Last Week, Today

On the docket: Supreme Court and marriage; Baltimore and the police; Gerson on poverty; Dionne on faith and politics; and Louis C.K. & fatherhood.  

1. Let's say the Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Now what?

John Inazu provides an unusual  primer on what to expect from the Supreme Court's coming marriage decision, as well as a brief analysis of Indiana's RFRA, in Christianity Today. It is unusual in the calm, reasonable way in which Inazu picks apart fear-inflated rhetoric from both the left and right, while providing precise and clear-sighted analysis of the legal and cultural implications if the Supreme Court decides, come June, in favor of same-sex marriage.  

2. Baltimore: It's not a case of "whodunnit"  

Ta-Nehisi Coates has been writing up a storm in the wake of Baltimore's protests and #FreddieGray. This article, in particular, "The Myth of Police Reform," is worth highlighting. Coates argues that we tend to obsess over the details of what a cop did or did not do, neglecting perhaps the most fundamental question underlying Baltimore's unrest: why are we relying on the police to handle the social problems that we don't want to deal with? 

"At some point, Americans decided that the best answer to every social ill lay in the power of the criminal-justice system. Vexing social problems—homelessness, drug use, the inability to support one's children, mental illness—are presently solved by sending in men and women who specialize in inspiring fear and ensuring compliance. Fear and compliance have their place, but it can't be every place."

Coates' comments parallel President Barack Obama's honest remarks that we cannot just keep sending police to "do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise" from impoverished communities. 

CNN writer John Blake's narrative about the crumbling social fabric of Baltimore, particularly the disappearance of older black men who provided a moral compass for younger men, reiterates a similar point: "Funding for public schools, libraries, jobs programs and recreation centers may lag, but the budget for jails and police never seems to run dry." 

3. Louis C.K. on fatherhood and other life lessons

Terry Gross, host of Fresh Air, interviews comedian Louis C.K. on getting started in stand-up, the transformation of fatherhood, how NOT to stop your kids from doing drugs, and other life lessons. It is a moving and insightful interview of one of the top comedians - and voices - in today's society. 

 "The greatest thing about having a child is putting yourself second in your own life. It's a massive gift to be able to say you're not the most important person to yourself."

4. Michael Gerson on a 'Renewed War on Poverty"

Gerson explores what a 21st century approach to tackling domestic poverty would look like. This closing is especially relevant to the politics of the matter:

"Note that a comprehensive effort would require flexibility on both sides of the ideological spectrum. For liberals, there is a difference between using social mobility as a unifying national goal and employing economic inequality as a political cudgel. 

For conservatives, a preference for the work of markets and civil society can’t be used as an excuse for inaction when civil society is beleaguered and overwhelmed (in part) by powerful economic trends. Recent Republican anti-poverty initiatives have been rhetorically promising but substantively thin."

5. E.J. Dionne on the faith of Sen. Chris Coons

I (Michael) worked a bit with Senator Coons while at The White House--Delaware established a faith-based office during my tenure (by the way, every state should have a faith-based office). Dionne writes about the liberal, seminary student/Senator in his column this week, and what he called a "true moment of grace." The whole column is worth a read as Dionne has one of the more sophisticated perspectives on religion and public life from a progressive viewpoint. We need more public officials with the courage to speak honestly about faith in American life. And we need more people like EJ who are willing to write about it.

Sarah Ngu (@sarahngu) is a freelance writer and an alumni of Trinity Forum Academy. Based in New York, she blogs on faith and culture, and produces thought leadership for businesses.