Saturday, November 30, 2019

Links of interest

This week's links will include stuff for the last two weeks. Last Saturday was the first day of AAR/SBL, so I was quite busy. That also means I didn't collect as many links as normal this week. Hopefully you will find something of interest to you.

For starters, Ron Sider reflects on Democrats and abortion:

Even if you think (as I do) that on a majority of issues, Democratic proposals (e.g., on racial and and economic justice, healthcare, taxes, climate change) are closer to a biblical vision than that of Republicans, still the ever increasing refusal of Democrats to take seriously the pro-life concerns of Christians and others is a problem.

Former President Bill Clinton told a good friend of mine that the reason his wife Hillary Clinton lost Pennsylvania( and therefore the presidency) was because of her radical stand on abortion. In 2008 when she ran for the Democratic nomination, she said abortion should be” legal, safe and rare”. In 2016, she no longer said it should be rare. The head of the Democratic National Committee recently told another good friend of mine that in his circles, one did not dare even use the word “reduction” when talking about abortion. . .

This rigidity is politically foolish. The Gallup Paul repeatedly has shown that about 25% of Americans think abortion should never be legal. 25% think it should be legal in every situation. And about 50% think abortion should be legal ONLY in certain circumstances.

One would think the Democrats would ponder the fact that Democrats very recently won the race to be governor in two very conservative states ( West Virginia and Louisiana) where Donald Trump won by huge margins in 2016. And both successful Democratic governors endorsed a pro-life agenda that would place some restrictions on abortion. . .

One final point. I do NOT think that abortion trumps all other issues. Universal healthcare is a pro-life issue. So are capital punishment, climate change, racial justice and effective poverty reduction programs here and abroad. One must evaluate the entire platform of candidates and decide which set of proposals on balance is better. People who seek a biblically balanced agenda in their politics will not be “one issue” voters.

Amen! And this one, from the Atlantic, about dishonesty in the abortion debate.
What I can’t face about abortion is the reality of it: that these are human beings, the most vulnerable among us, and we have no care for them. How terrible to know that in the space of an hour, a baby could be alive—his heart beating, his kidneys creating the urine that becomes the amniotic fluid of his safe home—and then be dead, his heart stopped, his body soon to be discarded.

The argument for abortion, if made honestly, requires many words: It must evoke the recent past, the dire consequences to women of making a very simple medical procedure illegal. The argument against it doesn’t take even a single word. The argument against it is a picture.

This is not an argument anyone is going to win. The loudest advocates on both sides are terrible representatives for their cause. When women are urged to “shout your abortion,” and when abortion becomes the subject of stand-up comedy routines, the attitude toward abortion seems ghoulish. Who could possibly be proud that they see no humanity at all in the images that science has made so painfully clear? When anti-abortion advocates speak in the most graphic terms about women “sucking babies out of the womb,” they show themselves without mercy. They are not considering the extremely human, complex, and often heartbreaking reasons behind women’s private decisions. The truth is that the best argument on each side is a damn good one, and until you acknowledge that fact, you aren’t speaking or even thinking honestly about the issue. You certainly aren’t going to convince anybody. Only the truth has the power to move.

But it's easier to shout at each other, isn't it? I am firmly prolife—from womb to tomb. That's why I am in favor of universal healthcare and against war. And that's why we need to address the inequalities in our society that force people to think that abortion is an option.

Ok, now for those of you who are sick of the "angry god" approach, take a look at this:

For Jesus, it’s not about whether we are sinners (he knows we are) or whether we are obedient to all God’s rules (he knows we aren’t). It’s about gratitude. We don’t deserve God’s grace, but God gives it to us anyway. We are healed. The challenge to us is whether we can live in gratitude. The challenge is for us to proclaim God’s ridiculous and excessive and undeserved grace for us sinners and thank God for it every day.
Now that is good news! And speaking of grace, Bob on Books reviews Grace Will Lead Us Home, about the Charleston church massacre:
I’m reminded of a Bible that was once my grandmother’s, probably looks much like Sanders Bible. She, like Felicia, loved the Bible, underlined many verses and wrote notes in the margins. She lived the Bible. I wonder how many in our churches are truly shaped by its message like the people in that Bible study, or like my grandmother. Instead of the disturbing messages that prey on fear, do they hear the Master’s “be not afraid.” Do they build walls or welcome the stranger and the alien? Instead of profiting from inequities, defining the world in terms of allies and enemies, and measuring one’s worth by what power one has, do they “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8)?
And a tale of racial reconciliation with two churches, one primarily white, the other primarily black, merging.
Three years into the merger, The Refuge remains united. Pastor Jay’s congregation in Kannapolis now numbers around 4,000. And Pastor Derrick’s community has swelled to 250 families. Through their love of Christ and their love for each other, Pastor Jay and Pastor Derrick have guided their communities through any divisions that might threaten their unity.

Could theirs be a model for healing our nation?

You will have to click the link for the answer : ) But it's easier to yell at each other, isn't it?

Speaking of healing, Jesus Creed has a good post on "Dry Drunks":

I think most people in most congregations are dry drunks. Here’s what I mean by that. Most people come to Jesus in some kind of crisis. Something is going wrong in their lives and they cry out to Jesus, and Jesus in His mercy saves them. They aren’t struck by lightning. Demons do not pull them away into the darkness.

The crisis is averted. Things get better. Things aren’t healed, but they are better. Now, feeling better, the person stops right there. They have met Jesus, but they don’t follow Jesus. They may be born again, but they don’t grow again. They’re stuck right where Jesus found them. The wounds, left untended, fester into bitterness. Their anger slowly stews into bigotry and self-righteousness. They delight in pointing out the failures of others and seem determined to make sure everyone is as miserable as they are.

Ouch! Shifting gears a bit, is Kafka still relevant? Crooked Timber says yes:
“A cage went in search of a bird”

Franz Kafka certainly knew how to write a story. The eight-word aphorism he jotted down in a notebook a century ago reveals so much about our world today. Surveillance goes in search of subjects. Use-cases go in search of profit. Walled gardens go in search of tame customers. Data-extractive monopolies go in search of whole countries, of democracy itself, to envelop and re-shape, to cage and control. The cage of surveillance technology stalks the world, looking for birds to trap and monetise. And it cannot stop itself. The surveillance cage is the original autonomous vehicle, driven by financial algorithms it doesn’t control. So when we describe our data-driven world as ‘Kafka-esque’, we are speaking a deeper truth than we even guess.

And so on. Well worth the read. Shifting gears again, Roger Olson discusses theological knowledge among the average church-goer. Hint: there isn't much, even among those going to Christian colleges:
I have taught Christian theology for forty years—to college and seminary students. I have noticed a definite “thinning out” of their knowledge and understanding of the Bible and theology and one culprit, I strongly believe, is the demise of hymns. Very few “praise and worship” songs contain anything biblical or theological. They appear to focus on God but seem actually to be designed to evoke emotions.

I’ve said all this before. The great hymns of people like Charles Wesley, William Cowper, Isaac Watts, Charles Gabriel, Johnson Oatman, Jr., and numerous others of the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries contained powerful lyrics that taught about God, salvation, sin, eternity, heaven, etc. Some of those songs are being rediscovered and put to new tunes or given new arrangements by contemporary worship leaders. But most of the songs I hear for congregational singing in major metropolitan evangelical churches are repetitious, shallow and unsingable by anyone except the worship band musicians. (emphasis original)

Yep. And an Aussie talks about the different way we treat males and females who are well-known preachers:
Can us male preachers even begin to imagine what that would feel like?! Our sisters put up with a thousand times more criticism than us, much of it disrespectful, cruel, belittling and hateful, much of it focused on their very identity not just their actions.

Observing the criticism of Jory Micah’s video reminded me that her critics aren’t simply expressing a different interpretation of Scripture to her. They are attacking her with openly sexist taunts.

Whether you agree with women preaching or not, it is incumbent on every male church leader to condemn the cruel and vicious sexism behind the attacks on Jory Micah. (emphasis original)

What we need is less toxic masculinity and more godly behavior. And Roger Olson has some thoughts on that:
Kimmel rightly criticizes the old advice to men who feel neglected and are disaffected: “Man up!” He rightly says that is not helpful. We need to show them how to man up and he points back to President Obama’s strong effort to support new job training for both men and women in America’s community colleges—free. He blames the Republican controlled Congress for killing that effort.

In other words, Kimmel is sympathetic to the plight of many men in America who, rightly or wrongly, feel disenfranchised and turned to populism in the form of Trump and the Republican Party. He argues, however, that their hopes in that direction are misguided. The case is really that the programs of the Left are more likely to help them. It’s like a great delusion.

In yet other words, Kimmel believes and argues that it will be counterproductive for society simply to ignore white men’s (and their wives’) complaints or to demonize them because they elected Trump and the Republican Party. He calls for a dialogue between feminists and anti-feminist men (not crazy, radical, violent ones) and a coalition of the willing to at least attempt to hear each other and work together toward a better world where there is true and complete equality between the sexes but men do not feel left behind.

There's that word dialogue again. Rarely happens, unfortunately. It's much easier to yell at each other. Or shoot each other. Speaking of which, here's an idea, from Jim West, after listing nine things, he concludes:
The Second Amendment says that you have the right to bear arms, but it doesn’t say you have the right to have bullets.
Elegant, but not going to happen. It's easier to yell at each other. And social media doesn't help. From the Atlantic again:
Many Americans may think that the chaos of our time has been caused by the current occupant of the White House, and that things will return to normal whenever he leaves. But if our analysis is correct, this will not happen. Too many fundamental parameters of social life have changed. The effects of these changes were apparent by 2014, and these changes themselves facilitated the election of Donald Trump.

If we want our democracy to succeed—indeed, if we want the idea of democracy to regain respect in an age when dissatisfaction with democracies is rising—we’ll need to understand the many ways in which today’s social-media platforms create conditions that may be hostile to democracy’s success. And then we’ll have to take decisive action to improve social media. (emphasis original)

Yep. But it's easier to yell at one another, isn't it?

How about the Mormons? They seem to be moving in the direction of orthodoxy, but before you rejoice too much, beware, says this blogger:

What I’ve written is only the tip of the iceberg regarding LDS heterodox beliefs, the sum of which is the “Restored Gospel.” The original true gospel had vanished at the end of the first-century apostolic era. That true gospel was then restored by Joseph Smith after some eighteen hundred years of apostasy. Really. I say it again. The “Restored Gospel” is Mormonism. Period.

Mouw blames Christians generally, and counter-cults specifically, for misrepresenting Mormon beliefs in an effort to malign them. I’ve encountered that myself. But Mouw misrepresents their beliefs in order to befriend and bolster them. Serious interaction with Mormons about their beliefs must be based on LDS scriptures and other official teachings, not on what a BYU professor might say. Smith’s visions and revelations contain startling instructions and information. . .

Definitely need to be cautious and watch for further developments on that front. I'm cautiously hopeful. Speaking of hopeful, there's a move afoot in some schools to revive the humanities:
The Cornerstone example demonstrates that the liberal arts can prosper even at a STEM-centered campus like Purdue. "We’re trying to show," said Reingold, that a liberal-arts education can be "central to the mission" even of a large, comprehensive research university.
I like that idea.

Finally, a look at how reporting influences attitudes. In this case, who's to blame in bicycle-car and pedestrian-car collisions. Mind you, they are not accidents, which implies they couldn't be prevented. They can be, but it isn't easy—and as we've seen in this series of posts, it's far easier to yell at each other, isn't it? Anyway, this post from Bicycling Magazine takes a look at how the way something is worded affects how people respond:

Version 1: The news story is pedestrian-focused; “Pedestrian struck and killed on east side.”

Version 2: The news story is driver-focused; “Driver hits, kills pedestrian on east side.”

Version 3: The news story is driver-focused and thematically framed; “Driver hits, kills pedestrian on east side as pedestrian deaths continue to increase city-wide.”

The researchers found that our current methods of reporting on traffic crashes, like in version one, influenced people to place more blame on the pedestrian; 43.1 percent of readers believed the pedestrian was at fault, while 50.2 percent thought the driver was at fault according to the first description of the scenario.

Yep. Blame the victim is the way it is usually reported. As a philologist and amateur linguist, I know words matter. Think before you speak/write. What response do you want? Hopefully it isn't outrage—but of course, it is easier to shout at one another, isn't it? Hmmm . . . seems to be a pattern here, doesn't it?

Ok, that's more than enough to ponder. Hope you had a truly thankful Thanksgiving Day, whatever it's historical origins (that's another series of posts that I won't be doing!).

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