Philocrites : Scrapbook : January 2007 Archive

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mainline seminaries try nudging students toward ministry

Quoted 01.27.07:

While a seminarian taking a pulpit job was a near given in the past, there are far more options available now, like chaplaincy or work in nonprofit organizations and even in businesses that are finding use for those with divinity degrees. From 2000 to 2006, the number of students about to earn a master's degree in divinity who intended to enter parish ministry fell about 15 percent, according to a survey by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.

Equally troublesome, the number of seminary students nearing graduation and unsure what they want to do — about 9 percent of the group in 2000 — nearly doubled for men and tripled for women. As a result, seminaries are trying hard to ensure that a good number of their students decide on church ministry.

Marek Fuchs, New York Times 1.27.07, reg req'd

Friday, January 26, 2007

Christian chauvinist pressures school to ban 'Inconvenient Truth'

Quoted 01.26.07:

"No you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation — the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet — for global warming," Hardison wrote in an e-mail to the Federal Way School Board. The 43-year-old computer consultant is an evangelical Christian who says he believes that a warming planet is "one of the signs" of Jesus Christ's imminent return for Judgment Day. . . .

The e-mail also pressured the school board to impose a ban on screenings of the film for the district's 22,500 students.

Blaine Harden, Washington Post 1.25.07, reg req'd

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Barack Obama's wife Michelle, his closest aid, reluctant about politics

Quoted 01.24.07:

The hesitant spouse is a well-known character in presidential politics, and Michelle has never been quite as conflicted as some of her comments might suggest. From the earliest days of her marriage, she has provided crucial support to Barack's political life — introducing him to the Chicago neighborhood where he would make his political name and sharing his passion for work in that community. Her friends say Michelle has long seen great things in her husband's future. "If you say to Michelle, 'Are you surprised [by the attention]?' " says her friend Valerie Jarrett, "she would say, 'The American people are beginning to see what I always knew — he's an extraordinary man born to lead'."

Karen Springen and Jonathan Darman, Newsweek 1.29.07; see also Obama isn't black (Debra J. Dickerson, Salon 1.22.07) and Obama's distance from civil rights movement (Ellis Cose, Newsweek 1.29.07)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hillary Clinton's presidential race 'bold but practical'

Quoted 01.21.07:

"I have never been afraid to stand up for what I believe in or to face down the Republican machine," Mrs. Clinton said in a statement on her new campaign Web site. "After nearly $70 million spent against my campaigns in New York and two landslide wins, I can say I know how Washington Republicans think, how they operate, and how to beat them."

In her statement, she also called for "bold but practical changes" in national policy, a four-word formulation that her advisers said was carefully chosen, given that she has sought to portray herself as both a pragmatist and someone who thinks big. Some Democrats dismiss the latter image, finding her too cautious. Yet her pledge of boldness reflects her well-known desire to disprove the notion that she is hesitant or calculating.

Patrick Healy, New York Times 1.21.07, reg req'd; Hillary Clinton 2008

Is there such a thing as 'post-abortion syndrome'?

Quoted 01.21.07:

Academic experts continue to stress that the psychological risks posed by abortion are no greater than the risks of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. A study of 13,000 women, conducted in Britain over 11 years, compared those who chose to end an unwanted pregnancy with those who chose to give birth, controlling for psychological history, age, marital status and education level. In 1995, the researchers reported their results: equivalent rates of psychological disorders among the two groups.

Brenda Major, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, followed 440 women for two years in the 1990s from the day each had her abortion. One percent of them met the criteria for post-traumatic stress and attributed that stress to their abortions. The rate of clinical depression among post-abortive women was 20 percent, the same as the national rate for all women ages 15 to 35, Major says. Another researcher, Nancy Adler, found that up to 10 percent of women have symptoms of depression or other psychological distress after an abortion — the same rates experienced by women after childbirth.

Emily Bazelon, New York Times Magazine 1.21.07, reg req'd

Sam Brownback in GOP race for presidency

Quoted 01.21.07:

Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, one of Congress's leading social conservatives, launched a White House run yesterday that poses the most serious threat yet to Mitt Romney's bid for the conservative primary vote.

Scott Helman, Boston Globe 1.21.07, reg req'd; see also The many conversions of Sam Brownback (Noam Scheiber, New Republic 12.18.06, reg req'd) and God's senator (Jeff Sharlet, Rolling Stone 1.25.06)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

'Socially responsible investing' is nice, but no substitute for government regulation

Quoted 01.16.07:

For most corporations, after all, there's no real penalty for being shunned by the socially responsible community. Virtually all SRI mutual funds — and most public pension funds — now screen out tobacco companies, but Philip Morris and RJR Nabisco have no trouble raising capital elsewhere. SRI may be increasingly popular, but the $2.29 trillion in assets screened by the community is just chump change in the $136 trillion global capital market — most of whose investors worry only about making a profit. For every health-conscious fund that wants to dump tobacco stock, there are dozens of investors willing to buy. . . .

In the end, government action is often the only thing that can dramatically alter corporate behavior. Concerned investors are less likely to stop Ameriquest from preying on low-income neighborhoods than well-designed legislation and tough law-enforcement. . . . Both SRI and shareholder activism can still do a world of good, by pushing for modest changes and raising awareness about corporate wrongdoing. But it has real limits.

Bradford Plumer, TNR Online 1.16.07

Barack Obama will run for president

Quoted 01.16.07:

Sen. Barack ObamaHe plans a formal campaign launch in his hometown of Chicago on February 10.

"Our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common sense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions," Obama said in a video message announcing his bid.

John Whitesides [Reuters], 1.16.07; Barack Obama 2008

Monday, January 15, 2007

Exotic animal training tips to use on your husband

Quoted 01.15.07:

After two years of exotic animal training, my marriage is far smoother, my husband much easier to love. I used to take his faults personally; his dirty clothes on the floor were an affront, a symbol of how he didn't care enough about me. But thinking of my husband as an exotic species gave me the distance I needed to consider our differences more objectively.

Amy Sutherland, New York Times 6.25.06, reg req'd

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Decline of music ministers in black churches

Quoted 01.13.07:

The emergence of rap music, which does not require a practitioner to sing or play any instrument, has reduced the number of African-American children skilled with keyboards and conversant with the gospel canon. Instrumental-music programs in public schools, which not only trained young people but also provided weekday employment to many church musicians, have been eviscerated by budget cuts and other classroom pursuits. . . .

Anthony Heilbut, author of the definitive book The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times, spoke of the oddly parallel evolution of hip-hop, with its materialistic worldview, and evangelical Christianity’s increasingly popular strain of "name it and claim it" theology, which views wealth as a reward for righteousness.

"The music, the rituals, the protocols, the decorum of the black church, all of this has changed," Mr. Heilbut said. "Modern church theology and hip-hop mesh uncomfortably well because both of them place a premium on Jesus and bling."

Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times 1.13.07, reg req'd

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hedges sees imminent violence from American 'fascists,' has no recent examples

Quoted 01.10.07:

'American Fascists' by Chris Hedges[Chris] Hedges' conclusion: "The crowds are wrapped in the seductive language of violence, which soon enough leads to acts of real violence."

To reach it, he relies on a body of thought devised long ago to explain the rise of totalitarianism in the middle of the previous century — ideas about how alienation, economic dislocation, the deformation of language and exploitative authoritarian leaders become both the necessary and the sufficient cause for imminent purgative violence. The problem is that he can't point to any actual existing violence among the people he's reporting on. This is an argument in the subjunctive mood. . . .

Hedges is worst when he makes the supposed imminence of mass violence the reason the rest of us should be fighting for the open society. We should be fighting for it anyway.

Rick Perlstein, New York Times Book Review 1.7.07, reg req'd; buy American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America by Chris Hedges from

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

How one young woman lives with Asperger's

Quoted 01.09.07:

[Nomi] Kaim is 23, fast-talking and slow-walking, smart and curious, serious and self-absorbed, bad at multi-tasking and good at pouring herself into whatever she does. She's uncomfortable socially and comfortable, when not depressed, with solitude. She craves structure and resists uncertainty. She longs for human connection but cringes at being touched and balks at the reciprocity of friendship. She earned A's at Bryn Mawr but left after a semester because campus life unhinged her. Only then was she diagnosed with Asperger's. Now she takes one course and worries that's too much.

"The problem with Asperger's," she says, "is you're stupid and smart at the same time."

Irene Sege, Boston Globe 1.8.07, reg req'd

Friday, January 5, 2007

Keith Ellison not first to forgo Bible for oath

Quoted 01.05.07:

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) took her oath in 2005 on a Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible . . .

Hawaii governor Linda Lingle used the Tanakh when she took her oath in 2002, and Madeleine Kunin placed her hand on Jewish prayer books when she was sworn in as the first female governor of Vermont in 1985.

As for U.S. presidents, in 1825 John Quincy Adams took the presidential oath using a law volume instead of a Bible, and in 1853 Franklin Pierce affirmed the oath rather than swearing it. Herbert Hoover, citing his Quaker beliefs, also affirmed his oath in 1929 but did use a Bible, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Theodore Roosevelt used no Bible in taking his first oath of office in 1901, but did use one in 1905.

House members are sworn in together on the House floor in a ceremony without any book, holy or otherwise. But in an unofficial ceremony, individual members reenact an oath-taking so that it can be photographed — a tradition dating from the beginning of the wide use of photography.

Omar Sacirbey [RNS], Christian Century 12.26.06

Thursday, January 4, 2007

30-year drift of Falls Church, Truro out of Episcopal Church

Quoted 01.04.07:

[F]or more than 30 years, Truro and The Falls Church have been part of a "charismatic revival" within mainline Protestantism, said the Rev. Robert W. Prichard, professor of Christianity in America at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. . . .

Prichard contends that charismatic worship is vital to understanding these congregations because it paved the way for them to join the broader evangelical movement, which emphasizes being "born again," having a personal relationship with Jesus and reading the Bible as the wholly true word of God.

Alan Cooperman and Jacqueline L. Salmon, Washington Post 1.4.07, reg req'd

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

In Mass., it's religion vs religion, not religion vs gays

Quoted 01.03.07:

"The [Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry] has changed the nature of the [gay-rights, marriage-equality] debate from religion versus gays to religion versus religion," [Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus,] said. "So we can now forcefully assert that denying us marriage rights is the equivalent of choosing one set of religious views over another. And no legislator ever wants to be caught favoring one religious tradition over another, debating over whose interpretation of God is the right one."

Chuck Colbert, In Newsweekly 12.28.06

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Why can't we see totalitarians for what they are?

Quoted 01.02.07:

[I]f Saddam's life and death prove anything, it is that in the 90-odd years since modern totalitarianism first emerged in Europe, neither the United States nor anyone else has ever learned to understand such regimes or even to recognize them for what they are. When Hitler first emerged, the outside world's first instinct was to appease him. When Stalin first emerged, Americans and Europeans admired his economic planning. When Saddam first emerged, our initial impulse was to ignore him — and then, since he seemed a useful counterweight to the Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran, to support him. . . .

Only after his invasion of Poland was Hitler truly reckoned to be a threat to the rest of Europe; only after his occupation of central Europe was Stalin's internal terror taken seriously. Twentieth-century history proved, again and again, that the ambitions of revolutionary totalitarian leaders are rarely confined to their own countries. Yet only after his invasion of Kuwait was Saddam, long a threat to his own people, perceived as anything worse than a local nuisance. Belatedly, we identified him as a totalitarian dictator, but by then it was too late for our discovery to have much of an impact, in Iraq or anywhere else.

Anne Applebaum, Slate 1.2.07; see also Return of the tyrants, Matthew Price, Boston Globe 5.23.04, reg req'd; The new age of tyranny, Mark Lilla, New York Review of Books 10.24.02, sub req'd

Mass. legislature should duck vote on gay marriage ban

Quoted 01.02.07:

Legislators face a difficult dilemma. Under the terms of Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution, they must vote on a citizen petition that would ban gay marriage. Just 50 of the 200 legislators — 25 percent — need to vote "yes" for the amendment to move on to the next session of the Legislature. If it gets 25 percent again, the amendment would go on the 2008 ballot, and would become part of the constitution if it received a simple majority.

The trouble is that though most legislators oppose the anti-marriage amendment, enough support it that the 25 percent hurdle can be easily met. That's why the Legislature voted to go into recess rather than hold a vote back in November. But using such parliamentary tactics became more difficult last week when the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the Legislature must hold an up-or-down vote on the merits of the amendment itself, even though the court acknowledged there is no way to enforce its ruling. . . .

Bay Windows editor Susan Ryan-Vollmar, writing for Media Nation, and the Outraged Liberal . . . have called for the Legislature to defeat the amendment by any means necessary — that is, to defy the Supreme Judicial Court and kill the marriage ban by staying home or by voting for another recess. I agree.

Dan Kennedy, Media Nation 1.2.07; Mass. gay marriage outcome uncertain, Frank Phillips, Boston Globe 1.2.07, reg req'd; Blogging the constitutional convention, Bay Windows 1.2.07