Weekly Meanderings, 17 August 2013

The reading habits of John Wesley, from Randy Alcorn: “One of his biographers says that evangelist John Wesley “rode 250,000 miles, gave away 30,000 pounds…and preached more than 40,000 sermons.” (Edward T. Oakes, John Wesley: A Biography, First Things, 2004.) 250,000 miles on horseback? That’s a staggering distance. It’s equivalent to circling the globe ten times…on a horse! (I’d advise against trying this even once, with the oceans and all.) Often, Wesley had a book open in front of him as he rode. He loved to learn, and read books incessantly, which gave freshness to the sermons he preached about three times a day.”

My how times have changed!

Football coaches, you gotta love ’em: “Circumventing NFL rules is, in most situations, a bad thing. NFL teams don’t, or shouldn’t, do it. Certainly former Steelers coach Bill Cowher was trying to articulate something along those lines when, at training camp in 2005, he said: “We’re not attempting to circumcise rules.”

RIP, Jean Bethke Elshtain: “Jean Bethke Elshtain, one of the nation’s most prominent and provocative thinkers on religion, political philosophy, and ethics, died Sunday following a major cardiac incident earlier this summer. She was 72. Elshtain was the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics in the Divinity School, Political Science, and the Committee on International Relations at the University of Chicago. An agile and extraordinarily prolific scholar, Elshtain’s work touched on issues ranging from terrorism to bioethics to feminism. She also lectured across the world on these topics in an effort to bring the work of the academy to a wider public. “Jean Bethke Elshtain was a formidable intellectual presence in the academy and in American public life,” said Margaret M. Mitchell, the Shailer M. Mathews Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature and dean of the Divinity School. “Her arrival at the Divinity School in 1995 came on the heels of the publication of Democracy on Trial, which was and remains a major statement of the crucial dimension of morality in American public discourse. We in the Divinity School and the University will miss Jean greatly.” Elshtain’s work was characterized by a combination of “hard-nosed realism and a very humane heart,” said her close friend and colleague William Schweiker, the Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity School. “She was suspicious of regimes of power, and she was always concerned with political and social systems that wanted to remake human life without respect for our finitude,” Schweiker said. “She was very attuned to the needs and goods of everyday life, and through her work she always fought on behalf of these mundane, quotidian interests.”

Amen! “Throughout the social sciences, we can find academics parading their big nouns and their noun-stuffed noun-phrases. By giving something an official name, especially a multi-noun name which can be shortened to an acronym, you can present yourself as having discovered something real—something to impress the inspectors from the Research Excellence Framework. Social scientists commonly justify their use of big words by saying that ordinary language is hopelessly vague and that social scientific terminology, although it might be awkward, is at least precise. However, the opposite is true: ordinary words usually convey much more information than the big words of the social scientists, especially when used to describe ordinary actions. Social scientists tend to use their big words and noun phrases in imprecise ways. For example, linguists use the term “nominalization” to describe very different ways speakers and writers might turn verbs into nouns. They also use the same word to describe the resulting nouns, rather than the processes involved in using and/or creating such nouns. And no one seems bothered by the different meanings. Instead, linguists carry on using the term as if it describes a “thing” that they have collectively discovered.”

I have to admit that retro style is cool. My daughter and her husband have a retro second bathroom. Groovy. So The Ramones.

Rahm’s found some new sources for revenue: speeders. “As Mayor Rahm Emanuel rolls out his long-delayed speed camera plan, new numbers his office released suggest that drivers who speed in Chicago could rack up way more in fines than a cash-starved City Hall initially projected. The mayor had hoped to bring in $30 million this year. But results from a monthlong test of the automated camera system indicate the city could reap well into the hundreds of millions of dollars in the program’s first year. City transportation officials argue that estimate is overblown, but the test period statistics the mayor’s office released Friday reinvigorated critics who argue that the program is more of a cash grab than the child safety measure Emanuel sold it as.” I predict: big burst the first month or two and then a big-time drop off as Chicagoans learn to live by the law.

The importance of biographies in early Christian formation.

Some really good points here but the word “gospels” does not refer to the first four books of the NT but to messages, to gospels. Rule for spelling: Gospel means a book, gospel means a message.

No ordinary photo now! “I started collecting found snapshots a few years ago — at swap meets, antique shops and the like — but the thing that got me started wasn’t the photos themselves so much as the writing I’d sometimes find on the backs. When you’re looking through bins of unsorted photos, every thirtieth one or so will have some writing on it. It’s generally just identifying information (“me and Jerry at the Grand Canyon, 1947”), but sometimes you find really funny, revealing, emotional, surprising notes that transform the photo from something usual and kind of anonymous into something amazing and really personal. I’m putting together a book of my finds calledVoices from the Other Side, but I figured I’d share some with our readers as well just to see what everyone thinks. (I posted another small batch — of wartime photos — back on July 4th.) One thing I’ve found a lot of is photos where people have written deprecating things — usually about themselves — on the back. “I look so fat here!” is a shockingly common theme; I guess people were as concerned with their weight (and as self-conscious about pictures of themselves) fifty and sixty years ago as they are today. I want to share some of these with you, not so much to laugh at (although they are funny) but to demonstrate how little our attitudes about ourselves have changed over the years. I’ll start with one that I think pretty much sums it up…”

Derek Leman: “Torah as law-code (covenant stipulations) for ancient Israel permitted slavery, war brides, and stoning rebellious teens. Torah as the timeless, evolving truth of God prohibits these very things and calls for a higher standard. Israel was to learn this over time by experiencing the ways of “the God who brought you out of the house of bondage.” Torah is not meant to remain the same. Torah is meant to change, to ascend, to gravitate toward the highest ideals in it. Torah has a trajectory within it of increasing holiness and those who obey, for example, Leviticus 19:2, will be required to always find the highest, not the lowest, ethic of Torah.”

Good for Jason Dufner: “ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Your new PGA champion is a club-wagglin’ Ben Hogan disciple who took up the game late and would like to quit the Tour by age 40. He is a mascot of sorts for the Auburn Tigers, has a body built by fried mozzarella sticks (but will tell you he’s never been injured), and is so underrated he once nearly won the U.S. Open and wasn’t asked to do a single interview. Two years after losing the PGA in a playoff to Keegan Bradley, laid-back Jason Dufner put on a ball-striking clinic, shooting a relatively stress-free, two-under-par 68 to win the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club on Sunday.”

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