June 30, 2007
"Justice Talking" event in Philadelphia
On July 10, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia is hosting an event, "Highlights of the Supreme Court Term: How Has the New Conservative Majority Affected the Court?," at 5:00 p.m. Among other things, the event involves a discussion about the Term among Jan Crawford Greenburg, Prof. Geoff Stone, and me. For more information, click here.
Feminization of the Church
John Allen 's latest column discussesthe "feminization of the Church", evidenced by statistics showing the overwhelming predominance of women in the growing ranks of the lay ecclesial ministry that is assuming a greater & greater role in parish life. He discusses the general discomfort with this trend, based on fears that too much "feminization" of the Church makes it less attractive to men. He also discusses the bind the Church finds itself in that keeps it from working too hard to attract more men to the lay ecclesial ministry to balance things out -- it doesn't want to siphon off men who might otherwise choose to become priests.
On men's "alienation" from church, Allen cites some recent books:
In that light, some recent writers have voiced concern that Christianity actually alienates men. David Murrow's Why Men Hate Going to Church (Nelson Books, 2004) and Leon J. Podles' The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity (Spence, 1999), illustrate the point. Murrow is a Presbyterian and Podles a Catholic, but both have noticed something similar about their respective denominations.
As Podles put it succinctly, "Women go to church, men go to football games."
I'd be interested from hearing from some of you men bloggers -- do you, in fact, feel your own churches are become "feminized" to the extent that the church experience is somehow alienating?
Allen ends with this interesting social justice challenge:
One final observation is worth making. If lay ecclesial ministry continues to be a largely female profession, church officials will want to pay close attention to its impact on salary levels.
A 2007 study by the AFL-CIO found that as job categories come to be dominated by women, the social prestige attached to the position declines, as do average wages. Employment categories in which women occupy 70 percent or more of the jobs, the study found, typically pay a third less than jobs that are similar in terms of the skills required and the nature of the work, but which are more likely to be held by men. The 25.6 million American women who work in these predominantly female jobs lose an average of $3,446 in income each per year, compared to holding a similar job which is less gender-defined. Since men typically earn more than women across the board, the four million men who work in predominately female occupations lose an average of $6,259 each per year. Together, this amounts to a whopping $114 billion loss for men and women in predominately female jobs in the United States.
For a church that supports a "just wage" in the broader society, making sure its own employees are not the object of gender-based discrimination in wages will be an on-going challenge.
June 28, 2007
Harry Potter Watch
With just a little more than three weeks until Book Seven ... Alan Jacobs of Wheaton College offers his speculations on how it will all end. I tend to agree with the author of this enjoyable book, John Granger, that the Harry Potter books are "the most charming and challenging Christian fiction for children since Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia." The themes of the power of sacrificial love, the dangers of pride, the imperative of justice for the downtrodden, etc., are unmistakable though never heavy-handed. Then there's this catalog of J.K. Rowling's own statements hinting at her Christian sensibility in the books.
The Culture of Life at DOJ
The latest testimony in the scandal concerning the firings of U.S. attorneys:
Paul K. Charlton, one of nine U.S. attorneys fired last year, told members of Congress yesterday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has been overzealous in ordering federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty, including in an Arizona murder case in which no body had been recovered. . . .
Charlton testified that he asked Justice officials to reconsider [their directive, against his recommendation, to seek the death penalty in the case] and had what he called a "memorable" conversation with Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty. Michael J. Elston, then McNulty's chief of staff, called Charlton to relay that the deputy had spent "a significant amount of time on this issue with the attorney general, perhaps as much as five to 10 minutes," and that Gonzales had not changed his mind. Charlton said he then asked to speak directly with Gonzales and was denied.
Last August, D. Kyle Sampson, then Gonzales's chief of staff, sent Elston a dismissive e-mail about the episode that said: "In the 'you won't believe this category,' Paul Charlton would like a few minutes of the AG's time." The next month, Charlton's name appeared on a list of prosecutors who should be fired, which Sampson sent to the White House.
Situation at Ave Worsens
From AveWatch, an independant blog that chronicles what goes on at Ave Maria Law:
On Monday, Ave Maria School of Law's Dean Bernard Dobranski attempted to censure and begin dismissal proceedings against tenured professor Steven Safranek, a founder of the school. Professor Safranek was involved with the faculty's complaint to the school's accreditor, has filed a complaint with law enforcement against Dobranski, and recently called for a renewal of the faculty's earlier "vote of no confidence" in governance.
Professor Safranek has worked in prestigious law firms, and clerked for Judge O'Scannlain on the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He has been admitted to practice before federal courts, including the US Supreme Court. He has numerous publications and is the Executive Director and Founder of The True Marriage Project, an extension of Safranek's interest in "helping to ensure the survival and growth of the institution most critical to society, the family".
Safranek is in good company. Recall that another Law School founder, Professor Emeritus Charles Rice of Notre Dame, was also terminated by Dobranski and booted from the Law School Board for questioning institutional governance and the legality of Monaghan's proposed Florida town concept. Ave Maria's history of firing whistleblowers is well-known.
More will be posted as this story develops. See Fumare for commentary here and here. [endquote]
Rick Garnett in NYT on SCOTUS
Even in Agreement, Scalia Puts Roberts to Lash
Published: June 28, 2007
The conservative alliance at the court may be fractious but not fragile, strong enough to withstand Justice Scalia’s “tweaking and needling,” as Prof. Richard W. Garnett of Notre Dame Law School describes it.
“I look at it as a bit of a kabuki dance,” said Professor Garnett, who clerked for Chief Justice Rehnquist and is close to the court’s conservatives. He said he had no doubt that Justice Scalia had “huge respect for the new chief as a person and as a lawyer.”
What is visible now, he said, is the latest iteration of the endless struggle between the need for stability in the law and the desire to correct previous mistakes.
“Different people who call themselves conservatives resolve that tension in different ways,” Professor Garnett said, adding that Justice Scalia was “laying down markers, making sure the arguments are out there to be used in later cases.”
For the full article, click here.
June 27, 2007
Christ the King (of the Courthouse)
Let's put disputes over the propriety of displaying the Ten Commandments on government property to the side for a moment. Anyone care to defend a courthouse portrait of Jesus? If so, your services are needed in Slidell, Louisiana. (HT: Religion Clause) Whatever creative Establishment Clause argument city officials can come up with, the rally last night did not help their cause:
[P]rotesters claimed that the portrait, which has been on display since the building opened in 1997, has never posed a problem and fairly represents the majority of residents in their largely Christian community. . . .
"You know, (the ACLU) is picking on a small community," said Randy Lee, 60, of Slidell. A self-described Christian fundamentalist, he gripped a hand-lettered sign that read "In God We Trust."
"Christians are seen as very passive. It's time for Christian people to stand up and say, 'Hey!'"
The rally lasted about an hour and was peppered with prayer and shouts of "Hallelujah!" and "Praise Jesus!" Toward the end of her speech, the Rev. Kathleen Javery-Bacon, of the Holy Ghost and Fire Revival Ministries in Slidell, raised her arm to the sky while chanting, "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus" as the crowd echoed her cry.
How should we respond to this data?
Robert Putnam (of Bowling Alone fame) is apparently nervous about releasing his new study because he fears it will be hijacked by anti-immigration folks. I can see why:
Putnam’s study reveals that immigration and diversity not only reduce social capital between ethnic groups, but also within the groups themselves. Trust, even for members of one’s own race, is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friendships fewer. The problem isn’t ethnic conflict or troubled racial relations, but withdrawal and isolation. Putnam writes: “In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’—that is, to pull in like a turtle.”
In the 41 sites Putnam studied in the U.S., he found that the more diverse the neighborhood, the less residents trust neighbors. This proved true in communities large and small, from big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Boston to tiny Yakima, Washington, rural South Dakota, and the mountains of West Virginia. In diverse San Francisco and Los Angeles, about 30 percent of people say that they trust neighbors a lot. In ethnically homogeneous communities in the Dakotas, the figure is 70 percent to 80 percent.
Diversity does not produce “bad race relations,” Putnam says. Rather, people in diverse communities tend “to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.” Putnam adds a crushing footnote: his findings “may underestimate the real effect of diversity on social withdrawal.”
Neither age nor disparities of wealth explain this result. “Americans raised in the 1970s,” he writes, “seem fully as unnerved by diversity as those raised in the 1920s.” And the “hunkering down” occurred no matter whether the communities were relatively egalitarian or showed great differences in personal income. Even when communities are equally poor or rich, equally safe or crime-ridden, diversity correlates with less trust of neighbors, lower confidence in local politicians and news media, less charitable giving and volunteering, fewer close friends, and less happiness.
Rod Dreher comments: "I predict this research will have absolutely zero impact on the immigration debate. Why? Because Diversity is a dogmatic secular religion."
Condoms and the Media
Condom-maker Trojan is involved in a bit of a controversy regarding its new ad campaign "Evolve." It seems that CBS and Fox have refused to air the commercial, even with late-night restrictions. Fox explained that condom advertising is appropriate for health reasons, but not for pregnancy prevention. One critic commented:
“It’s so hypocritical for any network in this culture to go all puritanical on the subject of condom use when their programming is so salacious,” said Mark Crispin Miller, a media critic who teaches at New York University. “I mean, let’s get real here. Fox and CBS and all of them are in the business of nonstop soft porn, but God forbid we should use a condom in the pursuit of sexual pleasure.”
Miller makes a good point, and I'm frankly surprised that networks still are drawing those lines. Another interesting angle is Trojan's tag line: "Evolve. Use a condom every time." Yale law prof Ian Ayres comments:
If people followed this advice literally, it would mean the end of evolution as humans would stop procreating. Thanks mom and dad, for not using a condom everytime.
So what should the advice be? Ayres suggests that we should:
stress a modern day equivalent to the three date rule. When I was going off to school, my parents emphasized to me that it was not wise to have sex with anyone until at least the third date. The modern day update for condom advice is to use a condom no matter what for the first three times you have sex with someone. The power behind the three condom rule is that most sexual pairings in the U.S. don't last 3 encounters. [His coauthor] Kathy Baker and I found that 46% of sexual pairings had sex only one time. From a public health perspective, if we could get people to use condoms the first three times they had sex with someone else we might cripple the power of many STDs.
Of course I won't be able to control what my kids do, but 'm hoping that my advice on sex will be a bit more robust than the "three date rule" or the suggestion that their evolution as a person turns on their willingness to "use a condom every time."
June 26, 2007
A new sort of inclusiveness
I sometimes get puzzled looks when I describe myself as an evangelical Catholic. I feel a lot more confident about my own religious identity after reading the story of Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, an Episcopal priest in Seattle who is also a practicing Muslim. (HT: Evangelical Outpost) She explains:
"I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I'm both an American of African descent and a woman. I'm 100 percent both."
Redding doesn't feel she has to resolve all the contradictions. People within one religion can't even agree on all the details, she said. "So why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam?
"At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That's all I need."
And when do the church's disciplinary proceedings get underway? Well . . . maybe not right now:
Redding's bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting.