Technology

Solomon's Wisdom and the Debt Ceiling

As the time shortens for Congress and President Obama to agree to the contours of legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling, I am reminded of the story of King Solomon and his judgment regarding two women who both claimed to be the mother of a child (I Kings 3: 16-28). Solomon ordered that the living child be cut in two and half a dead child be given to both women. The woman who was the true mother insisted that the living child be given to the false mother. She was willing to give up her righteous claim to save the child's life.

Are Books a Thing of the Past?

Kindle 3photo © 2010 Zhao ! | more info (via: Wylio)Sales of printed books are down 9 percent this year, supplanted in part by digital versions on Kindles, Nooks, and even iPhone apps. But the real threat to long-form, hard-copy reading -- that is, paper books -- is inside our heads, according to Johann Hari, a columnist for the Independent in London.

"The mental space [books] occupied is being eroded by the thousand Weapons of Mass Distraction that surround us all," Hari told me last week. "It's hard to admit, but we all sense it: it is becoming almost physically harder to read books."

[Okay, I admit I didn't actually talk with Hari. The quote is from his newspaper column. But pop over to Twitter, and you can see how, in effect, he gave me permission to paraquote him at #interviewbyhari.]

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, long-form reading. Hari quotes David Ulin, author of The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, who wrote that he "became aware, in an apartment full of books, that I could no longer find within myself the quiet necessary to read." Ulin wrote that he would sit down with a book, and find his mind wandering, enticing him to check his email, or Twitter, or Facebook. "What I'm struggling with," he writes, "is the encroachment of the buzz, the sense that there's something out there that merits my attention."

Facebook, Google+, and More: Does Social Networking Enhance Our Faith?

The other day I read some interesting statistics about how social media is shaping our lives . It is interesting to see the response to this and recognize the different ways in which we grapple with deluge of social media in relation to our faith. There are lots of resources emerging to help us maintain a strong and vibrant faith in the midst of this. I wanted to highlight a couple that I have found very useful

Poverty, Treasure Islands, and Global Tax Dodgers

Bahamasphoto © 2010 John Hilliard | more info (via: Wylio)
As Christians concerned about poverty, it is time to turn our full attention to the injustices of an "offshore tax system" that enables corporations and the wealthy to dodge taxes and impoverish countries around the world.

As members of Congress in the United States debate deep and painful budget cuts, people of faith should raise our voices against an unfair system that enables profitable U.S. corporations to dodge taxes, depleting an estimated $100 billion from the U.S. Treasury each year. Instead of cutting $1 trillion over the next decade from programs that assist the poor and ensure greater opportunity, we should eliminate these destructive tax gimmicks.

Recent reports show that aggressive tax dodgers such as General Electric, Boeing, and Pfizer, avoid billions in taxes a year. They use accounting gymnastics to pretend they are making profits in offshore subsidiaries incorporated in low- or no-tax countries like the Cayman Islands, thereby reducing their tax obligations in the United States. This system is unfair to domestic businesses that have to compete on an un-level playing field.

The Art of Dying

I have been dead for a long time when I finally catch the delicate scent of my carnation -- just a trace, just for a second. A pigeon coos as it struts along the edge of my sheet. Then a little girl -- one of the children of the temporarily dead -- starts giggling about something. Her clicking shoes skip through the odd labyrinth of flower-adorned bodies.I' m not sure why I came to this demonstration. I need to go grocery shopping and I have stacks of papers to grade. What motivated me? Guilt? Yes, partly. The belief I'm making a difference? No. I don't think so. The hope that this theater of the absurd will help alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people? No, not really. It’s less noble, less clear. I'm just trying to learn how to believe in something, how to see in the dark.From Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father's Search for the Wild, by Tom Montgomery Fate. Reprinted with permission from Beacon Press. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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July 2011 Sojourners
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We Have the Technology

 Renewable energy packs a powerful punch. More solar energy hits the Earth's surface in one hour than is used by the entire global energy system in a year. In the U.S., Great Plains and East Coast off-shore wind could provide enough energy to meet the entire country's need. As nations seek ways to address energy security, air pollution, and climate change, they look to renewable resources such as solar, wind, and geothermal.

Now, researchers Mark Jacobson of Stanford and Mark Delucchi of U.C. Davis have calculated that it is possible to meet 100 percent of world energy demand using only energy from clean sources by 2050. They say we can do it -- and, what's more, we can do it using only off-the-shelf technology.

Jacobson and Delucchi did their projections based on only existing technologies that have no climate-disrupting-emissions and "low impacts on wildlife, water pollution, and land." Making the dramatic transition to using only such technology, they suggest, would require a combination of strategic policies and massively ramped-up manufacturing along the lines of retooling the auto sector to produce aircraft during World War II, only much bigger. Other studies, most famously by Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala, have shown similar results.

Take wind energy, for example. Jacobson and Delucchi's vision calls for production of approximately 3.8 million five-megawatt wind turbines to supply 50 percent of global power demand. They envision a similar scenario for various types of solar, and the rest from geothermal, wave, tidal, and hydro-power.

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July 2011 Sojourners
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The Logic of Online Community

When trying to make sense of the changes that new media have brought to us, we can use either supplementary or substitutionary logic. With supplementary logic, Facebook et al. extend the range of our embodied relationships; with substitutionary logic, social media replace them. Those who want to use social media to enhance their churches' outreach implicitly use supplementary logic. Those who want to worship online and don't want to change out of their pajamas or meet other people in their messy particularity ... well, you get the idea.

A recent trip to New York City for a first meeting of the New Media Project Research Fellows reminded me of the superiority of supplementary to substitutionary logic. This happened because the neighborhood around Union Theological Seminary is so deliciously, specifically, embodiedly particular. Union itself is a marvel: its gothic architecture makes it unmistakable that this is a place with history. Niebuhr taught here; Bonhoeffer smoked and worried and decided to go home here; James Cone and Christopher Morse teach here; Serene Jones leads here. The neighborhood extends this particularity; the Jewish Theological Seminary, down Seminary Row, has a glorious crest above its door: "And the bush was not consumed." A tunnel under Union leads you to the grandeur of Riverside Church, where Fosdick and Forbes thundered. Go a few blocks south and east, and you're at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest interior church space in North America. The morning I visited, the light shone blue through the rose window, filling the clerestory with incandescent beauty. The chapel at Columbia University, with its stained glass above the altar depicting St. Paul preaching on Mars Hill, is a perfect image for situated Christian truth vis-à-vis the gods on campuses and in Manhattan.

Friday Links Round Up: The Onion. Palin. Pick Our Cover.

The Onion. Palin. Pick Our Cover. Here's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week:

  • "Dear Children of Troy: Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. That's the advice of your good friend, Dr. Seuss."

Can Mindfulness Be Tweeted?

I attended a basketball game this winter at the University of Maryland, accompanied by an intern at my workplace, a man in his twenties. For much of the game, we chatted about everything from politics to how North Carolina is far superior to Duke in all the ways that really matter (on the court, of course). During the conversation, between glances at the game, my colleague maintained steady eye contact … with his smart phone.

Friday Links Round Up: Monks. Al Franken. Oysters.

Monks. Al Franken. Oysters. Here's a little roundup of links from around the Web you may have missed this week:

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