Faith, Politics, and Mini Cupcakes

Faith, Politics, and Mini Cupcakes October 27, 2011

What do faith, politics, and mini cupcakes have in common? Not much, except that they have recently been featured in newspaper columns.

Five Rules for Faith and Politics

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Rev. Oliver Thomas, a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors suggest five rules for faith and politics in a recent edition of USA Today. In summary, here are their suggested rules:

1. It is never appropriate — explicitly or implicitly — to impose a religious test for public office.

2. Religious leaders should refrain from using religious authority or threats to coerce the political decisions of American citizens or candidates.

3. Candidates should refrain from citing religion as the exclusive authority for their position on issues.

4. Politicians should try to be inclusive of all citizens when — in their public capacity — they choose to speak religiously.

5. Religious organizations have the constitutional freedom — and we would argue moral duty— to speak out on the great issues that confront our nation, but as tax-exempt entities they should never endorse or oppose candidates for public office.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Before you comment, you should read what Saperstein and Thomas actually wrote.

Small Sweets Enough to Satisfy

On a lighter and sweeter note, Julia Moskin writes for the New York Times about the increasingly popularity of miniature desserts. For example, she observes:

Mini popsicles, tiny macarons, bite-size ice cream sandwiches and baby caramel apples are popping up around New York. Mini cupcakes are the new, post-Magnolia standard at bakeries like Sugar Sweet Sunshine and Spot Dessert Bar, and even nationwide at Starbucks, which began selling a line of “petite” desserts in March.

Small sweets have swamped the mass market, too. The 100-calorie treat has become standard for baking giants like General Mills and Nabisco: mini muffins and two-bite croissants get prime supermarket real estate. A line of gadgets for home bakers, Babycakes, has sold more than a million machines, according to the company.

Why are we buying more bite-sized treats, rather than the oversize delights that have filled out our plates and enlarged our waistlines? As Moskin asks:

Why do we find tiny-size sweets enchanting, if they are inherently less satisfying? Or to frame the problem another way: Everybody knows that “fun size” candy bars are a trick-or-treating staple, but nobody has ever explained what’s fun about them.

You can check out her answer in her engaging article. Here’s what I think:

1. Smaller treats are more affordable. When we have less spare change in our pockets, or no spare change, we’d rather spend $1.00 on a mini cupcake than $3.95 for a giant one.

2. Smaller treats allow us to have a moment of enjoyment without making us feel guilty.

3. Smaller treats are healthier.

4. Smaller treats invite our interest when larger treats would scare us away. When I’m standing in line for a cup of coffee and see an attractive little cupcake for a dollar, I’m tempted in a way I would not be by a giant, 700-calorie, expensive monster.

5. Smaller treats are trendy. We like to be trendy.

What do you think? Are you buying tiny treats? If so, why? Are you tempted?


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  • Evan


    It seems I always come back to how certain key terms are defined, because that will tell how the debate will end. The authors you quote put forth some assertions that sound fine until you look at how certain terms get defined in practice, and then we are back to religious speech being stifled. Remember that the Elite Media defines the two camps as “faith-based” and “reality-based.” That already tells you what they think about those who believe there is a God.

    I want to touch on a couple of quotes from the article you cited:

    1) “Religious motivation is to be expected and commended, but candidates and legislators must be able to offer a civic or secular purpose for any public policy they propose.”

    This sounds practical, except that the way it is practiced, any disagreement with the Elite Academic and Elite Media perspective becomes “religious.” The best example is the Supreme Court of the United States claiming in Roe v. Wade that the question as to “when life begins” is in essence a religious question, so they will refuse to determine it, but they go on to rule that all unborn children are not “persons” and therefore have no Constitutional protections… in pretty much the same way they determined non-Caucasians were not “persons” in Dred Scott v. Sanford.

    The Supreme Court went on to assert that whether “potential life” might have any protection ever “the capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb.” So what is the “civic or secular” definition of “meaningful life” as opposed to a “religiously motivated” definition? The implications are quite chilling for all of us if our Constitutional protections depend on our “capability of meaningful life,” especially if only “civic or secular” reasons apply. The historic examples of such an approach have proven to be horrific.
    2) “If a candidate asserts a religious reason for a policy, questions about the role faith plays in shaping his or her decisions are fair game.”

    The problem is, of course, that “a religious reason” does not have to be specifically articulated as such. If you are contrary to the “reality-based” perspective, clearly you must be “religious!” And the capper is that atheism is NOT considered a “religious” posture by those standards! So questions about “the role NON-faith plays in shaping his or her decisions” are NEVER considered “fair game.”

    For example, if the candidate is an avowed atheist, are questions about how they view the “certain unalienable rights” in the Declaration then fair game? Where do those rights derive if not from an endowment by the Creator? I think these authors would be aghast if such questions were asked of an atheist.

    Please understand that this is the ENTIRE UNDERPINNING of our form of government. Further, the justification for the establishment of our nation was that “we hold these Truths to be SELF-EVIDENT.” Jefferson and the Founders considered these to be so openly obvious that there could not even be a legitimate debate on them. So why would it not be reasonable to question a candidate who holds that 1) these Truths are NOT self-evident and 2) THEY ARE NOT EVEN TRUE?

    The answer that I have received is that forbidding even the mention of God is Blessed Neutrality. I maintain that it is not. It is hostility to the fundamental jurisprudence of our nation. The United States is hardly perfect, but I will stack our record against ANY regime founded on the basis of atheism, such as the Soviet Union or the People’s Republic of China.

    Apologies for length and passion. Mark, I think you cite such folks and ask for commentary deliberately or something. 😉


  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Evan. Length and passion are good when a comment adds value, as yours does.

  • Jonathan Biggar

     I have to disagree with Saperstein and Thomas on point #5 for two reasons:

    1.  The first amendment properly read, in my opinion, does not give the
    right to the government to write laws that abridge the freedom of speech
    of religious organizations, period.  They are given tax exemptions to
    *ensure* that the government does not use taxation as a scheme to
    interfere with religious freedom, not as a backdoor to allow the
    government to regulate their speech.  So laws preventing religious
    organizations from endorsing candidates are, in my opinion
    unconstitutional on their face.

    2.  I agree it is dangerous for religious organizations to endorse
    candidates, and agree with their thinking on why it is dangerous, but I
    disagree that it is aways inappropriate.  As a member of my church’s
    board of directors, we set an explicit policy that only the church board
    could make the decision to endorse or oppose one position or another on
    political issues, and without that, church members should ensure that
    their personal political expression can not be confused as being
    endorsed by our church.

    Our policy also states that our church will not take an official
    position on a political issue as a matter of course (since our church
    body is represented by individuals who are often on different sides of
    political issues), but rather only when the board believes that our
    religious convictions very clearly cannot support the view opposing the
    position that our church should endorse.  We have not, and do not expect
    to make any endorsements on any current issue, but felt it was unwise
    to rule out doing so because we could not forsee that there would never
    be circumstances where it would become a necessity.