George Washington: Boozehound

From Reason:

It is impossible for Americans to accept the extent to which the Colonial period—including our most sacred political events—was suffused with alcohol. Protestant churches had wine with communion, the standard beverage at meals was beer or cider, and alcohol was served even at political gatherings. Booze was served at meetings of the Virginian and other state legislatures and, most of all, at the Constitutional Convention.

Indeed, we still have available the bar tab from a 1787 farewell party in Philadelphia for George Washington just days before the framers signed off on the Constitution. According to the bill preserved from the evening, the 55 attendees drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer, and seven bowls of alcoholic punch.

That’s more than two bottles of fruit of the vine, plus a number of shots and a lot of punch and beer, for every delegate. That seems humanly impossible to modern Americans. But, you see, across the country during the Colonial era, the average American consumed many times as much beverage alcohol as contemporary Americans do. Getting drunk—but not losing control—was simply socially accepted.

The next big industry… journalism?


Marc Andreessen is at it again. First, he said that software is eating the world. Then, he told us the bitcoin digital currency will remake global finance. And now, the venture capitalist and founding father of the web browser says we’re on the verge of a major boom in the business of journalism, an internet-powered resurgence that will see the industry grow more than tenfold.

Andressen isn’t the first investor to bet big on a new wave of original online content — either in this internet revolution or the last one — and few bets have actually panned out. But there’s hard evidence that the boom he forecasts is already underway.

For years, the internet undercut newspapers and other traditional news outlets. Tools like Blogger and YouTube and social networks like Twitter and Facebook turned everyone into news producers, and this glut of content devalued the sort of polished news traditionally created by professionals, driving old school journalism towards irrelevance. But Andreessen argues that this very phenomenon has now created a huge opportunity for the news business to reinvent itself.

The Lawless South

From the Washington Free Beacon:

GRANTS PASS, Ore.—On the evening of Oct. 30, 2013, a car traveling down a highway south of Cave Junction struck and killed Jarred Houston, 21, and Robert Calvin, 41. Four months later, their case remains unsolved.

A week after the hit-and-run, Aaron Clouser, 39, was stabbed to death and left in the middle of the street. His case remains unsolved as well.

The murders have left the small town seething with anger, but there are barely any detectives around to work the cases.

Economic woes have forced county governments in rural Oregon to slash law enforcement budgets to the point where police are almost non-existent. In Josephine County, where Cave Junction is, there are two patrol deputies tasked with covering 1,600 square miles.

Spiritual Competition and Christian Colleges

From When We Were on Fire:

I remember realizing that I would have to vie for what used to be my most defining characteristic: my faith. The spectrum would be defined differently now; there would be a new “top” and a new “bottom.” After all, we couldn’t all lead Bible studies here. We couldn’t all be RAs or sing in the worship band. Orientation week would end, and the school year would start, and we would filter into new roles. The most spiritual of us would rise to the top; the rest would fall somewhere in the nondescript middle, trying to make our way. Whether this was a true assessment of evangelical college culture, I still don’t know. But I’d spent four years in high school looking for a way to stand apart for the Lord. I’d been standing, all this time, alone at a flagpole, waiting for someone to take my picture. It occurred to me all at once that there would be students here more devout, more spiritual. And that, in addition, they would probably have better clothes, longer legs, fuller hair. It occurred to me that I could not measure up.

I didn’t go to a Christian college, but I know the experience Zierman is describing–being the youth group super hero in one church environment and then switching to a new world where you’re no longer exceptional. I wonder how common this experience is for Christian college students?

The Great Tales Never End

From The Return of the King:

‘I don’t like anything here at all,’ said Frodo, ‘step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.’ ‘Yes, that’s so,’ said Sam. ‘And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?’

‘I wonder,’ said Frodo. ‘But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.’ ‘No, sir, of course not. Beren now, he never thought he was going to get that Silmaril from the Iron Crown in Thangorodrim, and yet he did, and that was a worse place and a blacker danger than ours. But that’s a long tale, of course, and goes on past the happiness and into grief and beyond it – and the Silmaril went on and came to Eärendil. And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got – you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?’ ‘No, they never end as tales,’ said Frodo. ‘But the people in them come, and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later – or sooner.’

The Challenges of Theology


This – the progress of the gospel through the occasions of human life – is theology’s context, which is properly spiritual and therefore properly a matter for theological description. Yet the obstacles into which the theologian stumbles in trying to do just that — describe theology and its contexts theologically – are very considerable. Not only is there the resistance generated by the instinctive conservatism of the theological establishment (especially of the liberal establishment) but also the theologian encounters within him- or herself a resistance to the necessary losses sustained by those whom the gospel besieges.

The Limitations of “Story”


The valorization of people’s autobiographical narratives in certain circles has attained such heights that some have even referred to them as ‘sacred’. A person’s self-account is increasingly treated as inviolable and beyond challenge. While the motives for this might be well-meaning and even laudable—typically characterized by a desire to empathize with people, to treat them with dignity and sensitivity, and to attend to where they are coming from—the results can often be dangerous and unhealthy.

The chief issue here is the failure to recognize just how limited and deceptive personal narratives can be.

Forster’s “Joy for the World”

Greg Forster explaining where his new book Joy for the World fits in alongside the works of Andy Crouch and James Davison Hunter:

Crouch’s Culture Making is conversational, talking about everyday life. It reads like the kind of discussion you might overhear between thoughtful believers over coffee. You could give that book to anyone. To Change the World is a densely packed academic tome with a complex social theory. Hunter has a carefully thought out and fiercely held opinion about everything you’ve ever heard of, and a hundred things you haven’t. For the layman, it’s intimidating; even for scholars, there’s a lot more going on in To Change the World than most people see at first.

Joy for the World falls between these two. Like Crouch, I wrote a book for the ordinary people who come to my weekly class at church, where I teach salesmen and insurance adjusters and mechanics and prison guards and stay-at-home moms. But Joy for the World isn’t casual conversation; it’s for those who want to take the next steps beyond that stage. I’m indebted to people like Crouch who have generated a real hunger for substance on this issue. Now I want to challenge those salesmen and mechanics to move from milk to meat, to think through “culture” a little more systematically. We need to study a little more history, learn from different kinds of models, work up specific plans for action. What can we be doing in areas like sexuality and family, or work and economics?

If you’re looking for a good popular level treatment of basic Christ and culture questions, you won’t do better than this book. (You can read my review of it for CT here.)

How Should Public Schools Teach the Gay Rights Movement?

Damon Linker asks an interesting question in The Week:

In public schools today throughout the U.S., children are taught that slavery was a moral abomination, that segregation was horribly unjust, that the civil rights movement was entirely justified, that its opponents were racists who deserved to lose, and that although America is a much better place today than it was prior to the civil rights movement, we still have a long way to go in ensuring that black Americas are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, legally, institutionally, and interpersonally.

This is exactly what schools should be teaching.

But what about homosexuality? Should public schools teach a parallel narrative about the gay rights movement? That all moral criticisms of homosexuality are motivated by irrational animus? That virtually the whole of the Judeo-Christian tradition is homophobic? That the Roman Catholic Church, which continues to describe homosexual acts as “objectively disordered,” is the moral equivalent of a hate group? That prejudice and ignorance are the only possible grounds for rejecting the legitimacy of gay marriage? That those who oppose it are morally akin to George Wallace blocking the schoolhouse door in Alabama in 1963?

It’s one thing for individual Americans to believe these things about their fellow citizens. That is a private matter. It’s quite another for the public schools — run by the government in part to provide children with a civic education that reflects the (inevitably fractious) moral outlook of the nation as a whole — to inculcate such views, as they are quite likely to start doing in the coming years.

Whole Foods–Creationism for Hippies

From The Daily Beast:

If you want to write about spiritually-motivated pseudoscience in America, you head to the Creation Museum in Kentucky. It’s like a Law of Journalism. The museum has inspired hundreds of book chapters and articles (some of them, admittedly, mine) since it opened up in 2007. The place is like media magnet. And our nation’s liberal, coastal journalists are so many piles of iron fillings.

But you don’t have to schlep all the way to Kentucky in order to visit America’s greatest shrine to pseudoscience. In fact, that shrine is a 15-minute trip away from most American urbanites.

I’m talking, of course, about Whole Foods Market. From the probiotics aisle to the vaguely ridiculous Organic Integrity outreach effort (more on that later), Whole Foods has all the ingredients necessary to give Richard Dawkins nightmares. And if you want a sense of how weird, and how fraught, the relationship between science, politics, and commerce is in our modern world, then there’s really no better place to go. Because anti-science isn’t just a religious, conservative phenomenon—and the way in which it crosses cultural lines can tell us a lot about why places like the Creation Museum inspire so much rage, while places like Whole Foods don’t.