Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings December 17, 2011

What do you have for me?, asks the penguin.

Joel Willitts has a good post reflecting discussions of leaders on what to teach youth.

There’s more to it than this, inasmuch as “peer review” means not self-publishing, but the elitism danah points out in the academy is obvious.

Rachel Held Evans offers a bold call for women to practice Pentecost: “The breaking in of the new creation after Christ’s resurrection unleashed a cacophony of new prophetic voices, and apparently, prophesying among women was such a common activity in the early church that Paul had to remind women to cover their heads when they did it.  While some may try to downplay biblical examples of female disciples, deacons, preachers, leaders and apostles, no one can deny the Bible’s long tradition of prophetic feminine vision. I believe that right now, we need that prophetic vision more than ever.”

Tim Keller’s piece seeing common ground on the Christian and the State discussions, but I see significant differences between those whom he sees taking middle ground: Carson, Hunter, Strange and Volf. In particular, Hunter’s proposal of a “faithful witness” strikes me as a form of anabaptism (not the neo-anabaptism that is more caustic about empire) … and so I’d like to suggest that there is another philosophical view that is much more ecclesially-shaped (church as politic) and that forms an important alternative to the transformation, two kingdoms and common ground approaches he mentions.

I liked this article on the world’s 25 most beautiful college libraries, but they forgot St Mary of the Lake in Mundelein IL, just as gorgeous as some of the libraries in this post.

Mike Bird, down in Australia, reposts 10 suggestions for better preaching. Hanukkah, messianic style.

Gary Gutting’s good piece on college education: “First of all, they are not simply for the education of students.  This is an essential function, but the raison d’être of a college is to nourish a world of intellectual culture; that is, a world of ideas, dedicated to what we can know scientifically, understand humanistically, or express artistically.  In our society, this world is mainly populated by members of college faculties: scientists, humanists, social scientists (who straddle the humanities and the sciences properly speaking), and those who study the fine arts….Students, in turn, need to recognize that their college education is above all a matter of opening themselves up to new dimensions of knowledge and understanding.  Teaching is not a matter of (as we too often say) “making a subject (poetry, physics, philosophy) interesting” to students but of students coming to see how such subjects are intrinsically interesting.  It is more a matter of students moving beyond their interests than of teachers fitting their subjects to interests that students already have.   Good teaching does not make a course’s subject more interesting; it gives the students more interests — and so makes them more interesting.”

I will be reading and blogging about Hans Boersma’s new book. Here’s a taste: “Christianity was not Hellenized, according to Boersma (and countless other scholars of rank); rather, Hellenism was Christianized. Early Christians such as Clement of Alexandria, in the words of Peter Brown, “cut twigs from the rank, dried-back and brittle bushes of pagan literature, and graft[ed] them on the succulent root-stock of Christ’s truth.”[3] It is in fact the thinner strands of evangelicalism, which instinctually refuse the sacramental perspective, that border on Gnosticism.”

Meanderings in the News

RJ Snell’s review of the over-hyped AC Graying’s The Good Book: “The book is better than the cover. While the marketing presents the author as provocateur, one finds instead the reflections of a decent, middle-aged man with a thorough education, now thinking about his loves and aspirations in light of the erosive power of time. Grayling ignores religion more than he attacks it. Rarely, and lamely, he swipes at the ignorant who should “go to the illusionists, then, and leave philosophers in peace.” And while at times he mocks the fear of sex supposedly endemic to the religious, he does not make the heart race with anger or lust: “Why do you blush to hear the praise of pleasure, when you do not blush to indulge its temptations under cover of night?” Wild stuff, that. All in all, Grayling seems less like a Daedalus and more like an amiable chap who prefers Cicero to St. Paul but who would be good to have over for dinner or a round of golf.” And then this: “Grayling dares his readers to lead the examined life but refuses to converse with many who have examined it deeply, and consequently he overlooks insights allowing us to escape our bonds of dirt and reach for the heavens. He says he dares to know, but he does not dare to know the world as it is. Instead, he settles himself timidly into a world where death is not gruesome and love not divine, and all because he refuses to ask, or be asked by others, if there is, in fact, a God.”

Girls and boys in math: “There’s a longstanding myth of a gender gap between boys’ and girls’ math performance, suggesting some basic biological difference in how the two genders approach math. It’s deeply controversial and widely discredited. And now, a new study has completely debunked it.”

Switzerland, the new Catholic Bishop and evangelism: “Rome, Italy, Dec 13, 2011 / 02:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Charles Morerod, the newest bishop in the Catholic Church, is ready to evangelize Switzerland, despite the size of the challenge.”

This was an interesting piece at The Economist on how hominids made beds and took care of their caves … ages ago: “SETTING up home in the modern world means acquiring some furniture—particularly a bed. And things were not so different 77,000 years ago, according to the latest research on the behaviour of early man in South Africa. Caves in that country have yielded a lot of discoveries about how Homo sapiens made the transition to modernity. That he liked to sleep on a comfortable mattress is the latest.”

Kris and I both have iPads, and both of us have keyboards to convert them into typing machines if we need to type something longer. I wrote an Introduction and also a few Forewords recently on airplanes. I use a Clamcase, Kris uses the Logitech keyboard. Here’s a story of someone who’s geeky about using the iPad instead of a (traditional) computer.

Sugar, sleepy; protein, energy: “The reason the orexin system is so important is that it links the needs of the body to the desires of the mind. Several studies have demonstrated that the intake of sugar can decrease the activity of orexin cells, which is probably why we want to nap after a carb heavy lunch. This phenomenon also begins to explain the downward spiral of obesity triggered by our warped modern diet. Because we eat lots of refined sugars, washing down Twinkies with cans of Coke, we continually reduce levels of orexin in the brain, which then reduces levels of physical activity. In other words, we get fat and sleepy simultaneously.”

Supermassive black holes.

This bridge could be a bigger and bigger issue: “Officials in Jerusalem are set to close a footbridge connecting the region’s most sensitive Jewish and Muslim sites, inflaming religious tensions. Engineers working for the city claim the Mughrabi bridge, a wooden walkway that climbs up the Western Wall to the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount, is structurally unsound and a fire hazard. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, responsible for the bridge sinceIsrael annexed Jerusalem 1967, has been given seven days to raise any reasonable objection. The walkway will then be closed completely, except to Israeli security forces, with a view to replacing it with a stronger structure. The unilateral decision by the city’s authorities has angered Waqf, a body that represents the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem. It said any decision about the bridge was its to make as the Temple Mount is a Muslim sanctuary under Palestinian control. Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, delayed the closure at the end of October after warnings from leaders in Jordan and Egypt that it could provoke anti-Israeli sentiment across the Muslim world.”

Copts are worried in Egypt: “A caretaker sweeps the stones, a woman slips into a pew. But these days Egypt’s minority Coptic Christians are finding little serenity. Islamist political candidates, including puritanical Salafis, are dominating parliamentary elections. Sectarianism is intensifying and the patriotic veneer that unified Egyptians in overthrowing longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak is threatened by ultraconservative Muslim clerics whose divisive voices had been suppressed by the state for decades. “Our goal is to achieve an Islamic caliphate with Islamic shariarules,” Mohamed Zoghbi, a hard-line Salafi preacher, said this year on TV. “If Egypt becomes a caliphate, then the Middle East and Arab countries will follow our path. All Muslim youth should strive and die to build this caliphate even over their own bodies.”

Jordan Weissmann: “Think of the ingredients that make for a good school. Small classes. Well-educated teachers. Plenty of funding. Combine, mix well, then bake. Turns out, your recipe would be horribly wrong, at least according to a new working paper out of Harvard. Its take away: Schools shouldn’t focus on resources. They should focus on culture.”

Richard Dawkins gives an earful to David Cameron about religion: “In his leading article in the 19 December issue of the New Statesman, which he has guest-edited, the evolutionary biologist and bestselling author Richard Dawkins launches a scathing attack on David Cameron and his government’s imposition of religious tradition on society in the form of faith schools. Dawkins’s open letter, addressed to the Prime Minister, leads with a warning that we must not be distracted “from the real domination of our culture and politics that religion gets away with in (tax-free) spades”; indeed, these religious traditions are “enforced by government edict”. In a direct rebuke to David Cameron’s “government, [which,] like its predecessors, does force religion on our society, in ways whose very familiarity disarms us”, Dawkins lists examples, from bishops in the House of Lords and the fast-tracking of “faith-based charities to tax-free status” to the “most obvious and serious” case of government-imposed religion: faith schools. “Faith schools don’t so much teach about religion as indoctrinate in the particular region that runs the school,” Dawkins writes. Telling a child that he or she belongs to one particular faith “pav[es] the way . . . for a lifetime of discrimination and prejudice”.”

Meanderings in Sports

The top fifty sports pictures of the year. (HT: LKKM)

Joe Posnanski‘s a bit of a gasbag, but this is a good piece on Pujols.

MLB has decided there is now a dress code for reporters and Charles Pierce calls it what it is: sexism. “I don’t care how many female reporters MLB consulted before instituting this new policy. It’s still a sex-discrimination suit waiting to happen. Who, precisely, is going to determine what an “excessively short skirt” is? Some assistant media coordinator who dresses like an assistant golf pro from Arizona? Are they going to do what the nuns used to do and make female reporters kneel down and measure the distance between the hemline and the floor with a ruler? Are we all now supposed to “make room for the Holy Ghost” when we sit together at dinner? If they can do this, what, precisely, can’t they do? Can they regulate what is discussed in the press box? (They already regulate the volume, as I discovered that day in Fenway.) I know people with Amnesty International stickers on their laptops. Can MLB make a rule on exactly which mute political statements can be made within the confines of the ballpark? And, as is almost always the case these days, the essential question comes down to precisely how much of your soul your employer — or, in this case, your employer manqué — owns. And the essential answer, alas, is almost all of it.”

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