1. Old news by now, but David Brooks’ editorial about “The Gospel of Wealth” had some interesting tidbits about the intersection of affluence and Christianity in America, highlighting the efforts of one pastor in Birmingham, AL:
The tension between good and plenty, God and mammon, became the central tension in American life, propelling ferocious energies and explaining why the U.S. is at once so religious and so materialist. Americans are moral materialists, spiritualists working on matter.
[Birmingham pastor David] Platt is in the tradition of those who don’t believe these two spheres can be reconciled. The material world is too soul-destroying. “The American dream radically differs from the call of Jesus and the essence of the Gospel,” he argues. The American dream emphasizes self-development and personal growth. Our own abilities are our greatest assets.
But the Gospel rejects the focus on self: “God actually delights in exalting our inability.” The American dream emphasizes upward mobility, but “success in the kingdom of God involves moving down, not up.”
2. From Gizmodo, a pretty darn condemning study of race and religion, taking as its unwitting subjects half a million OKCupid users, “The ‘Real’ Stuff White People Like.” Be warned: Protestants, especially white ones, do not come out well – incriminated by their own words and preferences… Sigh. [There’s also quite a bit of profanity in the report.] Among the more encouraging finds are that Black religiosity scores off the charts, Asians appreciate Calvin and Hobbes, Latinos dig Stanley Kubrick and Whites alone grasp the brilliance of Van Halen. Of course, whether this is more of a comment on OKCupid users remains to be seen. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that that site’s users are probably rather self-selecting.
3. Giving new meaning to the phrases “inheritance of sin” and “sins of the father,” a new study looking at the children of Concentration Camp survivors suggests that severe emotional trauma can in fact impact DNA structures (negatively, ht JD):
“It is fascinating that clinical observations in humans have suggested the possibility that specific traits acquired during life and influenced by environmental factors may be transmitted across generations. It is even more challenging to think that when related to behavioral alterations, these traits could explain some psychiatric conditions in families,” said Dr. Mansuy, lead author on this project.
“The idea that traumatic stress responses may alter the regulation of genes in the germline cells in males means that these stress effects may be passed across generations. It is distressing to think that the negative consequences of exposure to horrible life events could cross generations,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.
4. Fascinating article in The Telegraph about Netflix’s vacation policy, which one might mistake for being taken directly from Grace in Practice. The company lets its staff take as much time off as they want, whenever they want – and it works (ht JZ):
“Ever more companies are realizing that autonomy isn’t the opposite of accountability – it’s the pathway to it. ‘Rules and policies and regulations and stipulations are innovation killers. People do their best work when they’re unencumbered,’ says Steve Swasey, Netflix’s vice-president for corporate communication. ‘If you’re spending a lot of time accounting for the time you’re spending, that’s time you’re not innovating.'”
5. From The Onion, “Hertz Introduces Short-Term Rental For Just Driving Around To Clear Head” [Coarse language warning].
6. On Salon.com, a slightly depressing but very telling article called “The Last Days of my Mother, The Control Freak.” The priceless tagline reads: “Mom made meticulous plans for everything in life, but when she neared the end, she wasn’t sure what they were.”
7. Finally, following up our recent post on The Church of Cool, here’s Brett McCracken’s Christianity Today cover story, “Hipster Faith.” It’s worth a read, regardless of what John Wilson of Books and Culture might say.