Weekly Meanderings, 20 April 2019

Weekly Meanderings, 20 April 2019 April 20, 2019

Summer is fast approaching and we in Chicago are more than ready.

It’s Holy Week — bless your Holy Saturday and Easter.

Dogs vs. beards.

Men with beards carry more germs than dogs, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Hirslanden Clinic in Switzerland tested the facial hair of men along with dog fur from various breeds.

“Researchers from the Hirslanden Clinic in Switzerland took swabs from the facial fuzz of 18 men and the necks of 30 dogs, across a range of breeds – that’s the dogs, not the men, by the way – and compared the results between the two. The results are pretty gross,” reported the BBC.

They found more harmful bacteria in the men’s beards versus than in dog fur.

According to the BBC, every man tested, aged from 18 to 76, had high counts of bacteria in their beards, while only 23 out of the 30 dogs had the same result. Researchers actually found this disgusting information out by mistake, they were trying to find out if men could pick up dog diseases in their facial hair, said the BBC report.

Seven of the men tested positive for bacteria that can make you sick.

“The researchers found a significantly higher bacterial load in specimens taken from the men’s beards compared with the dogs’ fur.” Study author Professor Andreas Gutzeit said, according to the BBC. “On the basis of these findings, dogs can be considered as clean, compared with bearded men.”

Ready, shift Right:

Did you think all the liberal Christian denominations making the news meant Christians have become more liberal? They’re not. Even mainline denominations like the Presbyterian and the Methodist churches have become more Republican. And less Democrat.

That’s from a study by political scientist Ryan Burge of East Illinois University. He analyzed the Cooperative Congressional Election Study from 2008 and 2018. It surveyed members of 34 religions — mostly Christian — on their political preferences. Of those surveyed, 27 became more Republican over the 10-year span. Only seven became more Democratic. And four of those seven still score as clearly Republican.

Assemblies of God became the most Republican, although they already leaned Republican. Nondenominational fundamentalists became less Republican, but are still the second most Republican tradition. The Mormons moved the farthest towards the Democrats of any tradition, but still lean clearly Republican. The traditions that moved farthest right were the other Lutheran churches (those outside the mainline church), other Pentecostal churches (outside the Assemblies of God), the independent Baptists, and the Eastern Orthodox.

A few churches even shifted their allegiance. Roman Catholics, Orthodox, other Lutherans, and the General Association of Regular Baptists  switched from leaning Democrat to leaning Republican. Several denominations that leaned Democrat became less Democratic. They include the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ.

The survey also included Jews, agnostics, and Buddhists. All became less Democratic. Those whom “identify as nothing in particular” (Burge’s term) drifted to the right, though remained on the Democratic side. The National Baptist Convention, an historically black church and the most solidly Democrat denomination, became less Democratic. On the other hand, atheists moved strongly left.

Millennials building financial stability living with parents:

The notion of the empty nest may be a thing of the past for a growing number of parents.

In its second biennial Millennial Money Study, Fidelity finds that 21 percent of older Millennials (those aged 25 – 35) are living at home with their parents, waiting to find a place of their own until they’ve achieved a stronger financial footing.

But waiting to declare complete financial independence extends beyond those who are living under their parents’ roofs. Fidelity’s study reveals that nearly half of all millennials surveyed have accepted financial assistance from their folks in one form or another since being on their own, including help with on-going expenses like groceries, utilities and cell phone bills. And it may be ‘paying off.’

Eighty-five percent of Millennials say they currently have some form of savings, a number that’s increased since Fidelity’s last study was conducted in 2014. They’re often paying down student debt, setting aside money for some future rainy day, and saving for retirement – things that are sure to please their parents. Another thing Mom and Dad can be proud of? Sixty five percent of Millennials indicate their parents serve as role models when it comes to building a successful financial future.


I came across this quote yesterday, on the birthday of Thornton Wilder, its author. It reflects one of the bedrock ideas of this blog. I am convinced that a life well-lived is shaped by the pursuit of the “lofty.” Any social structure, from a family, to a business, to a country flourishes to the degree that it pursues the good, the true, and the beautiful rather than the tawdry, the base, and the unjust.

The Apostle Paul said something similar:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV)

I’m struck with Paul’s repeated “whatever’s.” One might most naturally think of sacred scriptures, prayers, or other religious texts. Paul and Thornton Wilder agree. To read, hear, or see great works, whatever they might be, are necessary to “seeking the lofty.”

Implicit in both statements is the idea that there may be other than great things to read, hear, and see and other than lofty lives we might live. We are formed and shaped by what we read, and see, and hear, and think about for good or for ill, every day.

This blog represents my own attempt to curate a reading life around the qualities Paul mentions. As quickly as I read, I can only read in a lifetime a few thousand out of the vast number of books that have ever been published. The real question is, do I want a life that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy? If my answer to that is yes, then why would I read–or for that matter view or listen to–anything lacking in these qualities.

Kristin Du Mez: prophetic politics vs priestly politics.

This tension between Buttigieg and the Clinton team reflects a deeper challenge that has plagued the religious left. Can a prophetic tradition rally Americans to go to the polls? Is prophetic Christianity compatible with American patriotism, and with a quest for political power?

Here, history offers some sobering answers.

During the 2016 campaign, I found myself thinking often about an earlier presidential campaign—the 1972 battle between Richard Nixon and George McGovern. As I listened to Clinton refute Trump’s startlingly dark and dour depiction of America, I wondered if her attempt to draw a sharp distinction between her vision and Trump’s wasn’t based on her own political history. Clinton, recall, had worked on the McGovern campaign back in 1972.

As historian Mark Lempke has written, McGovern reveals the (mis)fortunes of progressive Christianity in postwar America: “At the start of McGovern’s public career, progressive, social justice-oriented Protestant Christianity was a cornerstone of respectable civic life. Although often establishmentarian in character, it also carried a strong prophetic element that challenged the powerful and supported marginalized communities. In the 1960s and early 1970s, liberal churchmen and liberal politicians such as McGovern worked together against war and hunger and in favor of a robust, inclusive Christian humanism…”

In 1972, McGovern’s progressive and prophetic Christianity countered Cold War nationalism and militarism—the defining features of the rising Religious Right. But McGovern’s campaign marked a critical turning point in progressive Christianity, revealing “the limits of prophetic action as a tool to win elections.” From that time on, progressive Christianity has struggled to inspire voters.

As Lempke writes, McGovern’s prophetic tone “may have been acceptable in a conscientious senator,” but “it was problematic in a presidential candidate who was expected to reassure rather than remonstrate.” Here Martin Marty offers a useful distinction between a priestly civil religion, which “affirms a nation and its people by evoking common symbols”—something employed by Nixon and his evangelical supporters—and a prophetic civil religion, which could entail a ruthless critique of the nation, yet in the tradition of the Puritan jeremiad, this prophetic critique allowed for hope that “the nation could overcome its faults and sins,” that it could find redemption.

While there’s a widespread cynicism today about political leaders, there’s more in Chicago and Illinois than elsewhere:

New census data show the Chicago area lost population for the fourth consecutive year, continuing a statewide trend of decline that could threaten future federal funding, economic prosperity and political representation for those left behind.

The metro Chicago area lost an estimated 22,068 residents from 2017 to 2018, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday. While New York and Los Angeles also shrank, the Chicago region saw bigger decreases both in total numbers and in percent change; the area lost 0.23 percent of its population, more than twice New York’s 0.10 percent.

As defined by the census, the Chicago metro area stretches from Cook County to its suburbs and includes parts of southeast Wisconsin and northwest Indiana. Despite the population decline, it is still home to nearly 9.5 million people, according to the latest estimates.

Cook County, which includes the city of Chicago, declined in population for the fourth year in a row, with an estimated loss of 24,009 residents or 0.46 percent from the previous year. While Cook is still the second most populous county in the United States, after Los Angeles County, it’s on a downward trend unseen since the early 2000s, when the county’s population decreased by 144,220 over seven straight years before beginning to rise again.

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