Tuesday, June 22, 2021

In A Sense, Isn't Society To Blame?

I liked the movie version better:

As Goes the SBC...?

Where’s all the people?

Ed Litton is now President of the Southern Baptist Convention.  What that means depends on who you ask.  National Review (the house organ of the late, unlamented racist William F. Buckley) calls him a "turtle on a fence post," although that's not the criticism I took it to be (turns out it's from a sermon by Litton).  Indeed, NR seems approving:

“If you look throughout Scripture, whether it was Joseph or Esther or Nehemiah or Ezra or especially Daniel, God took every one of those people in as servants, and that’s the picture we need to get,” he told me. “It’s counterintuitive,” he said, but he believes that, “as we go into our cities and serve, God raises our influence so that we can speak truth to power at just the right moment.”

That's fine; I'm not here to argue with him, anyway.  Arizona Central calls him a "reconciler," and notes there is much reconciliation to do:

Late last year, the Rev. Joel A. Bowman Sr. announced he was leaving the SBC following a statement from Southern Baptist seminary presidents rejecting critical race theory. 

The presidents wrote that they "stand together on historic Southern Baptist condemnations of racism in any form" but added their belief that critical race theory is "incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message."

Bowman, who is one of several Black pastors who have left the denomination in recent years, said in a tweet that the SBC has "no credibility on the issue of racism."  

Frankly, I don't see a lot of reconciling over coming together on that issue, but I don't single out the SBC on that.  I'd say that about any group of white Americans.  If you're interested in the horse race:

Litton, the longtime pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, a congregation with 3,900 members, was considered a long shot in the presidential race. Two other candidates — Georgia pastor Mike Stone, a leader among critics of current SBC leaders, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler — had been considered the favorites.

Mohler was knocked out during the first round of ballots, receiving about a quarter of votes. In a runoff, Litton got 52% of the vote, and Stone got close to 48%. 

The point being Litton won because the extremes fell to the wayside.   "Extremes" here requires careful context I can't really provide, except that Mohler is, or has been, a pretty hard-shell fundamentalist/literalist.  To say I disagree with Mohler on almost all things ecclesiological and theological is a gross understatement.  I doubt we even pray to the same God.  But apparently the "favorites," for one reason or another, failed, and the dark horse won the race.

There's a lesson there for all the pundits and GOP office holders who think Trump has a death grip on the party and/or the country.  The SBC is very conservative already.  It would seem to be fertile ground for Trumpism.  Yet that seems to be precisely what the Convention rejected.  I think this is in keeping with their culture and traditions (every institution has those).  I also think this doesn't bode well for Trumpism in the country at large.

What does it mean for the SBC?  Well, the more things change, the more they remain the same.  Litton may reconcile some groups; but moving the SBC toward greater recognition of the sin of slavery, the "original sin" of this country, and the multiple sins it has spawned down to this day?  Yeah, don't expect the SBC to be "woke" any time soon.  It has been pointed out recently, in this context, that the Rev. Dr. King was a Baptist. True; but he wasn't a Southern Baptist.  The SBC is gonna do what it's gonna do; but if the SBC doesn't want to go any further Trump than it already has, that tells me most of the conservative parts of the country don't want to, either.  Not enough to really keep Trumpism alive, anyway.

The Consequences Of Covid?

No,  these two things are not directly connected.  But they could indicate a sea change is coming to America.  And while the Democratic party is hardly All Bernie Sanders All The Time, Bernie is going to appear much more to be leading this parade than Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell; or Ron DeSantis, for that matter.

Good times are comin'; but they're sure comin' slow.

Trust Politico To Get Texas Politics Completely Wrong

Not one Democrat is quoted in the story. The Texas border wall, which will never be more than a fiction, is treated as a national game changer. And Abbott, we learn, has surmounted February (even voters in Texas don’t have memories that short) because of the wall he’ll never build, which makes him the GOP’s “tip of the spear.” 

Seriously?

A rubber spear, maybe. The kind I had as a kid.

If this is the “resistance” to Biden, he’s assured of a second term. Too bad that won’t end Politico’s taste for sycophancy.

I Suspect We Need A Further Discussion…

..,about what “justice”means.

Or we could cut to the chase and just kill him in order to keep ten criminals in jail. Well, we can tell him that’s what we’re doing. We’ll see what he thinks of “justice” then.

But The Deficit!

Yeah, but! Except the "deficit spending" during WWII didn't bother anybody, because: WAR! FREEDOM!  And that wasn't wrong.  Now the deficit spending is infrastructure and people, and that's wrong because...?  Money?

I don't understand economics well, but I understand it well enough to know the federal government is not a household.  It's not even a business. The heart and soul of capitalism is living on borrowed money.  Car dealers, for a simple example, have a "floor loan" that buys the cars on their lot.  As they sell cars, they pay the bank and the bank buys more cars for the dealer to sell.  The loan is never paid off, the dealer never spends the dealership's money to buy cars from the factory.  Deficit spending?  Or capitalism?  A friend explained to me once that you save your money, and spend the bank's money.  So long as what you earn from savings comes close to what you pay in interest, it's gravy.  And that "capital" is why they call it "capitalism."  You spend money, but you spend somebody else's money (I know, I sound dangerously like Trump here.  But the spending shouldn't involve fraud; that's the direction Trump goes.).  Checkbook?  That's your money.  Spend carefully.  Bank loan?  That's the bank's money.  Spend it as you agreed to do with the bank.  This is why rich people have lots of money on hand.  They don't spend their money.  I'm not saying it doesn't resemble a house of cards, but that's capitalism.  I wonder how much these two Senators worry about the deficit the next time the financial system approaches collapse.  Or the entire economy.

And, of course, we could always raise taxes; say, on the rich.

Anyway....

Gym Jordan Is Playing Stickball.

Jen Psaki is an MLB Hall of Famer.

You'd think AOC alone would have convinced these children to stay off Twitter.  When will they ever learn?

Monday, June 21, 2021

I'm Guessing....

...that's because he's not involved. Perspective is a funny thing.

Does Time Actually Move “Forward”?

Before we get to that, a nice summary statement of just what "critical race theory" is, and how it isn't "racism."

The [Ku Klux] Klan worked to put its racist beliefs into action through Jim Crow laws in the South and immigration restrictions for the nation as a whole; critical race theorists have devoted themselves to identifying the remainders of that racism in the law and rooting it out.

And, most obviously, the KKK was a terrorist organization responsible for decades of white supremacist violence that included thousands of murders, mutilations and bombings of African Americans and other minorities. The law school professors behind critical race theory are not.
What brought that explanation on?  Why, the Junior Senator from Texas, of course, who apparently has nothing better to do with his government-funded time:

Despite the vast differences between the Klan and critical race theorists, Cruz twisted himself into knots insisting they were the same by grossly misrepresenting the scholarly field. "Critical race theory says every white person is a racist," the senator asserted. "Critical race theory says America's fundamentally racist and irredeemably racist. Critical race theory seeks to turn us against each other and if someone has a different color skin, seeks to make us hate that person."
To say I've heard this shit before would be an understatement.  I grew up ON this shit.  I learned, early on, that racists were knuckle-draggers who hated "ni**ers" and used that ugly word freely.  In fact, the best way to determine who was a racist was the people who used that word.  Then there were those who were "just" "prejudiced."  As in, "I got nothing against 'em, I just don't want my kid goin' to school with 'em."  Then there were the true liberals, exemplified by Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as a movie couple who find out their daughter wants to marry one; which was, among non-liberals, an acceptable form of not being racist or prejudiced.  I mean, after all, miscegenation was illegal!  (It wasn't by 1968, but anyway....).

I've limned this problem before: it's all racism.  It's just that some of the racism is acceptable, and some of it isn't.  It still isn't.  Which is what's causing Cruz to squeal like a stuck pig.  Even though he's a racist.  I have no trouble saying that.  I'm a racist, too.  Not because I hated non-whites (whatever that means), but because I've been taught the fictional category of "race" until I can't not think in racial terms.  I am tainted with America's original sin, in just the sense Augustine meant the more Christian term:  I was born into it, and I can't escape it now.

And I equally grew up with the ideas Cruz is just parroting here; there's nothing original in what he says.  He picked it up as a kid, too.  He just didn't have the good sense to put it down again.  With or without critical race theory, I'll say it:  every white person in America is a racist.  Everyone who thinks in terms of race, is a racist.  It has nothing to do with power or lack thereof; if we identify people by skin color or genetics or appearance ("racial characteristics"), we're engaging in racism.  It's that pernicious.  Own it, or you can't do anything about it.

Jesus said love your neighbor; and to be first of all, you must be last and servant of all.  Jesus also said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven; and that despite his Father's house having many mansions, at the end you'll be judged on who you showed kindness to, because in serving them, you served God directly.  There's as much harsh as there is kind in Christ's teachings, as much seemingly exclusionary as there is inclusive.  "Lord, when did we see you?" is the plaintive cry of the lost who realize it's too late now.  Recognize that, Matthew means; or you'll wish you had.

Recognize the original American sin of racism; or we'll never do anything about it.

Rather than believing America is “irredeemably racist,” critical race theorists have stated that their reckoning with the submerged role of racism in America is a path to redeem the nation and fulfill the promises of emancipation and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Critical race theorists also do not seek to turn Americans against each other, but rather to help them understand the actual history of the nation they share as citizens.

While Cruz’s claim that critical race theorists are “every bit as racist” as Klansmen is laughable, it notably fits into a larger historical pattern in which white southerners asserted that the critics of white supremacy were just as bad — or worse — than the defenders of white supremacy.

Exactly.  This is an old, old song.  Cruz is not an original; Cruz is a mouthpiece.  Then again, so is this guy:

 "Thank you for sharing what you really have in your heart," Cash wrote. "You hate white men and white little boys and Christians. I hope I didn't miss anything. My family has crossed cultural lines for many years. Including Hispanic, Black and family members from Malta. And I must say of all the conversations we have had knowone (sic) has ever demonstrated the amount of hate that I see in this email. I will pray that you look at people as individuals rather than by race and look at the content of their character vs what has happened before. Focus on all the great accomplishments we have had in race relations in our Country."

That is a school board member, writing to a parent of children in those schools. The defensiveness is part of the argument; as it is for Cruz.  It's an attempt to negate argument, to refuse to consider alternatives, to demonize the other so no conversation is necessary, or even possible.

I grew up with this shit.  Time is not even a flat circle.  Time is just a smear; of tar, or molasses, I still haven't decided.  I know better than to say this shit is from everlasting to everlasting; but it sure does feel that way sometimes.

Has She Met Her Father?

"Rule of law” is too often in the eye of the beholder.

Fresh Hot Jingoism



Greg Abbott is starting to look preferable:

“There’s 25 crossings over the river that Texas has. I'm going to close every single one of those in one day because I'm the actual Republican running, and I'm actually going to solve this problem once and for all," [Rep. Don] Huffines told Inside Texas Politics. 

The candidate said he believes that by closing the crossings, the economic impact that would have would force Mexico to act.

"[I’m] going to close all the crossings down for all inbound commercial traffic from Mexico. We're going to make Mexico acquiesce economically to secure their side of the river and stop these cartels."

To be clear, though, the ports of entry are operated by the federal government, not the state. 

But attempting to suspend commercial traffic between the two countries would hurt Texas businesses, since Mexico is the state’s largest trading partner, not to mention exacerbate the already strained supply chain.

Huffines is pissed because Abbott stole his idea for a border wall.  Neither of them can build the damned thing, but Huffines ups the absurdity by declaring he'll close the border crossings.  This is not going to endear him to the border of Texas were people live and cross into Mexico and/or Texas on a daily basis.  That border is just the river down there, something people as far away as Dallas always fail to understand (the El Paso shooter was from the Dallas area.  He thought he was stopping an "invasion.")

“Yes, but in Texas, here's the thing. I'm going to communicate to Mexico, and they know it, they need us a lot more than we need them, and this is a proven tactic that can work,” Huffines explained. “We don't have an option. We have to secure Texas’ border and stop these cartels and this invasion, and I'm not going to be asking permission from the federal government to do that."

More jingoistic bullshit. A lot of business interests are going to apprise Mr. Huffines of the realities of trade with Mexico.   And this will tell you how clueless he is:

But the governor acknowledged a reality in this bid for Republican primary voters. Texas does not have any land along the Rio Grande River to construct more border fencing. Abbott asked private landowners to donate that, too.

Huffines was asked on Inside Texas Politics how he would acquire the land to erect a new wall.

“Well, Texas does have condemnation authority, of course. We condemn for highways. First, we'll work with landowners that want to cooperate, but this is not an option we have,” Huffines told the television program.

Actually, if Huffines was the GOP candidate, Democrats might win back the Governor's mansion.  There's few things Texans hate like eminent domain, especially when it's used against their property when that property is on the border and the taking is for a wall.  

I gotta be hopeful a clown like this upends Abbott's candidacy.


NYC Has An Incredible Record Of Thinking It Is the Center Of The Country

I follow Maggie Haberman's tweets because I get access to good news stories there. I skip all the tweets about the NYC Mayoral race because...not my city.  But people from NYC insist otherwise: Well, I guess; but when it comes to ideas about voting and who can and who can't, Stacey Abrams comes to mind first. And she's not even from New York state.

As for the impact of NY Democrats (by which Mr. Smith means NYC Democrats), a picture is worth a thousand words:


Not that Texans are above (or beneath) such things:


I like to think we have a better sense of humor about it.  OTOH, where did "Juneteenth" come from?  And does anybody outside NYC really care who the Mayor is?  Or even notice how the campaigns are conducting themselves?

Prosecution rests, your Honor.


The Great Chain Of Being A Douche

Especially when you think you speak for God:

“Who are you to say because I can’t see, I can’t enjoy something or do something,” Dickson said.

But Buckley replied, “I’m saying it’s a futile exercise of your time to do something that seems to look God in the face and say, ‘Although I am theoretically blind, in fact, I am not blind.’ ”

Buckley had a grasp of the Great Chain of Being, and he was quite sure where the other humans on the planet belonged on that Chain.  His position, of course, was the superior place of judgment.  From such position he knew blind people should mind their place; it was clearly below his.

Don't judge, you won't be judged.  It's pretty simple, really. 

Oh Yeah, Democracy Is Over

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s poll numbers aren’t what they used to be, and she’s provided fodder for critics who see her failing to meet her own coronavirus rules.

But a year after then-President Donald Trump urged followers to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and the FBI scuttled an alleged militia plot to kidnap Whitmer, the GOP has struggled to find a familiar or field-clearing candidate to challenge her in 2022. Many Republican leaders and voters targeting her for defeat are fixated on conspiracy theories and the false conviction that ballot audits such as the partisan one happening in Arizona will prove Trump didn’t lose in 2020.

“Do we even know who’s running?” Toni Shuff, 66, and her friends asked one another on the lawn of the Michigan Capitol last week at a rally for Convention of States, a conservative group that seeks to limit the power of the federal government by amending the Constitution without Congress.

This is the problem with a political party as idol worship:  if it's all about Trump, it doesn't leave room for it to be about much else.  And I'm not sure a campaign platform of "TRUMP WAS ROBBED!" is the best possible bumper sticker for an election being held in 2022, for a state governor.

But, you know, democracy is dead, it's all over but the shoutin', blah blah blah....

Sunday, June 20, 2021

All The Crap I Learned In High School

See? We destroyed democracy before all you whingers came along.

This Man Is 75 Years Old

The Twa Corbies

Can’t write ’em off; can’t force ‘em to protect themselves. Can’t quarantine the masses.

We usually think the divide is forced, not chosen. What about when it is chosen?

Can’t help people who don’t want to help themselves. But can we be a community with them?

Maybe it’s not democracy that’s at stake.

The Grift That Keeps On Grifting

There's no such thing as a free rally. Not anymore.

(Yes, he suggested buying tickets as a Father’s Day gift. The first show is in December. So, sure, tell Dad you spent $7500 on him. And hope he’s in Sunrise, Florida that day.)

Unless Trump cancels it by then: Seems Q expects Trump to be President again by August, and is loudly asking “WTF?”

Everything Trump Did, He Can Do Better

Nobody has told him ETTD.

Which is actually fine with me.

Wait A Minute…

Why don’t we have a day to celebrate Native Americans? We have Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial AND Veteran’s Day; Black History month, celebrations of nation and justice (4th of July and Juneteenth); and all of these are good.

What could we do for the people who were here when the Europeans came?  Juneteenth is the right thing to do about slavery. Not the only thing, but a right thing. Maybe a day of recognition? Some kind of national acknowledgment? We don’t do atonement very well, but maybe just something to honor them, however late we are.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Freedom Day! (Is That A Problem?)

Whatever gives you that idea?

Beams, Splinters, and The Table

Let's start there, as appropriate perspective on this topic.  Not because Charlie is right, but because everything is a conspiracy of some kind, if you just leave enough facts out. I don't have a dog in this fight. I cannot absolutely reject or accept this position. I even have to be careful to to presume a position of judgment. The question of Newt Ginrich is an interesting one, as he was the Ambassador to the Vatican at one time.  But I guess his position on abortion was okay.  I will not get into the is mortal sin v. venial sins. I will point out that marriage is a Sacranemt in the Catholic church, which is one reason divorce is frowned on. Is violating a sacrament not as bad as taking a position on a public and political issue?

Except the problem is not yet what the USCCB did.  The problem right now is how it was…well, misreported. 

U.S. Catholic bishops overwhelmingly approved the drafting of a “teaching document” that many of them hope will rebuke Catholic politicians, including President Joe Biden, for receiving Communion despite their support for abortion rights.

Which is not quite the same thing as saying "The Bishops excommunicated Joe Biden and told all Catholic Democratic office holders to watch their six!"

As a result of the vote, the USCCB’s doctrine committee will draft a statement on the meaning of Communion in the life of the church that will be submitted for consideration at a future meeting, probably an in-person gathering in November.

One section of the document is intended to include a specific admonition to Catholic politicians and other public figures who disobey church teaching on abortion and other core doctrinal issues. 

This is more of a "fixin' to get around to it" moment than it is a "make the king crawl on his knees through to the snow to our castle in the mountains" moment (blame my vivid Protestant imagination for some of this).  Let's finish how HuffPost tells this story with this:

[Bishop Kevin] Rhoades [Chairman of the USCCB doctrine committee] also said the document would not mention Biden or other individuals by name and would offer guidelines rather than imposing a mandatory national policy.

That would leave decisions about Communion for specific churchgoers up to individual bishops and archbishops. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.

Which sets the USCCB at odds with the Pope (not, at this point, to be confused with "Rome", I think), but doesn't exactly drop the hammer on anybody's head.  Not that some bishops, per the NYT, don't want to do just that.

Elizabeth Dias frames it this way:

The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States, flouting a warning from the Vatican, have overwhelmingly voted to draft guidance on the sacrament of the Eucharist, advancing a push by conservative bishops to deny President Biden communion because of his support of abortion rights.

Now, granted, excommunication may not be excommunication any more in the Church.  When the Church was THE Church, the power of excommunication was an important, if not extreme, one.  So maybe church doctrine just calls it "denying communion," but I don't think that's quite as anodyne as the term sounds.  I used to take communion to invalids and "shut-ins," to make them as much a part of the church community as possible.  Cutting them off from that would have simply been cruel; but it wouldn't have been "excommunication."  By which I mean, I'm not sure the term really reflects Christian practices in the modern world.

Anyway....

Per the NYT account, somebody wants everyone else to think this is about Biden, and that it's a power struggle, to boot:

But the move to target a president, who regularly attends Mass and has spent a lifetime steeped in Christian rituals and practices, is striking coming from leaders of the president’s own faith, particularly after many conservative Catholics turned a blind eye to the sexual improprieties of former President Donald J. Trump because they supported his political agenda. It reveals a uniquely American Catholicism increasingly at odds with Rome and Pope Francis.

At which point I say:  maybe it is, or maybe some of the fringe elements of the USCCB want it to appear to be a power struggle.  After all, if you're taking on the POTUS and the Pope, you must be pretty powerful too, right?  To those people the NYT says:  "We got your back!"

The text of the proposal itself has not been written and would ultimately require approval by a two-thirds majority vote. The proposed outline, earlier reported by America Magazine, said it would “include the theological foundation for the Church’s discipline concerning the reception of Holy Communion and a special call for those Catholics who are cultural, political, or parochial leaders to witness the faith.”

Some conservatives want to use such a statement as theological justification to deny communion to Mr. Biden and Catholic politicians like him who support abortion rights.

First, Pope Francis and Joe Biden don't embrace a "liberal Christianity."  Not in any sense of how that term is used among Christians:

Mr. Biden, like Pope Francis, embodies a liberal Christianity focused less on sexual politics and more on racial inequality, climate change and poverty. His administration is a reversal of the power that abortion opponents, including bishops who advanced the measure, enjoyed under Mr. Trump. 

I mean, Biden and the Pope are "liberal Christians" if Focus on the Family and Liberty University are normative for Christianity.  They aren't, and "liberal" Christians has a meaning far apart from the usual American political labels (labels that really have no counterpart in Europe, much less most of the rest of the world).  Now, this is worth noting:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, an assembly of the country’s 433 active and retired bishops, can issue guideline statements, but it does not have the authority to decide who can or cannot receive the sacrament of communion. That power is reserved for the local bishop, who has autonomy in his diocese, or the Pope. 

Not that the NYT notes that Biden's local Bishop has no intention of refusing him access to the sacrament.  Politics, however, is inevitably involved:

The tension over Mr. Biden’s abortion policies has been growing for months. Shortly after Mr. Biden’s election in November, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced the unusual creation of a working group to address conflicts that could arise between his administration’s policies and church teaching.

On Inauguration Day, Archbishop Gomez issued a statement criticizing Mr. Biden for policies “that would advance moral evils” especially “in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.” 

Although I do love this comment:

“We’ve never had a situation like this where the executive is a Catholic president who is opposed to the teaching of the church,” Bishop Liam Cary of Baker, in Oregon, said. 

Has the teachings of the church on marriage and faithfulness to one's spouse changed since Kennedy was assassinated?  Because he was famously the first Catholic President, and equally famously a philanderer who could have taught Bill Clinton lessons.

And it looks like it is gonna come down to that question of some sins being worse than others:

We need to accept the church’s discipline that those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion,” [Bishop Rhoades] said.

Which brings me back to the beam in my eye, and the splinter in yours.  But it also leaves me wondering whose frame is right:  HuffPo's, or the NYT's?

And who's going to get this damned beam out of my eye? 

R.I.P.

Although some people say (!) this is just to distract us from the REAL news! I'm sure this is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing. But frankly, I'm more upset that Champ has died.

Requiescat in pace.

Then again, it's the internet:  everyone on it is outraged about something,  or they wouldn't be on it: 
See? Two-fer-one!

I just feel sorry for the family Champ left behind.

Party Like It's 1865!

Or 156 years later; whatever works. Bipartisanmanship! Finally! Something we can REALLY celebrate! (Offer void outside the city limits of Washington, D.C.)

Juneteenth

Friday, June 18, 2021

It All Makes Sense Now

Still Wondering

If Abbott calls a special session before September (when the new budget he just vetoed takes effect), what if the Dems pass a budget bill first, or try to, or insist it pass first before the election law or anything else? Does Abbott veto again? And then what?

Or if this isn’t resolved by September, does the staff and the Legislative Budget Board and Legislative Reference Library return to work?  Probably not, without pay.  Then how does Abbott get the Lege to redistrict in September or October, without so much as somebody to vacuum the chambers every night?

I still say he hasn’t thought this through.  Then again, he’s got to hope nobody notices he never so much as puts a surveyor’s rod in the ground on the border to “build the wall.”  Because he simply won’t.

You know, no one of thos worked for Trump (including government shutdowns).  Why do they think it will work in Texas?

Asking For A Friend: Bipartisan Edition

This is signed by 13 GOP congresscritters, but it is sent to the Democratic occupant of the White House. 

So, question: is this bipartisan? Why, or why not? If it is bipartisan, does that make it better than if it weren't?

You have thirty minutes. Please write legibly, and give your answer in complete sentences. Paragraphs will count for extra points.

You may begin.

More Than A Few Republicans, Too

And man! Are they pissed!

A Lot of FoxNews Viewers Are Gonna Feel Betrayed Again....

However:

“The image of President Biden that our, and even American, media present has nothing to do with reality,” Putin said in response to a Russian senator’s question if the U.S. president was suffering from what she called “dementia.”

“Biden’s a professional, you have to be very attentive with him so as not to miss anything. He doesn’t let anything get by, I assure you,” Putin, 68, said in televised comments.

Russian media have been questioning the 78-year-old U.S. president’s mental capacity at least since he agreed with an interviewer in March that Putin is a “killer.” During coverage of the summit in Switzerland, the country’s main 24-hour news channel repeatedly observed that while Putin spoke from memory, Biden had note cards.

“We all do that,” Putin said Thursday in his colleague’s defense.

And, as always, punch down, never sideways:

Despite the warm words for Biden, Putin showed his sharp elbows with a dig at White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She’s been a target of official Russian scorn since she was the State Department’s spokeswoman in 2014 at the start of the Ukraine conflict.

“His press secretary is a young, educated, beautiful woman who’s always mixing things up,” Putin said. Biden, on the other hand, is “collected, knows what he wants to achieve and does it adroitly,” Putin said.

My admiration for Biden, and Ms. Psaki, grows. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Fixin' To Get Around To It

I heard on NPR this morning that Abbott is taking the $250 million to "start" the border wall (by "start" he means put somebody in charge of doing some planning; in Texas-ese, he's "fixin' to get around to it." That means don't hold your breath; in fact, sit back and open another beer, you ain't gonna miss anything.*)

Which, of course, is a genius idea as hurricane season returns to the Gulf, and 45% of the state is suffering drought conditions.  We'll deplete state funds and get the Feds to make up the slack, right, Dan Crenshaw?

Meanwhile we'll crowdfund the thing, because that worked so well for Steve Bannon, who raised about $25 million for the border wall, which, had he kept it rather than pocketed it, might have paid for 1 mile of Trump's wall; under ideal conditions.

This is Texas; we never have ideal conditions.  For one thing, how far back from the river is Abbott gonna put this thing?

Intense rain over the weekend from Hurricane Hanna left gaping holes and waist-deep cracks on the banks of the Rio Grande that threaten the long-term stability of a privately funded border fence that is already the focus of lawsuits over its proximity to the river in South Texas.

The damage comes at the start of what is projected to be an active hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30.

Engineering experts who reviewed photos of the jagged cracks caused by the weekend’s storms said the damage reinforces what many have long said: Building and maintaining a border fence so close to the river poses serious challenges.

ProPublica and The Texas Tribune previously reported that just months after completion, the private fence built by Fisher Industries, a North Dakota-based company, was showing signs of erosion that threatened its stability and could cause it to topple into the river if not fixed.

“It’s going to be a never-ending battle. You are always going to be fighting erosion when you are that close to the river,” said Adriana E. Martinez, a professor and geomorphologist at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville who has studied the impact of the border barriers in South Texas.

That was late July a year ago.  Conditions on the Rio Grande have not improved; and much of the land on the Texas border is in private hands.  Most of those private landowners don't want a border wall on their property.  Why do you think Abbott told Biden to give back the property Trump condemned so he could build a wall?  Nobody in Texas likes eminent domain, as a general rule.  Abbott wants the feds to give it back, and then he wants those landowners to give it, gratis, to Texas, so Abbott can build his wall.   There's a reason the wall cost more in Texas than Arizona, and it has to do with eminent domain.

Why is Abbott doing this?  I think it's because he has his eyes on the White House in 2024, and he's fighting the campaign before last, the one where Trump was, as an administrator and office-holder, more unknown than Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter.  He wants to out-Trump DeSantis, the original Trump "mini-me."  Not sure this is gonna work for him, though; and there are politicians closer to home to fear, if Abbott simply wants to be governor again.  As the Houston Chronicle points out:

The fact that Abbott has even less chance of halting the flow of asylum seekers than did his bloviating, wall-building idol during four years of White House ineptitude, matters not. Nor does the dubious legal justification for using state resources and taxpayer dollars to enforce federal immigration law. For Abbott, actually dealing with a national dilemma is of secondary importance.

The more immediate concern is a potential challenge from the rightist fringes next year by former state Sen. Don Huffines, a Dallas Republican who, if elected governor, has promised to finish President Donald Trump’s border-wall construction in Texas.

“We will completely shut down the border until the crisis is solved and eliminate all taxpayer-funded subsidies to illegal aliens,” Huffines said, lapsing into his own tough-Texan tweet mode. “I am not afraid to take on the federal government.”

Yeah, Don; they have tanks and an army.  What do you got? Maybe you want to talk to Crenshaw about the role of the federal government.  My guess is you can't "take 'em on" and take their money, too.

Nor is he afraid to steal a perfectly good campaign gimmick that has proven effective for at least one long-shot candidate in recent memory. Any day now, Abbott will announce that the Texas Wall will be beautiful and that Mexico will pay for it.

Abbott, who boasts a massive war chest and Trump’s own endorsement, apparently still fears he’ll become flotsam himself if he doesn’t respond to Huffines..

Abbott’s border wall pronouncement — he promised details in a few days — is cynical, short-sighted, and irresistibly simple for people to understand.

In other words, it’s the exact opposite of Vice President Kamala Harris’ approach in visiting Guatemala and Mexico as part of the Biden administration’s effort to craft pragmatic and humane border-security policy that addresses the root causes of migration and not just the current symptoms. “Do not come,” she admonished would-be asylum-seekers.

The admonition — for which Harris received her own admonition from the leftist fringes who claimed she was insensitive — was stark, sensible and desperately needed at a time when smugglers are exploiting confusion about the new president’s policies and spreading misinformation that America is encouraging migration.

The truth is that, after decades of inchoate border policy and four years of Trumpian chaos and cruelty, this nation is poorly equipped at the moment to handle huge waves of asylum-seekers or others seeking entry. It’s a problem that can’t be resolved immediately, with or without a wall.

There’s no denying that we have border problems. Arrests at the border have increased since President Joe Biden took office. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported roughly 180,000 encounters with persons crossing the Southwest border illegally in May, the highest monthly total yet.

Numbers are decreasing for migrant teenagers, for children crossing without parents and for family groups, while numbers for single adult migrants are increasing, with more than 121,000 apprehended last month. Most get “expelled” to Mexico, and many try again, numerous times. Nearly 40 percent of those apprehended in May had already been stopped by border officials at least once before in the past 12 months. With our immigration system so backed up, many crossing the border no longer fear legal consequences or jail time if they are caught. A growing number are arriving from nations outside Central America and Mexico.

Harris’ visit was an acknowledgment that helping improve conditions in Central America is a key component of any serious immigration reform and border security effort.

As Rice University political scientist and Latin American studies chair Mark Jones pointed out in a 2018 Chronicle op-ed, the U.S. has to acknowledge a modicum of responsibility for the deplorable conditions forcing citizens to flee from Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.

After all, America’s sordid interventions over the past 75 years, including our propping up of dictators and toppling of democratically elected leaders, contributed mightily to the modern-day mess.

Simply as a matter of self-interest (not to mention any humanitarian impulse we might feel), we should help fix the plague of gang violence, government corruption and ineptitude, and lack of economic opportunity in those countries.

I don't know about that highlighted part.  Maybe we shouldn't mention U.S. culpability for problems on our own border.  That's getting terribly close to Ilhan Omar territory, and we know we can't allow that.  Even Nancy Pelosi said so.

“Even if one believes we owe these countries nothing, the only realistic way to significantly reduce the flow of unauthorized Central American migrants is to improve conditions in their homelands,” Jones wrote.

No sensible American wants open borders. No sensible American wants thousands of desperate men, women and children showing up at our door after long, dangerous treks across Mexico atop railroad boxcars. No one we know wants vicious cartels smuggling illegal drugs into this country or merciless traffickers transporting human beings.

We presume that what most Americans want is a safe, secure border combined with immigration policies that are reasonable and fair. Working with Mexico and Central American nations is an integral part of a multi-pronged approach toward that end.

Abbott announced last week he’ll be working with Arizona. He said he had signed an interstate compact with that state’s Gov. Doug Ducey, a fellow Republican, to resolve the border crisis, and he called on other states to do the same. The results will be negligible.

Need one add, this is why immigration is a federal, not a state, responsibility?

The governor ought to be signing some sort of “compact” with the United States Congress and the White House, agreeing to participate in a bipartisan effort directed toward resolving our long-term immigration and border security issues. He ought to lay down the border wall trowel and take on a truly tough construction task: comprehensive immigration reform.

It’s tough, we realize, for a Republican still clinging for dear career to Trump’s wayward coattails to consider bipartisan cooperation, but in the spirit of his fellow Texans — Sam Houston, Audie Murphy and Barbara Jordan come to mind — the governor needs to remember that truly tough Texans facing a truly tough challenge don’t just talk big.

They don’t pander. They don’t pass off partisan shtick for smart policy. They grab the challenge by the horns. In short, they don’t follow; they lead.

Is it any wonder the GOP wants to punish Houston every chance it gets?   The voting reform bill (which failed at the last minute) included many provisions aimed solely at Harris County (which is Houston).  The General Land Office, run by George P. Bush who now wants to be Texas AG, recently refused to share federal funds with Houston related to Harvey relief.  Ted Cruz lives here, but headed for Cancun as soon as his lights went out.

As I keep saying, this is all about waving a stone and telling the rubes (i.e., the GOP base) that the holder of the stone is keeping the elephants away.  Trump's border wall and immigration policies never did shit, either, but the minute Biden took his hand off that Bible the border apparently collapsed and the flood of brown people was on.  It's never about reality, it's only about narratives.  I still want to see Abbott how maintains that the border is the problem, or CRT in schools (when school is out), but we have no problem with our power grid (and it isn't even August yet)**.  Hell, even Ross Ramsey has started to figure out that might be a political issue for some time to come.

May you live in interesting times.

(*In my feckless youth (I never gave, nor got, a feck as a youth) Baptist preachers thought it the height of drollery to hand church members wooden pieces labeled "round to-its," as a way of goading them to stop procrastinating.  The were round, of course.)

(**I've seen an accurate pictorial of Texas weather:  it's a Texas map, burning at the Gulf Coast edge.  That's "Spring."  "Summer" shows the fire has advanced into the state.  "August" shows the map consumed in flames. "Winter" is the burnt up map, the fire extinguished.  It's about right, especially "August."  As I say, that's still to come.  But no worries; Gov. Absent assures us the electrical grid is the best it's ever been, even though most of the changes the Lege made won't become law until September, and changes won't begin to show until this time next year.  I'm sure in the meantime we'll all be dazzled with his relentless dog 'n' pony shows around the state, as he tries his hand at mini-Trump rallies disguised as bill signings.  Too bad he runs out of those by the end of June....)

Or...

We could see Juneteenth as finally celebrating (as we've done even in Texas, since 1980) not only a  "holiday of significance [...] particularly to the blacks of Texas," but the end of slavery in America.

But I guess that reason wouldn't be racist enough for some people.

This Went Pretty Much As You'd Expect


 Well, as I'd expect, anyway....

The 2020 Alabama legislative session ended last month, but [state Rep. Chris] Pringle [R-Mobile] is already primed for the next one. He recently pre-filed a bill — almost eight months before the next session is scheduled to start — and he’s been talking it up on the radio.

So what does his bill say?

“It’s pretty simple,” Pringle said. “All it says is you can’t teach critical race theory in K-12 or higher education in the state of Alabama.”

That is a short bill, if not a simple one. But it didn’t answer my question: What is this critical race theory educators would be forbidden to teach? Pringle has seen enough legislation to understand the law requires specificity. Many bills begin by laying out their legal definitions. How would his bill define critical race theory?

“It basically teaches that certain children are inherently bad people because of the color of their skin, period,” Pringle said.

That sounded very serious, indeed. Nazi-like, even. So I asked Pringle if there were any critical race theorists he could point to who have been spreading such toxic garbage?

“Yeah, uh, well — I can assure you — I’ll have to read a lot more,” he said.

I began to get the feeling that Pringle didn’t know as much about critical race theory as I had hoped. Were there other examples he could give me where critical race theory was being put into practice?

“These people, when they were doing the training programs — and the government — if you didn’t buy into what they taught you a hundred percent, they sent you away to a reeducation camp,” Pringle said.

In America!  In the tunnels under the abandoned Wal-Marts, where the lizard overlords gather and plot to take over the world!

Pringle was a little difficult to follow but this sounded serious. These people — whoever they were— sounded terrifying, and if there were reeducation camps operating in America, that would be big news someone like me should get to the bottom of. I asked Pringle, who were these people?

Pringle is a Realtor, a homebuilder and general contractor and he dug through what he called his “executive suite” (the cab of his pickup truck) looking for an article he’d read. After a few moments of silence, he began to speak again, this time a bit haltingly.

“Here’s an — it doesn’t say who it was, it just says a government that held these — these training sessions …”

Pringle trailed off and I told him that, if he liked, he could send me a link to the article, but then he began to speak again.

“The white male executives are sent to a three-day re-education camp, where they were told that their white male culture wasn’t their —” he trailed off again.

I was worried that we’d lost our connection. These sorts of conversations sometimes end abruptly, but Pringle was still on the line and after a little more hemming and hawing he retreated to a common safe-space of politicians who’ve crawled too far out on a limb: He just wanted to start a conversation, he said.

You know; isn't that what laws are for?  To get people to talk to each other?  Or maybe just be forced to be re-educated?  Because we already force kids to be educated once.  Re-education is...a bad thing?

“I introduced a very brief version of the bill to start the conversation, but it’s very difficult in this cancel society to have a frank discussion about racism in this country and this country’s history,” he said. “I mean, history is being rewritten and I’m not exactly sure of the accuracy of what’s there now and what they’re trying to change it into.”

It's the aliens tryin' to brainwash us out of our true history of white dominance of the world to save the little brown fellers fer Jeebus!

This was news to me, as I’d seen lots of lawmakers try to talk about race and history in the Alabama State House, but for whatever reason, they were always the Black lawmakers. It was the white lawmakers who usually tried to change the subject. I wanted to ask Pringle about this, but suddenly he was no longer at a loss for words and I didn’t want to interrupt.

Now, see, that's just racist right there, and it implies black people are better'n white people, and we just can't 'llow that kinda talk!

“This is still the greatest country that’s ever, ever been in the history of the world,” he said. “And the radical left is trying to destroy that and tear us apart and divide this country based on race and class, which is exactly what they do in communist countries.”

Lots of problems with different races in Russia China and Cube-er, ya know!  Yew can't deny that! (I still remember when Dr. King was labeled a "Communist.")

After bragging to me how he had BS-ed his way through his college political science classes by parroting the liberal bilge his professors wanted to hear, Pringle then said he had to get back to his day job and that he had employees waiting on him at a job site. So I let him go.

Wish he'd let us go as easily. 


Everything old is perpetually new again.


Ken Paxton: Loser

Paxton's Quixotic attempt to overturn the 2020 Presidential election is back in the news. Tack this one onto it:

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as enacted in 2010 re- quired most Americans to obtain minimum essential health insurance coverage and imposed a monetary penalty upon most individuals who failed to do so. Amendments to the Act in 2017 effectively nullified the penalty by setting its amount to $0. Subsequently, Texas (along with over a dozen States and two individuals) brought suit against federal officials, claiming that without the penalty the Act’s minimum essen- tial coverage provision, codified at 26 U. S. C. §5000A(a), is unconsti- tutional. They sought a declaration that the provision is unconstitu- tional, a finding that the rest of the Act is not severable from §5000A(a), and an injunction against enforcement of the rest of the Act. The District Court determined that the individual plaintiffs had standing. It also found §5000A(a) both unconstitutional and not sev- erable from the rest of the Act. The Fifth Circuit agreed as to the ex- istence of standing and the unconstitutionality of §5000A(a), but con- cluded that the District Court’s severability analysis provided insufficient justification to strike down the entire Act. Petitioner Cal- ifornia and other States intervened to defend the Act’s constitutional- ity and to seek further review.

Held: Plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge §5000A(a)’s minimum essential coverage provision because they have not shown a past or future injury fairly traceable to defendants’ conduct enforcing the spe- cific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional. Pp. 4–16.

The legalese means Texas and the other plaintiffs couldn't even get in the courthouse door.  It's a "threshold issue," a nice metaphor for saying you can't even cross the threshold of the courthouse. 

Coming Soon To A Texas Courthouse Near...Well, Somebody.

Yeah, just one little problem there:

Democratic state Rep. Mary González of El Paso, who sits on the Texas House’s budget writing appropriations committee, said the Legislature did not allocate money in its $250 billion budget for a border wall. She said immigration enforcement is not a state job, but a federal one.

State lawmakers allocated $1 billion for border security in the state budget, but González said most of these funds go to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“The Democratic caucus has always been clear that this is a misuse of funds,” González said.

Which doesn't mean a lot politically, but could mean a lot legally.  And besides, he's preaching it round and square:

Which would mean, I guess, give it back so Texas can take it?  Yes, it seems that’s exactly what it means:

Abbott said he expected people to both donate their own money and volunteer their land for the barrier. ​

"My belief based upon conversations that I've already had is that the combination of state land as well as volunteer land will yield hundreds of miles to build a border wall in Texas," he said.
So, people are going to donate land and money for this, right?  You know, there’s a reason the feds had to take property by eminent domain.

Abbott acknowledged that construction of a wall would cost "far more than $250 million" but said he and lawmakers will follow through with their plan. "It's my commitment as well as the commitment of the people in this room, as well as the people in this Capitol, to make sure that we see this project through," he said.
Wait, I thought this wall was going to be funded by donations.  Something tells me this whole thing is not even half-baked.

Worth noting, too, Abbott has only 3 days left to veto the Legislative budget.  Not saying he won't do it at the last minute, but when he does, he loses even more leverage over the Democrats, who can just boycott special sessions like crazy and prevent the House from doing anything.  Which prevents the sessions from operating.  Not that anything's going to get done without staff, anyway.

Unless Dan Patrick wants to violate the state Constitution again and declare the 31st or 32nd day of the session is still "good" for getting bills passed.  Or he can just take it upon himself to redirect authorized funds:

The funds for Texas' $250 million "down payment" will come from the state budget. Lawmakers will allocate money from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice into a disaster account, which will then be moved to the Texas Facilities Commission for the border wall construction. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dade Phelan and the Legislature's top budget writers Sen. Jane Nelson, R- Flower Mound, and Rep. Greg Bonnen, R- Friendswood, joined Abbott for his announcement Wednesday and signed a document allowing the transfer of the money.

I don’t think they have the authority to re-direct state funds, but what’s the rule of law when you need to own the libs, right?  Not that "If I deny it, it's not happening" isn't part of Abbott's strategy:

Yeah, I don't think that's gonna work the way he thinks it does. Already on day 3 of "please don't run your A/C today." That's expected to last to the end of the week, and now it explicitly encompasses businesses (offices, hotels, restaurants, stores), too. Tell us again to ignore reality, Governor.  And explain to us how Texas is "open for business," but we can't leave the lights on.

Critical Race Theory and Ecclesiology

Yeah, don't you wish church was as simple as this?

Well, this got interesting real fast:

Recent claims that high-ranking convention officials sought to impede investigations into clergy sexual abuse allegations, the rejection of Critical Race Theory by denominational leaders, its continued adherence to the ideology of complementarianism and its part in fanning the flames of white Christian nationalism are manifestations of a faith-based toxicity that is not unique to the SBC or even to the U.S., Griffen said during the event hosted by Baptist News Global.

“We’re really talking about the heresy of hateful faith, which is a global phenomenon, whether you’re talking about (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi in India or whether you’re talking about the hateful faith of the Taliban, or you’re talking about the hateful faith of the SBC, or hateful things someplace else,” he said.

Full disclosure before we start:  I grew up among Southern Baptists.  Some of my best friends were Southern Baptists (it was unavoidable).  I credit the Southern Baptists I grew up among with my theological liberalism and my long effort to work out a Christian theology that didn't have a metaphysical soteriology (maybe I'll explain that one day, but probably not.  One of my oldest friends, a former SB himself and now a retired UCC pastor, was here for the weekend.  I made a joke in passing about completely discarding soteriology, and he jokingly stopped me from elaborating.  It was a entire conversation between two people who've known each other since the age of 6, without saying a word.  So I probably won't bother you with it, either.).  But I don't consider Southern Baptists to be preaching a "hateful faith."  I'm more inclined to consider them baptized heathens; but that, too, is another matter.  What's going on in the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) was a topic of conversation, briefly, over the weekend.  Then I found this article.  God, or Google, does indeed work in mysterious ways.  Mostly Google, this time; they know my search history.

Before we go too far, my touchstone for these discussions is not judgment over someone I disagree with (and there is, these days, precious little I agree with in the SBC; although they did yeoman's work many years ago when Katrina drowned New Orleans and Houston took in as many refugees as could leave the city.  The largest Baptist church in town was ground zero for the relief efforts, and they did it without any apparent bias or judgment on the displaced and homeless.).  My touchstone is Derrida's observation that:  "Religion is responsibility, or it is nothing at all."  That puts it back on me just as much as I want to put it on "them." whoever "they" are.  It's something of a secular starting point toward "the first of all will be last and servant of all," and "Lord, when did we see you?"  Judgment puts me above and apart, and as much as I want to be, I have to admit I am neither.  Derrida's observation is a good starting point for remembering that.

It is not insignificant that the SBC was formed in 1845, and explicitly supported slavery.  Lots of southern denominations did.  The Presbyterian church I grew up in split from the "northern" church in the Civil War, and when they rejoined in the latter half of the 20th century, many people thought the merger made the church too "liberal."  I don't think they were concerned with blacks sitting in their pews (11 a.m. on Sunday is still, as Dr. King observed over half-a-century ago, the most segregated hour in America), but the culture an institituion is formed in remains in that institution's "genetics."  No, institutions are not biological, but the popular notion of genes passing on immutable traits (your father's eyes, your mother's gait.  My mother swore my brother walked like her father, a man my brother and I never knew.) is the metaphor here.  Institutions have their culture which attracts and repels, even forces out, those who are not agreeable to it.  It's almost like a body, with antibodies to reject what is "foreign."  Or, as the article puts it:

The way Southern Baptists read, understand and teach the Bible also is shaped by that racist founding, which used Scripture to rationalize the ownership of other human beings, Leonard added. After the Civil War and the end of slavery, that approach was turned to support Jim Crow and segregation.

The SBC never has been fully comfortable welcoming Black members because it is beholden to that scriptural doctrine and fears giving it up would result in surrendering other hard-held doctrines, including complementarianism, Leonard said. “The SBC says (to African Americans), ‘We want you but can’t take you fully because of the way we read the Bible. As long as that hermeneutic remains normative, then the Southern Baptist Convention in 2021 is going to be trapped in 1845.”
I would go a step further than saying the SBC "fears...giving it up," this method of exegesis (as we seminary graduates call it).  They can't give it up because it's part of the SBC's identity.  I would (charitably, to be sure) liken it to German Evangelicals (name of a denomination, not holy rollers) who were forced, finally, to stop worshipping in German during World War I.  They lost something precious then; and seriously wondered how God would understand them.  Language is intimate; language is personal; language is identity. It's another reason so many people react so strongly to speakers of a language other than English; the conversation excludes you.  You are suddenly identified as the "outsider."  And who is comfortable with that?

This is part of what I mean by culture-as-genetics.  Some practices have to continue, for centuries if need be, to maintain the identity of the group, and of the members of the group.

And, of course, there's that question of judgment, and the admonition (never mentioned in the article, sadly) not to judge, so you won't be judged:

One of those traps springs from the way the convention defined sin at its founding, essentially limiting it to certain social behaviors such as drinking, dancing and fornication, Knox said. The goal was to omit slave ownership from the list of objectionable practices.

In the process, this made normative the mistreatment of other groups such as people of color, women, LGBTQ persons and even sex abuse victims, he explained. “When sin is so narrowly defined, then it doesn’t matter how you treat others.”

Leonard pointed to the hypocrisy of such a position: “Sexual immorality is inappropriate except for ministers whose churches cover it up.”

He recommended the denomination take a break from speaking out on race, gender and sexuality issues until it gets its own house in order. “You can’t go around telling people what to do about sexuality or race when you have permitted a lifestyle directly opposed to it.”

This all shows that toxic religion is nothing new, Griffen added. “Hateful faith is not generational or episodic. It is wicked in 2021 or 1845.”

Some of this also returns to the question of soteriology, the issue of salvation:  if you must be saved, then you must avoid and even denounce wickedness and sin.  One problem with that is you can define sin as something others do.  Nice work if you can get it.  You can also erase your sin, because you have performed the actions that render you "saved."  I don't think that's what Griffen is covering in his phrase "hateful faith," but it should be.  Of course, at this point you go so far beyond the pale of Southern Baptist doctrine you might be seen, not as a reformer, but as a heretic.  Which is, actually, an argument; or a description of me; which is why my friend cut me short this weekend.  He was literally saving me; from being tedious.

The historical irony is Baptists began, in all their various forms now, as people simply seeking freedom to worship God as they saw fit.  That's not an inherently judgmental posture; but it soon became one.  And now, it seems, that judgment is turning inward more and more, as they argue over who is, if not holier, then more Southern Baptist:

Wingfield said the convention’s history and trajectory — with moderates and progressives long gone — seems to have resulted in a battle now between conservatives and ultraconservatives for the heart of the denomination. Some even have recently labeled Russell Moore a liberal despite his history of adhering to a strictly conservative theology. He added that Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary requires faculty and students to sign four statements of faith.

Wingfield asked panelists to discuss how that continuing rightward shift into narrowness affects the denomination overall.

Leonard said it has totally changed the witness of the SBC, which he said has abandoned “a heart-warming conversion experience” for a transactional process of creedalism by requiring signed confessions that declare belief in biblical inerrancy. “Their baptisms are declining in part because of demographics and in part due to a confusion as to the nature of conversion and absolute loyalty to a set of rigid dogmas.”

I should explain, for people familiar with church creeds, that creedalism (the adherence to creeds) became an issue during the Reformation.  In large part it arose as yet another way to distinguish one's church from the Roman Catholic church.  I grew up reciting the Nicene Creed and the Apostle's Creed; I could probably still do it from memory.  My Southern Baptist friends recited no creeds, believing them unnecessary to the faith of an individual.  They placed great store on the faith of the individual in God, as part of a worshipping body, but eager to avoid in any way identifying that worshipping body with something the individual owed fealty to.  Creeds were seen as a way of making some kind of pledge to something other than God, because they were common (that is, mutual) statements of faith; and faith should only be individual.  Of such disagreements are denominations made.

So my friend the UCC pastor actually struggled with using the historic creeds in his worship, Southern Baptist than he was when he started his pastoral ministry.  This question of "creedalism" was once a marker of identity for Southern Baptists, as much so as their brand of soteriology and (narrow) definition of sin.  But now, in the effort to make the body of worshippers holy (purify it, in other words) and root out the "false" believers from the "true," they create "statements of faith."  And make their seminary faculty and students, in at least one case, sign them, like loyalty oaths.  Which is, in truth, how the historic creeds got started.  Everything old is new again.

The "heartwarming conversion experience" idea is a fundamental part of Baptist theology.  Having been raised among the "frozen chosen," I never quite took to the idea.  I still don't. It comes mostly out of the Pietist movement from Germany, where an emphasis on personal experience began to be prized above more "priestly" knowledge and authority.  Again, a way of distinguishing from the Roman sense of church as a hierarchy. Although in some sense St. Francis represents the original "Pietist," especially as he is the first person known to have displayed the stigmata, the wounds of Christ on the cross.  That's a pretty personal experience. 

But now, it seems, in their efforts to purge the Convention of the "wrong" kinds of beliefs, the denomination is creating a more rigid structure of beliefs than the Roman church has ever had.  Rome had its "rigid dogmas" under Benedict, and it sees those dogmas becoming less and less important as Francis emphasizes something that could be mistaken for "a heart-warming...experience."  I mention it only to highlight the irony:  as Francis tries to move the Church away from a central authority determining who is allowed and who is denied, who is accepted and who is not, the SBC seems to be moving in precisely the opposite direction.  Christianity has perpetually had this problem, but we have the metaphor for that, too, from our beginnings:  the Pharisees, v. the disciples.  That's not a perfect model, but it does allow us to ask, if we will:  which group do we most resemble now?  Considering how many times Jesus told his disciples not to be exclusionary, and how much we humans love to draw boundaries so we know who's "in" and who's "out," it's always a pertinent question.  And always a struggle.

So in the end I feel some sympathy for the struggles of my sisters and brothers in Christ in the SBC.  The Convention is determined to hold on to "complementarianism," the idea that men and women serve complementary, but never equal, roles.  I find that wholly at odds with the gospel witness itself; but there we are, back to matters of exegesis again, and whether my interpretation is more right (or just better) than yours.  I note, however, how much of the struggle outlined in this article is not over matters of exegesis:  there's nothing doctrinal or Biblical, fundamentally, about CRT or white nationalism or complementarianism.  The problems come first when we make those things central to our understanding of our lives and duties as Christians.  The moment we do that we set out to judge; but then we are ourselves judged; and rather than resolving anything, it just turns into a round robin of judgment and accusation and drawing tighter and tighter boundaries.  "What life have we if we have not life together?"  But what life together is a life of endless judgment?

If I had all the answers; if my faith and theology and practice and preaching were so satisfactory to many, I'd still be in a pulpit somewhere, maybe even retiring from parish ministry this year or the next after a brief but spectacular career.  I don't substitute my "wisdom" for that of the people of the SBC.  That they are doing something wrong is clear.  That they are not alone in that, should also be clear.  Although I do find it interesting that when Rep. Ilhan Omar mentions terrorists and the U.S. in the same breath (as Charlie Pierce pointed out, nothing she said was truly remarkable) it's a terrible thing; so I wonder how Southern Baptists take the comparison to the Taliban?