Among my writerly friends and kin, debates about language rules are routine. I tend to wave the descriptivist flag, arguing various versions of the point that if almost everyone defines / conjugates / pronounces a word a particular way, there just isn't any coherent reason to call it wrong anymore.
I've so far declined to comment on Wheaton College's decision to join the election-year culture war skirmish du jour by suing the feds for stomping all over its religious freedom requiring insurers to cover basic women's health needs while allowing faith-based employers to themselves stay out of it. I was sad but not surprised to learn of this move. Wheaton takes it as not only one legitimate view but an article of evangelical conviction that the morning after pill is unacceptable? Sure, okay. I disagree with my alma mater, but it's hardly the first time.
I've had a convert's fervor for liturgical worship ever since I stumbled upon an ELCA music position as a recent Wheaton College grad with a very low-church background. (When my much-younger sister advanced pretty far in the state spelling bee but didn't win, my dad told her to call me. "I lost on a word I've never heard of: 'liturgy,'" she said. "Dad said you'd know why that was funny.")
I posted recently about how the rhetorical category “the middle class” seems to keep growing (even as the actual middle class is shrinking). Then I read Jon Ronson’s article in this month’s GQ. Ronson profiles six people—actually, five individuals and one family—who represent different spots on the U.S. income scale, giving a glimpse of “how to live on $____ a week.”
It’s a solid premise, and Ronson approaches his subjects with empathy and a dose of righteous indignation. But I was startled by his methodology.
Ross Douthat's gotten a lot of pushback for using his soapbox to complain that liberal Christianity lacks "a religious reason for its own existence." And with good reason—it'd be nice if the national paper of record's faithiest columnist could at least spin a fresher argument against us mainliners.
I'm prone to the occasional rant about how much I dislike the movement folk music of the 1960s—its lack of subtlety, its odd mix of the earnestly humorless and the cornball, its endless verses of repetition. But I love Woody Guthrie, who was born 100 years ago today.
Guthrie was a generation older than the 60s troubadours and a singular influence on many of them, none of whom shared his gifts and sensibilities.
I'm as down on big organics as the next guy who makes homemade sauerkraut out of cabbage grown by his farmer wife. As Stephanie Strom details, the standards of organic certification could be much stronger, and most national organic brands are owned by the very mainstream companies they're standing in implicit objection to. Not exactly a recipe for systemwide reform.
Still, I think Tom Philpott's right: Michael Potter of the independent holdout Eden's Organics, Strom's primary focus, goes too far in slamming the certified-organic label as a "fraud."
How should we decide who to vote for? Paul Root Wolpe thinks a candidate's personal ethics should be at the top of the list:
When we care about a candidate’s character, we are really asking, Is this person authentic? Are their positions a true reflection of their inner values, or are they politically expedient? Is a change of opinion on an issue a result of the candidate listening to others, learning and making a principled decision, or is it a response to pressure, polls and popularity? . . . . It is in the American character to care about our leader’s values. We should be proud of that.
I don't exactly disagree, but I don't find this all that helpful, either.
Rod Dreher revealed recently that he couldn't come up with more than six of the Ten Commandments from memory. He also pointed out the irony of this fact coming from someone who often gets on his "high horse about theological ignorance," so I won't pile on.
I've mentioned before that, while I haven't retained everything I learned at my evangelical grade school, I do recall a catchy song for remembering the U.S. presidents in order. We also performed a lot of musicals, including the popular '80s Christmas program Angels Aware.
On the subject of CNN's epic fail yesterday—here's a great Photoshop illustration of the episode—Paul Waldman thinks CNN missed a great opportunity to anticipate the problem and promise to avoid it and focus on accuracy, not on being the fastest. "Maybe," says Waldman, "they would have gained a few viewers."
Maybe a few. But it's hard to imagine such a move being transformational.
In the unlikely event you missed it, the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate—a central piece of the 2009 health-care reform law—in a 5-4 decision today. Read the decision here (pdf) and, if that doesn't keep you busy, follow SCOTUSblog's live blog for ongoing analysis.
Whatever this decision means for the presidential election, future SCOTUS decisions, or future health-care laws, it's important not to lose sight of its most important effect: millions of people will have health insurance who otherwise likely would not have been able to acquire it.