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Week In Review

Another Week Ends: Startup Churches, Effortless Perfectionists, Food Tribes, Behavioral Economists, and Weak Men

Another Week Ends: Startup Churches, Effortless Perfectionists, Food Tribes, Behavioral Economists, and Weak Men

1. What says entrepreneurship like the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church? The subject of this season of Start Up, the popular podcast from the guys at Gimlet Media, is “church planting,” specifically one church plant in Philadelphia, its lead pastor, and the difficulties of getting such a church to self-sufficiency in a certain amount of time, both organizationally and personally. And while the potential for ridicule is rife with such a context, so far, the first three episodes have been wildly sympathetic to the cause, even compassionate to “the call” which drove it. This week’s episode in particular explores…

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Another Week Ends: Forgiving Kings, Forgiving Narcissists, Polite Smart Speakers, Religious Parties, and the Saddest Croatian

Another Week Ends: Forgiving Kings, Forgiving Narcissists, Polite Smart Speakers, Religious Parties, and the Saddest Croatian

1. They say never talk religion and politics, so let’s increase the trespass and start our time this week with a discussion of religion and politics. Michele Margolis is a U Penn political science professor who specializes in the link between faith and government. She makes the case that we’ve got the chicken and egg backwards when it comes to the question of denomination and party choice:

Most Americans choose a political party before choosing whether to join a religious community or how often to attend religious services…

In 1965, M. Kent Jennings and Richard Niemi conducted a…

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Another Week Ends: Washed, Teshuvah, Soul Salons, Medieval Peasants, Cranach and Sammy Hagar

Another Week Ends: Washed, Teshuvah, Soul Salons, Medieval Peasants, Cranach and Sammy Hagar

1. This first one hit close to home. I’m referring to Zach Baron’s column in GQ, In Praise of Being Washed. Not washed out, or washed in the blood of the lamb, but simply “washed”. To be “washed,” he tells us, is to have arrived at the point in life where horizons have begun to recede, where your best is behind you but you’re still far from ready to throw in the towel–basically a fresh euphemism for what we used to call “over the hill.” But what sounds like a putdown at best, and a verdict to struggle against with…

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Another Week Ends: Death Cafés, Eighth Grade, Basement Revolver, Sterile Style, Church Planting, and the Meekness of God

Another Week Ends: Death Cafés, Eighth Grade, Basement Revolver, Sterile Style, Church Planting, and the Meekness of God

1. Lots to consider from this week’s first link: “The Positive Death Movement Comes to Life,” by John Leland for the Times (ht SZ). All told, this article is partly amazing, partly ridiculous.

First, the amazing. “Death is having a moment,” the subtitle says. This is good news in the context of modernity’s widespread denial of death. We so fear death that we pretend it doesn’t exist. Says one interviewee: “We got so far removed from death even being an option.”

Now, in small pockets here and there, certain people—mostly women—are beginning to question the denial of this undeniable reality. Why don’t we…

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Another Week Ends: First Reformed, Millennial Gray, Self-Improvement B.S., Getting Back On the Bike (and Off Again), and World Cup Generosity

Another Week Ends: First Reformed, Millennial Gray, Self-Improvement B.S., Getting Back On the Bike (and Off Again), and World Cup Generosity

1. A new book out by Will Storr looks at the history of the self-esteem, and its rapid growth in the technological age. Storr’s book, Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us, focuses much of its history on the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA, and places like it, which flourished in the 70s alongside the Human Potential Movement, and went mainstream in the 80s and 90s, focused on the real benefits stemming from a positive self-image. Storr uncovers the origin story of this movement, and its less-than-credible correlations between well-being and a…

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Another Week Ends: Nigerian Babies, Pairing Alzheimer's, Lonely Affluence, Competitive Meditation and New Spiritualized

Another Week Ends: Nigerian Babies, Pairing Alzheimer’s, Lonely Affluence, Competitive Meditation and New Spiritualized

1. At the top of the docket, two beautiful and deeply encouraging examples of grace in practice, the first programmatic and the second person-to-person. Nigeria, as you may know, currently suffers from the highest rate of HIV-positive infants in the world. Apparently many of the transmission prevention methods that work elsewhere have had a hard time catching on there, partly because so many mothers aren’t aware they’re infected (and understandably reticent to get tested, partially out of fear, partially out of shame). Instead of sounding the alarm bells more loudly, a new program called Baby Shower–developed in the church(!)–has taken…

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Another Week Ends: Prophetic Marshmallows, Honest Obituaries, Psychopathic AI, A Game for Good Christians, and the Bruised Face of Forgiveness

Another Week Ends: Prophetic Marshmallows, Honest Obituaries, Psychopathic AI, A Game for Good Christians, and the Bruised Face of Forgiveness

1. This week, a social science story takes the lede. New research out of NYU and UC Irvine is casting real doubt on the hallowed Stanford Marshmallow experiment, a study long used to tout the virtues of delayed gratification, patience, and self-control:

The marshmallow test is one of the most famous pieces of social-science research: Put a marshmallow in front of a child, tell her that she can have a second one if she can go 15 minutes without eating the first one, and then leave the room. Whether she’s patient enough to double her payout is supposedly indicative of a…

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Another Week Ends: Theistic 'Nones', Fleming on Faith, Ideological Is-es and Oughts, Urban Kenosis, and the New Meritocratic Aristocracy

Another Week Ends: Theistic ‘Nones’, Fleming on Faith, Ideological Is-es and Oughts, Urban Kenosis, and the New Meritocratic Aristocracy

1. First up, Pew released the results of a recent survey on a religious beliefs, glossed this week by The Atlantic:

The third finding reported in the study is by far the most striking. As it turns out, “American ‘nones’ are as religious as—or even more religious than—Christians in several European countries, including France, Germany, and the U.K.”

“That was a surprise,” Neha Sahgal, the lead researcher on the study, told me. “That’s the comparison that’s fascinating to me.” She highlighted the fact that whereas only 23 percent of European Christians say they believe in God with absolute certainty, 27 percent of American nones say this. ….

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Another Week Ends: The Capacity for Every Crime, the Unimportance of Being Cool, Violence Ad Infinitum, Defiled Lunch Meat, the Dallas Street Choir, and the Essential Anthropology of Philip Roth

Another Week Ends: The Capacity for Every Crime, the Unimportance of Being Cool, Violence Ad Infinitum, Defiled Lunch Meat, the Dallas Street Choir, and the Essential Anthropology of Philip Roth

1. Lots of good reading material for this Memorial Day weekend! Our first article—a ripe one 😉 by philosopher Crispin Sartwell, for the New York Times—defends the concept of original sin, from a secular standpoint. And while the era of extreme division and gun violence might seem the perfect stage for the original sin renaissance, Sartwell, importantly, begins his argument not with everyone else’s problems but with the man in the mirror. (I’ve excerpted a good majority of the piece here; it’s all quite good. Hear an extended convo about it on this week’s Mockingcast!)

When I look within, I see…

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Another Week Ends: Tom Wolfe, Royal Weddings, Unlikely Hospice Workers, Babylon Bee Book, New Marcionism, and More Loneliness

Another Week Ends: Tom Wolfe, Royal Weddings, Unlikely Hospice Workers, Babylon Bee Book, New Marcionism, and More Loneliness

1. As far as “theology of the cross” illustrations go, this one is unforgettable. A pastoral care initiative in a prison’s hospice wing, led entirely by fellow inmates, most of whom are convicted murderers serving a life sentence. Suleika Jaouad tells the story in this week’s New York Times Magazine, about the Pastoral Care Service Workers, a cohort of about two dozen inmates who have been trained and tested to provide end-of-life care for the sick and dying in the California Medical Center:

A job in the hospice is not easy to come by. To qualify, Lyman and the others first…

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Another Week Ends: Napalm Conversions, Technophile Faith, Kanye Gambino Jackson, Nomophobia, Camp Manna and Atlanta

Another Week Ends: Napalm Conversions, Technophile Faith, Kanye Gambino Jackson, Nomophobia, Camp Manna and Atlanta

1. First up, there’s the jaw-dropping testimony that appeared in Christianity Today last week, in which Kim Phuc Phan Thi, the subject of one of the 20th Century’s most iconic photographs (above), outrageously confesses that “These Bombs Led Me to Christ”. She describes the anguish of the day in question, as well as the bodily fallout of the napalm to which she was exposed – Kim was left unable to sweat and is still receiving treatment for the burns 40 years later. By her own account, however, the physical ailments paled in comparison to the spiritual and emotional torment she…

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Another Week Ends: The Craigslist Confessional, Ethical Beauty, Luck, Reincarnation, Realistic Wedding Vows, and Divided Times in the Body of Christ

Another Week Ends: The Craigslist Confessional, Ethical Beauty, Luck, Reincarnation, Realistic Wedding Vows, and Divided Times in the Body of Christ

1. This weekend’s opener: stories from the Craigslist Confessional. Several years ago, on a whim, a woman named Helena Bala posted an ad online, offering anyone who needed it the service of a non-judgmental listening ear. Crazy, huh? “Woke up the next morning…inbox was flooded.”

The video is a testament to the power of listening—just listening, without corrections, prescriptions, or solutions. Later she says, “I hadn’t done anything…I hadn’t provided any extraordinary insight…. I was just listening.”

But there’s an interesting part, two-thirds into the video, when a leading psychotherapist challenges Helena’s work, saying that, in his opinion, she isn’t doing longterm good,…

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