The newSpin weekly
March 4, 2015
Why the title newSpin? ... The "S" in the middle suggests that some items in newSpin are newS; others, Spin; others, both. Which items the editor includes as well as how and how often he presents them are a clue to his leanings. I think all of us spin. Please note that items in newSpin do not represent, as noted at the bottom of every issue, the official view of the Diocese of Bethlehem unless expressed by or forwarded from the Bishop, the Standing Committee or the Archdeacon as an official communication. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul might be said to have spun "the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" [Mark 1:1]. We continue to spin that good news, according to how we have experienced and danced with the Risen Lord.
We're evolving … a bit … In order to work in tandem with DioBeth's two new monthly enewsletters – end of month and middle of month – the weekly newSpin will discontinue after this issue its DioBethSpin and ParishSpin sections. You will find such news in the new newsletters.
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•• Indicates repeat.
• DioBeth's new monthly enewsletter … During late February, many people around DioBeth received the first issue of a diocesan monthly enewsletter. If you didn't receive it, you may find it here … and you may sign up here to receive future issues by email as soon as they are published. Actually, you may sign up also at the bottom of the newsletter itself.
The content of the monthly newsletter will be posted on the website and linked to on Facebook and in our Twitter stream. In addition to this general enewsletter we will also publish a separate enewsletter in the middle of each month, consisting primarily of information that clergy, lay leaders and church staff need to do their work. This isn't to say that you aren't all invited to sign up for it, just that you might not find the information interesting.
•• The Chrism Mass … will be held on Thursday, March 19 at 11:00 at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity. At this service, the Bishop blesses oils, and the clergy renew their ordination vows. All are welcome, and those with ministries with the sick and in teaching are especially encouraged to attend. Lunch is provided.
• Listening Report released … Last spring, the diocese asked the Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Johnson of the Episcopal Moment consulting firm to conduct a “listening process” as the 17-year episcopacy of Bishop Paul Marshall came to an end. In a letter to the diocese in July, the Standing Committee described the process as an opportunity for people “to share their stories, ideas and concerns so that together the clergy and laity of the diocese can shape a hopeful future in which all are empowered to participate in God's mission.” Read on.
• A Return to Kajo Keji … [Rick Cluett] In January of this year, I traveled back to the Diocese of Kajo Keji with New Hope Chair, Charlie Barebo, and with Canon Dennis Blauser from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. But I did not return to the Kajo Keji I had known. There had been a miracle in the meantime. Read on.
• What's the US view on that hot issue? There's a 'heat map' for that …
The new edition of The American Values Atlas allows users to “heat map” views on these highly partisan issues in all 50 states and 30 metropolitan areas. Users can click issue by issue and group by group to see where attitudes blow hot or cold.
The Public Religion Research Institute launched the Atlas last year with political and religious affiliation and demographic data. Now, it has an interactive tool that reveals “Americans are all over the map,” on abortion or same-sex marriage, said Robert Jones, CEO of PRRI.
But there’s “a surprising degree of consensus on immigration,” he said- See more at: http://cathylynngrossman.religionnews.com/2015/02/25/pope-francis-abortion-lgbt-values/#sthash.M5E6aSrj.dpuf
• Why, to many critics, Mother Teresa is still no saint… [WaPo, Adam Taylor, Feb 25] Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic missionary who became an international icon for her charitable work, has been dropped into modern India's religious debate after the head of the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) criticized the intentions behind her work. "It's good to work for a cause with selfless intentions. But Mother Teresa's work had an ulterior motive, which was to convert the person who was being served to Christianity," RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said at the opening of an orphanage in Rajasthan state on Monday, the Times of India reports. "In the name of service, religious conversions were made. This was followed by other institutes, too."
Bhagwat's comments caused a storm among opposition politicians, angered by the implication that a woman who won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work in India would have had ulterior motives. Congress party official Rajiv Shukla demanded an apology while the newly elected Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, said Teresa was a "noble soul" and asked RSS to spare her. This controversy about Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, is far from her first. Her saintly reputation (she is quite literally on the path to sainthood – she was beatified in 2003) was gained for aiding Calcutta's poorest of the poor, yet it was undercut by persistent allegations of misuse of funds, poor medical treatments and religious evangelicalism in the institutions she founded. In his critique of Mother Teresa, the devoutly Hindu Bhagwat finds an unlikely ally in the work of devoutly atheist Christopher Hitchens. The late British writer became one of the most vocal critics of Teresa in the 1990s, tying his reputation to assailing a woman who was, at the time, an unassailable figure. Read on.
[Bill] During the late '70s, Mother Teresa visited the RC Diocese of Allentown. After looking through two of her handwritten letters to the bishop prior to her visit, I wrote a story for The Allentown Evening Chronicle based on how in the letters, when mentioning the Poor, she always used the upper case. The article, along with photos of her letters, became part of a full page feature. Someone laminated the page for me as a gift. I wonder if it's still around. Somewhere in the basement?
•• Bishop Sean's Ash Wednesday letter to the diocesan community … The Scriptures tell us what God has done for us, but the question of how we should respond to this tremendous gift can be hard to answer. I don’t have an answer. Or, rather, I don’t have your answer. But when I meditate on God’s holy word, as the church asks us to do, I notice that after 40 days in the wilderness, 40 days of fasting, praying and wrestling with temptation, Jesus returns to the world he has always known, and this is what he says:"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” — Luke 4:18-19 Read on.
•• Bishop Sean's column that was published in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader … I am sure that I am not the only person to wonder whether getting out of bed on a cold morning to exercise, or letting a tempting tray of food pass me by untouched, is worth it. Are the things I do to become more fully alive, to become the person God is calling me to be, actually working? The Bible offers some surprising and conflicting guidance. Jesus certainly fasted and practiced self-denial. The 40 days of Lent are modeled on the 40 days that he spent in the wilderness after he was baptized by John. Yet the prophet Hosea says that God desires “mercy, not sacrifice,” and Hosea’s words made such an impression on Jesus that he repeats them to those who criticized him for counting outcasts and sinners among his disciples.
I take this to mean that God is not interested in sacrifice for its own sake. The fact that you’ve gone 40 days without a Bud Light doesn’t make God smile if the way you treat your family, your neighbors or people who live on the margins of our society makes God weep. Our disciples and resolutions are effective if they help to deepen our awareness of God’s love, clarify our sense of the things that God is calling us to do, and make us more willing to serve God and one another. None of this is to say that we shouldn’t go easy on the sea salt-and-vinegar potato chips for the next six or seven weeks. But we shouldn’t confuse means with ends.
The prophet Micah had a ready answer for those who asked him what kind of sacrifice God wanted from them. Was it rivers of oil? Thousands of rams? First-born children? No, Micah says. God wants you “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” If you are better able to do these things on Easter Sunday than you are today, you will have made good resolutions and had a holy Lent. Read it all at the Times Leader or the newSpin blog.
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The newSpin blog … for current and back issues of the newSpin newsletter, and more.
DioBeth.org … the website of the Diocese of Bethlehem.
• Grace Montessori School … [Elizabeth House] Grace Montessori School in downtown Allentown, a ministry of Grace Episcopal Church, Allentown, is now accepting applications for fall enrollment. The school serves children ages 3 to 11 and is the only Episcopal, Montessori school in our Diocese and the only Montessori school that goes from the primary level through grade school in the Lehigh Valley.The school offers weekly Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for primary students and Interfaith Chapel for elementary. Read on.
•• Resources ... Here.
Episcopal/Anglican – beyond DioBeth
• Seminaries that change the world … [School of Theology — Sewanee, Tennessee] The School of Theology was once again honored to be named to the 2015 list of Seminaries that Change the World. Twenty-six institutions were named in this year’s class, two of which are Episcopal seminaries. The School of Theology was also included in the class of 2014. [The other Episcopal seminary named was Virginia Theological Seminary. The complete list may be found among the comments after this news release.] The Center for Faith and Service, based out of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Ill., describes this group of institutions as theologically, politically, and geographically diverse, yet sharing a common commitment to work together to strengthen and advance theological education. Read on.
•• TREC [TaskForce for Reimagining the Episcopal Church] … Partnering with ChurchNext, an online education company, TREC has published a series of free courses to get us all thinking about God’s dream for God’s church. These courses are called 1) Reimagining Church Leadership, 2) Mission and Leadership, and 3) Culture and Leadership. Instructors include theologian Dwight Zscheile, Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, teacher and author Stephanie Spellers, rector and writer Winnie Varghese, and theologian Frederica Thompsett, to name a few. Click on the title of each course to learn more and to take each class for free. These are TREC’s gift to you. Each course will take an average learner about 45 minutes to complete and contains 4-6 video lectures. Students need not take the whole course, but can skip around and reach, watch, and learn at their own pace. No special software is required. Browse TREC's website.
• Iker's group wins Episcopal Church property dispute … [Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, March 2] After a bitter, seven-year legal dispute, state District Judge John Chupp ruled Monday that the Episcopalians led by Bishop Jack Iker who broke away from the national Episcopal Church are entitled to an estimated $100 million in property in the 24-county Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Fort Worth-area Episcopalians who remained loyal to the national Episcopal Church and reorganized the diocese under Bishop Rayford High have the right to appeal the decision … Katie Sherrod, a spokewoman for High’s group, said late Monday, “Our attorneys are reviewing the options and will confer with the bishop.” Read on.
BackSpin – Do you remember?
• The heart of mission and evangelism is compassion, not salvation … [Bishop Mark, Diocesan Life, July 1994] Our mission is not to save souls, though for those we do not love we may pretend to do that. Our mission, like that of Jesus, is to reveal God's love. Compassion is the heart of mission because we can show God's love only to those we truly love. We don't evangelize to save souls nor do we, in fact, save souls by evangelizing. We evangelize to introduce peope into the compassion of Go who saves. Then, for those who encounter God's love, salvation happens … To evangelize means to be vulnerably present to people the way Jesus was present – with sensibility and compassion – and let God do the saving. When we get it backwards and call for salvation without being moved by compassion, we perpetuate a caricature of God's relationship with humankind. That caricature is a church without compassion, a community that has hardened into an institution.
• Diocesan Life receives national awards … [Diocesan Life, July 1994] For the second consecutive years, Diocesan Life received first place awards of excellence in three categories from the national association of communicators of the Episcopal Church. The categories, in competition with diocesan newspapers with a circulation under 12,000, were "Interview," "Theological Reflection" (Bishop Mark's monthly columns) and "Headline" (Sister, Brother, Can You Paradigm?). Additionally, Bishop Mark wrote a separate monthly column during 1993 for the national Episcopal Life newspaper. Those columns, too, received a first place award of excellence in competition among larger circulation national publications.
•• Oliver Sacks on learning he has terminal cancer … [NYTimes] "When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death. cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude." Oliver Sacks, a professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine, is the author of many books, including “Awakenings” and “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.” Read on.
• Coming out of hiding into the light of God … [William Reiser, Drawn to the Divine: A spirituality of revelation, 1987] When we look at revelation as the ongoing process of God meeting us, the way is paved for understanding it in terms of what happens to men and women as they come closer to the mystery of God. Instead of viewing revelation as God's coming out of hiddeness toward us (or as God manifesting truths to us which our minds, unaided, could never have arrived at), revelation might more fittingly be seen as our coming out of hiding into the light created by the mystery and presence of God.
• Want to improve your life? Go do something awesome … [WSJournal, Elizabeth Bernstein] The actual feeling of awe, and experiences that inspire it, benefit us in all sorts of ways, from stronger health to improved relationships, according to several recent studies. Researchers have found “awe experiences” increase our pro-social behaviors, making us more generous and more humble. They increase our “empathic accuracy,” so we recognize another person’s emotional expression and respond with concern. And they make us more willing to engage with trust and connect with others. Awe is an emotional response to something vast, and it challenges and expands our way of seeing the world. It might be triggered by an encounter with nature, a religious experience, a concert or a political rally or sports event. We’re not likely to find it on a treadmill at the gym. Read on.
• Truly alive… [Christian Wiman] To be truly alive is to feel one's ultimate existence within one's daily existence.
• Faith's elusive experience of wonder and mystery … [From The Subtle Sensations of Faith, a column by David Brooks] You’d think faith would be a simple holding of belief, or a confidence in things unseen but, in real life, faith is unpredictable and ever-changing. It begins, for many people, with an elusive experience of wonder and mystery. The main business of faith is living attentively every day. Insecure believers sometimes cling to a rigid and simplistic faith. But confident believers are willing to face their dry spells, doubts, and evolution. Faith as practiced by such people is change. It is restless, growing. It’s not right and wrong that changes, but their spiritual state and their daily practice. As the longings grow richer, life does, too.
•• Lenten Resources
• Daily lenten meditations by Anne Kitch… Subscribe here. You will not regret following Anne. Here's an excerpt from Feb. 27: I usually find hand-washing a chore for which I have neither the time nor the patience. But as I scrub and rinse the sweater several times, I discover a soothing rhythm to it and a gentle attentiveness. And I imagine God, hand-washing me with similar care. I am overwhelmed then by a vision of God washing each of us by hand. Patiently. Lovingly. And in God’s hands, no one is ruined beyond repair, and there is no stain that cannot be removed.
• Mediator Allentown outreach missioner Twila Smith … has an absolutely wonderful listing of resources at her Pinterest site. No matter how challenging you might think it is to sign up to see Twila's resources, I think you will find that it's worth it. Her latest listing is Lenten Resources.
• A seven-part Episcopal Public Policy Network series, "Engaging Poverty at Home and Around the World." began Ash Wednesday, available here.
• United Thank Offering provides a daily scripture passage from the Daily Office through Facebook and Twitter (#unitedthankoffering).
• Trinity Bethlehem's "Lights in the Darkness" blog project … [Amy Spagna] will be back for a repeat engagement, beginning on Shrove Tuesday, Feb. 17. This year's reflections will be centered around themes of reconciliation and forgiveness, and will feature work by Trinity parishioners and staff, and several guest writers. The blog's home on the Web is lentenlightsbethpa.blogspot.com. If you would like to receive these daily reflections by email, please send Amy a note at email@example.com, and she'll be happy to add you to the list.
• Lent with ESC (Episcopal Service Corps)
• Practicing Lent, from the Diocese of West Texas
• #LivingLent is a new social media, photo-based reflection designed to draw participants into the Lenten story by creating 'living pictures' and modern interpretations of biblical art, from the Diocese of Texas.
• A rich resource list, from the Diocese of Olympia.
• Short, daily videos over the five weeks of Lent, from the Brothers of SSJE.
•• A new resource for personal reflection: Daily Prayer for All Seasons … is now available for free downloading here. Developed by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music and authorized by the 2012 General Convention, the prayers in Daily Prayer for All Seasons are presented according to liturgical season beginning with Advent and progressing through Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. In addition, two sections are offered for Ordinary Time: Creation and Rest. Read on.
•• Resources ... Here.
• Bishop Sean's column that was published in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader … See above, under DioBethSpin.
•• Resources ... Here.
•• Resources ... Here.
Rest in Peace
• Theodore Hesburgh, 97 … [NYTimes] former president of the University of Notre Dame who stood up to both the White House and the Vatican as he transformed Catholic higher education in America and raised a powerful moral voice in national affairs, died late Thursday [Feb. 27] in South Bend, Ind. As an adviser to presidents, special envoy to popes, theologian, author, educator and activist, Father Hesburgh was for decades considered the most influential priest in America. In 1986, when he retired after a record 35 years as president of Notre Dame, a survey of 485 university presidents named him the most effective college president in the country. Read on.
[NCR, Arthur Jones] The death of Holy Cross Fr. Theodore Martin “Ted” Hesburgh, the University of Notre Dame’s longest-serving president, late on Thursday at age 97 has finally closed the door on the American Catholic era … With his death, there is another measure of his lifespan that brings both his Catholic and national significance into focus: He and President John F. Kennedy were born in the same year. In different ways, with Hesburgh slightly ahead of the curve, each ushered in a public Catholic America now all but receded into history. Read on.
• Malcolm Boyd, 91 … [Los Angeles Times] the Episcopal priest whose book "Are You Running With Me, Jesus?" took prayer out of church onto the city streets in a slangy vernacular not found in Sunday missals, died Friday [Feb 27] under hospice care in Los Angeles. He wrote more than two dozen books, many of them about people who did not fit the blue-sky ideal. But none of his prayers for them were as raw and urgent as those in the 1965 collection that sold half a million copies … Boyd's flair for drama kept him in the spotlight from his earliest years as a clergyman … But he took his boldest step at an Episcopal convention in 1976, when he announced that he was gay. At the time, most Christian churches condemned what they referred to as the homosexual lifestyle, which he was living. Boyd followed his public statement with the book "Take off the Masks," saying he wrote it because he was tired of living a lie. Read on.
• Bill Bichsel, 86 … [NCR] Jesuit Father William Bichsel was given six months to live in 2009 because of his failing heart. Not only did he prove doctors wrong, he continued his more-than-four-decade crusade against what he called "ongoing, unabated works of war" and "forces of militarism." That included mustering enough strength to take part in a "nonviolent peace action" at Naval Base Kitsap, a naval submarine base on the Hood Canal near Bangor, Wash., about six weeks ago. Bix, as he was called by nearly all who knew him, died Feb. 28 "in the presence of the loving community" at Jean's House of Prayer in the Tacoma, Wash., Catholic Worker, which he co-founded in 1989 and where he lived for the last several years of his life, according to friend and colleague Leonard Eiger of the Ground Zero Center For Nonviolent Action.
Over the years, Bichsel was arrested more than 40 times and spent nearly two and a half years in prison. One year of that was in federal custody for his part in the School of the Americas protests in Georgia. The facility has long been accused of training Latin American military who have taken part in human rights abuse. Read on.
• Robert Keel, 84 … died January 29, 2015. Retired from the Diocese of PA, Father Keel helped us out a lot in the far north. Obituary here.
• Leonard Nimoy, 83 … [NYTimes] the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. Live long and prosper, Mr. Spock. Read on.
His London-based agent, Barrie Marshall, said Cocker died Monday of lung cancer in Colorado, where he has lived for the past two decades. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/ns/obituary.aspx?n=joe-cocker&pid=173558813#sthash.22Z9bcRa.dpuf
• Global restrictions on religion … [Pew Research] Our sixth annual study of global restrictions on religion is now available. Check out some of the key findings on Fact Tank, as well as a Q&A with researcher Peter Henne and an interactive showing changes in restrictions on religion in the world's 25 most populous countries. Also, at WaPo, the sad state of religious freedom the world.
• Episcopal Positions (NYC/DC) ... Here.
Ecumenism, Interfaith, Pluralism – or Not
Evangelical Lutheran Church
•• Resources ... Here.
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United Methodist Church
•• Resources ... Here.
Presbyterian Church USA
•• Resources ... Here.
• Commonweal, the progressive RC magazine…Commonweal has posted its March 6 issue to its website, featuring “Clerical Errors,” its three-part package on the training of Roman Catholic priests and the training’s role in such matters as sexuality, sex abuse, and the “ecclesiastical environments” of today’s parishes; if you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here.
Joseph Komanchak, a longtime contributor to Commonweal, provides daily lenten reflections, excerpts from his translation of the writings of St. Augustine. This, from Feb. 27: A good life lived according to God’s commands is like a pen that writes what is heard on the heart. If it were written on wax, it could easily be erased. Write it on your hearts, in your behavior, and it will never be erased. (EnPs 93, 30; PL 37, 1216) Professor emeritus of the School of Theology at Catholic University and retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York, Joe was my Rome classmate for four years during the early 1960s.
•• RC bishops making renewed push on immigration … [Crux] Catholic bishops around the United States are ramping up their efforts to stymie anti-immigration forces, making direct pleas to their states’ governors, testifying before Congress, and even using theatrics to draw attention to their cause. Read on.
•• Resources ... Here.
• Pope Francis sends 'social justice' bishop to San Diego … [Crux] Robert W. McElroy, an auxiliary bishop in San Francisco and a leader in the Catholic Church’s social justice wing, was named head of the Diocese of San Diego. McElroy, 61, has written extensively about the Church’s social justice mission, promoting Catholic engagement with society that places economic and human rights issues on par with abortion and same-sex marriage. “We are called to see the issues of abortion and poverty, marriage and immigrant rights, euthanasia and war, religious liberty and restorative justice, not as competing alternatives often set within a partisan framework, but as a complementary continuum of life and dignity,” he wrote in America magazine in October 2013.McElroy’s appointment to San Diego is the latest sign that Pope Francis intends to make his mark on the Church in America. Last fall, Francis handpicked another moderate, Blase Cupich, to serve as archbishop of Chicago. Read on.
• Cholesterol: No longer a nutritional bad guy? … [Next Avenue, Feb. 20] Americans need to cut down on sugar, sodium and saturated fat in their diets, but cholesterol should no longer be considered “a nutrient of concern,” a government nutrition panel just said. Available evidence “shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol…,” the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee wrote in a report issued this week. In other words, there isn’t necessarily a link between eating a triple-egg omelet every morning and seeing a spike in your blood cholesterol level. Read on.
• Common myths of hospice care debunked … [Next Avenue] Here.
•• Flu shots ... Info from the CDC here and here. A lot of good info also at flu.gov.
• FCC approves strong net neutrality rules … [WaPo] The Federal Communications Commission for the first time classified Internet providers as public utilities Thursday [Feb. 26], a landmark vote that officials said will prevent cable and telecommunications companies from controlling what people see on the Web.The move, approved 3 to 2 along party lines, was part of a sweeping set of new “net neutrality” rules aimed at banning providers of high-speed Internet access such as Verizon and Time Warner Cable from blocking Web sites they don’t like or auctioning off faster traffic speeds to the highest bidders.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler argued that the agency needed to take a dramatic step to preserve a “fast, fair and open Internet.” Broadband Internet providers will now face some of the same heavy regulations that the federal government imposes on telephone companies.“The Internet has replaced the functions of the telephone,” Wheeler said during the commission vote. “The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules.” Read on.
• Who's watching all that Christian media? Christians, but not many others … [RNS] All the preaching, teaching, music and entertainment beamed by Christian TV and radio is primarily consumed by evangelicals and weekly churchgoers, while 2 in 3 Americans are tuned out. Read on.
•• John Legend, onetime choir director at Bethel AME in Scranton … [WaPo] After winning Best Original Song for "Glory" for Selma, Common and John Legend spoke about voting rights and incarceration. "'Selma' is now because the struggle for justice is now," Legend said. "We know that the voting rights that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised in this country today." He also said there are "more black men under correctional control today than were in slavery." The speech, and their performance of the song, left the Dolby Theater speechless and sparked a response on Twitter. [h/t WaPo] Legend was choir director at Bethel AME Church in Scranton for nine years, beginning as a 16-year-old. Read on.
• What we're reading … I've browsed for months a twice weekly email wherein reporters and editors of the NYTimes recommend stories from around the web. What We're Reading includes resumes and links to the stories. I've hardly ever looked at it without finding something that I did not read all the way through. Sign up here.
•• Resources ... Here
• Our cognitive processes and biases … [Poynter, Craig Silverman] Yesterday’s [Feb. 26] insane Internet debate over the color of a dress offers a critical lesson that every journalist must incorporate into their daily work. This lesson has nothing to do with viral content, fashion, BuzzFeed, social media, the future of media, Tumblr, or audience engagement. Many of us looked at a very simple photo of a dress and saw something different. This had nothing to do with intelligence, experience, fashion sense or any other personal characteristic. We are all at the mercy of our brains and its cognitive processes. Our eyes took in the information in front of us, our brains processed it, and in many cases it gave us the wrong answer. But the fact that it was coming from our brain meant that it seemed like exactly the right answer. People insisted on what they were seeing because it was what they were actually seeing.
We don’t go about our daily lives assuming that own brains — and our eye — can give us faulty information. They do, all the time. The simple truth is our brains process information in ways that can lead us astray. This is something every journalist needs to be aware of and account for in the work we do. We have cognitive biases that affect how we gather, evaluate and retain information. We suffer from pareidolia, “the human tendency to read significance into random or vague stimuli (both visual and auditory).” We see patterns where there aren’t any. Read on.
See also "The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Color of this Dress," Wired Magazine.
As the newSpin weekly is completed, usually by Tuesday, it is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on Bakery and on other diocesan lists of some 4,000 addresses. Many recipients forward it to others. The newSpin weekly comes, of course, with some spin from the editor. The views expressed, implied or inferred in items or links contained in the newsletter or the blog do not represent the official view of the Diocese of Bethlehem unless expressed by or forwarded from the Bishop, the Standing Committee or the Archdeacon as an official communication. Comments are welcome on Bakery (if you are subscribed to that interactive list) and at the newSpin blog. Click at the newSpin blog in the right hand column on the title of the current newsletter. Then, make your comment below.
Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem, retired
Communication Minister/Editor (1986-2010), Canon Theologian (1998-)
Blog , Email (c)610-393-1833
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. [Bernard Lonergan]