French bad boy novelist Michel Houellebecq writes about the strengths and weaknesses of Pentecostalism: “Many Americans probably don’t know that a Pentecostal movement exists in France. I became aware of it when I was living in Paris near the Porte de Montreuil, at that time a poor neighborhood with a lot of recent immigrants. Drawn by posters, I went to several meetings, some led by an American televangelist on tour. Probably 90 percent of the attendees were black. The memories I have of this are strange—I almost doubt having lived these moments. The people danced, sang at the top of their lungs, and sometimes spoke in tongues. I never had the feeling I was witnessing a collective delirium, or that I was in the midst of a cult. The sign of peace, reduced in Catholic Masses to a brief, irritated, and icy shake of the hand, gave way here to interminable warm hugs and kisses. And at the end of the celebration, we would share bountiful meals. ‘If these people are saved,’ Nietzsche more or less said (with cruelty, but rightly), ‘they ought to look like it!’ I understood from this moment that the Catholic Church had much to gain by moving closer to the ambience of Pentecostal celebrations.”

Here are a couple of items on space following yesterday’s publication of the first-ever picture of a black hole. Mark J. Reid explains how black holes were discovered: “In the 1700s, John Michell in England and Pierre-Simon Laplace in France independently thought ‘way out of the box’ and imagined what would happen if a huge mass were placed in an incredibly small volume. Pushing this thought experiment to the limit, they conjectured that gravitational forces might not allow anything, even light, to escape. Michell and Laplace were imagining what we now call a black hole.” And Marina Koren writes about how our brains love the weightlessness of space but our bodies don’t: “Few people know this better than Scott Kelly, the NASA astronaut who spent nearly a year on the International Space Station from 2015 to 2016. Like other astronauts, Kelly served as a test subject in the study of space travel’s effects on the human body. Unlike other astronauts, Kelly has an identical twin, Mark, an astronaut himself. This gave researchers an uncommon opportunity to monitor the two brothers as they lived in two very different environments—one on Earth and the other 250 miles above it. According to their results, published Thursday in Science, Scott experienced a number of changes that Mark did not. Most of those changes went away after Scott returned to Earth. The long stint in space, the researchers say, produced some unexpected changes—but did not lead to any clinically significant health differences.”

In his first piece for The Atlantic as a staff writer, Andrew Ferguson considers the joys of reading the newspaper: “Sometime this winter, I performed an experiment: I decided to subscribe to home delivery of a daily newspaper. I am so pleased by the success of this experiment that I can no longer remember why I undertook it, although through my daze of self-satisfaction I am pretty sure that money was involved. A promotional offer probably arrived in the mail—the postal mail, I mean—that was as insanely cheap as I am. Succumbing to a printed come-on delivered by a flesh-and-blood letter carrier to subscribe to a real newspaper-on-newsprint gave my experiment the feel of something reactionary and backward-looking—another reason I was eager to undertake it. I even paid by check.”

Geoffrey Rush wins his defamation case against The Daily Telegraph: “Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush has been awarded $850,000 in damages and may receive millions more in lost earnings after he won his defamation case against Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph over reports accusing him of “inappropriate behaviour” towards a female co-star. In a judgment delivered on Thursday, Federal Court Justice Michael Wigney said the Telegraph had failed to establish a defence of truth to its claims and labelled the reports ‘extravagant, excessive and sensationalist’.”

Roger Scruton on the metaphysics of temples and tombs: “Tombs, temples, and memorials form the heart of our ancient settlements, marking the public squares, the crossroads and the places of pilgrimage. They are the nodes of the urban network, and the streets radiate out from them, carrying the message of belonging to the furthest reaches of the city. Every town in Europe is built around a church, and public spaces are marked by monuments and chapels, reminding us that the place has a meaning more durable than the people who reside there.”

Essay of the Day:

In First Things, Matthew Schmitz explains why Christians should be against open borders:

“In the run-up to World War II, men inside and outside the Church invoked the gospel to justify appeasement and pacifism. After his own flirtation with the idea, Reinhold Niebuhr came to believe that pacifism was ‘unable to distinguish between the peace of capitulation to tyranny and the peace of the Kingdom of God.’ In the name of an abstract ‘law of love,’ pacifists abandoned their duties to God and man. They refused to recognize that a fallen world can never be free of conflict. This was bad politics—and bad religion.

“We are making a similar mistake today. Faced with a historic surge of migration, Christian leaders have misread the gospel and misjudged human affairs. They have done so with the best of intentions. Just as Niebuhr’s contemporaries were correct to say that Christians must be peacemakers, today’s churchmen are right to say that we must welcome the stranger. Each theme is inescapable in Scripture and demands the Christian’s obedience to the point of pain. But obedience is never so simple as renouncing violence or refusing to defend national boundaries. In an imperfect world, peace must be protected by strength of arms, and welcoming the stranger entails preserving the society that might welcome him.”

Read the rest.

Photo: Doi Inthanon

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