Signs and Wonders
Nate Silver
Associated Press/Photo by Nam Y. Huh
Nate Silver

Signs and Wonders: GOP gains ground in bid to retake the Senate

Newsworthy

GOP opportunity. Political prognosticator Nate Silver correctly predicted President Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 and 2012, as well as all 35 Senate races in 2008. Someone who has that kind of track record has earned my attention, and he’s predicting that Republicans’ chances to capture the Senate are good. Republicans “are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber,” he said.  According to The Christian Science Monitor, “the last time Silver released a Senate forecast (July), he called Senate control a ‘toss-up.’”

The big day. Today is the day Hobby Lobby finally gets its hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court, and it’s hard to imagine how the stakes could be bigger. If Hobby Lobby loses, religious liberty in this country will experience a serious setback. If Hobby Lobby wins, Obamacare will take a major blow. It’s likely that neither side wanted so much to ride on a single case, but here we are. What’s interesting to me is how The New York Times and other publications are still trying to frame this case as an issue about contraception or women’s rights, rather than about religious liberty. The good news is that Steve Green and his family, who own Hobby Lobby, know better and have been willing to put themselves and their business on the line for this case and for the country. Whatever ultimately happens, the arguments we’ll hear today before the Supreme Court likely will be studied in law schools for generations to come.

Cardboard churches. A man best known for creating a cardboard church has won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, considered the industry’s “Nobel Prize.” Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is best known for designing shelters and public spaces following natural disasters in Rwanda, Turkey, India, China, Haiti, and Japan. His famous cardboard church was built in the aftermath of the New Zealand earthquake in 2011. According to the jury who awarded the prize, “His buildings provide shelter, community centers, and spiritual places for those who have suffered tremendous loss and destruction. When tragedy strikes, he is often there from the beginning.” Ban, 56, said he was glad to have the award because it affirms not just him, but the humanitarian aspect of his work. Ban has developed a reputation as being a kind of anti-celebrity. “I’m not saying I’m against building monuments, but I’m thinking we can work more for the public,” he said during a recent conference. “Architects are not building temporary housing because we are too busy building for the privileged people.”

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Lessons from Waco. More than 20 years ago, cult leader David Koresh and the Branch Davidians perished following a stand-off with the FBI and members of the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. More than 70 members of the cult, including nearly 23 children, died in a fire that consumed the compound. Malcolm Gladwell, a brilliant writer who recently declared his return to the Christian faith of his youth, has turned his attention to the story and produced a fascinating account of the event for the most recent New Yorker. Gladwell’s story is not an apologia for the Branch Davidians. Most of what Koresh taught and much of his behavior fell well outside the bounds of Christianity. The Branch Davidians deserved their “cult” label. But the article does point out in vivid terms how tone-deaf the government negotiators were when it came to religious and theological matters.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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