Thank you, Professor David Barash. In his first-year biology class, Barash begins with something he calls “The Talk.” He understands that a “substantial minority” of students come in unprepared by their religious backgrounds for the complexity and strangeness of evolutionary biology. They fear that the study of biology might challenge their “beliefs.” So he takes it upon himself to clear up what vestiges of William Paley and William Jennings Bryan remain among students.
The New York Times recently reprinted Michael Chabon’s “Why I Hate Dreams,” which created a little stir when the New York Review of Books first posted it a couple years ago. “Pretty much the only thing I hate more than my own dreams,” he wrote, “are yours.”
We are endlessly being misdirected in search of the crude “hate crime.” After centuries of racial oppression and violence, our society eventually became uncomfortable with the overtness of the racism of the past. Slavery is taken for granted as a horrific thing, something that couldn’t be assumed a few generations ago. For mainstream America, to be accused of being racist is to have been labeled something despicable. Few would willingly accept this charge upon themselves, defending themselves adamantly against such accusations. However, even worse than the racist label for those within the dominant culture, is for a person to be accused of a hate crime. Hate crimes have been created to isolate the most heinous of offenses that have been committed because of prejudice.
Fighting for the poor and disadvantaged isn’t an aberration for the nuns on the Nuns on the Bus tour, led by Sister Simone Campbell. Their order, the Sisters of Social Service, was founded in Hungary in 1923 with a commitment to social justice. Their founder was the first woman elected to the Hungarian parliament. Another member was executed by the Nazis for hiding Jews in her hostel and was beatified by Pope Benedict in 2006. The order is credited with having spared the lives of at least 1,000 Jews during the Hitler era. From their beginning they’ve worn a simple gray suit that ordinary women might wear, not a habit (Harper’s, August).