Recently in Culture Category
"Clinton's claim to the supremacy of his individual moral truth paid handsomely. Cub demagogues at Mizzou, Ithaca, Hanover, and elsewhere are products of a culture that rewarded Clinton for discarding traditional synthesis between public and private scruples. Sever that unity, sanction perception over fact, and the means for moral reflection shrink to a grab bag of politicized 'values,' the weight of privacy among them.
"In private, Bubba was a moral grotesque. But his public persona exhibited concern for old-growth forests, ozone depletion, and racial discrimination. He opposed the Vietnam War and, later, sugary drinks. Plus, he left a budget surplus. What more can we ask?
"Answer: much more. But we have forgotten how to do it, forgotten even the import of the question. Mizzou and the rest are the price of our blackout."
A British couple explains why they're waiting for marriage, and how they're able to handle the pressure. A very winsome presentation. "We don't want to portray ourselves as these holier-than-thou people. But it's actually possible to have a functional relationship, in which you express physically that you care for someone, without having sex. There is a middle ground, and that's what we're trying to get across really, by agreeing to do something like this. I've had people ridicule me, and they get really explicit. They cannot get their heads around it.
"And I think another thing that is really a motivation is that, well, the Bible says that our faith is not just for ourselves, but for other people. Ore and I are trying to be a light for others. If there's one person who sees what we're doing and thinks, "I want to do that too," then thank God for that. It's another added pressure but at the same time we're honoured to carry that burden."
"I see the idea of human rights and human dignity as being a peculiarly biblical concept. In Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin, a Catholic Italy, a Lutheran Germany, an Orthodox Russia succumbed to totalitarianism because of liberal humanist ideas that man can create a utopia. Joseph Campbell [the late renowned scholar of comparative mythology] and Carl Jung were both shocked after they came to India. They realized that the natural law is not natural. The fact is there are consequences to teaching that human beings are nothing but animals. This 'truth' destroys the entire basis of civilized political life."
A Presbyterian pastor from Ghana teaching at PCUSA (liberal Presbyterian) church puts forth an African Christian perspective on the gay marriage debate in the Global North and gets to the heart of the different reaction in the Southern Hemisphere:
"As I have reflected on the consultation, I have come to the conclusion that the doctrinal differences between American liberals and African traditionalists originate in deeper conflicts. We may argue about what the Bible says about sexuality, but there is a broader, unstated disagreement over the Bible itself. For mainstream Western society, the Bible is an ancient text that might arouse intellectual curiosity or become the subject of historical analysis, but it is hardly a sacred book. It has no more authority in American culture than the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King's speeches, and other notable historic statements. Dropping the language of "obedience to Scripture" and "conformity to the historic confessional standards" from the PC(USA) Ordination Standards underscores this point.
"The Bible has a very different status in African societies. Where Christianity has become dominant in the last century, the Bible remains a sacred text, relevant and living. The Bible is more than a compilation of historical documents. It is, in very significant ways, an African Testament. For large segments of African Christian societies, the world of the Bible is contemporary. Old and New Testament narratives of sacrifice, polygamy, plague, agriculture, dancing, shepherds, tensions between nomadic pastoralism and peasant dwellers, epidemics, and war have immediate relevance. Andrew Walls remarks, "You do not have to interpret Old Testament Christianity to Africans; they live in an Old Testament world." The word of God is literally "living and active" in the African context. A leading African theologian, Kwame Bediako, has said:
"'In becoming Christian I discovered I was becoming African again. I was recovering my sense of the spirituality of life. I was recovering my sense of the nearness of the living God. I was recovering my African sense of the wholeness of life. I find in becoming Christian, I am being more African than I think I was. I am being more who I am. '"
He has much more on the contrast between the western and African churches -- the importance of community in Africa, the West's fixation on sex and its deification of choice.
"As an African, I'm aware that we too must address many of the issues raised by the sexual revolution, including homosexuality. We cannot pray or preach it away, and it is not just a "Western problem," as some in Africa would like to think. But my years here have convinced me that Americans are uniquely ill-equipped to help us find our way. American culture is distorted by a fixation on sex, and conversations about sex are dominated by ideologies that shut down discussion. To use the words of Desmond Tutu: "For goodness' sake, leave us alone to do our own thing, even if it means making mistakes. At least they will be our mistakes.""
Paul Rosenberg looks to the writings of Salvian, just before the fall of Rome, as a preview of coming "attractions" in our own culture. You might call this another take on the "Benedict Option."
"Even if this system doesn't crash for another century, everything done within it is a waste.
"It is fully corrupt, from top to bottom, and I don't believe there are any "good guys" inside, waiting for 'the right time.' It is OVER.
"I withdraw. I forsake them. I refuse to waste my energy on their politics. Humanity deserves better and I aim to do my part in building it.
"I will shed no tears when this system finally collapses - it will be a liberation.
"From here on, I'll build new things and will have nothing to do with the old....
"The good and productive people of this world deserve something better than the abusive dominators that seek to control their every move, and we are more than capable of building it. But we have to stop waiting for permission from the lords of the status quo - they will never give us permission to bypass their domination.
"We have to make our own decisions and simply start building something better. We are able, and this system is unworthy of our efforts.
"Now would be a very good time to start."
As American grownups continue to find ways to wreck childhood fun....
"Other popular sports, including soccer and basketball, have suffered as youth sports participation in general has declined and become more specialized. A pervasive emphasis on performance over mere fun and exercise has driven many children to focus exclusively on one sport from an early age, making it harder for all sports to attract casual participants. But the decline of baseball as a community sport has been especially precipitous....
"But in poorer cities such as Newburgh, a viable, self-sufficient league is necessary to keep some children from abandoning the game. Many parents lack the means to easily transport them to and from neighboring towns.
"Beth DeGroat, whose 12-year-old son, Joshua, has been a Little Leaguer since tee ball, said she doesn't have a car. 'My son has a passion for the game," she said. "But it would be difficult for him to play anywhere else.'
"Roughly two-thirds of Newburgh's Little Leaguers are minorities. When youth baseball dries up in a place like this, it pushes the sport even further in the direction it has been headed for years: richer, whiter, smaller.
"While neighborhood games become increasingly scarce, year-round travel teams have never been more prevalent. The U.S. Specialty Sports Association, the dominant organizing body for travel baseball, said it has around 1.3 million players spread across 80,000 teams, more than double what it had 10 years ago. The company's website includes national rankings for teams in age groups that begin at '4 and under.'"
"The days of simply playing ball with your friends is over. It's a different world out there for the preteen athlete, with "Elite" and "Select" commonly turning up in the names of our youth sports teams and leagues. We're having tryouts for 10-and-under traveling baseball teams, and we've got 10-and-under basketball teams traveling the country playing against other fourth-graders at God knows what cost to the parents' bank accounts and the kids' psyches. All in the name of what? Trophies? Exposure? A leg up on a college scholarship? The egos of the parents?...
""Travel ball," in this world, is meant as a synonym for "better ball." Parents say, "Oh, he plays travel ball," as a means of separating their kids from the riffraff who don't see fit to spend thousands of dollars to travel all over the place with their 9-year-olds. And if it's "year-round travel ball" -- a red flag across the orthopedic medical community for the dangers of repetitive overuse -- all the better. It's a status symbol, one promoted by parents and justified by the guys who collect tournament fees, and it's the main reason baseball in this country is widely becoming the province of wealthy suburbia...
"We're nearing the point in youth sports where we need to stop the "elite" and "select" madness because we're raising a generation with too much self-esteem. They can't handle failure because they've been conditioned to believe they're too good to fail. They're being placed on teams that identify them as better than their peers on the whim of either a parent/coach or a businessman/coach.
"Parents line up to have their kids try out for under-10 fall baseball teams, where tiny kids compete for the right to have their arms trashed by pitching in four different games over two days of a weekend tournament put on by a for-profit organization that gives teams 10 minutes between games to warm up....
"And then, five years down the line when Little Johnny decides to trade his bat and glove for a skateboard and a piercing, his parents can scream and yell about the travel ball coach who ruined baseball for their son by taking their money and not playing him. It's an overgeneralization, sure, but the whole operation has a way of surgically extracting the fun out of a sport at an age when fun is all it should be."
The Swiss Re Center for Global Dialogue is on the grounds of Villa Bodmer in Rüschlikon, Switzerland, near the shores of Lake Zurich. The 40-room mansion was built by industrialist Karl Martin Leonhard Bodmer in the late 1920s. It was formerly home to the Baptist Theological Seminary, which purchased the estate for $240,000 in 1948 and began classes on the site in 1949. Mrs. Bates sang there in the early '80s as part of the University Baptist Church (Fayetteville, Ark.), collegiate choir, New Creations, and she and I walked around the campus and ate a picnic (tinned meat and fresh bread) in the car park during a trip to central Europe in September 1990. After defunding by the Southern Baptist Convention and the liberation of the former Warsaw Pact countries, both happening in 1991, the seminary changed its name to the International Baptist Theological Seminary and moved to Prague in 1997. The seminary's chapel remains on the site and is home to the International Baptist Church of Zurich.
From Megan McArdle's review of Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed
"Shame is, after all, a force for good as well as evil. A proper accounting of the problems with shame-storming has to convey that reality, as well as articulate how we might better balance the need to enforce some sort of social norms against the terrible harms, economic as well as emotional, that shame-storming can inflict....
"Shame is one way we enforced good behavior in small groups before there were laws or trading networks. It is a very powerful motivator, and it helps us to come together in large cooperative groups with high degrees of trust and sharing. A hatred of being shamed ourselves and a love of shaming others who have transgressed both literally helped to make us human....
"But as Lane suggests, shame doesn't just punish wrongdoers; it also turns us into our own moral enforcers. Once we've been shamed, we are strongly motivated to avoid doing the things that brought it on. Or at least, most of us are -- one of the hallmarks of sociopaths is that they don't feel shame or remorse. To paraphrase Gordon Gekko, shame is good. Shame is right. Shame works....
"In the small groups we evolved to live in, shame is tempered by love and forgiveness. People are shamed for some transgression, then they are restored to the group. Ultimately, the shamed person is not an enemy; he or she is someone you need and want to get along with. This is how you make up with your spouse after one or both of you has done or said something terrible....
"On the Internet, when all the social context is stripped away and you don't even have to look at the face of the person you're being mean to, shame loses its social, restorative function. Shame-storming isn't punishment. It's a weapon. And weapons aren't supposed to be used against people in your community; they're for strangers, people in some other group that you don't like very much....
"If we want shaming to be restorative -- to help us create and enforce better norms in a broad community -- then it needs to come paired with charity and forgiveness. Shame-storms rarely offer either; the shame is administered, then the storm drizzles away, leaving only a terrified victim and Google's memory of our momentary collective outrage. Without the mercy and restraint of the small community, it can too easily become nothing more than a particularly destructive way to pass an idle moment."
F. X. Turk (grandson of a Hungarian kulak) says it's time to sweep away the euphemisms:
"That is actually what is on the table: being part of a celebration which calls sinful sexual unions holy. If I refuse, I'm a kulak - part of the hated class who cannot be allowed to own property anymore, who cannot be allowed to buy or sell anymore, and who must be called out as immoral and as enemies of the new way of life.
"I am really not that concerned that gay people (at least superficially) say they want to be 'married'. I am concerned that anyone who objects to the new moral definitions is clearly being called politically unfit for use."
"After millennia of marriage being uncontroversially a union between one man and one woman, and after a decade of electorates in most states (and President Obama in 2008) upholding that traditional definition, the Left has used the courts to redefine the institution. People are fired for having taken the losing side. On college campuses, the current fights are about banning even the articulation of traditional views....
"Religious liberty is the terms of surrender the Right is requesting in the culture war. It is conservative America saying to the cultural and political elites, you have your gay marriage, your no-fault divorce, your obscene music and television, your indoctrinating public schools and your abortion-on-demand. May we please be allowed to not participate in these?
"But no. Tolerance isn't the goal. Religious conservatives must atone for their heretical views with acts of contrition: Bake me a cake, photograph my wedding, pay for my abortion and my contraception."