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By Nathan Bierma


Content & Context

The Books & Culture Weblog

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-Gegrapha: Organization of Christian journalists in the non-religious press

-Response to Kristof's NYT column: 'Christian belief is varied and diverse'

PLACES & CULTURE

From the Washington Post:

TUKTOYAKTUK, Northwest Territories—Gordon Anaviak lives in a house by the deep, black, cold Beaufort Sea, a sea that is eating away at the shoreline and causing the ground to melt. Anaviak, 72, a fisherman, looks out his window at the waves and is worried. With each wave, he knows the sea is taking away a little more of Tuktoyaktuk, until one day this hamlet may dissolve like salt in water. Nobody knows for certain why the sea is eroding this spit of land, exposing the permafrost upon which Tuktoyaktuk, a town of just less than 1,000 people, is built. But Anaviak, an elder of the Inuvialuit community, was born on the land and has his own theory. It boils down to global warming. Even as he apologizes for his lack of formal education, he rises from his sofa and pulls a book off of a shelf. He flips the pages until he comes to a paragraph that explains how explorers here in 1911 recorded temperatures of 60 degrees below zero and a wind chill of minus 110. "The cause of the permafrost melting," Anaviak said, "is because we don't get that cold anymore." Full story

HONOLULU—A river of crimson T-shirts stretched more than a mile down Waikiki's main thoroughfare. With Hawaiian chants and the blowing of conch shells, the throng of demonstrators moved slowly past befuddled tourists along the oceanfront. "Ku i ka pono. Ku 'e i ka hewa!" they chanted, in a display of solidarity that included the governor and lieutenant governor, education officials, students, families and elders. Their chant translated: "Stand up for justice. Resist injustice!" The sight of several thousand marchers drew attention … in the tourist mecca of Waikiki. [At] a federal courthouse three miles away … three anti-discrimination lawsuits may undo a catalogue of services available only to those of aboriginal Hawaiian ancestry—health care, housing and even a prestigious private school. … The three lawsuits reject long-held notions that Hawaiians deserve special treatment in the islands their ancestors ruled as a kingdom, in large part because they suffered after the monarchy was overthrown in an 1893 conspiracy aided by representatives of the U.S. government. Full story

CITY SCENE: BOSTON

This week, my friend and fellow Michigan émigréSara VanderHaagen checks in from her new home in Boston:

This is Kennedy country. I've heard it said but now witness it on a daily basis. This summer, Boston's John F. Kennedy Library opened a new exhibit celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of JFK and Jacqueline Bouvier. From there, you can hop on the Red Line at the nearby JFK/UMass stop, and the trusty Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority—the "T"—will take you northwest to Park Street, a short perambulation from the doorstep of either JFK's senatorial pad or the slightly stuffy "Kennedy's" bar, replete with black-and-white snapshots of Boston's first family. The omnipresence of political celebrity, the ubiquitous picketing in squares, and incessant distribution of "informational" fliers all augur the tense climate of New England in the autumn before a presidential race. Before a move to Boston, a Midwestern ingé nue like myself would have been hard-pressed to find folks who tracked the candidates in the New Hampshire primary as assiduously as Michiganians follow the Red Wings' progress toward the Stanley Cup. In my middle-class Somerville neighborhood, porch banners proclaim allegiance to one candidate or another. Political taste clings to the bumpers of SUVs and coupes alike. Red, white, and blue signs angrily litter the tiny lawns in every borough. They are, you might say, signs of things to come as election year nears. They say that in New England, politics is a contact sport. So I prepare to tread lightly through the charming streets, staying out of harm's way, watching for the plays these uncharacteristically impassioned Bostonians will run over the next year.

WEEKLY DIGEST

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• Never mind gender, age, race, hometown. There's one way to spot a generous giver, according to a new study. "The data show that if two people—one religious and the other secular—are identical in every other way, the secular person is 23 percent less likely to give [to charity] than the religious person and 26 percent less likely to volunteer. … Religious liberals are 19 points more likely than secular liberals to give to charity, while religious conservatives are 28 points more likely than secular conservatives to do so." So writes Syracuse professor Arthur C. Brooks this month in Policy Review, analyzing the results of the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey. Brooks sums up the numbers in light of debates over faith-based programs, the separation of church and state, and the declining sense of civic obligation. He quotes Robert Bellah in Habits of the Heart: "Religion provides a conception, even if rudimentary, of how one should live … one's obligation to God involves … what one does as a citizen as well as how one treats one's friends." Writes Brooks: "If charity is indeed a learned behavior, it may be that houses of worship are only one means (albeit an especially efficacious one) to teach it. Secularists interested in increasing charitable giving and volunteering among their ranks might spend some effort thinking of alternative ways to foster these habits." Full story

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