Philocrites : Scrapbook : July 2007 Archive

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

N.E. Methodists, but not their bishop, urge divestment from Israel

Quoted 07.31.07:

Ratcheting up the simmering debate over how Protestant denominations should express their concern about Israel, the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church is advising congregations and individuals to divest their holdings from a wide variety of American corporations that the United Methodists believe support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. . . .

"I'm not opposing the work of the task force," [said Bishop Peter Weaver of the New England Conference,] "but I believe we ought to be continuing in conversation with the Israeli leadership, as well as the Palestinian leadership, and trying to be evenhanded in our call for justice."

Michael Paulson, Boston Globe 7.31.07

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Our bonobos, ourselves

Quoted 07.25.07:

In recent years, the bonobo has found a strange niche in the popular imagination, based largely on its reputation for peacefulness and promiscuity. The Washington Post recently described the species as copulating "incessantly"; the Times claimed that the bonobo "stands out from the chest-thumping masses as an example of amicability, sensitivity and, well, humaneness" . . . In newspaper columns and on the Internet, bonobos are routinely described as creatures that shun violence and live in egalitarian or female-dominated communities; more rarely, they are said to avoid meat. These behaviors are thought to be somehow linked to their unquenchable sexual appetites, often expressed in the missionary position. . . .

This pop image of the bonobo — equal parts dolphin, Dalai Lama, and Warren Beatty — has flourished largely in the absence of the animal itself . . .

Ian Parker, New Yorker 7.30.07

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

52 percent of U.S. nonmarital births to cohabiting parents

Quoted 07.24.07:

Counterbalancing the benefits of living with both parents is the fact that cohabiting parents . . . tend to be less educated and less economically secure than their married peers. Their relationships tend to be less stable. Two years after their babies were born, 94 percent of married parents were still together, according to Child Trends, compared with 69 percent of cohabiting couples who were either still living together or had married.

"Married parents do tend to be better off in terms of education and earning power and earning stability. It's not necessarily because the parents are married," says University of Pennsylvania sociologist Kristen Harknett. "Parents who have these advantages may be more likely to get married in the first place."

Irene Sege, Boston Globe 7.24.07

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Evangelical responses to U.S. torture

Quoted 07.21.07:

[Analysis by John C. Green of polling in 2004–2006 on torture and terrorism showed that a] slight majority of the public held that torture of "suspected terrorists in order to gain important information" could "never" or "rarely" be justified . . .

The survey found that in every religious group, those who said they worshiped weekly appeared more restrictive toward torture than less observant believers, although the difference was modest. Dr. Green considered this finding "a bit counterintuitive" because weekly worshipers "tend to be more Republican, conservative and supportive of the Bush administration than their co-religionists" — traits otherwise associated with more permissive attitudes toward torture.

Not surprisingly, the poll data showed that white evangelicals were somewhat more permissive toward torture than other religious groups. But in Dr. Green's fine-grained effort to sort out religious identity and weekly worship from other factors like party identification, political ideology and views on the Iraq war, white evangelicals also appeared the most likely to have their views modified on religious grounds alone.

Peter Steinfels, New York Times 7.21.07, reg req'd

Vacation bhakti school

Quoted 07.21.07:

Like American Jews before them, Hindu parents, most of whom are recent immigrants to the United States, are turning to well-established institutions like summer camp and weekend school, and to decidedly more contemporary Internet sites, to teach their American-born children ancient religious traditions and help maintain their Indian identity.

"I would venture to say that it is children's programming and education that has become a primary, if not the primary, focus of Hindu-American leaders and institutions," Shana Sippy, a candidate for a doctoral degree in religion from Columbia University, wrote in a recent paper. "In California alone, over 10,000 children attend some sort of Hindu or Indian instruction on the weekend."

Neela Banerjee, New York Times 7.21.07, reg req'd

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why economists can't think like voters

Quoted 07.18.07:

Most people do not think politically, and they do not think like economists, either. People exaggerate the risk of loss; they like the status quo and tend to regard it as a norm; they overreact to sensational but unrepresentative information (the shark-attack phenomenon); they will pay extravagantly to punish cheaters, even when there is no benefit to themselves; and they often rank fairness and reciprocity ahead of self-interest. Most people, even if you explained to them what the economically rational choice was, would be reluctant to make it, because they value other things — in particular, they want to protect themselves from the downside of change. They would rather feel good about themselves than maximize (even legitimately) their profit, and they would rather not have more of something than run the risk, even if the risk is small by actuarial standards, of having significantly less.

Louis Menand, New Yorker 7.9.07

Religious left is its own enemy in the media

Quoted 07.18.07:

Access: This is a problem of the entire Left, from radical to Democratic liberal. Progressives are media-literate enough to know that the story that a reporter will tell about them won't be the story they themselves would tell. So, all too often, they attempt to control the narrative by parceling out access on some kind of bizarre need-to-know basis. I'm about as far left a journalist as you'll find writing for national media, but I have much easier time getting access to right-wingers than I do progressives.

Rightwingers who know I'm not their friend return calls, invite me into meetings. Progressives who know I'm friendly hem and haw and delay and protect themselves so well they never get into the fight. They don't get narrative — the idea that a reporter needs to see the life of an organization, not hear talking points. While progressives strategize about "frames," the right blasts itself into the mainstream as if from a shotgun. The right's media secret isn't framing; it's ubiquity.

Jeff Sharlet, Faith in Public Life 7.18.07

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Does gay marriage undermine marriage or shore it up?

Quoted 07.17.07:

Mr. Blankenhorn readily admits that the "deinstitutionalization" of marriage that he fears — the redefinition of what he considers the nation's "most pro-child institution" as a private adult relationship stripped of public meaning — has been under way for a long time. Deeply rooted in American individualism and the quest for self-fulfillment, that redefinition "has been growing for decades, propagated overwhelmingly by heterosexuals." Same-sex marriage only further erodes marriage as a pro-child institution, he believes. . . .

Is this conflict really as inescapable as Mr. Blankenhorn believes? Jonathan Rauch, for one, doubts it, as the title of his book, Gay Marriage: Why It is Good for Gays, Good for Straights and Good for America, suggests. In his book . . ., Mr. Rauch argues that legalizing same-sex marriage will actually "shore up marriage's unique but eroding status."

"How I wish he were right!" Mr. Blankenhorn replies. He contrasts Mr. Rauch's views with those of numerous social scientists and legal theorists who have long been critics of marriage and now suddenly support same-sex marriage precisely because they believe it will destabilize and "deconstruct" what they consider an oppressive institution.

Peter Steinfels, New York Times 6.23.07, sub req'd; see also Jonathan Rauch's review of Blankenhorn's book and William Doherty's pro-marriage article for UU World

Monday, July 16, 2007

Episcopal monks offer troops a place to heal

Quoted 07.16.07:

The brothers [of the Society of St John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Mass.,] reserved the first weekend in October at the monastery to offer a healing retreat for people returning from places of war. "Retreat isn't a very good military word. It's a negative word in the military," says Capt. Cox. "But the kind of retreat the brothers offer is what many people need right now. It’s a great tool for helping to make the transition home. I know because the monastery is where I went when I got home."

Mass Media Distribution Newswire 7.16.07

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Warner Bros. clamps down on Harry Potter parties

Quoted 07.14.07:

In the past few weeks, Warner's London legal office has sent e-mails to booksellers and party organizers around the country, warning them against unauthorized celebrating, under the threat of legal action. "[Your event] appears to fall outside our guidelines," said one e-mail. "Therefore, HARRY POTTER cannot be used as a theme for your event." . . .

"It strikes everybody as heavy-handed," said Steve Fischer, executive director of the New England Independent Booksellers Association. "It seems to me they're missing the good-faith piece of what bookstores are trying to do, which is to sell a lot of copies of a children's book."

David Mehegan, Boston Globe 7.14.07

Ariz. public library abandons Dewey Decimal System

Quoted 07.14.07:

It was Harry Courtright, director of the 15-branch Maricopa County Library District, who came up with the idea of a Dewey-less library. The plan took root two years ago after annual surveys of the district's constituency found that most people came to browse, without a specific title in mind.

"The younger generation today is wired differently than people in my generation," said Mr. Courtright, 69. "What that tells me is we as librarians have to look at how we present materials that we have for them the way they want it."

So at the 24,000-square-foot Perry Branch, there is not a hint of a card catalog.

Sarah N. Lynch and Eugene Mulero, New York Times 7.14.07

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pope's return to Latin Mass turns away from collegial liturgy

Quoted 07.10.07:

Why do I say farewell to Vatican II? One of the roots of that council was the liturgical movement that preceded it by half a century. The liturgical reformers were convinced that the liturgy was of, by, and for the whole people of God, clergy, and lay alike. The very word liturgia in Greek means "the work of the people." This notion embodies at its fullest the principle of collegiality, the key theological idea that shaped Vatican II. The Tridentine Mass is the work of the priest. By turning back the liturgical clock not to the creative multiplicity of the early Christian communities but to the heyday of the Inquisition and papal monarchism at Trent, Pope Benedict XVI is abandoning the principle of collegiality that embraces all bishops, all priests, all deacons, and all lay people as the worshiping community of the beloved faithful. That says to Vatican II, "Farewell!"

Frank K. Flinn [op-ed], Boston Globe 7.10.07

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Sen. Clinton's faith both sincere and calculated

Quoted 07.07.07:

Her Methodist faith, Mrs. Clinton says, has guided her as she sought to repair her marriage, forgiven some critics who once vilified her and struggled in the bare-knuckles world of politics to fulfill the biblical commandment to love thy neighbor.

Mrs. Clinton, the New York senator who is seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, has been alluding to her spiritual life with increasing regularity in recent years, language that has dovetailed with efforts by her party to reach out to churchgoers who have been voting overwhelmingly Republican.

Michael Luo, New York Times 7.7.07, reg req'd

Iowa religious conservatives torn about GOP candidates

Quoted 07.07.07:

Unlike in the 2000 presidential campaign, when George W. Bush was able to overcome early doubts among religious conservatives by speaking the language of personal faith, the three most prominent Republican candidates, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney, are continuing to have difficulty winning over this crucial constituency in the Republican base.

The calculus at this point for social conservative voters, who represent more than 60 percent of Republican caucus goers here in Iowa, is replete with tradeoffs over who best adheres to their values and who is ultimately electable next year. Interviews with more than 40 evangelicals recently across Iowa at campaign events, churches and over the telephone found that many feared Mr. Giuliani might win the nomination even though he supported abortion rights. But they are wrestling with whether Mr. Romney’s recent conversion to opposing abortion is genuine, and they wonder how much to trust Mr. McCain, who has harshly criticized the religious right in the past.

Michael Luo, New York Times 7.8.07, reg req'd