Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!


A quiet Christmas gift from Ann Voskamp. Ted reflects on Christmas and Mary’s Magnificat. On the birthdate of Jesus — 6-4 BC.

Ann’s reflections on Christian peacemaking. David Moore reflects on something to be learned from the Penn State morass.

What would you do?, asks Kathy Khang.

Conte knows the inside story about Ryan Braun — fast acting and disappearing. [One of my all-time favorite birds, the Cedar Waxwing, is to the right.]

Fun words to know.

John Wymer on the dangerous Bible: “Partially as victims of biblical and historical ignorance and partially through passively carrying water without question for the assumptions and priorities of previous generations, we have learned to think of the Bible through a systematic lens. Because we believe the Bible must neatly fit together with logical consistency, we feel free to bend apparent meaning of the text so our system remains untarnished. Because we believe church and Christianity is above all other things a “clean” and “polite” and “family-friendly” affair, we edit out many significant details including entire stories and lines of thinking in the Scriptures. A book that is raw and difficult has been rendered petite and plainspoken and blushing madly at even a hint of impropriety. The mysterious and feared guerrilla leader has been replaced by a shushing librarian. A book that should disturb and challenge us has been sanitized so only comfort and affirmation of who we pretend to be is found there.”

Meanderings in the News

Alarming set of photos of North Korea. Suppression on display.

Amazing set of photos from National Geographic. I vote for the monsoon, how about you?

In the post-death of Christopher Hitchens, the media seemed not to have found enough good things — his courage, his prose, his legacy — to say, but Glenn Greenwald observes that Hitchens was a mean-spirited hater of Iraq and a relentless supporter of pounding the country into oblivion. He compares how Reagan was remembered — that is, how the media was required to eulogize him upon his death — and how the media, whose major instinct was against Hitchens’ view of war, are doing to Hitchens what they didn’t like with Reagan. Here’s a bit: “I rarely wrote about Hitchens because, at least for the time that I’ve been writing about politics (since late 2005), there was nothing particularly notable about him. When it came to the defining issues of the post-9/11 era, he was largely indistinguishable from the small army of neoconservative fanatics eager to unleash ever-greater violence against Muslims: driven by a toxic mix of barbarism, self-loving provincialism, a sense of personal inadequacy, and, most of all, a pity-inducing need to find glory and purpose in cheering on military adventures and vanquishing some foe of historically unprecedented evil even if it meant manufacturing them…. What’s horrible about Hitchens’ ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made…. The blood on his hands — and on the hands of those who played an even greater, more direct role in all of this totally unjustified killing of innocents — is supposed to be ignored because he was an accomplished member in good standing of our media and political class. It’s a way the political and media class protects and celebrates itself: our elite members are to be heralded and their victims forgotten. One is, of course, free to believe that. But what should not be tolerated are prohibitions on these types of discussions when highly misleading elegies are being publicly implanted, all in order to consecrate someone’s reputation for noble greatness even when their acts are squarely at odds with that effort.”

Kim Jong Il’s cook. I still am laughing that the Presidential feller from the Deep South called him “Kim Jong the Second.” Not.Ready.For.Prime.Time.

On yawning: “A popular theory for how yawns spread is that they automatically engage the empathy systems in our brains. Consistent with this, past research found that children with autism, some of whom have difficulty empathising, are immune to the contagious effects of yawns. Now Ivan Norscia and Elisabetta Palagi have developed this line of enquiry, showing that we’re more likely to catch a yawn from relatives than acquaintances, and more likely to catch them from acquaintances than strangers – presumably because we have more empathy for people with whom we’re emotionally intimate.”

Iowa evangelicals struggling over Newt Gingrich. In England, on the other hand, Giles Fraser is at the heart of the church and Occupy London, and this is a good sketch of his situation. What a paradox the church is, no?

The sooner the better: “The year-end report by the folks at the Death Penalty Information Center tell more and more Americans what they already know in their hearts to be true: The death penalty experiment is failing yet again. Undermined by overzealous prosecutors, a hobby-horse for incurious politicians, too often taken unseriously by jurors and witnesses, capital punishment in America has devolved since 1976 into a costly, inaccurate, racially biased, and unseemly proposition. We clearly can’t do it right, and more people are wondering whether we should continue doing it at all. The facts and figures of 2011 soberly reflect the nation’s evolving perceptions of the problems inherent in the justice system’s ultimate punishment. For decades, “death is different” has been the courtroom mantra of capital cases. But now, and with increasing clarity, “death is different” is becoming a discernible trend all across the country.”

The dynamics of international support of Egyptian Copts: “The Arab Spring has increased pressure on Egypt’s Coptic Christians, with attacks on churches and bloody clashes with Muslims and the military. Many foreign Christians feel driven to help. Pope Benedict, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams and other church leaders have spoken out in defence of the Copts, indigenous Christians who make up 10 percent of Egypt’s mostly Muslim population of 80 million. In Europe and North America, governments have denounced the violence and called on Egypt’s armed forces to guarantee equal rights for all citizens, especially religious minorities. Church groups have collected funds to send to Egyptian parishes. Worried Christians in Egypt say attacks on them have multiplied in recent years, starting even before former President Hosni Mubarak – seen as a defender of their rights – was swept from power in February by the Tahrir Square protests. But they are wary about getting too much support from abroad, fearing a backlash from Muslims who could resent special attention to a minority at a time when all Egyptians are suffering economic hardship and political uncertainty.”

Top Ten Ideas of the Year. Well, some of them are.

Meanderings in Sports

Whew, it’s over. Posnanski weighs in on Tebow: “Still, I love it. My favorite Tebow moment, unquestionably, came toward the end of the Jets game a few weeks ago. You might recall — because this has been the story time and again — Tebow and the Broncos offense were all but worthless until the final moments of the game. Tebow can look helpless in ways that few quarterbacks ever have. He can’t throw from the pocket. His release takes roughly the same time it took Bob Ross to paint a landscape. He has Nerf-Football-In-The-Wind accuracy, meaning he will often hit a Starbucks with his passes but he won’t necessarily hit the Starbucks he’s aiming for (and meaning that his bad passes are SO bad, he doesn’t often get them intercepted — he’s thrown just two picks all year despite completing fewer than 50% of his passes)…. The temptation is to say — and I HAVE said it to friends — that there’s no way this Tebow miracle can keep going. For it to work, the Broncos defense will have to continuously hold good teams to two touchdowns or less. For it to work, the Broncos offense will have to hold on to the ball for most of the game (turnovers = catastrophe) and, at the very least, force teams to go the long field against the defense. For it to work, that defense will have to score or get turnovers deep in the opponent’s territory pretty regularly. For it to work, the Broncos will have to consistently be close enough in the final minutes for Tebow and the offense to be in position to make winning plays. And, finally, most obviously, for it to work Tebow and the offense will have to keep making those winning plays….In other words, this is something new and unexpected and incalculable. It has worked for eight weeks now. Can it work for much longer? Can it work in the playoffs against the best teams? Can it actually work once teams have adjusted, once coaches have gotten their minds around it, once players start to come to grips with what Tebow is all about? Maybe not. But maybe. I think that’s the reason why I love this story so much. The “Maybe.” Sports would not be nearly as much fun if we already knew the answer.”

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