The leaders of Britain’s major political parties (including a seventh not pictured) participated in a TV debate last month prior to the 2015 UK general election. Screenshot of ITV’s coverage of the debate taken from YouTube channel of Sky News
As I settle in for a year and a half of non-stop coverage of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I find myself bracing for blistering attack ads, billions of dollars in campaign spending, partisanship capable of offending even the Montagues & Capulets, and the inevitability of a conclusion that is unlikely to satisfy me in any tangible way. It’s enough to make me want to avoid watching the news for the next 18 months, but why should that be?
After all, elections used to be fun, or so I thought. I would take to them much as Benedict Cumberbatch’s version of Sherlock Holmes reacts to news of a gruesome murder with a gleeful, “The game is on!” Political elections are, after all, both the highest and lowest form of competitive sport. If only it were possible to cut down on all the TV commercials, reign in campaign spending, and force leading politicians to debate with many points of view rather than just one other! If only there was a way to enjoy watching all those glorious campaign gaffes and still know that none of my tax dollars would be negatively affected by the incompetence of said politicians!
Ladies and gentlemen, there is a way, but not in America. Instead, we need to go to a far older country – a kingdom, in fact. Yes, I’m talking about the United Kingdom, where the official campaign period is less than two months long, TV advertising is subject to strict regulations, and voters have some legitimate third (or fourth, or fifth) parties to choose from. Politics here plays out like Shakespearean drama about a mile from the location where Shakespearean drama was first performed. Continue reading →
As you probably sensed, I have been trying for some time to keep up this blogging endeavor without much success. A few weeks ago, I asked for suggestions in the hope of restarting, but I now realize that this is not the correct path for me to take. The truth is that my attention has been captured by the project I alluded to last spring, when I announced what I did intend at that time to be a temporary hiatus. I wanted to be able to do that project and this one at the same time, but I have decided that this is simply not possible. If I am really going to take this other project seriously, I need to give it my full attention. Therefore, I will no longer be posting new material at Church & State, at least not for the forseeable future. I am sorry to those of you who are disappointed, but I think it is really for the best.
As for my new project, I am doing a lot of historical research aimed at completing a book. I was hesitant to reveal this for some time, as I have no expectation of success and I honestly fear disappointing people. I also fear the completely understandable question, “When is it going to be done?” The fact is that books take a long time, even for people who receive the funding to do this sort of thing full-time with their own research assistant and no other job to get in the way. More to the point, this type of writing is completely different from anything I have attempted before, and the subject matter is outside of what I studied in my educational career. However, I can assure you that I am having the most fun working on it and I am growing as both a researcher and writer. For now, that will have to be enough.
I will attempt to reply to any questions or comments you may have. If you wish to make a complaint, please direct your message to Sen. Ted Cruz, 185 Dirksen, Washington, D.C. 20510.
Lately, I’ve found it difficult to settle on a topic to which I can devote the energy necessary to create a really good blog post. There is just very little to inspire me at the present time, and nothing so interesting as some of the other things I am working on away from this blog. A few of you have probably been disappointed by the lack of content, and for that I apologize.
I am willing to make a deal with you. If you like my writing enough to miss it, then I am asking you to make a minimal contribution to keep it going. Please reply to this post with your comments regarding what topic you would like to see me address. I’d like to think I’m versatile enough to come up with something halfway decent in response to whatever you might suggest. What I am really lacking is motivation, so if you can demonstrate your interest to me, perhaps that will help to get me going.
On the other hand, if no one replies, then I will assume that there is no reason for me to be worried about not posting since it doesn’t seem to bother anyone. So come one and give me your ideas! I retain my right to veto, but I have enough faith in my readers to believe that I won’t need to use it. Here’s hoping this works out!
Territory controlled by ISIS as of this week (dark red), as well as the area they claim (light red). Wikipedia image by Spesh531
There are a lot of lessons that we can take from the alarming expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Surely it is a parable, but what is the lesson to be learned? Never end a war without leaving a substantial American footprint behind? Never funnel weapons to a rag-tag coalition of revolutionaries whose motivations may well be dubious? Never trust an Arab government to be able to handle things on its own? Never elect a pussy to be president of the United States?
I can think of nothing more fundamentally human than the desire to cast blame when something goes wrong, to reach for the simple explanation to a complex problem, or to ignore the long view in favor of the emotions of the moment. Beyond that, we prefer to direct our focus inward rather than outward; in other words, we are far more adept at analyzing something according to our understanding of the world than we are at comprehending how another person’s understanding might cause them to act. Because we live our lives at an increasingly rapid pace, we fail to appreciate how deeply rooted humanity remains, both from a historical and cultural standpoint. Continue reading →
A dance company reenacts a funeral right based on professional mourners in Italy. Flickr photo by Dave Bledsoe
The author was a professional mourner living in Palestine in the first century A.D./C.E.
No one aspires to become a mourner. Even I entered the profession not by choice, but rather out of necessity, for my husband died and left me with such meager wealth that I would have been without bread in a few weeks, but for the kindness of friends. For a time, I accepted that kindness, but I soon found my sense of shame too great to allow for such dependence.
I had often seen the mourners following the funeral trains, their black outer garments torn in an outward display of grief, their voices raised in a kind of rhythmic wailing, their faces red with tears. I had observed them entering the homes of the bereaved to sit with them and provide them whatever small comfort was required. After seven days, they seemed to vanish, only to appear again when another member of the village made his way to Abraham’s bosom.
I approached my new profession with much trepidation. The idea of being constantly surrounded by death was unappealing to me. I could not fathom how I would maintain the continual state of heightened emotions or how I could force my eyes to spring forth with a river of tears. Yet, in time, I found it just as natural as breathing. Both the body and the spirit must be made to obey the demands of the moment, and so they do for me each time I set out in my dark apparel. Continue reading →
If I type the word “Scotland”, what pops into your mind? Kilted men playing bagpipes? “They may take our lives, but they can never take our freedom!”? A blurry image of something claimed to be the Loch Ness monster? Beautiful hills covered in thistles? A Scottie dog? Epic tales of Rob Roy? A style of golf that involves howling winds, bunkers capable of swallowing a man, and grass that can hide a ball from even the eyes of an eagle? Sean Connery or Andy Murray? The lovable accent for which Scots are famous? Shortbread cookies?
All of these things form part of the public image of Scotland, but if you look up the word “Scotland” on Wikipedia, this is the first sentence you will read (as of this writing): “Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom.”
This is actually a good sentence with which to begin the article, as it addresses some of the primary questions I receive regarding Scotland. “Is Scotland a country?” “Is Scotland part of Britain?” “Are Scottish people British?” “What all makes up the United Kingdom?” Continue reading →
Official government photograph of the 111th U.S. Senate
What, if anything, can we learn from examining the colleges attended by the 100 men and women of the U.S. Senate? Quite a lot, actually.
Last week, I decided to start an interesting experiment in which I would research which institutions of higher learning the current members of the U.S. Senate attended, which degrees they earned, and what (if any) difference exists between members of the two major parties. No long introduction is needed here, so I’ll just jump right in to the numbers and analysis. Continue reading →
Pastor and author Mark Driscoll speaks at the opening of a new location of Mars Hill Church in the Seattle area in 2011. Flickr photo by Mars Hill Church Seattle
“There is nothing new under the sun.”
These famous words from the book of Ecclesiastes (1:9b) are so universally relevant that they tend to pop into my head whenever I find human behavior once again failing to provide any real element of surprise, despite the apparent contextual differences. Over the last couple days, I have been thinking about them once again.
It all started when I made a visit to that website that everyone seems to use even though no one appears to like it: Facebook. I was scrolling through my “news feed”, which in actuality is a concoction of approximately 20% advertisements, 20% baby and/or pet pictures, 20% people posting quotes or verses that they want their friends to read, 20% people saying “X number of years ago today…” someone got married or was born, and 20% people complaining about something. (No judgment here – I’m pretty sure I’ve done all of those things on Facebook.)
In due course, a headline jumped out at me from a website I had “liked” once upon a time, saying something along the lines of “Acts 29 Network Kicks out Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church”. Continue reading →
Yep, that’s right: the end of my hiatus is upon us! Very soon, new content will be gracing the pages of Church & State. Good things come to those who wait. Well, actually I cannot promise that they will be good, so I guess I will just say that things come to those who wait. Thank you all for your patience with me!
I want to thank you for visiting my site and all the encouragement you have given me in continuing my writing. After much consideration, I have decided to take a hiatus from Church & State in order to work on another project. Now that I am essentially working full-time once again, it has been difficult for me to keep up with everything that I had been doing during the time I was not employed. I was beginning to suspect that if I did not do something to clear out space in my schedule, I would never have the time needed to try my hand at something else. I am not saying farewell forever by any means. I do expect to come back to Church & State at some point, but until I have a better idea of when that will be, I am not going to make a promise that I may not be able to keep. Thank you for your understanding, and I hope that when this site gets restarted, you will come back and forgive me for my previous absence.