Weekly Meanderings, February 9, 2013

John Dickerson, on Dan Cathy’s most recent friendship: “Scripture calls believers the “body of Christ.” Meaning, we are today his physical presence in the world. If we all follow Cathy’s example, perhaps the body of Christ will behave as Christ himself would behave.”

Speaking of which, see this? Send up a Thank you God. “Just after 11 last Sunday morning at Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, the Rev. Dr. Daniel Meeter is starting the Sunday service as he always does. He runs through the opening salutation and the collect for the day, and then he welcomes everyone to church as he always does, introducing Old First “as a community of Jesus in Park Slope where we welcome people of every race, ethnicity and orientation to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.” The congregation—some eighty strong on this sunny but cold February morning—is the usual mix of Park Slope churchgoing types: a smattering of journalists, a few artists, a handful of old ladies, some rambunctious children. But in the back row of the tin-ceilinged, wood-floored hall, there’s a visitor. It is Megan Phelps-Roper’s first time not only at Old First but also at any church not called Westboro Baptist. Yes, that Westboro Baptist, the Topeka, Kansas, congregation that has become famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) for its strident views on sin (and the abundance of it in modern America), salvation (and the prospective lack of it), and sexuality (we’re bad, in far more colorful terms). For nearly all of her twenty-seven years, Megan believed it: believed what her grandfather Fred Phelps preached from the pulpit; believed what her dad Brent and her mom Shirley taught during the family’s daily Bible studies; believed (mostly) what it said on those signs that have made Westboro disproportionately influential in American life—“God hates fags”; “God hates your idols”; “God hates America.” Megan was the one who pioneered the use of social media at Westboro, becoming the first in her family to go on Twitter. Effervescent and effusive, she gave hundreds of interviews, charming journalists from all over the world. Organized and proactive, she, for a time, even had responsibility for keeping track of the congregation’s protest schedule. She was such a Westboro fixture that the Kansas City Star touted her—improbably, as it turns out, because a woman could never have such a role at the church—as a future leader of the congregation. Then, in November, she left.”

Eleanor Barkhorn, marriage is not a 24/7 sleepover, contrasting views of marriage.

Laura Lynn Brown’s experience of forgiveness: “He said he knew how vigilant I was over the comics and that he hoped I wasn’t the one who had missed this . . . Well, I was. And I had marked my initials on the proof, so if he had asked for that page, he had proof that it was me. I confessed and said, “I hang my head in shame.” He did a remarkable thing. He reminded me that, while we might not personally agree with a particular in-house style rule, it is still our job to enforce it. And he did not mention it to the two layers of supervision between him and me. There are many ways this man led by example, some clear to everyone in the newsroom with eyes to see, some known only to himself and whoever sat across the desk from him in a given moment. For me, it was a palpable sense of what it means to be forgiven and told,  “Go and sin no more.” That was grace, the kind that made me grateful to be treated with care I did not deserve, and that only made me more determined to do my job well, which is to say obediently and with joy.”

Terry Maples, ABP News: “Some Baptists over the past 30 years have made significant progress in calling out and embracing the gifts of women. This is coming, but we have a long way to go. Many Baptist congregations continue to exclude women from serving as deacons or staff ministers. How Baptists address the issue of women in ministry will greatly impact our future, and I believe it will likely, for some, determine our relevance. I call on my sisters and brothers to engage your congregations in conversation. Without sound theological education, I fear our churches will remain stuck with important practices unexamined. More importantly, decision-making will be driven by cultural expectations of women’s roles instead of thoughtful, informed theology.”

Biblical movies around the corner, from Nicola Menzie: “With at least 10 major movie productions based on biblical figures and accounts potentially headed for the big screen, it seems Hollywood is turning to Scripture more and more for inspiration. While certainly not all of the films scheduled for release in the next year or so are guaranteed to be hits with Christian viewers, most of the projects are attached to big Hollywood names and will likely attract an audience either way. Here’s a list of Bible-inspired movies being considered for a theatrical release…”

Slavery laws in the Old Testament and some development.

Austin Holmes and the Gospel Project.

Ted reviews Karen.

Meanderings in the News

Maia Szalavitz: “Are you reading this when you should be working?  If so, then it may be because your brain signaled that continuing to work was not worth the cost in tedium of forcing yourself to stay on task. New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers insight into how people decide when to keep going and when to take a break.  That decision apparently hinges on a specific signal that at its peak— say, when your muscles are screaming that you can’t do another rep or your brain refuses to focus on the page — prompts you to quit. And when your body and brain are refreshed and ready to go again, the signal quiets down and gets out of your way.”

Kathryn Jean Lopez on Michelle Obama’s tweet about Beyonce: “I don’t want to linger on this, but last night’s Super Bowl half-time show was ridiculous — and gratuitously so. Watching Twitter, it was really no surprise that men made comments about stripper poles and putting dollar bills through their TV sets, was it? Why can’t we have a national entertainment moment that does not include a mother gyrating in a black teddy? The priceless moment was Destiny’s Child reuniting to ask that someone “put a ring on it.” As I mentioned on Twitter last night, perhaps that case might be best made in another outfit, perhaps without the crotch grabbing. It seems quite disappointing that Michelle Obama would feel the need to tweet about how “proud” she is of Beyoncé. The woman is talented, has a beautiful voice, and could be a role model. And she is on some levels — on others she is an example of cultural surrender, rather than leadership.”

Old pictures of Presidents: “The first photograph of a sitting United States president was taken of William Henry Harrison on March 4, 1841. The new executive had just delivered his inaugural speech — the outdoor address now most remembered (wrongly) for giving him the pneumonia that would kill him — and he paused, afterward, to pose for a portrait using the new technology of the daguerrotype. That photograph, much like its subject, had an unexpectedly short tenure. Harrison’s inaugural portrait has since been lost to history — meaning that the oldest surviving photograph we have of an American president depicts a chief executive after his presidency. There are a couple candidates for “oldest.” But they are, regardless, depictions of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, in office from 1825-1829.  One is this, a sixth-plate daguerrotype made of the ex-president at the age of 76…” [see link].

Quite the non-news: “On January 31, France’s minister of women’s rights made if officially impossible to arrest a woman for wearing pants in Paris, the Telegraph reports. Previously, the law required women to ask police for special permission to “dress as men.” If fashionable French ladies ignored this rule, they risked being taken into custody. The rule originally came into being just after the French Revolution, in the early 19th century. As anyone who watched Les Miserables will recall, rebellious ladies often donned pants in defiance of the bourgeoisie. This anti pants-wearing movement was dubbed sans-culottes, or without the knee-breeches (“cullottes”) of the high class. In 1892, the legislation changed to allow women to wear pants only if she “is holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse.” That latest ordinance stayed in place until today, despite multiple attempts to get rid of it. Officials said the unenforced rule as not a problem so they didn’t want to waste time amending “legal archaeology.”

Lindsay Abrams on vegetarianism: “IMPLICATIONS: The researchers believe that the lowered blood pressure and cholesterol in vegetarians explains most of their reduced risk. They showed, above else, that diet is important in protecting against heart disease. Just as it’s possible to do vegetarianism wrong (regardless of what Congress says, pizza is not a vegetable), incorporating more vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes into any diet will probably be associated with health benefits, too.”

Miriam: “Hello, my name is Miriam.  For those of you who know me, you know that I recently left my husband and the charedi (ultra-orthodox Jewish) community of Stamford Hill, UK.  In the process I lost the majority of my extensive and valuable book collection. Those books meant a lot to me, not only because many of them were quite valuable, but they were also a reflection of my journey and the person I’ve become over the past few years.”

Alessandro Speciale: “VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican’s culture ministry warned on Thursday (Jan. 31) that the Catholic Church risks losing future generations if it doesn’t learn how to understand young people, their language and their culture. The Pontifical Council for Culture invited sociologists, web experts and theologians to a three-day, closed-door event on Feb. 6-9 aimed at studying “emerging youth cultures.” According to a working paper released ahead of the meeting, the church risks “offering answers to questions that are not there” if it doesn’t learn “the cultural reality of young people.”

Eric Jaffe: “After a few more experiments the researchers formulated a theory about what’s happening here. They don’t think city life actually depletes one’s powers of attention. (That’s because, on one test of straight working memory, city Himba scored higher than rural Himba.) Instead, they suspect that city attention only becomes engaged when people cross paths with something especially worthy of notice. (On other tests, city Himba did show the same focus as rural Himba when they looked at highly engaging stimuli, like faces.) So a quick summary, for those readers on the verge of losing focus: the brains of people in remote places seem ready to focus on the task at hand, while the brains of their urban counterparts seem prepared to explore the ever-changing conditions of city life. Certainly explains why some country folk find the city overwhelming, and some city folk find the country a little dull. Nothing personal — strictly neural.”

Why Mary Ingalls (in Laura Ingalls Wilder) went blind.

Essie Mae Washington, daughter of Strom Thurmond. “COLUMBIA, S.C. — Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the mixed-race daughter of onetime segregationist senator Strom Thurmond who kept her parentage secret for more than 70 years, has died. She was 87.”

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  • Diane

    The link to the John Quincy Adams photo appears to be not working.

  • Yeah, that Jay Cutler, what a guy. Perhaps he was worried that if he were there to put a ring on her finger, the girl would hurt her finger and not be around for the second half.

  • DB

    My wife insists the picture of William Henry Harrison looks a lot more like Martin Van Buren. I’ve looked at several of them with her and I’m tending to agree.

  • DB

    Actually, after digging and searching a little more, we are convinced the picture of the president on this blog post is John Quincy Adams. See http://all-that-is-interesting.com/first-photograph-of-president.

  • Pat

    From Allesandro Speciale’s excerpt, I find that true in some evangelical circles as well–that they need to try to understand the emerging culture. Unfortunately, I feel like we waste a lot of time sitting down to conduct studies as a way to learn when all it really takes is spending some time with those you’re trying to get to know and understand. Now, I’m not against all studies, but it frustrates me the amount of time we seem to waste in the Church and the people who walk away disaffected while we’re trying to figure out what to do. How much will lapse while committee are formed, studies are undertaken and analyzed and methods are concocted? By that time, the moment has passed and new trends have emerged. It’s why often the Church is always a step behind.

  • Pat

    On the picture of the President, it’s always interesting to me to look at previous generations and how they took pictures. Early on they just stared blankly at the camera (or sternly as in the President’s case) almost as if they didn’t understand this technology but just knew they were to stand in front of it and let it catch their image. Now today, we pose and ham it up for the camera and have incorporated it into our lives so.

  • Bob Smallman

    The story on Megan is stunning and beautiful. Thank God for his “unlimited patience” with us all. 1 Tim 1:16

  • Janet

    Thank you Scot for all of this great thought provoking material. I found myself particulaly drawn to Miriam’s story (followed your link to the longer story) for many reasons not the least of which is that Stacey and I have so many books. I feel like contacting her to see if we can help her in some way. Thank you so much for your dedication to this Web site -it is meeting a particular need in my life to have material that is approached from a Christian worldview but is not afraid to look at the real issues, even though that can be difficult at times.