Russ Douthout’s piece on Joe Paterno: “Bad and mediocre people are tempted to sin by their own habitual weaknesses. The earlier lies or thefts or adulteries make the next one that much easier to contemplate. Having already cut so many corners, the thinking goes, what’s one more here or there? Why even aspire to virtues that you probably won’t achieve, when it’s easier to remain the sinner that you already know yourself to be? But good people, heroic people, are led into temptation by their very goodness — by the illusion, common to those who have done important deeds, that they have higher responsibilities than the ordinary run of humankind. It’s precisely in the service to these supposed higher responsibilities that they often let more basic ones slip away.”
Tim Schmoyer on how to include teens in church ministries: “I love it that more and more churches are valuing students enough to be intentional about integrating them into the larger church body, realizing that a youth ministry in isolation can have some very detrimental effects. Here’s a few ideas I have for integrating teenagers into the church body and some thoughts on each.”
Meanderings in the News
Tony Blair’s Proposal: “The basic point is this: on every side, in every quarter, wherever we look and analyse, religion is a powerful, motivating, determining force shaping the world around us. For some, this is final proof of the iniquity of religious faith. The answer, they say, is to abandon it. But for millions of people, faith is not measured in prejudice, intolerance or violence; but in love, compassion, a desire for and a striving for a more just and humane world. It is this belief in a higher purpose that makes them assert the civilising force of faith in the modern world. But for this to happen, religious, secular and political people need to start talking with each other to build peaceful coexistence. We need religion-friendly democracy and democracy-friendly religion. I offer here a third way. Those of us inspired by our faith must have the right to speak out on issues that concern us and in the name of our beliefs. At the same time our voice cannot predominate over the basic democratic system that functions equally for all, irrespective of those of faith or of none. In turn, this should lead to a vital debate about the nature of democracy, a debate all the more critical as we witness the Arab revolutions. I find it hard to define democracy by reference to one faith. The essence of democracy is that it is pluralistic. It is inherently secular, even if rooted in cultures that are profoundly religious. This is where democracy-friendly religion really means something very important in the way society is governed.”
A nation of renters? “In this way, we are the quintessential young professionals of the new economy – restless knowledge workers who deal in “projects,” not “careers,” who can no sooner commit to a mortgage than we can a lifetime of desk work. Our attitude is a national epidemic. It’s harder to get a mortgage today than it was 10 years ago. But a lot of people also just don’t want one any more. At the height of the housing boom, 69 percent of American households owned their homes. Housing researcher Arthur Nelson predicted to me that number would fall to 62 percent by 2020, meaning every residence built between now and then will need to be a rental.”
And the Roman Catholics are set to begin “evangelizing” their own, though I’m not sure why it has to be seen in marketing terms: “The Roman Catholic church in England and Wales has launched its first outreach campaign to get people back into the pews, with its lapsed membership thought to number as many as five million. It started at the weekend in York with Crossing the Threshold, a national tour of talks and workshops to help clergy and parishioners re-evangelise friends and family. Around a million people regularly attend mass on Sundays, but church leaders say there are many more who are baptised but do not go to church. Kieran Conry, bishop of Arundel and Brighton, said no-shows were more likely to do with laziness and children’s extra-curricular commitments than controversies surrounding the pope or clerical sexual abuse scandals. Conry said: “We have something we’re trying to market and we’re just reminding people there’s something that can bring you happiness, satisfaction and friendship.”
Ancient texts and crowdsourcing — and it works!
On Steve Jobs, a tell-tale summary statement by none other than Malcolm Gladwell: “Perhaps this is why Bill Gates—of all Jobs’s contemporaries—gave him fits. Gates resisted the romance of perfectionism. Time and again, Isaacson repeatedly asks Jobs about Gates and Jobs cannot resist the gratuitous dig. “Bill is basically unimaginative,” Jobs tells Isaacson, “and has never invented anything, which I think is why he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.” After close to six hundred pages, the reader will recognize this as vintage Jobs: equal parts insightful, vicious, and delusional. It’s true that Gates is now more interested in trying to eradicate malaria than in overseeing the next iteration of Word. But this is not evidence of a lack of imagination. Philanthropy on the scale that Gates practices it represents imagination at its grandest. In contrast, Jobs’s vision, brilliant and perfect as it was, was narrow. He was a tweaker to the last, endlessly refining the same territory he had claimed as a young man.”
Are the Israelis claiming they did this? It looks like it.
The ultra-orthodox in Israel and the State: “Rather than being a diorama of traditional Jewish life in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust, as many Israelis and visitors believe, Israel’s present-day version of ultra-Orthodoxy is a creation of the Jewish state. Policies with unexpected effects fostered this new form of Judaism, at once cloistered and militant. So did successful measures by haredi leaders to revive a community that was shrunken by modernity and then devastated by the Holocaust.”… “In economic terms, the haredi revival in Israel has been disastrous. Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community is ever more dependent on the state and, through it, on other people’s labor. Exploiting political patronage, ultra-Orthodox clerics have largely taken over the state’s religious bureaucracy, imposing extreme interpretations of Jewish law on other Jews. By exempting the ultra-Orthodox from basic general educational requirements, the democratic state fosters a burgeoning sector of society that neither understands nor values democracy. And to protect their own growing settlements, haredi parties are now essential partners in the pro-settlement coalitions of the right.
Young males are suffering the most in our economy: “The unemployment rate for males between 25 and 34 years old with high-school diplomas is 14.4%—up from 6.1% before the downturn four years ago and far above today’s 9% national rate. The picture is even more bleak for slightly younger men: 22.4% for high-school graduates 20 to 24 years old. That’s up from 10.4% four years ago…. The share of men age 25-34 living with their parents jumped to 18.6% this year, up from 14.2% four year ago and the highest level since at least 1960, according to the Census Bureau.”
Julian Baggini: “Terry Eagleton’s quip that reading Richard Dawkins on theology is like listening to someone “holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is The British Book of Birds” is a funny and memorable contribution to a debate that is rarely amusing and frequently forgettable. Whether you agree with the charge or not, the complaint is of a kind we have become very familiar with: disputants in the religion debate are talking past each other because they do not have a sufficiently rich understanding of the positions they stand against. I’m very much in sympathy with this view, and this series is largely an attempt to try to find more constructive points of engagement that can only emerge if we ditch lazy and tired preconceptions about those with whom we disagree. At the same time, however, I’m all too aware that “you just don’t understand” is a card that is often played far too swiftly and without justification.”
Meanderings in Sports
What it’s like to take Yogi Berra to Moneyball: “It’s not clear if the kids running down the aisle recognize the sturdy older gentleman waiting for the 4 p.m. movie. But he looks like someone they ought to know. He’s dressed sharply—navy blazer, khaki pants, a bright red sweater. His wife of 62 years, Carmen, buys a small bag of popcorn and follows him into the theater.”