Law Religion Culture Review

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

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Book Review: The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart (2008) by Bill Bishop.

This book is a two-fer.

Having heard the author, Bill Bishop, interviewed on the radio, I expected a book about how America sorts itself into politically like-minded clusters. That expectation was met. Bishop writes: "[T]o see how the country was sorting--a more useful calculation is ... population density. Republicans were moving into places where people lived farther apart; Democrats were clustering in places where people lived closer together." (pp. 204-05.) While this fairly sums up the political sorting process, the book bonuses readers with sorting of a different, well, sort.

For example, Chapter 7 entitled, "The Missionary and The Megachurch", lucidly explains how the Church (or at least parts of it) employs "like attracts like" methodologies to market itself. The result, according to Bishop, is homogeneous congregations or clusters. If correct, this conclusion is sobering. But Bishop does not come to it lightly or amateurishly. His conclusions are arrived at only after conducting substantial research, and demonstrating knowledge of the subculture. He even delves into the "emerging church" (in Chapter 12) as a counterbalance or response to "megachurch" or "evangelical" models. As a result, Bishop delivers a surprising indictment of the American church within a book primarily marketed as a political study.

Two-for-the-price-of-one. Now that's value.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Book Review: The Politician: An Insider's Account of John Edwards's Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down by Andrew Young.

As the old saying goes, politics is a dirty business.

Evidently, so is writing about it.

I felt like I needed to take a shower after reading 2010's The Politician, and that was not because I read parts of it while on a stair climber.

Andrew Young was a close aide to John Edwards for many years and had intimate access to the one-time Senator and erstwhile Presidential candidate.

Due to this unusually close proximity, Young was privy to many unseemly and personal things. Young apparently does not feel the need to edit himself as he reveals private conversations between Edwards and himself including how Edwards dealt with his son Wade's tragic death. Even with politicians, there should be a limit to a "tell-all" book. Moreover, Young participated in unseemly things, including acquiescing to a false press release that claimed paternity for John Edward's child with Rielle Hunter. (239.)

Revealingly, Young sets the tone at the very outset in the acknowledgments. He writes: "To the Edwards and Anania families, with the exception of John and Elizabeth, thank you for many years of friendship." (p. xiii; emphasis added.)

Accordingly, Young seems bent on vengeance, but as is usually the case with revenge, it works like a boomerang. Neither comes across well.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Humility is Beauty, Part II.

In my ethics class this summer, we have been discussing a "virtue-based" ethical paradigm. I shared with the students an experience I had last week with a judge practically defining the virtue of humility.

Our case had been assigned to a judge (apart from our trial judge) for a settlement conference. This judge had asked both sides for settlement conference briefs. In my brief, I had cited to a leading treatise in the subject area. At the mediation, the judge opened this book to find the citation and acknowledged its application to the case.

What the judge didn't do--at any time--was to lord it over us or even mention that he was in fact a co-author of the text.

Now that's someone who is secure enough to avoid fanfare or self-aggrandizement; the very definition of humility.

Here's part 1 (from another context):