What's Tony Thinking

Some Good News for a Change


Here are three items that seem to me like very good news . . . in a time when the bad news appears unremitting . . .

One from the current issue of The Christian Century headed “Out of Endangerment.”

We’re used to reading stories about wildlife in decline — in the last decade, 23 species have been declared extinct — but some species have started to recover. India and Nepal have doubled their wild tiger population. River otters have returned to parts of the mid-western United States. The California Condor, American alligator and humpback whale have also begun to recover. Many eco-systems are recovering too. Across 18 countries, about 35 million acres — roughly the size of Greece — are being restored, including Florida’s coral reefs.

2023 marks the 50th anniversary of The Endangered Species Act.

How many stories have we read about angry, disaffected men turning to violence . . . here’s a different story from The Washington Post, c/o The Dispatch Newsletter:

A few years ago, a tattooed Marine Corps veteran showed up at an Indiana mosque, fists clenched and face flushed. Bibi Bahraini writes in the Washington Post about what happened next. “I sat alone with him in our mosque library—to share a smile and ask his name,” Bahraini writes. “[Richard McKinney] began making regular visits to the mosque, joining us for meals and sharing stories about his family and his time in the military.” Months later, after McKinney joined the mosque, Bahraini heard rumors that he had planned to bomb it—so she invited him for dinner and asked if it was true. “He explained that in the military, he had been at war with Muslims for years, and that he had developed a deep hatred in his heart,” she writes. “[But] the way we had treated him, with compassion and kindness, had changed his mind. He said we had given him a place to belong.”

And from the terrific podcast Econ Talk, this from the recent episode with Dwayne Betts on his inspiring project “Freedom Reads.” The idea is get to curated libraries into the housing units of prisons all across the U.S. Listen to the whole thing to learn more about a venture that builds dignity not only for inmates but among corrections officers.

Dwayne Betts was a 16-year-old in solitary confinement when a fellow inmate slid a book of poetry under his cell door. What happened next is an astounding story of transformation: from desperation to the discovery of beauty, even behind bars. Listen as the lawyer, prison reform advocate, and award-winning poet explains to EconTalk host Russ Roberts why he’s on a mission to bring books–and beauty–into prisons. They also discuss Betts’s latest book, Redaction, a collaboration with the artist Titus Kaphar.

Here’s a link to the entire podcast. 

Many years ago now, when our daughter, Laura, was in elementary school she was applying for something. The questionnaire she was to complete asked about “a special interest.” She answered, “reading,” and added “reading gives me another world.” This was the experience of a young Dwayne Betts in prison, and one that he hopes to offer to others who are behind bars. It is also the experience we have in vital Christian worship, for it conjures another reality here in the midst of a fallen world.

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