Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reality Tuesday

Reality Tuesday Coffeehouse and Donuts is in Park Hills, Kentucky. The mocha is good, and the cheesecakes are rated the best in the Cincinnati area.

The name comes from a Tuesday night Bible study that the owners were involved in when they decided to jump in to the coffee business. They are Protestants, and the immediate neighborhood is home to Covington Catholic High School and Notre Dame Academy, so the whole place has a strong pan-Christian vibe.

Reality Tuesday is a happy, homey place that I commend to all friends of coffee houses.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Gospel of Wealth and the American Establishment

David Brooks has a nifty column on the critique of our material excess. It is not surprising when greens and lefties make this critique, but Brooks is citing David Platt, a Southern Baptist megachurch pastor, who says the evangelical church is as guilty of pursuing material wealth, and even, in effect, worshiping it. Platt says we have to choose God or mammon.

Brooks rightly notes, though, that Americans, including American evangelicals, have a counter tradition of disciplining wealth. The Gospel of Wealth that he refers to is not the "health and wealth" gospel that some pentecostal churches preach, that God will reward your faith with riches. Quite the opposite. Rather, the Gospel of Wealth is that the rich - which includes most Americans, compared to the rest of the world - have a religious obligation to use our wealth for the common good. Wealth, though a huge temptation, is not bad in itself. It does impose great obligations.

The Gospel of Wealth was developed by the original Establishment of this country, the Protestant Establishment that E. Digby Baltzell wrote about. Wealth, health, privileges of all kinds are gifts of Providence, as well as connected in mysterious ways to our own work. As gifts, they come with religious responsibilities.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

How Men of Different Races Describe Themselves to Potential Dates

OkCupid is a data site run by statisticians. Their reports are a gold mine for people interested in mate selection.

Their current report analyzes the terms people use in their profiles to describe themselves. Based on more than half a million participants, divided by their self-described race, the data cupids found this interesting trend in how men describe themselves to a prospective date:

Black men say I am cool - a very common choice (#2 out of the top 50).
Asian men say they are simple. This includes Indians and Middle Eastern men as well as East Asians (#2).
Latinos say they are funny guys (#25).

White men are much less likely to offer an overall self-description. The closest item in the top 50 profile items, coming in at #38, is I'm a country boy.

I don't have a deep analysis of what this means, and would welcome your thoughts. I have some guesses that are somewhat informed by the actual marriage patterns of each group, but I know I could be way off.

Cool: fun to spend time with, but doesn't demand commitment.
Simple: does not want an emotionally complicated relationship, just commitment.
Funny: will pay attention to you and not be overbearing.
Country boy: masculine and simple; hasn't had to give much thought to what kind of man, because white men have the privilege of thinking of themselves as just normal guys.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Decent Religious Americans in Gainesville Gather for Peace Against the Qur'an Burning

Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville, Florida, and the Gainesville Interfaith Forum will be hosting a Gathering for Peace, Understanding, and Hope on September 10.

Mainline Christian churches join together all the time with Jews, Muslims, and Hindus, as in this interfaith forum for peace and tolerance.

Why, then, do I note this particular gathering? Because Trinity United Methodist Church is right next door to the Dove World Outreach Center, a pentecostal church that is planning to burn the Qur'an on September 11.

I truly hope, as a church elder, that the Dove church changes its mind.

Even if it does not, though, I am glad the good people of Gainesville, through the Interfaith Forum, will be coming together in a gentle counter-demonstration of American decency and tolerance.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Similar Spouses Stay Married

A new study by Mikhila Humbad and colleagues at Michigan State tested whether spouses converged in their basic personality over a long marriage.

They don't.

This is not really so surprising, though. Our basic personality characteristics are one of the most stable parts of us. We may come to look and sound more like our spouses as we come to imitate one another's facial expressions and speech. But personality mostly stays put.

What this study really shows, I think, is that people with enduring marriages were similar in values, and complementary in personality, to begin with. The researchers note that they do not have many recently married couples in their study - not surprising, since they were piggybacking on the long-running Minnesota Twin Study to find their couples.

I would expect that couples with dissimilar values and non-complementary personalities would be less likely to make lasting marriages.

But neither the couples in the real study, nor the couples in the hypothetical study, would be likely to show much personality change.

Monday, September 06, 2010

American Tolerance Tradition Triumphs Over Know Nothings

Nicholas Kristoff has a fine column arguing that that fear of the Ground Zero mosque, and other expressions of Islamic life in the United States, is not driven by sheer bigotry. Rather, it is driven by the desire of well-meaning people to protect the nation from what they imagine are unassimilable aliens and the possible physical and moral danger they might bring. Like the anti-Catholic Know Nothing movement of the nineteenth century, this impulse is not new in American history. But Kristoff offers a hopeful answer:

But we have a more glorious tradition intertwined in American history as well, one of tolerance, amity and religious freedom. Each time, this has ultimately prevailed over the Know Nothing impulse.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Most Americans are Tolerant of Mosques, Even Now

The good news is that most Americans are tolerant of mosques even in the middle of the "Ground Zero mosque" controversy.

A Pew poll in late August asked which of these two statements you agreed with more:

"Muslims should have the same rights as other groups to build houses of worship in local communities"


"Local communities should be able to prohibit the construction of mosques if they do not want them."

62% agreed with the first statement, versus only 25% with the second.