Philocrites : Scrapbook : January 2008 Archive

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Barack Obama offers America the best chance for a fresh start

Quoted 01.31.08:

There is no doubt that his promise outstrips his experience. That was also true of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson. Vision was their strength; rhetoric was their means to an end.

Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Wilson so successfully captured the spirit of their times — synthesizing the best, marginalizing the worst — that history remembers them as representative leaders: presidents who made a difference.

The Phoenix believes that Obama has the capacity to do so, too, in a way that Clinton — for all that is admirable about her — does not.

Endorsement editorial, Boston Phoenix 1.30.08; Obama '08, official site

Monday, January 28, 2008

Despite evangelical 'populism,' Huckabee no William Jennings Bryan

Quoted 01.28.08:

[William Jennings] Bryan helped initiate the progressive income tax; [Mike] Huckabee wants to abolish it in favor of a national sales tax that would fall most heavily on the working and middle class. Bryan tried to expand federal power to aid working people; Huckabee opposes universal health care "mandated by federal edict." Bryan was the first major-party nominee to receive the official backing of organized labor; most unions shun Huckabee, who governed a right-to-work state where Wal-Mart has its headquarters. Bryan hated war and resigned as secretary of state in 1915, when he thought President Woodrow Wilson was leading the U.S. into the hell of World War I; Huckabee strenuously supports the war in Iraq.

Michael Kazin, Washington Independent 1.28.08; buy A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan by Michael Kazin from

Obama isn't running from 'controversial' minister

Quoted 01.28.08:

[The Rev. Jeremiah] Wright is accused of being "controversial." Heaven forfend! Controversial, as we know, means uttering truths in a very impolitic way. In a famous, controversial sermon called "What's Goin' On?" Wright opined that "the entire war in Iraq and the larger 'war on terror' have been based on lies, half-truths, and distortions to serve the agenda of the United States imperialism." Let's see . . . there were the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction . . . now the Bush Administration wants to negotiate a "treaty" with Iraq for a permanent American military presence. If it acts like imperialism and quacks like imperialism, maybe it is imperialism.

Wright's other major sin is being "wrong" on Israel. He has compared the Israeli rule in Palestine to South Africa's apartheid regime, and called for divestment in companies doing business with Israel. But Wright's thinking has been very much in tune with the policies of the mainly white, New England-rooted, United Church of Christ, to say nothing of mainstream American Protestantism in general.

Alex Beam, Boston Globe 1.28.08; more on Trinity UCC: Christian Century profile, 5.29.07

New magazine aims to be a 'Slate for black readers'

Quoted 01.28.08:

The Washington Post Co. plans to launch a Web magazine today called The Root that aims to be a "Slate for black readers," according to one of its founders, Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. . . .

Gates will be The Root's editor in chief while former New York Times editor Lynette Clemetson will be the site's managing editor. Slate editor Jacob Weisberg helped with the site's startup and will remain involved but said Gates and Clemetson will drive the site.

Frank Ahrens, Washington Post 1.28.08; see also New York Times 1.28.08

Sunday, January 27, 2008

All the other Baptists get together

Quoted 01.27.08:

[T]his week, some of the country's largest Baptist groups — representing about 20 million believers — will meet to try to mend the old fractures and, some leaders say, present a more diverse and moderate image of their faith than the one offered by the conservative Southern Baptist Convention. . . .

"I would like to see a demonstration that Christians who have different backgrounds and different political and theological orientations and geographical locations can come together in the spirit of unity," [former President Jimmy] Carter said, "not just for Baptists, but for Christians all over the world."

Neela Banerjee, New York Times 1.27.08; see New Baptist Covenant Celebration

Monday, January 21, 2008

Religious bigotry against Islam imperils our politics

Quoted 01.21.08:

Religious intolerance marks one candidate debate after another — a sweeping denigration of Islam. And it is going to backfire. . . .

In contrast to the way militant zealotries of other religions have been perceived, there is a broad conviction, especially among many conservative American Christians, that the inner logic of Islam and fascism go together. Political candidates appeal to those Christians by defining the ambition of Islamofascists in language that makes prior threats from, say, Hitler or Stalin seem benign. The point is that there is a deep religious prejudice at work, and when politicians adopt its code, they make it worse. . . .

The United States cannot have a constructive foreign policy in religiously enflamed regions like the Middle East, northern Africa or South Asia if the American presence in such conflicts is itself religiously enflaming.

James Carroll [op-ed], Boston Globe 1.21.08

Sunday, January 20, 2008

When did kids stop playing outside?

Quoted 01.20.08:

[In 1972, Roger Hart] journeyed to a not-so-exotic locale — a village in Vermont — and spent two years tracking the movements of a species that, remarkably, had never been closely studied in its natural environment: the human child. (At the time, says Hart, "we knew more about the ecology of baboons than the ecology of children.") Running, playing, and digging in the dirt with packs of kids from 5 to 12 years old, he discovered that virtually all of them had outdoor places they considered their own, where they went to hide, reflect, or commune with nature.

When Hart returned to the same town two years ago, to repeat his research and learn how childhood has changed in 36 years, he discovered a universe transformed in a single generation.

Jenna Russell, Boston Globe 1.20.08; see also Richard Louv's nature-deficit disorder, New York Times 4.28.05

Messiaen's bird music combines science, art, awe

Quoted 01.20.08:

"For me," wrote [the composer Olivier] Messiaen, "it is here that music lives: music that is free, anonymous, improvised for pleasure, to greet the rising sun, to charm one's mate, to tell all the world that this branch and this meadow belong to you, to put an end to all disputes, bickering and rivalry, to work off the excessive energy born of love and joie de vivre, to articulate time and space and join with your neighbors in constructing rich and improvised counterpoint, to solace your fatigue and to say farewell to another portion of life as the evening falls."

Jeremy Eichler, Boston Globe 1.20.08; see also Messiaen Project

Monday, January 14, 2008

Evangelicals and the false god of the GOP

Quoted 01.14.08:

The fundamental task of a religious organization is to serve God, not win in secular politics. Once this distinction is lost, the identity of the religious organization is compromised beyond repair. This is bad not just for the integrity of that religious group, but also for society, which if it is to flourish needs a variety of social institutions performing a variety of functions — not every social institution morphing into a political organization.

Specifically for Christians, we (should) know that the mission of the church is to be Christ's faithful people, and to do its core work of preaching, teaching and serving our neighbors. If it is true (as we boldly believe) that the church is the central location for the work God is doing to redeem the world, then our focus should be on the church's work, not the state's.

David P. Gushee [op-ed], USA Today 1.14.08; via Faith in Public Life

McCain surges in poll; voters less interested in GOP issues

Quoted 01.14.08:

[A national survey] found voters to be in their darkest mood about the economy in 18 years, by some measures; 62 percent said they believed that the economy was getting worse, the highest percentage since the run-up to the recession in 1990. Seventy-five percent said they believed that the country had "seriously gotten off on the wrong track," also similar to levels in the early 1990s, when such discontent fueled the presidential candidacy of Bill Clinton.

Worries about the economy now dominate the voters' agenda, even more so than the war in Iraq, which framed the early part of this campaign. While change has emerged as an abstract rallying cry in the campaign debate, what the voters mean when they talk about change is clear — new approaches to the economy and the war, according to the poll. Issues that have loomed large in the Republican debate — notably immigration, taxes and moral values — pale by comparison.

Robin Toner and Marjorie Connelly, New York Times 1.14.08

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mormonism's secrecy complicates bid for mainstream power

Quoted 01.13.08:

Mormonism's political problem arises, in large part, from the disconcerting split between its public and private faces . . . Mormonism, it seems, is extreme in both respects: in its exaggerated normalcy and its exaggerated oddity. The marriage of these opposites leaves outsiders uncomfortable, wondering what Mormonism really is. . . .

Faced with the allegation that they do not believe in the same God as ordinary Protestants, or that their beliefs are not truly Christian, Mormons find themselves in an extraordinarily awkward position. They cannot defend themselves by expressly explaining their own theology, because, taken from the standpoint of orthodox Protestantism in America today, it is in fact heterodox.

What is more, what began as a strategy of secrecy to avoid persecution has become over the course of the 20th century a strategy of minimizing discussion of the content of theology in order to avoid being treated as religious pariahs. . . . To put it bluntly, the combination of secret mysteries and resistance in the face of oppression has made it increasingly difficult for Mormons to talk openly and successfully with outsiders about their religious beliefs.

Noah Feldman, New York Times Magazine 9.6.08; see also Mormon reaction at Times and Seasons (II, III) and Dave's Mormon Inquiry

Huckabee draws Evangelical troops, alienates generals

Quoted 01.13.08:

[I]nstead of uniting conservative Christians, [Mike Huckabee's] candidacy is threatening to drive a wedge into the movement, potentially dividing its best-known national leaders from part of their base and upending assumptions that have held the right wing together for the last 30 years.

His singular style — Christian traditionalism and the common-man populism of William Jennings Bryan, leavened by an affinity for bass guitar and late-night comedy shows — has energized many young and working-class evangelicals. Their support helped his shoestring campaign come from nowhere to win the Iowa Republican caucus and join the front-runners in Michigan, South Carolina and national polls.

And Mr. Huckabee has done it without the backing of, and even over the opposition of, the movement's most visible leaders, many of whom have either criticized him or endorsed other candidates.

David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times 1.13.08