Weekly Meanderings

Chicago, by Kyle Flubacker.

I like Kyle’s picture so much I’m bringing it out again this week.

There is a blog called “SBCVoices” (Southern Baptist Voices) that got wound up last week on the meaning of the gospel, but I have to say after Comment 1 the conversation was more or less over (for me) but not for all. Here’s the opening from the post itself: “Odd that the bedrock of the Christian faith has become a subject of controversy among Baptists.  ”The Gospel.” Last night, one of our commenters told another, essentially, “You don’t understand the gospel.”  That’s a pretty severe accusation.  But I have often heard a more subtle accusation, that many Christians do not understand all the implications of the gospel. * You also hear things like, “We need to preach the gospel to ourselves every day. * I want to live a gospel-centered life. * We need to focus on the gospel in every area of life. So, I thought I would open up a forum here for a simple discussion.”

Editors at CT have some important wisdom for pastors: “The sickening net effect of fraud puts a dark cloud over pastors and other leaders in local churches. Very few pastors will ever become certified financial planners. The issue is honesty and integrity, not investment advice per se. If a faithful church member cannot trust his or her own pastor, whom can they trust? This is why when it comes to investment advice (not advice about the family budget or paying off your credit card debt) a pastor should stay two steps away from any investment plan under discussion. At the practical level, that means no endorsement or involvement of church or personal funds. Remove all appearances of conflict of interest so that public trust can thrive. Pastors can also help church members use unbiased third parties to evaluate investments. We should be skeptical of returns exceeding 8 to 12 percent annually and avoid secretive or highly exclusive investments.”

Good for Jonathan Merritt. Good for Derek, who reflects messianically on how gospel and salvation, and the grand story, all fit together.

Last interview with C.S. Lewis … worth your read.

Satire has a place, just not very often or too harsh, and this set of cartoons has some funny stuff. (HT: MT)

Both of these groups need to read Christian Smith.

The Pope and some American nuns — from NPR. “The Vatican has reprimanded the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, saying the group has “serious doctrinal problems.” The Vatican assigned an archbishop to reform the conference. The group has taken controversial stances on issues including health care and gender matters. Melissa Block speaks with Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobbying group which works closely with the LCWR.”

Meanderings in the News

From Ars Technica: “This week the University of Oxford and the Vatican announced a plan to collaborate in digitizing 1.5 million pages of rare and ancient texts, most dating from the 16th century or earlier. The project is expected to span about 4 years and was made possible by a donation of £2 million (approximately $3.1 million) from the Polonsky Foundation—a charitable organization that supports higher education, medical research, and other general matters in the arts and sciences.Specifically, the texts will include pages from Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (BAV). The digitized pages will include early printed books—called incunabula—from Rome and the surrounding area; Greek manuscripts including early church texts and works by Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Hippocrates; and Hebrew manuscripts from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. “With approximately two-thirds of the material coming from the BAV and the remainder from the Bodleian, the digitization effort will also benefit scholars by uniting virtually materials that have been dispersed between the two collections over the centuries,” a statement from Oxford read.”

Well it’s not the Book of Kells, but it is St Cuthbert’s Gospel: (Reuters) – A seventh century gospel discovered in a saint’s coffin more than 900 years ago, and the oldest European book to survive fully intact, has been acquired by the British Library for nine million pounds ($14 million), the library said on Tuesday.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey: “Americans appear divided on whether contraception must be provided by religious employers. Among those familiar with the debate, 48 percent support an exemption for religious institutions that object to the use of contraceptives, while 44 percent say they should be required to cover contraceptives just like other employers, according to a February poll from the Pew Center. A 2010 survey from the NAE and Gallup showed that about 90 percent of evangelicals believe hormonal and barrier methods of contraception to be morally acceptable. However, the Pew poll found that evangelicals are more likely than Catholics to believe that religious groups should be exempted; 68 percent of evangelicals favor an exemption, compared to 55 percent of Catholics.”

George Washington, Britain’s most feared opponent: “The American was voted the winner in a contest run by the National Army Museum to identify the country’s most outstanding military opponent. He was one of a shortlist of five leaders who topped a public poll and on Saturday was selected as the ultimate winner by an audience of around 70 guests at a special event at the museum, in Chelsea, west London. In second place was Michael Collins, the Irish leader, ahead of Napoleon Bonaparte, Erwin Rommel and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. At the event, each contender had their case made by a historian giving a 40 minute presentation. The audience, who had paid to attend the day, then voted in a secret ballot after all five presentations had been made.  Guided the American rebels to victory over the British in the War of Independence. Often outmanoeuvred by British generals with larger armies, his leadership enabled him to hold together an army of secessionists from 13 different states and keep it in the field – and ultimately prevail – during the protracted struggle. [Now we get a bogus adverb “highly,” a good old split infinitive, and a wonderful understatement.] Stephen Brumwell, author and specialist on eighteenth century North America, said: “Washington scores highly as an enemy of Britain on three key grounds: the immense scale of damage he inflicts upon Britain’s Army and Empire – the most jarring defeat that either endured; his ability to not only provide inspirational battlefield leadership but to work with civilians who were crucial to sustain the war-effort; and the kind of man he was. As British officers conceded, he was a worthy opponent.”

The shrinking number and attraction of malls: “As for big regional shopping malls, almost no new malls are being built any more anywhere in the country. In fact there are scores of malls that are dead and abandoned. Many others are on life-support and are close to being boarded up or redeveloped into more productive use. Here in Puget Sound, the last regional mall built was Silverdale, almost 20 years ago — even though the central Puget Sound population has grown by more than 2 million people in that same time!  (I am not counting outlet malls as they do not fill the same role as regional malls anchored by major department stores.) As the originator of the big enclosed mall concept 60 years ago, Gruen was taken with the vision of the future shown to the public in the New York World’s Fair in April 1939. The captivating vision, presented in a ride called “Futurama” in the General Motors pavilion, promoted elevated, high-speed expressways crisscrossing both cities and countryside. Streamlined office towers. Heliports. Vast tracts of land scattered with houses and factories. And huge retail complexes. The excited narrator extols, with an almost a Soviet-style revolutionary tone, “See great sectors of residential, commerce, and industry — each separated from the other!”

Fracking and earthquakes: “Scientists from the United States Geological Survey havecautiously weighed in on a subject that has sparked public concern in some parts of the country: spates of small earthquakes in oil- and gas-producing areas. In a report to be presented next week at a meeting of seismologists in San Diego, the scientists say that increases in the number of quakes in Arkansas and Oklahoma in the last few years are “almost certainly” related to oil and gas production. But in a summary of the report, they say they do not know if seismic activity is increasing because companies are taking more oil and gas from underground or because of “changes in extraction methodologies.” One “extraction methodology” that has become increasingly popular, especially for natural gas production, is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which water and chemicals are injected into wells under pressure to create fissures in the rock and unlock the gas. A report by a state seismologist in Oklahoma suggested that two minor quakes in January, about 50 miles south of Oklahoma City, may have been directly caused by a fracking operation.”

Douthat on Google Man: “A MAN wakes up in a New York apartment, brews coffee and goes out into the world, and everything that can appear on a smartphone or iPad appears before his eyes instead: weather reports, calendar reminders, messages from friends, walking maps of New York, his girlfriend’s smiling face. This is the promise of Google’s Project Glass, which released the video I’ve just described earlier this month, as a preview of a still-percolating project that aspires to implant the equivalent of an iPhone into a pair of science-fiction spectacles.” … “He is, in other words, a characteristic 21st-century American, more electronically networked but more personally isolated than ever before. As the N.Y.U. sociologist Eric Klinenberg notes in “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone,” there are now more Americans living by themselves than there are Americans in intact nuclear-family households. Children are much more likely to grow up with only a single parent in the home; adults marry less and divorce relatively frequently; seniors are more likely to face old age alone. And friendship, too, seems to be attenuating: a 2006Duke University study found that Americans reported having, on average, three people with whom they discussed important issues in 1985, but just two by the mid-2000s.”

Meanderings in Sports

Irritating at a number of levelsl, but very much worth a good read.

Tom Crean’s operating with the guiding rules of the NCAA, but …: “Eron Gordon is still in the eighth grade, but he has picked up his first college basketball scholarship offer. Gordon, the youngest brother of former North Central High School and Indiana University star Eric Gordon, was offered the scholarship by Indiana coach Tom Crean on Sunday night. Gordon, who is 6-1, played in the IndyBall.com Shootout over the weekend, playing up an age group with the 15-and-under Eric Gordon Central Stars.”

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  • Pat Pope

    On the mall story, I live in Cleveland, which got a shout-out in the article. There was a mall in a local suburb that went into decline many years ago (late 80s, early 90s) and now it’s mostly abandoned with just a couple of tenants. It’s an eyesore more than anything with the parking lot so raggedy, you drive your car through it at your own risk. Another suburban mall is hanging in there but many of its spaces are filled with no-name retailers and kiosks. Another mostly empty suburban mall now has as one of its tenants a church. Where I live, there is an upscale mall that is still going strong with many big-name retailers such as Saks, Nordstroms, Dillards, etc. However, they have a big problem with shoplifting and I just wonder how long they will be able to hang on. It’s located in an affluent suburb, but it also competes with an upscale lifestyle center just across the street which is designed more like a village with stores having their own outdoor entrances. We’ve seen an increase in this type of center and old-style strip centers. In fact, Walmart is leaving one to go just around the corner to a new location to build one of the their superstores on a former golf course.

  • Jason Lee

    Why do both of those groups need to read Christian Smith?

  • RJS


    I expect because they are reading the bible as something it is not … but perhaps Scot was referring to something else.

  • Pat

    Way to go, Jessica Dorrell…way to go Bobby Petrino…very irritating.

  • Neither Jesus nor his contemporaries good have imagined the unbelievable revolution in economic production unleashed by markets and capital formation or the rise of massive state entities directed toward the common good. The idea of Jesus as our lead economist is an exercise in proof-texting, not theology. But I too wondered what this had to do with Christian Smith.

  • Scott Gay

    At the very mall in Cleveland that Pat Pope is talking about, my wife and I were shopping. We strolled into Saks to notice that we were shopping at the same time as a famous Cleveland Cavalier(now departed). Long story short, we saw a blouse that was exactly what we had been looking for, but couldn’t find elsewhere. Picked up the price tag to notice it was $1100. No more shopping for a teacher and a homemaker with the 1%. That people shoplift there was new to me, but made me laugh all the same.

    Very much enjoyed the 1963 interview with C.S. Lewis. Since books that most influenced one is a recent topic here, just a few comments about Lewis’ helps. Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man” starts with the mind of man and the irrelavancy of that to a timeline, deserves a review( pick almost any page), and concludes as a lightening bolt. Edwin Bevan’s Symbolism and Belief (1938)starts with Professor Whitehead’s definition of symbolism(“The human mind is functioning symbolically when some components of its experience elicit consciousness, beliefs, emotions, and usages respecting other components of its experiences”). And he stays consistent, ending by showing that one misconception to be guarded against is the leap beyond experience.

  • The piece about the malls is spot on. The Plaza in Kansas City is unlike any other place I have seen.It has gone through at least three iterations of tenant mixes in my lifetime but it thrives decade after decade.

  • scotmcknight

    Simply put, I would accuse both sides of simplistic hermeneutics and proof-texting … rather than grappling with how economic conditions give rise to laws and responses to poverty. So, both are guilty of biblicism, the main problem Christian Smith is pointing out.

  • Dana Ames

    Thanks for the Lewis interview.

    Lewis had Russian Orthodox friends, who came to his funeral with an Orthodox cross made of flowers. Warren Lewis was so overcome with grief that he had to leave. The Russian friends asked the Anglican parish priest if there were any reason why they could not put the cross on Lewis’ coffin; the priest said no. So the three-barred cross went into the earth with Lewis as he was buried.


  • Thanks Scot. Now I get it. (I still haven’t gotten to his book.)