blue New York (which went three to one for Kerry) and deep-blue Washington, D.C. (nine to one Kerry), that were, and presumably remain, Al Qaeda’s targets of choice. In the heartland, it is claimed, some view the coastal cities as faintly un-American. The terrorists do not agree. They see us as the very essence—the heart, if you like—of America.

Hendrik Hertzberg, New Yorker 11.15.04

What's the Democratic story?

Quoted 11.09.04:

"We have to treat the disease, not the symptom," [Democratic strategist James] Carville said. "The purpose of a political party is to win elections, and we're not doing that."

Carville said that the party's concern about interest groups had resulted in "litanies, not a narrative."

"The party needs a narrative," he said. adding later that one possibility would to become "an aggressively reform, anti-Washington, anti-business-as-usual party."

Mike Allen, Washington Post 11.9.04, reg req'd; via Daily Kos

Monday, November 8, 2004

Seeing red

Quoted 11.08.04:

"Twenty years after Ronald Reagan," he says, "the press still doesn't understand the right, or religious people. And it is not so simple as just who goes to church. There is something else driving people. And why is the South so red? Race is gone as the issue. There is a new South that we don't understand."

Michael Getler, Washington Post 11.7.04, reg req'd

Don't let your blog get lost in the fog

Quoted 11.08.04:

Yes, blogs matter. But probably not yours. There are millions of them, and few are read by anyone. That's mainly due to the banalities that pass for content on most blogs. But even good blogs can go unread, without a little extra effort to attract visitors.

What's needed are some eyeball magnets — blogging tools that will bring new traffic to your site. And there are plenty to choose from.

Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe 11.8.04

Red Sox Nation secession watch

Quoted 11.08.04:

Boston Red SoxVoting will get underway shortly in the New England states on whether to secede from the United States of America. The new country would be named Red Sox Nation and would comprise Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and most of Connecticut. . . .

One of the cornerstones of the draft constitution is the right of return. Red Sox fans living in exile anywhere in the United States, or even the world, would be guaranteed citizenship in the fledgling nation.

Peter Norton, Boston Globe 11.8.04

Sunday, November 7, 2004

A question of values

Quoted 11.07.04:

The news media has made much of the finding that a fifth of voters picked "moral values" as the most important issue in deciding their vote — as many as cited terrorism or the economy. The conclusion: moral values are ascendant as a political issue.

The reporting accurately represents the exit poll data, but not reality. While morals and values are critical in informing political judgments, they represent personal characteristics far more than a discrete political issue. Conflating the two distorts the story of Tuesday's election.

This distortion comes from a question in the exit poll, co-sponsored by the national television networks and The Associated Press, that asked voters what was the most important issue in their decision: taxes, education, Iraq, terrorism, economy/jobs, moral values or health care. Six of these are concrete, specific issues. The seventh, moral values, is not, and its presence on the list produced a misleading result.

Gary Langer, New York Times 11.6.04, reg req'd

What do Bush's Evangelical supporters expect?

Quoted 11.07.04:

Steven Waldman, New York Times 11.6.04, reg req'd

Don't condescend on 'moral values'

Quoted 11.07.04:

[L]evel-headed observers like Mr. Kohut are wise to warn that no one quite knows what reality lies behind the moral values catchphrase. But isn't it important to find out? . . . There are, however, several surefire ways to short-circuit such an inquiry.

Comparing the so-called values voters with jihad-driven Muslim terrorists, an equation ventured by not a few post-election analysts, will do nicely, for starters. Loosely tossing around terms like fundamentalism and theocracy is similarly effective at anesthetizing the thought processes. Then there is the leap that fretting about moral values is merely a disguise for ignorance, irrationality and intolerance.

These caricatures cast millions of citizens as ominous Others, alien invaders not from another planet but at least from another era, probably the benighted Middle Ages or the nearly as dark 1950's. . . . Fanaticism exists, of course, and stupidity, too. Wild claims and aggressive demands have been made in the name of moral values, often enough by figures competing for public attention. Latching upon these is an easy and tempting way to deaden the kind of empathy and imagination necessary to comprehend another perspective.

Peter Steinfels, New York Times 11.6.04, reg req'd

Friday, November 5, 2004

More on Democrats and religion

Quoted 11.05.04:

As someone who has been arguing for years that liberals should show more respect for people of faith, I'm happy that more Democrats are now saying the same. But the post-election talk is much too facile. Most of the voters who cast ballots for Bush because of abortion, stem cell research or gay marriage won't suddenly switch sides because Democratic candidates pepper their speeches with prayers and a few more "God bless you's."

What's required is a sustained and intellectually serious effort by religious moderates and progressives to insist that social justice and inclusion are "moral values" and that war and peace are "life issues."

E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post 11.5.04, reg req'd; via Jesus Politics

Monday, November 1, 2004

Death, be not ponderous

Quoted 11.01.04:

As recently as 1990, the great majority of American eulogies were delivered by members of the clergy, but now the proportion is about half and falling. One reason is generational. Baby boomers tend to be less hesitant about grabbing a microphone than their parents were. We may have an uneasy relationship with death, but we are a little less frightened of reverb.

Throw in the more transient nature of American life, the general trend away from formality and the proliferation of celebrity memorial services (Christopher Reeve's was Friday), and it is clear how the eulogy has evolved away from sermons and toward something more intimate, vernacular, even irreverent. Without recourse to the divine, then, how best to inspire the dearly beloved? Here are five hallmarks of great goodbyes.

Cyrus M. Copeland, New York Times 10.31.04, reg req'd

Our politics, not our voting machines, are imperiling the idea of a fair election

Quoted 11.01.04:

What we are experiencing here is not so much a failure of law or technology as it is a crisis of trust.

Before 2000, most American voters generally viewed the political process in much the same way that avid fans view baseball. Yes, the umpire will blow a call now and then, and the manager will kick some dirt around, and he may even lodge a formal protest that has exactly zero chance of succeeding. But baseball fans come to see most of these incidents as isolated quirks. There is an underlying faith that the umpire is an honest broker and that his inability to gauge fractions of a difference (the milliseconds, say, between the time a ball hits a glove and a foot hits a base) is entirely human. Without this faith — if the umpire, say, wore a Yankee cap in Fenway Park — the game would devolve into pandemonium over every close strike. This is very much like what's happening in states across the country as Democratic partisans vow to prevent a repeat of the last election. The voting process, once presumed to be a reliable, if fallible, arbiter of the public will, is increasingly seen, even by many more sophisticated voters, as a tainted instrument of partisan conspiracy.

Matt Bai, New York Times Magazine 10.31.04, reg req'd