June 01, 2016

The Big Sort

I'm reading a book called The Big Sort, about how politics is being altered by the trend of modern mobility forming like-minded communities, of birds of a feather flocking together, Republicans with Republicans and Dems with Dems.  The author asks a chicken or egg question on gerrymandering, a sort of both/and: we self-segregated by community while at the same time leaders became more aggressive in protecting districts. Polarization begets more polarization.

Part of it is due to our fractured media environment and how “mass media” has become more narrow-cast media.

A real eye-opener was a single line about the impact on religion:
“Mainline religious denominations gained parishioners through the first half of the twentieth century, the age of mass markets, but lost members beginning in the mid-1960s to independent churches designed for homogeneous communities. Media, advertising, city economies - they've all segmented, specialized and segregated.”
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It's worth pondering how many of the dire OT prophets have hopeful messages of restoration at the end. A prime example is Zephaniah, a book of unrelenting despair and vengeance until a sudden complete change of tone with the words from yesterday's first reading on the feast of the Visitation.

My study bible remarks that even if a later scribe added it, it's not untrue given that Israel did have a remnant and resulting hope after their return from Babylon and rebuilding of the Temple.

Perhaps it's a case of the ancient Jewish church attempting to always find that elusive balance between presumption and despair, and there was a perceived need, perhaps, to offer some hope.

It parallels the account of the Passion, given how dire and how much suffering would be experienced before Resurrection. Zephaniah feels like a written preview in words of what would happen in the body of Jesus: judgment, sentence, and then salvation.

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I think even on a secular level there's an implicit acknowledgement of how broken a godless world is, shown in the fascination with world-ending apocalyptic stories.

What does it say that there was such a sharp reversal in the '80s from the sexual excesses of the '70s and late '60s? Or in the '40s from the freewheelin' '20s? Society itself learns over time, just as the individual learns, and forgets, and re-learns, and forgets… The bewitching attraction of sin unfailingly does not satisfy, though we, at regular intervals, think it will.

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