Another Week Ends

1. The Linsanity continues! But this time the hubbub has to do with a powerful […]

David Zahl / 3.30.12

1. The Linsanity continues! But this time the hubbub has to do with a powerful (and unexpected) instance of off-court forgiveness. Last week, Jeremy Lin invited the ESPN employee who was fired for writing an offensive headline about Lin to lunch. Newsday spoke with the journalist in question, Anthony Federico:

Federico apologized after he was fired, calling the headline’s play on words [“chink in the armor”] “an honest mistake.” Lin said at the time that he accepted the apology and added, “You have to learn to forgive.” Apparently, he meant it. A member of Lin’s family reached out to Federico via email more than a month ago, according to Federico.

Several attempts at meeting were scuttled because of the Knicks point guard’s busy schedule, but one finally took place at a Manhattan restaurant and left Federico thankful for Lin’s graciousness.”The fact that he reached out to me,” Federico said. “The fact that he took the time to meet with me in his insanely busy schedule. . . . He’s just a wonderful, humble person. He didn’t have to do that… We talked more about matters of faith [and] reconciliation. We talked about our shared Christian values and what we’re both trying do with this situation. . . . We didn’t talk about the headline for more than three minutes.”

2. An essay by Philip Kitcher appeared in The NY Times recently entitled “Seeing Is Unbelieving,” in which Kitcher uses Alex Rosenberg’s controversial The Atheist’s Guide to Everything as an opportunity to make the key distinction between science and scientism. Scientism being defined as the dubious conviction that science can/will/has answered all of life’s questions, both big and small, and Rosenberg’s book apparently being exhibit A. Needless to say, it’s a very helpful and timely contribution:

It may be hyperbolic to declare that Shakespeare teaches us more about being human than all the natural scientists combined, but a real insight underlies the assertion…

Scientism rejects dialogue: the sciences provide the answers; the lesser provinces of the intellectual and cultural world should take instruction. To be sure, well-supported messages from the sciences are sometimes foolishly ignored—think of the warnings from climate scientists about our planet’s future. Yet scientism can easily prove counterproductive. However worthy the impulse to trumpet urgent news, smugness, arrogance and delight in shattering entrenched beliefs are as apt to alienate as to convert. The challenge is not to decide who has the Most Important Insights, but to comprehend the knowledge we have, finite, fallible and fragmentary as it is.

3. Speaking of new religions, have you heard of Cosmism? The religion of outerspace? No, we’re not talking about Red Planet Mars (or Robinson Crusoe on Mars), we are talking about the worship of space exploration, which The Atlantic highlighted earlier this week in their interview with psychologist Albert Harrison, “The Holy Cosmos”.

When viewed as a whole, space exploration has a lot in common with religion. It offers us a salvation narrative, for instance, whereby we put our faith in technology in order to be delivered to new worlds. Its priests, figures like Neil deGrasse Tyson, extoll its virtues in what sound like sermons. In its iconography, astronauts are like saints that ascend into heaven and extraterrestrials are like gods—benevolent, kind, wise, capable of manipulating space and time.

4. Meanwhile, back on Earth, The Times reports that “Evidence Grows of Problem of Clergy Burnout.” While certainly no surprise to those who have spent much time around churches (and para-churches), still, the studies are pretty sobering, revealing that “members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.”

5. Studies schmudies, you say?! Well, you can’t argue with the new research that claims, “tragedies make people happier,” ht JD:

“People seem to use tragedies as a way to reflect on the important relationships in their own life, to count their blessings,” [Ohio State professor and lead researcher Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick] said. “Tragedies don’t boost life happiness by making viewers think more about themselves. They appeal to people because they help them to appreciate their own relationships more.”

Knobloch-Westerwick said this fits with research in psychology that suggests negative moods make people more thoughtful. “Positive emotions are generally a signal that everything is fine, you don’t have to worry, you don’t have to think about issues in your life,” she said. “But negative emotions, like sadness, make you think more critically about your situation. So seeing a tragic movie about star-crossed lovers may make you sad, but that will cause you to think more about your own close relationships and appreciate them more.”

6. The full transcript of Bruce Springsteen’s keynote address at the South By Southwest festival appeared on Rolling Stone this past week, and I was struck by three things: First, his love of The Animals – he refers to “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place” as “every song I’ve ever written” and he’s not kidding. Second, his perceptive description of country music:

If rock and roll was a seven day weekend, country was Saturday night hell raising, followed by heavy “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” Guilt, guilt, guilt, I [messed] up. Oh, my God. But, as the song says: Would you take another chance on me? That was Country. Country seemed, not to question why. It seemed like it was about doing, then dying, screwing, then crying, boozing, then trying. Then as Jerry Lee Lewis, the living, breathing personification of both rock and country said, “I’ve fallen to the bottom and I’m working my way down.”

Third, the remarkable conclusion, which helps explain some of Springsteen’s enduring appeal (even if he himself has erred more in the self-serious direction lately). Sounds almost Lutheran:

Don’t take yourself too seriously, and take yourself as seriously as death itself. Don’t worry. Worry your ass off. Have ironclad confidence, but doubt it keeps you awake and alert. Believe you are the baddest ass in town, and, you suck!… It keeps you honest. Be able to keep two completely contradictory ideas alive and well inside of your heart and head at all times.

7. A fairly interesting little profile of Whit Stillman on Grantland, ht TB. And the soundtrack for Damsels is now available for pre-order on iTunes and what a pleasant surprise to find out that Adam Schlesinger (of Fountains of Wayne, Ivy and That Thing You Do fame) provided the score.

8. Next, Tullian put up the second part of his terrific Law and Gospel series, with some wonderful quotes from John Pless’s Handling The Word Of Truth. Elsewhere on The Gospel Coalition, Kevin DeYoung asks, “Does Calvinism Make People Jerks?”

9. In television, 30 Rock dropped a doozie last night in “The Shower Effect.” Liz is forced to confront the fact that she repeats the same mistakes over and over, that all her efforts to improve herself and her life tend to backfire. Hmmm… And while I was struck by how little I missed Mad Men during its hiatus, the premiere was more than enough to draw me back in. New favorite character may be Lane.

10. On Slate, none other than Art Spiegelman gives a backstage tour of the birth of the Garbage Pail Kids (at last!). And then there’s the rather profound piece on the restlessness and eccentricity of Goodnight Moon/Runaway Bunny author Margaret Wise Brown:

“The great soothing anthem of millions of American childhoods was conjured by someone restless, unsettled. It maybe makes sense that the great dream or poem of domestic peace should come from someone for whom that peace is charged, elusive.”



P.S. Just a reminder that we have a few more partial scholarships available for the fast-approaching NYC Conference. Email us at if you’re interested. Oh and thanks again for your patience earlier this week. If you’re still having trouble viewing the site, on your computer or your mobile device, be sure to empty your cache and delete all your cookies.