I looked through my Google Reader and observed that over half had not updated their blog this week; well, it’s summertime and it’s time to vacation, but the Jesus Creed blog’s Weekly Meanderings (this is the #271 edition!) relentlessly keeps on, thanks to all you bloggers. Enjoy these links today, and I hope when you are the ballpark you get to do this (–>).
Our prayers today are with Norway and Norwegians.
Guy Chmieleski‘s observations on the decline of youth participation in small groups. Dan Reid has a post for mountain climbers. Mark Roberts — a must-read post, setting up a series, on discerning the Spirit’s guidance.
Hey, Tony, one summer I coached 85 games! Loved it. Many of us know the experience of coaching kids teams, but there’s nothing like those summer baseball games.
My friend, Allan Bevere, has a great quotation from CS Lewis and he also notices his new book just out. Another friend :mic asks a good one: Does being missional mean being “post pastor”? Speaking of missional, Skye is at it again wondering if we’ve overdone “missional.” Part one, part two. The final destiny of the people of God is to be indwellt by God — for God to be with us and we with God, as Rev 21-22 clearly reveals. Shouldn’t being the dwelling place of God be the ultimate mission?
JR Briggs, if I don’t say “friend” someone will ask, so yes, he’s a friend, on his biggest church planting regret. Speaking of books recently published, I see that Michael Kruse has posted about Brad Wright’s newest book, and I’m hoping the Kruse Kronicle will share it’s review with our site.
I don’t want to give those Brits too many kudos but this post on Americanisms, which I found through the every-trusty Geeding (that’s what HT means), is fun, and I’m in agreement with that first one: Why do people, in ordering, ask “Can I get…” [My response, "I don't know if you can, which speaks of your ability, but you sure may." And I'd like to add, "Friend, you've got the money, I'm at your service."] Which ones are your pet peeves? #10, awful. #16 reveals that person needs an English (or American) lesson. #24 ought just to stop, now. And if your day has some slack, read the comments, which were at 1295 when I read the post.
Meanderings in the News
1. On grade inflation: “A new Economix blog post by Catherine Rampell of the New York Times discusses a recent study on grade inflation at U.S. colleges since the 1940s. Apparently, college professors have been handing out A’s and B’s willy-nilly in recent decades, with a substantial increase in overly generous grading in the past decade. By the end of last decade, A’s and B’s accounted for 73% of all grades at public institutions, and 86% of all grades awarded at private institutions, a huge increase over past decades.”
2. On Monasterboice, Ireland, and those who look after the places: “But the majestic Round Tower at Monasterboice, rising well above 100ft – Ireland’s unique architectural contribution to medieval Europe – proclaims this place to have once been of great importance. These – and so many other Irish medieval ruins – are known not only to specialist scholars, but to discerning tourists from across the world, as once having been key centres in the nurturing and development of that phenomenon we call European civilisation. To Irish people like me, and others of Irish descent around the globe, these places mean more. They are the ancient work of our forefathers’ hands – a priceless inheritance that lend dignity and substance to our treasured Irish descent.”
3. Mark Twain’s advice to little girls, by Vladimir Radunsky: “It is difficult for us to imagine what a strange impression Advice to Little Girls, a children’s story by Mark Twain, must have had on its audience when it was written in 1865 and eventually published as part of The 30,000 Dollar Bequest and Other Stories. American children’s literature in those days was mostly didactic, addressed to some imaginary reader—an ideal girl or boy, upon reading the story, would immediately adopt its heroes as role models. He did not squat down to be heard and understood by children, but asked them to stand on their tiptoes—to absorb the kind of language and humor suitable for adults.”
4. Sarah Pulliam Bailey, on Harry Potter and Christians, and I’m a bit late on this one: “After praising the “Harry Potter” books in 2001, author Connie Neal said that she opened her inbox to see death threats scattered among the reactions from fellow Christians. The one time the California-based writer found her book, “What’s a Christian Got to Do with Harry Potter?,” at a Christian bookstore, it was on the occult/New Age shelf. In its early years, “Harry Potter” was a litmus test of orthodoxy for some conservative Christians, who expressed concern over its portrayal of witchcraft. A Christian lawyer sued a public library for encouraging young readers to check out the series. Texas Pastor John Hagee called the books a “precursor to witchcraft.” In 2005 a Canadian website published a letter opposing the books written by Pope Benedict XVI when he was Cardinal Ratzinger. (In 2009, the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano published a favorable review, seeming to reverse course on the series.) The hysteria has largely died down, and not many religious leaders asked their flocks to avoid the final movie, which opens today. Potter observers cite a few possible reasons for the waning concern, including a natural desire to move on to other entertainment issues, but also an interest in the themes that unfolded.”
5. This guy can stand in line with the many who’ve said the same thing, and it’s been going on for two centuries: “The reasons that churches lose ground in developed countries can be summarized in market terms. First, with better science, and with government safety nets, and smaller families, there is less fear and uncertainty in people’s daily lives and hence less of a market for religion. At the same time many alternative products are being offered, such as psychotropic medicines and electronic entertainment that have fewer strings attached and that do not require slavish conformity to unscientific beliefs.”
6. Sean Carroll on free will and cosmic variance. “We talk about the world using different levels of description, appropriate to the question of interest. Some levels might be thought of as “fundamental” and others as “emergent,” but they are all there. Does baseball exist? It’s nowhere to be found in the Standard Model of particle physics. But any definition of “exist” that can’t find room for baseball seems overly narrow to me. It’s true that we could take any particular example of a baseball game and choose to describe it by listing the exact quantum state of each elementary particle contained in the players and the bat and ball and the field etc. But why in the world would anyone think that is a good idea? The concept of baseball is emergent rather than fundamental, but it’s no less real for all of that. Likewise for free will. We can be perfectly orthodox materialists and yet believe in free will, if what we mean by that is that there is a level of description that is useful in certain contexts and that includes “autonomous agents with free will” as crucial ingredients. That’s the “variety of free will worth having,” a Daniel Dennett would put it. I’m not saying anything original — this is a well-known position, probably the majority view among contemporary philosophers. It’s a school of thought called compatibilism: see Wikipedia, or (better) theStanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Free will as an emergent phenomenon can be perfectly compatible with an underlying materialist view of the world.”
7. The Shomrim of NYC: “Hasidic areas like Borough Park, where a Shomrim-organized search party looked for little Leiby Kletzky, are worlds unto themselves. Their members are identifiable by their distinctive appearance — wigs and modest dresses for the women, beards and side curls for the men. Community members send their children to Jewish schools, speak Yiddish as a first language and shun modern distractions like television. Yet another distinction is the patrols, which residents turn to first because “they know the community, they speak the language, they have the trust of the entire community,” said Isaac Abraham, a leader of the ultra-Orthodox in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section.”
8. George (No X.) Will: “The Republicans’ 2012 presidential nominee will run against Alibi Ike. Lardner, a Chicago sportswriter, created that character (“His right name was Frank X. Farrell, and I guess the X stood for ‘Excuse me.’ ”), who resembles Chicagoan Barack Obama. After blaming his predecessor for this and that, and after firing all the arrows in liberalism’s quiver — the stimulus, cash for clunkers, etc. — Obama seems poised to blame the recovery’s anemia on Republican resistance to simultaneously raising the debt ceiling and taxes.”
9. And then comes Ross Douthat: “For months, Republican leaders used all the tools at their disposal — the anti-spending intensity of their base, the White House’s desire for a deal, the specter of dire consequences if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised — to leverage their way into a favorable position. Despite controlling just one house of Congress, they spent the spring and summer setting the agenda for the country: not whether to cut spending, but how deeply and how fast. But last week, the Republican offensive suddenly collapsed in disarray. In the space of a few days, a party that once looked capable of pressing the White House into a deal that would have left liberals fuming found itself falling back on two less-palatable options instead: either a procedural gimmick that would try to pin the responsibility for raising the ceiling on President Obama, or a stand on principle that would risk plunging the American economy back into recession. What went wrong? It turns out that Republicans didn’t have a plan for transitioning from the early phase of a high-stakes political negotiation, when the goal is to draw stark lines and force the other side to move your way, to the late phase, in which the public relations battle becomes crucial and the goal is to make the other side seem unreasonable, intransigent and even a little bit insane.”
And then this: “Their inability to make even symbolic concessions has turned a winning hand into a losing one. A majority of Americans want to close the deficit primarily with spending cuts — which is to say, they’re primed to side with conservatives in the debt-ceiling debate. But in trying to turn that “primarily” into a “completely,” the right has squandered this advantage. By 48 percent to 34 percent, a Quinnipiac poll found last week, Americans will blame Republicans if debt-ceiling gridlock precipitates an economic crisis.”
10. Juan Cole: “I like bookstores. I savor being in a place with book-lined walls. I love the covers, the titles, the blurbs. Some bookstores have jazz playing in the background. Some have coffeeshops. I like reading some pages of a magazine I don’t usually read, and deciding whether to buy it or even to subscribe. I like author signings and readings. I am therefore distressed at the closing of Borders Books.. There are ironies in this story, since Borders (based in my home, Ann Arbor), pioneered the concept of the book superstore, putting many independent bookstores out of business. It in turn was driven into bankruptcy in part by the rise of the digital book, and its inability to adapt to the new technology in the way that Amazon and Barnes and Noble have.”
Meanderings in Sports
Joe Posnanski meanders into thoughts on the women’s world cup final.