Wednesday, September 13, 2006

CLEANING OUT THE LINKS

Generally I collect links to stories I think are interesting enough to blog about. However, I am a little anal retentive, so when I have a few too many links saved my favorites start to look . . . sloppy. When that happens, I need to clean house, which is also known conventionally as "blogging." Thus, the unifying theme of this post is that it was in my links. As such I have decided to be charitable and subheadline these so you can skip the ones that are not interesting (i.e. all of them).

A. "Analysts" Are Clowns

United Airlines just can't win. When fuel prices shot up they were called unsophisticated clods for not having purchased fuel futures to offset future increases. Now, as prices drop, they are called clods for having purchased such options. I am no fan of the airlines, but it must be nice to be so smart that you knew that oil would be at $64 a barrel today, instead of $100. Because, you know, the rest of us weren't sure.

B. Que Bueno!

This article describes a study that concludes that *gasp* Spanish speakers tend to lose their Spanish within three generations of emigrating to the United States. As such, immigration is not a threat to the dominance of English in the United States. It took my family from the 1840s to the 1930s to completely lose German. That's 90 years, give or take. Roughly three to four generations. During those 90 years they lived in heavily German communities. They had access to German-language media and German-language businesses. And yet, they all learned English. Who would have thought that the immigrants from Latin America would follow the same pattern?!? Shocking!

C. Stuff in the Christian Science Monitor

This is crazy. L and I are WATCHING Mythbusters and I come across this article about . . . Mythbusters. The article is odd, since the existence of the TV show is not "news." However, it does nicely encapsulate the differences between the hosts. It turns out that Jaime is from Columbus, Indiana, and ran away from home to California at 14. Apparently he has also owned a pet store and a boat-charter business in the Caribbean. Finally, he has a degree in Russian literature. Now he owns this special effects company. Adam, on the other hand, taught himself to perform magic, juggle, and ride a unicycle. He also began building toys at age 5. He also tried being an animator, graphic designer, set designer, and actor before he found part of his calling (special effects). Ultimately, these guys and their show are a fantastic argument for a diverse liberal education. Neither of them has a formal scientific background. However, they are able to reason their way through most issues and draw on other experience.

The Monitor also has an article on American Buddhism. Apparently, with roughly 1,500,000 adherents, Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the United States. The three bigger are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I guess I assumed there were more Hindus than that. It might be close. In any case, between 1990 and 2000 the number of Buddhists rose 170% in the United States. That is really tremendous growth. Two thirds of these Buddhists are apparently immigrants, while one third are American converts. Interestingly, a Buddhist they spoke to for the article attributed the growth in part to the fact that Buddhists don't seek to convert others, and in part to meditation, which I have always thought of as akin to deep prayer in some Christian traditions. Anyway, the article actually does a nice job laying out a coherent vision of Buddhism, and touches on something that I think is interesting, i.e. the fact that nothing in Buddhism apparently contradicts the doctrines of the religions of the Book. Of course, I am not a Buddhist, but I think it is interesting that the Dalai Lama (the flowing robes, the grace, bald . . . striking) encourages people to maintain their cultural religion even as they deepen their involvement in Buddhism.

D. Stuff in the National Catholic Reporter

There is a bunch in the new issue of the Reporter that I think is interesting, but it is all "premium content." You'll have to take my word for what the articles say.

First, yet more evidence that the Church is a "big tent." I know that we are all "monotheistic" (i.e. We believe in one God . . .), but I guess a little iconodulism never hurt anyone. Apparently there has been a nationwide surge in sales of statues of St. Joseph. As some of you may know, and others will learn, there is a superstition that burying a statue of St. Joseph in your yard (upside down) will help sell a house. In fact, the Cleveland Area Board of Realtors actually sells St. Joseph statues. You know your realtor has given up when . . . This guy even calls St. Joseph "Your Underground Real Estate Agent." Imagine, you are a saint (in part) because you bought it when the angels told you your young, virgin wife was carrying God's child (as opposed to Samuel-down-the-street's), and now your statue spends most of its time upside down underground. Sweet.

Second, a group in Britain has proposed splitting the legal and religious aspects of "marriage." At first I thought this was a means to address issues like gay marriage and/or civil unions. That is part of it. However, the other consequence is odder (to me). The Church of England is the . . . wait for it . . . state church of England. The monarch of England is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England since the split from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1500s. Because England has a state church, marriages in the state church are automatically recognized by the state. Marriages of non-Anglicans must be registered with the state. Kind of makes sense. Oddly, the group that wants to split the two sees as a benefit "remov[ing] the 'anomalous status' of the Church of England" in automatically recognizing marriages. I will not claim to understand the ins and outs of the various mainstream Protestant denominations, but shouldn't there be SOME benefit to being the state church?

Next, in keeping with the Protestant theme, Georgetown University has apparently thrown a number of evangelical groups off campus. These include InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Chi Alpha, Asian Baptist Student Koinonia and Crossroad Campus Christian Fellowship. When I first saw this, I was a little surprised, but figured that America's oldest and (arguably) most prestigious Jesuit institution had caved to some pressure to be "more Catholic." It was going to be another example of the Church giving itself a black eye. After reading the article, I don't think that is what happened. The article says:

“As any previous covenant agreements ended with the 2005-2006 academic year, your ministries will no longer be allowed to hold any activity or presence . . . on campus,” wrote the Rev. Constance Wheeler, a Protestant chaplain at Georgetown, in a letter to the evangelical groups. Representatives from the Campus Ministry office were not available to answer questions from a reporter.

Erik Smulson, spokesman for the university, said the decision followed a reorganization of the Protestant chaplaincy at Georgetown. “With this restructuring has come a desire in the Protestant chaplaincy to build the ministry from within Georgetown and its Protestant leaders rather than rely on outside groups or fellowships,” Smulson said in a statement.

Looks to me like those wacky Protestants are having a little tiff among themselves. Of course, the article also says that 300 of Georgetown's 6,000 students belong to the expelled groups, so this might not really be much of an issue. Anyway, I was gratified to see that the Jesuits were not being pressured into throwing alternative viewpoints off campus by the Church hierarchy.

Finally, the Reporter had an article on multicultural parishes in Oakland. It is a very good article that I really wish were available for free. They talk about Chautauqua ("Native American" for gathering the peoples) days in Oakland, which I would really love to see. Apparently they integrate a variety of Catholic traditions, including Korean, Vietnamese, Latin American, Black, and others into a Mass. It sounds really fantastic. In fact, Oakland is apparently building a new cathedral, named Cathedral of Christ the Light. It looks crazy ugly. Anyway, it will encompass the former parish of St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales which has been folded into the parish of St. Andrew-St. Joseph. The former parishes that will now be Christ the Light encompass significant populations of Catholic Blacks, Hispanics, Vietnamese, Filipinos, and Whites. If they do it right they will really help ensure that the catholic in Catholic is catholic.

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