Pope Francis on John Calvin

This is depressing but not terribly surprising:

Bergoglio makes a distinction between Martin Luther the “heretic” and John Calvin the “heretic” and “schismatic”. The Lutheran heresy is “a good idea gone foolish”, but Calvin is even worse because he also tore apart man, society, and the church. As for man, Bergoglio’s Calvin split reason from the heart, thus producing the “Calvinist squalor”. In society, Calvin pitted the bourgeoisie against the other working classes, thus becoming “the father of liberalism”. The worst schism happened in the church, however. There Calvin “beheaded the people of God from being united with the Father”. He beheaded the people of God from its patron saints. He also beheaded it from the mass, i.e. the mediation of the “really present” Christ. In summary, Calvin was an executioner that destroyed man, poisoned society, and ruined the church!

Donating Your Body to Sportswriting

From Grantland:

A year after he confessed on Oprah, Lance Armstrong welcomed a visitor to hell. In February, Esquire’s John H. Richardson stood before the front door of Armstrong’s Austin mansion — a downsized version of the biker’s former Texas abode. Richardson called Armstrong’s cell phone. Armstrong appeared at the door in workout clothes. He welcomed Richardson inside.

Armstrong no longer has the PR deflector shield provided by the Livestrong Foundation, Nike’s Wieden + Kennedy image contrivers, and the U.S. Postal Service team. Armstrong has a buddy who takes calls from the media. The buddy had told Richardson that Armstrong might be ready to talk more openly about his life in hell to Esquire. And, sure, send a photographer.

The buddy was there to meet Richardson, but vanished after a while. Richardson had Armstrong more or less to himself. The bet Armstrong was making was extraordinary.

As Armstrong gave a tour of the house, Richardson began to hoover up the details of life in exile. “I love crushed ice,” Armstrong would remark. It was crucial to his favorite cocktail, the “Lancerita.” He gulped down a few drinks, and over dinner Armstrong began “slurring his words,” Richardson wrote later in Esquire.

Armstrong maintains a big wine cellar. He plays golf with the fury of a Sunbelt dad. One of his five kids hops on his lap and asks to have a sleepover.

Dawson on Christianity as the Soul of the West

(Advance warning: I am at the sixth annual Benne Phinehas Gathering–on which I might say more at some point–this weekend and will not be online between Thursday and Saturday.)


Consequently the loss of the religious sense which is shown by the indifference or the hostility of the modern world to Christianity is one of the most serious weaknesses of our civilisation and involves a real danger to its spiritual vitality and its social stability. Man’s spiritual needs are none the less strong for being unrecognised, and if they are denied their satisfaction through religion, they will find their compensation elsewhere, often in destructive and anti-social activities. The man who is a spiritual misfit becomes morally alienated from society, and whether that alienation takes the form of active hostility, as in the anarchist or the criminal, or merely of passive non-co-operation, as in the selfish individualist, it is bound to be a source of danger. The civilisation that finds no place for religion is a maimed culture that has lost its spiritual roots and is condemned to sterility and decadence. There can, I think, be little doubt that the present phase of intense secularisation is a temporary one, and that it will be followed by a far-reaching reaction. I would even go so far as to suggest that the return to religion promises to be one of the dominant characteristics of the coming age. We all know how history follows a course of alternate action and reaction, and how each century and each generation tends to contradict its predecessor. The Victorians reacted against the Georgians, and we in turn have reacted against the Victorians. We reject their standards and their beliefs, just as they rejected the standards and beliefs of their predecessors.

Bleacher Report and the Future of Sports Journalism

Via Deadspin:

I wanted to be a part of this. I saw my relationship with Bleacher Report as mutually beneficial: As I developed as a writer, I would become a credible media personality making a living by reaching the niche audience of sports fans in the Twin Cities area. In turn, I would generate viewership for the site and be someone it could claim as its own. As the site grew, so would the platform I was writing on and the influence I would have as a content provider, which would help the site grow, and so on, in a virtuous cycle.

“I would love to be known as a place where a lot of the brightest and best sportswriters got their start,” Finocchio told me. “Where they learned how to specifically hone their voice and to create content on the web [and] learn how to market their content so they can become valuable to large media properties.”

Finocchio compared sportswriting to the music industry. When distribution was tightly controlled, it was hard for artists to get their music out to the masses, and only a relative few ever became stars, but the machinery was in place to create icons like the Beatles and Michael Jackson. Technology inverted this model. YouTube and social media made it immeasurably easier for a given act to reach the public, and unthinkable that any one of them would become a star as big as Elvis Presley.

He saw the same trends working in sports. At one time, distribution was tightly controlled, and a sports fan could only go to the local paper or a national outlet to read about their favorite team. With independent blogs, and especially with sites like Bleacher Report and SB Nation offering a way to not just read but also produce content, though, the model was changing.

“Content is becoming, to some extent, more nameless and faceless in the sense that people are interested in reading good content, and they’re caring less and less about where that content comes from,” he said. “I think we’ll see that trend continue.”

It’s been over three years since that interview, and Bleacher Report is now the third-largest sports site in the United States, bigger than Sports Illustrated and SB Nation put together. In August 2012, Finocchio and Co. sold B/R to Turner Networks for a reported $175 million. CNN, a Turner property, replaced Sports Illustrated with B/R as its sports content provider.

Finocchio has been an incredible success. He’s a young millionaire and a vice president of Turner Sports.

In my three years at Bleacher Report, I covered the San Jose Sharks while studying in the Bay Area, and the Twins, Wild, Timberwolves, and Vikings upon returning home to Minnesota. I wrote over 500 articles, generated nearly three million page views, and received $200 for my services.

The Tribalism of the World Cup

Will Leitch:

Of all the glories of the World Cup, I think the greatest one is an outlet for this nationalism. It gives us an opportunity, every four years, when there are no strings attached to everyone thinking they’re the best in the world and allowing no arguments to the contrary. (The Olympics do this as well, but I’d argue at a lesser intensity.) It is a place to channel all that’s negative, all the ugliness that comes with this tribalism, and point it in one specific direction. It is a place to be proud of who you are and where you came from … even if it’s not always something to be so proud of. I love America. I am ashamed of many things that America does, but there is no other country in the world I would rather live. This is a complex concept, one that will be debated and wrestled with for centuries left to come. But for two hours on Monday, none of that will matter. I will just believe that we will win.

This has always been the fundamental greatness of sports, the reason they’re so enduring and powerful: They turn a world of grey into one of black and white. If my team wins, I am happy, and if they lose, I am sad. Nothing in life is that simple but sports. Now, obviously, the world of sports is not exempt from politics: The exact opposite, in fact. But for two hours, that can be stowed. It is important to remember more difficult things when those two hours are over. But putting all that away during the game isn’t just acceptable: It is thepoint. It is the only sane response to a world of chaos.

The Leader of the Unfree World

Matt Ford:

On Friday, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to allow nearly 50,000 nonviolent federal drug offenders to seek lower sentences. The commission’s decision retroactively applied an earlier change in sentencing guidelines to now cover roughly half of those serving federal drug sentences. Endorsed by both the Department of Justice and prison-reform advocates, the move is a significant step forwardthough in a global context, still modest—in reversing decades of mass incarceration.

How large is America’s prison problem? More than 2.4 million people are behind bars in the United States today, either awaiting trial or serving a sentence. That’s more than the combined population of 15 states, all but three U.S. cities, and the U.S. armed forces. They’re scattered throughout a constellation of 102 federal prisons, 1,719 state prisons, 2,259 juvenile facilities, 3,283 local jails, and many more military, immigration, territorial, and Indian Country facilities.

Compared to the rest of the world, these numbers are staggering.

Should Pastors Switch Churches?

Andrew Wilson:

Sometimes the best questions are the ones we never ask. In my church tradition, for example, the question of whether a pastor can (in principle) move from one church to another is never raised: the answer is assumed to be yes, so the decision needs to be made on the basis of desire, geography, need, consultation, spiritual discernment, or whatever. So it’s interesting to discover that the early church councils, including the two most significant ones (Nicea and Chalcedon), issued canons on exactly that question, and concluded that the answer was no. Presbyters (elders) shouldn’t move from city to city, unless forced out by persecution, and bishops (overseers) shouldn’t poach them.

The Cost of Oil

From Scientific American:

CUNINICO, Peru – On the last day of June, Roger Mangía Vega watched an oil slick and a mass of dead fish float past this tiny Kukama Indian community and into the Marañón River, a major tributary of the Amazon.

Community leaders called the emergency number for Petroperu, the state-run operator of the 845-kilometer pipeline that pumps crude oil from the Amazon over the Andes Mountains to a port on Peru’s northern coast.

By late afternoon, Mangía and a handful of his neighbors – contracted by the company and wearing only ordinary clothing – were up to their necks in oily water, searching for a leak in the pipe. Villagers, who depend on fish for subsistence and income, estimated that they had seen between two and seven tons of dead fish floating in lagoons and littering the landscape.

“It was the most horrible thing I’ve seen in my life – the amount of oil, the huge number of dead fish and my Kukama brothers working without the necessary protection,” said Ander Ordóñez Mozombite, an environmental monitor for an indigenous community group called Acodecospat who visited the site a few days later.

The Abundance of Erasmus

Fred Sanders:

I had heard that Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536) wrote a book showing hundreds of ways to say “thanks for your letter,” so I went and looked it up, just to see what one of the Renaissance’s prime movers was thinking when he did that.

The book in question –originally published as De duplici copia verborum ac rerum Commentarii duo, and available in English in volume 24 of  his Collected Works as Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style (translated and annotated by Betty I. Knott)– is much more than a stunt. It’s a really helpful exercise in developing a style that is rich and full.

Generations of readers have known this: De Copia was used as a textbook for rhetoric and composition throughout northern Europe in  Erasmus’ lifetime. It was popular enough to be pirated, to give rise to summaries, to be circulated in the form of excerpts, and to spawn commentaries.

The Case for Hymnals

From Ponder Anew:

  1. Hymnals actually teach music. We’re making less music than ever before. Oh, to be sure, there’s lots of music going on around us, but very few people are actually making it. We’re just consuming it, or at the very most, singing along with music someone else made first. But even an untrained musician can look at the words and music in the hymnal and learn to follow melodic direction and rhythmic value.
  2. Hymnals set a performance standard. Contemporary worship music is based on recording instead of notation. This is endlessly confusing, and it opens each song up to individual interpretation. Without notation, it is exceedingly hard to sing well as a congregation. Hymnals fix that. Everybody has the same notation, so we all know how the song is supposed to go.
  3. Hymnals integrate the music and text. Words on a screen give no musical information. Hymnals fix that. Singers aren’t dependent upon learning the song by rote.