While reflecting on Kate Blanchard’s May 10 piece, “Coming Out As a Heretic,” Rachel Ozanne at Religion Dispatches finds insights into her own life. Discouraged from her church because of its “strict adherence to its doctrine,” Ozanne was unwilling to call herself an atheist, but was also lacking “religious commitments.” She finds comfort in the shared dilemma with Blanchard, who sees herself as a “heretic,” who can still “claim some connection to Christianity.”
At First Things, Alma Acevedo revisits Steve Jobs’ speech to Stanford University’s graduating class of 2005. During this college commencement season, Acevedo finds much enduring wisdom in the 7-year-old message from the now deceased Apple CEO. “Jobs’ speech exalts individual preference as the arbiter, the guide of life decisions,” Acevedo writes. “However, exalting the heart at the expense of the intellect, or intuition at the expense of wisdom, may spell either human genius or human ruin. The head without the heart may feed psychopathy; its opposite, escapism … Some callings command that particular preferences be set aside. A sacrificial mindset? Thinking differently—and true joy and glory—demand no less.”
In its department “The Repository,” The American Conservative republishes Irving Babbitt’s essay, “Interpreting India to the West,” first printed in the Nation in 1917. Babbitt, a French literature professor at Harvard and leader of the New Humanist movement, argues for a western passage into the ancient Indian texts. “If one wishes to get at the true spirit of ancient India,” writes Babbitt, “one needs to reflect on the definition of the divine as the ‘inner check’ which so struck [Ralph Waldo] Emerson when he came upon it in [the Sanskrit scholar Henry Thomas] Colebrooke’s essay on the Vedanta. More than any other this phrase supplies the key to ancient Indian thought; this thought is in general highly astringent, it conceives, that is, of the good not as we do in terms of expansion, but in terms of concentration.”
At Patheos.com’s “Peculiar People” blog, Ryan Tobler takes on Ross Douthat’s assertion that Mormonism is one of America’s heretical religions. Should Mormonism be counted among Douthat’s “bad religions,” whose theologies are focused on idolizing their own traditions above shared American values and isolating their membership from participating in advancing the common good? Tobler says no. “Oriented to their own communities and sometimes out of touch with others, Mormons can indeed entertain a sense of self-importance. But unlike others that Douthat arraigns, Mormons are categorically a service-oriented people, a long-known fact that is now on record.”
At CNN’s Belief Blog, Alex Zuckerman reports that George Washington’s famous letter on religious freedom will soon be, once again, on public display. The 1790 letter assured a Jewish congregation in Rhode Island that the government would protect their religious liberty. After 10 years in storage, the private foundation that owns the letter has agreed to loan it to Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History, which will display the letter periodically over the next three years.
Religion News Service’s Lauren Markoe reports on a recently released pamphlet containing guidelines on bullying and religiously motivated free speech in public schools. A project supported by a range of groups, including the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), and the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the pamphlet’s intent is to help teachers and students differentiate between acts of unlawful intimidation and acts of speech protected by the First Amendment. One excerpt from the pamphlet reads, “Repeatedly bombarding a fellow student with otherwise protected speech [including proselytizing], even if it ostensibly conveys an idea, can … constitute harassment.”
The New York Times’ Susan Saulny explores the existential quandary that some black Mormons might face at the polling booth come November. With both a Mormon and an African American on the presidential ballot, some black Mormons—a group that up until 1978 was excluded from full membership in the Mormon Church—might feel a sense of mixed loyalties. Saunly found that whomever they vote for—including for Obama—these Mormons’ religious sensibilities will inform their political decisions.
On Wednesday, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Colin Powell came out in support of gay marriage. “I have no problems with it,” Powell said. “I don’t see any reason not to say that [same-sex couples] should be able to get married under the laws of their state or the laws of the country.”
At The Los Angeles Times, Amro Hassan provides a glimpse into Egypt’s polling stations, which are hosting the first truly contested presidential election in a generation. Several would-be voters have been hospitalized for heat exposure, and some have been treated for injuries resulting from “pushing and shoving” in the long lines that have formed outside schools and other governmental buildings during this two-day long election. Yet Hassan writes, “none of the discomfort accompanying this historic election … is deterring voters.”
Writing in The Boston Review, Michael Sandel poses a seemingly simple question: “are there some things that money should not be able to buy?” There are “the things that money can’t buy, and the things that money can buy but arguably shouldn’t,” he writes, in an article culled from his latest book, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. Sandel explores the world of blood donations and buying pre-written wedding toasts and finds how money can affect how we view things and how “sometimes market values crowd out non-market norms worth caring about.”