O Lord, Father of mercy and wisdom, we are struck numb by the hellish nightmare of the cold-blooded murder of young children, and want to begin this Weekly Meanderings with our prayers for the children, the leaders and teachers, their families, and those who are caring for them. We know you attend to those who grieve and your eye is upon those who experience injustice; we know you know and console the suffering. We are committed, not to taking advantage of the situation or to a cheap sense that we comprehend this eruption of evil, but to love those who grieve and to work for peace, the best peace for all of us. Lord have mercy on us, lead us to new vistas and to a new kind of reconciliation, and to a new courage. May the stripping of life from our innocents renew us to life for all. Blessed are those who mourn. Someday, O Lord, this too will be made right. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Father Rob, on the gift of knowing: “If the first way we keep from becoming a grump during the holidays is to focus on the meaning of the season not the commercial message of our culture, the second way we do so is to focus on others and not on ourselves. One of the things that always amazes me as a priest is how little people often know about one another. How little husbands know about wives and wives about husbands. How little parents know about their kids and kids know about their parents. How little friends and neighbors know about each other. How little people in church on Sunday morning really know about the person sitting next to them….That “one person who really cares” is harder to find than you might think. But if you want to give a really great gift this holiday season–a gift that will always be treasured and never thrown out or forgetten–being that person is it.”
I suspect Kristin’s story is more true of many of us than we want to admit, so thanks Kristin. “We tried to find a time when all five of us could go out to the Christmas tree farm—in the daylight, ideally—to cut down our tree. Finally, we settled on just four of us being able to go, during a small window of time Saturday morning. After the tree was in our living room and I had put the lights on it, we began trying to find an hour or two when all five of us could be home to decorate it. Our original plans for Sunday afternoon—between lunch after church and youth group—had fallen through. I began to wonder if my whole life wasn’t ultimately about devising a Plan B (and C and D…at least Anne Lamott gets how that feels). Finally, we sent a decree into the land: All children of ours shall be home for dinner Monday evening, to enjoy one another’s company, to light the Advent candles, and to decorate the tree, while festively drinking hot cocoa and eggnog (dammit!).”
Tony Jones on how to tell if someone is a Christian: “A lot of my friends have abandoned Christianity. We’re about a decade in to this thing that is variously called emergent/emerging/emergence Christianity, and something I’ve noticed lately is that some of the people who were with us in the early days no longer consider themselves Christians. Some have regressed into more conservative forms of faith, but quite a few have abandoned faith altogether, or at least the practice of religion.”
The uncomfortable news, suicide, not least for evangelicals — and here’s some good words from Karen: “People in the Evangelical community don’t know how to speak about suicide. The word was never used during the entire service. We speak code. We say things like, “It’s hard.” Or, “We don’t know why God took him/her.” Or, what I consider the most onerous of all remarks, “We know they are in a better place.” Which always leaves me wondering why we don’t all just up and take our own lives if Heaven is such a terrific alternative. I have several good friends who have lost a child to suicide. I have walked this journey beside them. I have seen first hand how we Christians tend to tip-toe around the death of someone who takes their own life. We mean well, but, honestly, isn’t it about high time we fessed up to our own failures? Instead of talking about how much better off that person is in heaven, now that they have hung themselves, or pulled the trigger, or swallowed a handful of pills, shouldn’t we be taking a hard look at the ways in which we continually fail these children? I don’t happen to believe that everyone can do what Sarah’s nephew did — fall down and get back up. Not everyone can pull themselves up by their boot straps. Sometimes they use those boot straps to hang themselves because they feel so completely hopeless.”
Meanderings in the News
Article of the week: immigration shifts in Mexico, Central America and the USA.
The “Nones” are social liberals. “Pew has tracked their growth, and found that in 2010 about a quarter of those in the “millennial generation” defined themselves as religiously unaffiliated. That’s up from the 20 percent of Gen X-ers who said they had no religious affiliation, and 13 percent of baby boomers who said the same. The slow, but inexorable, growth of religiously unaffiliated voters is certainly a phenomenon political parties are watching, but Smith offers at least one word of caution about where the dynamic is going. ”Religious switching is a very common thing in the United States,” he said. “People go in and out of the unaffiliated column, and it’s always possible that if more people switch, it could have a countervailing effect on the trends.” This presidential election, however, and the one four years ago, suggest that Democrats have a firm hold on a not-inconsequential voting bloc, one that was among the reasons Obama is in the White House for four more years. ”They will be a big piece of what we are thinking about as we look forward,” Selzer says, a sentiment no doubt shared by political strategists in both major parties.”
Johnson, on Language, at The Economist: “As for why these two allegedly “Norse” bits of English syntax were singled out for scorn among the dozens or hundreds of innovations in English grammar over the last millennium, perhaps we’ll never know. Split an infinitive in print and you will still get letters to the editor. End a sentence in a preposition, and there are still people who will think you a boor. If you’re feeling cheeky, tell them “No, I’m just a Viking.” It may not be true, but it’s at least as true as the idea that you can’t end a sentence in a preposition.”
Education theory — flipping the classroom: “Welcome to the 21st century classroom: a world where students watch lectures at home — and do homework at school. It’s called classroom flipping, and it’s slowly catching on in schools around the country. When Jessica Miller, a high school sophomore in rural Bennett, Colo., sits down to do her chemistry homework, she pulls out her notebook. Then she turns on an iPad to watch a video podcast. Whenever the instructor changes the slide, Miller pauses the video and writes down everything on the screen. Miller can replay parts of the chemistry podcast she doesn’t understand, and fast forward through those that make sense. Then she takes her notes to class where her teacher can review them. Back in the classroom, chemistry teacher Jennifer Goodnight walks up and down the rows of desks giving verbal quizzes, guiding students through labs and answering questions. Goodnight is one of about five teachers flipping their classrooms at this small school on Colorado’s Eastern Plains. She’s part of a growing group of teachers using the concept since it emerged in Colorado in 2007.”
Best time to exercise? Afternoon: “Does exercise influence the body’s internal clock? Few of us may be conscious of it, but our bodies, and in turn our health, are ruled by rhythms. “The heart, the liver, the brain — all are controlled by an endogenous circadian rhythm,” says Christopher Colwell, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles’s Brain Research Institute, who led a series of new experiments on how exercise affects the body’s internal clock. The studies were conducted in mice, but the findings suggest that exercise does affect our circadian rhythms, and the effect may be most beneficial if the exercise is undertaken midday.”
Too many PhD’s? “I am deeply dubious about calls for massive overhauls of doctoral programs in the humanities. Not because doctoral programs are not in need of reform (anybody have a door to which we can nail some theses?), but because these calls seem to be missing the administrative forests for the departmental trees. 1. As Marc Bousquet has been reminding us all for goodness knows how long, we do not have too many Ph.D.s; we have too many t-t [tenure-track] lines transformed into low-paying adjunct positions. (Or, as Claire Potter observes of the Stanford article, “The proposal says nothing about the role that Stanford, like every other university, has played in cutting tenure-track lines and in sitting on the sidelines while state legislatures and the federal government cut funding to state unis and community colleges.”) Reworking graduate programs into training grounds for “alt-ac” careers does little to challenge the casualization process. If anything, it tacitly agrees that adjunct labor will be the new normal.”‘
Who is happiest? Surprised?
This guy loves Emerson: “If I have a hero, it’s Ralph Waldo Emerson. He represents to me humanity’s potential: wise, self-reliant, honest, unencumbered by conformity, and able to enjoy every little detail of life as if they were all miracles. He possessed the hallmark of a human being ahead of his time: he was hailed as a genius and simultaneously reviled as a subvert. His views were radical for his era, but his wisdom could not be denied, even by his detractors. Even Herman Melville, author and professed Emerson-hater, later described him as “a great man.” I am convinced that all of the secrets to personal peace and freedom reside within the ideas recorded in Emerson’s essays and lectures. His eloquence is well-known from his famous quotations, yet most people today would find a full essay of his to be too verbose to digest in one sitting, if at all.”
All about Millennials.
Meanderings in Sports
Dan McNeil, on Brian Urlacher, imitating the chat of the Bears fan: “I tol’ja dat defense ain’t never gonna be da same without Brian Urlaaacher. Dat’s exactly why dey gotta bring him baaack.”
Richard Sandomir: “For years, Kevin Youkilis has been a leading figure in this odd, but entertaining, sport that was elevated to on-air comedy in 2006 when the actor and comedian Denis Leary, in an extended bit of shock, wrestled with the startling fact that his beloved Red Sox first baseman, with a name like a Greek omelet, was, incredibly, a Jew.”