1. A very powerful piece on the NY Times Freakonomics blog about the last words uttered by prisoners on death row. After listing a number of examples from a Texas execution site, the author discusses how last words have come to be understood as “Kantian Moments”:
[Speaking one’s last words] is an almost-perfectly Kantian moment, when one has the chance to act without concern for consequences, when the pressures of finitude are lifted and our position almost resembles the perfect being of reason who has no inclinations contrary to reason.
But what’s really interesting is how the content of final statements changed after Texas, on January 12, 1996, began allowing family and friends of homicide victims to attend executions. After that date, inmate final statements were more likely to admit guilt (43 percent vs. 14 percent), and more likely to seek forgiveness of the victim’s family (41 percent vs. 6 percent).
2. A predictably frightening and must-read article on defectors from Scientology from this past week’s NY Times. Sometimes I feel that the extent to which Christianity resembles Scientology (in practice) is the extent to which it needs reform.
3. A surprising interview over at The Huffington Post with Gina Welch, author of In The Land Of Believers: An Outsider’s Extraordinary Journey Into The Heart Of The Evangelical Church. I was impressed by Welch’s insight and lack of condescension. She says (ht JAZ):
The biggest surprise for me was the individual reflectiveness of church members. I think I’d had this stereotype of evangelicals as blisteringly arrogant dogmatists. But I observed instead humility and a kind of obsessive self-reflection, enacted through prayer. They call it listening to God’s voice, but from it seemed to me like a constant internal pat-down of conscience, which really resulted in care with choices, and a movingly ample capacity for selflessness and generosity.
4. Along those lines, the classic Onion piece: Bishop Sick Of Local Church Scene (ht JD). And while you’re there, be sure to revisit that other slice of Onion-brilliance: Women Increasingly Choosing Dead-End Careers Over Dead-End Relationships.
5. I don’t know about you but I felt that the John Hughes’ tribute was the undeniable high point of the Oscars. And the man only gained stature in my eyes after I read about his post-Hollywood life in the recent Vanity Fair profile. Really, really touching and inspiring stuff. One great little quote:
Hughes wanted the teen pictures to convey a sort of universal truth: that no age group takes itself more seriously than teenagers. “At that age,” he said, “it feels as good to feel bad as it does to feel good.”
6. Lastly, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. I give you…. “Do The Clam”: