The World Wide (Religious) Web for Monday, November 14, 2011

THE IDOLATRY OF SPORTS: “Attack of the Penn State Jock Worshippers.”

The subtext of Erickson’s message is the same as the overt message of Penn State students who rioted when Paterno was fired and who paint messages to the coach on their chests: child rape doesn’t matter. I mean, sure, it’s bad, but we are talking about football here.



What exactly is it about child molestation that uniquely unites Americans in outrage?

Thus Americans are united in recognizing that child molestation is wrong—as they ought—but probably couldn’t exactly agree on the various reasons for why it is wrong. This may be, in part, because dignity is a missing element in our discourse around human relationships, including sexual ones. (In his book on human personhood, Christian Smith identifies dignity as “an inherent worth of immeasurable value that is deserving of certain morally appropriate responses.”) We recognize that people who sexually prey on children—as well as those that fail to do everything in their power to stop them, even to their own hurt—ignore their victims’ (as well as their own) dignity.


EVANGELICALS AND IMMIGRATION: “Latino evangelicals challenge Alabama brethren on immigration.”

When the Alabama legislature approved what is considered the nation’s toughest anti-illegal immigration law, much of the state’s religious community was quick to condemn it.

The Roman Catholic, Episcopal and United Methodist churches went to court to block the law, calling it “the nation’s most merciless anti-immigration legislation.” But Latino evangelical leaders say a key voice in Alabama’s debate is missing – that of their own denominations.

“Because this is at some level a moral issue, and the religious community cannot stand idly by and allow a moral issue like this to go without a comment,” said Carlos Campo, president of Virginia’s Regent University, the college founded by evangelical icon Pat Robertson.

Religious leaders met in Birmingham last week to discuss the their role in the debate, with about 50 people gathering in a theater-turned-church.



The Church regularly prays for the conversion of sinners, so how can one justify praying for their conversions, while insisting on exclusivity? Do we only want certain types of sinners to convert and the rest can literally go to Hell?


THE POOR YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE WITH YOU: “Wasted Charity: Why the compassion industry is not helping the poor. A review of ‘Toxic Charity.’”

In Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) (HarperOne), the 40-year veteran urban minister “takes the gloves off” and argues that much of Americans’ charitable giving “is either wasted or actually harms the people it is targeted to help.”

The reason is that the “compassion industry” is “almost universally accepted as a virtuous and constructive enterprise,” but its “outcomes are almost entirely unexamined.” Years of charitable giving at home and abroad, Lupton contends, have made barely a dent in reducing poverty and often encourage dependency. Toxic Charity offers some statistics, but more stories, as evidence that both our philosophy and practice of charity are frequently misguided.


THE VIRTUE OF HOPE: “Optimistic or Pessimistic about America: Gilbert Meilaender.”

Finally, we can grant that there are plenty of political reasons for pessimism: an economy in which many people may be permanently unable to find work, the racial divide that has burdened our entire history and still does, the threat of Islamism around the world but especially in the Middle East, an aging population that is setting us up for a clash of generations. What we need in the face of such difficulties is not optimism but hope, and they are not the same. As G.K. Chesterton noted, external conditions can never—in good times or bad—give sufficient reason for hope. We need the virtue of hope precisely when circumstances seem to offer no grounds for optimism. “For practical purposes it is at the hopeless moment that we require the hopeful man, and the virtue either does not exist at all or begins to exist at that moment. Exactly when hope ceases to be reasonable, it begins to be useful.” Which means that the question that most needs our reflection is: How does one elicit, nourish, and sustain the virtue of hope?


ANGER: OK FOR ME, BUT NOT FOR THEE: “Privileged Anger.”

The other day an opinion-maker remarked with apparent surprise that after 9/11 Americans had not started attacking American Muslims. Readers will remember how many earnest warnings against violent reactions were issued in the days and weeks after the attack, and how many patronizing lectures on Islam as a religion of peace were given. You’d think that every group of Americans, other than those who read the New York Times, was a lynch mob just waiting for an excuse to feel righteous in venting their anger on victims who were easy and safe to hurt.

The same people who worry about the mythological angry middle class white Christian do not worry about anger in itself. Anger, in our culture, is “privileged,” as academics put it. It is a sign of authenticity that is rarely “interrogated,” if expressed by approved groups. You will not suffer for declaring that you are outraged, and you will often be applauded.



Foreign tourists are coming up to me on the streets and asking, “David, you have so many different kinds of inequality in your country. How can I tell which are socially acceptable and which are not?”

Dear visitor, we are a democratic, egalitarian people who spend our days desperately trying to climb over each other. Have a nice stay.


THE LEGACY OF THE PURITANS: “Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Government Worker.”

Hawthorne’s work, and its inspiration, highlights the gap between public employment and civic motives, and it adds a standard that is, sadly, lost in the current debate. Think of the custom-house and we won’t be astonished when government workers react to the slightest changes in salaries and benefits with outrage, even when those changes appear to be modest accommodations to revenue dips. They have been conditioned to act this way. It’s a psychology that people who have never entered the government job world can’t understand, and that one of our great writers recognized and recoiled from.


AMEN! “John Stott’s Daily Prayer.”

Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.

Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.

Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life:

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control

Holy, blessed and glorious trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me.

Almighty God, Creator and sustainer of the universe, I worship you.

Lord Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord of the World, I worship you.

Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the people of God, I worship you.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,

As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever, Amen.

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