Worth Reading - 7/28

1. Have you ever wondered why the hospital nursery has a window on it? Smithsonian Magazine published an interesting article explaining it and also explaining why it is going away:

Today, newborn nurseries are no longer considered best practice in American hospitals, and their use is disappearing thanks in part to the widespread adoption of the WHO’s 1991 Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). The BFHI, a global program to promote hospital practices that encourage breastfeeding, includes keeping healthy mother-baby pairs together. As nurseries have begun closing, popular press coverage and professional discussions have reinforced the idea of the nursery window as a positive space in hospitals, both for babies’ families and unrelated members of the community.

In 2002, The American Journal of Maternal and Child Nursing printed a debate on the topic of closing the nursery windows. Dotti James, PhD, RN, argued for keeping the windows open, in part because for “family members, friends, and others… Seeing one of these little miracles engenders smiles and becomes a bright spot in the day.” James also noted that, “in some hospitals the nursery window has become a destination for patients and families from other parts of the hospital experiencing a health crisis,” and that “Standing outside the nursery, seeing the babies who have their lives before them can give hope to families trying to cope.”

Also in 2002, a Los Angeles Times article echoed James’ arguments, lamenting the closure of “the popular viewing areas, where hospital visitors burdened by some of life’s darkest moments could brighten their day a little simply by peering through the nursery window.” In the same piece, Michael Baskt, executive director of Community Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles, shared, “… For people where things are not going well, we recognize they would be attracted by the beauty of birth. Sometimes people need to go from the sad, depressing side of the hospital to the happy side. Babies put things in perspective.”

2. A profile of a man who has invested millions in promoting racism and has contributed to the rise of the alt-right:

How did explicit racism move from a taboo to an open, unabashed force in American politics? A loose but sprawling internet army, often called the alt-right, gave white supremacy a massive megaphone. And with the rise of Donald Trump’s candidacy, it suddenly seemed to be everywhere at once.

In fact, that movement had an infrastructure — organizations, journals, conferences, money — that had been laid down years before. It was in large part funded by one person: a secretive and aging multimillionaire named William H. Regnery II, the most influential racist you’ve never heard of.

Despite inheriting immense wealth, having grown up in a prominent family in the conservative movement, he had managed to chalk up virtually no public success in his first six decades of life. He never graduated from college, and he floundered in his attempt at running the family business.

But starting in 1999 — when he convened a dozen other middle-aged white nationalists at an ornate seaside hotel nicknamed the Pink Palace — he has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the quest to transform America and create what he calls a white “ethnostate.”

3. Craig Bartholomew wrote a recent essay arguing that Biblical scholars should be open about their worldview when doing their academic work, since worldview impacts interpretations no matter how much one pretends otherwise:

I prefer to speak of worldviews and philosophies rather than values because a scholar always works with some ontology, some epistemology, and some view of the human person, whether consciously articulated or not. And this is where religious beliefs themselves enter the picture, not only emerging from one’s reading of the Bible but also affecting that reading. This, in my view, is as true of the believing reader as of the reader persuaded that religion is simply a cultural artifact or that Kant’s view of reason-versus-religion is the right one.

On this point I differ with Berman, who argues that a scholar’s motivations should never be seen as a threat. It is hard for me to see how that can be right. Believers, for their part, often have a vested interest in the coherence of the Bible, which they approach in a spirit of trust. They also tend to lean favorably toward the fertile work done by literary scholars like Robert Alter and Meir Sternberg who, Berman writes, “may readily admit that the text could have a prehistory . . . but also claim that [it] can still be read as a coherent work”—and who for that reason are labeled by professional source critics as “conservative” or “uncritical.” Such labeling itself—together with the practice, documented by Berman, of marginalizing and delegitimizing “conservatives”—is surely good evidence that their work is seen as a threat to the way most source critics think the Bible should be studied.

In truth, different approaches are perceived as threatening for a good reason: they are threatening. Scholars work out of different paradigms, and at a deep level these paradigms are incommensurate and competitive. Because the particular paradigms are often hidden in the background, the fights often focus on particular methods or approaches, among which source criticism is the dominant model.

4. Is football violence worth the cost? New studies should raise eyebrows and concerns:

In the late 1890s and early 1900s, football was such a brutal sport that many players died due to the injuries they received on the field. Between 11 and 20 deaths resulted directly from a football injury during the 1905 season alone. As David Dayen notes, that would be the equivalent today of he 95 on-field deaths. Public opinion was turning against the sport to such an extent that the New York Times an op-ed on “Two Curable Evils,” listing football alongside lynching.

In an attempt to save the game, then-president Theodore Roosevelt stepped in by inviting the coaches of three biggest college programs—Harvard, Yale and Princeton—to the White House for a private meeting and encouraged them to make the game safer. In response to Roosevelt’s request, Harvard coach Bill Reid helped to organize the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS), now known as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). In January 1906, representatives of 62 Colleges and Universities meet to appoint a rules committee for college football. In an attempt to “open” the game, the IAAUS made 19 changes, including doubling the yardage needed for a first down from five yards to 10; creating a neutral zone between the two sides of the line of scrimmage; requiring six men on the line; and establishing the forward pass.

If the original Rough Rider could propose changes to football that reduced its brutality—and made the sport better—we armchair quarterbacks should be able to support modifications that strike a balance between vicious violence and safety-centric softness.

5. Here is an excellent video from The Gospel Coalition on religious freedom: