December 11, 2018

“Even if it is not factual, it is too good a story not to be true.” Thus spoke a student. The conversation in class was about the Virgin Birth and more generally about approaches to Scripture. For most of Christian history Scripture was unquestioned; certainly not questioned in the way it is nowadays. The taken-for-granted approach to Scripture changed in the modern age, beginning let’s say in 1500. Modernity means that opinions ought to be verified through exploration, experimentation and… Read more

November 28, 2018

Advice columns are exercises in deconstruction. Dear Abby and Ask Amy must intuit or impose a context for the short query. The newspaper reader, in turn, puts the question and answer into their own context—often comparing the situation to that of their dysfunctional relatives. Smile. Advice columnists in Catholic newspapers or on Catholic websites (usually priests) must likewise deconstruct the question and the reader must imagine some applicable situation. A fair number of the questions are personal (Should I forgive… Read more

November 5, 2018

Not so long ago strikes were deemed counterproductive, says Commonweal magazine (3/26/18). That was until this past February when 20,000 teachers in West Virginia walked off the job. This job action, Commonweal notes, initially occurred “without collective bargaining powers or the legal right to go on strike.” Yet it was “well-executed [and] wide-scale… Its size and scope proved critical.” With visible public sympathy and sufficient solidarity, the West Virginia teachers were successful. Credit goes to “a decentralized rank-and-file made up… Read more

October 30, 2018

Violent language keeps company with violent behavior. The former does not usually cause the latter directly, but in due time violence can follow. To be clear by way of an example, the rhetoric of Sarah Palin did not incite the January 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others, six of whom died. Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008, had an advertisement that put some Congressional districts (not individual candidates) in a mock crosshairs during the 2010 midterm campaign,… Read more

October 24, 2018

John McKnight directs Asset-Based Community Development Institute at DePaul University. He objects to the standard approach toward a neighborhood by urban planners, government officials, and bank executives, building inspectors, social workers, some police officers and even some teachers. Instead of projecting joy and enthusiasm, they give exclusive attention to a neighborhood’s defects (old buildings, broken curbs, high number of transients, roaming delinquents, dim street lights and more). The well-meaning prophets of doom sometimes propose cosmetic interventions (new basketball hoops and… Read more

August 28, 2018

The Homestead Steel Strike of 1892 is among the most significant chapters in U.S. labor relations history. Homestead, Pennsylvania is just south of Pittsburgh, on the west bank of the Monongahela River. Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) owned the prosperous steel mill there. Some of its workers were highly skilled and belonged to a craft union, Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers. Carnegie was determined to break this union. He cut wages. Knowing there would be trouble, he enlisted the Pinkerton… Read more

August 13, 2018

The primary symbol of our country is our flag, the “stars and stripes.” Closely connected to our flag is the song Star-Spangled Banner, based on an 1814 poem by Maryland lawyer Francis Scott Key (1779-1843). It is customary to stand and doff one’s cap when our anthem is performed at the beginning of every sporting event. There is, by the way, no obligatory rubric about other songs at the ballpark. America the Beautiful, a 1910 tune by Katherine Bates and… Read more

August 8, 2018

There is a serious downside to use of computers and mobile devices, according to recent medical and social science reports. Several essays and books likewise point to the danger. Nonetheless concerned parents or stressed-out workers still reach superficial or incorrect conclusions about the internet and tech devices. For example, some well-meaning people say internet problems are due strictly to content. Don’t view porn and other trash, they continue, and you will be OK. To better understand the influence of technology,… Read more

July 18, 2018

Beginning in this century’s early days many towns and mid-sized cities explored strategies for post-industrial life. Maybe the big-box retail store near the Interstate can do the trick, despite its obvious limitations. Maybe a new soccer stadium will entice people to come back downtown in the evening. Maybe marketing our town’s tourist attractions will lead others to invest here. Hundreds of urban planners got interested in Richard Florida, who caused a stir with his prescriptive Rise of the Creative Class… Read more

July 13, 2018

Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati was the setting for a recent conference about young adult Catholics. It was a positive conference because no one complained about bishops, priests or Vatican policy. And no one faulted young adults for disaffection from worship or for their lifestyle. By design, several conference presentations were about bygone people and events. But the gathering was not a nostalgia trip. The conversation was forward-looking. The tone of the conference was directed outward toward work, family… Read more

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