Social Science
2014 College Football Preview – While It’s Still Fun…

2014 College Football Preview – While It’s Still Fun…

On HBO’s Hard Knocks (Training Camp with the Atlanta Falcons) these past four weeks, one thing is clear: the starry-eyed rookies miss college. Like many who played football through high school, I’ve been cussed at with a myriad of blue streaks and been ranted at  with the best of them. So when I watch Hard Knocks every year, I’m rarely taken aback when one of the coaches gets in the face of a rookie or young player and lets him have it. Tuesday night was an exception.  Special Teams coach Keith Armstrong was “addressing” his unit in the film room the…

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5 Reasons Why You Should Watch (and Vote For) The Cosmopolitans

5 Reasons Why You Should Watch (and Vote For) The Cosmopolitans

The day has finally arrived. The pilot of Whit Stillman’s first ever TV series The Cosmopolitans is now available to be watched on Amazon Prime! But here’s the deal. The series itself won’t get picked up unless it receives enough votes. In other words, it’s time to rally the troops. Why should you run and not walk to cast your vote? Why should you either sign up for Amazon Prime yourself, or canvass your friends to find someone who has it and hijack their computer? Five reasons:

1. It’s phenomenal. Here’s the review I posted on Amazon immediately after watching:

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Marcel Proust on Self-Sabotaging Discipline

Marcel Proust on Self-Sabotaging Discipline

Someways into the Frenchman’s third volume, his masterful forays into the life of the mind sound a distinctly practical, as well as Lutheran, note. The sentence structure takes some getting used to (occurrence of the word ‘which’ in English language, a probably corollary of overwrought syntax, has almost halved since the time of Moncrieff’s translation, though not without a promising recent resurgence), but the sentiment is timeless. The narrator recalls trying to write more and for other good habits, but his desired behavior eluded him still-more when he tried to exercise self-control:

If only I had been able to start writing! But…

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Frederick Buechner on the Confusion of Faces

Frederick Buechner on the Confusion of Faces

A great section from Frederick Buechner’s The Hungering Dark, a book of meditations on the light that can be found in the darkness of doubt. Reminiscent of a staircase invention we’ve heard of before…

There is a silly little jingle that goes something like this:

My face I don’t mind it
For I am behind it,
It’s the people out front get the jar.

But, on the contrary, the person inside gets the jar too. You catch sight of your face in the mirror when you are brushing your teeth in the morning or combing your hair, and often…

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‘No Divorce’ Pacts and the Benefits of a Recession

‘No Divorce’ Pacts and the Benefits of a Recession

A touching installment of Modern Love appeared in this past Sunday’s NY Times, entitled “We Pledge Allegiance…”, in which Debby Greene traces how the “no divorce” pact she made with her husband has played out in her marriage, thirty years down the line. Clearly the survival of any relationship is seldom a matter simply of resolve. Still, in a society biased toward self-determination and individual ‘freedom’, their pact seems downright radical. I should let her tell it:

Our first summer together, we read the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy to each other below high cliffs on a beach in Southern California….

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Love Lessons from Fungus: Married at First Sight

Love Lessons from Fungus: Married at First Sight

In case you haven’t heard, the Biography Channel ain’t your Dad’s late night insomnia cure any longer. Over the past few months they have relaunched as “fyi,” (yes, the weird comma is in the logo). And they are turning out some really wild programming.

Married at First Sight (Tuesdays at 9ET/10PT) is a show billed as a “social experiment” where people volunteer to get married to complete strangers. They meet for the first time when they exchange their vows. Six people were narrowed down from hundreds of applicants to be paired together in attempted wedded bliss. Four experts, a sexologist, psychologist, sociologist,…

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Paul Tillich Is Simul Justus Et Peccator

Perhaps not quite as salacious as Tillich fans or foes might infer from the title, but here, one of our ‘top three’ favorite heretics (Bultmann and Kuyper – just kidding), contributes this gem on justification from his Systematic Theology:

Justification in the objective sense is the eternal act of God by which he accepts as not estranged those who are indeed estranged from him by guilt and the act by which he takes them into unity with him which is manifest in the New Being of Christ. Justification literally means “making just,” namely, making man that which he essentially is and from which he is estranged. If used in this sense, the word would be identical with Sanctification. But the Pauline doctrine of Justification by grace through faith has given the word a meaning which makes it the opposite pole of Sanctification. It is an act of God which is in no way dependent on man, an act in which he accepts him who is unacceptable. In the paradoxical formula, simul peccator, simul justus, which is the core of the Lutheran revolution, the in-spite-of character is decisive for the whole Christian message as the salvation from despair about one’s guilt. It is actually the only way to overcome the anxiety of guilt; it enables man to look away from himself and his state of estrangement and self-destruction to the justifying act of God. He who looks at himself and tries to measure his relation to God by his achievements increases his estrangement and the anxiety of guilt and despair.

Ubuntu and the Sharpened Pencils: Welcome Back to School

Ubuntu and the Sharpened Pencils: Welcome Back to School

Another back-to-school ode, this time from Ms. Newton.

Over the next several weeks, children will enter new classrooms across the country, sporting shiny sneakers sans skid-marks and carrying freshly sharpened pencils and blank notebook paper. And they are perhaps a bit nervous (or a lot nervous) about unearthing the answer to a question they’ve been wondering for weeks: Who did I get this year? Who will stand in front of us every day, and with whom will I spend the next nine months? Is she a Miss Honey or a Miss Trunchbull? Will she encourage me or lock me in the…

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Life in a Distant Country (According to H. Nouwen)

A quote from Henri Nouwen’s classic The Return of the Prodigal Son, which dovetails nicely with what Will posted last week. Only word I might take issue with is “contemporary”, ht BS:

“Addiction” might be the best word to explain the lostness that so deeply permeates contemporary society. Our addictions make us cling to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power; attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink, and sexual gratification without distinguishing between lust and love. These addictions create expectations that cannot but fail to satisfy our deepest needs. As long as we live within the world’s delusions, our addictions condemn us to futile quests in “the distant country,” leaving us to face an endless series of disillusionments while our sense of self remains unfulfilled. In these days of increasing addictions, we have wandered far away from our Father’s home. The addicted life can aptly be designated a life lived in “a distant country.” It is from there that our cry for deliverance rises up.

Another Week Ends: Little League Love, Excellent Sheep, Normal Thoughts, Memoir Distance, Lees of Memory, Leftovers and TMNT

Another Week Ends: Little League Love, Excellent Sheep, Normal Thoughts, Memoir Distance, Lees of Memory, Leftovers and TMNT

1. First off, grab the kleenbox box because here’s a beautiful instance of grace in practice. It comes to us from little league coach Dave Belisle, whose Cumberland American team (Rhode Island) lost the Little League World Series championship game to Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West this past week. In their moment of defeat, Coach Belisle gave the following speech:

2. Looking through our archive this past month, clearly two subjects have been occupying the (hive-)mind: education and suicide. The Atlantic ran an interview this week with lead Ivy League critic William Deresiewicz about his new book Excellent Sheep, and if he’s…

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From the Magazine: The Hidden Spirituality of Teach For America

From the Magazine: The Hidden Spirituality of Teach For America

A throwback from the first issue! Ethan Richardson’s long-form treatise on the promise and perils of America’s great education reform movement.

And let this be a reminder: the first issue is on sale on the magazine webpage for $10. And we’re not far from the release of the Fall Relationships Issue. Click here to subscribe.

My two-year career as a teacher began much as my Evangelical education did—in a single summer in the Arizona desert, far and away from where my training would be put to use. Teach For America placed me in the Greater New Orleans region to teach middle school…

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“My Fall My Stay”: Addiction and Low Anthropology

Some more highlights from John Z.’s remarkable Grace in Addiction:

“The only person lacking desperation is the one who does not know herself very well. Usually a few examples of typical, universal human difficulty are enough to ‘raise the bottom’ to the point where the idea of powerlessness will connect with any layperson. Let’s explore some of these…

Like Swiss cheese, people are full of holes. The Twelve Step approach is quick to draw attention to those holes, rather than try to dodge, cover, or counterbalance them. So which weaknesses tend to be present universally? The Big Book provides its own list:

“We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn’t apply to our human problems this same readiness to change our point of view. We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people…” (52)

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I have yet to meet the person who cannot identify with a least one of the items on that list. Who, for example, is a stranger to fear? Jesus offered a similar list in his famous Sermon on the Mount, but his list also included anger, lust, and anxiety. These are the “classics”, and they account for much of the content of the day-to-day experience of being human.

Using similar logic, AA would liken sin to sickness. R. C. Sproul voiced this sentiment when he wrote, “We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.” We would happily extrapolate along those same lines: “we are not alcoholics because we drink uncontrollably; we drink uncontrollably because we are alcoholics.” Have you ever thought of misdoing as a kind of illness? Like an allergy or a virus, self-centeredness cannot easily be mastered or controlled. The good news is that our negative attributes can become a bedrock upon which effective spirituality can be built. Without them, there is no hope for spiritual rejuvenation; in the place of health, there is apparently no need for recovery.

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The realization of our own weakness is so counterintuitive to human nature that the revelation can be rightly ascribed to the divine. A Christian would ascribe this work to the Holy Spirit. The old-fashioned word for it is repentance.

And so it is with the entire progression of AA’s Twelve Steps. As the ego is deflated and self-confidence is discouraged at every turn, something called “faith”, or “God-confidence” miraculously begins to take its place – although it doesn’t appear that way to the subject at first. In Step 12, AA refers to the fruit of this faith as “a spiritual awakening.”

We close this section on Step 1 with an incisive quote from the sixteenth-century English theologian Richard Hooker:

My eager protestations, made in the glory of my ghostly strength, I am ashamed of; but those crystal tears, wherewith my sin and weakness was bewailed, have procured my endless joy; my strength hath been my ruin, and my fall my stay.

When Smartphones Get Too Smart

When Smartphones Get Too Smart

Well, this is pretty amusing. Writing for The Atlantic, James Carmichael explored our precarious relationship with self-knowledge via the awkwardness of Google Now. I’m almost surprised he didn’t quote Eliot’s line about humankind not being able to bear much reality (or law). I mean, some of us can’t even handle looking at our most-played in iTunes, I’d hate to think what kind of revelations a ‘smart’ tracking device might hold (e.g. “it’s 10:45pm! – Time to secretly gorge on your kids’ snack food”, “Beep beep beep! It has now been eighty seconds since you last checked your web stats”, etc)….

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Back to School: When Your Heart Eats Glue

Back to School: When Your Heart Eats Glue

Over the next few weeks, many kids will be starting school for the very first time. Cue collective family panic. It is an unwieldy process. Notebooks have to be purchased and lunches packed. Everyone has to wake up earlier. Much earlier. If you are like our family, you have the challenge of convincing a three year old that he does in fact have to wear a uniform on the daily. It is the opposite of fun.

But of course, the practical panic inducing tasks pale in comparison to the emotional anxiety that takes hold. We worry about our kids. Will they…

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The Vices of Leisure by the Virtue of Speed

The Vices of Leisure by the Virtue of Speed

Another missive from the busy trap. This one comes from Brigid Schulte’s book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. In the age of humblebragging, about the achievements you’ve undergone, the vacations you’ve eye-rollingly sped through, the go-gurt you’ve got jammed in the glove compartment, Schulte reminds us that this talk is all about the righteousness of purpose which, in the modern parlance, is held up by the metric of time. And, she notes, it’s not just for the frenzied East Coast corporate lawyer–people in North Dakota are crunched, too. She takes a trip to Fargo…

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