Smart people saying smart things

Kelly Nikondeha: “Jubilee is everywhere”

We tend to think the good news is salvation, a spiritual rescue that protects us from earthly tribulation or seals us for heaven. But jubilee is a concrete economic practice to release people from the real economic crises of life. We ought to be celebrating the good news that breaks the cycles of our perpetual indebtedness, allowing us to engage in a better kind of life here on earth. I think jubilary economics push us to see salvation as more earth-bound, less ethereal. I find that to be better news.

Daniel Fincke: “Why Atheists Resent Being Told We Are Going to Hell”

Imagine being offered that you can live forever if you go to the mansion of a sadistic torturer. He will provide you with endless amusements and happiness. He will also be endlessly torturing in the basement people who refuse his request. Would you go? Would you do so willingly? Would you go happily? Would you suck up to him and tell him he’s awesome and work yourself up into loving him? Would you make excuses for him and tell yourself he just must have his reasons? Would you get defensive on his behalf? Would you convince yourself he is the epitome of justice itself? Would you blame the people he tortures for using their free will to refuse him when they could have just loved him? To a lot of atheists the fervent desire of Christians and Muslims not only to accept such an invitation to such a mansion but also to believe in such a mansion and to eagerly defend the morality of such an arrangement is twisted.

Mary E. Hunt: “Pope Francis and the American Sisters”

Take, for example, the washing of two women’s feet at the Holy Thursday celebration. Granted, one of them was Muslim, and granted, the current pope may not be one for grand gestures (in which case they all would have been women in retribution), but is the liturgical act of washing two women out of twelve in 2000 years really the sign of the “feministization” of the Roman Catholic Church? Not by my lights.

Rather than washing feet, I suggest looking Catholic women in the eye and saying, “You are my sister, equal in every way to me,” and then changing structures accordingly. To atone for centuries of discrimination against women will take more than four clean female feet. I despair of those who say, “It is a start,” to which I respond, “Obviously, but how pitifully inadequate.”

Rick Pearlstein: “On Our Politics of Fear”

It’s easy to forget, in our oh-so-American narcissism, enveloped in the wall-to-wall coverage that makes our present catastrophe feel like the most important events in the universe, how safe and secure Americans truly are by any rational standard. Terror shatters us here precisely because ours is not a terrifying place compared to so much of the rest of the world. And also not really an objectively terrifying time, compared to other periods in the American past: for instance, Christmastime, 1975, when an explosion equivalent to twenty-five sticks of dynamite exploded in a baggage claim area, leaving severed heads and other body parts scattered among some two dozen corpses; no one ever claimed responsibility; no one ever was caught; but, pretty much, the event was forgotten, life went on and no one anywhere said “everything changed.”

Harold Pollack: “Want to fight terrorism? Learn first aid”

We need to take care of each other. At the highest level of social policy, this web of mutual obligation provides a basic argument for social insurance. At the level of everyday life, these same obligations take more elemental forms. We should immunize ourselves and our kids. We should sign our organ donor cards. We should learn what to do if a sibling falls into a diabetic emergency or if a bicyclist goes down and suffers a head injury.

The American Red Cross offers first aid courses in classrooms and on the Web. It offers pretty impressive smartphone apps, which include instructions and videos on topics from allergies to seizures and stroke. These apps can call 911 while providing useful instruction.

… Roughly four million people take these courses every year. That’s a good start. But it’s not nearly enough in a nation of 313 million people. If you are watching TV footage of Boston’s tragedy and wondering how you could help, here’s one thing to do: Sign up for one of these courses.


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  • That’s entirely fair. That said, if the same God who hypothetically created Hell also hypothetically created the natural world, it’s not at all clear to me why I ought judge Them any worse for the former than the latter.

  • Interesting. That explains the otherwise-obscure moving-to-Canada reference. Thanks for clarifying.

  • Vass

    Rilla of Ingleside, by L.M. Montgomery. One of my favourite war novels ever.

  • David S.

    There’s a difference between death by gun, which kills 30,000 Americans a year, and death by terrorism which back to 1972 by your numbers has killed less than 100 people a year. That’s well over two orders of magnitude difference in death rate; if we separate it into 9/11 and other, in 2001, terrorism killed almost 10% as many people as guns, and outside that, terrorism killed less then 10 people a year, which is negligible, 1/4th those killed by bee stings for example. Do we need a war on bees?

  • Yeah, sorry about that. Ethnocentricity and reading comprehension fail.

    I’m not sure that I could accept such a god, though. On one hand, no, I’m not keen on an eternity of agonizing torment, but I’m not sure how Heaven could be anything but if it entailed an eternity in the presence of a pitiless tyrant who I was expected to continue worshiping. Even with confirmation of the exact nature of the dilemma (as opposed to our various subjective experiences and futile mortal supposition), I think I would remain honor-bound to be hell-bound…

  • I admire that. I would think better of myself if I were confident that, under that kind of power-imbalance, I would still refuse to accommodate.