Thomas Frank on “Stupidly.”

And now comes Gates-gate, this latest burst of fake populism from the right. Waving the banner of the long-suffering working class, the tax-cutting friends of the top 2% have managed to dent the president’s credibility, to momentarily halt his forward movement on the health-care issue….

But when he sits down for that can of beer in the White House, it is another passage from his book that I hope Mr. Gates remembers. Speaking for liberal academics, he wrote in 1992 that “success has spoiled us; the right has robbed us of our dyspepsia; and the routinized production of righteous indignation is allowed to substitute for critical rigor.”

Today the cranking out of righteous indignation is a robust growth industry, and it threatens to do far worse than cloud our critical faculties. Help us to put the culture wars aside, Professor Gates. Too much is on the line these days.

The entire article.

Happiness Secrets

I’m a “happiness junkie.”

After reading an Atlantic article on George Vaillant, I found his suggestions for happiness, especially for men

  • A good marriage before age 50
  • Ingenuity to cope with difficult situations
  • Altruistic behavior
  • Stop smoking
  • Do not use alcohol to the point where your behavior shames you or your family
  • Stay physically active. Walk, run, mow your own grass, play tennis or golf
  • Keep your weight down
  • Pursue education as far as your native intelligence permits
  • After retirement, stay creative, do new things, learn how to play again
  • Lectionary for Proper 13

    2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a, John 6:24-35

    I’ll be preaching a bit on David, Bathsheba and Nathan tomorrow.

    David was a success in battle.  Now he is at leisure and has too much time on his hands.

    He has a wandering eye.  He sees Bathsheba.  She’s the wife of Uriah, who is a good guy, a bubba, a reliable chap, a good soldier.  You can rely on Uriah.  He might be a team leader or a commander himself.  He’s fought for his country well.   He was probably descended from an immigrant, the sort of immigrant who loves his new country and is very proud of it.  He’s a military man.

    So David commits adultery with his wife, and she gets pregnant.  And everyone will know that it will be David’s child.

    People in the court know.  They fetched her.  We don’t have her voice in the text, so we’re not sure if it was consensual, or if she submitted passively, or if she was seduced by his good looks and status, or if she was an opportunist.

    David does not want to be found out.  So he wants Uriah to lie with his wife so that David won’t take the blame.

    He hatches a plan, a clumsy one, to have Uriah killed.  The soldies will go to battle, and pull back.  But it is a transparent ploy; so to protect David, Joab sacrifices other soldiers so that it will remain a secret.  Most  likely, not only Uriah, but other soldiers died.

    In order to avoid being blamed, other people got hurt.

    David says, “oops.  Collateral damage.  We didn’t mean for that to happen.  We were at war.  And we had our enemies.  It is such a tragedy.”  It’s cynical, but he didn’t want to be discovered.

    I will probably discuss how easy it is to blame other people, rather than look at our own behavior.  It seems that lots of righteous people like to think of themselves as anointed.  Then they find ways, excuses, to justify their own actions.

    Jesus says, “for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives lif to the world.”  Jesus is referring to the transcendent future.  Apart from the immediate world to which we easily react, Jesus is talking about the long view:  eternity.  This is the food that endures for eternal life.

    Most of the time, “thrill wins over will,” but with knowledge of the transcendent, a belief in eternity, we can live better lives now.  The really good stuff is a belief in a healthy future that helps us shape what is truly valuable.  But it is a narrow path, and requires discipline and vigilance.

    The benefits of magnanimity; of honesty; or restraining our desire is not always immediate.  They are long term.  And the scriptures commend and warn us:  our enemies are not undocumented workers, soldiers, gay people, straight people.  The work we must usually do begins with our own hearts.