Showing posts from March, 2008

Ruth Marcus on Harvard's Accomodation of Religion

I wrote previously have the big controversy about Harvard's efforts to accomodate its Muslem minority. In short, I thought that the uproar was a bit much. One of my friends from Harvard Law School, Ruth Marcus agrees in her Washington Post column:

My reaction is more along the lines of: "Get a grip." It's reasonable to set aside a few off-peak hours at one of Harvard's many gyms. It's not offensive to have the call to prayer echoing across Harvard Yard, any more than it is to ring church bells or erect a giant menorah there.

I share the apprehensions stirred up by the more radical followers of Islam, with their drive to restore the caliphate and subjugate women. But I come to this issue as a member of another minority religion, Judaism, whose adherents often seek flexibility from the majority culture in order to practice their faith. As with Islam, my religion's more observant believers endorse practices -- segregating the sexes at prayer, excluding wome…

Faith of Our Fathers

Steven Waldman, the editor-in-chief of Beliefnet has a very interesting book about the role of faith in our public life. His book challenges both liberal and conservative assumptions about what the founding fathers thought about the issue. He has a recent blog post that summarizes some of his conclusions:

In writing my new book, Founding Faith, I was struck by two things of possible importance to today’s religious progressives.

First, the 18th century evangelicals had a very different approach to religious freedom than many of their 21st century descendents. They were crucial advocates for separation of church and state. This ought to be a challenge to both modern liberal secularists who assume that evangelicals are awlays on the side of tyranny, and for religious conservatives who have disowned the arguments of their ancestors. If not for evangelicals, we wouldn’t have religious freedom.

Second, the Founders mostly assess religion through the prism of one question: does it promote goo…

A Primer on Black Liberation Theology

Confused about the controversy over Pastor Wright? Want to learn a bit more about what black liberation theology is all about? Father Peter Carey has some useful resources on his blog here.

Ed Kilgore on Obama and His Church

I have known and admired Ed Kilgore for many years. He is a great political thinker--and also an Epicopalian. I thought that his remarks on Obama's church ad faith to be very insightful. His main point is that criticism of Obama for not leaving his church reflects a very consumerist vision of the church that is alien to the very Catholic view that the church is an organic community:

But the Wright controversy also touches on religion, and in a few brief references in his speech, Obama hinted at an alternative approach he probably considered, and might even return to in the future.

Here's what Obama had to say about Trinity UCC Church and its pastor:

The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminar…

Money Can Buy Happiness!

Ed at Not Exactly Rocket Science reports on new studies that show that while income is generally not very important to aperson's happiness, people who give lots of mony away to charities or other people are quite happy. The moral: money can buy you happiness if you give it away:

Across and within countries, income has an incredibly weak effect on happiness once people have enough to secure basic needs and standards of living. Once people are lifted out of abject poverty and thrown into the middle class, any extra earnings do little to improve their joie de vivre. Time trends tell a similar story; even developed countries that have enjoyed economic booms have seen plateauing levels of satisfaction. But a new study reveals that money can indeed buy happiness... if it's spent on others. Elizabeth Dunn from the University of British Columbia wanted to see if there were ways of channelling the inevitable pursuit of money towards actually making people happier. Together with Lara Akn…

Obama's Speech

A lot has been said about Obama's speech, and I don't really have much to add. I thought that it was a brilliant speech, whose full impact is only beginning to be felt. It does strike me, however, that one reason that Obama is getting so much heat about the comments of his pastor is that many Americans can't imagine have different political views than their religious leaders. Indeed, for many Americans, religion and politics are inseparable.

I have been a member of many churches in my time, and have heard many a sermon whose political content disturbed me. My pastor at a Lutheran Church in D.C. was far to the left of me and made comments about the military on many occasions that set me on edge. Yet I stayed a member of that congregation. Why? Because this man was otherwise a wise spiritual leader who was instrumental in getting me to come back to church. Because a congregation is about a whole lot of people, and not just the pastor. And because I can accept that my faith an…

March Gladness

Episopalians for Global Reconciliation have a brilliant idea involving the NCAA Basketball finals (aka March Madness). The Lead has the full story:

The brackets are set, the NCAA tournament bids are out -- this year Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation invites you to add a little purpose to your picking. We call it March Gladness.

March Gladness combines two of our favorite things -- Making Poverty History and the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Here's how it works:

Like your regular NCAA pool, you fill out your tournament bracket -- picking each game in the field of 65 right up to the championship game. Like your regular pool it costs a little to get in. Like your regular pool, the people who do the best picking the games win the pot.

Here's where Madness turns to Gladness:

*Instead of an entry fee, there is a small donation ($10).

*Along with your bracket(s) you designate a nonprofit (must be an official 501(c)3 whose work contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Developmen…

Eliot Spitzer and Prostitution

I must say that I am stunned and saddened. Eliot was a friend in law school (we served onthe law review together) and I have been a supporter of his various political campaigns.

I won't even begin to speculate about Governor Spitzer was thinking when he made such a profoundly stupid and tragic mistake. Instead, what I find most interesting about this entire episode is that many are asking the question: why is prostitution illegal in the first place? I think Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times offers the best answer and an innovative response to the problem:

The big news here in New York is Governor Spitzer being linked to a prostitution ring. That raised my eyebrows, because a few months ago the governor encouraged me to write about his anti-trafficking work in New York (which was indeed impressive). All this raises obvious questions: Should prostitution indeed be illegal? Is it worse to be caught paying for sex than simply having an affair?
My own sense is that prostitution…

Father Dan Martins on Demonizing the Enemy

For many of us on both sides of the great Anglican soap opera, one of the worst features as been the tendency--by those on both sides of the debate--to demonize our opponents. As I have often said, there is room in our church for both sids on the issue of same sex relationships. Indeed, we need both sides in our church.

Father Dan Martins, who differs from me on the issue of same sex relationships agrees in a must read post:

It seems to me that what most gets in the way of the ability to empathize is the tendency on all sides to paint the opposition with a very broad brush. The way conservatives do this is to hang the institutional label of the Episcopal Church on every misdeed that any liberal has committed. All the detestable enormities of "revisionism" thereby become monolithic. It's an impressive list. Who can work up very much empathy for an institution that subverts the sacrament of marriage, rejects the authority of Holy Scripture, denies the divinity of Christ and …

Father Matthew on the Sacrament of Unction

The latest from Father Matthew. Enjoy!

Yglesias versus on Religious Accomodation

Many in the blogoshere are outraged that my old Alma Mater, Harvard is accommodating female Muslim students by banning men at a gym during certain hours. Andrew Sullivan is outraged:

They would never do that kind of thing for any other religion. If a religion refuses to allow men and women to work out together in public, then its adherents need to work out at home. What's next? Removing all gay men from the locker-room? This is the West, guys. Get over yourselves.

Read it all here.

Matthew Ygesias, I think, has the better response:

Suppose I were to inform Andrew that Harvard, like all American institutions of higher education of which I'm aware, shuts down and creates a holiday in late December that just so happens to coincide with an important familial and religious observance for Christians whereas no such allowance is made for Passover visits. Christianism? Worse, it happens in public high schools and elementary schools all across the country, the very same country in which n…

An Economist Loves Harry Potter

Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics writes about his unexpected love of the Harry Potter series. I must admit that I had exactly the same reaction: initial disinterest followed by a rapid and addicting read of the entire series in a matter of weeks:

When it comes to Harry Potter, I was a late adopter. For years, I chuckled at the avid readers who camped out at book stores the night before the latest book’s release. My wife is hard to buy for, so when she mentioned half-heartedly that she should read Harry Potter because all of her friends were fans, I bought her the boxed set of the first 6 volumes. She read about 10 pages to humor me, and has not picked them up since.
Months later, looking for something to read one day as I left for the airport, I grabbed the first book of the series from her bedside table. I was instantly addicted, and proceeded to plow through all seven books during the next 4 months. I can’t articulate what is so great about these books, but rarely have I enjoye…

Thinking About God

Professor James McGrath, offers some very provocative thoughts about how we think about God in the modern world. He points out that the Bible itself displayes a shift in thinking about God (from a polytheistic worldview to a monothesitic one), and asks whether it makes sense to freeze our view of god to the understanding of the ancient peoples who authored the Bible:

In the Bible, studied critically, we can see some steps in the process of the shift from a polytheistic view, which personified the forces of nature, to a monotheistic (or proto-monotheistic) one that explained these various forces of nature in terms of a single personified agent behind them. We see the results of this as the Biblical authors rewrote the traditional flood story in light of their revised thinking about God, and the result is perplexing yet represents progress in perceiving an underlying unity to all things and helping to get us to the scientific approach that built upon this foundation. They had no other wa…

Men and Forgiveness

Every so often in my practice as a lawyer, I meet people (sometimes they are clients, and sometimes they are the opposing party) who simply can't let go of a perceived wrongdoing. In my experience, this is never healthy--I have seen lives ruined with an obsession about vengeance. Forgiveness is never easy, but I have no doubt that the willingness to forgive is essential to a healthy life.

I was therefore intrigued by a recent scientific study that showed that men are less willing to forgive than women:

Forgiveness can be a powerful means to healing, but it does not come naturally for both sexes. Men have a harder time forgiving than women do, according to Case Western Reserve University psychologist Julie Juola Exline. But that can change if men develop empathy toward an offender by seeing they may also be capable of similar actions. Then the gender gap closes, and men become less vengeful.

In seven forgiveness-related studies Exline conducted between 1998 through 2005 with more tha…