Worth reading this week:current reading 2

Most of this article is actually pretty funny, but the conclusion is one of those Mockingbird-esque kickers, which I will give away (even as I suggest you read the whole thing.)

If the Super Bowl is the last great community event holding America together and we put it on a shrink’s couch for psychological analysis, here’s what we have. While it’s true that we all likely had some sort of representation through the carousel of celebrities shilling us premium brands, it turns out we’re all afraid of getting older and dying. We’re grasping at straws to find some sort of common bond that holds us all together. We’d all love some way to atone for the wrongs we have done, and if we can’t fix the things in our world that are broken, we’ll probably just distance ourselves from them and wash our hands of responsibility. And maybe, just maybe, there’s the hope of agape, the hope of a love that will act on us when we cannot achieve it ourselves.

Bryan J., “Super Bowl Psychology: What This Year’s Commercials Tell Us About Ourselves” Mockingbird (Feb. 3, 2020) [link].


Alan Jacobs is no longer doing much at Snakes and Ladders (subscribe to his newsletter, instead), but this was a nice piece of anachronism (in two senses):

The Devil chooses to deceive some people in the following way. He will marvelously inflame their brains with the desire to uphold God’s law and destroy sin in everyone else. He will never tempt them with anything that is manifestly evil. He makes them like anxious prelates watching over the lives of Christian people of all ranks, as an abbot does over his monks. They will rebuke everyone for their faults, just as if they had their souls in their care; and it seems to them that they dare not do otherwise for God’s sake. They tell them of the faults they see, claiming to be impelled to do so by the fire of charity and the love of God in their hearts; but in truth they are lying, for it is by the fire of hell surging in their brains and their imaginations.

Alan Jacobs, “understanding Christians (and others) on social media” Snakes and Ladders (Feb. 2, 2020) [link] (quoting from the 14th-century Cloud of Unknowing) [link].

Not that we know anyone like that.


And, just in time to fend off the sportsfans who want baseball to be more like football (I’m looking at you, Hank), Kirk Goldsberry and Katherine Rowe point out that football has even less “action” than baseball: “How Much Football Is Even In A Football Broadcast?” FiveThirtyEight (Jan. 31, 2020) [link]:

Our findings reveal that while different sports produce wildly different broadcast experiences, NFL broadcasts are among the most interrupted and least action-packed broadcasts of any sport. Simply put, there’s not a lot of actual football in a football game.

The numbers are startling. An average NFL broadcast lasts well over three hours, yet it delivers a total of only 18 minutes of football action.

That’s no problem. Until Sunday it was football, but baseball’s coming.

 

Myths

Sam Allberry (@SamAllberry) has written a slender book called 7 Myths about Singleness (Crossway 2019) [amazon], and the only thing I didn’t like about it was the cover.

7 mythsAllberry, a single pastor and speaker at RZIM, deals winsomely about the church’s various misconceptions about singleness (not all of which are consistent with each other): 1. Singleness is too hard; 2. Singleness requires a special calling; 3. Singleness means no intimacy; 4. Singleness means no family; 5. Singleness hinders ministry; 6. Singleness wastes your sexuality; and 7. Singleness is easy.

What I liked most about this book was that it wasn’t particularly directed at single people. The target audience is believers who want to think about biblical teaching on the subject and includes married and unmarried believers. It would seem to me that the topic is pretty relevant to readers of the New Testament given that Jesus (certainly) and Paul (probably) were single. How can we be so quick to see marriage as a virtual requirement for ministers and the “highest calling” for others?

Allberry says, in his conclusion:

When I started this project, my initial aim was to write about the goodness of singleness . . . . But through it all I have been increasingly preoccupied with something else – not the goodness of singleness but the goodness of God. The issue is not whether this path or that path is better, whether singleness or marriage would bring me more good. The issue is God and whether I will plunge myself into him, trusting him every day.

P. 149. If that’s not relevant to us all, I don’t know what is.

Highly recommended.

LFW

current reading 2Lore Ferguson Wilbert, “This is Your Body Today,” sayable (Jan. 14, 2020) [link]:

Your body is not good as it is because of what you have done or left undone with it. Your body is good as it is because God called it good. Very good, actually. And it is still very good with its cavernous wrinkles and silver stretch marks. It is still very good with its creaking joints and the litany of scars that tell your story. It is still very good with the weight you can’t shed and the weight you can’t help but shed. It is still very good just as it is. But it is also growing old and that is very good too, but also very hard. And it is okay that it’s very hard.

*   *   *

. . . This is the great exchange we make in life on this earth: we lose our bodies and find our souls, and as we find our souls we find our bodies again too.

Also, LFW’s book Handle with Care will be released in early February [link]. I’m looking forward to it.

This is not baseball . . .

baseball judgmentThis is more like my day job as an attorney, but there is some good writing being done, especially by Tom Verducci.

Start with Verducci’s “‘Clean It Up. It Must Stop’: MLB Is in an Ethical Crisis” Sports Illustrated (Jan. 16-17, 2020) [link]. You can follow the links until you get tired of it.

But maybe this will burn out in a few weeks. Nah, probably not, but we can hope.

As Verducci says:

In one month we hope to be restored by the pictures from Arizona and Florida of youthful ballplayers under the winter sun lazily tossing baseballs to one another and giving us once again the beautiful sound of bat meeting baseball, which for us is what the chirp of a bird is to an ornithologist. This is why we watch. It’s the simplicity of the game that soothes us. Every game has a binary outcome. Every event is definable. Runs, hits and errors. Wins and losses. Its beauty is in its simplicity.

We don’t want championships that make us do mental gymnastics to decide whether they are inauthentic. We don’t want player analysis to be derivative valuation. We don’t want ethical dilemmas to test our fandom.

We want a clean game decided by fair competition. Clean it up.

 

MLB Investigation

baseball judgmentI’m sure that anyone who is interested is already aware of the punishments handed down to the Houston Astros by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. I would encourage the reading of the actual decision [20200113 STMT MLB Commissioner Manfred] (a very manageable 9 pages) for an understanding of what was found and some sense of why neither the owner nor the players involved were punished directly.*

*The cynic in me would point out (with many others) that the Commissioner “answers” to both the owners and the MLBPA and would be loathe to offend either group in the last days of labor peace, but the report suggests (correctly) that it would be tough to come up with carefully calibrated punishments for either group. The deterrent effect of these punishments should be significant, and indeed reports are that both Hinch and Luhnow have been fired by the Astros.

2019 Reading

The only planBy this stage of my life, I have more-or-less hit my stride, and this last year I read just about the normal number of books, clocking in about two a week.

I was surprised that almost 40% fell into the nonfiction category (typically biography or memoir), but with  smattering of other sub-genres. The rest were novels.

On the non-fiction side,  I particularly enjoyed

Garrett M. Graff, The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 (2019) was an excellent account of that day, and reminded me of much which I had known and forgotten.

Stephen L. Carter, Invisible (2018), and Condoleezza Rice, Extraordinary, Ordinary People (2010) explored each author’s family history and shed some light on the black experience in America. Both books are well worth your time, as is Albert Woodfox, Solitary (2019) [post], which tells a rather different story. All three are enlightening.

Two old favorites came out with new offerings: Bill Bryson, The Body: A Guide for Occupants, and Malcolm Gladwell, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know, were both published in 2019. The Body has many quality instances of Brysonian snark, but Talking to Strangers is the more arresting book, and will bear re-reading, I think.

Antonin Scalia died in 2016, but some of his writings and speeches were collected in Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived (2017) [post], and On Faith: Lessons from an American Believer (2019) . Through these pieces, the justice is revealed as a man of deep thoughts, precise words and strong opinions. For those of certain political persuasions who know him as the Prince of Darkness of American jurisprudence, there will be much here to explain Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s famous comment that they were “best buddies.” Indeed she wrote a forward to Scalia Speaks. There is some overlap between the two books, but each is worth reading.

John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War (2005), Warren Zanes, Petty (2015), Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well (2018), and C. John Collins, Reading Genesis Well (2018) [post] were good reading and good education.

Virgil WanderOn the fiction side, I “discovered” (like Columbus “discovered” America) three authors and began investigating their other books:

Leif Enger — Virgil Wander (2018), Peace Like a River (2001) — two standalone novels (with the Empress movie theater in common), that are beautifully written. I am looking forward to picking up So Brave, Young, and Handsome (2008), and hope that I do not have to wait too many years for a fourth.

H.S. Cross — Grievous (2019), Wilberforce (2015) — each about an English boys school, and each lush and dense with moral ambiguity and spiritual pondering. Not for everyone, perhaps, but two which I will reread thoughtfully.

Amor Towles — A Gentleman in Moscow (2016), Rules of Civility (2011) — two marvelous books, and ones I am embarrassed to have missed in their publication years.

Old friends published in 2019 and did not disappoint, including Peter Heller, The River [post] [review], Alastair Reynolds, Shadow Captain, Richard Russo, Chances Are . . . , and Neal Stephenson, Fall. I had anticipated several of these [post] and also William Gibson, Agency, which will come out in a couple of weeks.

Once again the labor of other old friends (including Wendell Berry, C.S. Lewis, Evelyn Waugh, Charles Williams and Herman Wouk), were greatly enjoyed.

As the Preacher say, “ Of making many books there is no end,” and to that I reply, “. . . and thank God for that!” The complete list is in the sidebar.

GH 1915-2019

Mr. Homanick was a Bible teacher in Detroit for many decades, so when he came to our church in the 2000s, there was some trepidation when he began to come to our adult Bible study on Sunday mornings.

To be sure the trepidation was mainly from Ken, who was never quite sure what I would say and who probably expected that his father-in-law would soon come and ask him whether he had lost his mind in selecting teachers.

But fortunately, things worked out and Mr. Homanick enjoyed our group and often told me that.

I had visited him a couple of times in his last sickness, when he would sit and wait for me to come by in the evening and talk about his treatments and the church and various things. He told me that last time that he was going to come back to church and was going to come right down to the front row for my class — but I dissuaded him from that: “I need a little space, Mr. Homanick, how about the second row?” — where he could hear well.

So on November 24, just 2½ weeks ago, he was very enthusiastic about coming back to church and the adult Bible study after a long hiatus. At 9:01, about 15 minutes before class started, I got a text from Sher —

my dad and Ken are on the way, please don’t start a minute early . . . [he wants to] come down to the front.

And Ken brought him right down to the second row, and he sat there and the whole class had the honor of studying Genesis with that great saint of God. He was a diligent student of the Word.

Mr. Homanick was, as many of you know, a mechanical engineer by trade, designing machines (for example) which would be used in the manufacture of automobiles. When he found out that our second son wanted a career in engineering, he made sure to look for Philip every Sunday and dispense career advice — some of which Philip recounted to me on the phone last night. Unlike some engineers, he was a man of great personal enthusiasm and encouragement, and he conveyed that everywhere he went.

Mr. Homanick was a reader, too, and when he found a book that he thought I would enjoy, he would buy it for me. He brought me a book called Thinking Fast and Slow (possibly to try to speed me up), and a book called Do I Make Myself Clear? (possibly because I didn’t), and a book of speeches by the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia (because Scalia was an outspoken believer). He was a kind and thoughtful man.

I first met Mr. Homanick many years ago when he and Sher’s mom Arlene would visit. Mrs. Homanick was chairbound and Mr. Homanick was fully of energy, but he seemed very compassionate and considerate of her needs.

Now, no one is always studious and diligent, enthusiastic and encouraging, kind and thoughtful, considerate and compassionate.

I’m sure that there were times when he was pigheaded, obstinate, thoughtless and hard. I know he was not an easy patient for his daughter these last few months.

He would not have denied this.

He would have said “Difficult? Well, I suppose I am, but you know what? I am not standing on my righteousness at all. I am standing on the righteousness of my Savior, Jesus Christ.”

The last time I visited him at Ken and Sher’s, he was very emotional, and after a half hour I thought I should probably go, so I got up to leave. Mr. Homanick was having none of it. It is customary when visiting someone who is sick that you only stay for 15 minutes and then ask permission to pray before leaving.

We didn’t quite get to that point.

Mr. Homanick sid “No, no, you can’t go — I have to pray for you.”

I came to visit him, but he was being the pastor in the moment.

The very last time I saw him was also the last time for many of you.

We were all at the church dinner before Thanksgiving. He was so thrilled to be there at the dinner with our little congregation, but after two services and the meal he was fatigued and probably in pain. He gamely persevered to the end of the dinner.

But the next time . . . .

The next time we see him we will all be together again in Thanksgiving, In that day we will be together at the great celebration of the marriage supper of the Lamb, and in that time there will be no pain and no sorrow and no fatigue.

In that day we will see Mr. Homanick strong and zealous, clothed in the white robe Jesus’ righteousness, celebrating with all the saints of history.

It was an honor to know him.

Cromwell’s Rule

Cromwell's Rule
In mathematics, Cromwell’s Rule represents the important concept that prior probabilities may be set arbitrarily close to zero or one, but should not be exactly so. In politics, theology and other life pursuits, a recognition of the possibility that we may be mistaken is what allows each of us to listen to others with respect.

As believers, we know well that we fall short of perfect truth in what we believe (as surely as we fall short of perfect obedience in what we do).

Let us rejoice that God does not grant his grace on the basis of our theological perfection.

Net reading

current reading 2It has been a while since I gave a this-is-worth-reading post. You will not be surprised to find many of “the usual suspects”:

Alan Jacobs, “Teachers at the margins,” Snakes and Ladders (Oct. 23, 2019) [link] expresses some dismay about “the pathologizing of perfectly ordinary experiences” in the classroom and beyond. Honestly, this stuff worries me more than wedding cakes and Washington Twitter spats.

Sarah Condon, “We All Get to Go Home with Beth Moore (and Jesus),” Mockingbird (Oct. 23, 2019) [link] which has an interesting take on the John MacArthur-Beth Moore discussion.

Sarah Willard, “The Hard Fought For Four-hundred,” Blind Mule Blog (Oct. 16, 2019) [link].

William Barr, “Prepared Remarks” (Oct. 11, 2019) [link] is the Attorney General’s rather frightening speech at Notre Dame on the topic of religious liberty. Afterwards, Alan Jacobs [link] and Rod Dreher [link] both commented thoughtfully (though somewhat divergently).

Matthew Butterick, “Drowning the Crystal Goblet,” Practical Typography (Feb. 8, 2016) [link] examining the common suggestion that “typography should be invisible.” Well, no, it shouldn’t, as that would rather defeat the point, wouldn’t it?

It goes without saying that these are just a few items, and no, I don’t agree with everything written.