* A truly beautiful article in the New York Times by a reporter reporting on his experiences with a Pentecostal church in Harlem -- instead of attending a few Sundays he spent a whole year at the church:
To spend a year with this congregation is to see a teenage single mother and party girl discover the strength to go to college, marry in the church and land a job. It is to see a former political radical and brawler pray over alcoholics in the park. It is to see the 50-year-old pastor roaming the city, driving the church’s van to gather members for Bible class or trolling for converts outside an upper Broadway subway station — to keep the Ark afloat, and growing.
It makes one wonder about all the stories left untold about all the other churches in the United States, both the good stories and the bad, that are missed because there is no reporter staying long enough to record them.
* As I've noted before, I think the whole hubbub around Dawkins is chiefly an atheist thing -- Dawkins isn't pulling out the stops to attack religion but to attack atheists who don't think that religion ought to be attacked in a particular way, namely, his way. I think there are a great many atheists who recognize that quite clearly, and are less than amused; I think, unfortunately, that there are a lot of my fellow theists who have too much of a tendency to think that everything in these disputes is about them, which is clearly not the case. For my part, I wouldn't discuss Dawkins at all if it weren't for people like Grayling putting in their two cents as if they had particularly good philosophical arguments behind them, and that for a very simple reason: I deserve more rational opponents. Perhaps I overestimate what I deserve; certainly some Dawkinsians have hastened to inform me that I am wrong, and that what I and all religionists deserve are opponents like themselves. But there it is. There is also the further point, noted by Odious, that there are reasons to feel sorry for Dawkins; after all, there's little doubt that he probably really does hear a lot mumbo-jumbo and nonsense day in and out from all sorts of crazies. I note, in any case, that Macht gives some salutary criticisms of Witherington's criticism of Dawkins.
* Something I have been listening to a lot: Leonard Cohen's "First We Take Manhattan, Then We Take Berlin". Actually a good selection for MLK Day; the song is about the appeal of a sort of honest and open extremism, particularly its lack of compromise and refusal to back down. And that goes well with King's exhortation in the Letter from Birmingham Jail that, since we will end up hitting some extreme or other anyway, we ought deliberately to make the effort to be creative extremists for love, truth, and goodness.
* Speaking of Cohen, via a very old post at Nine Scorpions I stumbled across this music site, which is based on a meticulous categorization of music styles, so that after some selections it will only play music you like. Like Proclus, I've found it to be interesting, but pretty much a failure so far. I started with Cohen; and that may have been a mistake, because it keeps trying to put me to sleep. It is, I think, missing entirely most of what I love about Cohen: his songs are all didactic poetry and I am that rare bird who loves didactic poetry, with its intricate lyrics that give food for thought; I like a mood of good-humored darkness in music; and Cohen is a case where the two are regularly put together in an almost perfect match. And in his later work he has a deep, gravelly voice that can pull off all sorts of things prettier singers can't, and so forth. But when I tell it I like Leonard Cohen, it thinks that I mean I like folk roots and acoustic guitars and major key tonality. And something analogous seems to be the case with all my other musical tastes. I suspect, though, that it might work well with someone who had really specific tastes in music and was not lyrics-oriented at all.
* Speaking of didactic poetry, Pope's Essay on Man.