The worst political predictions of 2016 

15678684406_61ed9b1ec0_z (1)The Cranach Institute is not the only news source that holds itself accountable by checking its annual predictions.  Politico Magazine does the same with the whole pundit community, publishing a story on “The Worst Political Predictions of 2016.”

The point is not just the wrong predictions; of course, hardly anyone predicted that Donald Trump would beat Hillary Clinton.  But what is so amusing about these particular statements, whatever your political preference, is the contrast between the tone of snarky self-confidence, often with mockery of the other side, and the deflating reality.

After the jump, read the predictions about Clinton’s victory, then follow the link to the other 8 topics that the experts were wrong about. [Read more…]

Top religion stories of 2016

Wikipedia_Wordle_-_ReligionThe Religion News Association announced its top 10 religion stories of 2016.  Number one:  Donald Trump’s election.

Why was that a religion story?  An important factor in Trump’s win was his support from evangelical voters, even though his lifestyle, moral history, and religious beliefs would not seem to be in accord with those of most Christian conservatives.

What this means, though, is less clear.  Does this mean Christian voters have sold out, or have they become pragmatic in choosing a candidate whom they expect to advance their pro-life and religious liberty agenda instead of insisting on total agreement?  Have evangelicals regained their political clout, or have they lost it, since candidates know they will vote for the Republican no matter what?

After the jump, a list of the top 10 stories, plus links to two other religion top 10 lists.  (They all agree on #1.)

What do you think should be on the list?

Top news stories of 2016

12-monats-kalender-2016-querThe Associated Press polled editors and news directors to come up with the top stories of 2016.  Number one was no surprise:  The U.S. Election.

In fact, you could probably spin out ten top stories from the U.S. Election:  Donald Trump’s election, the primaries, Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, the Russian connection, Bernie Saunder’s campaign, Republican party implosion, Democratic party implosion, Clinton’s campaign mistakes, Trump’s scandals, political hacking.

Number two is like unto Trump’s victory:  another unexpected populist uprising known as Brexit, Great Britain’s vote to pull out of the European Union.

Consider the list of the top 10 after the jump.  What other events of last year deserve to have been included? [Read more…]

A medieval Christmas for the children

IDas_festliche_Jah_Christkindel_und_Hans_Trapp_im_Elsaßn a review of what sounds like an excellent book on Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Nathaniel Peters quotes a 17th century theologian on what Christmas was like under Medieval and 17th century Catholicism.

He describes the processions, featuring actors dressed up like the Christ Child, St. Peter, other saints, angels, and “damned spirits,” including the terrifying Knecht Ruprecht (who became a companion of St. Nicholas).  The goal was to scare children out of their wits.  The Christ Child would berate the kids for their sins and threaten to punish them.  Then St. Peter and the saints intercede for them.  Then Jesus gives them presents.

Notice how Jesus is all about the Law, not the Gospel.  The saints are the intercessors.  But at least the children get gifts eventually.  (St. Nicholas is described as being in the company of saints who scare the children.  He has become rather more a figure of grace today, giving gifts without conditions.)

You’ve got to read Johann Gabriel Drechssler’s 1674 account after the jump. [Read more…]

Electoral College Day, then and now

640px-Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_StatesThe Electoral College meets today, with the designated electors meeting in state capitols to cast their vote for president.  In most states, electors are required, by law or by oath, to vote according to the election results of their state.  Nevertheless, this year electors are receiving thousands of e-mails, letters, and phone calls, insisting on the autonomy of the electoral college and begging them not to put Trump in office.  Even Democratic electors are being pressured not to vote for Clinton but a more conventional Republican, in the hopes of attracting enough Republican electors to switch from Trump.

In the first presidential election, each state voted, either popularly or by state legislature, for upstanding citizens and trusted local leaders who gathered together to deliberate on who would make the best president.  They voted, and the winner would become president.  That first Electoral College chose, unanimously, George Washington.  There hasn’t been a better president since.

But soon political parties came into existence, nominating their candidates. The electors came to represent a particular party.  They began to all be selected by a popular vote.  And soon we had the system we do today.  (See this for the history of the Electoral College.)

Would you favor going back to the original Constitutional method of picking a president? [Read more…]

Top 10 Google searches of 2016

cyborg-438398_640The internet contains unfathomable amounts of information.  Search engines allow us to find anything we want to know, giving us access to knowledge on an unprecedented scale, thus advancing the capabilities of the human mind.

When we can fully connect our minds to the internet, we can attain the next level of human evolution.

So see what the year’s top searches on Google were. [Read more…]