Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings November 26, 2011

Good Morning!

Michael Mercer, “For this I give thanks,” on what makes him grateful for his evangelical past.

Nate Stratman, at The Burner, on the pastoral implications on youth for pastors.

Tony Jones on a napkin — the top 25 books in Christian history/theology/spiritual formation.

Thomas Froese: “KAMPALA, UGANDA—Remember Kienan Hebert, the three-year-old in one of Canada’s biggest feel-good stories of 2011? Kienan was abducted from his B.C. home and later returned by, of all people, his abductor. Twitter and Facebook lit up. Christians proclaimed God is alive and well and listening to prayer.” (HT: PH)

I’m glad John Stackhouse called our attention to the death of CS Lewis, on the same day JFK died.

Mark Regnerus on Catholic Contemporary Music — or lack thereof: “Our transition from evangelical to Catholic has shed light on the role of music in one’s faith tradition. (It’s also gratefully revealed little that’s distinctively Protestant about most CCM.) For many evangelicals, CCM is a hallmark of their cultural consumption patterns. Sure, there are different tastes and preferences, from the cheesy to the edgy, from the very to the barely (Christian). But one fact seems pretty clear: most performing artists in the CCM world run with evangelicals, so far as I can tell. Very few are Catholic. Why is that?”

Newt Gingrich, an overpaid historian? John Fea: “In a recent GOP presidential debate in which Gingrich was asked to explain why he earned $300,000 from Freddie Mac, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives claimed that he had given the mortgage company advice in his capacity as a historian. Later it was revealed that Gingrich had actually received between $1.6 and $1.8 million for his supposed work as a historical consultant. By one definition, Gingrich is a historian. He has a Ph.D. from Tulane University where he wrote a doctoral dissertation entitled “Belgian Education Policy in the Congo, 1945-1960.” He taught history at West Georgia College (now University of West Georgia) and, believe it or not, was influential in starting an environmental studies program there. When he did not receive tenure at West Georgia he set off on a political career….Is it really possible that the leadership of Freddie Mac wanted a historical consultant to help them think about the way in which the past, in this case the history of housing in America, informs the present? If so, why wouldn’t they hire someone who knows something about this field? It is more likely that Gingrich is not telling the truth.”

Brad Wright analyzes why some leave the faith: part one, part two.

Karl Giberson: “Survey results recently reported by Christianity Today clarify once again the sober truth that evangelicals are not making much progress in accepting well-established mainstream scientific ideas about origins. Particularly disturbing is the finding that only 27 percent of evangelical pastors “strongly disagree” with the statement that the earth is 6,000 years old. A higher number “strongly agree” that the earth is just 6,000 years old, a conclusion refuted by mountains of evidence. Seven in 10 evangelical pastors “strongly disagree” that “God used evolution to create people.”

Tim Dalrymple: “As it turns out, however, evangelical churches are arguably the least-politicized of all the major churches.  At a recent meeting of the excellent Faith Angle Forum, David Campbell, author of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, presented his updated research.  When asked whether they heard sermons on political or social issues once a month or more, here is how America’s major religious groups responded:

  • Jewish: 41.4%
  • Non-affiliated: 30.5%
  • Black Protestant: 29.6%
  • Catholic: 20.7%
  • Mainline Protestant: 16%
  • Evangelical: 13.7%

I don’t have figures for Muslims, but the only religious group that definitely had a lower percentage of sermons on political/social issues was, interestingly, the Mormons.  Only 2% of Mormons said that they heard a sermon on social/political issues at least once a month.  (My thanks to Dr. Campbell for sharing the exact figures with me.)  But isn’t it interesting that liberal secularists rarely complain about the “politicization” of the Black Protestant or Mainline Protestant churches?”

Meanderings in the News

Work until they’re 80! “One of the striking results of the survey released Wednesday is that 25 percent of the respondents said they’ll need to work until at least age 80 because they will not have enough money to retire comfortably.”

David Gergen fires a few volleys at the bow of the super committee: “That’s why this failure of the super committee represents a reckless, irresponsible gamble by our “leaders” in Washington. It’s difficult to remember a Congress that has put the nation so much at risk in the service of ideology and to hold onto office. Partisans on both sides are grievously failing the country. An honest assessment would lay blame on the White House doorstep, too. Yes, the president finally put up a plan a few weeks back and made a few phone calls. But he has been exercising the most passive leadership imaginable. Nor have the Republican candidates for president been any more engaged. Why are their campaigns so focused only on 2013 and so detached from a crisis that continues to deepen in D.C. right now?”

Paul Oestreicher speaks wisdom on war: “Albert Einstein made that plain long ago. He knew there was no limit to our ability to kill, that the enemy of our survival is war. As murder is condemned in public opinion and in law, so must collective murder be. For the one we go to prison, for the other we get a medal or a hero’s funeral.”

Smart people and drugs: “Having a high IQ may have its drawbacks: a new study finds that highly intelligent children are more likely to try illegal drugs in their teenage and adult years. … An ongoing study that started in 1970 gathered data from 8,000 people, including their IQ test scores at ages five and 10. Participants later reported their history of illicit drug use at age 16, and then again at age 30. Men with high childhood IQs were 50 percent more likely to use drugs than their low-scoring counterparts. And women with high scores were more than twice as likely to have tried controlled substances. What draws children with high IQs to eventually try drugs? The study’s authors point out that drugs could serve as a coping mechanism for intelligent children who stand out from their classmates and become targets for teasing. In addition, intelligent people tend to pursue new, stimulating experiences to stave off boredom. Meaning that an IQ being high could be a gateway to getting high.”

Males cognitive abilities in the presence of women: ““Recent research suggests that heterosexual men’s (but not heterosexual women’s) cognitive performance is impaired after an interaction with someone of the opposite sex (Karremans et al., 2009). These findings have been interpreted in terms of the cognitive costs of trying to make a good impression during the interaction. In everyday life, people frequently engage in pseudo-interactions with women (e.g., through the phone or the internet) or anticipate interacting with a woman later on. The goal of the present research was to investigate if men’s cognitive performance decreased in these types of situations, in which men have little to no opportunity to impress her and, moreover, have little to no information about the mate value of their interaction partner. Two studies demonstrated that men’s (but not women’s) cognitive performance declined if they were led to believe that they interacted with a woman via a computer (Study 1) or even if they merely anticipated an interaction with a woman (Study 2). Together, these results suggest that an actual interaction is not a necessary prerequisite for the cognitive impairment effect to occur. Moreover, these effects occur even if men do not get information about the woman’s attractiveness. This latter finding is discussed in terms of error management theory.”

The Numbers Guy at WSJ: “A series of studies with both approaches has found the marginal value of a year of college is somewhere between 6% and 10%, according to Mark Long, an economist at the University of Washington, and other researchers. Earning a diploma confers a bit of a bonus, because it is necessary for some licenses and because it signals to employers a higher level of readiness. That adds up to a lifetime earnings increase of between $300,000 and $600,000 for completing college—for the typical worker. Many of these studies are from a decade ago or longer, and some economists think the true benefit has grown because of a greater demand for skilled labor.”

The decline of the US Postal Service: “The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been sliding down an unsustainable fiscal path for years. A toxic combination of a poor economy, an increase in online bill paying, the proliferation of e-mail and other digital communication, and congressional mandates have created billion-dollar deficits for the USPS since 2007. Last year it lost $8.3 billion. This year, it lost $5.1 billion (only because a mandatory $5.5 billion prepayment for retiree health benefits was postponed). Mail volume declined 1.7%. Projected mail volume over the next decade? Down, down, down. Officials say if nothing’s done, the postal service will run out of money by August or September of next year, and absent congressional action by Friday, the USPS will default on that mandated $5.5 billion payment.”

C. Michael Patton reflects on why we love CS Lewis but not Rob Bell. What we think now of Lewis needs to be thought of what evangelicals will think of Rob Bell in a generation or two. In his day, Lewis had plenty of worrisome critics. But Rob Bell and Lewis are not easy comparisons for me; Lewis and Tom Wright, yes.

Which major studies the most? “Full-time college students on average study 15 hours a week, but averages varied by academic majors, says the survey, released today by the National Survey of Student Engagement, based on a spring survey of 416,000 freshmen and seniors at 673 colleges and universities nationwide. Engineering seniors studied the most, 19 hours on average, and business and social science majors studied the least, about 14 hours. A companion survey found that faculty expectations for study time by major corresponded closely to what students reported. One exception: Social science faculty expected students to spend about 18 hours a week, four more hours than students reported.”

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