Presented without comment:

Outrageous Fortune paints a none-too-bright picture of the environment for new restaurants in America. Of principal concern are the economic challenges faced by restauranteurs and the lack of opportunity for making one’s living through cooking; the gap in support for mid-career chefs; the inauthentic professional relationship between restaurant owners and their landlords; and the creeping institutionalization of American cuisine that hamstrings true authentic cooking. There’s a lot of nostalgia for bygone eras and erstwhile heroes, from the Yankee Doodle to Bob Cobb, the likes of which (it’s implied) we’ll never see again. McDonald’s and the malls have ceded responsibility for new dish development altogether, we’re told; chefs complain that unconvention in form is brutally punished at the cash register, if it ever gets on the menu at all; how are chefs supposed to develop, the question is posed, if they don’t see their creations come to life?

The authors theorize that the community benefits from Star Trek conventions involve building a sense of community identity and trust through the creation of social bonds between participating members. […] The benefits of appreciating Trek mostly arise from social bonds among Trekkers created through same-group participation. The benefits from supporting the Trekker community are seen by the authors to be much more substantial, involving specific competencies developed in volunteers and board members from running conventions and fan fiction contests, and the collective efficacy made possible by bringing different groups together around a common interest and forming connections between them. McCarthy et al. go so far as to claim that this last activity can lead to greater capacity for collective action and, eventually, community revitalization.

Hence we have the recent onslaught of studies, retreats, and conversations this month focused on finding new ways to communicate the value of religion to the majority of our fellow citizens who don’t experience it every day. […] Hosted by Saddleback Church and facilitated by Rick Warren, the retreat (as much as a choir sanctuary can be called a retreat) set out an ambitious goal: specifically, pondering what it would take to make Jesus an “integral part of life for all Californians.” […] Our gathering struck me as a most curious sort of phenomenon: here we were, representatives of churches, fretting about how to change our ways to serve this mysterious “other” who is not coming to our services, not joining our congregations, and seemingly indifferent to whether our institutions thrive or die on the vine. Several participants in the room made this point repeatedly: that until we can have an honest conversation with these people who in some fundamental way(s) are very different from us, it’s going to be very hard to know what (if anything) we can do for them. […] What I like about the Jesus Ripple Effect study from the Save Your Soul Fund, then, is that it’s not just an opinion piece about how better to reframe Christianity: it’s the product of a gigantic meta-conversation with hundreds of Cincinnati-area residents, many of whom, importantly, have no meaningful interaction with their local place of worship. This is by no means the first study to talk about religion with members of the general population, but it’s part of a fairly narrow set of literature I’ve seen that involves rich, qualitative conversations with non-spiritual people about what Christianity could and does mean to them. Save Your Soul Fund claims that the study is the first to employ “framing science,” a concept from public policy, in service of the Lord: working with the assumption that all of us carry around certain frameworks and associations that are a kind of cultural shorthand and that we use to analyze information.

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