Weekly Meanderings, 9 January 2016

NorthernLogoTestThe president of the other Wheaton says it well:

In our nation’s public K-through-12 schools, educators offer programs for students to combat the bullying that marginalizes those who are different in some way. Yet we continue to tolerate and sometimes cheer this type of behavior as adults. It’s time to demand better from each other.

It is up to each of us to revive and advance the once-respected notion that it is unacceptable for members of a civil society to rage with unbridled hostility against others, even if they are expressing viewpoints with which we strongly disagree.


SMcK: Folks, crowdpounding is the new bullying.

David Swartz, Urbana, Black Lives Matter, and a historical perspective:

Missing from the breathless reporting (one critic titled his piece “Dorothy, This Is Not Your Parents’ InterVarsity Anymore”) on Urbana ’15 was a sense of historical perspective. As I’ve written about at length in my book Moral Minority, InterVarsity in fact has a long tradition of social activism. In 1967, for example, students drafted a resolution complaining that “there are no black men in leadership positions on the national staff.” Following Urbana ‘67, InterVarsity’s magazine wrote that very little “escaped criticism at the convention. … Anything that seemed to show intolerance came under their indictment, with impatience toward racism leading the list.”

At Urbana ‘70 the funky strains of Soul Liberation, a band of black musicians wearing afros, colorful outfits, and African symbols, welcomed attendees. The mostly white audience hesitated at first, unsure of what to make of “Power to the People,” a song full of idioms from the emerging Black Power movement. But the swell of students soon rose to its feet to sing and clap along, delighted by the radical departure from the usual hymns.

Tom Skinner, a black evangelist, then rose to deliver the evening sermon, a searing critique of racial prejudice in American society. Cheered on by over 500 black students who had arrived early to secure seats right in front of the podium, Skinner preached, “You soon learn that the police in the black communities become nothing more than the occupational force in the black community for the purpose of maintaining the interests of white society. … You soon learn that what they mean by law and order is all the order for us and all the law for them.”

Echoing Martin Luther King, Jr., Skinner contended that the white evangelical moderate remained strangely silent. “Christians supported the status quo, supported slavery, supported segregation.” “Even today, evangelicals “go back to their suburban communities and vote for their law-and-order candidates who will keep the system the way it is.”

Skinner his sermon with a rhetorical flourish: “Go into the world that’s enslaved, a world that’s filled with hunger and poverty, racism and all those things that are the work of the devil. Proclaim liberation to the captives, preach sight to the blind, set at liberty them that are bruised. Go into the world and tell them who are bound mentally, spiritually, physically: The liberator has come!” Skinner received a standing ovation.

One observer described the response as deafening and electric, “the most powerful moment that I’ve ever experienced at the conclusion of a sermon.” For many students, Skinner’s speech portrayed all that was wrong, and suddenly hopeful, about evangelicalism.


Otzi’s ulcer:

Wracked by arthritis, bitten by ticks, and murdered atop an icy mountain 5,300 years ago, Otzi the “Iceman” also carried ulcer-causing bacteria, scientists reported on Thursday.

The Heliobacter pylori bacteria was retrieved from the mummified stomach of the ancient 40-year-old man killed by an arrow wound and frozen in the Alps, who was uncovered by hikers in 1991. H. pylori is now the oldest microbe to be genetically mapped.

Otzi has been studied for two decades for insight into early Europeans — he died wearing elaborate fur clothing, armed with a copper axe, and covered with 61 tattoos (making him the oldest known tattooed man). Now researchers are examining his gut microbes, or microbiome, for more clues to the life and death of the Iceman.

“He had a very rough life,” study lead author Frank Maixner of the European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano in Italy told reporters at a telephone briefing. “We cannot be 100% certain he suffered gastric distress but we can say his immune system was reacting to the bacteria.”

Nine bad habits when dining out.

What separates Sunni from Shia?, Here’s Max Fisher:

The story, as told, usually goes something like this: 1,400 years ago, during the seventh century, there was a schism among Muslims over who would succeed as leader of the faithful, and that schism led to a civil war. The two sides became known as Sunni and Shia, and they hated one another, a people divided, ever since. This ancient sectarian hatred, simmering just beneath the surface for centuries, explains the Sunni-Shia violence today in places such as Syria and Iraq, as well as the worsening tension between Saudi Arabia, which is officially Sunni, and Iran, which is officially Shia.

But this narrative could not be more wrong. Yes, it is the case that a seventh-century succession dispute led to Islam’s schism between Sunni and Shia. But that is quite literally ancient history. Today’s divide between Sunni and Shia isn’t primarily about religion, and it’s not ancient: It’s quite recent, and much of it is driven by politics, not theology.

Sunni-Shia sectarianism is indeed tearing apart the Middle East, but is largely driven by the very modern and very political rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. They have sought to fight one another on Sunni-Shia lines not out of religious hatred but rather because they see sectarianism as a tool they can use — thus making that religious division much more violent and fraught.

Speaking of which, Preemptive Love blog by Matthew Willingham:

Eslam Mohamad and his family chose to dine out on Christmas Eve, something their obviously-Muslim-family was a little nervous about. The next day, Eslam shared a picture of his receipt from dinner, a photo that has been shared over 28,000 times.

 After finishing their food, Eslam asked for the bill and was shocked at what he received.

“After finishing we asked for the receipt and the waitress came to us with that receipt in the picture. Yes, someone paid for us and wrote those wonderful words on the receipt. I can’t express how this act touched our hearts.”

Being a minority is never easy, no matter where you are. And for Muslims living in the Deep South of the United States, this is no exception. It would be easy to read those words, ‘Deep South’, and assume a stereotype. Stories about racism, violence, and bigotry are great at reinforcing what we’ve heard about a faraway place.

Bad news fuels our fear and anger, emotions that fuel tribalism and the us-them mentality. Bad news abounds because people crave it.

But you have told us over and over that you crave something different. As the world becomes more and more entrenched and angry with itself, you’ve held onto a different belief. Like that kind person in Georgia who chose to bless a nervous Muslim family on Christmas, you defy the stereotypes—you love anyway! And now, Eslam’s experience of the Deep South is forever changed!

Cuban defectors to the MLB and its impact in Cuba:

The next day a big game is scheduled in the domestic baseball league, at Havana’s rickety 55,000-seat Latin American Stadium. It pits the hometown Industriales, Cuba’s answer to the New York Yankees, against a visiting club from nearby Matanzas. A few years ago the stands would have been packed. But today the outfield bleachers are empty, and only the rows of seats closest to the action appear even half-full. Bored-looking police drag on cigarettes. A group of hometown fans tries to rouse the crowd by blaring on hand-held air horns, but it is well short of critical mass.

One reason for the apathetic mood is that the government has banned alcohol sales in stadiums to stop fights. A bigger problem is the poor quality of the play. Last year 11 Industriales players left for the United States; Matanzas lost ten. Only the weaker players remain, and they are demoralised: runners seem content to jog around the basepaths, and fielders let the ball skip past them on difficult plays. In recognition of the depleted rosters, the Cuban league now disbands half of its teams at mid-season and shares their players among the eight clubs that are doing best.

Today’s game is painfully lopsided, as the Matanzas hitters pound the Industriales starting pitcher for seven runs. The biggest attraction is Rey Ordóñez, who defected in 1993, played in MLB for nine years and is catching a game on a visit home. Fans pose with him for pictures. “It’s very hard for the team,” says Lourdes Gourriel junior, the 21-year-old shortstop for the Industriales, following his team’s defeat. “It’s weird seeing someone on TV [in MLB], and just yesterday they were here with you. But that’s everyone’s individual decision. We’re still friends with those who left.”

South American football fans are accustomed to their countries’ brightest sporting stars decamping to richer European leagues. But for Cuban baseball fans the exodus is new. Less than a year after the United States and the government of Raúl Castro, Fidel’s younger brother and successor, announced they would re-establish diplomatic relations, this brawn drain is the most visible consequence of rapprochement with the yanquis, and an indication of what might be lost as the Cuban economy liberalises.

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