Occasionally, Margie and I come across a sentence or paragraph or anecdote that we feel obligated to read aloud to each other. Often, it’s read without comment or analysis, something read simply for the joy of the prose or wonder or amusement or sharp disagreement at an idea or opinion or fact. If you were sitting in our living room at that moment, you might hear me read these aloud too but posting them here is the best I can do under the circumstances. And I hope these brief excerpts are intriguing enough that you will track down the source and read and reflect on it as well.

Noticed: How Christians see themselves v how non-Christians see them.

This short report was part of “Century Marks” in Christian Century (April 20, 2022) p. 8.

            SELF-REGARD: A national study by the Episcopal Church found that while Christians have favorable views of their own generosity, compassion, and respect, non-Christians see them as hypocritical and judgmental.
            Christians describe themselves as being giving (57 %), compassionate (56 %), loving (55 %), respectful (50 %), and friendly (49 %), while non-Christians associate Christians with characteristics like hypocrisy (50 %), being judgmental (49 %), self-righteousness (46 %), and arrogance (32 %)

[Episcopal Church.org, March 9]


Noticed: The French practice of “social thermalism.”

This is the opening sentences of a fascinating report from France, “Soaking It In,” by Lauren Collins, in The New Yorker (May 30, 2022) pp. 26-31

            Let’s say that you suffer from arthritis, arterials, bronchitis, bursitis, colitis, diverticulitis, endometriosis, laryngitis, osteoporosis, rhinitis, sinusitis, tendinitis, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Raynaud’s disease, multiple sclerosis, angina, asthma, sciatica, kidney stones, sore throat, dizziness, spasms, migraines, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, back pain, earaches, vaginal dryness, menstrual cramps, itching, bloating, swelling, constipation, gout, obesity; gum disease, dry mouth, psoriasis, acne, eczema, frostbite, hives, rosacea, scarring, stretch marks, or varicose veins, or that you are depressed, trying to quit smoking, or simply dealing with a lot of stress. You also, crucially, live in France. You go see the doctor. She writes you a prescription for a thermal cure, indicating to which of the country’s hundred and thirteen accredited thermal spas you will be sent. Then you fill out a simple form and submit it, along with the prescription, to the national health-care service. Your application is approved—it almost always is—and you’re off to take the waters.
            The French government introduced “social thermalism” for the masses in 1947, proclaiming that “every man, whatever his social condition, has a right to a thermal cure if the state of his health demands it.” The full cure, consisting of treatments that use mineral water, mud, and steam from naturally occurring hot springs, lasts twenty-one days—six days of treatments with Sundays off, over three consecutive weeks. In 2019, around six hundred thousand French people undertook cures, targeting specific pathologies and subsidized by the state at sixty-five per cent. Around three million more visited thermal spas as paying customers. Recently, the government has started covering cures for people suffering from long COVID.


Noticed: A difference in sermons.

This from the CT Books Newsletter (July 12, 2022):

            In When Sorrow Comes: The Power of Sermons from Pearl Harbor to Black Lives Matter, Melissa Mathes observes a broad shift from questioning American values toward celebrating them. Keith Bates, history professor at Union University in Tennessee, reviewed the book for CT.

            “Americans find comfort in familiarity during tragedies,” he writes, “so it is not surprising that Matthes, a professor of government at the United States Coast Guard Academy, discovered patterns of consolation in the thousands of sermons she read in preparation for her book. But Matthes’s work is not solely about the words of comfort spoken during crisis points. Her book stands out because she explains how Protestant ministers adapted their rhetorical strategies to respond to significant challenges that they faced as the religious and political landscape shifted after World War II.
            “Disparities in how ministers reacted to Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are particularly instructive. Following the Japanese attack in Hawaii, Protestant clergy called for introspection, specifically asking congregants to consider how they had helped create a world where such violence was possible. Careful to maintain their moral voice, Matthes argues, most Protestant ministers refused to frame American military action as an expression of sacred history even though they supported a proportional response. Sixty years later, sermons deviated from this prophetic course as ministers invoked a triumphalist civil religion that championed American goodness and the redemptive power of military action.
            “The differences between the sermon rhetoric of 1941 and 2001 are emblematic of broader changes within Protestantism that took place between then and now. Throughout the 80 years that she covers in her book, Matthes characterizes ministers, especially white Protestants, as being so concerned with the church’s waning civic presence that they repeatedly reflected and reinforced the nation’s power dynamics from their pulpits. Though clergy expected a closer affiliation with the state to restore the church’s public prowess, Matthes argues that this tack ultimately led to ministers losing their prophetic voice and thus the ability to provide the nation with moral direction.”


Photo credit: Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.