The Costs of Father Hunger

Via the Federalist:

As more information slowly seeps out about Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old who murdered nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, one fact should surprise exactly no one: Roof came from a broken home. Roof’s parents divorced three years before he was even born, later reuniting just long enough to produce a child who would later become a mass murderer.

The media loves to find an easy scapegoat for mass shootings, whether it be thepharmaceutical industry, the National Rifle Association, or even Donald Trump. Of course these scapegoats are designed to fit the politically correct narrative, and they are an easy sell (especially when it’s all Donald Trump’s fault, as Americans increasingly love to blame the proverbial 1 percent for their sorrows). Scapegoats serve another purpose, too: they ensure the media can avoid the uncomfortable truth that unstable homes produce unstable individuals.

In the aftermath of tragedies like Charleston or Sandy Hook, Americans hear the shared characteristics of the shooters: typically they are young males who obtained a gun (duh), used drugs (legally or illegally), dropped out of school, and committed or planned suicide as the grand finale to their murders. But to focus on these characteristics is to focus arbitrarily on the 12 to 24 months before the shooting. It ignores the roots of the problem: the household.

As University of Virginia Professor Brad Wilcox pointed out back in 2013: “From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s ‘list of U.S. school attacks’ involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.” His observation is largely ignored.

The Hidden Meaning of Life According to the Little Prince

From Crisis:

A new film based on St. Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic The Little Prince recently made its premier. I haven’t seen it yet but it looks wonderful. Watching the previews reminds me of how important The Little Prince has been in my own life. I cannot count how many times I have read the book to my children at bedtime or explain the way in which it has changed the way I think about so-called children’s books. Saint-Exupery is keen to use the memory of childhood to show that we are all, in a way, still little children.

All grown-ups were once children … but only few of them remember it.

This is not an exercise in nostalgia or the desire to retreat to the past. Rather, it is an embrace of all that has gone into making up a full grown human being. We ought not to forget that we are rather rare creatures, made up of imagination and memory and dearly-won virtues. The past is part of who we are. If poets, as Shelley would have it, are the legislators of mankind, we begin to see that they exercise their responsibility in part by drawing us back into a world wherein what is important is not merely in what we see but in what is invisible. The Little Prince, like all great books, fills this role by reminding us of who we are and what exactly it is that makes us so special.

The World’s Most Expensive Oil Spill Changed Nothing

From Vice:

A hulking rig is engulfed in flame. It’s sinking, spitting out a giant plume of smoke in the process. A firing squad of rescue ships are dousing it with ocean spray. Eleven men are already dead.

Even today, the Coast Guard’s photos of the BP spill—you know the ones—look like they were snapped on the set of a Michael Bay film. The scene, then and now the de facto visual signifier for the catastrophe, had one thing working in BP’s favor, at least: It looks isolated, set on a backdrop of a vast, expanse of ocean. The action movie mise en scéne leaves the viewer at home feeling detached, like the whole thing is unfolding a million miles away.

Detachment plays a key part in how it came to be that the biggest oil spill in US history, despite incurring the largest environmental fine on the books—$18.7 billion,handed down last weekhas done almost nothing to change the nation’s relationship to oil. Five years after the spill, and, by BP’s count, $54 billion in projected total expenses, there have been no serious legislative efforts to improve the oversight or regulation of the United States’ still-expanding offshore oil operations. Public opinion of deepwater drilling barely budged during the ordeal; today, a majority of Americansfavor doing even more of it.

Call it the BP spill paradox: massive in size and cost, all but invisible in its impact beyond the Gulf. It ruined lives, destroyed ecosystems, and cost a fortune, but no new laws were enacted to prevent the same thing from happening again. The White House recently approved further offshore oil exploration in waters far more treacherous than the Gulf. As you read this, Shell’s drill ships are heading to the Arctic, despite the fact that its 2012 trial run in was an accident-riddled disaster. Offshore drilling remains just as risky as before the Deepwater Horizon blew, even at ground zero.

The EU vs. The Sabbath

Via the NYT:

Fifteen years ago, Spyros Kyriakopoulos and his partner took over a small pastry shop on a side street near downtown Athens and began selling the braided loaves called tsourekia and traditional Greek dipping cookies.

At the time, Athens was booming, the Greek standard of living had leapt ahead in just one generation, and Mr. Kyriakopoulos’s customers were about to become even more prosperous as Greece joined the euro currency.

On Monday, as the Greek government reluctantly agreed to a deal to address the country’s debt crisis and keep it in the eurozone, people like Mr. Kyriakopoulos were bracing themselves for a wide range of economic changes that are certain to touch on virtually every aspect of Greek life.

The changes surpass government austerity measures like reeling in pensions and raising the valued-added tax, and include elements like the deregulation of closed markets and professions.

Predatory Lending is Theft

From Comment:

You’re standing at the rental car desk in need of a car. But you didn’t plan to be here. You’ve been in an accident and you need wheels. You might feel gratitude for not being injured, for having auto insurance, and for having paid extra for rental car coverage on your policy. While you’re shaken up, you’re not really too worried: You’ve got options.

This is true even if the money you need to pay for the rental car isn’t in your checking account. You can put it on a credit card and pay it off when the insurance reimbursement comes through. You can take a deep breath and use the money you saved for a trip rather than an accident. Or you can call a family member or friend who can give you the funds until you pay them back from your next paycheck and send them a thank you note for their generosity. If it turns out your car is totaled and you need to replace it you’ll likely be able to get a low-interest auto loan from a bank, credit union, or even the dealer (if you have a job and credit rating).

These options should be recognized for what they are: unmerited gifts. They are what Robert Putnam calls “airbags,” that are immediately activated when an unanticipated crisis arises in the life of someone who is not poor. Social and financial capital—access to financial options and a network of friends or family who can easily and quickly share resources with you—act as cushions when the vicissitudes of life strike.

But consider the rental-car-after-accident scenario if you’re poor. The airbags of financial and social capital do not inflate automatically to protect you. You’re not sure how you’re going to come up with the resources you need right now. Your need for a car to keep your job or transport your kids is paramount. Other bills you’re supposed to pay will just have to wait until you figure it out.

And then you see a sign at the end of the rental car agency’s counter: Need $500?Tucked inside a plastic display are tri-fold brochures advertising CASH TODAY from a store in the same strip mall.

It seems to you not just a sign, but a miracle. You have no idea that you’re walking into a trap set for people like you.

A Father’s Struggle to Stop His Daughter’s Adopton

 Via the Atlantic:

Christopher Emanuel first met his girlfriend in the fall of 2012, when they were both driving forklifts at a warehouse in Trenton, South Carolina. She was one of a handful of women on the job; she was white and he was black. She ignored him at first, and Emanuel saw it as a challenge. It took multiple attempts to get her phone number. He says he “wasn’t lonely, but everybody wants somebody. Nothing wrong with being friends.”

Emanuel, who is now 25, describes himself as a non-discriminatory flirt. He was popular in high school and a state track champion. According to the Aiken High School 2008 yearbook, he was voted “Most Attractive” and “Best Dressed.” Even his former English teacher Francesca Pataro describes him as a “ray of sunshine.” Emanuel says he’s “talked”—euphemistically speaking—with a lot of women: “Black, Puerto Rican, Egyptian, and Vietnamese.” But before he met this girlfriend, he says, he had never seriously dated a white girl.

Emanuel’s girlfriend didn’t respond to multiple interview requests, so some details of their relationship remain difficult to confirm. But her affidavits and her text-message exchanges with Emanuel align with the key elements of his story: Their relationship began in February 2013, after months of friendship. When her parents were away for the summer, his girlfriend invited Emanuel to stay at her house for a while. And in May, she took a home pregnancy test, which came out positive.

Oliver O’Donovan on Compassion

From Begotten or Made?:

“Compassion is the virtue of being moved to action by the sight of suffering….It is a virtue that circumvents thought, since it prompts us immediately to action.  It is a virtue that presupposes that an answer has already been found to the question, ‘What needs to be done?’, a virtue of motivation rather than reasoning.  As such, it is the appropriate virtue for a liberal revolution, which requires no independent thinking about the object of morality, only a very strong motivation to its practice.”

Theses on Natural Theology

Scott Swain:

Recent Reformed theology has not held natural theology in high esteem, and that for understandable reasons. Enlightenment thinkers (Catholic, Protestant, and secular) often treated natural theology as a pre-dogmatic discipline, i.e., as a discipline that could and should be established independently of biblical revelation before turning to biblical revelation to establish the truths of dogmatic theology. In many cases, such an approach also failed to acknowledge the noetic effects of sin for the possibility of natural theology.

Turning to Reformed discussions of natural theology in the early modern period, however, one discovers a platypus. Discussions of natural theology from this period do not fit the categories of Enlightenment natural theology and therefore are less susceptible to recent Reformed criticisms. Here natural theology is not treated as a pre-dogmatic discipline but as a discipline that is dependent upon dogmatic theology for its success. Indeed, the terms of early Protestant natural theology are largely set by biblical commentary on texts such as Romans 1-2 (e.g., Philip Melanchthon, Peter Martyr Vermigli). Here we also discover an acute awareness of the noetic effects of sin upon natural theology, effects which require assistance from the epistemological principles of dogmatics (i.e., Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit) if they are to be overcome.

Based upon earlier Protestant treatments of natural theology (especially those of Vermigli, Franciscus Junius, Gisbertus Voetius, and Bernardus de Moor), I have come to see the importance of natural theology for a number of spheres of Christian intellectual and practical inquiry. Moreover, I have come to the conclusion that, far from detracting from revealed theology, it is only in giving natural theology its due that we can fully appreciate the true honor and dignity of revealed theology. In partial payment of that debt, I offer the following nine theses on natural theology.

The Swindling of America’s Poor


In that portion of the presidential field that does not view self-government as a stage for self-promotion, prejudice and blithering ignorance, one of the more encouraging trends is an increasing seriousness about the issue of poverty.

Events in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore have focused the public mind, just as the consequential publication of Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids” has served to inform and deepen the policy debate. The question is posed: Can the United States go on as it has been with a good portion of its working class almost entirely isolated from the promise of our country?

It is a yes or no question. A “yes” involves the acceptance of a rigid, self-perpetuating class system in a country with democratic and egalitarian pretentions — a system upheld and enforced by heavy-handed policing, routine incarceration and social and educational segregation.

A “no” is just the start of a very difficult task. The mixed legacy of the Great Society — helping the elderly get health care, it turns out, is easier than creating opportunity in economically and socially decimated communities — has left the national dialogue on poverty ideologically polarized. And many policy proposals in this field seem puny in comparison to the Everest of need.

But there is one set of related policy ideas that would dramatically help the poor and should not be ideologically divisive. How about a renewed effort to help the poor by refusing to cheat them?

Defying Space and Time

Via the NYT:

He looks out of place, at least at first. Wearing a Mets uniform that grants no slimming effect to his block of a body, he could easily be mistaken for an overinvested fan who has wandered past assorted “Authorized Personnel Only” signs at Citi Field, onto the outfield grass.

But this is the night’s starting pitcher, Bartolo Colon. Forty-two years old, it is believed. Two hundred eighty-five pounds, it is believed — a full 100 pounds heavier than when he made his major league debut in 1997. An Ernest Borgnine face, by way of the Dominican Republic. The mere sight of him stirs the “if he can, I can” fantasies of Sunday softball heroes everywhere.

Colon is the second-oldest active player in the majors. He has collected eight teams’ uniforms, 213 career wins, a Cy Young Award and a steroid-related suspension. In an often frustrating Mets season, this Everyman has been a joyful diversion, with a 9-7 record that includes 48⅓ innings without a walk, a franchise record worthy of pause.