Weekly Meanderings, 24 August 2013

Bob Smietana, who got me blogging, is leaving The Tennessean: “He’s covered snake-handling preachers and mosque arson, lawbreaking charities and babies named Messiah. He’s introduced us to the guy who quit his job over 666 and the clergyman who says God doesn’t care if you smoke weed. And now I’m sad to announce that Bob Smietana will be leaving The Tennessean and taking his talents elsewhere. Bob has been our religion writer since 2007 and has been racking up awards all the way through – claiming first place just last month in the Tennessee Press Association contest for both feature writing (the snake handlers story) and best personal column, for his first-person account of his battle with diabetes. He has broken news both locally and nationally with his key connections on a passion-topic beat. He’ll be going across the railroad tracks to LifeWay, where he will be writing about research on church and cultural trends for Facts and Trends magazine. His last day with us will be Aug. 30. Please join me in wishing Bob well. We will miss him greatly. – Lisa Green”

Sarah Bessey does U-turn on Barbie dolls — good read.

Jon Merritt responds to Russ Moore: “These events and others led some Christian leaders to speak out against the increased sensitivity to transgender people. An article by Russell Moore at the “On Faith” forum hosted by The Washington Post, for example, argued that transgender people are essentially confused. He urged churches to teach that “our maleness and femaleness points us to an even deeper reality, to the unity and complementarity of Christ and the church.” Moore is someone for whom I have deep respect, and I appreciate his attempts to speak to this topic more compassionately than some of his Christian colleagues. Yet the issue seems to be more complicated than he and others are portraying.”

This is how the tide will turn, one woman at a time, with Nate Loucks: “Why is this so important to me? I believe that a healthy church should have a multitude of voices present; young and old, new converts and old guard, and male and female. While I have been out with Tumor Gate ’13 [herein effectively renamed Broncho-Pulmonary-palooza], other people in our community have filled in on Sunday to preach. This last week our community was privileged to have Becky Crain preach; our very own Christ-experiencing, Christ-representing, church-establishing, probably miracle-working, missionizing woman like Junia. We have also been fortunate to have Kristin Swartz-Schult preach in the past. In the future, we will be guided and taught by other capable Christ-loving and astute women. It’s important for our community to be shaped by men and women who love Christ.  I am glad that we let our Junia’s speak in our community.”

How did those great writers work? Mark Twain, for an example: “Twain favored custom, leather-bound, tabbed notebooks, which he designed. He tore the tabs off each completed page in order to easily find the next blank one. His pen of choice was the Conklin Crescent Filler, especially since it was incapable of rolling off his desk. In the 1890s, Twain’s rheumatism made writing longhand painful. He experimented with using his left hand, but eventually began dictating his stories.”

Academic freedom, so this article contends, includes the option of saying No to invasive technologies: “I’ve called educational technology issues the “academic freedom crisis of the twenty-first century” because I think how faculty present information to students is just as important as what information they present. If administrators force us to use tools that prevent faculty from teaching what we want to teach as well as we can teach it, they don’t need to tell us what to teach in order to prevent us from getting our message out. If those tools can be used to replace faculty entirely, then even our content choices will become irrelevant because we won’t have anyone around to hear our message. So what bothers me most about this message is its very limited definition of what academic freedom is. I think academic freedom includes the freedom to say “No, I’m not interested in using that particular pedagogical tool.” Suppose you think your class is fine as it is. Suppose you don’t have time to learn the newest technological doo-dad. Suppose you don’t think that particular doo-dad is useful for your discipline. This kind of pressure from the top would then be most unwelcome.”

An architecture student converted a bus into a home — cool.

Are you a Margaret Atwood reader? Read this.

The Pope’s Jesus book reviewed intelligently in light of political theory.

And what is faith? Mark Stevens: “I’ve been mulling this over for quite a while. Being a conservative in a mostly liberal social active denomination can be hard. It is easy to judge a person based on their theology. But at the heart of it all what makes someone a Christian? Well, based on our text this morning and looking ta the Christian through the Jesus Creed may I make the following suggestions? Faith is not about believing the right things about Jesus, nor is about looking right, acting right or being right. It’s about believing in Jesus. It isn’t about what we believe; it is that our belief leads us into relationship with Him. And when we come to the table we identify ourselves as disciples, or friends, of Jesus! Our doctrine, our theology or anything like it does not open up a place at the table for us. We must hold our theology lightly and respectfully. There is a lot to comprehend about the Christian life. There is a lot to work out and even more importantly there is a whole lot of mystery we have to learn to live with. But none of this brings us to Jesus. None of this determines the centre of our belief. Jesus is the one (not an idea, not a concept) but the living Son of God) with whom we sit with and place our trust in.”

Textbooks cost too much.

Where do your child want to go to college? Read this by Mark Edmundson: “Where should you go to college–assuming you’re a high school student and getting ready for this new phase of your life? Where should you encourage your son or daughter to go–assuming that you’re a parent? As a college professor, I get asked the where-to-go question frequently, and I know that all of us teaching in colleges and universities do too. How should one answer? What is the right thing to say to someone deciding on his or her future? For myself, I’m inclined to respond by posing another question.

Are you looking for a corporate city, or are you looking for a scholarly enclave? Neither of these kinds of schools exists in its pure form. To the scholarly enclave, even the most ideal, there will always be a practical, businessy dimension. Somebody’s got to keep the books and pay the bills. And even in the most corporate of colleges, there will be islands of relative scholarly idealism.

Many, if not most, American high school students have already had a taste of the corporate city. These are students and parents who are emerging from the mouth of that great American dragon called the “good high school.” I won’t hide my prejudices: I have a lot of qualms about the good American high school. Most good high schools now look to me like credential factories. They are production centers that kids check in to every day. The motivated, success- oriented students set to work from the moment of arrival, producing something, manufacturing something. And what they produce are credentials. High schools now are credential factories in overdrive.” (HT: LNMM)

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  • John W. Frye

    Having raised four daughters I found the Barbie Doll post insightful and humorous.

  • Phil Miller

    Reading that piece by Edmundson I knew he had to be a liberal arts professor… English professors and the like act like their the saviors of true scholarship or something. I don’t think there’s as big a divide between the “corporate city” and “scholarly enclave” as he suggests, especially in the hard sciences and engineering. Who does he thinks funds a lot the research that goes on in universities today? The amount of public funding is shrinking while private funding is increasing. I don’t know… His piece just left a bad taste in my mouth.