Weekly Meanderings, 9 September 2017

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Image of an Illinois cornfield decorated into Cubs celebration!

My former school, North Park University, will have Robert George speaking on freedom of speech during culture wars. October 20, 7:30pm. His respondent will be Edith Humphrey. The lecture is in the Engaging Orthodoxy series. If you go, eat dinner at Tre Kronor (the best). For info, call Brad Nassif at 773-244-6213. I normally don’t advertise such events on this blog but this is a special event in our area.

Scott Stump on the new Wave at Iowa:

It’s the newest tradition in college football, and it’s already one of the best.

The University of Iowa unveiled a heartwarming scene in its season-opening win on Saturday when fans stood and waved to the children watching from the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital across the street from the stadium.

The sold-out crowd at Kinnick Stadium got up and did their cool new version of “the wave” at the end of the first quarter of the Hawkeyes’ 24-3 win over Wyoming, and the kids waved back from the top floor of the hospital.

It’s the latest initiative in the history of the partnership between the hospital and the football team at Iowa.

Since 2009, the team has had a “kid captain,” a current or former patient from the hospital who joins the players on the sidelines during each home game and gets a special jersey.

These are a.m.a.z.i.n.g! HT: :mic

Dogs can help:

Every day when I wake up to my sweet pups’ faces I wonder: How do people not have dogs? How do they handle stresses of everyday life without a pair of puppy dog eyes to gaze into as their heart melts?

And that’s not just me being mushy about my guys (even though they are pretty special!). While “dogs have been a part of peoples’ lives for thousands of years,” says Rebecca A. Johnson, Ph.D, director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at University of Missouri, they’ve evolved from working and living outside to living indoors as part of the family.

We didn’t let other working animals move into the house and sleep on our beds — why dogs?

“Over time the relationship has gotten closer and closer,” Johnson says. “Some would relate that to advancements in industrialization and technology. We live in a high-tech, low-touch world and people have a longing for a bond with nature.” Companion animals like dogs can be that bond.

And these bonds “help us to feel good,” she says. “When we see, touch, hear or talk to our companion animals,” beneficial neurohormones “are released and that induces a sense of goodwill, joy, nurturing and happiness.” At the same time, the stress hormone cortisol is suppressed. Heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate can all decrease, leaving us more relaxed “and able to manage stress in ways that aren’t harmful to our health,” she explains.

Thinking clearly about “privilege”, by Jeffrey K. Mann:

First of all, “privilege” is a misnomer. Privilege has to do with special treatment. If one group faces discrimination, it does not necessarily mean another receives a particular privilege. If Gingers get picked on, it doesn’t mean the rest of us enjoy non-gingered privilege. What we are talking about are relative advantages, which are indeed real. Overuse of the word “privilege” turns people off; they are then less likely to stop and listen.

Opponents of privilege discussions must recognize, generally speaking, that life is easier in this country if you are born white, male and heterosexual. Denying this is an over-reaction. We must acknowledge that not everyone begins life with the same resources and benefits. Many face unfair hardships along the way – some are linked to race, gender, and religion.

Admitting that certain folks have relative advantages over others, however, does not make you a Lefty. I can admit the realities of my own unearned advantages without self-flagellating, liberal, white guilt.

Liberals who talk the most about “privilege,” however, need to recognize that they do not go far enough. There are numerous potential advantages that affect one’s chances in life. It is not just race and gender identity. Consider the enormous and disparate impact of wealth, attractiveness and intelligence. A man’s height is statistically significant when considering his potential for professional success; a person’s posture and weight also play a role.

And consider one of the most powerful unearned “privileges” that only some children enjoy: a two-parent home. …

When we multiply these variables with the fact that people hold multiple identity markers, we end up with a twisted web of relative advantages and disadvantages that no one can untangle through policy or decree. Who has it easier: an attractive girl brought up by a working-class Puerto Rican family in the Bronx or an autistic boy of Greek heritage raised in an upper-middle class, single-parent home in West Virginia?

Our social reality is a tremendously complex interrelationship of economics, education, religion, ethnicity, national origin, individual psychology, appearance and gender that play different roles in different times and in different places. Recognizing these identity markers – and the relative advantages they may carry – is important in creating a more just society. We may then work toward greater equality of opportunity by minimizing discrimination and favoritism, not adding to them. In the long run, that works to the advantage of us all. [HT: JS]

Tim Suttle’s pastoral approach to the Nashville Statement.

Book burning is about power and the logic of privileging one’s information.

But for Rebecca Knuth, author of Libricide: The Regime-Sponsored Destruction of Books and Libraries in the Twentieth Century and Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: Extremist Violence and Cultural Destruction, Qin and religious leaders like him are only a small part of the early book-burning equation. “A lot of ancient book burning was a function of conquest,” Knuth says. Just look at one of the most famous examples of burning, the destruction of the Library of Alexandria. The famed building had its contents and structure burned during multiple periods of political upheaval, including in 48 B.C. when Caesar chased Pompey to Egypt and when Caliph Omar invaded Alexandria in 640 A.D.

What changed everything was the printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440. Not only were there suddenly far more books—there was also more knowledge. “With the printing press you had the huge rise of literacy and modern science and all these things,” Knuth says. “And some people in authoritarian regimes, in a way they want to turn back the effects of the printing press.”

According to Knuth, the motives behind book burning changed after the printing press helped bring about the Enlightenment era—though burning through the collateral damage of war continued to arise (just consider the destruction of the U.S. Library of Congress during the War of 1812 or all the libraries destroyed across Europe during World War II). People saw knowledge as a way to change themselves, and the world, and so it became a far more dangerous commodity, no longer controlled exclusively by the elite. What better way to reshape the balance of power and send a message at the same time than by burning books?

The unifying factor between all types of purposeful book-burners in the 20th century, Knuth says, is that the perpetrators feel like victims, even if they’re the ones in power. Perhaps the most infamous book burnings were those staged by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, who regularly employed language framing themselves as the victims of Jews. Similarly, when Mao Zedong took power in China and implemented the Cultural Revolution, any book that didn’t conform to party propaganda, like those promoting capitalism or other dangerous ideas, were destroyed. More recently, the Jaffna Public Library of Sri Lanka—home to nearly 100,000 rare books of Tamil history and literature—was burned by Sinhalese Buddhists. The Sinhalese felt their Buddhist beliefs were under threat by the Hinduism of Tamils, even though they outnumbered the Tamils.

Even when the knowledge itself isn’t prevented from reaching the public, the symbolic weight of burning books is heavy. “Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them as to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are,” wrote John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, in his 1644 book Areopagitica. “Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature… but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself—” an idea that continues to be espoused in modern culture, like in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. [HT: JS]

Roger Olson asks if it is “evangelical Calvinism” or “classic Arminianism.”

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