Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Monday, June 27, 2016

Poetic Justice


This won't get any attention (nor does it really deserve it, except from me) but buried in the majority opinion of the Supreme Court in Women's Whole Health v. Hellerstadt is a rather arcane legal discussion.  The issue is whether claimants were barred from making a facial challenge to the admitting-privileges requirement of the Texas statute on the grounds of res judicata.  Yes that's one of those "technicalities" you hear about now and again, but while it's important (it's the first issue the opinion addresses in the legal discussion of the ruling), it's still arcane.  Still, this little gem proves the Justices read the newspapers:

We find this approach persuasive. Imagine a group of prisoners who claim that they are being forced to drink contaminated water. These prisoners file suit against the facility where they are incarcerated. If at first their suit is dismissed because a court does not believe that the harm would be severe enough to be unconstitutional, it would make no sense to prevent the same prisoners from bring- ing a later suit if time and experience eventually showed that prisoners were dying from contaminated water. Such circumstances would give rise to a new claim that the prisoners’ treatment violates the Constitution.
Prisoners being force to drink contaminated water; wherever would they get that idea?

And as a bonus, Notorious RBG preemptively tells Ken Paxton ("HB2 was an effort to improve minimum safety standards and ensure capable care for Texas women. It’s exceedingly unfortunate that the court has taken the ability to protect women’s health out of the hands of Texas citizens and their duly-elected representatives") to stuff it, but as usual, he doesn't get the memo:

The Texas law called H. B. 2 inevitably will reduce the number of clinics and doctors allowed to provide abortion services. Texas argues that H. B. 2’s restrictions are constitutional because they protect the health of women who experience complications from abortions. In truth, “complications from an abortion are both rare and rarely dangerous.” Planned Parenthood of Wis., Inc. v. Schimel, 806 F. 3d 908, 912 (CA7 2015). See Brief for American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists et al. as Amici Curiae 6–10 (collecting studies and concluding “[a]bortion is one of the safest medical procedures performed in the United States”); Brief for Social Science Researchers as Amici Curiae 5–9 (compiling studies that show “[c]omplication rates from abortion are very low”). Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory- surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements. See ante, at 31; Planned Parenthood of Wis., 806 F. 3d, at 921–922. See also Brief for Social Science Re- searchers 9–11 (comparing statistics on risks for abortion with tonsillectomy, colonoscopy, and in-office dental surgery); Brief for American Civil Liberties Union et al. as Amici Curiae 7 (all District Courts to consider admitting privileges requirements found abortion “is at least as safe as other medical procedures routinely performed in outpatient settings”). Given those realities, it is beyond rational belief that H. B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law “would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.” Planned Parenthood of Wis., 806 F. 3d, at 910. When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety. See Brief for Ten Pennsylvania Abortion Care Providers as Amici Curiae 17–22. So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (1992), Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H. B. 2 that “do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,” Planned Parenthood of Wis., 806 F. 3d, at 921, cannot survive judicial inspection.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Going down smooth

In a preview of an interview set to air Thursday evening, NBC's Lester Holt asked Trump what proof he'd seen that Clinton's server had been hacked. Trump proceeded to argue that it was illegal for Clinton to have a private email server in the first place and lamented that she would not be charged because of a "rigged system."

"You don't know that it hasn't been [hacked]," Trump said. "What she did is illegal. She shouldn't have had a server."

When Holt pressed Trump to say what evidence he'd seen of a hack, Trump struggled to respond.

"I think I read that and I heard it and somebody—" Trump said.

"Where?" Holt asked.

"Somebody gave me that information," Trump said. "I will report back to you."

We also would have accepted:  "All of them, Katie."

Third time is the charm


And before anybody tries to tell me Abigail Fisher had a justiciable claim because the 5th Circuit said so:

No.  Just, no:

Except there's a problem. The claim that race cost Fisher her spot at the University of Texas isn't really true.

In the hundreds of pages of legal filings, Fisher's lawyers spend almost no time arguing that Fisher would have gotten into the university but for her race.

If you're confused, it is no doubt in part because of how Blum, Fisher and others have shaped the dialogue as the case worked its way to the country's top court.

Journalists and bloggers have written dozens of articles on the case, including profiles of Fisher and Blum. News networks have aired panel after panel about the future of affirmative action. Yet for all the front-page attention, angry debate and exchanges before the justices, some of the more fundamental elements of the case have been little reported.

Race probably had nothing to do with the University of Texas's decision to deny admission to Abigail Fisher.

In 2008, the year Fisher sent in her application, competition to get into the crown jewel of the Texas university system was stiff. Students entering through the university's Top 10 program — a mechanism that granted automatic admission to any teen who graduated in the upper 10 percent of his or her high school class — claimed 92 percent of the in-state spots.

Fisher said in news reports that she hoped for the day universities selected students "solely based on their merit and if they work hard for it." But Fisher failed to graduate in the top 10 percent of her class, meaning she had to compete for the limited number of spaces up for grabs.

She and other applicants who did not make the cut were evaluated based on two scores. One allotted points for grades and test scores. The other, called a personal achievement index, awarded points for two required essays, leadership, activities, service and "special circumstances." Those included socioeconomic status of the student or the student's school, coming from a home with a single parent or one where English wasn't spoken. And race.

Those two scores, combined, determine admission.

Even among those students, Fisher did not particularly stand out. Court records show her grade point average (3.59) and SAT scores (1180 out of 1600) were good but not great for the highly selective flagship university. The school's rejection rate that year for the remaining 841 openings was higher than the turn-down rate for students trying to get into Harvard.

As a result, university officials claim in court filings that even if Fisher received points for her race and every other personal achievement factor, the letter she received in the mail still would have said no.

It's true that the university, for whatever reason, offered provisional admission to some students with lower test scores and grades than Fisher. Five of those students were black or Latino. Forty-two were white.

Neither Fisher nor Blum mentioned those 42 applicants in interviews. Nor did they acknowledge the 168 black and Latino students with grades as good as or better than Fisher's who were also denied entry into the university that year. Also left unsaid is the fact that Fisher turned down a standard UT offer under which she could have gone to the university her sophomore year if she earned a 3.2 GPA at another Texas university school in her freshman year. (emphasis added)

Abigail Fisher was never going to attend UT-Austin; not ever.

This case was largely tried in the press, where standards of evidence are notoriously poor.  The real shame is that this case lasted as long as it did.  The saving grace, in all honesty, is that Antonin Scalia was not still alive to issue an opinion based on his obvious racial bias, expressed at the oral arguments that led to this decision.

The legal genius behind this case was the same lawyer who got Chief Justice Roberts to declare the Year of Jubilee and pronounce the Voting Rights Act no longer necessary (and damned inconvenient, to boot!).  May this decision be taken as a sign that the year of Jubilee is short lived.

The Hidden Agenda of Hiding the Wound


The hidden factor in the Fisher v. UT case is Texas public schools.

The state legislature passed a law, in an effort to avoid affirmative action counter-claims like Fishers, that required UT-Austin (part of the UT system, but the law does not apply to the system) and Texas A&M to accept the top 10% of Texas high school graduates.  Period.

This is a "color blind" system.

UT obtained a change in that rule.  Now it only has to automatically accept the top 7% of Texas high school graduates.  Why?  Because so many students from small school districts were coming to UT and flunking out.  They simply weren't prepared for the academic rigor of UT-Austin.  (And here's where the system gets interesting, because students who don't win automatic acceptance to UT can apply to a college in the UT system and, if they do well enough, can transfer to Austin after 1 year.)

The fact that the top 10% of high school graduates across the state cannot function at UT is an indictment of the Texas public school system.  But instead of noting that problem, we pay attention to whether or not white Amy Fisher was unfairly denied her "legacy."

The deeply hidden factor is the idea that tests like the SAT are "objective" and "unbiased" and establish a pure meritocracy where the fit prove their merit.  Or that all grades are equal, and thus all students equally compete on a level playing field when we only consider grades and test scores.  (I'm old enough to remember when you couldn't "prepare" for the SAT, because it didn't work that way.  Does anyone truly imagine middle-class whites don't have an advantage in preparing for the SAT that is denied to lower income students?  Does anyone anymore seriously think test scores are an objective and absolute measure of college merit, and is wholly colorblind and class-unconscious?  I've seen the "meritocracy" of wealthy white parents supporting their children's education, and "merit" is the least of its salient features.)

Which doesn't explain why UT is allowed, even under Alito's dissent, to consider other factors in admissions, as long as (per Alito) that factor is not race which excludes white students (Amanda Marcotte informs me that 47 students were admitted over Ms. Fisher, 42 of whom were white.  Ms. Fisher had no objection, and apparently neither did Justice Alito, to their admission.)

The hidden wound of racism remains hidden, because to look at it would indict us too deeply, and expose our complicity in the system too clearly.

"You say you want a revolution...."


Our earth is the home of revolution. In every corner of every continent men charged with hope contend with ancient ways in the pursuit of justice. They reach for the newest of weapons to realize the oldest of dreams, that each may walk in freedom and pride, stretching his talents, enjoying the fruits of the earth.

Our enemies may occasionally seize the day of change, but it is the banner of our revolution they take. And our own future is linked to this process of swift and turbulent change in many lands in the world. But nothing in any country touches us more profoundly, and nothing is more freighted with meaning for our own destiny than the revolution of the Negro American.

In far too many ways American Negroes have been another nation: deprived of freedom, crippled by hatred, the doors of opportunity closed to hope.

In our time change has come to this Nation, too. The American Negro, acting with impressive restraint, has peacefully protested and marched, entered the courtrooms and the seats of government, demanding a justice that has long been denied. The voice of the Negro was the call to action. But it is a tribute to America that, once aroused, the courts and the Congress, the President and most of the people, have been the allies of progress.

Thus we have seen the high court of the country declare that discrimination based on race was repugnant to the Constitution, and therefore void. We have seen in 1957, and 1960, and again in 1964, the first civil rights legislation in this Nation in almost an entire century.

As majority leader of the United States Senate, I helped to guide two of these bills through the Senate. And, as your President, I was proud to sign the third. And now very soon we will have the fourth--a new law guaranteeing every American the right to vote.

No act of my entire administration will give me greater satisfaction than the day when my signature makes this bill, too, the law of this land.

The voting rights bill will be the latest, and among the most important, in a long series of victories. But this victory--as Winston Churchill said of another triumph for freedom--"is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

That beginning is freedom; and the barriers to that freedom are tumbling down. Freedom is the right to share, share fully and equally, in American society--to vote, to hold a job, to enter a public place, to go to school. It is the right to be treated in every part of our national life as a person equal in dignity and promise to all others.

But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.

You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, "you are free to compete with all the others," and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.

Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.

This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result.

That's only part of LBJ's commencement address at Howard University in 1965.  But contrast it with what I can find of Justice Alito's dissent in Fisher v. UT.

"When UT decided to adopt its race-conscious plan, it had every reason to know that its plan would have to satisfy strict scrutiny and that this meant that it would be its burden to show that the plan was narrowly tailored to serve compelling interests," Alito wrote. "UT has failed to make that showing. By all rights, judgment should be entered in favor of petitioner."

He said that the university was engaging in stereotypes by arguing that the top 10 percent plan was not enough to ensure the diversity it sought in its student body.

He said the university had failed to define "with any clarity" its interest in ensuring a racially diverse student body and had also not demonstrated how its current program achieved that goal.

He said the goals the university had articulated "are not concrete or precise" and that they offer "no limiting principle for the use of racial preferences."

"For instance, how will a court ever be able to determine whether stereotypes have been adequately destroyed? Or whether cross-racial understanding has been adequately achieved?" Alito said.

He accused the school of paying "little attention to anything other than the number of minority students on its campus and in its classrooms" in its effort to increase diversity. He also said that courts had ignored the effect the program had on Asian-American students and had allowed the University of Texas-Austin to "pick and choose which racial and ethnic groups it would like to favor."

Alito said the school depended on "few crude, overly simplistic racial and ethnic categories," and that it had designed an offering of courses that "ensures a lack of classroom diversity."

The problem with racism in America is that white people created it, employed it, built a country on it, wrote our laws to enshrine it, and now we have to repudiate it.  But we can't do that by, as President Johnson said, bringing people who are just released from their chains to the starting line of the race and saying "Now you, too, can compete."  We can't do that by saying:  "You're free."  That freedom is truly barely 50 years old, and already the Supreme Court has declared what Charlie Pierce calls the "year of Jubilee."  And how is the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, which was meant to implement , almost a century after it's passage, the 15th Amendment, working out?  We built racism into this country's culture over 400 years; we can't eliminate it with a statute or a Constitutional amendment, because we are clearly determined not to.

To argue that we can eliminate racism by not doing anything to affect white privilege  is hardly "equal justice under the law."  Alito's argument is the redoubt of white privilege:  if we cannot be sure we are "color-blind," then we cannot be sure we aren't harming whites, like Ms. Fisher.  Notice that UT's policy does consider race as one factor among many; but to Justice Alito, that factor outweighs all others when it involves a white person.  "Cross-racial understanding," for example, is a lovely idea; but in this dissent it clearly means "When the non-whites understand the whites."  Ms. Fisher's position was that she was harmed because she is white.  Perhaps it is unfair to her, individually, to bear some of the burden of race in American history; but how much fairer is it to push that burden back onto non-whites, and insist that "strict scrutiny" requires we not scrutinize our past, the historical injustice of racism.  As President Johnson put it:  "We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result."

It is the result that Ms. Fisher and Justice Alito object to.

And given the demographics of the country, as well as the history of the country, that's going to mean more than a few whites will feel like they've been treated unequally.  But that's the only way we get equality as a fact and equality as a result.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"They don't even know what we're talking about"


The irony is that Valerie Taricot didn't originate these ideas; they aren't even the product of her analysis of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Like bigotry, which has to be taught, she was taught this nonsense.  And it's a set of ideas with a very, very old pedigree.  It's very Christian, that pedigree, but its origin is in the separation of the Jews from the Christians.  You can see the beginning cracks of that separation in the Gospel of John, where the gospel continually makes distinguishing (and disparaging) remarks about "the Jews," separating them from the audience the gospel was intended for.

The analysis of the "God of the Old Testament" as war-like, intolerant, and bloodthirsty didn't limit itself to anti-semitism, but the roots of the distinction between "us" and "them" based on Jesus representing the "God of Love" and the Hebrew Scriptures presenting that "God of Vengeance" lies in that effort to distinguish the children of Abraham from Christians.

So it is, to this day, if applied to Jews, an anti-semitic argument.  You'll find it used by many virulently anti-semitic groups, if you dig beneath the surface just a bit; especially groups that base their anti-semitism on their Christianity.

Which means this reading of the Scriptures (which is barely a reading at all; Taricot makes sweeping generalizations, rather than specific references to Scriptures.  She doesn't even bother with taking things out of context, because she doesn't bother with context) is fundamentally racist.  Well, it would be if she applied it to Jews, rather than to Christians.

Then again, as Walt Brueggemann, scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures, said, "They don't even know what we're talking about."  Brueggemann's work is a fine example of the continuity between the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian scriptures.  But Taricot just wants to trade in prejudice and bigotry, all in the name of being "enlightened."

Isn't it ironic?  Don't you think?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Outrage your neighbor as you outrage yourself


I knew from the article that this sign was on the grounds of a United Church of Christ.  It wasn't until I looked in the background that I saw the church was Open and Affirming (a UCC phrase that means accepting and affirming of LGBT people and their relationships).

Probably a less controversial stance than it was before Obergefell, but now I wonder if Mr. Jansen could decode that message, if he wouldn't be upset all over again.  Or, it might calm him down, because obviously a church with both these signs can't really be Christian.

Or maybe it's doubling down on their heresy.

"Theology is the lining out of another way to live in the world"



I am repeating this from Thought Criminal because it so echoes the concerns I've been chasing lately (when I stop reading political blogs and comments) about Tolstoy's famous question "How should we then live?"

I differ on the transcript from TC in one minor regard (and who is to say who is right?):  I think Brueggemann said Dawkins & Co. don't know what "we're" talking about.  That certainly conforms with my experience and my thinking.  At some point it isn't even "language games;" it's that Dawkins, et al., have the completely wrong end of the stick, or have hold of the wrong stick altogether, and they won't let go of that stick.  It's a bulldog trait, but stubbornness is not as admirable as we something think it is, and isn't as distinguishable from conviction as we imagine it to be.  My conviction is not a result of my refusal to concede; it stems from my experience with consideration.

One thing you cannot say about Dawkins or the "new atheists" is that they are open to consideration of ideas that challenge their own.  They know what they know, and they will not be bothered to consider that they could be wrong; and then they see that stubbornness in their opponents, and decide it proves them right.

In the meantime, where are the atheist organizations in times of crisis, when people need help in the world?  I don't agree with much of what Southern Baptists teach (from soteriology to Christology), but it was the largest Southern Baptist church in town that was working hard, through its members (all volunteers) to help people being relocated to Houston from New Orleans after Katrina.  I went to one of their meetings to organize still more volunteers to go to the Astrodome.  And while I don't have personal experience with it now, I also know the Southern Baptist Convention is working again in Texas to help flood victims.

I've not seen any prominent atheist groups rallying volunteers to make similar efforts.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

(Not quite) "All is revealed"*

Not coincidentally, it's about a guy who has power, 
and thinks that entitles him to rule the world.
  He also wants to burn it all down and raise a better world from the ashes. 
 You can't make this stuff up.  Well, in this context, anyway....

I wrote it; then I thought, "Oh, leave it alone!"  And I was going to; until I read this; and it convinced me that while Orlando and Trump's Hindenburg imitation are garnering all the attention, Bernie is still out there somewhere, flailing his arms and insisting he's relevant until July in Philadelphia.  So, for that reason:

I'm done:

Sanders spent the weekend back at home, huddled with supporters in Vermont and he reportedly plans to address supporters via teleconference on Thursday about how “the political revolution continues.” But on Tuesday, the senator traveled to D.C. where he delivered a speech calling for specific electoral reforms in the Democratic presidential primary process.

“I think the time is now, in fact the time is long overdue, for a fundamental transformation of the Democratic Party,” Sanders said, after opening remarks forcefully condemning attempts to scapegoat all Muslims for Sunday’s mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub.
So, obligatory remarks about the Orlando shooting and Trump's idiocy, and then on to the main event:  closed primaries stole my election!

Uh, no:

There have been 40 state contests so far, 27 primaries and 13 caucuses. Nineteen of those primaries  were accessible to independent voters. Yet Sanders only won six of them, and two were his home state of Vermont and neighboring New Hampshire.

Hillary Clinton has only won six more states than Sanders, and she won all eight closed primary states. Would throwing all those contests open have made a big difference? 
If you want to see the complete list of open and closed primaries, and who won which ones (victories depend much more on geography/demographics than on party rules for who can vote), it's here.

The kicker is here:

The reality is that, in general, primaries were unfriendly terrain for Sanders. His wheelhouse was the caucus, pocketing 11 out of 13. The low-turnout meeting-style contests are known to favor liberal candidates, having buoyed George McGovern and Barack Obama to their nominations. Sanders recently said, “We want open primaries in 50 states in this country.” If he means that literally, and would end caucuses altogether, that would certainly increase voter turnout in those states. But it also would risk ceding what’s now populist turf to establishment forces.

These facts are important for Sanders’ his fans to know. Not to rob them of their comforting rationalizations and make them wallow in their misery, but so they can best strategize for the future.

They want the Democratic Party to change. They want a party that shuns big donors. They want a party that routinely goes big on progressive policy goals.

But if they believe that the nomination process is the obstacle preventing the will of the people from enacting that change, then they are letting gut feelings overwhelm hard facts.

The only explanation for the sudden obsession with closed primaries is that we’ve just had five of them in the last two weeks. The truth is the race was lost long before, when Clinton build an essentially insurmountable lead by sweeping the largely open primaries of the South and lower Midwest. Sanders’ recent defeats stung badly because his die-hard supporters wrongly believed his caucus streak meant he was gaining momentum. They should not let that sting cloud their vision.
I left that whole for the context, but it's the first line of the last paragraph that points out this article was published on May 2.  It is now June 15, and Sanders has yet to recognize he lost, fair and square.  It wasn't just his supporters who believed his caucus streak meant he finally had "Big MO"**; that came from the top down.  It isn't Sanders' supporters who have been deluding themselves all this time; the delusions started with the candidate.

Sanders is clinging to this idea like a shipwreck victim clings to a floating piece of flotsam.  But it's all my balls, in Charlie Pierce's eloquent phrase.  Clinton has secured the Democratic nomination, Sanders is too old to ever run again, he has never been a Democrat, and now, in the context of the worst single-shooter massacre in U.S. history, he's abandoned any pretense that he's interested in social justice or even healthcare reform, and focussed all this energy on rewriting the  rules of the Democratic party so he can, what?  Win next time?

And no, that meeting with Clinton after the D.C. primary was not a reconciliation:

The Clinton statement said that the two talked about "unifying the party," but the Sanders statement did not....

Somebody get him off the stage, the adults have real problems to worry about.

*Last words of the bad guy in the movie.  Makes me wonder if somebody knew just enough Greek.....

**I love the irony of "momentum" in primary races.  GHWBush first announced "Big MO" was on his side in 1980, when he won in New Hampshire.

He went on to serve as Reagan's VP for 8 years.  Sanders could take a lesson from that.

"Pray without ceasing"


Our text comes from Samantha Bee.

Prayer is an activity.

Prayer is not words.  Prayer is not a pose.  Prayer is not an excuse for doing nothing.  Prayer is not an alternative.  Prayer is not a last resort, a redoubt, a final attempt when all else has failed.

Prayer is not an option.  It comes as standard equipment.

The worst, most inappropriate, most indefensible position on prayer is to say "All we can do is pray." Because prayer is not about them, or about getting God's attention so something will finally happen in this world (as if God is too busy watching TeeVee to pay attention, until you make the phone ring enough times):  prayer is about you.

The words of the "Lord's Prayer" are less a prayer than they are instructions.  We don't take it that way; but what if we did.  Consider it briefly:

"Your name be holy."  God's name is not known, that's how holy God's name is.  It is so holy it must be kept pure, undefiled, unmixed with lesser words on the human tongue.  And we start our prayer with our relationship to God:  God is holy, and must be understood as holy.  So holy even God's name is holy.  God may be our "father in Heaven," but do not approach the Creator of the Universe casually.

"May your will be done here on earth as it is done above."  Is that a prayer telling God what to do; or submitting to God?  And if we submit to God, what does that mean about God's will being done on earth?  Are we agents of that will; or passive recipients of God's decisions to intervene (of which, one notes, there are so few examples in the scriptures)?

"Give us our bread for today."  That's all we're told to ask for:  food for the day.  Humble food.  Bread.  Bread should be enough.  Ask for bread.  What more do you need than that?  Ask for bread; it's all you really need.  Any more is greed; any more is excess.  Bread.  Pray for today's bread.

"Forgive our debts, just as we forgive our debtors."  Almost snuck that one by.  Forgive our debtors?  Why should we do that?  Because our debts to God will be forgiven insofar as we forgive others?  Because it's not about us, but about them?

When do we get to pray about the guns and the shooters?

"Don't lead us into temptation; instead, take us away from evil."

This is how you pray for yourselves.  Not much about ponies or taking care of other people and their guns, is it?

And none of this is about prayer as last resort, as final option, as what to do when all else fails.  It is that vision of prayer I especially despise.  When you "haven't a prayer," it's your own damned fault, not the result of evil consequences you can't escape.  If you are helpless it is because you choose to be helpless, not because no one can do anything and it's time to let God take the blame or bail you out of your stupidity.  Prayer is not a "Get out of Jail Free" card, it is an activity of worship and communion.

As Samantha Bee notes, "Faith without works is dead."  Prayer is work; but it is not the only work.

Monday, June 13, 2016

And now for something completely different


Jim Walsh on Here and Now very sensibly limned the Orlando shooter (I don't mention his name) as a disturbed person who expressed animosity toward Jews, blacks, women, gays, was unstable and violent, and....has ties to terrorism?

According to this report, the shooter has expressed (at one time or another) sympathies with the Boston bombers, ISIS/Daesh, Hezbollah, and a group (forget the name) who fights ISIS.  As Walsh sensibly pointed out, the hatred expressed for certain groups is simply hatred, and has nothing to do with religion (particularly) at all.

This guy was just not a person who should have had anything sharper than a rubber ball.  ISIS/Daesh is happy for the shout out (they need the good publicity), but otherwise to link this to Islam or even terrorism, is to misdiagnose the cause and apply the wrong solution to the problem.

This sensible line of reasoning, of course, will never get further than that report; or this blog post.*

*And then there's the fact the father's version of events isn't necessarily reliable, either.  Acorn's proximity to tree, and all that.

One small observation


The very reason Donald Trump is the nominee (presumptively) of the GOP is the reason a man shot up a gay nightclub in Florida.

Fear of the other.

The shooter, according to his father, was upset because he saw two men kissing each other.  Is that any different from being upset that Obama is a black man in the White House (which is the root of birtherism, something Trump championed until he gave it up as a lost cause)?  Is that any different than Kim Davis refusing to issue marriage license in accordance with the law?  Is that any different than demanding a wall be built along the Mexican border to keep brown people from entering our country (because white Canadians don't "take our jobs," and besides, they speak English)?  Is that any different from declaring a ban on "Muslims" (the majority of whom are Asian, the rest of whom live in Africa, but it's the minority of Muslim Arabs who are the face of Islam, apparently)?

Is there really any separation of the mindset of Donald Trump from the mindset that says I should shoot up gays in a nightclub because two men kissing upsets me?  It is a distinction of intensity, since neither Trump nor his supporters (no word on the shooter's political inclinations, but who cares?) have taken to violence themselves.  But the frustration that fuels Trump's campaign is of a piece with the anger that causes a man to murder as many people as he can.

Donald Trump wants to get elected on that fear.  Indeed, the shooter is described as "belligerent, toxic, and racist."  Precisely the attitude Trump represents.

Denise McAllister on NPR this morning, in support of Donald Trump and in response to the Orlando shootings, argued that Americans need to unite behind fear; that fear is needed to draw us together so we can fight the other, the enemy.  We need, she said, to declare war so we can give police the free rein they need to investigate killers like this shooter.  Cokie Roberts was too useless in opposition to point out this shooter had already been investigated twice by the FBI.  Apparently we are to suspend the Constitution because this crisis is more serious than any war this country has ever faced, including the Civil War.

That is the fear Donald Trump wants to be elected on.  That is the fear that drove a man to mass homicide.  Fear is never something we need to encourage.  FDR famously said we only needed to be afraid of fear; Donald Trump wants us to be afraid of everyone, so he can protect us from them.  Which I'm truly afraid he cannot possibly do.

Because spiders really freak me out.....

"Do not be deceived"

As I've said before, citing scripture outside the context of a worship service or a study group is abusive to scripture and to the audience it is quoted at.  More and more scripture is being "weaponized" (a dreadful but sadly appropriate term), which means it is used as a club to beat down some group and so build up the group gathered around the words.  If you have any regard for the words of the Bible as the "word of God," this is an abuse you should find repugnant and heretical.

Sadly, no.

But the worst part is, it encourages proof-texting.  Take Paul's words of out context, they become abusive.  Put them back into context, and they really don't allow the use Lite Guv. Patrick made of them; in fact, insofar as scripture is God's word, it is Patrick who is mocking God:

6 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if any one thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each man will have to bear his own load.

6 Let him who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches.

7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that would compel you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who receive circumcision do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God.

17 Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

There is, frankly, no spirit of gentleness in quoting scripture by verse and posting it out of context to a general audience.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss


I'm having trouble distinguishing between Sanders supporters and Trump supporters, because both seem to support the candidate as Idea, not the candidate as capable person.

Sanders, arguendo, represents a revolution .  He's long ago stopped talking about healthcare and tuition, and gone to talking about process and procedure.  It isn't attributed to him directly (not by a quote), but the Politico piece says Sanders has gone from not caring about Clinton's "damned e-mails," to hoping she is indicted and so derailed.  It is a last desperate hope for power; not the actions of a politician who wants to do some good in the world.

Clinton is slammed because she had support in the Democratic party before she started.  That support, of course, runs counter to the "new people" Sanders supposedly brought to the party.  But why do those people get more credit than the rest of the voters in the primaries because they are "new or "young"?  Because Sanders?  Because reasons?  If Pennsylvania reflects the nation, and 10% of those "new people" would just as soon vote for Trump, what does Sanders bring to the party at all?

Trump, too, brags that he's brought new voters to the GOP.  Funny, they look like the same old white aggrieved GOP voters to me.  Trump just finally tore the mask off, berating even Federal judges because of their ethnicity, a bridge too far for GOP office holders (well, all but a few of the more extreme Representatives).  You can object to government in the abstract, but when you go to undermining the justice system in the specific, that's too far for even GOP senators like Jeff Sessions, a man who damned near supports secession and nullification.  Damned near; and that's as near as they dare get.

Trump goes much further.

So does Sanders.  He rails against the "establishment," and wants to re-write the rules of a party he's never wanted to be a member of, so he can have access to all that party offers (mainly, ballot access in all 50 states to its Presidential candidate).  What else could he be seeking?  If the Democrats are so corrupt and sclerotic as he implies, why not start a new, pure, clean party?  Why try to flush the stables, unless you want the horses for free?  Sanders wants to reshape the party in his image because he rallied people and got acclaim and won some primaries, and now he's entitled.

Entitled to what, it is reasonable to ask.  Entitled, apparently, to be the Establishment.  He doesn't like the one we have, so he wants to replace it with one of his own.  His Establishment, something he's entitled to because....well, why, exactly?

Trump clearly thinks he's entitled to win the White House because crowds love him and he won the GOP primary and Hillary Clinton is corrupt (film at 11, or on Monday, whichever comes first).  Sanders think he deserves to win because people cheered for him, and he raised $200 million dollars in small donations (and spent it all without winning the race).

I keep saying I'm more radical than Sanders, yet I keep making arguments that defend the status quo. Actually, my objection to Sanders is that he isn't radical enough.  He doesn't want to restore democracy or return power to the people; he just wants to let somebody else sit at the head of the table.  And he wants to command control of that seating arrangement, which in the end is neither ethical nor a sign of integrity:  it's just grasping for power.  It's all Donald Trump wants; it's all the Tea Party wants: to be in control and to impose their agenda on the nation.  (I even heard a Sanders supporter on Diane Rehm this morning looking forward to a future where there would be a "liberal" Tea Party.)

Hillary Clinton wants to lead the nation; Sanders wants the nation to shut up and listen to him until they realize how right he is.  It's an interesting contrast, which makes me prefer Clinton over Sanders ever more as time goes on.  But, as I said, I'm more radical than that.

Or he would tell a parable for those who had been invited, when he noticed how they were choosing the places of honor:

He said to them:  "When someone invites you to a wedding banquet, don't take the place of honor, in case someone more important than you has been invited.  Then the one who invited you both will come and say to you, "Make room for this person," and you'll be embarrassed to have to take the lowest place.  Instead, when you are invited, to take the lowest place, so when the host comes up he'll say to you, "Friend, come up higher."  Then you'll be honored in front of all those reclining around the table with you."

"Those who promote themselves will be demoted, and those who demote themselves will be promoted."

Then he said also to his host:  "When you give a lunch or a dinner, don't invite your friends, or your brothers and sisters, or relatives, or rich neighbors.  They might invite you in return and so you would be repaid.  Instead, when you throw a dinner party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and blind.  In that case, you are to be congratulated, since they cannot repay you.  You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."
Luke 14: 7-14, SV.

That latter, I should note, has a direct connection to Derrida's concept of the gift as something freely given which cannot be part of a system of exchange (i.e., repayment).

Jesus said that in the basiliea tou theou the first would be last and the last first.  What he envisioned was a constant churn, but not a race to the top; rather, a race to the bottom.  Bernie Sanders wants to be exalted so that he can rule from the place of honor (and yes, Hillary Clinton wants to rule, too, from the place of honor; you don't run for President without wanting power and having a powerful ego).  My argument against him is that what he seeks isn't radical; it's just rearranging the deck chairs.

If Bernie wanted to be truly radical, he'd be promoting that vision for social justice, rather than free college and health care paid for by Wall Street.  So far as I'm concerned, both Clinton and Sanders are incrementalists.  But revolutionaries don't get elected; they seldom even get listened to.  So my pragmatism says:  quit promising things you can't possibly deliver, and which really won't solve that many problems (how much social justice is achieved by free college tuition?).  And my radicalism says:  you still aren't radical enough.

It's the Idea that compels me; but the Idea compels me to change; it doesn't compel me to change others.

'Tis a quandary,  I tells ya.

'Tis the season

Of life, that is:


Thou goest home this night to thy home of winter,
To thy home of autumn, of spring, and of summer;
Thou goest home this night to thy perpetual home,
To thine eternal bed, to thine eternal slumber.

Sleep thou, sleep and away with thy sorrow,
Sleep thou, sleep and away with thy sorrow,
Sleep thou, sleep and away with thy sorrow,
Sleep, thou beloved, in the rock of the fold.

The great sleep of Jesus, the surpassing sleep of Jesus,
The sleep of Jesus’ wound, the sleep of Jesus’ grief,
The young sleep of Jesus, the restoring sleep of Jesus,
The sleep of the kiss of Jesus of peace and of glory.

The shade of death lies upon thy face, beloved,
But the Jesus of grace has His hand round about thee;
In nearness to the Trinity farewell to thy pains.
Christ stands before thee and peace is in His mind.

Sleep, O sleep, in the calm of all calm,
Sleep, O sleep, in the guidance of guidance,
Sleep, O sleep, in the love of all loves;
Sleep, O beloved, in the Lord of Life,
Sleep, O beloved, in the God of all life!