Sunday, February 02, 2020

What's going on?

Well, outside of Washington, DC, that is. I won't touch on that, other than by mentioning Ron Sider's call for fasting and prayer. And you might want to check out the modified Wikipedia page (just do a search, it's everywhere), which I think is probably too accurate. By the way, if you want a historian's view, check out Heather Cox Richardson. She does daily updated (HT: Jim E.)

It was the 75th anniversary of the freeing of Auschwitz this week. Here's a post reflecting on it by a daughter/granddaughter of survivors and here's one by a son who survived, but whose mother didn't. She wrote him a letter just before being gassed to death.

Let us never forget. It could happen here, indeed, it is happening here in the border detention centers. It's wrong!

Meanwhile, in education, a Brit looks at grade inflation. Some good ideas there. And BLogos has a first-person account of microaggression in higher ed.

Our exchange was an example of a microaggression. Harvard Psychiatrist Charles M. Pierce coined the term in 1970. Microaggression is defined as intentional and unintentional daily insults, slights, and dismissals directed towards marginalized groups. As a diversity officer in a Christian Liberal Arts school, I make an effort to appropriately substitute secular terms with biblical language to provide a Christian perspective on bias, racism and sexism. I believe that using the scriptures to inform biased behaviors is more effective at changing hearts and minds for Christ followers. The biblical term for microaggression is contempt: the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving of scorn.

My interactions with the business professor was full of contempt. As a black woman working in the academy, he did not consider me worthy to have high or independent ideas. I walked away from the conversation baffled by a white male professor who I had interacted with for less than ten minutes. Within that brief period of time, he complimented my work, invited me to lunch, and determined the limits of my cognitive abilities and creativity. As a new employee, I pondered how he treated his female students and students from racialized communities.

Ouch! Which segues nicely into a post by Bob on Books about what you share on social media.
Jesus called his followers the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We may wonder whether what we do makes a difference. I would suggest that it does not take much salt to flavor something. Even a small light can pierce and dispel darkness. “Tipping points” happen when a number of small changes come together and have a cumulative effect. Imagine what would happen if the 65% of self-identifying Christians in the U.S. took truthfulness online seriously. It may not end our political disagreements, but I wonder if it would change the online world and the rancor and discord we encounter.
Amen and amen! He offers a few pointers and links to some good sites to check the truthfulness of a statement. And that segues nicely into a post by Roger Olson on true and false Christians. I can't follow him all the way, in that I believe in open communion, but he makes some very good points.

This week also brought a pile of posts on Evangelicalism. This one looks at the impact of publishing and business on the Evangelical world, while this one is a new hymn, written to the 81 percent. And this one looks at what passes for worship. Sure, you can hear the axe grinding, but the turkey that passes for worship needs to be slaughtered so that true Thanksgiving can happen.

This isn’t worship, it’s a scam.

I don’t think that Hillsong, Kari Jobe, or most of the other big names in the worship industry even realize what they’re doing. But the unwitting nature of the scam makes these folks even more dangerous. They are running this con with an earnest passion that is contagious. That’s why so much of the church has been overtaken by it, both on Sunday mornings, and every time they go to a concert or turn this schlock on their radio.

Don’t be fooled.

God’s grace can’t be sold for the price of admission.

In the kingdom of God there is no Awake package. Remember how Jesus responded to the mother’s request in Matthew 20.

“You will indeed drink from my cup.”

That cup is costly, but it can’t be bought. (emphasis original)

And Scot McKnight ponders the decline of church attendance and the politicalization of the church:
Why go to church if one’s FB friends and one’s church people are the same? or if one’s FB banter is the same as the preacher’s banter?

Indeed, Why?

This makes me wonder if the politicization of the church in America deconstructs the church of America. Maybe the decline of the church is correlated with increasing politicization. I think so.

Meanwhile, Philip Jenkins muses on historical weather anomalies and church revivals. And Adam Laats wonders if people realize the ramifications of breaking down the wall between public funding of private religious schools (the so-called Baby Blaine amendments):
It seems too obvious to need elaboration, but neither religious groups nor state governments should want to put state governments in charge of choosing “legitimate” religion. As Curmudgucrat Peter Greene put it far better than I ever could, governments would need to establish
the Official Bureau of Religious Okee Dokeeness; now the state will determine which religious groups are “legitimate” or not.
If, on the other hand, states decide simply to include ALL religious groups in voucher programs, they will need to be prepared for the fallout. Certainly, that will include religions that endorse anti-LGBTQ ideas or racist ones. It will include religions that force brutal, even fatal “healing” services on children. It will also include churches of flying spaghetti monsters and Satan.

OK. One final story, totally unrelated to all the above, but one that rings true with my experience in industry before jumping into publishing fifteen-plus years ago: the role of private equity firms and the high percentage of businesses bought by them that go bankrupt. They offer three theories, all of which have merit:

Theory 1: Sometimes, private equity firms really are just looters.
Private equity investors have a reputation for being corporate looters that buy and pillage businesses for profit before moving on to raid the next unsuspecting office park. Sometimes, it’s undeserved. But often, it’s entirely earned.

Theory 2: Private equity firms are especially terrible for industries experiencing upheaval, like retail.
Brick-and-mortar retailers, which are fighting for their lives thanks to online competitors like Amazon, are a perfect example. Take Toys R Us, which ended up shouldering billions of dollars in new debt after it was poached by a group including KKR. The company was stuck paying hundreds of millions every year toward interest, which insiders say made it impossible to invest properly in the business and compete as Jeff Bezos’ kraken devoured the toy business.

Theory 3: It’s too easy for private equity firms to borrow money.
There’s a third factor underpinning all this: cheap debt. Private equity has boomed over the past couple of decades in large part because borrowing has been incredibly inexpensive. More deals are inevitably going to lead to more disasters. But free-flowing credit may also be encouraging the industry’s worst habits. In “The Economic Effects of Private Equity Buyouts,” for instance, the authors found that after a leveraged buyout, companies tend to become more productive. But they see smaller improvements, on average, when borrowing is cheaper. How come? The authors theorize that “when credit is cheap and easy, it may be more attractive to rely on financial engineering tools to generate returns” such as dividend recapitalizations, instead of actually trying to make companies run better. In other words, easy money equals easy looting.

Yep. I've seen it in my own experience, especially the first one. 'Nuff said. Have a great week and remember that Jesus is Lord and the kingdom of God is not of this world, although it works in this world.

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