A few items that have been languishing in my bookmarks:
As Oxford’s Dr. William Wood, a University Lecturer in Philosophical Theology and my former tutor, puts it: “theology is the closest thing we have at the moment to the kind of general study of all aspects of human culture that was once very common, but is now quite rare.” A good theologian, he says, “has to be a historian, a philosopher, a linguist, a skillful interpreter of texts both ancient and modern, and probably many other things besides.” In many ways, a course in theology is an ideal synthesis of all other liberal arts: no longer, perhaps, “Queen of the Sciences,” but at least, as Wood terms it, “Queen of the Humanities.”
Yet, for me, the value of theology lies not merely in the breadth of skills it taught, but in the opportunity it presented to explore a given historical mindset in greater depth. I learned to read the Bible in both Greek and Hebrew, to analyze the minutiae of language that allows us to distinguish “person” from “nature,” “substance” from “essence.” I read “orthodox” and “heretical” accounts alike of the nature of the Godhead, and learned about the convoluted and often arbitrary historical processes that delineated the two.
I am writing this because I want to say that I was one of those “welfare” people so many people callously group into the “lazy” section of the room. While I am now often told by these same people that I am one of the hardest working people they know, the reality is that there is no way I would be where I am today without the help I received in my past. Some tell me, “Yeah, but you are an exception.”
No, I am not.
I am just one of the many people born under difficult circumstances who wanted to do better and needed a little help getting onto my feet. Now that I am on them, I do my best not to forget what it felt like when I was not. If anything, my past has benefited me in that it has served as a strong warning not to play the “we” VS “them” game as one day you might be the “them”.
The intangibles veterans bring are important—discipline, teamwork, leadership. But those things are the icing when we thought they were the cake.We have a completely different mission to gain new expertise and education that complement our military-honed skills. Our task isn’t simply to cram a military circle peg into a civilian square hole. There’s potentially a high price for trying to do that. Younger veterans struggle with employment because it takes some time to recognize the need to be more than the sum of our military experiences and accomplishments. There’s a natural period of underemployment, of course, as veterans gather new credentials, but I fear too many can and will read it as a sign that civilians don’t appreciate them, and in doing so give in to frustrations that can further delay transition into a productive post-deployment life.
“This is America?” my Skype pal asks, because often I’m abroad.
Indeed, and I’m working for a gigantic, immensely profitable company. Or for the staffing company that works for that company, anyway. Which is a nice arrangement, because temporary-staffing agencies keep the stink of unacceptable labor conditions off the companies whose names you know. When temps working at a Walmart warehouse sued for not getting paid for all their hours, and for then getting sent home without pay for complaining, Walmart—not technically their employer—wasn’t named as a defendant. (Though Amazon has been named in a similar suit.) Temporary staffers aren’t legally entitled to decent health care because they are just short-term “contractors” no matter how long they keep the same job. They aren’t entitled to raises, either, and they don’t get vacation and they’d have a hell of a time unionizing and they don’t have the privilege of knowing if they’ll have work on a particular day or for how long they’ll have a job. And that is how you slash prices and deliver products superfast and offer free shipping and still post profits in the millions or billions.
Dan Roberts at The Guardian: Proposed cuts to US food programmes will offset voluntary donations – report
On Monday the Bread for the World Institute, a Washington policy group backed by religious charities, published a report entitled Ending Hunger in America. The report proposes a number of responses to the problem, such as measures to promote full employment. The researchers claim that the flurry of voluntary food bank activity which tends to happen around Thanksgiving will be dwarfed by the political impact of cuts, if legislation passed by the House of Representatives is adopted.
“Virtually every church, synagogue and mosque in the country is now gathering up food and distributing, and all of that work that food banks do comes to 5% of the food that needy people get,” said the Bread for the World president, Reverend David Beckmann. “95% comes from school breakfasts, lunches, food stamps and WIC, so Congress can say ‘We can cut this programme 5% per cent – no big deal.’ But if you cut the national nutrition programmes 5%, you cancel out everything that the charitable system is doing.”
Our entire economic and political system is centered on the notion of private property and individual wealth. If we cannot conceive of world where these notions do not exist, then we become guilty of mistaking economic values over Christian values. Likewise, if we think our current economic priorities–such as saving money for retirement, or getting a nicer car–are value-neutral, we forget the history of these doctrines, and the men who grew rich devising an economic system for the sake of personal and national prosperity.
Private property is not inherently evil, but it should not be understood as inherently Christian. Pope Francis’ call for a “poor church for the poor” should bring into stark relief the economic disparity around the world and should force us to question exactly what we have done for the poor lately. Whether we are widows offering two coins or the wealthy doling out like Bill Gates, when it comes to economics, one must remember the basic steps that Jesus outlined in order to focus our lives.
A new study has discovered that 48% of the nation’s 50 million public school students are in poverty, as measured by whether they qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches. In 17 states, the majority of schoolchildren are poor. Poverty rates are led by Mississippi, where 71% of children are in poverty.
Alexandra Zaslow: The Passage, A Charity In London, Will Force You To Confront Your Own Visual Biases
The Passage, a charity based in London, has come up with an ad campaign that proves how far a simple idea can go.
Last year, the organization decided to have its volunteers stand in for the homeless at London’s Victoria station.
Incredibly, donations went up by 25 percent in a three-hour timeframe, according to CLIO Healthcare, proving that visual bias dictates who we give to and who we walk past.