Weekly Meanderings, 14 January 2017

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.43.14 PM

I was wondering the other day if we ought not to think of election results the way we think of seasonal changes. Up here in Chicago we get Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. For some we are in Winter this presidential election while for others we are in Spring or Summer. Just a thought. Thinking of which, I wonder if four parties might not be better!

Wondering if it worked, aren’t you?

A Brazilian grandmother has been praying to a figurine from Lord of the Rings for years without realising.

The woman thought she was praying to Saint Anthony but it turns out the figure was Elmond, Lord of Rivendell.

Her relative Gabriela Brandao made the discovery and posted it on Facebook with the caption: “The funniest discovery of 2016.”

The post reads: “My daughter’s great-grandmother prays to Saint Anthony every day.”

Image from Facebook/Reader’s Nook

Dear Seth, you’ve got it completely backwards: not part time students, but part time athletes and full time students.

Given players’ rigorous schedules, it is almost impossible for them to get a serious education. In my one season of junior varsity basketball at Penn in 1987–88, my GPA dropped to nearly 2.0. I had never been below 3.0 in my life. And this was almost 30 years ago! A D-I coach I’m friends with sent me a sample schedule for one of his players. Tell me: When would you study?

Nice story of the week, by Andrea Mandell:

Prince William shared his own experiences losing his mother, Princess Diana, when comforting a bereaved child on Wednesday.

During a visit with children and families who have suffered bereavement, William comforted a little girl grieving for her father, telling her he “lost my mummy when I was very young too,” reports People and the Daily Mail.

He and Duchess Kate made the visit to Child Bereavement UK, one of his key causes, in Stratford to mark the center’s one-year anniversary. The center provides support for children and families experiencing the loss of a loved one.

When comforting 9-year-old Aoife, who lost her father to pancreatic cancer six years ago, the prince shared his own story of losing Princess Diana in 1997.

“Do you know what happened to me?” he asked the young girl, according to reports. “You know I lost my mummy when I was very young too. I was (15) and my brother was 12. So we lost our mummy when we were young as well. Do you speak about your daddy? It’s very important to talk about it, very, very important.”

Aoife’s mother, Marie, told reporters she became emotional listening to the exchange. “I couldn’t believe it when he started to talk about his mother. It was very emotional and I was willing myself not to start to cry. I almost did,” she said. “I am telling my children that if they take anything away from this day, it is what he said about how important it is to talk. Kids do not forget that. Sometimes it hurts but we can remember the happy things too. It is so important to talk.”

Helen Ingram, a plea for some sanity about overly zealous feminists:

A couple of years ago the department was called to a meeting to discuss harassment in the workplace. It wasn’t prompted by or directed at anyone in particular, just a friendly chat with a professional on how the male members of the department should behave around women and how they could offer support and encouragement to their female colleagues. The meeting was very cordial and we all agreed that we shared the same desire to support everyone equally and we would strive to ensure that no-one felt disadvantaged, but, by God, things felt awkward afterwards. Some male members of staff, particularly the older members of the department who had known their female colleagues for many years, became so over-sensitised to causing offence that the simplest actions and conversations were painfully awkward and stilted. Colleagues that regularly dealt out mutually received and well-meaning banter began apologising after making the most innocent of comments, they overcompensated to the point of sounding patronising when genuinely attempting to be supportive and they didn’t know whether it was acceptable to enquire about family issues, illnesses or, in one case, congratulate a member of the department on her pregnancy. Far from clipping the wings of Dr. Wandering Hands or Prof. A Women Should Not Have A Profession, the advice that these individuals received caused confusion, it completely killed the relaxed atmosphere in the department and it turned the loveliest of people into socially bungling, terrified bundles of nerves.

I realise that I am lucky to work with a respectful group of people who do not require close scrutiny and criticism of their behaviour while other departments and universities are in desperate need of close attention and direction in order to make their working relationships bearable, however some women in academia take a disproportionately aggressive approach and they produce exceptionally venomous material that is directed towards male academics in general. This approach sits very uncomfortably with me and, if I am honest, their indefensible generalisations make me question whether the issue is as prevalent as they claim or whether they hold university positions or carry out research that relies heavily upon misogyny and harassment existing in the workplace, to which a successful eradication of these behaviours would put them out of a job. If I was a man I would take great offence upon hearing these generalised attacks however it must be extremely difficult to engage with this material as a male, hence I suspect why I am increasingly encountering women working in university departments who, like me, feel sympathy towards our male colleagues who endure criticism by virtue of assumptions made about their gender rather than from their observed behaviour. [HT: JS]

Speaking of universities and professorial sensibilities, this one at Georgetown is ugly:

A former Georgetown professor who wrote an opinion article in support of President-elect Donald Trump has asked the university to intervene after a current Georgetown professor responded with insults and an obscenity on social media.

After Trump was elected in November, Asra Q. Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and a co-founder of a Muslim advocacy group, wrote a Washington Post article titled, “I’m a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump.” On Thursday, Nomani filed a formal complaint with the university, alleging discrimination and harassment after comments made by Christine Fair, an associate professor in Georgetown’s School for Foreign Service.

“I am a single mother who can’t afford health insurance under Obamacare,” wrote Nomani, who taught at Georgetown from 2008 to 2012. “As a liberal Muslim who has experienced, firsthand, Islamic extremism in this world, I have been opposed to the decision by President Obama and the Democratic Party to tap dance around the ‘Islam’ in Islamic State.”

On Nov. 22, Fair responded to the post on Twitter.

“I’ve written you off as a human being,” Fair wrote in one message detailed in the complaint. “Your vote helped normalize Nazis in D.C. What don’t you understand, you clueless dolt?” Fair wrote, later adding: “YOU publicly voted for a sex assailant.” She went on to say that Nomani “pimped herself out to all media outlets because she was a ‘Muslim woman who voted for Trump.’ ” [HT: CHG]

Sean Rossman:

Who did the better impersonation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

Saturday Night Live star Kate McKinnon or 8-year-old Michele Threefoot?

Sorry, Kate, but the Washington, D.C.-area third grader slayed so severely in her RBG get-up that the 83-year-old judge sent her a letter.

Krista Threefoot said her daughter had read and re-read, “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark,” a picture book of the justice’s lifetime of standing up for what she believes in.

“Michele really identified with many of the stories related in the book,” Krista said. “She gets fired up over injustice, especially when it has to do with girls not having the same opportunities as boys do.”

So when Michele’s school hosted Superhero Day, she forewent the traditional imposing female characters and decided to go with the pint-sized justice, complete with her thick eyeglass frames.

“When superhero day came around, it just clicked,” Krista said. “She isn’t really interested in Marvel or other superheroes, but she knew of a real life superhero so she went with that.”

Interesting research on the election.

This simply makes no sense: elected government officials actually do reflect the voter base and its choices. That’s how it works. This writer, Amanda Marcotte, wants some kind of proportional representation, which means she doesn’t want the voting mechanism of our democracy.

Most people know that Congress, unfortunately, doesn’t look like the country. It’s more male, it’s whiter, it’s more Republican. But a new Pew Research Center reporthighlights another way that Congress doesn’t accurately reflect the people they are sent to represent: Congressmembers are far more Christian than the nation at large.

Only 71 percent of Americans now identify as Christian, but a whopping 91 percent of elected members of Congress members, according to the Pew report, consider themselves Christian. The gap between Christian and non-Christian isn’t due to underrepresentation of faiths like Islam, Hinduism or Judaism, however. The gap appears to stem entirely from underrepresentation of the religiously nonaffiliated.

“The analysis finds that some religious groups, including Protestants, Catholics and Jews, have greater representation in Congress than in the general population,” Aleksandra Sandstorm writes in the Pew Research Center explication of the findings. “The group that is most notably underrepresented is the religiously unaffiliated. This group – also known as religious ‘nones’ – now accounts for 23% of the general public but just 0.2% of Congress.”

There’s only one member of Congress, Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who identifies as religiously unaffiliated.

“It’s very dismaying to see this gap between representatives and the people they represent,” Annie Laurie Gaylor, the co-founder and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said over the phone. “A quarter of the population that has one person that supposedly represents us.”

[If she pays attention to the pretense of politicians when it comes to piety, she might just be more satisfied for plenty are piety-in-political-rhetoric but nones-in-practice. Her model might H.L. Mencken.]

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.