Worth Reading - 3/23

1. As unlikely co-belligerents, two men in South Dakota are working to curb predatory pay day lending practices. Their relationship began as a Twitter battle, moved to coffee and is now focused on something for the common good:

Payday lending in South Dakota may become greatly curtailed, thanks to the unlikely friendship between an evangelical pastor and a former Obama campaign official.

Steve Hickey, a state legislator and pastor of The Church at the Gate in Sioux Falls, is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage.

Steve Hildebrand, owner of Josiah’s Coffee House and Café, is openly gay and served as former deputy national campaign director for President Obama in 2008.

They met, according to a thorough article in The Atlantic, with the following exchange on Twitter, after Hickey made some controversial comments about homosexuality.

“You are becoming a huge joke in this state—huge,” Hildebrand tweeted.

“We should have coffee,” Hickey replied.

That meeting over coffee led the two Steves to start a ballot initiative that would limit the amount of interest payday lenders can charge.

Currently, payday borrowers in South Dakota can pay as much as 574 percent in annual interest on a loan, according to data from the Pew Trust.

2. Support for government redistribution is falling, except among political liberals. An informative look at current trends from Joe Carter:

Here’s the thing: Liberals would still support “generous redistributive policies” even if the new policies didn’t make the poor better off materially. If you doubt that’s true, just ask them. When pressed, many will admit helping the poor is merely one reason among many to support redistribution (and not necessarily the primary justification). They are also concerned with “fairness” and it’s simply unfair, in their view, that some people have much more wealth than others (i.e., than they do). Much of the concern about “economic inequality” is about trying to make people less envious by making some people poorer.

The elderly and African Americans are beginning to recognize they are not necessarily “among the groups that have the most to gain” from redistribution, at least not from additional redistributive policies. The ones that truly have the most to gain are liberals who can’t stand the idea that some people have more than they do.

3. Why are the humanities failing? Another opinion on the topic from First Things:

If you can’t make a case for a discipline on the basis of the actual objects studied by that discipline, it’s doomed. The field needs to have confidence in the things it takes as its subject matter. Apparently, though, the figures in the forum don’t believe that great novels and paintings and historical events are sufficient to justify the humanities. They turn to instrumental values instead, what studying those things will do to students’ cognition.

Unfortunately, even if true, those affirmations will not increase the popularity of humanities courses. What sophomore will be drawn to a course in Renaissance sculpture because it will enhance her critical thinking skills?

Only the actual materials will sustain the humanities, but we have to believe in them enough to say so. We need more conviction than this. We need to be able to say to incoming students, “In this course, you are going to encounter words and images and ideas that are going to change your life. We’ve got Hamlet and Lear, Achilles and David, Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Bennett, Augustine’s pears and Van Gogh’s stars—beauty and sublimity and truth. If you miss them, you will not be the person you could be.”

4. The revenge pornographers next door. There is general shock at what some 
"good" guys in a college fraternity are capable of. Could it be that total depravity is a thing, and that we should expect sin from everyone? When people are taught to value other humans only as animals and not as the imago Dei, this sort of this is more likely:

Of all the deeply disturbing revelations to emerge from the recent investigation into a Penn State fraternity’s secret Facebook page, perhaps none was quite so alarming as this: At least 144 people knew about the page, where Kappa Delta Rho brothers posted pictures of nude, unconscious women without their knowledge. Of those 144 people, 143 just rolled with it.

If you attend Penn State right now, there’s a fair chance you passed them on the quad or saw them in class. They probably wore Penn State hoodies and fund-raised at Thon. The fact that such ordinary people are capable of such casual cruelty should, frankly, boggle the mind.

And yet, it’s exactly these ordinary, everyday people who commit this kind of crime.

5. Hard work cultivates character. Joseph Sunde discusses the importance of childhood chores:

Today’s parents are obsessed with setting their kids on strategic paths to supposed “success,” pre-planning their days to be filled with language camps, music lessons, advanced courses, competitive sports, chess clubs, museum visits, and so on.

Much of this is beneficial, of course, but amidst the bustle, at least one formative experience is increasingly cast aside: good, old-fashioned hard work.

In an essay for the Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Breheny Wallace points to a recent survey of U.S. adults where “82% reported having regular chores growing up, but only 28% said that they require their own children to do them.” Paired with the related decreases in youth employment outside the home, such a trend is a worrisome sneak peak at our economic future, but even more troubling for those who believes that work with the hands produces far more than mere material benefits.