From left to right: Greg, Nate, Joe, Justin, Jenny and the judge.
It’s been a looooong time since I did a “Some… Stuff” post, but here goes. On Friday, my brother Joe and his wife, Jenny, officially adopted our nephew Justin (our sister Joscelyne‘s son… she passed away in 2012). It was a long, arduous process, but thank you Lord, it’s done. Congratulations, guys!
Chanell, after receiving her diploma.
Also on Friday, my little cousin Chanell graduated from high school. She entered this world with doctors giving her mom, my first cousin, Velvet, very little hope that she would live to start preschool. As a tiny baby, she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. There were trips to various specialists and hospitals and then surgeries. And she lived. And thrived. For as long as I could remember, Chanell has been a child that is preternaturally mature. After her, Velvet and her husband Mike, would go on to have three more kids, and Chanell has been almost a second mom to them. When Velvet, who has had her own health problems, was feeling ill, Chanell would sweep in and step up, cooking, cleaning and remaining joyful while doing it. But she is still a teen, and loves makeup, hair and music. She sings, is active in her church and in clubs at school. She’ll be attending Seton Hall University on scholarship in the fall, where she intends to eventually study Law. I am so incredibly proud of the beautiful young woman she has become, and thank God she is part of our family.
Now on to the links. First, this story from The Atlantic by Van R. Newkirk II published last month that linked the GOP House American Health Care Act bill (now the Better Care Reconciliation Act bill in the Senate) and… the Prosperity Gospel:
How did a bill that almost certainly makes health-care more expensive for low-income, sicker, older, and more rural voters who make up much of the Republican base even make it this far?
One good answer might come from a recent interview on the AHCA between Alabama’s Representative Mo Brooks and CNN’s Jake Tapper. “[The plan] will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool,” Brooks claimed. “That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people—who’ve done things the right way—that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”
That interview was such a stunner because it’s exactly what Republicans aren’t supposed to say about their health-care bill. Most Republicans paint their support for the AHCA in terms of the deficiencies of Obamacare, the problems low-income people face obtaining affordable health-care, or a perceived inability of the country to pay for the broad benefits of the program.
But while Brooks’s comments stray from Republican talking points, they may help explain both the internal logic of the American Health Care Act and one of the main elements to the political appeal of Trumpism.
The AHCA, even by conservative think-tank calculations, will leave many low-income and sick people without insurance they can afford, and does so even as it makes health-care work better for healthy people. Brooks’s explanation, and his close association of morality and health, with the idea that “good lives” produce good health, is just a recasting of the prosperity gospel.
What’s a religious philosophy mostly pioneered by wealthy televangelists and megachurches got to do with pre-existing conditions and Medicaid reform?
The beliefs of some evangelicals connecting wealth to God’s favor became intertwined with faith healing, and both rose to new heights in the television era on the backs of men like Oral Roberts. While it became part of the cults of personality around the generation of Pat Robertsons and Peter Popoffs that followed Roberts’s lead, faith healing was also undeniably a policy statement. It at least partially rejected the role of science in public health and encouraged a view that faith, virtue, and good works could be enough to secure healing. And although the furthest extremes of the prosperity gospel often bring to mind church scandals, thousand-dollar suits, and parish helicopters, the basic idea that a healthy life was also a sign of favor fit right in with the gospel’s defense of riches. Health is wealth.
The prosperity gospel sold by televangelists fit—and fits—so well in many American homes because it mirrors the established national secular ethos. Some proto-form of prosperity gospel animated the life and works of men like Andrew Carnegie, who neatly tied individualism, capitalism, and wealth accumulation together in his own Gospel of Wealth. That book, a foundational defense of capitalism and income inequality based on the perceived intellectual differences and contributions of laborers and capital-owners, was also rooted in a certain form of muscular Christianity that placed health and wealth as the near-inevitable consequences of a life well-lived, and sickness as a curse for the damned.
Although public-health circles might want to believe that the view of sickness as a curse has been supplanted by epidemiology, it’s very clear that prosperity gospel has stuck around as one of the major pillars of American health policy.
It wasn’t too long ago that the HIV/AIDS epidemic sparked a moral crisis and sparked widespread condemnation of gay communities as cursed, in a wave bigotry that stretched from schools to the White House, and still influences policy today. And as Jim Downs’s book Sick from Freedom chronicles, the original exclusion of free black people from the American health-care system—indeed one of the most enduring features of the country’s health policy—was animated both by common racism and a belief that the immense burden of sickness among freedmen was a curse for their immorality.
“You always know if someone goes to Harvard or if they go to CrossFit—they’ll tell you,” said Casper ter Kuile, a ministry innovation fellow at Harvard Divinity School. “It’s really interesting that evangelical zeal they have. They want to recruit you.”
CrossFit is his favorite example of a trend he has noticed: how, in the midst of the decline of religious affiliation in America, and the rise of isolation and loneliness, many ostensibly non-religious communities are “functioning in ways that look a little bit religious,” he explained on Friday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic.
“People’s behavior and practice is really being unbundled from the institutions and identities that would have been homes for it,” ter Kuile says. “[For example], ‘I was raised Catholic but yoga is really the practice where I find my experience of contemplation.’ As institutional affiliation decreases, people have the same age-old desires for connection, relationships, connection to something bigger than themselves.”
And ter Kuile has found that meditation groups, adult summer camps, fandoms, and even fitness communities at specialized gyms like CrossFit or SoulCycle are stepping in to fill some of those needs.
“Strikingly, spaces traditionally meant for exercise have become the locations of shared, transformative experience,” ter Kuile writes in “How We Gather,” a paper about this phenomenon. These are not places where you go run on a treadmill with your headphones blasting Carly Rae Jepsen and make as little eye contact as possible with the people around you. They are inherently communal. With CrossFit, that community includes accountability for your actions, something religion also offers.
When your hubby is an IT nerd. K brought this back from a recent tech conference he attended.
Most likely to prioritize avocado toast over home ownership. Most likely to hate cereal. Millennials get stuck with the most grating superlatives, but according to a Pew Research Center report from last fall, they’re getting a lot of things right, too. The generation frequents public libraries more often than members of any other age group.
A blog published on the center’s site on Wednesday says, “53% of Millennials (those ages 18 to 35 at the time) say they used a library or bookmobile in the previous 12 months. That compares with 45% of Gen Xers, 43% of Baby Boomers and 36% of those in the Silent Generation.”
And, the question on the survey was explicitly about public libraries, as opposed to university libraries, so the fact that many millennials are still college-age is moot.
These findings are consistent with a 2014 study from Pew, which shows that millenials read more books than members of other generations.
See, the kids are alright. From Atlas Obscura, this story about a 1930’s device designed to prevent pedestrian deaths.
EVER SINCE LONDONER BRIDGET DRISCOLL became the first pedestrian to die in an automobile accident in 1896, companies have raced to solve the problem of car deaths. The 1930s saw the introduction of a particularly novel solution: the pedestrian catcher.
Also known as the safety scoop and the car catcher, this device was designed to bring pedestrian deaths to a permanent halt. “This Roller Safety Device Sweeps Away Fallen Pedestrian,” declared a triumphant Modern Mechanix headline in 1931, elaborating that it “will literally sweep a fallen pedestrian before it and thus save him from being crushed to almost certain death beneath the heavy wheels.”
According to CityLab, the device featured a “grooved roller” attached to an extension beam on the car. Inactivated, it acted akin to a bumper. But when a pedestrian was in danger of getting hit, the driver needed only to pull a lever, and the grooved roller deployed to the ground.
“A flick of the lever, and the scoop has another mouthful,” the British Pathé narrator says, as the video shows a pedestrian catcher scooping up a jaywalker, demonstrated by one of the inventors. “When the scoop is open, a jaywalker simply can’t get run over, and sometimes that’s more than he deserves.”
And finally, today’s song pick is “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears, which has been stuck in my head all weekend after I heard it on the new Netflix show “Glow”. Have a great week.