In the World
Steve Thorngate on public life and culture
I enjoyed Michelle Boorstein's piece of reporting on M. Div. students who aren't headed for parish ministry. She details how some seminarians seek to be ministers of a sort as part of their calling to other vocations; she also touches on the challenges of post-Christendom pastoring and the need for more flexible and affordable paths through seminary.
Somewhere in my queue of non-time-sensitive articles to write—yes, it’s been there a while—is one on the history and practice of making theologically significant changes to traditional American songs. Not just line-level edits like neutering/diversifying gendered language or using “love” in place of “wrath.” I mean re-imagining songs in a thoroughgoing way, while also preserving much of the existing imagery and language patterns. (I posted some time ago about one historical example.) I write songs and play traditional music, but I haven’t actually tried this approach myself.
It’s true: gay-rights groups, a progressive church and other liberal organizations have received not-so-special attention from the IRS in years past, as well as more recently. It’s true that there’s no clear evidence that IRS staffers were ideologically motivated when they gave special scrutiny to Tea Party groups. It’s true that, by design, the IRS does its work largely independent of the White House—Obama couldn’t fire the people at the Cincinnati office if he wanted to. And yes: “social welfare” nonprofits need more scrutiny and regulation, not less—assuming they should even exist. Still.
We may have the power and privilege to avoid having to work in a sweatshop. But we feel powerless to prevent such horrors from existing.
I've always been immersed in music, and I never forget a song lyric. So a college friend used to call me "Verse Boy" and would ocassionally challenge me to come up with a hymn or folk song's lesser-known stanzas on command. "National anthem, verse three" he might say, and off I'd go with "And where is that band /Who so vauntingly swore..." (That one's a doozy, by the way. Compared to verse three, verse one might as well be "This Is My Song.") Anyway, this week someone linked to an old Mental Floss post on subsequent verses of children's songs.
I keep seeing T. F. Charlton's Jason Collins post everywhere, and with good reason: Tim Tebow is an example of how the public face of Christian athletes, like the public face of American Christianity in general, is overwhelmingly white—despite the fact that black Americans are the racial demographic most likely to identify as “very religious.” A recent Barna poll found that Tebow is by far the most well-known Christian professional athlete in the U.S. (with 83% awareness from the public), with retired white quarterback Kurt Warner a distant second at 59%. Robert Grifﬁn III (RGIII), a black quarterback who’s had a far more successful season with the Redskins than Tebow’s had with the Jets, trailed at 34%. It's a good point, but I don't think it's the whole story.
A funeral director in Massachusetts is struggling to find a community willing to let Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev be buried there. It's sobering to belong to an ostensibly advanced, decent culture in which people find it reasonable to take revenge on a corpse. And what is this about if not revenge?
When I saw the MoJo headline "Why Your Supermarket Only Sells 5 Kinds of Apples," I expected an informative piece about industrial agriculture's disincentive for biodiversity and the various problems this causes. I've read that article before, but for whatever reason I clicked anyway.