Opinion | The Best Reason to Go to College – By Pico Iyer – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Iyer is an author.

Credit…Ben Margot/Associated Press

As colleges throughout the United States reopen, facing a weird new landscape of empty rooms and scattered classmates, it’s easy to wonder what these traditional places of learning still have to teach the rest of us. Long before the pandemic, campuses were in the news not so much for opening young minds as for closing down discussions and less for encouraging humanity than for promoting ideologies.

Upon my own return to a university classroom, in the spring of 2019, after a hiatus of 37 years, I imagined that my tastes and values, my very language, might seem out-of-date to many of the students I was instructing, and I’m sure they did. I suspected that these teenagers would be much less concerned with books than I and my old classmates were, and I was right. I assumed that as a writer who had been crisscrossing the globe for 45 years, I’d have wisdom about travel to impart, and I was wrong: Thanks in part to their generous and well-endowed university, the 16 undergraduates in front of me spent the first class speaking of recent trips they’d taken to Nauru and Kyrgyzstan and Hongpo, among other places I’d barely heard of.

In almost every way, the young at this elite university seemed brighter, more mature, more reliable and infinitely more globally aware than I and my pals had been in our radically less diverse day. But the most beautiful surprise was to see how deeply many of them had absorbed lessons not to be found in any textbook. Picking up a campus newspaper one day, I found an article by the person I’d foolishly taken to be our class clown. He went to Mass every Sunday, he wrote, precisely because he had no religious commitment. He wanted to learn about perspectives other than the ones he knew. He admired the discipline and sense of order encouraged by such a practice, which he felt he might lack otherwise. He’d been startled by the open-mindedness of a devout roommate, with whom he used to argue through the night. If someone of religious faith could be so responsive to other positions, he wrote, should not a secular liberal aspire to the same?

I realized, as I read the piece, that I had little to teach such students in a class ostensibly about exploring cultures different from our own. More deeply, I was impressed by how imaginatively a young person was addressing the central problem of the times: the fact we’re all united mostly by our divisiveness. Whether in the context of climate change or the right to life — let alone the ethics of trying to protect others from a killer virus by simply wearing a mask — more and more of us refuse ever to cross party lines. And in an age of social media, when we all imagine we can best capture the world’s attention by shouting as loudly as possible, there’s every incentive to take the most extreme — and polarizing — position around.

Opinion | My Father, the Parish Priest – By Mimi Bull – The New York Times

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Ms. Bull is the author of “Celibacy, a Love Story.”

Credit…Ollie Silvester

“Want the human story on priestly celibacy? Talk to someone who’s paid the price.

I am bitterly disappointed by the news that Pope Francis will not be relaxing priestly celibacy rules in remote parts of the Amazon. The idea — intended to make it easier to recruit priests in underserved areas — was supported by a Vatican Conference in October, but in his papal document, released on Wednesday, Francis ignored their suggestion.

My interest in this isn’t the mild curiosity of a lapsed Catholic. I am the child of a priest who broke his vow of celibacy and left a legacy of secrecy that was devastating to him, to my mother and particularly to me.

To hide my father’s broken vow, I was told that I was adopted. I did not know until I was 35 that my “adoptive” mother was actually my grandmother and my adoptive sister was, in reality, my mother. But even then, I wasn’t told the whole truth. At the time, I was told my father had been a businessman from Pennsylvania.

If I had only known that my real father was the beloved young pastor of our local Polish parish in Norwood, Mass. He was a regular guest in our home, and we attended weekly Mass in his church. He died at the end of my freshman year at Smith College. I didn’t find out until the age of 50, on the day of my birth mother’s funeral, that the man I adored as “Pate” — my own nickname, short for the Latin pater — and the community knew as “Father Hip” was my father.”

Opinion | I’m a Climate Scientist Who Believes in God. Hear Me Out. – by Katherine Hayhoe – The New York Times

“I’m a climate scientist. I’m also an evangelical Christian.

And I’m Canadian, which is why it took me so long to realize the first two things were supposed to be entirely incompatible.

I grew up in a Christian family with a science-teacher dad who taught us that science is the study of God’s creation. If we truly believe that God created this amazing universe, bringing matter and energy to life out of a formless empty void of nothing, then how could studying his creation ever be in conflict with his written word?”

” . . .  It turns out, it’s not where we go to church (or don’t) that determines our opinion on climate. It’s not even our religious affiliation. Hispanic Catholics are significantly more likely than other Catholics to say the earth is getting warmer, according to a 2015 survey, and they have the same pope. It’s because of the alliance between conservative theology and conservative politics that has been deliberately engineered and fostered over decades of increasingly divisive politics on issues of race, abortion and now climate change, to the point where the best predictor of whether we agree with the science is simply where we fall on the political spectrum.

An important and successful part of that framing has been to cast climate change as an alternate religion. This is sometimes subtle, as the church sign that reads, “On Judgment Day, you’ll meet Father God not Mother Earth.” Other times this point is made much more blatantly, like when Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told Glenn Beck in 2015 that “climate change is not a science, it’s a religion,” or when Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said at a 2014 event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations that “the problem is Al Gore’s turned this thing into a religion.”

Why is this framing so effective? Because some 72 percent of people in the United States already identify with a specific religious label, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. And if you are a Christian, you know what to do when a false prophet comes along preaching a religion that worships the created rather than the Creator: Reject it!”

Opinion | Catholic Bishops Agree: Anything but a Woman – By Sara McDougall – The New York Times

By 

Dr. McDougall is an associate professor of history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the CUNY Graduate Center in New York.

Credit…Remo Casilli/Reuters

“The modern Catholic Church is beset with serious problems. Among them is that not enough men want to be priests. Over the past three weeks, 184 bishops gathered at a Vatican summit to seek solutions for the Amazon region in particular, singled out because of myriad crises it is facing, including environmental devastation, violence and a shortage of priests to serve the needs of the faithful there.

The bishops’ solution: Do anything other than ordaining women as priests.

On Oct. 26, in a “revolutionary” decision, the bishops gathered at the Vatican voted 128 to 41 to allow an exception to what has essentially been a 1,000-year ban on the ordination of married men as priests. They recommended this change for only certain parts of the Amazon and for only married men already made deacons, meaning men already allowed to perform marriages and baptisms, but not to officiate at mass, which only priests can do. It is now for Pope Francis to decide whether the decision goes forward.

It is surprising in many ways that the bishops made this decision. Allowing a married man to be a priest violates several longstanding rules. They voted as they did despite the tremendous importance of chastity for the Catholic Church and the old idea that sexual activity is a pollutant that cannot be allowed near the holy ritual of the mass. They voted in favor of married priests despite a longstanding fear that for a priest to have a wife and a family would lead to serious conflicts of interest. There is a legend that the word “nepotism” was invented in honor of the grasping nephews of popes who sought and obtained more than they deserved thanks to their powerful uncles (and “nephews” we can sometimes see as a euphemism for “sons”).

These potential conflicts of interest and other dangers that family influence and obligations bring, therefore, are something Catholic authorities have long recognized and have eagerly sought to prevent. They voted as they did despite the symbolic importance, too, of the idea that a priest be united to only one spouse, the Church, just as Jesus Christ was united in an exclusive bond with the Church.”

Amen. Check out the recommended comments for this op-ed:

Papercut61
Nevada
Times Pick

I am a 71-year-old woman who has been a practicing member of the Catholic church since I was baptized at one week old. I don’t know anyone of my generation whose children or grandchildren are church members. I cannot evangelize for a church which discriminates against me while paying out millions of dollars in reparations for, literally, the sins of the fathers. The bright spot is my 75-year-old cousin who left the convent after 25 years and joined the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. Of course, she was excommunicated. But she is the future of the Catholic Church, if there is to be one.

3 Replies823 Recommended

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Madeline Conant commented October 30

Madeline Conant
Midwest
Times Pick

The greatest boon to human rights that the Catholic Church could institute would be to help free impoverished women of the 3rd World from the slavery of uninterrupted childbearing. End the ban on artificial contraception.

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R commented October 30

R
Bay Area
Times Pick

Amen to this OpEd. I saw the news on the church allowing married men to be ordained, and my first thought was “still no women.” Unbelievable. I‘ve never understood how so many women give of their time, money, and beliefs for a religious organization that doesn’t support their equality. And now, in this time, to emphasize that fact by again excluding women while opening up the clergy to married men – it’s just tone deaf.

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Frank commented October 30

Frank
Brooklyn
Times Pick

as an ex seminarian, I have seen both extremely decent, compassionate priests and those who literally went through the motions and couldn’t care less about their priestly duties. more importantly, I have seen many women who served as so called secretaries or clerical assistants who were as competent and compassionate as any priest. I think women, who were priests in the church’s early days, would do a wonderful job and solve the clergy shortage problem. the church must move into the modern age.

1 Reply486 Recommended

Opinion | God Is Now Trump’s Co-Conspirator – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

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“Listening to the speech William Barr, the attorney general, gave last week at the University of Notre Dame Law School, I found myself thinking of the title of an old movie: “God Is My Co-Pilot.” What I realized is that Donald Trump’s minions have now gone that title one better: If Barr’s speech is any indication, their strategy is to make God their boss’s co-conspirator.

Given where we are right now, you might have expected Barr to respond in some way to the events of the past few weeks — the revelation that the president has been calling on foreign regimes to produce dirt on his domestic opponents, the airport arrest of associates of the president’s lawyer as they tried to leave the country on one-way tickets, credible reports that Rudy Giuliani himself is under criminal investigation.

Alternatively, Barr could have delivered himself of some innocuous pablum, which is something government officials often do in difficult times.

But no. Barr gave a fiery speech denouncing the threat to America posed by “militant secularists,” whom he accused of conspiring to destroy the “traditional moral order,” blaming them for rising mental illness, drug dependency and violence.”

David Lindsay: Amen.

I am reading Eager to Love, by Richard Rohr, and it is opening my eyes to a form of Christianity, following St. Francis of Asisis, that is open, big tent, humble, focused on good works, and more Unitarian than expected.

I agree with Paul Krugman, and here is one of the many good comments, I heartily recommended.

Tim Doran
Evanston, IL
Times Pick

Speaking as a very religious Christian, I hope and pray that the influence of American evangelicalism disappears as soon as possible. I much prefer that the influence of atheistic secularism increases because generally atheistic secularists do a far better job of following Jesus than does the typical American evangelical. Jesus explicitly condemned those who make a show of praying in public and those who oppress the poor. Trump’s evangelical supporters love to pray loud and long as they push for policies that oppress the poor and immigrants. Secular atheists obviously never pray in public and typically support policies that assist immigrants and the poor. This country would likely more closely follow the teachings of Jesus under the influence of secular atheism than under American evangelicalism.

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Opinion | Reverend- You Say the Virgin Birth Is ‘a Bizarre Claim’? – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

Nicholas Kristof

By Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

This is the latest in my occasional series of conversations about Christianity. Here’s my interview, edited for space, with Serene Jones, a Protestant minister, president of Union Theological Seminary and author of a new memoir, “Call It Grace.”

KRISTOF Happy Easter, Reverend Jones! To start, do you think of Easter as a literal flesh-and-blood resurrection? I have problems with that.

JONES When you look in the Gospels, the stories are all over the place. There’s no resurrection story in Mark, just an empty tomb. Those who claim to know whether or not it happened are kidding themselves. But that empty tomb symbolizes that the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.

For me it’s impossible to tell the story of Easter without also telling the story of the cross. The crucifixion is a first-century lynching. It couldn’t be more pertinent to our world today.”

. . . . .

Kristof and Serene Jones end:

I’ve asked this of other interviewees in this religion series: For someone like myself who is drawn to Jesus’ teaching but doesn’t believe in the virgin birth or the physical resurrection, what am I? Am I a Christian?

Well, you sound an awful lot like me, and I’m a Christian minister.

I often feel like we are in the middle of another reformation in a 500-year cycle. John Calvin and Martin Luther had no idea they were in the middle of a reformation, but they knew that church structures were breaking down, new forms of communication were emerging, new scientific discoveries were being made, new kinds of authorities and states and economic systems arising — all like this moment in time. This creates a spiritual crisis and a spiritual flexibility.

Christianity is at something of a turning point, but I think that this questioning and this reaching is even bigger than Christianity. It reaches into many religious traditions. This wrestling with climate change, and wrestling with the levels of violence in our world, wrestling with authoritarianism and the intractable character of gender oppression — it’s forcing communities within all religions to say, “Something is horribly wrong here.” It’s a spiritual crisis. Many nonreligious people feel it, too. We need a new way entirely to think about what it means to be a human being and what the purpose of our lives is. For me, this moment feels apocalyptic, as if something new is struggling to be born.

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Like 2,000 years ago?

Yes. Something was struggling to be born on that first Easter. It burst forth in ways that changed the world forever. Today I feel that spiritual ground around us shaking again. The structures of religion as we know it have come up bankrupt and are collapsing. What will emerge? That is for our children and our children’s children to envision and build.

Opinion | From the Ashes of Notre-Dame – The New York Times

Quote

David Lindsay:

I read Ross Douthat for the same reason I floss, to practice fighting plaque. I love the power of his prose, and can get mesmerized by it.
Here is a commenter, that explains my beef with many Christians.

R Calhoun
Oxford UK2h ago
“…liberal Christianities usually end up resembling a post-inferno cathedral, with the still-grand exterior concealing emptiness within.”

My goodness. If that is how you describe your fellow believers I shudder to think of how you would describe my family—married 25 years, two daughters, supporters of our community and institutions, but devout atheists—“a vast void of emptiness within”? “a supermassive black hole of emptiness within”?

Notre Dame is a monument to the glory of God, but also to the shear audacity of a human society willing to embark on a construction project taking generations to complete. It embodies an ability to work on long-term goals that is sorely needed to address the problems we face as a human culture—economic inequality, climate change, extirpation of species beyond those we raise for food. This is why the burning of Notre Dame is a calamity for all of us; our medieval forebears built this cathedral not as a momument to themselves but to their culture, and they built it to last.

In your columns you frequently and, in my opinion, unfairly, decry the spiritual vacuum of all but the most conservative believers. One can have meaning in one’s life without the supernatural. Consider if you will Earth as the most beautiful cathedral of them all; it too is on fire, albeit a slow smoldering one. As with Notre Dame we must quench those fires, and like Notre Dame we must rebuild, carving and setting each stone for the benefit of generations yet to come.

4 Replies152 Recommended

I read Ross Douthat for the same reason I floss, to practice fighting plaque. I love the power of his prose, and can get mesmerized by it.
Here is a commenter, that explains my beef with many Christians.

R Calhoun
Oxford UK2h ago
“…liberal Christianities usually end up resembling a post-inferno cathedral, with the still-grand exterior concealing emptiness within.”

My goodness. If that is how you describe your fellow believers I shudder to think of how you would describe my family—married 25 years, two daughters, supporters of our community and institutions, but devout atheists—“a vast void of emptiness within”? “a supermassive black hole of emptiness within”?

Notre Dame is a monument to the glory of God, but also to the shear audacity of a human society willing to embark on a construction project taking generations to complete. It embodies an ability to work on long-term goals that is sorely needed to address the problems we face as a human culture—economic inequality, climate change, extirpation of species beyond those we raise for food. This is why the burning of Notre Dame is a calamity for all of us; our medieval forebears built this cathedral not as a momument to themselves but to their culture, and they built it to last.

In your columns you frequently and, in my opinion, unfairly, decry the spiritual vacuum of all but the most conservative believers. One can have meaning in one’s life without the supernatural. Consider if you will Earth as the most beautiful cathedral of them all; it too is on fire, albeit a slow smoldering one. As with Notre Dame we must quench those fires, and like Notre Dame we must rebuild, carving and setting each stone for the benefit of generations yet to come.

4 Replies152 Recommended

 

A first draft of this column was written before flames engulfed the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, before its spire fell in one of the most dreadful live images since Sept. 11, 2001, before a blazing fire went further than any of France’s anticlerical revolutionaries ever dared.

My original subject was the latest controversy in Catholicism’s now-years-long Lent, in which conflicts over theology and sex abuse have merged into one festering, suppurating mess. The instigator of controversy, this time, was the former pope, the 92-year-old Benedict XVI, who late last week surprised the Catholic intelligentsia with a 6,000-word reflection on the sex abuse crisis.

Portions of the document were edifying, but there was little edifying in its reception. It was passed first to conservative Catholic outlets, whose palpable Benedict nostalgia was soon matched by fierce criticism from Francis partisans, plus sneers from the secular press at the retired pope’s insistence that the sex abuse epidemic was linked to the cultural revolution of the 1960s and the 1970s.

The column I was writing before the fire was mostly a lament for what the document’s reception betokened: A general inability, Catholic and secular, to recognize that both the “conservative” and “liberal” accounts of the sex abuse crisis are partially correct, that the spirits of liberation and clericalism each contributed their part, that the abuse problem dramatically worsened during the sexual revolution (a boring empirical fact if you spend any time with the data or the history) even as it also had roots in more traditional patterns of clerical chauvinism, hierarchical arrogance, institutional self-protection.

via Opinion | From the Ashes of Notre-Dame – The New York Times

Opinion | Rapists Presented by Their Church as Men of God – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

Nicholas Kristof

By Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

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CreditLoren Elliott/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
“When a journalist for the Illinois Baptist newspaper reported in 2002 on a Baptist pastor who had sexually assaulted two teenage girls in his church, one apparently just 13 years old, he received a furious reprimand.

Glenn L. Akins, then running the Illinois Baptist State Association, offered a bizarre objection: that writing about one pastor who committed sex crimes was unfair because that “ignores many others who have done the same thing.” Akins cited “several other prominent churches where the same sort of sexual misconduct has occurred recently in our state.”

In the end, the Baptists ousted the journalist, Michael W. Leathers, while the pastor who had committed the crimes, Leslie Mason, received a seven-year prison sentence and then, as a registered sex offender, returned to the pulpit at a series of Baptist churches nearby. So Leathers is no longer a journalist, and Mason remained a pastor.

That saga was cited in a searing investigation by The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News that found that the Southern Baptist Convention repeatedly tolerated sexual assaults by clergymen and church volunteers. The Chronicle found 380 credible cases of church leaders and volunteers engaging in sexual misconduct, with the victims sometimes shunned by churches, urged to forgive abusers or advised to get abortions.”

Opinion | The Fourth Great Awakening – by David Brooks – NYT

“There are certain melodies that waft through history. One is the cultural contrast between Athens and Jerusalem. This contrast has many meanings, but the most germane one for our day is the contrast between the competitive virtues and the compassionate virtues.Athens — think of Achilles — stands for the competitive virtues: strength, toughness, prowess, righteous indignation, the capacity to smite your foes and win eternal fame. Jerusalem — think of Moses or Jesus — stands for the cooperative virtues: humility, love, faithfulness, grace, mercy, forgiveness, answering a harsh word with a gentle response.These two sets of virtues get communicated in different literary forms. The competitive virtues of Athens are usually narrated in myth while the compassionate virtues of Jerusalem often get narrated in parable.Myth is a specific kind of story. Myths are generally set in a timeless Perilous Realm. The Perilous Realm usually has different rules than the normal world. Creatures have different superpowers, like the ability to fly or throw shafts of lightning. And those rules are taken very seriously. Within the Perilous Realm everything that happens in myth is “true,” in the sense that everything obeys the rules of that other world.

The Vatican’s America Problem – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“In 1892, Pope Leo XIII addressed a letter to the Catholics of France. For a century French politics had been divided between mostly Catholic monarchists and mostly anticlericalist republicans, and the church had championed royalists against the secular republic. But now the pope urged French Catholics to take a different approach — to rally to the republic, a strategy called “ralliement,” and work through republican institutions to protect the church’s liberties and promote the common good.

In European politics this was a novel gambit, but for American Catholics at the time it amounted to a tacit endorsement of what they were already doing. In the United States there was no ancien regime to imagine restoring, no plausible scenario in which the integration of church and state might be achieved — and Catholics had been trying to prove their patriotism in a largely Protestant country by rallying to the republic since the founding era.

So Leo’s letter began a long (and complicated) process of harmonization between America and Rome, sealed in the 1960s at the Second Vatican Council, in which the church’s political thought was tacitly Americanized. No more would the Vatican emphasize the necessity, for Catholics, of supporting an “integralist” relationship between their government and church. Instead the American way of doing religious politics — in which a secular political framework allowed a great deal of room for religiously inspired activism — was blessed and accepted as the Catholic way as well.”

Ouch. Ross, none of this makes any sense to me. I’m a simple environmentalist, and find this discussion untethered from the reality of the threat of the 6th extinction. Humans have grown from 2 billion to 7.5 billion in just about 100 years. According to EO Wilson of Harvard, scientists are predicting that in the next 100 years, we will see 80% of the species in the world diminish or disappear. These facts and forecasts make discussions like this one seem like pathetic nonsense. If there are important ideas here in this column beyond my comprehension, please link them to the real world today, or at least, important moments in history. Respectfully, DL