What I’m Reading Online

Just catching up on some things …

—->  “Are you going to hell?”, a Salon interview by Louis Bayard of former born-again Christian John Marks, whose recent book Reasons to Believe: One Man’s Journey Among the Evangelicals and the Faith He Left Behind details Marks’ “two-year investigative odyssey through the heart of Christian America. Listening to the fiery testimony of megachurch preachers, traveling from Easter pageants and Focus on the Family seminars to Christian rock concerts and blogger conferences, Marks experienced firsthand both the promise and the limitations of the faith enterprise — even as he queried, all over again, the grounds of his own beliefs.” Marks hopes the book will lead to increased dialogue between evangelical Christians and others, a conversation which he says will be loud and angry, and which “can be done but only with both sides acknowledging that the other won’t change.”

Bayard mentions the statistic that “some 40 million unbelievers are attending church services,” and aks why, to which Marks responds: “Because they like the church, they believe in what it represents, they believe in the social stances, they believe in the political values. But when you get to this central question — Do you believe that Jesus Christ redeemed you for all time and do you live as if that’s true? — most people cannot tell you how many real believers there are.”

—->  Dave Pollard on “responsibility” as “promising back” and the many pitfalls of human interaction, particularly in groups. What he says resonates strongly for me right now as a leader (host, facilitator) of a small group and even as an active  member of other regular small groups. I think I am usually aware at the time of hurt or disappointment in reaction or response to my actions and others’ actions in small groups, but I often don’t know what to do about it, other than to focus my attention on responding skillfully:

“All of these truths are about Responsibility and its burden. When we stand up in front of a group as an ‘authority’, or talk to an individual one-to-one, or just communicate wordlessly with someone, we are being asked to take some responsibility for their feelings, their understanding, and even their love. When a member of the audience asks us a question and we answer in a way that is unsatisfactory to them (for whatever reason) they are hurt. When we say something to someone that makes them flinch or frown or leads to a ‘pregnant pause’, they are hurt. When someone looks at us, perhaps in invitation to some further communication and we turn away, they are hurt. It is not intentional. No one is to blame. But there has been a Failure of Responsibility. The word ‘responsibility’ comes from the Latin words meaning to promise back. All of this pain is the result of unintended broken promises.”

—-> Which is more environmentally responsible: reading a newspaper in print or online? Brendan Koerner (The Lantern) at Slate says that reading online is better, but only slightly, and he doesn’t have the stats to prove it. There’s a lot to consider, either way: For paper, there’s the tree content, the percentage of the paper’s paper that’s made of  recycled paper, the emissions and petroleum use of the pulping process, and the newspaper distribution environmental costs. (Not to mention the petroleum use and emissions of the machines used to hew and transport the logs, which he doesn’t.) For online versions, there’s the kilowatt-hours of electricity used by each server (perhaps hundreds of them, including ad servers), the electricity to power the end-user’s computer, and perhaps the environmental cost of disposing of all of our computer hardware, though that assumes that reading newspapers is a major reason people have computers — a dubious assumption, IMO. Then there’s the issue of carbon — online, carbon is released right into the atmosphere; in print, it’s ‘locked’ into the newsprint, which can be recycled or will decompose slowly in a landfill (but doesn’t it release into the atmosphere then?).

My head hurts.


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