Philocrites : Scrapbook : November 2007 Archive

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Religious conflict surged during Enlightenment, even as elites promoted toleration

Quoted 11.27.07:

Contrary to the once-popular notion that religious toleration rose steadily from the Middle Ages through the Protestant Reformation and on to the Enlightenment, [Benjamin J.] Kaplan maintains that religious toleration declined from around 1550 to 1750.

This was the age of frightful religious wars, as rulers yoked religion to dynastic ambitions. . . .

Yet a fuller understanding of European history suggests that "even in communities that did not know our modern values, people of different faiths could live together peacefully."

"Even in profoundly religious communities where antagonisms were sharp," he writes, "religion was not a primitive, untameable force."

Peter Steinfels, New York Times 11.24.07; buy Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe by Benjamin Kaplan and How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West by Perez Zagorin (

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Catholic protests aside, 'His Dark Materials' is profoundly theological

Quoted 11.25.07:

These books are deeply theological, and deeply Christian in their theology. The universe of "His Dark Materials" is permeated by a God in love with creation, who watches out for the meekest of all beings — the poor, the marginalized, and the lost. It is a God who yearns to be loved through our respect for the body, the earth, and through our lives in the here and now. This is a rejection of the more classical notion of a detached, transcendent God, but I am a Catholic theologian, and reading this fantasy trilogy enhanced my sense of the divine, of virtue, of the soul, of my faith in God.

The book's concept of God, in fact, is what makes Pullman's work so threatening. His trilogy is not filled with attacks on Christianity, but with attacks on authorities who claim access to one true interpretation of a religion. Pullman's work is filled with the feminist and liberation strands of Catholic theology that have sustained my own faith, and which threaten the power structure of the church. Pullman's work is not anti-Christian, but anti-orthodox.

Donna Freitas, Boston Globe 11.25.07

Monday, November 19, 2007

Young people reading less, at great social cost

Quoted 11.19.07:

[A] new report released today by the National Endowment for the Arts . . . paints a dire picture of plummeting levels of reading among young people over the past two decades.

Possibly the most striking finding is that, regardless of income, levels of reading for pleasure correlate closely with levels of social life, voting, and political activism, participation in culture and fine arts, volunteerism, charity work, and even regular exercise.

"The poorest Americans who read did twice as much volunteering and charity work as the richest who did not read," [NEA chairman Dana] Gioia said. "The habit of regular reading awakens something inside a person that makes him or her take their own life more seriously and at the same time develops the sense that other people's lives are real."

David Mehegan, Boston Globe 11.19.07

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mass. Democrats yawn at Cardinal O'Malley's criticism

Quoted 11.18.07:

Last week, after Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley said the support of church members for Democrats "borders on scandal" because of the party's support for keeping abortion legal, most of the state's leading Catholic Democrats responded with silence. . . .

Some Catholic Democrats, however, argued that O'Malley's statements contradicted other aspects of the document. . . .

[Patrick] Whelan said O'Malley's statements conflicted with the document's assertion that the church "is not partisan" and "cannot champion any candidate or party." He also said that the faithful citizenship document requires voters to do good as well as to oppose evil, and to actively support programs that encourage childbirth.

O'Malley, Whelan said, seemed to endorse the Republican position on abortion — criminalization — as the best way to end the practice, while ignoring the Democratic approach, which he said is to do everything possible to decrease abortions by helping the poor, supporting access to healthcare, and increasing assistance to programs that support pregnant women and their families.

Lisa Wangsness, Boston Globe 11.18.07

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bishops' guidelines oppose single-issue voting, challenge both parties

Quoted 11.16.07:

"Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act," the bishops wrote in Faithful Citizenship [pdf]. "These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed." . . . .

"A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter's intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. . . . At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate's opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity," they wrote.

"There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate's unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil."

Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11.15.07

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cardinal O'Malley urges Democrats to make room for anti-abortion candidates

Quoted 11.15.07:

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, saying the Democratic Party has been persistently hostile to opponents of abortion rights, asserted yesterday that the support of many Catholics for Democratic candidates "borders on scandal." . . .

"I think the Democratic Party, which has been in many parts of the country traditionally the party which Catholics have supported, has been extremely insensitive to the church's position, on the gospel of life in particular, and on other moral issues," O'Malley said. . . .

O'Malley urged the Democratic Party to be more open to abortion opponents. "My plea with Democratic leaders is always that they make space for prolife politicians, and I have many prolife Democrats come to me and say that they're not making space for them. I think that that is a very serious problem, particularly in a state like Massachusetts, where it is so heavily Democrat."

Michael Paulson, Boston Globe 11.15.07

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

So long, email! The youngsters have moved on

Quoted 11.14.07:

Those of us older than 25 can't imagine a life without e-mail. For the Facebook generation, it's hard to imagine a life of only e-mail, much less a life before it. I can still remember the proud moment in 1996 when I sent my first e-mail from the college computer lab. It felt like sending a postcard from the future. I was getting a glimpse of how the Internet would change everything — nothing could be faster and easier than e-mail.

Ten years later, e-mail is looking obsolete. According to a 2005 Pew study, almost half of Web-using teenagers prefer to chat with friends via instant messaging rather than e-mail. Last year, comScore reported that teen e-mail use was down 8 percent, compared with a 6 percent increase in e-mailing for users of all ages. As mobile phones and sites like Twitter and Facebook have become more popular, those old Yahoo! and Hotmail accounts increasingly lie dormant.

Chad Lorenz, Slate 11.14.07

Sunday, November 11, 2007

DVD of 'Jazz Singer' reopens debate about blackface

Quoted 11.11.07:

Getting loudly outraged over blackface may allow us the luxury of feeling superior to our ancestors, but it's the easy way out. More difficult and more necessary is actually looking at a practice with roots deep in American history, one that had different meanings to the white mainstream, to immigrants, and to the African-Americans who turned it to their own expressive purposes. Only by understanding blackface can we recognize where we haven't progressed; only then can we see the places where blackface still thrives in our culture, disguised and still potent.

Ty Burr, Boston Globe 11.11.07

Friday, November 9, 2007

Dude Jesus, I just want to get into your groove

Quoted 11.09.07:

High Desert Church holds three different large services over the weekend for three different age groups, with music tailored to each audience: Seven (so named for the numberís positive associations in the Bible), the 18-to-30-year-old set that made up Mr. Dayís audience; Harbor, the 30-to-55 group; and Classic, for people 55 and over. The church also maintains even more bands for services at the junior high, high school and elementary school levels. Each band carefully calibrates its sound toward the pop culture disposition of the target age group. . . .

"I started out in Harbor, but I moved to Seven because I liked the music more," said Tony Cherco, 32, a recent arrival to the church who would not have been out of place in the East Village: he wore a long beard and large rings in his earlobes. "Between Pastor Tom and the music of Seven, I was like, yes!"

Ben Ratliff, New York Times 11.7.07

Thursday, November 8, 2007

YouTube: Home to ferocious quarrels about 'best' religion

Quoted 11.08.07:

[E]ven the most lively discussions on GodTube are drowned out by the ceaseless shouting match kicked off by "The Truth About Islam" on YouTube. Part atavistic race riot, part religious disputation and part earnest effort at enlightenment, the expansive commentary is fast becoming a full-blown novel of world religion, one that dramatizes the fascinating and often shocking preoccupations of todayís desk-chair ideologues. . . .

From their cultural allusions, it appears that many of them grew up on science fiction and courtroom dramas, as well as the Bible or the Koran. Several boast of owning, enslaving and burying their opponents with wit. They also call each other "fools," "zygotes," "sophists," "tumors," "ghouls" and "voles."

Virginia Heffernan, New York Times Magazine 11.4.07

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Tyrannos Bush

Quoted 11.04.07:

[Robert] Draper's thesis is that the immature Bush was transformed by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. "All the man's undersized, self-conscious ways — the smirk, the reedy defensiveness, the exaggerated imperiousness of his executive stroll — had collapsed into this new persona. . . . He was a war president now, and perfectly at ease with the role."

But there is a great failing in Draper's account of Bush as a war president. He says next to nothing about what I think will be seen, along with the Iraq war, as the most important legacy of Bush's presidency: his effort to enlarge the unilateral power of the president. Invoking the "war on terror" as a reason, Bush has worked relentlessly to unbalance the balance of powers — the separation of the government into three branches — that James Madison, the father of the Constitution, thought was its fundamental safeguard against abuse of power. . . .

And Draper does not discuss the most profound example of Bush's extreme assertion of executive power: torture.

Anthony Lewis, New York Times Book Review 11.4.07; buy Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush by Robert Draper (

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Jewish renewal movement takes lessons from Rick Warren

Quoted 11.03.07:

Synagogue 3000, the group led by [Ron] Wolfson, an education professor, and Rabbi [Lawrence] Hoffman, a scholar of liturgy, went to [Rick Warren's Saddleback] church to figure out what evangelical Christians were doing right that Jews were doing wrong or not at all. . . .

Since 1995, Synagogue 3000 and its precursor, Synagogue 2000, have taken member congregations and seminary classes to Saddleback and had Mr. Warren conduct a workshop in congregation-building for nearly 20 Jewish leaders. . . .

"The biggest challenge we have in transforming synagogue life," Mr. Wolfson said recently, recalling the workshop, "is transforming the basic relationship of most Jews to most synagogues." He added: "It's a fee-for-service model. I'm going to write you a check, and you're going to give me what I need — a rabbi on call, High Holy Days seats, a Hebrew school for my kids. It's not deep."

Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times 11.3.07