Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Smarter Than Einstein.

A student came up to me after my law school class and said, "You must be smarter than Einstein."

I thanked him for the compliment.

He then explained: "Only three people in the world understood what Einstein was talking about.

"And no one understands what you are talking about."

(Modified from Dr. Norm Geisler's speech given on September 6, 2009; i.e. farcical, but still funny.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Am I Supposed to Do With This?

I encountered this dilemma last week at an intersection.
If I followed the instruction, I would still be standing there. There's no "button" to "push".

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review: Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell.

Using the painting metaphor set up by pastor Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis, people will see different aspects in this book as they do when viewing a painting or artwork.

In other words, there's something for everyone here. Some will hate what they see. Some will love it. Calvinists will find some solace. Social gospel-teers will find support too. Orthodox and heterodox will both be emboldened.

It all depends on one's vantage point. Or interpretation. As Bell writes: "[T]he Bible is open-ended. It has to be interpreted.... It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says." (Emphasis in original.)

From my perspective, I enjoyed the different ways Bell looks at things that have become very familiar. For example, Bell observes that the first time John mentions "love" in his gospel is John 3:16 (God giving His Son), which correlates to the first time love's mentioned in Genesis (chapter 22 recording Abraham's attempted offering of his son Isaac).

Likewise, Bell's ideas about church are idiosyncratic. He eshews any kind of "church marketing" and even wants signage removed. "You can't put a sign out front, I argued; people have to want to find us. And so there were no advertisements, no flyers, no promotions, and no signs. The thought of the word church and the word marketing in the same sentence makes me sick." (Emphases in original.)

One should approach this book with an open mind. You might discover things that you hadn't seen before in the Bible or the Church. As I did.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Book Review: Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs [Most] Americans Won't Do (2010) by Gabriel Thompson.

Gabriel Thompson and I share something in common.

He and I both are inspired by immersion journalism. He writes: "As a teenager, I relished George Orwell's accounts of going into dangerous coal mines in The Road to Wigan Pier and washing dishes in Down and Out in Paris and London, and was likewise moved by Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed. I've always been drawn to chronicles of immersion journalism; they have a unique ability to explore fascinating and sometimes brutal worlds that are usually kept out of sight." (p. xiv.)

Too, I've read and reviewed several books of immersion journalism: e.g. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose (reviewed 6/7/09); Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again by Norah Vincent (reviewed 6/23/09); and Scratch Beginnings by Adam Shepard (reviewed 10/29/08).

The difference is Thompson actually did it.

In Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs [Most] Americans Won't Do, Thompson worked over a period of about a year total "cutting lettuce" in Yuma, Arizona, toiling in a poultry factory in Russellville, Alabama, and delivering flowers and food in Manhattan (his hometown). And then he wrote about it.

Effectively done, immersion journalism discovers "worlds that are usually kept out of sight" by the readers as well as the immersed journalist. This book is no exception.

While he's previously written about "the lives of immigrants" (and planned to do so again here [xiv]), he had "been blindsided by the degree of rural poverty suffered by U.S. citizens" (158), whom he worked alongside during this year. This discovery explains in part the apparent change to the book's subtitle, which had to add the bracketed "[most]" to acknowledge that some Americans will, and have, done this kind of work. Through this immersion, Thompson ably pulls the curtain back on the abuses suffered by those who happen to work with their hands. Thompson exposes how labor laws--especially in the New York setting--are simply ignored, with the concomitant understanding that those abused have no (or highly limited) power or ability to complain.

Thompson made some other interesting discoveries.

For example, "Unlike an office setting--where personalities frequently clash over an email or a comment taken the wrong way--there doesn't seem to be much conflict in the fields. For one thing, we're not maneuvering for advancement: Our roles and wage of $8.37 an hour will remain the same. Equally important, we lack the extra energy need to gossip or hold grudges for long; our exhaustion ensures that there's simply no time to develop the dysfunction that plagues many work environments." (35.)

To his credit, Thompson concedes that his politics motivated this project. "Politics animates me; politics is a factor that motivated my current project." (74.) Even without this concession, Thompson's politics becomes clear as he intersperses the narrative with excursions into studies and arguments concerning employment, poverty and immigration.

Even with its strong political stance, the book's compelling underlying narrative and Thompson's likability fight alienating readers who may disagree with his politics.

Highly recommended.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Long Beach Grand Prix, 2010.

The race track is being set up for the Long Beach Grand Prix this year (April 16-18).

In that honor, here's my post from last year:, along with a photo of my vantage point: