Weekly Meanderings, 1 April 2017

The Hum of AngelsGo Julia, by Jenny McCoy:

Louisiana native Julia Hawkins became a competitive cyclist at age 81. Last year at age 100, seeking a new challenge, she decided to pick up competitive running for the first time. She registered for the 50-meter dash at the Louisiana Senior Olympic Games, completing the race with a PR of 19.07 seconds.

Now at 101 years old, Hawkins is adding another distance to her belt, training for both the 50- and 100-meter dash as well as the 5K bike race at the National Senior Games to be held in Birmingham, Alabama, this coming June.
“I’ve always liked competition,” says Hawkins, a great grandmother, retired teacher, and four-time participant and two-time cycling gold medalist in the games, also known as the Senior Olympics. She enjoys biking around her Baton Rouge neighborhood nearly every day, but has found a different type of freedom in running. “With running, it’s just me and my body. I can just go out and do the best I can and not depend on anything else to help me.”

Though she’s only started competing recently, Hawkins had no anxiety about whether she’d be good. “I knew I could run because I’m always in the yard working, and when the phone rings, I go running inside to answer it,” she says. Hawkins is an avid gardener and tends bonsai trees in the backyard of the house that she and her late husband built in 1949. Her success in the 50-meter dash inspired her to set her sights on an even loftier target for the upcoming 2017 Senior Olympics: the 100-meter dash. “I thought it’d be fun to run 100 meters since I’m more than 100 years old,” she laughs.

The Hum of Angels
Andrea Rodriguez:

HAVANA (AP) — Fidel Castro’s government sent the Rev. Juan Francisco Naranjo to two years of work camp in the 1960s for preaching the Gospel in a Cuba where atheism was law and the faithful were viewed as suspect. For years, Naranjo’s church was almost abandoned, with just a handful of people daring to attend services.

Naranjo died in 2000 but on a recent Sunday, his William Carey Baptist Church was packed and noisy. Government doctors treated disabled children at a clinic inside. A Bible study group discussed Scripture in one corner of the building before a service attended by 200 of the faithful.

“In the 1960s, the few brothers and sisters who came here had to hide their Bibles in brown-paper covers,” said Esther Zulueta, a 57-year-old doctor. “It’s night and day.”

Trump administration officials have repeatedly said religious freedom is one of the key demands they will make of Cuba when they finish reviewing former President Barack Obama’s opening with the island. The administration has never been more specific, but outside groups have accused Cuba of systematically repressing the island’s growing ranks of evangelicals and other Protestants with acts including the seizure of hundreds of churches across the island, followed by the demolition of many.

An Associated Press examination has found a more complicated picture. Pastors and worshippers say Cuba is in the middle of a boom in evangelical worship, with tens of thousands of Cubans worshipping unmolested across the island each week.

While the government now recognizes freedom of religion, it doesn’t grant the right to build churches or other religious structures. It has demolished a handful of churches in recent years, but allowed their members to continue meeting in makeshift home sanctuaries. And like the Roman Catholic Church, the island’s dominant denomination, evangelical churches have begun providing social services once monopolized by the Communist government.

“There’s a revival of these churches, of the most diverse denominations in the country, and all of them are growing, not just in the number of members, but in their capacity to lead and act in society,” said Presbyterian pastor Joel Ortega Dopica, president of Council of Churches of Cuba, an officially recognized association of 32 Protestant denominations. “There is religious freedom in Cuba.”

Darryl Hart’s right.

David Moore:

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) was a giant among giants during this period. In 1837 he gave a Phi Beta Kappa address at Harvard titled “The American Scholar,” which Oliver Wendell Holmes called America’s “intellectual Declaration of Independence.”

Emerson was already troubled by institutional religion when he gave the lecture. Having stepped away from pastoral ministry among Boston’s Unitarians, he would help launch a movement of sorts called Transcendentalism.

Without getting into all the various ways Transcendentalism was understood, we can simply say the individual supplanted religious traditions and institutions. The “divine self” was given permission to both assess and access truth on its own. Institutions, especially those upholding the importance of doctrine, had to be sloughed off. Boston’s Calvinists were “exhibit A” for what was wrong with religion. But for Emerson and many others, Unitarian belief wasn’t much better. Anyone or anything that stifles the self from discovering its own truth is not worthy of followers.

Emerson’s influence on America’s self-identity is huge. I’ve heard historians say he and Twain are indispensable for understanding the uniqueness of the American spirit. Emerson is everywhere. Not his name per se, though it does crop up from time to time even in pop culture. (Reebok used to feature quotes from Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance” in a commercial.) …

Like Emerson, Transcendentalism may no longer be in the lexicon of most Americans, but its influence lives on. Whether we know it or not, the 19th-century writer broke the dam, and we Americans now swim in Emersonian waters. The water feels refreshing to hyper-individualized Americans, which sadly includes many Christians.

Transcendentalism lives on in the ways we see Christianity facing present challenges. One example would be the “nones,” that growing group of Americans no longer affiliated with any religion. For many, there simply isn’t enough room for organized religion because the “self,” as Walker Percy memorably put it, is “stuffed with itself.” What Percy found troubling, Emerson deemed virtuous.

Emerson’s ghost still prowls among our fruited plains. Perhaps America is more haunted by him than we previously thought.

The 2-foot hot dog, where else?

The Texas Rangers have developed a reputation for producing jaw-dropping, gut-busting, over-sized food items at their ballgames, and this season will be no different.

Actually, there will be something new this year that is worth a headline — their 2-foot long, $27 tamale hot dog.

GuideLive.com says the Rangers will be selling an “MVT” at games this year that will feature their 24-inch “Boomstick” hot dog inside of a tamale. The “Most Valuable Tamale” as it’s known is topped with chili, nacho cheese and sour cream.

Nick Roen examines this progressive argument:

The argument, as fairly as I can put it, goes like this: The progressive interpretation of the Bible’s sexual ethic bears good fruit in people’s lives. Progressives claim that affirming same-sex marriage and monogamous same-sex relationships produces the good fruit of love, relational care, intimacy, and a hundred other benefits. The historic interpretation, they say, does not produce any of these things; rather, it often bears the bad fruit of pain, discouragement, and even despair.

Affirming theology gives. Non-affirming theology only withholds. That is the argument.

It’s true that historic biblical interpretation teaches that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4–5), and that “men who have sex with men” is a sin listed alongside drunkenness, greed, and slander as worthy of exclusion from God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). So, the traditional sexual ethic does restrict in a way the progressive ethic does not.

But does this necessarily lead to bad fruit? And do progressive interpretations have a corner on good fruit? Far from it. Consider three counterarguments to the progressive claim that the traditional ethic produces bad fruit.

From Bleacher Report:

Former St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians pitcher Anthony Reyes is now a Los Angeles County firefighter.

Reyes pitched for the Cardinals and Indians from 2005 to 2009 and finished with a 5.12 ERA and 1.377 WHIP in 293.1 innings.

He is best known for his performance in the 2006 World Series when he led the Cardinals to a Game 1 victory over Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers by allowing just two earned runs and four hits in eight innings of work.

Maureen Pao:

For Jernica Quiñones, the reality of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, hit close to home this year when a friend woke up on New Year’s Day and discovered the lifeless body of her baby girl.

That’s why Quiñones’ 4-month-old son, Bless’n, has spent a lot of his life so far sleeping in a cardboard box.

The 33-year-old mother of five took part in a program in New Jersey that promotes safe sleep education through the distribution of “baby boxes” that double as bassinets.

“Some mothers can’t buy a Pack-n-Play or a crib,” Quiñones says. And that can lead to bed sharing, a risk factor for SIDS.

The program is a riff on Finland’s well-known baby box, or maternity package, which the government gives to expectant mothers who get a prenatal checkup: It’s the box, plus clothing, blankets and other supplies.

Now that Finnish model is making inroads in the U.S., but with a twist. Instead of being a prenatal incentive, it’s being used to deliver a postpartum safe sleep message.

An editorial:

God help us.

Moving forward with a campaign pledge to unravel former President Obama’s sweeping plan to curb global warming, President Trump on Tuesday is set to sign an executive order that will suspend, rescind or flag for review more than a half-dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.

As part of the roll-back, Trump will initiate a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.

The regulation, which was the former president’s signature effort to curb carbon emissions, has been the subject of long-running legal challenges by Republican-led states and those who profit from burning oil, coal and gas.

Trump, who has called global warming a “hoax” invented by the Chinese, has repeatedly criticized the power-plant rule and others as an attack on American workers and the struggling U.S. coal industry. The contents of the order were outlined to reporters in a sometimes tense briefing with a senior White House official, whom aides insisted speak without attribution, despite Trump’s criticism of the use of unnamed sources.

The official at one point appeared to break with mainstream climate science, denying familiarity with widely publicized concerns about the potential adverse economic impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and more extreme weather.

Now to the trivial, but still fun:

PHOENIX — In the year’s second franchise move valuing facilities over fans, NFL owners voted overwhelmingly Monday to approve a move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.

OAK-land RAI-ders” chants from desperately hopeful fans serenaded owners around the posh Arizona Biltmore complex, but to no avail. The vote was 31-1, with Miami owner Stephen Ross the only negative voter. He was reportedly concerned about the drop in market size from sixth (the Oakland/San Francisco market) to 40th (Las Vegas). But in the end, an avalanche of owners felt the fact that more than half of the $1.7-billion stadium would be publicly funded was too big an advantage to pass up.

But this isn’t going to be easy. They won’t be the “Las Vegas Raiders” until they leave Oakland. Commissioner Roger Goodell said the team would remain the Oakland Raiders for at least two more years, while the new stadium is being built just off the Strip in Las Vegas. And the Raiders, as of today, do not have a scheduled home for 2019 and may be forced to play in Vegas’s 35,500-seat Sam Boyd Stadium, home of UNLV (and currently not suited for NFL games) while the new place is being finished.

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