In the World

Church door from inside

Steve Thorngate on public life and culture

From RNS: Too much religion can harm a society’s economy by undermining the drive for financial success, according to a new study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. . . . The study found that religious people in religious cultures reported better psychological adjustment when their income was low.
September 10, 2013
Allison Benedikt’s anti-private-school manifesto is pretty entertaining: You are a bad person if you send your children to private school. Not bad like murderer bad—but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid bad. So, pretty bad. I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good. Yes, this is a hyperbolic provocation. I agree with a lot of what Benedikt says, but I don’t think that private-school parents—or, for that matter, the many private-school teachers I know—are bad people.
September 5, 2013
This weekend President Obama surprised everyone by choosing to seek permission now rather than forgiveness later on the Syria front. While the congressional leadership quickly got behind Obama’s plan for a military strike, it’ll be a harder sell for others on both sides of the aisle. James Fallows is impressed with Obama’s decision to go to Congress. So, presumably, are the almost 40,000 people who signed this MoveOn petition. And sure: if your main concern is (1) constitutionality, (2) the growing power of the executive branch, and/or (3) legislators’ ability to make a lot of noise about (1) and (2) without having to actually record a vote one way or the other, then this is welcome news.
September 3, 2013
The Alliance Defending Freedom and others have been hard at work for years organizing pastors to challenge (i.e., break) tax laws by electioneering from the pulpit. ADF insists this is about a pastor’s freedom of expression. I’m inclined to land where Amelia Thomson-Deveaux does: You can say anything you want (legally; let’s save theological arguments for another time)—once you give up your tax-exempt status. But Matthew Yglesias takes this a step farther.
August 27, 2013
Last weekend's This American Life included a great Planet Money segment about GiveDirectly, a charity that gives poor Kenyans not food or equipment or livestock or training but cash. The idea is that, whatever risks or downsides exist in just giving people money, these are outweighed by a) extremely low overhead, and b) the fact that the poor actually know best what they need.
August 23, 2013

Pages

In the magazine

Why and how I bless my children

Death-penalty abolition and life without parole

Review of Steven Brill's Obamacare book

Baptism and place

What I want to get/give for Christmas

Liturgy nerds and their weddings

What's funny on TV

Alternatives to the common lectionary

Should churches alter copyrighted worship texts?

Welcome to the middle class, population everyone.

It's not about the role of government.

Whither the Century's Amazon links?

Church music after the worship wars

A nontraditional church introduces member rolls

Pay your taxes; get a receipt.

The Democrats' proxy debate about abortion

Music reviews