The Best Of The Dish This Weekend

Apr 20 2014 @ 10:00pm

A beagle takes playing catch to a whole new level:

I took the girls out myself to the park today, which was jammed with picnickers, weekenders and stoners. Drum circle at one end, young Washingtonians sprawled out on the lawn at the other; some Latino soccer players kicking up dust in between; an occasional giant crown passing through from an Easter service; boyfriends balancing girlfriends in yoga poses; a rasta in a loin cloth; awkward prepsters swaying nervously; a child showing off her Easter gown; and the blossoms bursting out of the very branches:


I’m not sure that’s the typical scene many think of when they think of Washington. But on a day like today – a true high holiday – it was really good to be home.

We pulled out some 4/20 stops today – this video is a classic – but focused more on the Easter side of things. One simple account of Easter’s meaning today; one surpassing meditation on its power and vitality; and a George Herbert poem to say what prose cannot.

How to write: advice from Doris Lessing. How to pray: Rosary-learning from Carolyn Browender. How men react to being cruised the way they cruise women; and a hauntingly beautiful portrait of a mother and daughter.

The most trafficked posts of the weekend were Map Of The Day, on where Americans don’t live; and my takedown of a new and surreal book on the marriage equality movement.

As of today, we have 28,395 subscribers. Join them here. Update from one:

I have been reading the Dish since I followed a link to it from a National Review Online article by Jonah 2014-04-17 15.32.44Goldberg. (You guys still friends I wonder?) My memory is little foggy on the point, but I remember donating 20 bucks to your site in your very first attempt to monetize it, before you went over to The Atlantic. So when you said you were going to start charging a subscription to your site, I decided to wait and see if you were really going to go through with it. It soon become apparent that this was real deal, but then I somehow just never got around to it. Anywho, I paid $50 – one year plus arrears for the last year-and-a-half of foot-dragging.

I keep coming back to this site for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I do not have time to browse the Internet the way I used to, so I rely on you and your staff to connect me to interesting content. (Through you I discovered, for example, Coursera, where I’ve taken a half-dozen of their online courses). Secondly, I love your honest and nuanced engagement with the issues, which is expressed in a clear and accessible every man’s style of writing. Finally, I enjoy the eclecticism of your posts, as well as your amusing little pet obsessions. (Speaking of which, I have a burning question. Do you really – now be honest with me – get turned on by a “smoking hot beard” in the same way that I do by a nice set of tits? Don’t bother answering, I know the answer already and it cracks me up!)

I am attaching a view from the window of my office in Sassari, Italy (island of Sardinia), where I own and run a private language school. I would be honored if you used it for one of your contests or in your regular posts.

Happy Easter to you and your family!

Happy Easter to all our readers. And see you in the morning.

Columbine: 15 Years Later

Apr 20 2014 @ 8:32pm

Dave Cullen, author of the best-selling book Columbine, addresses the lessons that much of the mainstream media haven’t yet learned from the tragedy:

Casey Chan puts the anniversary in a broader context:

History buffs might not know this already but it seems as if this week—April 14th to April 20th—might be the worst week in American history. Things like President Lincoln being assassinated, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Columbine shooting, the Virginia Tech school shooting, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Boston Marathon bombing, etc. all happened during this week in history. Of course, if you look back far enough into history, you’re going to find something terrible for every day because, well, terrible things happen all the time. But you have to admit, this week just isn’t a good week for American history.

From an Esquire profile of Frank DeAngelis, the Columbine principal retiring this year after 35 years at the school:

Mr. D’s job of reconciling the past with the present and the future is a difficult one. Because, as the students will readily attest, people are uncommonly weird about Columbine. Tour buses stop to let their riders snap pictures during the school day. Visitors take selfies in front of the school’s sign. Travelers who’ve gotten lost looking for the memorial end up wandering around the parking lot. The memorial was built in 2007, in nearby Clement Park. It was set away from the school to deter tourists from bothering students, but that didn’t work. They keep coming. To them, the school itself is the monument.

The View From Your Window

Apr 20 2014 @ 7:19pm

Littleton, Colorado, 4-57 PM

Littleton, Colorado, 4.57 pm

Theology For Hedonists

Apr 20 2014 @ 6:21pm

David Sedley delves into the philosophy of Epicurus:

Hedonists are ethical thinkers who hold that things are good precisely in so far as they are pleasant, and bad precisely in so far as they are painful. Epicurus was, more specifically, an “egoistic” hedonist, in that he took it to be obvious that the good for each individual, from the moment of birth, is that person’s own pleasure, not other people’s: in other words, your life is a good one if, and only if, you yourself enjoy it. Although an enjoyable life must, according to Epicurus, be centred on moral virtue, what makes it worth living is in the last analysis your enjoyment of it, and not the morality for its own sake.

Moreover there are, besides moral propriety, other factors equally indispensable to enjoying your life.

Read On

A Poem For Sunday

Apr 20 2014 @ 5:28pm


From “Easter” by George Herbert (1593-1633):

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or, since all musick is but three parts vied
And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

(Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of St. Thomas, 1602, via Wikimedia Commons)

Cool Ad Watch

Apr 20 2014 @ 4:57pm


Alex at Weird Universe captions:

An ad by a Seattle burger restaurant, inspired by the fact that Easter Sunday is on April 20 (4/20), which is a special day for cannabis enthusiasts. Of course, some people are already saying that the ad offends them. But in the ad’s defense, there is a long-standing argument that Jesus and his disciples probably were cannabis users. Though I doubt that argument is endorsed by the Vatican.

Money quote from the guy responsible for the ad:

“No one group is sacred,” [Lunchbox Laboratory owner and "practicing Catholic" John Schmidt] said. “Do you ever watch South Park where they parody everybody and every religion and pretty much anything?”

Update from a reader:

The ad offends me, but not because of the spliff. It shows Jesus eating an animal product from industrial agriculture, which is an act of “grave evil.” Jesus may have been a vegetarian:

Epiphanius quotes the Gospel of the Ebionites where Jesus has a confrontation with the high priest. Jesus chastises the leadership saying, “I am come to end the sacrifices and feasts of blood; and if ye cease not offering and eating of flesh and blood, the wrath of God shall not cease from you; even as it came to your fathers in the wilderness, who lusted for flesh, and did sat to their content, and were filled with rottenness, and the plague consumed them.” [Numbers 11:32-34]

Thou shalt not kill. No one was harmed in the making of the spliff.

Mental Health Break

Apr 20 2014 @ 4:20pm

420 MIX from Eclectic Method on Vimeo.

Researchers in Switzerland are closer to understanding why extreme stress appears to have second-generation effects:

The researchers studied the number and kind of microRNAs expressed by adult mice exposed to traumatic conditions in early life and compared them with non-traumatized mice. They discovered that traumatic stress alters the amount of several microRNAs in the blood, brain and sperm – while some microRNAs were produced in excess, others were lower than in the corresponding tissues or cells of control animals. These alterations resulted in misregulation of cellular processes normally controlled by these microRNAs.

After traumatic experiences, the mice behaved markedly differently: they partly lost their natural aversion to open spaces and bright light and had depressive-like behaviors. These behavioral symptoms were also transferred to the next generation via sperm, even though the offspring were not exposed to any traumatic stress themselves.

Virginia Hughes adds:

The study is notable for showing that sperm responds to the environment, says Stephen Krawetz, a geneticist at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan, who studies microRNAs in human sperm. (He was not involved in the latest study.) “Dad is having a much larger role in the whole process, rather than just delivering his genome and being done with it,” he says.

Faces Of The Day

Apr 20 2014 @ 2:44pm


Viktoria Sorochinski describes her project Anna & Eve, which profiles a mother and daughter:

I first met Anna and Eve in Montreal where I used to live…. They drew my attention because of the unusual dynamic of their relationship. They seemed to interact like two sisters rather than like a mother and a daughter. The little Eve had this incredible power and maturity which one can very rarely encounter in a 4-year old child. The mother, on the other hand, seemed to be much more childish and naive for her age. They were both in the process of growing up and discovering this world. They were both learning from each other.

See more of Sorochinski’s work here.

Dwelling Together In Love

Apr 20 2014 @ 2:14pm

Michael Brendan Dougherty reflects on the way Christians celebrate Easter, finding that the patterns of Holy Week reveal “a larger, more comprehensible story about God’s covenant with man.” How he describes the movement from Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday:

We gather at the edge of sanctuary, which is the symbol of the heavenly Holy of Holies, and re-enact the part of the vicious mob in Jerusalem who called for the death of God for the sake of God’s name. We become the Roman torturers who mocked the King of the universe with a crown of thorns. We play the roles of the screaming and vain religious men, who work themselves into a fury. Our pastor intones the hysteria of the chief priest who condemned God Himself as a blasphemer. We once more present to God (and to ourselves) the bitter betrayals, laziness, and weakness of the Apostles after whom our priests are modeled — and who too often imitate their bad example.

And after all this, our own Via Dolorosa, we are finally prepared to hear the words, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.”

This re-enactment — in which reality is suffused with divine meaning — does not end with the liturgy at our Church and is not reserved for the devout or even the believing. Once this vocabulary for understanding the universe seeps into the imagination, the world takes on the same patterns.

Read On

American Is A Christian Country

Apr 20 2014 @ 1:27pm

At least when it comes to demographics:


Max Fisher unpacks the above chart from a Pew study, which shows that the US is “lower than most Western European countries [in religious diversity] and 68th in the world overall”:

Maybe the most surprising thing here is that most of the US’s religious diversity comes not from religious minorities, who in total are only 5.3 percent of the population, but from the 16 percent of Americans who are unaffiliated. Part of that has to do with the fact that, for all of the US’s racial diversity, many of those racial minority groups tend to Christian: most African-Americans, certainly most Latinos, and a significant share of Asian-Americans.

Now compare the US to France and you’ll see two things: that France has almost twice as many unaffiliateds, as a share of … overall population, and eight times as many Muslims. This comparison also gets to a shortcoming in Pew’s metric, though. Something this data does not show is intra-Christian diversity: the US has lots of different Christian groups, whereas French Christians are overwhelmingly Catholic. Diversity between Catholics and Protestants alone has been hugely important for US religious history. While Americans may not be super-diverse along broader religious categories, that intra-Christian diversity has been a real challenge in the US, and one that the country has done an unusually good job of dealing with.

Emma Green connects these findings to another Pew study on religious violence, noting that “some of the least religiously diverse countries also experience some of the most religious violence”:

Read On

Making Room For Many Values

Apr 20 2014 @ 12:27pm

Elizabeth Corey reviews Marc DeGirolami’s recent book, The Tragedy of Religious Liberty, which offers an approach to disputes about the First Amendment that “does not rank [competing] values, but rather sees that all of them may well be more or less important, depending on the circumstances”:

Tragedy in the ancient sense, observes DeGirolami, moves not from joy to sorrow but from “struggle to unresolved struggle.” Its essence lies in recognizing fundamentally competing goods and the consequent realization that the conflict between them is permanent. Thus in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, for example, Clytemnestra can never be at peace with Agamemnon’s sacrifice of their daughter, even as Agamemnon understands his civic duty as king to require the terrible deed. Both characters act on their respective notions of good, which are partial and incomplete. Both, in taking the action they do, fail to recognize and value something else of great importance.

In just this way, DeGirolami points out that the pursuit of a single value necessarily sacrifices the other goods that have not been chosen.

She goes on to connect this style of thinking to Oakeshott’s:

Read On

The Wright Way To Read St. Paul

Apr 20 2014 @ 11:29am


In November, the Dish noted the publication of N.T. Wright’s 1700-page, groundbreaking exploration of St. Paul and the origins of Christianity, Paul and the Faithfulness of God. In a profile of the Anglican priest and scholar, Jason Byassee takes the measure of his intellectual ambitions:

Wright’s goal in his teaching and writing is to massively revise the way Christianity has been articulated for generations. Christian faith, for Wright, is not about going to heaven when you die. It is not about the triumph of grace over the law of the Old Testament. He says its key doctrine is not justification by grace alone, the cornerstone for the Protestant Reformers. The church has misread Paul so severely, it seems, that no one fully understood the gospel from the time of the apostle to the time a certain British scholar started reading Paul in Greek in graduate school.

“Apologist” and “revisionist” usually don’t fit on the same business card. A significant New Testament scholar told me of the time he first heard Wright speak. “He sounds like the voice of God,” he told a friend on the way out. Then he overheard someone else leaving the same lecture quip, “That guy thinks he’s the voice of God.”

He goes on to highlight Wright’s contributions to the “New Perspective on Paul” (NPP), described as “a relatively recent theological discussion about what Paul really taught about salvation”:

Read On

Bringing Joy To Life

Apr 20 2014 @ 10:32am

In an interview, the poet Christian Wiman, whose work often grapples with doubt and death, turns his attention to joy:

I feel that there is a great deal of joy in my work of the past ten years, but I do get letters from people telling me to ditch the sackcloth and ashes, and I get tired of my own grimace in mirrors. Can one really just decide to be more joyful, though? One aspect of joy is the suspension of will—the obliteration of will, really—though probably there is an element of discipline in being prepared for joy, just as there is in being prepared for poetry. “Iridescent readiness,” W. S. Di Piero calls it. And there are these lines from Richard Wilbur:

Try to remember this: what you project
Is what you will perceive; what you perceive
With any passion, be it love or terror,
May take on whims and powers of its own.

The thing is, we are always going to feel God’s absence more than his presence. We are always going to feel the imprint and onslaught of necessity, which is the crucifixion, more than we feel the release and freedom of pure joy, which is the resurrection. The first we experience; the second, even when it emerges out of experience, we believe. In that tiny gap of grammar is an abyss of difference. Suffering we know and share intimately with Christ (it’s how we bear it). Faith and hope are always imaginative—that is to say, projective—acts: “Tomorrow I shall wake to welcome him.”

Previous Dish on Wiman here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Would You Notice Jesus?

Apr 20 2014 @ 9:47am

Jeremy Polacek notes a new and disruptive sculptural incarnation of Jesus Christ:

Lying blanketed and forlorn on a [Davidson, North Carolina] bench, “Homeless Jesus” has inspired a conversation about homelessness in general, appropriate depictions of Christ and at least one call for his arrest. The life-size statue is the work of Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz who in his artist statement says he’s “devoted to creating artwork that glorifies Christ.” His “Homeless Jesus” is controversial for many reasons; most importantly because of the pose. The figure depicts Jesus as a man under a blanket, with only his exposed feet, wounded by crucifixation, to give away his identity — a starkly different image than the images Christ on the cross, Christ at the nativity or Chris the redeemer that we are used to seeing.

The idea seems to be catching on:

Read On

Turning The Nones Toward Faith

Apr 20 2014 @ 9:09am

Damon Linker argues that it won’t happen until religion “comes to grips with and responds creatively to the fact of pluralism”:

[P]erhaps the most daunting obstacle to getting the nones to treat traditional religion as a viable option is the sense that it simplifies the manifest complexity of the world. Yes, we long for a coherent account of the whole of things. But we don’t want that account to be a fairy tale. We want it to reflect and make sense of the world as it is, not as we childishly wish it to be.

The tendency toward oversimplification is a perennial temptation for all forms of human thinking, but it’s especially acute in matters of religion … There is a whole, and it can be grasped. But it is a complex whole. A pluralistic whole. A differentiated whole shot through with contradiction and paradox. This is something that modern men and women intuitively understand, even if they’ve never read a word of the great philosophical pluralists (Daniel Bell, Isaiah Berlin, and Michael Oakeshott), and even if they choose to devote their lives to fighting it in a futile and self-defeating embrace of fundamentalism.

Quote For Easter Sunday

Apr 20 2014 @ 8:32am


“We are not told that Jesus ‘survived death’; we are not told that the story of the empty tomb is a beautiful imaginative creation that offers inspiration to all sorts of people; we are not told that the message of Jesus lives on. We are told that God did something – that is, that this bit of the human record, the things that Peter and John and Mary Magdalene witnessed on Easter morning, is a moment when, to borrow an image from the 20th century Catholic writer Ronald Knox, the wall turns into a window. In this moment we see through to the ultimate energy behind and within all things. When the universe began, prompted by the will and act of God and maintained in being at every moment by the same will and action, God made it to be a universe in which on a particular Sunday morning in AD33 this will and action would come through the fabric of things and open up an unprecedented possibility – for Jesus and for all of us with him: the possibility of a human life together in which the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit makes possible a degree of reconciled love between us that could not have been imagined.

It is that reconciled love, and the whole picture of human destiny that goes with it, that attracts those outside the household of faith and even persuades them that the presence of religion in the social order may not be either toxic or irrelevant after all. But for the Christian, the basic fact is that this compelling vision is there only because God raised Jesus. It is not an idea conceived by the spiritual genius of the apostles, those horribly familiar characters with all their blundering and mediocrity, so like us. It is, as the gospel reading insists, a shocking novelty, something done for and to us, not by us. How do we know that it is true? Not by some final knock-down would-be scientific proof, but by the way it works in us through the long story of a whole life and the longer story of the life of the community that believes it. We learn and assimilate its truth by the risk of living it; to those on the edge of it, looking respectfully and wistfully at what it might offer, we can only say, ‘you’ll learn nothing more by looking; at some point you have to decide whether you want to try to live with it and in it.’

And what’s the difference it makes?

Read On

Different Ways To Pray, Ctd

Apr 20 2014 @ 7:36am

Last time we checked in on Carolyn Browender’s Lenten resolution to spend a week following the prayer practices of different faith traditions, she had tried Mormonism and Quakerism. She then turned to Roman Catholicism:

I borrowed a rosary from a friend and after some hunting around, found  a how-to pamphlet from the Knights of Columbus and a list of the different mysteries you’re supposed to mediate on when praying. I didn’t know the Hail Mary, Glory Be, Fatima Prayer or Hail Holy Queen, so my first attempt was clumsy. I kept alternating between the pamphlet for the prayers and the list of mysteries. My second attempt was a bit smoother and was done right before I went to sleep. At this point I’d memorized the Hail Mary and Glory Be, and found it much easier to relax and fall into a more contemplative state. While my mind would sometimes wander while contemplating the mysteries (I focused on the sorrowful ones), I did appreciate the physicality of fingering beads. This seems to be a theme for me this Lent: If there is some kind of ritual or movement I can perform my prayers are likely to be more focused.

Next up was Judaism, which proved a linguistic challenge:

Read On

A Poem For Saturday

Apr 19 2014 @ 9:12pm


“Jordan (II)” by George Herbert (1593-1633):

When first my lines of heav’nly joyes made mention,
Such was their lustre, they did so excell,
That I sought out quaint words, and trim invention;
My thoughts began to burnish, sprout, and swell,
Curling with metaphors a plain intention,
Decking the sense, as if it were to sell.

Thousands of notions in my brain did runne,
Off’ring their service, if I were not sped:
I often blotted what I had begunne;
This was not quick enough, and that was dead.
Nothing could seem too rich to clothe the sunne,
Much lesse those joyes which trample on his head.

As flames do work and winde, when they ascend,
So did I weave my self into the sense.
But while I bustled, I might heare a friend
Whisper, How wide is all this long pretence!
There is in love a sweetnesse readie penn’d:
Copie out onely that, and save expense.

(Photo by Mark Probst)

A Supremely Strange Short

Apr 19 2014 @ 8:21pm

Jonathan Crow calls Samuel Beckett’s only movie – titled, simply, Film – “enigmatic, bleakly funny and very, very odd”:

The 17-minute silent short is essentially a chase movie between the camera and the main character O  – as in object. Film opens with O cowering from the gaze of a couple he passes on the street. Meanwhile, the camera looms just behind his head. At his stark, typically Beckettesque flat, O covers the mirror, throws his cat and his chihuahua outside and even trashes a picture — the only piece of decoration in the flat — that seems to be staring back at him. Yet try as he might, O ultimately can’t quite evade being observed by the gaze of the camera. …

Ever since it came out, critics have been puzzling what Film is really about. Is it a statement on voyeurism in cinema? On human consciousness? On death? Beckett gave his take on the movie to the New Yorker: “It’s a movie about the perceiving eye, about the perceived and the perceiver — two aspects of the same man. The perceiver desires like mad to perceive and the perceived tries desperately to hide. Then, in the end, one wins.” Keaton himself defined the movie even more succinctly, “A man may keep away from everybody but he can’t get away from himself.”

Meanwhile, Tim Martin reviews Beckett’s recently published “lost” short story Echo’s Bones. He sees a young writer still struggling to cast off the burden of James Joyce’s influence:

Read On