Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings January 28, 2012

Kathy Keller reflects on Christians marrying non-Christians — worth a good read.

Ann Voskamp: “There’s a whole lifetime of memories here at the lake and how many Sunday picnics of fried chicken have we had right up there at the lighthouse? She’d serve extra helpings of green coleslaw and I’d pump the swing high and I could see how we might, soar straight out over the lake. There’s a time when you think nothing will end. I lean into her and she leans into me, and we’re warmer like this, close. Doesn’t therehave to be more than a decade left of this? And there doesn’t have to be anything. The waves keep breaking. Couldn’t she stay until she’s 117? When you wake to losing someone, you win love. When you realize that what you have, you will lose —  you win real eyes. You win grateful joy. It comes across the water and I turn to face it directly: It’s only when you realize everyone you love will one day leave you— that you really begin to love. I reach over for Mama’s hand and she does that, she squeezes mine softly and that says more… most. Someday, it is possible, I could stand here on my own 61st. I can close my eyes and almost see that.

Casey Tygrett: “Words create. Words destroy. Be creative.”

I like this from Rich Atkinson: “I’ve been a youth pastor for more than 10 years now and have watched how very easy it is to get young people excited … and how very hard it is to make that excitement stick. Jesus seemed to have an idea that this might be a problem. After all, he spent a surprisingly high percentage of his time investing in 12 young men knowing full well that one of them wouldn’t make it anyway! This shows us that Jesus didn’t make conference junkies — he made disciples.”

David Field’s sketch of Craig Evans’ book and its value for apologetics.

Ben Witherington reflecting on the sudden and unexpected death of his daughter and belief in a good God.

Derek Leman: “The Bible is in some ways like a beach vacation. You need the vacation. As it draws near you think idealistically about the vacation. It will be heaven on earth. It will revolutionize your life. If May 30 will just get here sooner than later, if you can just be transported to that warm sand and the sound of gentle surf, life will be worth living again. But the ideal beach vacation doesn’t exist. It begins with a very real drive passing by the usual signs of the earth’s brokenness. Your week at the beach has the usual drawbacks of ordinary life. Tension and fights with a family member. Insomnia in the hotel or condo bed. The sun is too hot, the water not as pristine as you would like. Sunscreen runs into your eye to remind you this is not the Elysian Fields or Nirvana. The beach vacation is not the once and for all answer to your dissatisfaction with life. But in spite of these things, when you return to normal life, you plan to do the beach again. It wasn’t all that your ideal picture wanted it to be, but it was healing.”

Meanderings in the News

Some pretty good wit in this post about what JLSathre learned in opening a used bookstore. Like this one: “7.  If you put free books outside, cookbooks will be gone in the first hour and other non-fiction books will sit there for weeks.  Except in warm weather when people are having garage sales.  Then someone will back their car up and take everything, including your baskets.”

In the age of Michelle Obama: “In a new nationwide survey conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, a complex portrait emerges of black women who feel confident but vulnerable, who have high self-esteem and see physical beauty as important, who find career success more vital to them than marriage. The survey, which includes interviews with more than 800 black women, represents the most extensive exploration of the lives and views of African American women in decades. Religion is essential to most black women’s lives; being in a romantic relationship is not, the poll shows. Nearly three-quarters of African American women say now is a good time to be a black woman in America, and yet a similar proportion worry about having enough money to pay their bills. Half of black women surveyed call racism a “big problem” in the country; nearly half worry about being discriminated against. Eighty-five percent say they are satisfied with their own lives, but one-fifth say they are often treated with less respect than other people.”

Mercy, this is bad news: “Steven decided to dupe his doctor when he returned from his elite boarding school exhausted by the intense competition there. He needed an edge to help him, he felt. So through written evaluations from teachers and his parents, and by deliberately failing tests, he succeeded in getting himself diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and was given both his in-school tests and his SATs untimed. Eventually Steven, which is not his real name, was accepted to a top college in upstate New York, although he no longer takes medication, nor does he consider himself ADHD. The ADHD diagnosis, and the benefits that came with it, he acknowledges, helped him beat the competition. Welcome to the new way to get into America’s best collegesADHD is a chronic condition that includes difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. Children with ADHD also often struggle with low self-esteem and poor performance in school and can show signs of the illness through adulthood. Yet a growing number of parents want their kids labeled as having the disorder. All so that they can ace their tests and gain entry into the ivory towers of the country’s best high schools and universities.”

I’m not an MD, so this is not my opinion or my advice, but this theme is becoming more and more vocal: “Breast cancer screening can no longer be justified, because the harm to many women from needless diagnosis and damaging treatment outweighs the small number of lives saved, according to a book that accuses many in the scientific establishment of misconduct in their efforts to bury the evidence of critics and keep mammography alive. Peter Gøtzsche, director of the independent Nordic Cochrane Collaboration, has spent more than 10 years investigating and analysing data from the trials of breast screening that were run, mostly in Sweden, before countries such as the UK introduced their national programmes.”

Sara Khorshid gives us an insider’s look at the Egyptian situation: “Secularism is not my cause and sharia is not my fear but I am one of those Egyptians who are critical of the Muslim Brotherhood movement – one who made a point of not voting for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party in the recent elections. My cause is Egypt, the revolution, and seeing my country become a true democracy. My fear is the prolongation of military rule, of transformation to a system that gives the military special status above civil institutions, or one that grants the army and its budget immunity against parliamentary accountability. The Brotherhood’s priorities are different from mine, and their objectives have occasionally conflicted with those of the revolutionaries.” And: “Having seen the Brotherhood make a series of compromising stances over the past year, I can’t trust it to be capable of achieving the revolution’s objectives. Despite all that, it’s absurd to find many western media outlets reducing Egyptian revolutionaries’ anger against the Brotherhood to an alleged fear of sharia law. An oversimplified analysis from some western writers depicts the divide between many young revolutionaries and the Brotherhood as a secularist-Islamist clash. What they seem not to have noticed is that the key secularist party in post-revolution Egypt – the Free Egyptians party – also opposed November’s demonstrations. And just as protesters kicked senior Brotherhood leader Mohamed Beltagi out of Tahrir in November, they also kicked out liberal figure Mamdouh Hamza in the same week. The protesters’ rejection of the two men had nothing to do with sharia, and had everything to do with the revolution and its initial objectives, which were neither secularist nor Islamist.”

Academic publishing: “This morning, I searched for an article about autism on JSTOR, the online database of academic journals. I have a child on the autistic spectrum, and I like to be aware of the latest research on the topic. I could not access any of the first 200 articles that contained the word “autism.” That’s because, for the most part, only individuals with a college ID card can read academic journal articles.  Everyone else, including journalists, non-affiliated scholars, think tanks and curious individuals, must pay a substantial fee per article, if the articles are available at all. I later found one article that was available for $38. I’m not sure why one twelve page article costs $38. It takes me about eight minutes to scan a twelve page article. The researcher receives no royalties. Why does it cost so much to read one article? The answer lies in the antiquated system of academic publishing.”

Speaking of academics, the archaeologists of the UK have a discovery: ” A recently discovered mysterious “winged” structure in England, which in the Roman period may have been used as a temple, presents a puzzle for archaeologists, who say the building has no known parallels. Built around 1,800 years ago, the structure was discovered in Norfolk, in eastern England, just to the south of the ancient town of Venta Icenorum. The structure has two wings radiating out from a rectangular room that in turn leads to a central room. “Generally speaking, [during] the Roman Empire people built within a fixed repertoire of architectural forms,” said William Bowden, a professor at the University of Nottingham, who reported the find in the most recent edition of the Journal of Roman Archaeology. The investigation was carried out in conjunction with the Norfolk Archaeological and Historical Research Group.”

Indeed, out of balance, by Laura Pappano: “It is that point — “this commercial thing” in the middle of academia, as Charles T. Clotfelter, a public policy professor at Duke, put it — that some believe has thrown the system out of kilter. In his recent book “Big-Time Sports in American Universities,” Dr. Clotfelter notes that between 1985 and 2010, average salaries at public universities rose 32 percent for full professors, 90 percent for presidents and 650 percent for football coaches. The same trend is apparent in a 2010 Knight Commission report that found the 10 highest-spending athletic departments spent a median of $98 million in 2009, compared with $69 million just four years earlier. Spending on high-profile sports grew at double to triple the pace of that on academics. For example, Big Ten colleges, including Penn State, spent a median of $111,620 per athlete on athletics and $18,406 per student on academics.”

Church weddings on the rise in the UK.

Sam McNerney is right: “When it comes to getting work done Sartre was right, hell is other people. So was Picasso, who said that, “without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” And then there’s Steve Wosniak, who in his memoir explained that, “most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me … they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists… And artists work best alone …. I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone… Not on a committee. Not on a team.”

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  • James Petticrew

    Scot as someone with Scottish descent I am disappointed you didn’t pick up on the big news in the UK this week. The Scottish government published the question that Scots will vote on in 2 years time to decide whether they want to leave the UK and become independent and kicked off the process leading to the referendum. The clock may well be ticking on the UK as a country. Personally looking forward to voting to see Scotland take it’s righftul places among the world’s nations.

  • scotmcknight

    James, I’m sa deff. Dinne hair ‘boot et.

  • DRT

    Scot and other college teachers, I have a question. My college freshman (who got straight A’s his first semester), is saying that he really feels he is ADD, and my wife, of course, wants to help him. Now he may be, mildly, as I am certain I am, but it seems that he is simply feeling the stress of college and is trying to make it easier, somehow.

    Any advice?

  • RJS


    Interesting – I hadn’t seen anything about this either. My daughter (also of Scottish descent, although I am not) is heading to Scotland today to spend a term at St. Andrews.

  • scotmcknight


    I would check with the counseling services to see if they can test him. He would likely need a full battery tests for ADHD, done by a clinical psychologist, including a TOVA test. I’m also told by my wife, Kris, that there is a highly genetic component to ADHD.

  • RJS

    The most common accommodation we give is time and a half on exams. The level of learning disability that requires this may be easy to fake, but I don’t know. I do know that this group doesn’t perform any better than the class as a whole.

    Those who require more unusual accommodations are rare – and I think it would be harder to fake these.

    I taught a course last winter with about 150 students – no more than 10 (I don’t recall the exact number) required extra time. This is a bit less than the 1 in 10 number in the article – but doesn’t actually seem excessive to me.

    While I expect that this kind of cheating does occur, I don’t think it is pervasive. There are other kinds of cheating that are far more worrisome because they are more common.

  • Susan N.

    Kathy Keller – ‘Reasons You Should *Not* Marry an Unbeliever’ — touche!

    I will give you my half-shekel’s worth, since I did the “disobedient”, the strongly inadvisable, and married an unbeliever.

    Hard, yes. No doubt about that. I wouldn’t try to paint a “revisionist” history of my marriage, to give the impression that it’s been all hearts and roses. Some very big struggles ensued. There were times I didn’t know if we would make it.

    There have been decisions that I had to make, based on my convictions of obedience to God, in Christ, which conflicted with my then-unbelieving husband’s idea of what was right. I obeyed God. Husband was resentful. Extended hard times ensued, we’re talking years of it.

    Here is the redemptive beauty in my story: Having witnessed me living out those difficult decisions, in spite of all hardship (much of which inflicted on me by unbelieving husband), finally my husband believed that my faith was “real” and worth believing for himself.

    This is truly the only evangelism that I have done, with any success. It was not pretty; it was often messy. It was not easy; it was so very hard. [I would pause here to point out that *all* marriage is hard, in the sense that learning to live and co-operate with another person takes some effort. It’s not magic…]

    Back to my point, can you imagine how very worth it this investment has been for me? No regrets, no shame, no guilt, just gratitude for God bringing us together and blessing our marriage in the best possible way.

    I have grown in my faith and learned a lot through my husband, too. Don’t get the impression that I mean to suggest I had all the “right” answers from the get-go.

    Some of us *true* Christians do well to learn humility, and to recognize, at last, how little of Jesus we have truly understood, and don’t even get me started about interpreting and applying the Bible correctly.

    I’m thinking of that incorrigible Jesus…having the audacity to eat with tax collectors and sinners! I am reading Dr. Richard Beck’s book ‘Unclean’ at the moment. So good! The belief that the pure is made impure by contact with the “unclean” is so imbedded in our psyches, and in much of our church doctrines. Jesus said and demonstrated that that is not true.

    My only regret in my marriage to an unbeliever is that I didn’t have more faith from the start, that God would move to change my husband’s heart, in His good timing. Patience is not a virtue that comes easily to me. Working on that. 🙂

    I guess that was more than a half-shekel. You should start charging me by the word!

  • Diane

    I am so sorry for Ben Witherington’s loss and was ministered to by his blog post. In our brief phone contacts, Ben has in years past been more than generous to me, a former religion journalist. I do wonder about the mystery of suffering and take heart in his words that “the Biblical portrait of God is that God is pure light and holy love; in him there is no darkness, nothing other than light and love.”

  • james petticrew

    Scot what part of Scotland did your family come from cause I ain’t never heard those words before 😉

  • Susan N.

    Oh Diane (#8)…my heart aches for Ben W. as well. I can truly empathize with his loss and grief. Interestingly, Rom. 8:28 was the key verse that I clung to, and which has become something of a “life verse” for me. Ben, being far wiser and more mature in his faith than I at the time, is able to move right into the question, “*What* can You and I make of this terrible situation, God? I know that You are good, and mean to redeem and fulfill a purpose in it, somehow.”

    Those not so far progressed in their faith seem to spend a longer time asking the unanswerable, “Why?”

    The 20-year “death anniversary” of my firstborn was January 23rd. That tragic event has changed my life in so many ways. God has really saved me a thousand times over since then, as a result of being utterly devastated and needful of His grace. The way “up” has proven to be in the way “down” for me. The goodness of God is, above all truth, *the* essential truth.

  • DRT

    Thanks Scot, I have not researched TOVA before. My wife constantly teases me that I can’t even walk across the room without getting distracted into 5 different things…

  • Scot McKnight

    My grandpa was from Fife.

  • Phillip

    In connection with the article on academic publishing, does ATLA create the same issue for pastors who are not connected to a seminary? I notice that Textweek lists a number of articles for the biblical texts available at ATLA, but I can’t get to them without signing in through school.

    I like the idea of making journals more widely available through electronic format. But there is a loss. We have few hard copies in our library now. and Imiss being able to sit and flip through jounals, looking at articles I would not have found otherwise.

  • AHH

    The academic publishing article seems ill-informed, from my perspective as Editor of a journal in the physical sciences. For example, at least in the physical sciences, journal editors are typically paid (in my case, the money goes to my employer and it is part of my job duties).

    One thing missing from the article is the value added by peer review and the editing process. For journals in the sciences, about 50% of submitted articles are worthless (this has become worse as countries like China and India are pressuring their faculty to publish in western journals without equipping them to do worthwhile research). And even for good work, often a reviewer or editor will find a mistake or otherwise point out something that makes the final published product much more valuable than it otherwise would have been. So the idea of slapping a paper up on the web without peer review or editing will result in a very high chaff/wheat ratio.

    Admittedly there are problems, and the author correctly points to for-profit publishers as part of the problem (another issue is library budgets as universities face funding cuts). But a lot of journals (including the one I edit) are published by professional societies, and they are much more affordable for shrinking library budgets. So one thing that helps is if researchers try to publish their work in non-profit journals.

    Finally (I realize this may sound elitist), should we worry about whether this mother whose background is political science can access academic research articles? Unless you are trained in a field, you are not going to be able to comprehend academic research papers and put them in the proper context. For an amateur, reading such articles is likely worthless or even misleading. Her child’s doctor should be reading these articles, not her. With services like JSTOR she can at least get the gist by reading the Abstract of the article, and that is probably all that is worth reading for an amateur.

  • Luke Allison

    Susan N #7

    That’s the reason I read this blog, by and large. The scholarly and theological articles are wonderful, but the people on here are just so much more interesting that at other online communities.

    I’m reminded of the Father Damien “We Lepers” story that circulates around during Christmas time. Jesus entered into an incarnate reality on purpose!
    Your candor and faithfulness are incredibly inspiring for a young whippersnapper like me.

    Now, on my end, the only thing that kept my wife and I married our first year was our common faith in Jesus Christ. Without that, the second door I broke in anger would have most likely been the last “married activity” I partook in. There’s no formula for this stuff. I’m surrounded by “good Christian folks” who got married to people with the same faith and eventually got bored with them.

    I think the lesson your story illustrates is that the heart of the person in the marriage is ultimately what determines its direction. My wife saw staying married to me as valuable, regardless of my absolute rage-aholic status and sexual dysfunctions.
    You saw staying married to your husband as valuable. I believe that’s what Jesus uses to transform and change circumstances. Praise is due Him.

  • KEP

    Oh my … How hard it is to read Ben’s piece. His professional status as a NT guy does not make the answers much clearer … Even if he knows some of the right questions. What really matters is perhaps how close he is to the Author of life … to sense through experience His care and compassion, both for Ben and his family as well as for his daughter. Job’s friends get something of a bad rap, some of it deserved … but his friends do sit with him in silence for a week, simply sharing his pain. I pray Ben has friends who will simply be present when there is need.

  • Susan N.

    Luke (#15), thanks for this response. I’m like you, in that I learn a lot here at this blog about high(er) level biblical studies and theology and such; but, it is the interaction with others who share where and when “the rubber met the road” in their faith-life which really makes this community dear to me.

    “Praise is due Him.”

    Amen, Luke. Let it be so with us, always (that we be praising Him.) 🙂

    Blessings to you and your wife in the journey of marriage. Keep on, stay strong!

  • Craig Querfeld

    Dr. Witherington and Kathy Keller’s thoughts should be framed and given to every church leader, pastor and missionary. Spot on!

  • RJS

    AHH is dead on with the academic publishing issue. Most journals are not “for profit”, the money to pay the bills comes from library subscription. If the information is all open access from day one Universities and libraries will not pay.

    There are places where the system can and should be tweaked. NIH now requires work payed for through NIH to be open access after a delay. Some journals will allow authors to pay several thousand dollars to make their articles open access.

    But there is value added by having a quality gate and such an operation costs some money even when the reviewers are all volunteer.

    What has changed is that there is a public expectation of open access, newspapers and magazines face the same opposition.

    Most people could get access to much of the information the old-fashioned way, by visiting their local public college or university library.

  • DRT

    Sorry, off topic, but I loved it. Watching an old Ellen show and she asked god what the hardest part was. She said, essentially “not knowing for sure if people really like me [god] or if they just like me because I am god”. Calvinism, yes.