Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In Defense of Erin Andrews and her Wardrobe

Erin Andrews is now being attacked for wearing "sexy" outfits on dancing with the stars. First by Elizabeth Hasselbeck and now by the New York Daily article. Here is what the Daily piece claims:

Andrews' "Dancing With the Stars" stint fulfills a longtime dream. Dancing has been her own sport; she was a member of the University of Florida Gators basketball dance team while at the school. Can't a female journalist dance?

Sure, but the trouble is that Andrews wants it both ways. She wants to be considered a journalist. She wants to be the observer, not the observed. But a journalist uncovers the facts, not her navel.

Let's face it: Andrews is a sports sidelines reporter. While she undoubtedly knows the games she covers, she's still there as eye candy.

She was voted America's Sexiest Sportscaster - twice - by Playboy, and accepted the kudos. She's posed for racy photoshoots in Sports Illustrated and GQ. She has sought celebrity.

But when when the peephole perv story broke and the paparazzi transformed her from storyteller to The Story, she called 911 and yelled to the operator, "I'm being treated like f---ing Britney Spears!" (Ironically, she employs Spears' stylist Paige Geran to dress her for her ESPN gigs.)

Now that "Dancing with the Stars" is over, Andrews is going to have to decide whether she wants to be a proper journalist or continue to be a journalistic lightweight who's light on her feet.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tongues of Flame

On the Church calendar today was Pentecost. For those who do not know, Pentecost is the day set aside to recognize the founding of Christianity as a new religion. The story in Acts 2 is as follows:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
As history it won't work. In the Jewish Tradition the Law was given on Pentecost. The author of Acts is simply using that date to have the "New Covenant" given on that same day. This is parable, not history (as if the flaming tongues and gift of languages were not enough to reveal that!).

In fact, it seems quite clear that the author is presenting this event as an undoing of the Tower of Babel. The Tower of Babel is that myth in the book of Genesis wherein God divides the human race by forcing them to speak in multiple languages, making them incomprehensible to each other.

What the author of Acts is saying is that the Holy Spirit which comes to the believer by the spirit of the Risen Jesus reverses this division and instead brings all together in unity. The great barriers separating humanity are conquered in the Spirit of the Risen One. As the ministry of Jesus was defined by breaking down the barriers that divide us from each other, this story is an admirable recognition of that same power alive in those who follow him.

The symbolism of reunification is very clear from the beginning of the the text. We are told that "they were all together in one place," and, lest we should still not get it, the Author ends his story of Pentecost with the following account of the life of the Early Jesus movement:
44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
It is not too surprising that the early Jesus movement "had all things in common," as Jesus himself seems to have lived this way and taught others to do the same ( see Luke 9:58, & Luke 18:18-25). And this passage should be read very carefully by those who champion big corporations and unregulated markets before they declare that they truly follow Jesus. But that is not my point here.

Historians of early Christianity are certain that Christianity as a religion separate from Judaism cannot be dated to before the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 A. D. And the break is not complete until the early second century. Pentecost therefore, cannot really be about the founding of a new faith.

What Pentecost is about is unity. The world is and always has been deeply divided. These divisions all too often cause harms. The story of Pentecost tells us that division is not final, that we need not cave to it. Beneath our divisions there is a unity. That unity can be grasped, can be seen, can be lived.

As far as history is concerned the Apostles never did speak in multiple languages at once. Neither can we. But perhaps, if we but let ourselves be "filled with the Holy Spirit" we can come to understand each other and finally all come "together in one place."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Gospel of Cornel West

If only Dr. Cornel West were White House Chief of staff (and Paul Krugman chief economic adviser for that matter) ... alas we are stuck with Summers and the gang.

In any case, enjoy the the following video of Cornel West:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Mr. Padre

Anthony Keith Gwynn
May 9th, 1960

Tony Gwynn, The Hall of Famer, with 3,141 hits, .338 lifetime batting average, 8 Batting Titles, 5 Gold Gloves, 15 time All-Star and 20 seasons with one team! All amazing accomplishments and now he is turning the big 5-0! Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn, means a lot to the city of San Diego and a lot to Padres fans. He is certainly the best hitter of his time, and one of the best of all time. (In my opinion second only to Ted Williams). Having grown up a San Diego Padres fan, I wanted nothing more than to meet Tony Gwynn since I was 2 years old. I waited 20 years to meet the man. No matter what, I always seemed to miss him. Then finally, in 2008 I met him. I tell you it was worth the wait. Tony Gwynn is the epitome of class and kindness. We were lucky to have such an amazing player, an amazing person as a part of the Padres, and a part of our lives.

Post Contributed by my sister: Caitlin Wion

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Putting Away Childish things: Marcus Borg turns to fiction

Putting Away Childish Things: A Tale of Modern Faith Putting Away Childish Things: A Tale of Modern Faith by Marcus J. Borg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Borg is a very fine New Testament scholar and a good popularizer of liberal theology. I've never been dissappointed by his books.

I am happy to report that Borg's first work of fiction is no exception to this rule. The story is solid and engaging, the plot has an intrinic interest, and - like his non-fiction - the prose is just plain enjoyable. Borg is candid that he is not writing to produce masterpiece fiction here. And indeed, as a work of fiction there are some plot holes, and worse some underdeveloped characters and unresolved conflicts, one quite major! But the fiction, as fiction, is decent and enjoyable despite these flaws.

The heart of the book, however, is not the storyline. Borg uses the form of a story to show how the theological struggles he has long written about play out in the lives of genuine individuals from all manner of perspectives. Basic Liberal theology is well described by Borg's characters, as are the various reactions to it, ranging from fear and confusion to curiosity and excitement.

Most interestingly, Borg presents his liberal christians as passionate about their faith. God is central to their lives. There is a tendancy to think of Christians who embrace liberal theology as lukewarm about their faith. This is false, and Borg brilliantly creates characters who prove that a more progressive theology can, or rather should, go hand in and with passionate faith.

Borg's book is not merely a primer in liberal theology, not simply pop evangelism in fictional wrapping. This is a book about true spirituality, about real faith.

By the end of the novel we have come to learn something very important about faith. We have learned to let go of anxiety and give ourselves over to the divine in an act of trust.

Unless you are an anti-religous atheist or a religous fundamentalist, I highly recommend sitting down and letting Dr. Borg tell you a story this summer.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What's the fuss about National Prayer day?

I have no interest in National Prayer Day.

I do not understand the mentality of the religious right who bellow about the need for the ten commandments, want creationism taught in schools, insist on the crucial importance of the name of God on our cash and in the pledge of allegiance.

I've always thought that the separation of church and state is an absolute necessity for a free society. It is also better for the church. Religions go bad when they have too much power. I've never thought faith should be part of the power structure, this is never a good thing. Faith should be a God-intoxicated voice of social protest; a demand for justice against the domination system.

In short, separation of church and state is necessary for the good of the state and the good of religion.

That said, I have absolutely no sympathy with those atheistic zealots who would ban all religion from public view. When I hear atheists lament about how "oppressed" they are because of national prayer day, I must confess I turn a shade of green.

Years ago I heard an atheist on TV (this was in California) weep and wail about how his daughter was "wounded" by the phrase "under God" in the pledge of allegiance. He went on to ask how a Jew or Muslim might feel if they had to say that!!!

These Atheist zealots crusade to take down crosses, and remove all mention of God from any public view. This is a clear example of bigotry and irrational anger.

I have to confess that I have no personal sympathy with atheism. I've never found atheism attractive, appealing, or even plausible. It is foreign to my mindset and temperament, and I don't even really understand it. That is not meant as condemnation of atheists. Many good and wonderful people are atheists. I just want to be candid about how far removed from it I am.

Don't get me wrong. I have no concern with putting God in public. I do not think we need the ten commandments in our courtroom, Genesis in our classroom, or God on our money. What I object to is the fanatic hatred of religion some atheists revel in. let me repeat that I mean ONLY SOME atheists. I'm aware that most atheists are not the kind of zealot I am here railing against.

Take the suit by the Freedom from religion group. These folks want to ban the National Prayer Day, because they are "offended" by the mere idea of God. I don't find that praiseworthy.

Usually such atheists are extremely arrogant. They think themselves much wiser, more intelligent, and greater than "those religious yokels and idiots." It is not an attractive attitude.

By all means go ahead and ban the national prayer day. Perhaps it is unconstitutional. I've never given it any attention and don't see the need for it.

But please, let's not pretend that these fanatical atheists are not smug and bigoted. They claim to be persecuted minorities who are just so wronged.

This is nonsense.

For Profit Colleges

There is a growing trend of for profit colleges . These are largely professional schools, focusing on business, medicine, and criminal justice. I currently teach a couple courses for Bryant and Stratton College which is one such school.

I find it difficult to say whether such schools are a good or bad thing. On the one hand they spread higher education to a wide variety of people and they are every good at teaching people the skills they need to land jobs. On the other hand I am deeply suspicious of the profit motive. We have been shown again and again that the profit motive is destructive and horrid. That may be a moot point, however, as traditional universities are far more "profit-driven" and "corporate minded" then many would care to admit.

NPR explained the whole situation today. I post that discussion here:

On the whole I see some value to them. They offer a needed service. But my hope is that non-profit universities start to truly mean what they claim: that they stop letting the drive for cash dominate their thought and they begin to return to a broad emphasis on the humanities and liberal arts.

A Liberal arts education is designed to create well-rounded individuals who can learn to become good citizens, friends, parents, neighbors, and just plain good people. So let us turn over the money-making to these for profit schools, let them get people jobs. But let us use this to return the focus of non-profit schools to improve character and educating the whole person.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Remember Working People!

In most of the world today May Day will be honored as a celebration of the rights of working people. This is a day to champion their cause, to celebrate their labor, and to think of ways to improve working and living conditions for working people everywhere.

In honor of May Day, I offer the following book review:

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan

It is no secret that nearly all human societies - including our present societies - favor the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else.

The dominant institution for implementing this type of exploitation today is the corporation. Corporations get politicians elected, take over our minds with advertising, dump pollution into our environment, and routinely commit crime upon crime.

The basic Premise of this book is fairly simple: Corporations are not run by evil people, but are systematically designed in such a way that harming and exploiting people is a necessary component of their operation. Corporations are created to maximize profit and minimize cost. Corporations are legally bound to put profit above all other concerns. These claims are backed up by an enormous amount of legal data.

The second point is that currently Businesses are insufficiently regulated and not remotely penalized severely enough for their crimes. This means that, given that their structure is to maximize profit, they will lie, cheat, fraud, and harm consumers and employees - as this is in the long run the most profitable course.

What is the solution to this? A rethinking of and legal rewrite of the purpose and function of a corporation. Instead of merely a profit making machine, a corporation, the author argues, should be highly regulated, and subject to severe penalties when it violates the law. Furthermore, social responsibility must be legally written into the charter of a corporation and the common good, not merely profit, must be part of their tasks as a social institution.

Only by so re-creating the corporation and its structures can we remove the horrible harms corporations do and make them a force for good, rather than a force for harm and destruction.

As we celebrate the workers of the world this May Day, let us not only honor their labor and speak out for their rights; let us also come to understand the systemic problem of the corporate structure which keeps them exploited.

If we are to have true rights for working people, then we must restructure the corporate machine into something very different

Note: Originally published last year