Weekly Meanderings

Must read of the week about Thabiti Boone. (HT: LNMM) “He went to work for a law firm in Rochester and made enough for a real place, a real bedroom for Kim, a real life. Money kept law school on the back burner, but over the next couple decades, he made a good living, eventually moving back to a middle-class section of Brooklyn, getting Kim into the best schools he could. He never married and never had another child. His story began to leak out, the teen dad and star athlete who gave up everything to be a father first. He began making speeches, working with the New York Knicks and then the NBA. He became active in the community. He realized his story is bigger than what he did for himself and his daughter. It’s about a national crisis of broken homes, particularly in the black community. It’s about support and empowerment and showing young men there is another way. He now works on President Obama’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative. “This has to end,” Boone said. “Fathers have to stand up. Not just in doing big things. That’s the pressure society puts on them. They think they have to be Superman. It can be little things. Take your kid to the park. Cook them breakfast. Just spend time. Be there. “The rewards of being a father will repay you.”

Tim Stafford on the BioLogos event in NYC: “The most sobering moment for attendees of the Biologos “Theology of Celebration” conference in New York City, March 20–22, came when David Kinnaman of Barna Research presented findings on what U.S. Protestant pastors believe about creation. More than half profess a 6-day, 24-hour creation of life. Fewer than one in five, on the other hand, follow Biologos in affirming an evolutionary process as God’s method of creation.”

Joan Acocella on T.M. Luhrmann’s study of the Vineyard: “It is hard to blame her, though, for these confusions. Much of our culture is based on the teachings of people who had visions: Moses (God gave him the commandments personally), Muhammad (the Archangel Gabriel spoke to him in a cave), St. Francis, Joan of Arc. Whether or not we believe in visions, we often believe in the principles communicated via visions: do not kill, do not steal, love God’s creatures, kick invaders out of your country. Some historians have treated the visionaries as psychotic. That interpretation is less popular today, but, in my experience, the contemporary approach—that contact with the supernatural is merely the sort of thing that happened in the old days—is not very helpful, either. Modern writers also seem not to notice that many of these vatic souls belonged to sects that were far weirder (by our standards) than any modern evangelical congregation. Luhrmann is one of the few lay writers who attempt to account for visions via modern scientific theories. If, in the end, she tries to resolve the question of her attitude toward evangelism by saying that she, too, came to know God, because she began to weep and pray at Vineyard gatherings—an experience that seems to me no different from crying at a sad movie (it wouldn’t butter any parsnips with the Pope or, I would guess, many evangelical pastors)—it is wrong to make trouble over this. She has addressed a subject that most other people would never touch. We should thank her.”

Amy Julia Becker: “Many Americans, including many Christians, do not consider urban schools like Chimborazo good enough for their children. Despite federal programs such as George Bush’s No Child Left Behind and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top, American students still struggle to achieve basic academic goals. The nonpartisan Broad Foundation for Education reports that 68 percent of American 8th graders can’t read at their grade level, and most will never catch up. Nationally, 70 percent of students graduate from high school, and only 50 percent of African American and Latino students graduate on time. But in recent years, a growing number of Christians across the country have felt called to take up the educational challenge in their own communities. In many of those communities, including Richmond, Virginia, the tide seems to be turning.”

Good study by Martin Cothran of C.S. Lewis’ storied-conversion.

Meanderings in the News

Unfortunately, Jordan Weissmann seems to think the system is the problem on this one, compares our system to Europe’s and then suggests Europe’s is better: “The phrase “dropout factory” is ordinarily applied to America’s failing high schools — the ones where students are expected to fall through the cracks, where those who make it past graduation and on to college are considered the exceptions, the lucky survivors. But by that definition, another level of U.S. education counts as a “dropout factory”: our entire higher education system.”

Exurbs issue: “WASHINGTON (AP) – Living in an outlying Chicago suburb, Jeff Wehrli recalls a heady time not too long ago when city dwellers poured in and developers couldn’t build McMansions fast enough. Now boom has turned to bust, as in many of the nation’s “exurbs,” and Wehrli can’t help but wonder when, or if, things will turn around. All across the U.S., residential exurbs that sprouted on the edge of metropolitan areas are seeing their growth fizzle, according to new 2011 census estimates released Thursday. Gas prices are discouraging long commutes. Young singles prefer city apartments. Two years after the recession technically ended, and despite some signs of economic recovery, there’s a reversal of urbanites’ decades-long exodus to roomy homes in distant towns. Indeed, Americans are shunning any moves at all – the lowest rate in records going back to the 1940s. The annual rate of growth in American cities and surrounding urban areas has now surpassed that of exurbs for the first time in at least 20 years, spanning the most recent era of sprawling suburban development.”

SCOTUS, the health care debate, and evangelicals: “The U.S. Supreme Court listened to an unprecedented three days of oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) after receiving scores of amicus curiae or “friend of the court” briefs from outside groups. While most religious organizations and churches sat this case out, faith-based conservative political groups weighed in with arguments ranging from religious liberty to the legal definition of a “tax.” [Including…]”Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) teamed up with pro-life groups such as Americans United for Life to argue that the act violates the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. The ADF coalition argued that the individual mandate would inhibit religious freedom by “effectively forcing” individuals to pay for an abortion premium because they may be enrolled by their employers in plans that cover abortion. The ADF argued that others may be “forced to choose between insufficient plans that respect their conscience versus other plans that happen to require an abortion premium, but that may otherwise better meet their health needs or their choice of doctor network.” Liberty Counsel, which represented Liberty University in one of the early lawsuits against the act, also argued that the act violates religious freedom, taking aim at the definition of “minimum coverage.” The law outlines a set of essential services that health care plans must include, and the details of these services are determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Liberty said that faith-based groups may be forced to choose between their religious beliefs and complying with the law, which may include the requirement to cover services like contraception that blocks uterine implantation or other services that violate the employer’s faith.”

Matthew O’Brien, Wedding rings and their origins in the Breach of Promise to Marry: ” Once upon a time, diamond rings weren’t just gifts. They were, frankly, virginity insurance. A now-obsolete law called the “Breach of Promise to Marry” once allowed women to sue men for breaking off an engagement. Back then, there was a high premium on women being virgins when they married — or at least when they got engaged. Surveys from the 1940s show that roughly half of engaged couples reported being intimate before the big day. If the groom-to-be walked out after he and the bride-to-be had sex, that left her in a precarious position. From a social angle, she had been permanently “damaged.” From an economic angle, she had lost her market value. So Breach of Promise to Marry was born. But in the 1930s, states began striking down the “Breach of Promise to Marry” law. By 1945, 16 states representing nearly half of the nation’s population had made Breach of Promise a historical relic. At the same time, the diamond engagement ring began its transformation from decorative to de rigueur. Legal scholar Margaret Brinig doesn’t think that’s a coincidence, and she has the math to prove it. Regressing the percent of people living in states without Breach of Promise against a handful of other variables — including advertising, per capita income and the price of diamonds — Brinig found that this legal change was actually the most significant factor in the rise of the diamond engagement ring. It’s historically plausible. The initial mini-surge in diamond imports came in 1935, four years before DeBeers launched its celebrated advertising campaign. What’s going on here?” Yep this is where it goes next:

“Let’s think like an economist. An engaged couple aren’t all that different from a borrower and a lender. The woman is lending her hand in marriage to the man, who promises to tie the knot at a later date. In the days of Breach of Promise, the woman would do this on an unsecured basis — that is, the man didn’t have to pledge any collateral — because the law provided her something akin to bankruptcy protection. Put simply, if the man didn’t fulfill his obligation to marry, the woman had legal recourse. This calculus changed once the law changed. Suddenly, women wanted an upfront financial assurance from their men. Basically, collateral. That way, if the couple never made it down the aisle, she’d at least be left with something. And that something was almost always small and shiny. The diamond ring was insurance.”

The Blaze got this one wrong: Russ Moore was there.

Gloria Borger: “This Supreme Court case is the Waterloo for political polarization, because it underscores something we should have known all along: Great changes in national public policy should never be erected on slender partisan majorities….That kind of work is not something we see a lot of these days: health care reform, arguably the most far-reaching social legislation since Medicare, was passed strictly along party lines. Sure, the White House says — with some justification — that Republicans weren’t interested in their plan. But would the GOP have bitten on a more scaled-back version? Would some in the GOP have broken ranks over, say, requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions so long as it wouldn’t bankrupt them? Sure. But that wasn’t to be. The Democrats had a two-house majority, so the stars were aligned. And with recalcitrant Republicans vocal in their opposition, the Democrats, too, became more strident.”

Hiring on college campuses: “Hiring is back in a big way on many college campuses, one of several signs a recovery in the U.S. jobs market is gaining traction. After four years during which many students graduated to find no job and had only their loans to show for their studies, most college campuses are teeming with companies eager to hire. A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found 2012 hiring is expected to climb 10.2 percent, above a previous estimate of 9.5 percent.”

Frank Pavone on Catholic and Politics: “But the fact is that the platform of the church’s teaching and mission cannot be and must not be that of any political party. It is, rather, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of whether the church endorses a political party or movement. It is, rather, whether the party or movement endorses the church’s message and mission. A candidate or party that embraces some aspect of the church’s message or mission will benefit – at least in the eyes of Catholics who are committed to their faith – when the church, as she must, advances that aspect of her message or mission. The way to evaluate whether, for her part, the church is being faithful to the balance and independence she is called to have, is rather simple, and it’s a litmus test I use as I preach the anti-abortion message and help other priests do the same, including during election years. I ask this simple question: If today, opposing candidates or parties swapped their positions on abortion, would any aspect of our message change? Indeed, our message will not change if it is rooted in fidelity to the Gospel. Whether that message helps or hurts a candidate, party, or political movement won’t be the church’s fault; it will be theirs.”

Virtual biographers: “WASHINGTON — Law enforcement tracking of cellphones, once the province mainly of federal agents, has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight, documents show. The practice has become big business for cellphone companies, too, with a handful of carriers marketing a catalog of “surveillance fees” to police departments to determine a suspect’s location, trace phone calls and texts or provide other services. Some departments log dozens of traces a month for both emergencies and routine investigations. With cellphones ubiquitous, the police call phone tracing a valuable weapon in emergencies like child abductions and suicide calls and investigations in drug cases and murders. One police training manual describes cellphones as “the virtual biographer of our daily activities,” providing a hunting ground for learning contacts and travels.”

Razib Khan on Jonathan Haidt: “One prediction here is that in your personal life you might observe that while liberals mischaracterize conservatives, conservatives caricature liberals. Caricatures might be misleading, but they consist more of exaggerating salient tendencies beyond normality, rather than constructing new features. Another aspect of this result which bears rumination is that liberals in particular are ill-served by living in a cultural “bubble,” because they lack an intuitive grasp on the moral cognition of non-liberals. This might explain the constant liberal gripe that people “vote against their interests,” as liberals define “interests” in a manner which does not conform to the full range of values which other groups hold (or, liberals view those values as fundamentally irrelevant or illegitimate).”

Meanderings in Sports

Go North Park! “The North Park baseball team has reached a No. 20 national ranking in the latest D3Baseball.com Top 25 national poll released Monday afternoon.”

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  • As one of Luhrmann’s Vineyard interviewees in Chicago, I found Acocella’s review in The New Yorker to be very frustrating. Luhrmann’s book, however, is fascinating. It’s not often one has the chance to read an ethnographic study of one’s own subculture.

  • RJS

    The headline for Tim Stafford’s article is rather annoying – well to me anyway. I doubt he chose it though. The term “Evolutionists” has far too negative a connection for too many Christians.

    Given Tim Stafford’s article though,I should acknowledge that it was the powerful comments that Tim Keller made concerning narratives (“We have arguments, but they have a narrative”) that drove me to write the post a week ago Thursday What Do We Have To Offer? asking about narratives. Keller hit on an incredibly important point here.

  • Scott Gay

    Jonathan Haidt’s research on moral issues needs deeper investigation by evangelicals. Affirming an array of morals gives rise to common ground. In setting up a dichotomy between nature and grace, most probably because of being sceptical of natural law for Christicentric reasons, we forfeit the possibility of dialogue.
    On the Wikipedia article on Haidt, under Criticism:
    The Rev Todd F. Ecklof criticizes Haidt for being biased against liberals.
    Professor Massimo Pigliucci criticizes Haidt for being biased against conservatives.
    Take Haidt’s test and see where you fall on his spectrum.

  • Michael Teston

    Nothing brings me greater joy than to have my son and his wife and his little boy come over early in the morning and cook them pancakes and eggs for breakfast. His relationship with his wife began in some pretty rocky ways. Now after 3 plus years, eggs, pancakes and a host of other opportunities to just be there they are doing quite well. Life is about the little things.

  • DRT

    Glad you posted Razib Khan on Jonathan Haidt. Haidt’s research has helped me tremendously since I am one of those people who really do not have an intuitive understanding of the position that conservatives take. I pretty much always view them as irrational.

    But Haidt’s model has allowed me to at least analyze, and sometimes predict, the behavior of conservatives.

    The idea that conservatives caricature liberals has also contributed to my confusion and it is a wonderful nugget I took from the article. Prior to knowing the Haidt model of morality I often thought that I was conservative, but unlike my irrational friends, I was rational about it. The caricature of liberals being wishy washy or willing to accept anything and having low morals or standards made me think I am more like a conservative since I view myself has having quite high moral standards and well based opinions.

    But as it turns out, that caricature of liberals is just that, a caricature. So I have been grudgingly accepting the liberal label because it indeed fits my moral view of the world, but the caricature certainly does not.

    I have been hanging out with conservatives trying to study them and their behaviors so that I can relate to them better and shed the irrational label I have applied. It is hard work.

  • DRT

    Scott Gay, I get quite a kick out of the thought that Haidt may be seen as anti-liberal. I have seen him present and have read quite a bit from him and his team, and the approach he seems to take is to build awareness of his model and the implications.

    What he does do is try an educate liberals (like me) to not simply write off conservatives as irrational. So he indeed does defend conservatives.

    And he does state that he too does not identify with conservatives since he tests liberal.

    But he does exhibit something I value tremendously. He values the opinions of others and the unique things that others bring to the table. I frequently find that people like to hang out with folks just like themselves, and Haidt is trying to break that down and have folks appreciate the other. Sounds very Christian to me, though he is an atheist (that liberal!)

  • Jason Lee

    On health care and evangelicals: Aren’t we already forcing tax payers to pay for things against their faith? Anabaptists have to pay for wars or break the law. Where’s all the uproar over that? Why have Catholics become so silent on that one?

  • Darcyjo

    DRT, maybe you ought not say out in public that you’re hanging out with people so you can “study them and their behaviors.” It sounds…well…arrogant. I’m sure you’re a nice guy, but it sounds like a sociologist doing a study of a native population, and trust me, would not go over well if people realized you were “studying” them. If you were hanging out with them to get to know them as people, and maybe even learn to like some of them, that would be different.

    Just a thought, anyway.

  • CGC

    Hi Scot,
    I know you were at the biologos conference with some great people representing what some would call theistic evolution. I will say I wonder how many pastors really embrace a full Christian-science view like Ken Ham? There may be a large number of pastors who believe God made the world in a literal week but also believe the world is very old and not young. On the other hand, Ken Ham has sucessfully been targeting churches for years with giving them resources (even free) if they will show their stuff to the church. Maybe it’s time for others to target churches with an alternative narrative?

    Now in regards to fewer than one in five embrace evolution. I suspect there are some great differences like non-charismatics and anti-charismatics in tone and uncertainty. There are pastors who may be unconvinced of yet but also not sure of it and may even concede that evolution may be the best scientific explantion in the end versus its alternatives. Then you have those pastors that believe evolution is simply false to a lie or worse, part of a conspiracy from Hell.

    In a world where there are so many resources and over-information, I suspect its difficult for pastors to keep up on issues of theology much less science. I’m sure many pastors would say they still hold out on evolution just like they hold out on a young earth. They believe the archaelogical and fossil record points a different way. On the other hand, I am sure the science sholars would say, you need to see the latest research on these issues because there are some good explanatory arguments that show why this is the way it is.

  • DRT


    Good point. Not sure if it makes any difference, but my sociological experiment is on the internet, not in real life. I am hanging with them on the internet. And hanging here is part of that study 🙂 , a small part.

  • Scot McKnight

    Christie, I begin a series next week on Luhrmann’s book. Stay tuned.

  • AHH

    Agree with RJS @2 about the bad headline choice. But “Evangelicals open to evolution as God’s means of creation” is too long for a headline, I suppose.

    Also agree with RJS and Tim Keller about the importance of narratives. I see at least three aspects of the typical Evangelical narrative that contribute to our current problems:
    1) Our faith is founded on God’s perfect book.
    This unfortunately is a big part of the narrative in Keller’s own denomination.
    2) Centering the story around Genesis, with Jesus just being God’s way of fixing what Adam broke, so defending doctrines about Genesis becomes primary.
    3) The “us versus them” narrative where secular humanists, atheist scientists, liberals, etc. are out to undermine the faith by undermining #1 and #2.

    So we need to be telling a narrative of God reconciling the world through Jesus, a story that is centered around Jesus rather than on human doctrines about the Bible. Maybe we could call the narrative something like “The King Jesus Gospel” …

  • Scot – I’m so glad to hear it. I’ll be looking forward to the series.

  • AHH

    Also interesting that John Ortberg was at the Biologos meeting.
    Ortberg is a big figure in the move toward a new, moderately conservative Presbyterian denomination in the process of forming (and being considered by my church). The current draft of its “Essential Tenets” document is not very open to evolution as God’s means of creation (at least not of humans), so Ortberg’s presence at this meeting (and willingness to let his name be used) is encouraging to me.

  • Dana Ames

    Looking forward to the Luhrmann series, Scot.

    It’s disappointing that she didn’t find charitable activity in the Vineyards she studied. That would be an anomaly, and a sad deviation from Wimber’s ideals. He kept a bag of groceries in his car’s trunk, to give to people he met who needed food. All aspects of care for the poor were emphasized and valued when I was in the Vineyard.


  • Thanks for the article on Thabiti Boone, Scot.

    Also, have you considered blogging on Haidt’s book? I’ve been reading & considering it in relation to our faith, and his work/study gives interesting perspectives on how we naturally & defensively group, and avoid /rationalize any reality, science, statistical, economic, financial, etc. which doesn’t support our views. That effect seems, imho, to be clearly evident in your post on the Biologos data about beliefs of Protestant pastors.

  • scotmcknight

    Ann F-R — here’s my offer to you to do a post or a series on the book!

  • DRT

    Do it Ann!

    (adding lengthening text..)

  • Dana,
    As a ten-year member of the Chicago Vineyard Luhrmann attended I can promise you that charitable/service/justice activities were given very high priority, even during the time Luhrmann spent with our congregation. It’s my guess that those activities weren’t discussed in the book because they fell outside the boundaries of her thesis.

  • 😀 Ok… I’m working on a reconciliation workshop for mid-April & incorporating some of what I’ve learned from Haidt. Would end of April be soon enough?

  • DRT

    I have to comment a bit more about my statement that I am hanging with conserves to figure them out, and Darcyjo noted that it is arrogant.

    First, I am only doing it on the net, and the objective is for me to understand people who are different than me.

    Second, I think that is a good thing, not a bad thing.

    And last, it seems to me to be the opposite of arrogance. I wish to learn from them.

    ..and last again, I would do that it real life too, but would be upfront in the relationship that I was doing it to learn from them. I have had more than a couple people in my life befriend me simply because I fascinated them since my worldview and lifestyle was so different than theirs. I take that as a compliment.

  • DRT

    Thanks Ann. I am very interested in interacting with Haidt’s book and the folks here. I hope that some will be able to read it.

  • DRT

    If you all want to see why I have such a hard time relating to the conservative mindset, and will not judge me for it, then check out my results.


  • Art Balis

    I’m looking forward to your series on the book, Scot.

    I’m a little puzzled though that the writer didn’t find, or more likely didn’t include more on charity.

    I’m in Columbus Ohio and other than the California Vineyard Wimber started, many consider it to be the ‘big’ Vineyard. I’m not bragging, it’s just a term that I’ve heard others use. My church partners with them on some things in the community and the idea that they aren’t charitable is well… untrue. I think it was last year, or maybe 2010, they gave 1 million USD to the poor. It made the Columbus Dispatch. I remember Rich Nathan talking about the phone interviews after it hit the paper.

  • Scott Gay

    I go to Huffington Post everyday for one reason- It is for an understanding of a liberal perspective, because I test conservative on Haidt’s moral model.
    As for being arrogant, I would like it if everyone would read G K Chesterton’s take on that as a Christian perspective on page 95 of “Orthodoxy”. It will show that DRT’s approach is actually the modest Christian one.

  • DRT

    speaking of meanderings,…do you all still watch the 10 commandments? Just came on here….I have not watched in a few years.

  • Rick


    I have not watched it in several years, but am actually watching some of it tonight (I am bouncing back between it and the college hockey championship). However, the movie is just so long that I know I won’t watch it until the end.

  • DRT

    It was the first movie I saw without my parents. I was in grade school and they dropped me off at a theater to watch by myself (imagine that happening today). I was amazed when there was an intermission.

  • Scot McKnight

    Ann, that’s fine.

  • Scot McKnight

    Scott Gay, who in the world can read only one page of anything by good ol’ GK Chesterton?

  • Rick

    I had the same reaction when it took place during The Sound of Music.

  • Stephen W

    I’m also at a Vineyard (in the UK) and was surprised at the idea that Vineyard isn’t interested in charitable work. In my church alone we’ve got about half-a-dozen ministries (both locally and internationally) that are entirely charitably focused. In fact, I didn’t recognise a lot of what was in that article (not sure about the book) as relating to Vineyard.

  • Amos Paul

    Having been active around Vineyard circles for 5 years now, my response to most of that review (and book?) was… what?

    Charitability: Never seen a Vineyard not talk about practically helping out the community.

    God’s Majesty: Um, Kingdom theology? Almost all they talk about?

    Visions and Tongues: Never gone to a Vineyard that didn’t do and teach those things, though privately. Granted, Vineyards don’t teach that having visions or speaking in tongues is normative for Christians, but they do teach that interacting with God is normative and those are *some* normal things to do.

    The whole thing was weird. And I don’t know whose talking about Jesus date nights other than the sub-sub culture of Vineyard girls in their late teens? Maybe?