Morning Report, August 4: Birthers, Truthers, Class Consciousness, Gay Marriage, and the Depressing Truth About America

1.  What does it say about American society that nearly 1 in 10 of us are on anti-depressants?  Reuters reports:

“Significant increases in antidepressant use were evident across all sociodemographic groups examined, except African Americans,” Dr. Mark Olfson of Columbia University in New York and Steven Marcus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia wrote in the Archives of General Psychiatry. “Not only are more U.S. residents being treated with antidepressants, but also those who are being treated are receiving more antidepressant prescriptions,” they added. More than 164 million prescriptions were written in 2008 for antidepressants, totaling $9.6 billion in U.S. sales, according to IMS Health.

2.  The debate is over!  Dogs are smarter than cats.  And dog lovers everywhere rejoice at the confirmation of what they’ve long known.

3.  Football star Tim Tebow’s simple “yes,” when asked whether or not he was “saving himself” until marriage, and the stunned response of the reporters in the room, occasions this reflection on the “new morality” in which it is shameful to be sexually pure.  I am getting tired of hearing “they’re going to do it anyway.”  Mark Regnerus is wrong to make this assumption, but he’s right to condemn much of the way in which evangelicals have approached pre-marital sex, and his case for early marriage is not unreasonable (see here as well).  It’s not at all clear that moving marriage later in life has made marriages better or more likely to last.  Marrying early, with the understanding that this marriage will be the work of a lifetime, and will require effort and attention as two young people grow old together, may in fact be preferable to a later marriage in which it is thought that the two people who “fit” the best have found one another–because what happens then when one spouse finds another who “fits” better, or what happens when they discover that the fit did not run as deep as they had thought, and their marriage actually requires work?  These are not the only two alternatives, of course, but the latter does seem to be the attitude in many current marriages, and the former the attitude when earlier marriages prevailed.

51% of Christianity Today readers married between ages 20 and 24, yet the large number believe that we should be cautious or at least carefully selective about encouraging early marriage.  If we’re going to have Christians marrying later (and this is very much the trend), we need to build structures of support and develop further the spiritual disciplines of singleness, especially the joy of celibacy.

$.  David Paul Kuhn, writing for RealClearPolitics, has a solid, reasonable take on the “birther” phenomenon–and, as it turns out, it’s much the same point I made about “birthers” earlier, drawing a parallel between “truthers” and “birthers.”  The most interesting paragraphs are the last, concerning the political self-segregation of left and right and our hyper-polarized electorate.  Pay special attention to the very last paragraph (this was the quote of the day at Hot Air):

Today, conservatives and liberals can vacation together or join dating services to court only the like minded. At night, one side watches only MSNBC and the other side only Fox News. And when people are around likeminded individuals, one study found, their viewpoints only become that much more extreme.

We are living the result. After his first six months in office, Gallup found that only 23 percent of Republicans approved of Obama. After six months in office, Gallup found that only 28 percent of Democrats approved of W. Bush. Now travel back four to five decades.

After six months in office, 60 percent of Republicans approved of John F. Kennedy. After six months in office, 51 percent of Democrats approved of Richard Nixon. And lest we forget, Nixon and Kennedy both won by less than a percentage point.

We are ever more polarized today and so may be the conspiracies. The less each base understands the other side perhaps the more outlandish the theories become, in order explain the hold of the other side.

A few years ago, an Emory psychologist scanned the brains of self-described partisans. Partisans were able to notice the hypocritical statements of the opposing candidate but not the inconsistencies of their preferred candidate. Ideology, it was determined, showed affects similar to drug addiction.

5.  Today’s Two-Sides is again on the issue of health care reform.  Peter Berkowitz and Thomas Sowell write for the Right.  Ruy Teixeira from the Center for American Progress offers his entry for the Left.

6.  Liz Cheneey is becoming quite the unlikely–and yet effective–spokeswomen for the Right.  Can you say “political aspirations”?  She’s certainly sharp as a whip.  Could she be the anti-Palin alternative for the Republican party?

7.  Henry Louis Gates jokes that he offered to help Crowley’s kids get into Harvard.  Comments like this, and Gates’ daughters’ mocking of Crowley’s daughters’ over-use (by her lights) of eyeliner, suggest to some that class consciousness was indeed involved in the Gates/Crowley encounter, not in making Crowley resentful and prone to explode at Gates, but in making Gates prone to explode at someone far below his station daring to harass the aristocracy.  Who knows.  Enough speculative about motivations, it’s time to move on.

8.  Finally, quite apart from the moral issues at stake, here is one intelligent argument that it would be disastrous to the politics of the country for the Supreme Court to intervene in the Democratic process of adjudicating the nature of marriage.  This seems to beg the question a little, as to whether a fundamental right of a minority group is at stake.  Yet the point is restricted to what would produce the best possible outcome, and the author makes a good case that the best possible outcome, one in which the people will know that the Democratic process worked and included them, is for these issues to be resolved at the ballot box and not the courts.

About Timothy Dalrymple

Timothy Dalrymple was raised in non-denominational evangelical congregations in California. The son and grandson of ministers, as a young boy he spent far too many hours each night staring at the ceiling and pondering the afterlife.
 
In all his work he seeks a better understanding of why people do, and do not, come to faith, and researches and teaches in religion and science, faith and reason, theology and philosophy, the origins of atheism, Christology, and the religious transformations of suffering


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