Part of my travels this summer included a week-long high school mission trip with my daughter and the rest of her church youth group. For the past three years, I've accompanied her on these trips, which are sort of organized by the Presbyterian church we attend. I say "sort of" because all we do is show up. Then, a larger organization takes over. This year, we went to The Pittsburgh Project, which describes itself as follows:
The Pittsburgh Project is a nonprofit community development organization with a 25-year track record of developing leaders and serving the city’s most vulnerable residents. Our year-round staff of 51 operates a progressive series of afterschool and summer programs for 450 urban young people, deploys over 2800 people annually to perform free home repairs for Pittsburgh’s elderly homeowners, and spearheads economic development and job training efforts in our Pittsburgh neighborhood.
We were part of the 2800. The Project, which is a permanent, year-round installation, offers "service camps" for youth groups, where students and their chaperones (me) stay in dorm-like (un-airconditioned) bunks, eat sort of marginal food, and go each day to a worksite for a week. The adults do not observe; we lead work teams of 4-8 students made up from the 20 or so youth groups that show up all week. It is not easy on either the students or the adults, but the students love it. There is nondenominational programming in the morning and the evening, and a rec center for free time. (There's not much free time.)
In other years, we've done mission trips to Tennessee and the Quad Cities (Iowa) area through a different nonprofit, YouthWorks:
YouthWorks believes short term youth mission trips can bring life change to youth, a community and the Church. Within a relatively short period of time, your own life and a stranger’s life can be powerfully changed through the desire to give to a community. Your presence during a mission trip speaks more than a thousand words through your simple love and willingness to serve. YouthWorks believes in stories – in telling Jesus’ story, in listening to other’s life stories and in bringing our stories together to transform hearts; a mission trip is the perfect time to tell those stories.
One of the big differences is that Youthworks sets up in various cities throughout the U.S., sending college students there for the summer to organize a number of rotating projects, which usually include children's day camps, eldercare, and care of adults with special needs, along with physical labor projects. Unlike Pittsburgh Project, they do not have a professional staff of technicians, so most of the rehab projects are clean-up, painting, etc., not drywall, roofing, etc. I would also say that Youthworks emphasizes the religious component with greater success.
So, are these youth mission trips better than summer camp? Maybe. Though I loved church camp, I can see that camps minister to the youth, but service camps minister to the youth by empowering them to minister to others. However, before you get all weapy-eyed, note that these service camps are not cheap. The Pittsburgh Project trip ran $370 per person for a week, including adults, and you have to bring one (21+) adult per 5 students plus vehicles, which are used every day. And that does not count getting to/from Pittsburgh. Based on the accommodations (16 to a room, bring your own bedding), meals (fairly austere, with sack lunches each day, filled with what you didn't eat the day before), the tuition cost must subsidize the work.
I know I am new to this, and that these types of trips abound, from Habitat for Humanity youth trips to numerous, lesser-known organizations. A quick Google search tells me that organizations that host mission trips for youth both domestic and abroad are everywhere. And this phenomenon is not just limited to teens; Philanthro Travel or Voluntourism are big trends. In fact, there is a new book entitled The Voluntourist about a man who set off to save the world and himself "two weeks at a time."
I think youth and adults doing service work is great; I'm a little less sanguine about marketing "vacations with a purpose" as win-wins where you come back refreshed and help someone in the process.
Here is a highly productive way for business law professors to procrastinate from grading exams:
The National Bureau of Economic Research just circulated a new version of a paper that provides a medieval complement to the law & finance literature and to Gilson's lawyer as transaction cost engineer idea. The paper by Davide Cantoni and Noam Yuchtman presents evidence that the training of commercial lawyers by new universities contributed to the expansion of economic activity in medieval Germany. Here is the abstract:
We present new data documenting medieval Europe's "Commercial Revolution'' using information on the establishment of markets in Germany. We use these data to test whether medieval universities played a causal role in expanding economic activity, examining the foundation of Germany's first universities after 1386 following the Papal Schism. We find that the trend rate of market establishment breaks upward in 1386 and that this break is greatest where the distance to a university shrank most. There is no differential pre-1386 trend associated with the reduction in distance to a university, and there is no break in trend in 1386 where university proximity did not change. These results are not affected by excluding cities close to universities or cities belonging to territories that included universities. Universities provided training in newly-rediscovered Roman and Canon law; students with legal training served in positions that reduced the uncertainty of trade in medieval Europe. We argue that training in the law, and the consequent development of legal and administrative institutions, was an important channel linking universities and greater economic activity.
A very interesting read.
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I grew up in a county with 0.0% Mormons, and I now live in a county with 88.13% Mormons. See here for an interactive map.
Yes ... they are a lot different.
Not Mitt Romney. He got it in 2008.
It's Jimmer! See Times & Seasons.
Last week T&S cited to a court case, Kiewit Power Constructors Co. v. NLRB, 10th Cir., pg. 10 (Aug. 3, 2011), in which DC Circuit judge Tom Griffith -- who also is an adjunct professor at BYU -- quotes a news story "describing college basketball phenom Jimmer Fredette as 'destroy[ing]' an opponent with his combination of longrange proficiency and acrobatic drives." This is the only case currently in the Westlaw "allcases" database referring to Fredette. It's only a matter of time, I suspect, before other cases get jimmered.
Fran Tarkington, prompted by Tim Tebow, asks that question in a WSJ editorial.
I can answer definitively: No. And I know this because of Fran Tarkington.
When I was young, I was a passionate Minnesota Vikings fan in the heart of Packer Country. (Even though I don't follow the NFL anymore, I still hate the Packers. Blech!)
Fran was our quarterback, and, after Alan Page, was my favorite player on the team. Fran led the Vikings to three Super Bowls during my formative years. Each time I prayed fervently that the Vikings would win, and each time my request was denied.
Not surprisingly, Fran had the same experience with prayer and those Super Bowls:
I prayed fervently before each of the three Super Bowls we Minnesota Vikings played in. We played against the Dolphins, the Steelers and the Raiders. I don't know about the first two games, but I was sure God would be on our side for the game against the Raiders! After all, they were the villains of the league, and it was hard to believe they had more Christians on their team than on our saintly Vikings. We lost.
If you need further proof that God doesn't care about the outcome of football games, just look at the result of last year's Super Bowl.
Being in London rekindled my interest in reading the Financial Times, and I renewed my subscription just in time to catch an article entitled "The rise of a new generation of Mormons." (I don't pay for much content on the Internet, but the WSJ and the FT seem worth the money.) The article is a bit scattershot, containing a mix of Church history, feature biography, and sociological analysis, but the main thrust seems to be that Mormons are going to take over the world:
The majority of LDS members are now abroad. Building a professional elite in foreign cultures may prove harder than winning success in all-American environments like Wall Street. But, interestingly, LDS is especially fast-growing in countries with dynamic economies, particularly Brazil.
In a corridor of the LDS Missionary Training Centre there’s a plaque listing the dozens of languages taught to missionaries who study there – including Cebuano, Hmong and Tagalog. Next to it is a world map showing the countries in which the church operates, highlighted in bright colours. Only China and a handful of Middle-Eastern states remain grey. The last century saw a Mormon conquest in America. During our lifetimes, we may see the rest of the world follow, too.
And here I was just hoping that BYU could get into a BCS football conference.
When my oldest son was very young, he wanted to become a Tiger Cub Scout. At the initial parents' meeting, one of the parents requested that all of the activities be scheduled for Sundays because the other days of the week were already too full. I glanced at my son, who understood the import of this request immediately, and I saw the disappointment cloud his face. I whispered, "Do you want me to say something?" He nodded.
I asked if Sundays were the best day for everyone, noting, "if you schedule the events for Sunday, Drew won't be able to join the Den." The response was fascinating. Several parents endorsed the idea of Sundays as "family days," and encouraged the group to search for other options. In the end, most of the good events were scheduled for Sundays, and we skipped those, but a fair number of other events were scheduled during the week.
I was reminded of this exchange today when reading in the W$J about a "pro-work law" in France that would allow more businesses to open on Sundays. (That's good marketing, by the way. Isn't everyone pro-work? And it's much more appealing than "anti-blue-law.")
While I agree that it's important to spend time with your family, that isn't the primary reason Sunday is sacred to me. It would be sacred even if my family weren't around. The point is that Sunday is a day of rest. "Rest" in this sense is not about sleep or inactivity. It is about preparing to enter into the presence of God. (For you Bible readers, check out Hebrews 4.) It is a day of spiritual renewal.
Of course, this idea did not originate with Christians, and Sunday is not the only possible day of spiritual renewal. But France has a long history using Sunday as the sacred day, and I think the French will lose something important by treating that day like any other.
According to the W$J, "The Catholic Church has called for the preservation of the balance between weekdays, devoted to work, and Sundays, devoted to family life, sport or 'cultural activities.'"
Beginning tomorrow, The Conglomerate will be hosting an online symposium of scholars who will address the topic, "Exploring the Connection between Religious Faith and Corporate Law." This online symposium was prompted by a live Roundtable held in April at the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St. Thomas. Lyman Johnson organized that Roundtable, and he will kick off our discussion tomorrow. I hope you will feel inspired to participate.
Catching up with developments among the FLDS in Texas, I found Guy Murray's roundup of mainstream media stories quite helpful. Also, Anderson Cooper's Blog has lots of interesting details from the hearing yesterday. The latest development is that "Sarah" -- the caller who prompted the raid with allegations of underage marriage -- may be a hoax. (Marleigh Meisner, spokeswoman for Texas Child Protective Services, still maintains that "Sarah" exists.)
So 416 children have been taken from their families by the State of Texas in a raid prompted by what may have been a fabricated telephone call. Last night, watching Larry King in the airport, I heard one of his guests proclaim that the veracity of the initial telephone call was irrelevant given the evidence of sexual abuse that the raid has allegedly uncovered in the FLDS community. And this caused me to wonder: what if someone made a similar call about my neighborhood? Or your neighborhood? Some statistics:
The statistics are shocking
Even within the walls of their own homes, children are at risk for sexual abuse
- 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18.
- 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18.
- 1 in 5 children are solicited sexually while on the internet.
- Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under.
- An estimated 39 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse exist in America today.
- 30-40% of victims are abused by a family member.
- Another 50% are abused by someone outside of the family whom they know and trust.
- Approximately 40% are abused by older or larger children whom they know.
- Therefore, only 10% are abused by strangers.
Meisner defends the separation of children from their parents on the ground that abused children are more truthful in interviews about their treatment at home if a parent isn't present. Based on the foregoing statistics, I would guess that Child Protective Services could use a similar strategy in almost any neighborhood and find evidence of abuse. So I am trying to sort out which is more troubling: evidence of childhood sexual abuse among the FLDS or the tactics of Texas Child Protective Services?
If you are keeping track, the traditional seven deadly sins are Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, Sloth. Their counterparts, the seven holy virtues, are Chastity, Abstinence, Temperance, Diligence, Patience, Kindness and Humility. Now this from the Vatican:
Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican body which oversees confessions and plenary indulgences, said ... that priests must take account of "new sins which have appeared on the horizon of humanity as a corollary of the unstoppable process of globalisation." Whereas sin in the past was thought of as being an individual matter, it now had "social resonance."
"You offend God not only by stealing, blaspheming or coveting your neighbour’s wife, but also by ruining the environment, carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments, or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos," he said.
Bishop Girotti said that mortal sins also included taking or dealing in drugs, and social injustice which caused poverty or "the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few."
He said that two mortal sins which continued to preoccupy the Vatican were abortion, which offended "the dignity and rights of women," and pedophilia, which had even infected the clergy itself and so had exposed the "human and institutional fragility of the Church."
Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I prefer the old list. Notice that the original seven are dispositions, inclinations, predilections .. whatever the right word. The so-called "new sins," by contrast, are the external expressions of those internal infirmities. As technology has advanced, the capacity to do harm has increased, but the severity of the sin is not measured by the effect of the action. Is Claude Frollo less sinful because Phoebus does not die from the stabbing?
Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died this evening at the age of 97.
It would be hard to overestimate his influence on the modern face of Mormonism. Hinckley worked for the Church his entire adult life, beginning immediately after serving his mission in England in the mid-1930s. Prior to being ordained an Apostle in 1961, Hinckley worked in the Church's PR department, but his biggest impact on the Church came while he was in his 80s and 90s:
When he became the church's 15th president in March 1995 at 84 years old, Hinckley essentially had been leading the church for more than a decade due to the frail health of his predecessors. He was determined to defy the view of LDS presidents as feeble, secretive and quaintly parochial. He dazzled people - members and outsiders alike - with his encyclopedic memory and almost superhuman work ethic. During his nearly 13 years as president, Hinckley gave more than 2,000 speeches, visited more than 150 countries, and greeted hundreds of diplomats and ambassadors. He was interviewed by journalists from nearly every major American newspaper, charming many with his folksy wisdom and self-deprecating humor. "Treat me well," he would say with a sly grin. "I'm just an old man."
this article in The Christian Century, she has done her research. After reading the article, which is a few months old, I told a friend (who is a professor in BYU's history department) that Maffly-Kipp understands Mormons and their Church better than most Mormons I know.Associate Professor of Religious Studies and American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am told that she teaches a class on Mormonism, and based on
By the way, I decided to post the article after reading another slew of ignorant comments, this time on Ann's blog, in response to her favorable blogging of Mitt Romney's performance on Meet the Press. I am not stumping for Romney. The fact is, as I have noted here many times, I am not a fan. But if you are going to talk about Romney's faith, at least do it credibly.
Dan Markel offers a play-by-play of an event with Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens is passionate and clever and provocative, but for a person who touts the supremacy of reason, he is rather self-contradictory. As Dan rightly points out:
As he wrapped up, just before questions from the audience, Hitchens quoted from memory much of the following often distorted passage of Marx from his Contribution to "Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right."
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
Though the rhetoric of the passage is quite lovely, the allusion to Marx made me wonder how Hitchens proposed reason would better adjudicate the claims among varying secular worldviews.
If Hitchens criticizes the books in light of the practices done in their name, then citing Marx is problematic, right? Hitchens knows full well of the many millions of people slaughtered under Communism. Indeed today, various people believe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which Hitchens robustly supported) involve crimes against good sense if not humanity. In light of the crimes of communism (and, to some, the crimes of quasi-liberal imperialism), can Hitchens simply say, ain't no flies on us? What method or assurances can Hitchens promise?
It may be that Hitchens is saying: look, there are two horses running, and I'm ready to ride this one and not the other, to take my chances, in other words, with the horse of anti-theism. But that's a mightily more modest tone than the one struck last night and in his writings.