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Social Media and Purgatory

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:11 AM

I must confess I didn't see this coming:

The Vatican has taken another step in its efforts to embrace social media by offering “indulgences” to followers of Pope Francis' (@Pontifex) Twitter account. Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reports that the church will reduce the time Catholics have to spend in purgatory if they follow official Vatican events on TV, radio, and through social media.

Can't you just imagine @DrMLuther nailing an iPhone with the #95Thesis displayed onto the door of the Wittenberg cybercafe? Charles V would have had a much easier time if he could have just tracked trending hashtags.

A German Take on the NSA

By | Posted at 8:25 PM

A fascinating op-ed in the New York Times from Malte Spitz:

In Germany, whenever the government begins to infringe on individual freedom, society stands up. Given our history, we Germans are not willing to trade in our liberty for potentially better security. Germans have experienced firsthand what happens when the government knows too much about someone. In the past 80 years, Germans have felt the betrayal of neighbors who informed for the Gestapo and the fear that best friends might be potential informants for the Stasi. Homes were tapped. Millions were monitored.

Those last two, short sentences sound familiar?

Three weeks ago, when the news broke about the National Security Agency's collection of metadata in the United States, I knew exactly what it meant. My records revealed the movements of a single individual; now imagine if you had access to millions of similar data sets. You could easily draw maps, tracing communication and movement. You could see which individuals, families or groups were communicating with one another. You could identify any social group and determine its major actors.

All of this is possible without knowing the specific content of a conversation, just technical information ”” the sender and recipient, the time and duration of the call and the geolocation data.

The Whistleblower

By | Posted at 4:44 PM

The whistleblower, who revealed the shockingly disturbing surveillance techniques that the National Security Administration has been engaging in, has revealed himself as Edward Snowden.

For him, it is a matter of principle. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” he said.

I'm sure the government will go after him. I hope the public makes it clear it won't tolerate the government doing so.

Focus Groups

By | Posted at 7:51 PM

Tom Kowaleski recounts the story of the Viper's development:

Viper was a major part of my education in the automobile business. I worked at Chrysler in the '80s and '90s, and the Viper's development — indeed, its whole story — was critical to Chrysler's revitalization and comeback into credibility. The Viper program was done on a shoestring. It came to life as the result of four incredibly strong personalities agreeing on a single vision. It was a car no consumer research would ever support. It was a car one no one else would ever think of building. Yet, it became the flame that started the fire of belief in the next life of Chrysler.

Focus groups never create great things. Focus groups only find what is acceptably mediocre.

The Texas Bible

By | Posted at 12:00 PM

John Dyer writes:

Fast forward 20 years, and just about any time I teach from the Scriptures I have to point out a place where the English Bible says “you,” but the original Hebrew or Greek indicates you plural rather than you singular. This means the original author was addressing to a group of people, but a modern English reader can't detect this because in common English we use “you” for both singular (“you are awesome”) and plural (“you are a team”). This often leads modern readers to think “you” refers to him or her as an individual, when in fact it refers to the community of faith.

Relating the Greek second person plural pronoun to “y'all” seems to be a required part of a beginning Greek class, at least if anyone in the class is from the south. Rather creative of Dyer to make a plugin to actually “fix” Bible translations so that they use it.

Public Service Announcement: Six is a Serious Number

By | Posted at 9:39 PM

Just in case you've forgotten, every time the Cardinals score six, Mobil on the Run has discounted fountain drinks and coffee. The price has risen to fifty cents (for any size), but it is still a generous deal and On the Run has quite good brewed coffee.

Did the NYT Falsify Tesla Review?

By | Posted at 7:36 PM

From Tesla's Response to the New York Times report of the Tesla Model S falling short in milage:

The logs show again that our Model S never had a chance with John Broder. In the case with Top Gear, their legal defense was that they never actually said it broke down, they just implied that it could and then filmed themselves pushing what viewers did not realize was a perfectly functional car. In Mr. Broder's case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.

Surely the NYT would never allow something like this to occur on its pages.

Update: Broder provides an interesting defense against Musk's charges. I'm curious to see if anyone ever manages to determine what really happened.

On Parity

By | Posted at 7:28 PM

Often times, I've found people do not know that Lindenwood is a school with a Presbyterian heritage. While the Sibleys desired that the school be “non-sectarian,” it was not to be secular. A proviso that came with Major and Mrs. Sibley's 1831 transfer of control to the Presbyterian Church made this point abundantly clear. A 1940 course catalog explains that the Sibleys “insisted upon [one provision] as a permanent part of the curriculum — the teaching of the Word of God on a parity with other studies in the College.”

I tend to think the Sibleys would be pleased to see where Lindenwood is today. Lindenwood remains a fascinating institution that is anything but sectarian and yet continues to be informed by its heritage. That's a tough tension to live in, but one that the university continues to work through semester by semester. The Religion Department continues to teach strong Old and New Testament courses and, I hope, in other ways as well, the Sibleys would agree that “the Word of God” is treated “on a parity” with other subjects of study.

Lindenwood College II

By | Posted at 11:48 PM

Doing some research tonight, I found a fascinating letter from one of Lindenwood's past presidents on the formation of a “second college,” what would be known as “Lindenwood College II.” If you know Lindenwood history, you know that Lindenwood II was the “men's college” created in 1969 to go alongside the original women's college. Perhaps one of the most remarkable elements of the letter from Dr. John A. Brown was his aspiration that both colleges might grow to 750-800 students. Lindenwood now has 17,000 students in different programs.

Times certainly have changed.

New Isn't Always Better

By | Posted at 4:34 PM

I've been thinking a lot lately about our cultural impulse to view new as better. You can see this pretty much everywhere we go — from the doomsayers who say Apple is doomed when a new iPhone isn't entirely different to the wailing of the St. Louis Rams about their “old” dome built in the mid-90's. I see it a lot in the Church. People constantly resort to “solving” the problems of any given ministry by suggesting the Old must give way to some magical thing known as the New.

Kai Nilsen critiques this notion in an article a friend sent me. He points to examples of liturgical renewal as a result for people yearning for something more than the constant drive for the New:

I would suggest that many parts of the modern church movement, having sold out to the heresy of “new is always better,” are awakening to the beauty of ritual and the recurring rhythms of the church that embed the life of God deeply within our souls. The season of Lent is one of those recurring rhythms that ritualizes the beauty of God's life-giving, redemptive work in Jesus' death and resurrection.

While I think the liturgical year can be overused, I also believe we are foolish when we fail to appreciate the ways traditional practices of the Church may very well be more meaningful than anything new we can cook up.

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