The Nation’s Pulse

The Nation's Pulse

America’s Appalling Ignorance of Christianity

By 5.2.14

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote about the lack of religious knowledge in America today and argued that a person cannot understand the world without knowing something about the world’s religions, including Pentecostals and Evangelicals. Kristof admitted that when he was covering the presidential campaign of George W. Bush, he was surprised at how the candidate connected with Americans because of his evangelical faith; more surprisingly, Kristof admitted that he had “only the vaguest idea at the time what an evangelical was.” Kristof’s column includes a four-paragraph litany of Biblical “facts” and asks readers to find the mistakes — 20 of them — that “reflect the general muddling in our society about religious knowledge.” Kristof notes that it’s not just secular Americans, but a large swath of those Americans who profess a belief in God are “largely ignorant about religion.”

The Nation's Pulse

Hurricane Carter’s Comeback

By From the February 1986 issue

No fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any courtroom of the United States, than according to the rules of common law.
—The Bill of Rights, Amendment VII

On June 17, 1966, at two in the morning, someone burst into the Lafayette Grill, in Paterson, New Jersey, and shot four people, killing two men, mortally wounding a woman, and critically wounding another man.

A woman named Pat Valentine, living directly upstairs, heard the shots and ran to the window. She saw two black men climb into a distinctive late-model white car with "butterfly" taillights and New York license plates. Another witness down the street saw the same thing and called police.

The Nation's Pulse

Women’s Confidence Gap

By 4.24.14

Journalists Claire Shipman (wife of Presidential Press Secretary Jay Carney, senior national correspondent for ABC’s Good Morning America, and regular contributor to This Week with George Stephanopoulos) and Katty Kay (anchor for BBC World News America) have a new book, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know, that claims that women, compared to men, lack professional confidence. That is a significant finding because, according to the authors, confidence trumps competence any time. Sadly, women, they say, depend on their competence, while men get ahead because they are so overly confident.

The Nation's Pulse

More Moms Staying Home

By 4.14.14

The Pew Research Center has issued an interesting report on the increasing numbers of women staying home to care for their children over the past dozen years.

Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal noted a companion opinion survey by Pew last year which found that “mothers are much more likely than fathers to work fewer hours, take a significant amount of time off, quit a job or — by a small margin — turn down a promotion in order to care for a child or family member.” Forty-two percent of mothers indicated they had reduced their work hours to care for a child or family member, compared with 28 percent of fathers.

The Nation's Pulse

Ever Feel Like You’ve Been Cheated?

By 4.4.14

The esteemed philosopher and dental hygienist Johnny Rotten long ago asked, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” More and more.

Slugger David Ortiz’s presidential selfie screamed smiley spontaneity. Twitter, the counterrevolution to Guttenberg’s rebellion against illiteracy, mimeographed the picture for millions to see. But we didn’t quite see what we thought we saw until we discovered that Big Papi has a promotional deal with cell-phone maker Samsung, who put him up to the stunt. Barack Obama, reduced to gauchely peddling health insurance for the past few months, this week unwittingly morphed into a gadget salesman.

The famous Oscars selfie featuring Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, and other beautiful people apparently came at Samsung’s corporate behest, too. Those guys are phonies for a living, so when we fall for one of their acts we can blame ourselves. The inauthentic moment at the White House appears as a high-tech Amway party, where a reveler — in this case the host — believes himself invited to a celebration only to discover himself at a sale. Why can’t we get a selfie of Obama’s face once he realized he’d been had?

The Nation's Pulse

My Ten Favorite Marvin Gaye Songs

By 4.2.14

On April 1, 1984, legendary Motown soul singer Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his own father. Some believed it was sick April Fool’s joke. It was sick, but it was no joke. In a cruel twist of fate, Gaye died a day shy of his 45th birthday. If Gaye had still been singing his soulful muse, he would have turned 75 on April 2. At this time, I would like to share my ten favorite Marvin Gaye songs with you.

10. Got to Give It Up

The Nation's Pulse

The Real Bullies

By 3.27.14

A few years ago, I was privileged to hear Justice Antonin Scalia speak at my husband’s alma mater, Iona College. On display, among other things, were the wit and wisdom that have made Justice Scalia perhaps the most indispensable conservative in America. And he wowed the audience of mostly college kids, telling them that, contrary to public opinion, he was not a king, but if he was, “you sandal-wearing hippies would be outta here!” But the main thrust of his talk centered on how heretofore private gripes are now fodder for federal lawmaking attempts; invoking the old saying, “There ought to be a law!”

And he’s right. We’re all too familiar with the so-called rights and privileges that certain folks feel should necessitate new legislation. Well, the latest cries for new laws have come from those who wish to end the practice of bullying. Not surprisingly, these calls come at the federal level because, apparently, the laws or policies passed by all 50 states addressing bullying are insufficient.

The Nation's Pulse

Fred Phelps, Huckster

By 3.21.14

Fred Phelps, the “God Hates Fags” chronic cleric protester from so-called Westboro Church, who died yesterday, proved America’s endless capacity to hype charlatans and kooks. He became a national personality because he persuaded his family cult of several dozen children, grandchildren and in-laws to follow his absurd crusade.

Many of the Phelps progeny are lawyers, so they sustained their sect by litigation, often against their adversaries, while spending reputedly hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to demonstrate around the country. Their signage was printed at their own print shop.

Phelps was himself a disbarred lawyer who in his early years apparently litigated against racial segregation. He presided over his Westboro Church in Topeka for nearly 60 years. Professing to be Baptist but not tied to any denomination, it touts a deviant form of Calvinism that emphasizes divine hatred for the wicked.

The Nation's Pulse

Megachurch Going

By From the April 2014 issue

“Our. God. Feels.” Pastor Dave Bushnell slowed down, pronouncing the words distinctly. Then he stopped, giving us a moment for the three syllables to sink in. “Our God reigns” might have been what the audience had expected him to say, from the title—and the refrain—of the popular worship song by that name. This inversion of expectations roped listeners into the message.

Bushnell is a wiry man with close-cropped hair. On the third Sunday in January, he was dressed in faded blue jeans and a red, white, and black plaid button-down shirt. Behind him, a large screen, one of many in the cavernous auditorium of Cornwall Church, displayed a collection of verses from the Bible’s Old and New Testaments. Here were verses in which God the Father and Jesus Christ expressed what sounded suspiciously like emotions. Compassion, distress, sorrow, regret: the whole gamut of human feeling. Such seemingly emotional passages have long presented a problem for theologians because they seem to contradict classical Christian formulations about God—His being all knowing, all powerful, unchanging, and good, for instance.

The Nation's Pulse

Overmedicated America

By 3.14.14

Roughly seven in ten Americans take a prescription drug. That’s surely a symptom of a sick society. Who will diagnose the diagnosticians?

The Mayo Clinic study that reported the shocking statistic in 2013 found that behind antibiotics, doctors prescribe opioids and antidepressants more than any other type of drug. The guy in the black trench coat calls them uppers and downers. The guy in the white lab coat applies fancier names: Dexedrine, Klonopin, Phenmetrazine, and others lending themselves to neither pronunciation nor understanding.

Bayer once marketed heroine. Parke-Davis pushed cocaine. Today, doctors write scripts for Adderall and Oxycodone — old wine, new bottles. Might our forebears look down on us the way we smugly look back at posterity?

A “disease” responsible for much of the prescription boom is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A behavioral neurologist practicing for a half-century now believes it a made-up malady. When patients feign an illness, the English language assigns a word to them: malingerers. What to call doctors who dream up diseases?