Weekly Meanderings

Greg Carey discusses how liberal biblical scholars get their starts: “Biblical scholarship is an academic discipline, taught and studied at universities, colleges and divinity schools all around the world. So it should be no surprise that biblical scholars run in all shapes, sizes, colors and denominations. What would surprise many people, though, is that a very large number of us love Jesus and the church, and we spend hours upon hours communicating the love and wonder we experience with the Bible. Indeed, some of our secular colleagues justifiably complain there are too many of us in the field. More surprising might be this one fact: many of us have our roots in fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity. The best way for conservative churches to produce “liberal” biblical scholars is to keep encouraging young people to read the Bible.”

Prayer for a daughter.

The college bookstore experience: “The typical student bookstore experience—get in, get out, contemplate the months of ramen to come—has never been a great way to cultivate a love of books. It’s never about the literary joys of serendipitous discovery; it’s about the bureaucratic routine of required reading. Even before the thrice-annual draining of my wallet, the college bookstore was tough to romanticize. But today, campus bookstores’ long-term survival depends on abandoning literary pretense altogether. According to the National Association of College Stores, which represents approximately 3,000 campus retailers, course materials account for a smaller and smaller proportion of total bookstore sales, ticking down from 57 percent in 2009 to 56 percent in 2010, to 54 percent last year. At the University of Tennessee, textbooks account for just 36 percent of sales according to director David Kent, who anticipates the figure will be between 20 and 25 percent in a couple of years. “And that’s right where we want to be,” he says. “We don’t want to be out of that business, but we want to be diversified enough in our offerings that we’re not so dependent on one particular category.”

If you like Chocolate.

Karen on Harry’s: “And for the record, it is clearly not true what they say about What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas. Somewhere in New York City, a marketing team is already at work on a new catchy slogan, one that will undoubtedly capitalize on some Royal’s Highness. No matter how many times you say it, this generation of 20-30 somethings just don’t seem to grasp the threat that booze and camera phones pose. One columnist suggested that Prince Harry’s indiscretion would only endear him even more to the general public. I can’t speak for the rest of you but public nudity has never endeared anyone to me. The few times I’ve seen it, I’ve turned and headed in the other direction. The only emotion I have for such people is one of pure humiliation, something these 20-30 somethings don’t seem to know anything about either.”

Jim Martin’s post on half-alive people. Patrick Mitchel is doing a series on Cavanaugh and consumerism.

Speaking of students, which means papers, did you see this? Wow: “He articulates those effects somewhat vaguely in the book, but they include universities’ pursuit of prestige, the “economic implications of colleges,” and an emphasis on grading over learning. Students, out of pragmatism or laziness, he says, seek to get the best grades for the least effort. As he wrote papers for students across a range of institutions, Mr. Tomar said in the interview, he saw vastly different levels of expectations. The lowest, he said, was at for-profit colleges, where he often saw the same assignment recycled. Sometimes he was hired to complete writing assignments for online discussions at for-profits, where the grades are based on whether the work is completed, not on its quality. Such work received little of his attention, he said, “because it was clear to me that nobody, nobody, nobody cares.” (HT: MK)

Allan Bevere is doing a series — weekly — on Polkinghorne and how science and eschatology connect.

Illinois and California: “California increased its number of state employees by 9.3 percent over the past ten years. That tracks with census data. But the payroll costs of its employees jumped 42.4 percent.”

Meanderings in the News

A study of anorexia and reward. “We often think of anorexia as a psychiatric problem, a problem of self esteem, a problem of disordered body image. And while it’s probably a lot of these things, treatments based on body image improvement and self-esteem can only do so much. When you look for new treatments, where should you look? What systems in the brain should you look at to try and understand anorexia? Could anorexia be a disorder of reward?”


Animals are conscious, too: [Now, can I hold the squirrels and skunks and neighborhood cat responsible for theft?] “The computer, smartphone or other electronic device on which you are reading this article has a rudimentary brain—kind of.* It has highly organized electrical circuits that store information and behave in specific, predictable ways, just like the interconnected cells in your brain. On the most fundamental level, electrical circuits and neurons are made of the same stuff—atoms and their constituent elementary particles—but whereas the human brain is conscious, manmade gadgets do not know they exist. Consciousness, most scientists argue, is not a universal property of all matter in the universe. Rather, consciousness is restricted to a subset of animals with relatively complex brains. The more scientists study animal behavior and brain anatomy, however, the more universal consciousness seems to be. A brain as complex as the human brain is definitely not necessary for consciousness. On July 7 this year, a group of neuroscientists convening at Cambridge University signed a documentofficially declaring that non-human animals, “including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses” are conscious.”

Dreher and Dickerson — talking points of a conservative perception of church decline.

Hitch at the end: “As he faced death from cancer, author and journalist Christopher Hitchens kept his wry sense of humour to the very end, it emerged today. He used a hospital food tray as a desk for his computer to record his last thoughts about the illness which claimed his life at 62. Hitchens,  a smoker, described the disease as a ‘vulgar little tumour’ and ‘the alien’ that was ‘burrowing into me even as I wrote the jaunty words about my own prematurely announced death.’ In his fragmentary jottings, published in the Daily Telegraph, he wrote: ‘I am not fighting or battling cancer, it is fighting me. My two assets were my pen and my voice.'”

Stinging, biting, to the point — about our summer of guns.

My, my, Repubs skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas, and that my friend is an anabaptist name. Just be glad that fella wasn’t at the Dead Sea. I can’t imagine a Democrat — say Bill Clinton — ever doing this sort of thing. (Sarcastic comment now done.)


Sad story of Sam Hurd.

Sad story of Lance Armstrong: “But people believe what they want to believe. The fact is, Armstrong never failed a test. And even if you believe his accusers, as I do, you must admit: The accusers make you want to wash your hands. This was a case between a likely drug cheat and obsessive, unlikeable prosecutors, fueled by other drug cheats as witnesses. If this were divorce court and I were a judge, I’d give all the money to the dog….He made the right decision Thursday. He ended a game he probably deserved to lose. It will be hard for him to vacation in Paris now, but I didn’t get the sense he liked those folks much anyway. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says Lance Armstrong cheated to win bike races. Armstrong says he is trying to cure cancer. I think a lot of people would rather listen to Armstrong.”

"Sorry, Chris, I see that you do agree with me that John's position in opposing ..."

Universalism and “The Devil’s Redemption”
"Meant to say--"may have mattered MORE to them than any particular eschatological theory""

Universalism and “The Devil’s Redemption”
""Does that not undermine the traditional understanding of hell? (the doors of hell are locked ..."

Universalism and “The Devil’s Redemption”

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  • RJS

    One of the signers of that “declaration” was Christof Koch. I never did doubt that my cat was conscious, and Simon Conway-Morris talked about consciousness in octopi – either in his book Life’s Solution or in talk I listened to (I am not sure which). All to say that this made a news splash, but isn’t really news.

    Signing a “declaration” in science like this strikes me as a bit off – it is all working definitions, and a move forward to understanding. Truth is not determined by declaration, This is a current state of understanding – but they should know better than make a “declaration.” Unless … the goal is to align with PETA and turn us all into vegetarians.

  • RJS

    Oh, and the squirrels are responsible but not for “theft.” Raiding a feeder isn’t a moral wrong. I rather expect your purpose in squirrel-centric life is to supply them with ready food. They are merely harvesting the fruits of the earth.

    But skunks are better off a long ways away.

  • Scott Gay

    Just a few comments on “talking points of a conservative perception of church decline”. I am always respectful of Rod Dreher’s blogging. It wouldn’t take much for readers here to search some of his background. He is best known as being the “crunchy con”, a conservative who lives much like a liberal, which he wrote and blogged as a reporter in Dallas, TX. He is also known for leaving his Louisiana upringing in RC and becoming EO. Not very well known is that when he went to work for the Templeton foundation in Philadelphia, his blogging curtailed, I’m guessing there was conflict from perceptions within. All that said, his views are not just conservative( or liberal), but have the depth of a lived orthodoxy. Saying that his views are a conservative view of church decline may be accurate, but he has a tendency to hit close to the mark, which often is unsettling to believers and unbelievers alike.

  • scotmcknight

    RJS, I am feeding birds, and the squirrels are carpet bagging.

  • RJS

    In “squirrel consciousness” they find themselves in the squirrel promised land, flowing with nuts and seeds.

  • RJS

    “Talking points of a conservative perception of church decline” – some good points here from both sides.

    I was in a service a few weeks ago with a guest preacher, and he used some language during the sermon, used a specific turn of phrase a couple of times, that would tag us as “homophobic evangelicals” to the visitor from our particular community. It made me very uncomfortable for a couple of different reasons. One is because as Dickerson points out this is the flash issue – Christians are not known for their love, but their hate in large segments of this community. To be affiliated with a hate group is kind of a reputation killer. The second is the impact it would have on visitors to our church.

    (Our regular pastors, by the way, have never used such expressions, or done anything that would make me uncomfortable in the same way.)

  • Pat Pope

    Loved Greg Carey’s piece.

    “The best way for conservative churches to produce “liberal” biblical scholars is to keep encouraging young people to read the Bible.”

    I would add, encourage them to read the Bible with blinders and offer overly simplistic explanations that do not really answer many of the complexities of life.

  • Jason Lee

    On, ” talking points of a conservative perception of church decline”:

    Never heard of that survey. The evidence I’ve seen (from multiple reputable national surveys) indicates that the evidence for a decline in religion in the US is very mixed. If there is a decline, it’s very slight.

    As far as an increase in Atheism, we’d need multiple high-quality surveys to show the same thing for us to feel confident that there is any sort of shift in the population.

  • Pat Pope

    On skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee, the legislators were said to be on a fact-finding mission, so maybe it was a clothing optional mission.

  • JKG

    As one who lives in Rep. Yoder’s district, I only regret that he is running unopposed in November. Some people here are writing it off as “boys will be boys”, but it shows very poor personal judgment. Do we really want representatives of our government in foreign countries running around naked? At least Prince Harry kept it in a room!

  • Chris

    My wife has expressed outrage about squirrel raiding by confessing that she has murder in her heart about them. I just see it as easy pickin’s for supper. 😉

  • scotmcknight

    Jason, are there any sophisticated studies that ask about “spiritual but not religious”?

  • Barb

    A friend of mine told me that her mother somehow killed a robber squirrel and then draped it’s dead body over the bird feeder “as a warning to the other squirrels”

  • DRT

    I lost all respect for Descartes after reading a book on his low view of our brother animals.

    Remember, all (good) dogs go to heaven. And I would even be willing to admit skunks. But whoever raided my chicken coop last weekend is certainly destined for the dark side.

  • PJ Anderson

    RE: Ghost-writing grad papers

    “Higher Education” in the west is quickly becoming the travesty of elitism mixed with unabashed capitalist ethics. (caveat: I’m a free markets guy) We’re reaping what we’ve sown. This guy is only an excised tumor of a larger cancer. At this point “higher education” only means the ability to get a diploma financially. We are defrauding our upcoming generations. Something has to give. I’m deeply disgusted with the state of western academia.