Stromateis Redux

  • Obama has not shown that he can’t win over white blue-collar voters — he has shown that he’s not as popular as Clinton is among them. “Obama hasn’t proved he can win… white working-class voters“ — yes he has, he just hasn’t won as many of them as has Clinton. There’s a very significant difference between Obama running against McCain in a general election and Obama running against Clinton in a series of primaries whose main function is to determine the Democratic Party’s nominee. It’s possible that white working-class Democrats will support a pro-war Republican in the general election, but the strongest sponsors of the “Obama can’t win” refrain belong to the Clinton campaign’s spin factory. It would be interesting to see how many of them pontificated four years ago about how “electable” John Kerry was. Oh, and Obama didn’t suffer a “big loss” in Pennsylvania — last I saw, Clinton’s margin came in at about 9%, which (if that counts as a “big loss”) would make Obama’s win in North Carolina a “crushing demolition.” In fact, Obama seems to have made much greater gains among Clinton-favoring Pennsylvanians than Clinton made among Obama-favoring North Carolinians.
  • Speaking of political figures, it was good of the New York Times to notice that Jeremiah Wright is not the only bombastic preacher who’s aligned with a presidential candidate. Of the two, I find, Wright vastly more plausible than Hagee, but the dominant media culture has defined Wright as “unpatriotic” and “controversial,” whereas Hagee has not been scrutinized and characterized with nearly the fierce (and, in effect, partisan and I dare say racist) attention. Thanks, Jennifer, for catching that.
  • Cheers for the Open Humanities Press! I would wish that their numbers increase, but that’s practically inevitable; perhaps, “May your rise to prominence be swift and expansive!”
  • A propos of nothing in particular, I wondered yesterday how Washington would react if the 1977 Hanafi Muslim siege took place today. Same cast of characters, same behavior — just a more intensely-charged atmosphere of fear and anti-Muslim anxiety.
  • Three theological notes worth remarking. First, Jason links to Stephanie Paulsell’s apologia for academic preparation for ministry. I’m on board with both sets of observations, but I’d probably put it more strongly. A particular anti-intellectual bias has crept into church life, and those who venture to name it will be labeled “eliltists” — but I can’t escape the conclusion that if the gospel matters at all, it matters in ways that benefit from knowledge understanding, and critical reflection. To repeat myself: if you were having heart trouble, you probably would not go to a doctor just because she had a pleasant bedside manner and was open to ideas from lots of different approaches to medical treatment. Ministry involves the cure of wounded souls, with far-reaching consequences, but people deprecate learned preparation for that vocation. Sigh.
    Second, Jason points to Doug Chapin’s pointer to a survey that suggests that “fundamentalists” don”t know their biblical content as well as those whom the report’s author calls “critical” readers. The labels don’t matter much, though this comes as no surprise to me. What matters most is that “Even within highly secularized nations such as France, the U.K. and Holland, broad majorities report a positive attitude towards the Bible, describing it as ‘interesting’ and expressing a desire to know more about it” and “Broad majorities also describe the Bible as ‘difficult’ and express a need for help in understanding it – suggesting, according to the authors of the study, a ‘teaching moment’ for the churches.” This corresponds to what I’ve experienced in every situation — except those where parish or institutional leadership has inculcated the anti-intellectual mediocratism I alluded to above. The vital point isn’t that so-called fundamentalists don’t know the Bible well, but that the vast preponderance of people sense that they don’t know the Bible well, find it difficult to learn about, and want to know more.
    Third, Tripp pointed me to this post about “what the church can learn from Wikipedia,” a premise about which I’d be more positive if I didn’t see so overwhelming an anti-intellectual bias to so many quarters in church life (Left Behind and da Vinci Code, anyone?). I’d just as soon not rely primarily on ground-up Jesusphilia as nuritional guide for healthy faith.

3 thoughts on “Stromateis Redux

  1. I was not sure if you had seen this. I thought you might be interested in it:

    Harvard Law School open access motion

    Text of the open access motion passed by the faculty of Harvard Law School:

    The Faculty of the Harvard Law School is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to the President and Fellows of Harvard College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. More specifically, each Faculty member grants to the President and Fellows a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles authored or co-authored while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Dean or the Dean’s designate will waive application of the policy to a particular article upon written request by a Faculty member explaining the need.

    Each Faculty member will provide an electronic copy of the final version of the article at no charge to the appropriate representative of the Provost’s Office in an appropriate format (such as PDF) specified by the Provost’s Office no later than the date of its publication. The Provost’s Office may make the article available to the public in an open-access repository.

    The Office of the Dean will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty from time to time. The policy will be reviewed after three years and a report presented to the Faculty.

  2. Yes, I did, Denise — and it’s at least partly the work of John Palfrey of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, who has recently been appointed Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources of the Law School.
    The great thing — as I’ve been saying for nigh onto ten years now — will be for a theological institution to pick up the clue phone and recognize that benefits (to the world and to itself) of embracing the digital transition. The signs are all there, getting more plain every week (Yale’s free online courses, MIT’s Open Courseware, Harvard’s commitment to Open Access). “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. . . [not you, Denise].”

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