Notable links from the week, with a smattering of commentary

Buzzfeed(!) profiles pioneering Catholic feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson. I blogged about Johnson’s book She Who Is back in 2009–see here, here, here, and here.

Nadia Bolz Weber preached a good Ash Wednesday sermon.

Rep. Paul Ryan thinks free school lunches are bad for kids’ souls. I take this a bit personally since I got free lunches when I was a kid and don’t think my soul is particularly worse off for it. You know what is bad for your spiritual and moral development? Being too poor to eat.

David Brooks wrote a great column about the evils of solitary confinement.

A wonderful essay from the New York Review of Books on the “secret life” of W. H. Auden. Apparently the great poet–who was also Christian, if a somewhat idiosyncratic one–did a lot of surreptitious charitable works, even when it made him look like a jerk in public.

The impending publication of some of his journals reignite the debate about whether philosopher Martin Heidegger was an anti-Semite.

The Democratic primary for D.C. mayor is next month, and the Washington Post has put together a helpful guide on where the candidates stand on various issues. I’m still undecided on this.

Political scientist Adolph Reed Jr. published an essay in Harper’s (not available online) about what he says (apparently; I haven’t actually read the essay) is the long decline of the American Left and its over-investment in the electoral fortunes of the Democratic Party.  This garnered some push-back from various quarters (see here, here, and here, among others); Reed replied to some of these criticisms here. I’m probably less left-wing than most of the participants to this argument, but it’s hard to deny that conservatives have been more successful than the Left in recent decades in building a grass-roots movement that can drive policy changes. The GOP is far more beholden to the conservative movement than the Dems are to the Left. I don’t think, however, that investing in such a movement should prevent anyone from supporting the superior alternative (or lesser evil if you prefer) in a given election. And for left-of-center folks this will almost invariably be the Democrat.

On the situation in Ukraine, and the persistent demands that the U.S. “do something,” I found this helpful.

Music-wise, I’m still on a St. Vincent kick. Here’s a great live session from a couple of years ago.

Best of the week

I end up sharing a lot of links on Twitter, so I thought it might be worth collecting what I think were the stand-out pieces of the week. (“Stand-out” doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with every word, just that these were the most interesting or thought-provoking items I came across).

Anyway, here goes:

–Elizabeth Stoker, “The Christian case for raising the minimum wage”

–Mary Charlotte Ella, “Gladiators of the gridiron” (the moral case against football)

–Isaiah Berlin, “Roosevelt through European eyes” (from the Atlantic, July 1955)

–Eric Reitan, “Civil Marriage vs Civil Union: Why NOT Leave Marriage to Churches?”

–David A. Graham, “Peter Seeger’s All-American Communism”

–Michelle Goldberg, “Feminism’s toxic Twitter wars”

–William Saletan “The Work Ethic” (on the economic philosophy underpinning President Obama’s State of the Union address)

–Claude S. Fischer, “Libertarianism is very strange”

And for fun, Miley Cyrus (yes, that Miley Cyrus) doing a surprisingly good cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”:

Peter Singer and Christian ethics conference–audio available

I posted the other week on a conference on dialogue between Peter Singer and Christian ethics. I wanted to note that audio of the sessions is available here. I haven’t listened to any of the sessions yet, but the topics suggest that they’ll be very interesting:

–Utilitarians and Christians
–Animals and the environment
–Utilitarianism, Christian ethics, and moral theory
–Utilitarians in church?
–Responding to global poverty

If you listen to any of the presentations I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Friday Links

–With the death of bin Laden, the U.S. has accomplished the aims that justified the war in Afghanistan. Time to leave.

–An interview with “eco-economist” Herman Daly: Rethinking growth.

–A primer on Christian nonviolence.

–The collapse of the “progressive Christian” big tent?

–The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to allow non-celibate gay and lesbians to serve as clergy. Support for the change came from some surprising places. And see this article from theologian Eugene Robinson on how same-sex couples can image the faithfulness of God.

–Catholic theologians and other teachers take Speaker of the House John Boehner to task on the GOP’s budget priorities. More here.

–Theologian Roger Olson on how “inerrancy” became a litmus test for evangelicalism.

–The Obama administration is trying to figure out how to continue the war in Libya without congressional authorization.

–An interview with historian Adam Hoschchild on the World War I pacifist movement.

–Lord Vader announces the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Friday Links

–Why unions are essential for the future of liberalism.

–Maryland is very close to legalizing same-sex marriage.

–Indiana is very close to passing a draconian, Arizona-style immigration law.

–International aid groups appeal to Congress to restore funding for humanitarian aid.

–A slideshow and discussion on the question “Is meat green?”

–How much would a government shutdown cost?

–Why tech writers should stay away from politics.

–An interview with Tom De Haven, author of the novel It’s Superman! and, more recently, Our Hero: Superman on Earth.

–A review of two books on American Tories/loyalists at the time of the Revolution.

–Why the Obama administration changed its mind about the Defense of Marriage Act.

–Twenty questions for Over the Rhine.

Friday links

– Many people have pointed to this omnibus post at Mother Jones that provides background, context, links, and ongoing updates on the situation in Egypt.

– Marvin writes on understanding apostolic poverty.

– At the blog Memoria Dei, a post discussing feminist theologian Mary Daly’s use of women’s experience as an analogue for the divine.

– Palgrave Macmillan and the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics have launched a new series of books on the ethical treatment of animals. So far, two titles have been published: An Introduction to Animals and Political Theory by Alasdair Cochrane and An Introduction to Animals and the Law by Joan E. Schaffner. The series is co-edited by Andrew Linzey and Priscilla Cohn.

– Crystal has a post discussing John Milbank’s and Keith Ward’s differing views on Kant (complete with a video of Ward lecturing on the subject).

– Rodney Clapp on giving yourself (and others) permission not to pray.

– The State of the Union and “semi-Niebuhrianism.”

– Kevin Drum on the virtues of a strong labor movement.

– Oasis and Radiohead: two very different British bands that defined alternative rock in the late ’90s.

“Justice is giving humans their due as people in the image of God”

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, has a book out called Generous Justice, making the case that concern for the poor is a non-negotiable implication of the gospel and a matter of justice, not just charity. Christianity Today interviews him here. “It’s biblical,” Pastor Keller says, “that we owe the poor as much of our money as we can possibly give away.”

Misconceptions about foreign aid

At the League of Ordinary Gentlemen, Jason Kuznicki points out some persistent public misconceptions about the amount the U.S. spends on foreign aid:

Years ago, I read that Americans on average thought we spent something like a quarter of our budget on foreign aid. It was a ridiculous overestimate, both then and now, and I figured the number of misinformed people would have to have declined since then. Hasn’t American ignorance on this very subject become sort of proverbial?

Apparently not. As of last month, Americans still say that we spend about 25% on foreign aid. Incredibly, the average suggestion is to lower foreign aid to a mere 10% of our budget.

The real amount we spend on foreign aid? 0.6%.

Peter Singer has been pointing this out for years in his various writings about our obligations to help the very poorest people in the world. I remember that during the 2008 Vice Presidential debate, when the question was asked what spending might need to be cut to reduce the federal deficit, then-Senator Biden specifically mentioned foreign aid, trading on this very misperception.

It should also be pointed out that “foreign aid” includes stuff that has little or nothing to do with lifting people out of poverty and much to do with U.S. geopolitical interests. Historically, the largest recipients have been Israel and Egypt, along with certain Latin American countries whose governments have been enlisted in the war on drugs. More recently, countries associated with the “war on terror” (e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan) have been major recipients. (See here for an overview of U.S. foreign aid programs and policy.)

The reality calls into question the common assumption that the U.S. is pouring massive amounts of anti-poverty aid into poor countries and that the persistence of poverty shows that “aid doesn’t work.” As Singer points out most recently in his book The Life You Can Save (which I blogged a fair bit about), there is still plenty of low-hanging fruit where well-targeted aid programs can make huge differences in people’s lives.

The invisible poor

Good post here from Matt Yglesias. The “welfare reform” of the 90s has been widely hailed as a success for replacing welfare with work, but as Yglesias points out, this success is premised on a strong labor market, which we manifestly don’t have now. And yet you don’t hear anyone calling for us to re-think welfare reform. (The New York Times had a good article on this several months back.)

This isn’t terribly surprising. In American politics, everyone wants to sound like they’re for the middle class, most people are actually for the rich, and pretty much no one wants to acknowledge that poor people in America even exist.

Friday links

– Jim Henley on the high road and the low road

– The July issue of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics focuses on poverty and development

– How easy would it be to fix Social Security?

– The Twilight series: not just bad, but morally toxic

– Who you callin’ a pescatarian?

– Marvin writes about teaching Anselm’s ontological argument

– The AV Club on alt-country pioneer Robbie Fulks

– The New York Times‘s Nicholas Kristof reports from the West Bank

– A recently published dystopian novel about animal rights; here’s the author’s blog