Friday, August 12, 2011

Various and Sundry, August 12

I'm going to try to squeak in a quick V & S post, but it will be brief--good thing I have to hustle otherwise I'd be here all day with new stuff.

OK, so this isn't new but it was new to me: the president of Electronic Recyclers International in Fresno talks about Why I Hire Former Convicts and Gang Members. "There are no absolutes, but I’ve generally found that when you hire someone who’s looking for one last chance to turn his life around, he’ll roll up his sleeves and give you everything he’s got." Great stuff.

A couple of things I liked spoke to Gov. Perry's Prayer Rally in Texas. The first, from Roger Ebert, talks about The Error of Political Prayer and of the "horizontal prayers" that are prayed so that others may hear them. Very good stuff. And the other speaks more generally to the claim many Christians make of persecution. "You see, there seems to be this perception among Conservative Christians, such as yourself, that if you’re not allowed to do or say anything and everything you want, it’s persecution." He points out that persecution, to those actually being persecuted, looks quite different.

From Tales of Unintended Consequences-or-how idealism makes fools of us all, two articles: one, how a well-intentioned bill designed to eliminate "conflict minerals" has devastated Congo. The other delves into the conundrum of voluntourism: does it help or hurt locals? The answer: there are no easy answers.

In our ongoing theme of Zombies, a Facebook friend pointed me toward the T-shirt with this nifty Venn diagram. Description: Just so you know where you stand with them.

So it's a good thing for us in the Bay Area that we live close to Sensei Keiko Fukuda who, at the age of 98, became the first woman EVER to attain a 10th degree black belt. I was fascinated by her story, and glad to see they are making a documentary about it. It's very moving. A clip is below:


Anonymous said...

I appreciate Roger Ebert's political anxieties, but I'm afraid his Civics 101 rests on a faulty understanding of American history.

When he says this:

"It is sometimes said America was founded as a Christian nation. It was specifically not founded as a Christian nation, or the nation of any other religion. The founding European settlers were refugees from Christian nations, and had experienced quite enough at the hands of state religions. The separation of church and state is central to our democracy. It is impossible to conceive of any of the Founding Fathers approving of prayer rallies in connection with political campaigns. That is equally true of Fathers who were Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, atheist, deist or agnostic,"

then I think this:

Whether you think America was founded on the separation of church and state depends on who you think the founders were.

For the Puritans and many of the other British religious minorities who first arrived, for example, the goal was simply to replace the control of a state that opposed their religion with the control of a state that supported it - hence the expulsion of Roger Williams from Massachusetts to Rhode Island.

The US Constitution forbids the establishment of any single national religion for the fledgling United States of America - but established state religions continued to be perfectly legal in some of the individual states of the new union until early in the 19th century. I don't want an established religion in any of the 52 states myself, but I'm not sure the US Constitution would actually forbid one if the majority of some state wanted to try the experiment again.

I agree that it is hard to imagine that the Founding Fathers would have approved of prayer rallies in connection with political campaigns - but not because it is so hard to imagine them approving of public prayer or even of political prayer. The Declaration of Independence itself invokes God, after all, both at its beginning and at its end - Jefferson's Deist God, admittedly, at least at the beginning, but still God, God supporting the highly political causes of revolution and independence.

No, I think that if the Founding Fathers had disapproved of political prayer rallies, their disapproval would have been more about the rallies themselves than about the public prayers for political success. For better or worse, the framers created a liberal republican constitution at the outset, not a radically democratic one. They may have wanted more popular input than any hereditary monarch could provide, but they also distrusted democracy enough to provide for a Senate to check the House and an Electoral College to check the electorate.

We are a lot more democratic now than any of our country's founders were then, I think, and we are still coming to terms with what that means. It's not at all clear to me, at least not for now, whether that means we should approve or disapprove of prayer rallies in connection with political campaigns.

Anonymous said...

As it happens, I came across links to these two articles about the relatively recent history of tensions between ecumenism and evangelicalism over at Inside Higher Education today. They seemed unexpectedly relevant to this discussion to me, so I post them here in case other readers are interested:

Scott McLamee, "Ecumenical vs Evangelical," Intellectual Affairs

David Hollinger, "After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Ecumenical Protestantism and the Modern American Encounter with Diversity," Journal of American History

Happy reading.