Morning Report, April 22nd: Earth Day Revelry, The Accused Pope, Saving China, the Pilgrim Church, and the Muzzling of Cartman

Morning Report, April 22nd: Earth Day Revelry, The Accused Pope, Saving China, the Pilgrim Church, and the Muzzling of Cartman April 22, 2010

Christian and secular news and commentary one Christian found important or entertaining this morning:

1.  HAPPY EARTH DAY.  Two Patheos pieces (here and here) I was very happy to present when the Public Square considered Religion and the Environment, and which now are relevant all over again due to Earth Day.  And again, I think this article from Bjorn Lomborg is quite worth reading. Lomborg is not an alarmist, but he is a responsible environmental activist with some real outside-the-box thinking.  We need more of his ilk.

2.  POPE ACCUSED.  It has begun.  The Pope is named as a defendant in an abuse case brought to court.  Also, one of the best pieces I have seen so far from a Catholic on the clergy abuse scandals.

3.  SAVING.  On volunteers reaching quake victims in a remote region of China.  The work of Christian volunteers around the world is the work of salt and light; thank God for their bravery and for their witness.

4.  PEREGRINATION  David Opderbeck at the Jesus Creed with an interestingly different approach to the Christian Legal Society case that was just argued before the Supreme Court.  On the merits of the issue, I believe that groups should be permitted to describe the terms for their own leadership; otherwise the right of assembly loses meaning.  They may not discriminate by status or color, but discriminating on the basis of belief or even behavior seems entirely justified.  However, I take Opderbeck’s point that Christians too often advocate for change through high-profile legislation and political organizing; sometimes a subtler approach would be more helpful, and perhaps we need not seek the largesse of the state (even if it is granted other groups), in order to make the point that we are a pilgrim church.

As Kierkegaard was wont to say, we do not exist in the ekklesia triumphans.  This is not the world in which the church has triumphed.  We live in the suffering church, the church that is waiting for the fulfillment of God’s reign.  We should not expect the state to give us funding (even if it is given to others) and official recognition; we should expect, if we are being fully faithful, the state to reject us.  We should expect persecution.  The fact that we rarely find persecution should be deeply troubling.

5.  ARE PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNIONS HURTING THE COUNTRY?  I cannot complain too loudly, because my wife is paid by the state (and will soon be paid by the feds) and we benefit, in that way, from taxes.  Yet there is definitely a “take care of our own” mentality in which the state, in an economic crunch, does not trim its payroll in the way that businesses do.  I understand that there is an argument to be made, here; if the governments of the states and the country also fired people, then unemployment would be even worse, and the collective purchasing power of the US would diminish.  But we are swiftly moving from a place where the danger of excessive government spending and debt is becoming the major economic threat to our nation.  And there is a real danger when public employee unions begin to advocate for tax hikes.  It feels as though we are moving toward a situation where those who benefit from taxes are able to command ever more and more, while those who pay taxes but receive little benefit from them are squeezed harder and harder.  This is a healthy situation neither for our economy nor for our civic health.

On a related note, I hate to say this, because of the many excellent teachers I know, but the teacher’s unions seem to be one of the more digressive forces at work in American politics today.  Don’t believe me?  Read all about it.

6.  CARTMAN MUZZLED.  I will admit to taking a little guilty pleasure in South Park sometimes, especially when it skewers the sacred cows of popular or academic culture.  But it seems to me that Comedy Central was wrong to buckle under a threat of violence from a radical Islamic group when South Park depicted Muhammad unfavorably.

7.  YOU LIKE US!  YOU REALLY LIKE US!  During the 2008 election cycle, it seemed that many supported Obama, at least partly, out of a desire that the world should love us more.  Well, they seem to have gotten their wish.  How much difference it makes is debatable.  But the world now likes America, once again, as much as it did in 2005.  Time to party?

8.  ELEPHANT RISING.  Republicans have been a little too early to predict the imminent demise of the Democratic party.  Yet Daniel Henninger is an intelligent and fair writer, and he presents a persuasive case here.  The question is: will there be a responsible party that forms an alternative?

9 . TODAY’S TWO-SIDES.  The subject today: the environment, of course!  And since it’s earth day, and there are no two sides to a sphere, I’ll offer multiple perspectives.  Henry Waxman argues that there’s no time like the present to pass a climate bill.  Yet Robert Nelson avers that responsible environmental activism has been overtaken by an irrational, pseudo-religious zeal.  Brad DeLong argues that panic and zeal are fully justified (and uses NASA’s adjusted numbers as though they were raw numbers).  And Laura Higgins’ argument is clear from her title: “Earth Day: 40 Years of Imminent Catastrophe.”

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