Weekly Meanderings, 15 October 2016

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 5.48.36 PMWe begin, acknowledging as I always could do Kris’ constant sending me of possible links for Meanderings, with Naomi Krueger:

Bragging about or joking about degrading women is serious business. Words are never “just words.” They are rooted in violent, deep-seated beliefs about women’s worth. Words shape the way we think. The way we think shapes the way we act. And the more acceptable, the more laughable, violence toward women becomes, the less safe women become. You’ve heard the statistics:

One in five women in the United States have been sexually assaulted while attending college. 4.5 million people are trapped in sexual exploitation globally. Nearly all women experience sexual harassment in one form or another repeatedly over their lifetimes.

Do words really have the power to incite that level of abuse?

James, the brother of Jesus, sure seemed to think so. James 3 is a stern reminder of the power of the tongue and has so much relevance to this conversation about “locker room talk.” Crack open your Bible, or click here, and take a look at the whole chapter. If you don’t read the whole thing, at least read these two excerpts:

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

Men, when insults or lewd jokes toward women come out of your mouth, you reveal a dark, sinful piece of your soul. It’s equally damning to say nothing when you hear other men make degrading comments about women.

And now to Andrew Joseph:

Wu’s outreach to faith groups comes as advances in genetics are forcing scientists to grapple with the power of their newly discovered technology. The issue driving much of the ethical debate these days is genome-editing, which has become much simpler and more efficient with a tool called CRISPR.

Religious leaders and bioethicists have debated genome editing for decades, but it’s largely been a theoretical consideration. CRISPR makes once-theoretical notions — say, editing the genomes of embryos — a very real possibility. (Those changes are called “germline” edits and would be passed on to future generations.) It’s a revolution that’s being driven by scientists like Wu’s husband, famed geneticist and her Harvard Medical School colleague George Church.

“That is scary stuff, but this is what’s happening with the technology. It is moving forward,” said Tshaka Cunningham, a scientist at the Department of Veterans Affairs, who attended the session here and who said that people stand to take advantage of genetic advances. The black churches could help spread that awareness, he said.

As with scientists and secular bioethicists, religious communities have shown varying degrees of comfort with the notion of genome-editing.

Procedures aimed at curing disease are generally in line with certain religious tenets, even if those procedures require sophisticated technology; the Vatican saidin 2002 that “germ line genetic engineering with a therapeutic goal in man would in itself be acceptable” if it could be done safely and without leading to the loss of embryos.

But genome-editing could, at least in theory, be used to do much more — not just to treat conditions but to “enhance” human beings, as bioethicists put it.

The problem is that the difference is in the eye of the beholder. Would editing a genome to protect people from HIV be considered a treatment? Should scientists eliminate Down syndrome or genetic causes of blindness? Those conditions are viewed by some as disabilities but by others as traits that should in their own ways be respected and embraced. …

“I do believe that humans are in a special way individuals and a species with a special relationship to God,” National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins told BuzzFeed in July. “And that requires a great deal of humility about whether we are possessed of enough love and intelligence and wisdom to start manipulating our own species.” (Collins has said he would possibly be open to germline editing if it was limited to eliminating disease, but for now, the NIH does not fund research that involves editing embryos’ DNA).

Not everyone shares those concerns. Ronald Cole-Turner, a theologian and ethicist at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, dismissed the “playing God” argument as one used by people who do not understand theology but are wary of germline editing.

“Christian theologians just don’t sit around and think that way,” Cole-Turner said. “I just don’t think it’s a legitimate argument that Christian theology shares this worry about ‘playing God.’”

Cole-Turner also said the idea that the human genome retains a sacredness apart from the rest of God’s creations didn’t square with him. In his view, it’s not “like God had put up a huge ‘No trespassing’ sign right on the edge of the chromosome.”

“The entire creation is a gracious gift in which human beings are called on to exercise a certain level of responsibility,” he said. “But there’s not a privileged zone.”

Thoughts? Is genetic editing any different than drugs taken to eat diseases?

Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz:

Arne Duncan has been spending time recently at Cook County Jail. The former U.S. education secretary goes to talk to “the shooters,” he said, to get their input on how to curb the city’s soaring gun violence.

The fundamental answer, Duncan says, is jobs.

“Every time I’m with them I’m telling them, ‘Here’s my grand bargain: We’re going to employ you, we’re going to give you a chance to work and make a legal wage, but you have to stop shooting, you have to walk away from that,'” Duncan said. “‘So what is that price point? What does that take?’ And the consensus is about $12 to $13 an hour. It’s peanuts.”

Finding jobs for the young Chicagoans most likely to get mixed up in the city’s violence is Duncan’s priority as managing partner with the Emerson Collective, a philanthropic organization established by Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, that funds a variety of social justice initiatives.

Since announcing the launch of the local initiative in March, Duncan has assembled a nine-person team that includes a former gang leader who helps recruit young men who might otherwise be on the streets.

The former Chicago Public Schools chief, who spent seven years as President Barack Obama’s education secretary before stepping down last December, views the heartbreaking violence in his hometown as interwoven with another heartbreaking statistic: that nearly half of 20- to 24-year-old black men in Chicago are neither working nor in school.

“Our strong hypothesis is that the police can’t solve this,” Duncan said.

Chris Ballard, of SI.com:

This began something of a theme: Brandon Crawford uncharacteristically one-hopped a routine throw to first, allowing Baez to advance to third. Baez in turn caught a one-hop throw from Cubs catcher David Ross and applied a yoga-pose tag to Denard Span at second—reaching around in front of Span and, in one motion, catching the ball and tagging him. (Sidenote: anyone who says watching baseball is boring should watch Baez play defense.)

It got more improbable, and weird: Pence inexplicably not scoring on a near-home run by Crawford. Dexter Fowler getting thrown out by Pence while advancing to second on a Cubs single. Matt Moore driving in a run, bringing the number of RBI by pitchers in the series to seven. And Ross, the ancient catcher, accounting for both Cubs RBI prior to the ninth inning.

That’s the postseason, though. Heroes are where you find them. Luck and fate are interchangeable. To the hundreds of Cubs fans on hand at AT&T Park on Thursday night, how it happened is irrelevant. Their team is on to the NLCS for the second straight year, to face the winner of the Dodgers-Nationals series, led by a brash young core and a deep, dominant pitching staff.

So there the fans were last night, cheering and chanting in a mass above the Cubs dugout, refusing to go home. Finally, at 10:07 p.m. PT, exactly an hour after Chapman’s last pitch, the AT&T stadium staff cut the lights on the Cubs fan, leaving them to head to the exits, smiling and hugging, their celebration equal parts glee and relief.

Tom Verducci, and here’s the momentous impact of coaching:

Cubs manager Joe Maddon then pulled his 95-RBI shortstop Addison Russell for Chris Coghlan, a .188 hitter. Rather than have Romo pitch to Coghlan, Bochy rolled the reliever dice again and called for lefty Will Smith. Bad move: Maddon countered with Willson Contreras. Bochy passed on having a .195 hitter against righthanders (Coghlan) face his closer (Romo), and instead wound up with a .311 hitter against lefthanders (Contreras) matched up with a guy who had one career save and who is not accustomed to such spots (Smith). Huge advantage, Maddon.

A cup of tea, and it took how long? [HT: CHG]

Erin Beresini on Faith and Fitness:

Still, in the U.S. organized religion has largely focused on developing followers’ minds and spirits, leaving the body to team sports and athletic clubs. Now that’s changing. American churches are getting into the workout biz, and the effort is blowing up. The American Council on Exercise named faith-based fitness one of the top trends of 2016. There’s a magazine dedicated entirely to the cause (Faith & Fitness) and a website that helps churches set up their own exercise ministries (ChurchFitness.com). Last year, Health Fitness Revolution, a nonprofit best known for producing health-related listicles, ranked top 50 fitness-minded American megachurches (number one:Lakewood Church in Houston)—and that only covered congregations with more than 2,000 people attending weekly services.

Make no mistake: in an era of declining church membership, one of the main reasons faith-based gyms exist is to draw people to the gospel, whether they’re parishioners or not. “We want people to come,” says First Baptist fitness minister Dave Bundrick. It’s the exact opposite M.O. of big-box gyms that base their business models on peoplenot showing up. Church fitness centers do charge fees, but they measure their success not in dollars but in what Bundrick calls ministry opportunities—interactions in which there’s a chance to “positively impact a person’s perception of our ministry, church, and ultimately, our God.”

Academics see another explanation for the trend. “It’s a response to the social and cultural problems of the age we’re in,” says Nick J. Watson, senior lecturer in sports, culture, and religion at York St. John University in the UK, whose research focuses on the role of the church in public health. That’s a nice way of saying we’re fat. In August, he is gathering some of the world’s top Christian academics to meet with politicians, clergy, and athletes at the inaugural Global Congress on Sports and Christianity. The event’s goal is to encourage collaboration and improve public health through multidisciplinary research on effective interventions.


Tobin Grant gets after Wayne Grudem for what he claims to have not known or known.

David Swartz:

Beyond the effects on evangelicals’ souls, it has devastating effects on their Christian witness. In their study of contemporary religion, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam and Notre Dame political scientist David Campbell write that the extraordinary rise of people who affiliate with no religion is due in part to their rejection of its entanglement with politics. Today 20 percent of the population says they have no faith. Putnam and Campbell write, “A growing number of Americans, especially young people, have come to disavow religion. For many, their aversion to religion is rooted in unease with the association between religion and conservative politics. If religion equals Republican, then they have decided that religion is not for them.”

What a terrible irony for evangelicals, a group of religious believers presumably committed to evangelism.

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