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Last 5 Books Read

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436. Title: Political Rumors: Why We Accept Misinformation and How to Fight It
Author: Berinsky, Adam
ISBN-13: 978-06-9124757-1
Date Finished: 2024-04-01
My Comments: This is a report of experiments done to determine how we might reduce political rumors and misinformation. It's about half research design information and half results and conclusions. Unfortunately the conclusions are pretty soft (as political science is a soft science). The best way to get better politicians is to have better politicians, but an well informed voting public doesn't hurt. Since it's written by a political scientist, the results are more favorable to Democrats than Republicans, but then Trump had a lot do do with misinformation. It's not bad, but not really worth the effort.

Amazon Description: Political rumors and misinformation pollute the political landscape. This is not a recent phenomenon; before the currently rampant and unfounded rumors about a stolen election and vote-rigging, there were other rumors that continued to spread even after they were thoroughly debunked, including doubts about 9/11 (an “inside job”) and the furor over President Obama’s birthplace and birth certificate. If misinformation crowds out the truth, how can Americans communicate with one another about important issues? In this book, Adam Berinsky examines why political rumors exist and persist despite their unsubstantiated and refuted claims, who is most likely to believe them, and how to combat them. Drawing on original survey and experimental data, Berinsky shows that a tendency toward conspiratorial thinking and vehement partisan attachment fuel belief in rumors. Yet the reach of rumors is wide, and Berinsky argues that in fighting misinformation, it is as important to target the undecided and the uncertain as it is the true believers. We’re all vulnerable to misinformation, and public skepticism about the veracity of political facts is damaging to democracy. Moreover, in a world where most people simply don’t pay attention to politics, political leaders are often guilty of disseminating false information - and failing to correct it when it is proven wrong. Berinsky suggests that we should focus on the messenger as much as the message of rumors. Just as important as how misinformation is debunked is who does the debunking.

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437. Title: Methodism and American Empire
Author: Scott, David and Filipe Maia
ISBN-13: 9781791030650
Date Finished: 2024-04-04
My Comments: I'm amazed that Abingdon Press published this book, as it's not very complimenary toward Methodism. It is a collection of nine papers, 3 on history and 6 on current and (possible) future issues related to the colonialism of the Methodist Church. It does provide a good overview of the assorted problems of trying to build a world size church from a national size one. That's the colonialism. A lot of time is spent by non Americans (Phillipines and Africans) asking that General Conference would leave the American troubles alone and discuss world issues. A good point. It ends with a critique of the Global Methodist Church, which appears more American and colonial than ever. Recommended if you want a heavy does of Methodism.

Amazon Description: Methodism and American Empire investigates historical trajectories and theological developments that connect American imperialism since World War II to the Methodist tradition as a global movement. The volume asks: to what extent is United Methodists’ vision of the globe marred by American imperialism? Through historical analyses and theological reflections, this volume chronicles the formation of an understanding of The United Methodist Church since the mid-20th century that is both global and at the same time dominated by American interests and concerns. Methodism and American Empire provides a historical and theological perspective to understand the current context of The United Methodist Church while also raising ecclesiological questions about the impact of imperialism on how Methodists have understood the nature and mission of the church over the last century. Gathering voices and perspectives from around the world, this volume suggests that the project of global Methodism and the tensions one witnesses therein ought to be understood in the context of American imperialism and that such an understanding is critical to the task of continuing to be a global denomination. The volume tells a tale of complex negotiations happening between United Methodists across different national, cultural, and ecclesial contexts and sets up the historical backdrop for the imminent schism of The United Methodist Church.

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438. Title: The Anxious Generation
Author: Haidt, Jonathan
ISBN-13: 978-0-593-65503-0
Date Finished: 2024-04-21
My Comments: Another excellent Haidt book, this one explaining why our youngsters are growing up anxious and depressed. Smart Phones. They're even worse than social media, because they provide 24/7 exposure to social media. The remedy is limited screen time and more free play time. Kids need to experience growing up with other people, which they don't get on the screen. Highly recommended for anyone with young children, and recommended for all others.

Amazon Description: After more than a decade of stability or improvement, the mental health of adolescents plunged in the early 2010s. Rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide rose sharply, more than doubling on many measures. Why? In The Anxious Generation, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt lays out the facts about the epidemic of teen mental illness that hit many countries at the same time. He then investigates the nature of childhood, including why children need play and independent exploration to mature into competent, thriving adults. Haidt shows how the “play-based childhood” began to decline in the 1980s, and how it was finally wiped out by the arrival of the “phone-based childhood” in the early 2010s. He presents more than a dozen mechanisms by which this “great rewiring of childhood” has interfered with children’s social and neurological development, covering everything from sleep deprivation to attention fragmentation, addiction, loneliness, social contagion, social comparison, and perfectionism. He explains why social media damages girls more than boys and why boys have been withdrawing from the real world into the virtual world, with disastrous consequences for themselves, their families, and their societies. Most important, Haidt issues a clear call to action. He diagnoses the “collective action problems” that trap us, and then proposes four simple rules that might set us free. He describes steps that parents, teachers, schools, tech companies, and governments can take to end the epidemic of mental illness and restore a more humane childhood. Haidt has spent his career speaking truth backed by data in the most difficult landscapes - communities polarized by politics and religion, campuses battling culture wars, and now the public health emergency faced by Gen Z. We cannot afford to ignore his findings about protecting our children - and ourselves - from the psychological damage of a phone-based life.

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439. Title: The Not-Yet God
Author: Delio, Ilia
ISBN-13: 978-1-62696-535-3
Date Finished: 2024-06-10
My Comments: This is another excellent example of theology being whatever the author wants to make up. Lots of new words, probably never seen in the OED. She just keeps stringing these words together as if they convey some meaning. Unlike engineering, where you actually end up with a product, theology ends up with fluff. There are occasional nuggets of good ideas here, but it's really a lot of work to find them and not worth this much effort. I did better than one Amazon reviewer, however, and finished the book.

Amazon Description: We are a species between axial periods. Thus, our religious myths are struggling to find new connections in a global, ecological order. Delio proposes the new myth of relational holism; that is, the search for a new connection to divinity in an age of quantum physics, evolution, and pluralism. The idea of relational holism is one that is rooted in the God-world relationship, beginning with the Book of Genesis, but finds its real meaning in quantum physics and the renewed relationship between mind and matter. Our story, therefore, will traverse across the fields of science, scripture, theology, history, culture and psychology. Our guides for a new myth of relational holism are the psychoanalyst Carl Jung, and the Jesuit scientist-theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The complex human can no longer be simplified to one view or another: one must see the whole of our existence or one does not see at all.

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440. Title: Baptizing America
Author: Kaylor, Brian and Beau Underwood
ISBN-13: 978-0-82720338-9
Date Finished: 2024-06-17
My Comments: The Christian Church in America has always had a strong relationship with the government of the country, certainly too strong. With the rise of (White) Christian Nationalism in recent years, we're seeing the continuation of this relationship arise to the point of possible destruction of our form of government. The connection between church and state, which is defined as separate in our constitution, has always been too close and strong, mostly without our even noticing. As with many differentiating ideas in recent history, we see thing differently now than we used to and can see the problems generated more clearly than in the past. Seeing how we can keep the separation of church and state, in terms of power fully in place while still allowing moral influence to flow from church to state is very difficult. If we don't solve this issue, and soon, we may lose our democracy. This is a book of many small examples with a less than stellar set of solutions at the end. It's worth reading.

Amazon Description: In the face of a rising threat to both church and democracy, Baptizing America provides an urgent examination and an enlightening critique exposing the dangerous undercurrents of Christian Nationalism. How can Mainline Protestants spot such practices in their own activities? A crucial call to reckon with influences before it's too late. Christian Nationalism presents an existential threat to both Christ's church and American democracy. Now is the time -- before it is too late -- to reckon with all the places its pernicious influence arises. On full display in recent elections, Christian Nationalism also exists in sanctuaries where an American flag has been displayed for decades, when we pledge allegiance to one nation "Under God," or when the U.S. is called a Christian nation. Baptizing America critiques the concept of civil religion, arguing that such expressions are far more dangerous than we realize. Mainline Protestant congregations will likely recognize themselves in the overlooked expressions of Christian Nationalism that pop up in the activities of both church and state.

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Peter Lutz
Last modified: Wed Feb 14 14:37:34 PST 2018