Around the Web (Part 2)

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

The Compassion Gap by Nicholas Kristof: “There is an income gap in America, but just as important is a compassion gap. Plenty of successful people see a picture of a needy child and their first impulse is not to help but to reproach.”

Arizona’s SB 1062 by Michael Sean Winters: “This law has not been advanced at this moment to remedy a constitutional infirmity. It has been advanced by those who oppose gay marriage and wish to enshrine the right of a baker or a photographer to refuse service to a gay or lesbian couple that is getting married. The text of the law may not target gays. The political intent clearly does. And, that is why it was a mistake for the Arizona bishops to voice their support for it.”

A Letter to My American Sisters by Fawzia Koofi: “The women of my country and I also remain hopeful that the international community, including the United States, will not abandon our country and will help us a little more in fighting extremism, consolidating our gains, moving toward ending violence against women, and achieving something that all women around the world want: equality for both genders and for all.”

The right’s Ayn Rand hypocrisy by Elizabeth Stoker: “Rand’s entire notion of morality is predicated upon the idea that a sacrifice such as Christ’s would be morally wrong, which means all ethics that flow out of her work will contain in them that seed of conflict with the central message of Christianity. Whether conservatives like it or not, to advance a Randian political ethic is to further an ethic that fundamentally denies the goodness of the sacrifice of Christ, and thereby can never be brought to union with any serious Christian ethics.”

Surprisingly, Most Married Families Today Tilt Neo-Traditional by W. Bradford Wilcox, Family Studies: “Public policies and cultural norms related to work and family should be geared toward maximizing flexibility, rather than locking in approaches geared to serving full-time, dual-income families, and toward renewing the employment opportunities of poor and working-class men who have become less “marriageable” in recent years.”

Some Catholic leaders need to follow Pope Francis’ lead by John Gehring, NCR: “Pope Francis has brought an unexpected season of renewal and hope for the Catholic Church not because he is a liberal or a conservative. He is inspiring so many because he acts like a Christian should act. Not a bad starting point for Catholic clergy and anyone who tries to follow in the footsteps of Christ.”

Creating the Peace Corps and Finding a Saint by Jason Welle, SJ, TJP: “The founding director of Peace Corps and the person largely responsible for creating these life-changing possibilities was Sargent Shriver, the president’s brother-in-law. Shriver was a man deeply rooted in his Catholicism, and his faith – especially a commitment to social justice – motivated not only his involvement in the early years in the Peace Corps, but all of his commitments in life.”

The Protection of the Church by William Saletan: “This is what happens in many parts of the world. Even in the midst of religious war, religious institutions provide the moral strength to contain the violence. Faith in transcendent values counters sectarian hatred.”

God or the god of Riches? by Dan Horan: “Ultimately, I believe, the issue is between God and us, between serving the will of God or serving our own will. It is between putting our desires and interests first and putting first the Kingdom of God.”

Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda by Timothy Snyder: “Whatever course the Russian intervention may take, it is not an attempt to stop a fascist coup, since nothing of the kind has taken place. What has taken place is a popular revolution, with all of the messiness, confusion, and opposition that entails.”


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Pot and Jackpots by Ross Douthat: “There are significant differences in the ways gambling and pot have won America….But both have been made possible by the same trend in American attitudes: the rise of a live-and-let-live social libertarianism, the weakening influence of both religious conservatism and liberal communitarianism, the growing suspicion of moralism in public policy. And both, in different ways, illustrate the potential problems facing a culture pervaded by what the late sociologist Robert Bellah called ‘expressive individualism’ and allergic to any restrictions on what individuals choose to do.”

The Downside of Playing Hard to Get by Anna Sutherland: “So it would seem that playing hard-to-get has its rewards in the relationship market. But that doesn’t mean we should all adopt it as a strategy: deceit and manipulation seem an unlikely path to a happy relationship characterized by honesty and openness on both sides.”

My Favorite Jesuit? by Paul Brian Campbell SJ, People for Others: “We are, I’m sure, all familiar with Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier, but how many of you know another founder of the Jesuits: Pierre Favre?”

Look to Disraeli, Conservatives by R. R. Reno: “Right now liberalism seems to have the upper hand, especially in culture. Most people want what they’re offering, which is greater space to be a free actor in our personal inventions of sexual identity, marriage, and family. But by my reading of the signs of the times people want more than that. They want freedom, yes, but they also want solidarity, which in the cultural politics of our time means an enduring marriage and functional family.”

Whittaker Chambers Versus Ayn Rand by Cass R. Sunstein: “Chambers goes so far as to link Rand with Karl Marx. Both, he says, are motivated by a kind of materialism, in which people’s happiness lies not with God or with anything spiritual, and much less with an appreciation of human limitations, but only with the use of their ‘own workaday hands and ingenious brain.’”

Syria Goes Hungry by New York Times: “The experts warn that if the crisis continues into the winter, deaths from hunger and illness could begin to dwarf deaths from violence, which has already killed well over 100,000 people, and if the deprivation lasts longer, a generation of Syrians risks stunted development.”

Make room for young people by Michael O’Loughlin: “The way to prevent that crisis from happening is to bring a bit of Silicon Valley into the church, inviting young people — especially those in their teens and 20s — into meaningful positions of leadership and responsibility. For both the church and young people, it would be a ‘win-win,’ at once evangelizing and strengthening the faith of young leaders and increasing the vitality, creativity and energy of the church.”

Slavery Isn’t a Thing of the Past by Nicholas Kristof: “The United States is home to about 60,000 people who can fairly be called modern versions of slaves, according to a new Global Slavery Index released last month by the Walk Free Foundation, which fights human trafficking.”

The high prices of living in poverty By Kevin Clarke: “This ‘poverty tax’ extends to virtually all aspects of the lives of America’s low-income families. Financial services and mortgages cost more for poor people. Check-cashing, rent-to-own, and payday loan operations skim vast sums from the poor. And a new study reports that the physical and psychological costs of being poor are surprisingly high.”

What You Can Do by John Carr: “Sacrifice for others and priority for the poor may be politically incorrect, but they are religious obligations.”

$10 Minimum Wage Proposal Has Growing Support From White House by NY Times: “President Obama, the official continued, supports the Harkin-Miller bill, also known as the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, from its current $7.25.”

The world must unite to save Central African Republic from catastrophe by NY Times: “We are in a delicate situation in the Central African Republic, and the tension is mounting. There is a terrifying, real threat of sectarian conflict.”


Millennial’s Summer Reads: Brian’s Books

I almost always have a list of books I want to read, and it never seems to get any shorter, but while on vacation last week I made a good dent in it.  Being fortunate enough to have a family vacation home on Cape Cod, I’ll have plenty more opportunities this summer to check off a couple more books.  After all, as I am fond of saying to friends who notice I disappear for the middle months of each year, the beach isn’t going to sit on itself.

With that in mind, and since Mike was kind enough to share with us some of his summer reads, I thought I’d do the same.

  1. Just this morning on the T, I finally picked up Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.  It is a book I’ve been meaning to read for some time, but for one reason or another have always put off.  With failed vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s run for office last year, and with all the discussion about whether the Russian-born novelist or his Catholic faith had more influence on his policy decisions, I firmly placed it on my list for this summer.
  2. I had actually planned to read Atlas Shrugged while on vacation, but got distracted by several other excellent works.  One of the best, which I finished in less than two days  baking on the beach, was Forbidden Fruit by Mark Regenus.  The title comes from the Book of Genesis and is a sociological study of sex, religion, and American teenagers.  The work was fascinating, but I think it can be summed up by saying that which denomination an adolescent belongs to is less important than how deeply they feel religious convictions.  That is to say that the sex lives of nominally Catholic and nominally evangelical youths look a lot more alike than those of devout and non-practicing Catholics.  Almost none of them, however, reflect  Church teaching on the matter.
  3. Also in the world of sociology, Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael Kimmel will hopefully be checked off before Labor Day.  It describes a cohort of 16-22 year old guys in America who are “obsessed with never wanting to grow up; this demographic, which is 22 million strong, craves video games, sports and depersonalized sexual relationships.”  Even though I am now outside this age bracket, I can’t say that I don’t recognize at least a few of these traits in my friends, and myself.
  4. As much as there is to condemn in modern American guy culture, I think most of us would pick it over the world of Yanomamö Indians, one of the last large tribal groups still living in isolation.  Far from being the peaceful, if undeveloped, people described by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Napoleon Chagnon found a remarkably violent society where men often killed for women and revenge, and described it in Noble Savages.
  5. I don’t normally read much fiction, but I try to reread Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World every few years.  My civil libertarian tendencies aside, I am much more worried about the “utopia” described here than I am with, say, the Big Brother dictatorship described in Orwell’s 1984.  When I look at our own country, I am not as concerned about the overreach of the government–though it is at times certainly an issue–as I am with people willing to numb themselves with a drink, drug, or screen.  Society worries more me much more than the Feds.  How many more people would choose a life of luxury devoid of any real humanity to an authentic life under the thumb of a brutal tyrant?  Bravehearts most people are not.
  6. The novel Small Gods satirizes much of religion, religious practices, and the role of religion in public life.  Terry Pratchett’s criticisms aren’t totally off the mark, but I’m not running out to pick up any of the other books in this series.  It wasn’t bad, but fantasy novels just aren’t my thing.
  7. If a little neuroscience is your thing (or even if it isn’t) I really enjoyed Permanent Present Tense by Suzanne Conklin.  A professor at MIT, she tells the story of a man who had experimental brain surgery in the ‘50s to cure his epilepsy, and unfortunately lost his ability to form new memories.  He lived his life in 15 to 30 second increments, and as soon as the moment was over he had no recollection of the experience.  It gets a bit technical at times, but the underlying story is well worth the read.
  8. I’m saving Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan for some weekend when the house is overrun with guests.  It’s not that I think the book is unimportant, but I don’t imagine that I will need to concentrate much to read this Catholic comedian’s take on living in a two bedroom apartment in Manhattan with his five kids, and the other joys of parenthood.  I’m not a father myself, but I take some comfort in Gaffigan’s statement that “Ten years ago I couldn’t get a date, and now my apartment’s crawling with babies.”
  9. I know this list is all over the place, and so to round it out I thought I’d include a few of the others that have made my list that might be of interest to Millennial readers.  On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good, is Jim Wallis’ latest.  Robert George writes at the Catholic legal blog Mirror of Justice, and his new book is Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism.  Finally, when the Iranian-born Reza Aslan first heard the Gospel as a young teen, he had a powerful experience and converted from Islam.  On NPR last week discussing his new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, he described how he now considers himself a follower of Jesus but not a Christian.  Should be an interesting read on multiple fronts.

Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Discrimination against pregnant workers has been rising, report says by Washington Post

“Thirty-five years after Congress passed a federal law to protect pregnant women from discrimination on the job, these workers are instead denied reasonable accommodations that other workers receive and often wind up losing income, benefits or their jobs or suffering pregnancy complications, according to a report released Tuesday.”

Extremism Rises Among Myanmar Buddhists by NY Times

“Buddhist lynch mobs have killed more than 200 Muslims and forced more than 150,000 people, mostly Muslims, from their homes.”

Is Rand Paul’s Love of Ayn Rand a ‘Conspiracy’? by Jonathan Chait

“But the upshot is that I strongly dispute Friedersdorf’s premise that Rand’s theories are a variant of democracy, any more than Marx’s are. In fact, I find the existence of powerful elected officials who praise her theories every bit as disturbing to contemplate as elected officials who praise Marxism. Even if you take care to note some doctrinal differences with Rand, in my view we are talking about a demented, hateful cult leader and intellectual fraud. People who think she had a lot of really good ideas should not be anywhere near power.”

A Catholic Defense of Obamacare  by Morning’s Minion, Vox Nova

“I believe that the basic principles of Obamacare are aligned both with Catholic social teaching, and with best practices throughout the world. Again, the yardstick to judge healthcare policies must always be whether it delivers affordable healthcare to all. Obamacare, while not perfect, goes a long way in this direction. Pretty much every alternative proposal against Obamacare falls far short. And that should tell us everything we need to know.”

RIP, American Dream? Why It’s So Hard for the Poor to Get Ahead Today by Matthew O’Brien, The Atlantic

“Now, we like to think of ourselves as a classless society, but it isn’t true today. As the Brookings Institution has pointed out, America has turned into a place Horatio Alger would scarcely recognize: we have more inequality and less mobility than once-stratified Europe, particularly the Nordic countries. It’s what outgoing Council of Economic Advisers chief Alan Krueger has dubbed the “Great Gatsby Curve” — the more inequality there is, the less mobility there is. As Tim Noah put it, it’s harder to climb our social ladder when the rungs are further apart.  And it’s getting worse.”

No More Monkeys by Michael Downs

“My ‘daddy sabbatical’ has begun. After serving at a Jesuit high school for the past six years as a Social Justice teacher, I recently decided to take some time away from work and be more present to my two young children.”

A conversation with a newly ordained Washington priest by Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post

“My 20s were a tough time. You come out of going to school and you get a job and you’re living on your own, and there are no structures of developing community. You’re just out there. And I think a lot of people really suffer during that time. I know I did. I found the solution in a closer relationship with God. A lot of people turn to other gods, to put it bluntly, to heal that pain. I think that’s true especially in Washington, a city that’s so transient. I see that a lot. I think that one of the biggest things people suffer from today is loneliness.”

The Post-Cynical Christian by Jim Wallis

“But it’s time for action. It’s time for realistic, skeptical, but post-cynical Christians, who are willing to act because of their faith, along with others of deep moral conviction. It’s time to make the personal decisions that can change the world.”