Thursday, November 30, 2017

It's so easy to cast some blame

You can't go home again.  Either.

Apparently one should never find out one's heroes are human beings:

But there were always reasons to suspect that Keillor’s folksy persona wasn’t a true portrait of the man: the unseemly lawsuit against his neighbor, the messy personal life. In interviews, he often comes off as aloof and awkward. A profile last year in the New York Times ended with the radio host breezing past the reporter after a show without acknowledging her, or even seeming to recognize her. “He is certainly the strangest person I know,” the writer Roger Angell, his one-time editor, said in that piece. “I don’t think he’s necessarily a happy man.”

I'm not sure I ever thought of Mr. Keillor as a "happy man."  I'm not sure I think of myself that way. Should I be scrubbed from the public record?  And if that isn't reason enough to think he's guilty of horrible crimes which have yet to be defined by anyone (except Keillor, and who can trust him, amirite?), what about his performance, what about the reason why he's famous?

Even before this week, it has never been terribly hard to come up with reasons to complain about Keillor: his heavy sighing directly into the microphone, his uneven singing voice, his promotion of casserole-bland culture. He’s the epitome of “a white, male, liberal, literary Midwesterner,” as one exasperated critic put it. Underneath his steadfast liberalism, though, was a fundamentally conservative streak. In a notorious 2007 column for Salon, he kvetched that gay marriage would be annoyingly complicated, producing “a whole new string of hyphenated relatives…Bruce and Kevin’s in-laws and Bruce’s ex, Mark, and Mark’s current partner, and I suppose we’ll get used to it.” (Keillor himself has been married three times.)

See?  He's white, male, liberal, midwestern, and married 3 times.  Besides, he sighs!  How can you defend a guy like that?

Now critics are combing through Keillor’s voluminous archives for signs of casual misogyny. They surely won’t be hard to find. His 1997 novel Wobegon Boy includes a scene in which the hero, a Lutheran guy who works in public radio, is unjustly accused of sexual harassment for telling an off-color joke. Just this week, when Keillor must have known trouble was looming, he published a column in the Washington Post titled “Al Franken should resign? That’s absurd.” The column has been understandably lambasted online, but in typical Keillor form, it’s actually rather hard to tell if he’s making the point he seems to be making, or gently skewering it.

If I recall 1997 correctly, "sexual harassment" was still barely a legal concept, much less an accepted form of attack on public figures.  Maybe we should re-read Mr. Keillor's last column (no, really) for WaPo.

Keillor’s shtick was nostalgia, so I hope it’s appropriate to indulge on some on the eve of his fall from grace. He was a masterful storyteller and stylist, a booster of great musical talents, and a compelling performer, heavy breathing and all. Who knows what else he might be—we’ll surely find out. Lake Wobegon never existed, but it will still hurt to watch it burn to the ground.

Who's providing the matches and kerosene?

...the more they remain the same

Roy Moore:

 In a sermon-like speech from the pulpit of the Magnolia Springs Baptist Church, Moore warned his supporters of a “conspiracy” against him concocted by forces seeking to derail his political career. All in one go, he then blamed “liberals, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and socialists” for the allegations against him. “They’re the Washington establishment... who don’t want to lose their power,” he said. Several women have come forward to accuse the Republican candidate of pursuing them sexually when they were underage, with one accuser saying she was 14 at the time of an alleged incident. Moore has denied the claims and on Wednesday described them as “false” and “malicious” attacks.

Which I'm sure can be explained by another analysis of his "evangelical supporters" and still more Biblical proof-texting.  Because what ordinary American would support a person who makes such an argument, amirite?  Is this part of the "hermeneutics of disgust" whereby evangelical supporters of Moore stand by him despite the allegations against him?  Is this another example of "part of a long history of complicated sexual politics in the Christian world"?  Is this further proof that:  "The allegations are being read by Moore supporters through a lens shaped by the courtship-purity movement promoted by the Biblical Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements widely influential in Christian homeschooling circles"?

Maybe it's just "economic insecurity."

Or is this another situation where Occam's Razor tells us voters in Alabama like a narrative that pits "us" against "them," and "them" are people they think populate a mythical place called "Washington," because frankly the attitude expressed by Moore is only different in tone and vehemence from what my father described as the attitude of people in Dallas, Texas during the Great Depression toward major government programs like the WPA ("We Piddle Around").

The more things change.....

....but not forgotten

Seems a bit harsh....

This inspires me:

Carter is the co-host of BadChristian, a terrific podcast where three Christian guys (Carter, Toby Morrell, and Joey Svendsen) navigate the world of the modern American church, which has come to stand in for a whole bunch of movements — especially political ones — that have turned it into yet another cudgel in the culture wars between the right and left.

To play cranky old fart and point out there is no such thing as "the modern American church."  There are congregations, most as peculiar and prickly as families; there are denominations, some of which control some of what those congregations get up to, most of which who don't, and this notion:

As someone who’s recently gotten more involved in his local church, I wanted to talk with Carter about how Christians can get away from the kinds of behavior that have given them such a bad reputation.

For Carter, it’s all about relationships before dogma. He explains:

The only way past that is ... total acceptance. You could use the word grace from the Christian tradition, but I’m going to translate it as acceptance — like a radical acceptance of other people. I mean that on a big level, but really just on an individual level.

I would parallel that to my relationship with my wife. When I was dating my wife, she didn’t have the same faith that I did, and that bothered me. I wanted to be involved with her, and I wanted to get married to her, and I wanted to move forward with her, but I wasn’t willing to do that until she cleaned up her act or started thinking the right way or gotten right, in my view. And that was horrible and abusive and bad and ineffective and counterproductive and wrong.

It took years and years of nonsense that I thought was her fault, but it was always my fault, looking back on it. ... She comes from a family that’s less stable and some trauma in her background, and she always felt fundamentally unaccepted as a person. So you can only imagine how some asshole like me treating her that way would further the problem and cause other reactions.

It was only in spite of me when I understood the damage that I’d done — which is actually a spiritual communication to me that helped my eyes to be opened to what I was actually doing in that relationship —- that I could accept her without an agenda. And then it was, like, “Whoa. That just worked.” When I accepted her for who she was, she felt the security of that acceptance from me, and everything else fell into place.

That could apply to anything, even to groups. If you want to talk about LGBT people in church, or any time a Christian gets around somebody and they start trying to befriend a “sinner,” it stinks, it smells. You know there’s an agenda behind it. You know it’s a temporary acceptance until you can eventually “get right.” The agenda is there, and everybody knows it, and everybody smells it. It doesn’t work.

Real grace, I think the way the gospel really is or the way Jesus would really be, you wouldn’t feel or smell that agenda, where I’ll invite my “sinner” neighbors over tonight and show them that I “love” them, but they know they only have a certain amount of time before they have to convert and that will end. They know that they’re a project for you. That stinks. That smells, and everybody’s wise.

Real relationships have to be without agenda.

Is a truly lovely idea I learned all about in seminary, and went forth into the world ready to apply to every church I pastored.  Aside from my personal foibles and limitations, this is the single largest outside reason I don't preach in a church today.  Seeing what the problem is, and fixing the problem, are two very different things.  I'm all for "real relationships" being "without agenda."  Now start with your presumption that people want you to tell them that, that they want you to set them straight, that all they need is to hear it from you, or see you model it, or listen to you preach it, and the scales will fall from their eyes and they will agree with you and accept your theology (which is what it is) and follow you.

Don't apply it to groups.  Apply it to you.  It's the only way it works.  Don't think of the church as a thing.  Don't think of people as things.  We all do it; it's the easiest reflex in human society, because we are all fundamentally self-centered, we all have trouble imagining the other as other, and not just an extension of self.  Work on that.  It's a lifelong effort.  It's the work of Christianity, of being first of all by being servant of all.  The servant doesn't direct the master.  The servant doesn't set the master straight.  The servant doesn't tell the master what "real grace" is; because all of that puts the servant above the master.

It's a hard truth; but it's really the only way the church can "overcome its bad reputation."  And maybe you start that larger project by not thinking of "the church" as "the church."  Because, really, even among the Roman Catholics or the Orthodox, there is no such thing.  Hard to change what isn't there.  Harder still to change people who aren't you.

Work on you, by serving them.  "Real relationships have to be without agenda," after all.

Nothing to see here!

Here we go again.

Maggie Haberman:

In the midst of a week featuring the president attacking the media, retweeting anti-Muslim videos, suggesting that Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough killed an intern, and calling using an anti-Native American slur at an event honoring Native Americans,  Times reporter Maggie Haberman told CNN Wednesday that Trump bizarre actions have “markedly accelerated (and are) seeming a little unmoored.”

“Something is unleashed with him lately,” the White House correspondent said. “I don’t know what is causing it. I don’t know how to describe it.”

A CNN panel:

“I’ve picked up bits and snippets of this, but I want to ask you to share your reporting on the president’s adherence to a set of facts that are not at all related to the truth,” Wallace requested of Washington Post White House reporter Ashley Parker.

“This president has always been prone to conspiracy theories,” Parker noted. “Throughout his entire life he’s always, to put it in charitable terms, been a salesman, a marketer — presented the rosiest reality and chosen his own set of alternative facts and lived at times in an alternate reality.”

“Eli, the word I heard from White House whisperers…is that he increasingly projects a delusional version of himself to himself and to his twitter followers, this is someone staring in the mirror of his own most rabid fans and feeding them only what he thinks they will believe without acknowledging that it’s moving further and further away from reality,” Wallace revealed. “Do you have any reporting that suggests there is anyone on this White House staff who is interested in offering the president a reality check?”

“It’s very difficult. I’ve heard the word delusional from some folks as well,” Wall Street Journal White House correspondent Eli Stokols replied. “John Kelly came in and changed some things in the White House, but he has not changed Donald Trump’s behavior — his compulsion to grab his phone or retweet things. And he really hasn’t tried.”

“He’s tweeting these things to 43 million people and there is a sort of authoritarian aspect to a president who so brazenly takes issue with objective truth, who disputes things that are clear and obvious to the public and has staffers out there saying — basically backing him up and saying you don’t know what’s true, we’re disputing that reality,” Stokols continued. “It’s one of the darker aspects of this administration, and I think we’re seeing it every day.”

“The other thing that I picked up today was that there is pretty grave concern that by re-upping Birtherism in the face and wake of all these — we played a tape of about a minute and a half of just this blatantly racially divisive statements and he retweeted three anti-Muslim videos today,” Wallace noted. “The dye is now cast, he is advancing and advocating racism in this country.”

“This is someone who has always had a shaky relationship with the truth,” Associated Press White House reporter Jonathan Lemire responded. “Trump Tower, just a few blocks from here, he has lied about how tall it is. He says it’s ten stories higher than it is.”

“This is someone whose whole political career was born on the bocks of Birtherism, a lie, a racist lie,” Lemire noted. “And here he is in the office with the gravity of the White House behind him and still perpetrating in this, including these tweets this morning with these — retweeting from an Islamophobic website, tweets so inflammatory they were denounced by Theresa May and endorsed by David Duke.”

“Good Lord,” Wallace concluded.

The ghost writer of The Art of the Deal:

“What does it mean when Donald Trump says the thing that he apologized for and admitted he said, was maybe a hoax?” Melber asked.

“That he is decompensating. That’s a psychiatric term, but what it means in simple terms is he is losing his grip on reality,” Schartz suggested. “His reality testing is really poor and I believe that’s exactly what’s going on.”

“You have known him for quite some time,” Melber noted. “When you see Donald Trump today, when you see what he’s saying that is false, is it about what you saw then or do you see a change?”

“There is a pretty dramatic change. He is more limited in his vocabulary, he is further from, as I said, this connection to what is factual and real. He is more impulsive, he is more reactive,” Schwartz observed. “This is a guy in deep trouble.”

“We need to be really bringing in psychiatrists because this is a man who is deeply mentally ill and literally, I know that two different people from the White House — or at least saying they they were from the White House and it turned out to be a White House number — who have called somebody I know in the last several weeks to say, ‘we are deeply concerned about his mental health.'”

“Wait a minute,” Melber interrupted. “You’re saying you have knowledge of people calling from a White House line raising that question? Why would they do that? How do you know?

“I know because I know the person that they called and this is a person who I absolutely trust, who has great integrity,” Schwartz answered.

“I believe there are people who are concerned,” Schwartz concluded. “Most of them, I think, are hostages to a cult leader. When you watch Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you really feel as if you’re watching somebody who is being brainwashed, or has been brainwashed.”

“I believe what is causing his decompensation at this level is his belief that they are going to get him on Russia,” Schwartz suggested. “And I think Trump is terrified of that. So he is both striking out and he is deflecting, he is in a survival state.”

“I’ve said this before, he is in a state of fight or flight,” Schwartz concluded. “You lose the capacity to reflect and think rationally and logically and you simply lash out and react in an attempt to defend yourself. What he is defending against is an inner sense of emptiness.”

And don't forget our "special relationship" with:

“British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents – decency, tolerance and respect,” a Downing Street spokesman told the BBC. “It is wrong for the president to have done this.”

Predictably, Trump lashed out at Prime Minister Theresa May, telling her, “don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine,” Trump claimed.

Yet in his haste to defend getting caught spreading fascist propaganda, Trump inadvertently tweeted his reply at somebody other than the Prime Minister.
Madness?  No!  It's all strategery!

According to this source close to the White House, apparently President Trump, ever since that day when he finally acknowledged that Barack Obama was born in the United States, was questioning and has questioned since then, the politics of that decision—meaning that he feels he would have done better the November election last year had he just stood his ground and insisted that Barack Obama was not born in the United States,” Acosta said.

“He feels he would have performed even better in the polls had he stayed with that position,” the CNN reporter added.

Acosta called the detail “a remarkable insight into his mind,” noting that while some analysts have described Trump as “perhaps … kind of losing it,” it’s in fact “more tactical, that the president believes in citing some of these racially-tinged conversations around the country because he feels they help him politically.”

“This development that the president believed back then it was just the wrong political move to acknowledge that Obama was born in the United States goes to that theory,” Acosta said.

Sure it is.....

Making graven images

I dunno; looks like a graven image to me....

Roy Moore loves the Ten Commandments; and it has been noted more than once, even by your humble host, that it's curious he's not more enamored of the Beatitudes.  But since he seems to be more interested in the Hebrew Scriptures (Moore would call them the "Old Testament"), it's odd he's not more interested in Deuteronomy, somewhere just past the "Ten Commandments" passage:

These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are come over Jordan; Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin:
13 And these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse; Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.
14 And the Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice,
15 Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.
16 Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.
17 Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen.
18 Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way. And all the people shall say, Amen.
19 Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen.
20 Cursed be he that lieth with his father’s wife; because he uncovereth his father’s skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen.
21 Cursed be he that lieth with any manner of beast. And all the people shall say, Amen.
22 Cursed be he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.
23 Cursed be he that lieth with his mother in law. And all the people shall say, Amen.
24 Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly. And all the people shall say, Amen.
25 Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person. And all the people shall say, Amen.
26 Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen

Deuteronomy 27:13-26.

There are some curses there he could surely get behind, like the curse against bestiality, or lying with your father's wife (not the Oedipal crime, mind you, in a society where a man might have many wives).  Note that "crime" is against the father, not the wife; but there is a protection against lying with your own sister (incest) or what we today would call half-brothers or sisters (or even step-brothers, as the law provided for widows to become the wives of brothers of the deceased husband).  It's verses 18 and 19 I'm particularly interested in, though, because those are the concerns least likely to be raised by someone like Roy Moore.  This is the KJV; since I don't read Hebrew, I looked at the Revised English Bible for a bit more clarity:

'A curse on anyone who misdirects a blind man'; the people must all say, 'Amen.'

'A curse on anyone who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless, and the widow,': and the people must all say, 'Amen.'

Now put that up against, say, Luke's version of the Beatitudes (Luke's gospel includes the curses that Matthew leaves out):

Congratulations, you poor!
God's domain belongs to you!

Congratulations, you hungry!
You will have a feast.

Congratulations, you who weep now!
You will laugh.

I've addressed the issue of this translation of the Greek makarios here, if you're interested.

The curses in Deuteronomy are part of a ritual, and are concerned with matters other than just what we would call "social justice."  They are directed to a congregation, a gathering, a synagogue, an ekklesia.   They are first directives, and then the blessing for following those directives.  The ritual ends where Luke's Beatitudes begin:

1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:

2 And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.

3 Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.

4 Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.

5 Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.

6 Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.

Jesus is talking to a different crowd than those addressed by the Deuteronomists (scholars consider the writers a school, not an individual).  But that's another story.  For our purposes, the comparison between these scriptures is enough, and it points away from the Ten Commandments as the touchstone and bulwark upon which a fortress is built against evil and error.  In fact, that kind of attitude is one the prophets would denounce as evil and error, because they would identify it as idolatry.  Simply following the words of the law is not the same thing as "hearken[ing] unto the voice of the LORD thy God."  Not unless you think God stopped speaking shortly after those ten rules were written down.  Certainly the Deuteronomist didn't think so.  It's easy to make an idol of those 10 rules, much harder to make an idol out of the Beatitudes in Luke, especially since they continue with these words:

Damn you rich!
You already have your consolation!

Damn you who are well-fed now!
You will know hunger.

Damn you who laugh now!
You will learn to weep and grieve.

Those words attack what we usually think of as the sources of idolatry, but they don't attack wealth and full larders and happiness; in fact, they don't really attack at all.  They point out it won't always be this way:  food runs out, money runs away, all the laughter dies in sorrow; and that is of a piece with the congratulations to the poor, the hungry, the weeping:  this, too, shall pass.  There is a time to every purpose under heaven, but expecting one condition to be permanent and static, wealth or poverty, happiness or sorrow, hunger or satiation, is vanity and striving after emptiness.  The Ten Commandments, used as they usually are as the summation of the law and the basis for ordering society and morality, are abused in a manner it is hard to do with the Beatitudes.  Luke's version, especially, are in keeping with the Magnificat of Mary:  the powerful will be toppled, the powerless raised up.  But that's more a vision of Isaiah's highway for God, also prefigured in Luke's story of John the Baptist (the most complete story in the four gospels):  mountains lowered, valleys raised, so the path of the Lord is straight and visible to all.  In Luke's gospel that vision becomes the foundation for social justice, where the first of all is last and servant of all, and the race is to the bottom, to be the servant of all, not to the top; because when you're number one, the only way to go is down.  You have had your compensation, you will know hunger, you will learn to weep and grieve.

If Roy Moore had heeded those lessons, rather than wrapped his arms around stone tablets he conceived to be all he needed of the Law (of Moses, and the law itself), he might have learned humility and have lived a much more valuable life, life into the ages.  He might have made human beings of others, and a human being of himself.  As it stands now, having made an idol of the Law, he has also made an idol of himself.

I'm not sure that's going to be much consolation.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What we have come to.....



After we published this column, Minnesota Public Radio announced it was terminating its contracts with Garrison Keillor due to "allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked for him."  The Post takes these allegations seriously and is seeking more information about them."

What happened?  Well actually, nobody knows:

Keillor told The Associated Press of his firing in an email. In a follow-up statement, he said he was fired over “a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.” He didn’t give details of the allegation.

“It’s some sort of poetic irony to be knocked off the air by a story, having told so many of them myself, but I’m 75 and don’t have any interest in arguing about this. And I cannot in conscience bring danger to a great organization I’ve worked hard for since 1969,” Keillor said.

“A person could not hope for more than what I was given,” he said.

Minnesota Public Radio confirmed Keillor had been fired, saying it received a single allegation of “inappropriate behavior” and doesn’t know of any other similar allegations. MPR said it was notified of the allegation last month and that it stemmed from Keillor’s conduct when he was responsible for producing “A Prairie Home Companion.”
And what was the column to which this editorial note was appended? An opinion piece that opens with this quote:

"It's slippery ground, in general, to judge past actions by present standards and with a benefit of hindsight that is, morally, highly questionable."
And goes on to discuss, among other prominent persons, the President of the United States (we only have one at a time), and Sen. Al Franken.  Of the proposed (or demanded) resignation of Sen. Franken Mr. Keillor has this to say:

This is pure absurdity, and the atrocity it leads to is a code of public deadliness.  No kidding. 
No word yet on whether any of the editors of the Washington Post have been required to review the definition of "irony," and consider how it applies here.  But considering Mr. Keillor is not accused of the sins of Adolf Hitler, or even of David Duke, much less Donald Trump, it seems a bit disturbing that his words, which only come to Sen. Franken's situation in the final paragraphs, should be deemed so guilty by association with the allegation against Mr. Keillor, that the WaPo editorial board must wash its hands of them even as it leaves them available on-line and in print.

What's next?

*Now we do:

In an email to the Star Tribune Wednesday, Keillor said, “I put my hand on a woman’s bare back. I meant to pat her back after she told me about her unhappiness and her shirt was open and my hand went up it about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized. I sent her an email of apology later and she replied that she had forgiven me and not to think about it. We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called.”

Keillor even managed a joke of sorts: “Getting fired is a real distinction in broadcasting and I’ve waited fifty years for the honor. All of my heroes got fired. I only wish it could’ve been for something more heroic.”

Then he turned more serious: “Anyone who ever was around my show can tell you that I was the least physically affectionate person in the building. Actors hug, musicians hug, people were embracing every Saturday night left and right, and I stood off in the corner like a stone statue.

“If I had a dollar for every woman who asked to take a selfie with me and who slipped an arm around me and let it drift down below the beltline, I’d have at least a hundred dollars. So this is poetic irony of a high order. But I’m just fine. I had a good long run and am grateful for it and for everything else.”

And I don't know if this is meant to be snark or in the same mode as the WaPo editorial note, but it's out there:

The MPR statement says, in part:

Last month, MPR was notified of the allegations which relate to Mr. Keillor's conduct while he was responsible for the production of A Prairie Home Companion (APHC). MPR President Jon McTaggart immediately informed the MPR Board Chair, and a special Board committee was appointed to provide oversight and ongoing counsel.

In addition, MPR retained an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations. Based on what we currently know, there are no similar allegations involving other staff. 

And there's already speculation like this:

Considering Keillor’s immense popularity among public radio diehards, this dramatic break suggests that the allegations against Keillor are severe.
Because sure, there's no hysteria in the entertainment industry right now, or in any NPR-related entity whatsoever.

And MPR scrubbing all PHC programs from broadcast and renaming the show currently on the air is not ironic in light of Keillor's WaPo column mostly about renaming things because we no longer like the people they are named for.  No matter; punishment must be meted out so we can all feel good about ourselves again.  Well, so some of us can.  Because, as Slate said, in a line of argument that only underlines the WaPo column's argument:

Keillor once brought up the scourge of sexual harassment in an odd address at the National Press Club in 1994. “We should be careful…not to make the world so fine and good that you and I can’t enjoy living in it,” he said. “A world in which there is no sexual harassment at all is a world in which there will not be any flirtation.” He made the same joke in his 2006 book, Homegrown Democrat. Keillor has not yet indicated whether the “interesting” and “complicated” situation that led to his firing involved flirtation, sexual harassment, or both.

There's a cartoon of Lucy handing Snoopy her balloon to keep safe while she goes inside for lunch.  Snoopy clamps it in his jaws, falls asleep sitting up, yawns, and releases it into the wild blue yonder.  The last panel shows Snoopy walking down the railroad tracks in the moonlight, his bindlestiff on his shoulder, thinking:  "Make one mistake and you pay for it the rest of your life."

A world that is long on punishment and resentment and short on forgiveness and self-examination ("let he who is without sin....") is not a world I want to live in; though for the most part, I have to.

Representing our nation to the world very poorly

Yeah, about that:

I don't think Trump is going to retweet that one.

As a Prism Bends Light....

For a long time I harbored the secret hope that "No, he's really not; he just plays one on TeeVee."  (No, not a bigot, he is and has always been a bigot.  I mean an idiot completely detached from reality and going down.)

But he is, he really is:

Despite his public acknowledgment of the recording’s authenticity in the final days of the presidential campaign — and his hasty videotaped apology under pressure from his advisers — Mr. Trump as president-elect began raising the prospect with allies that it may not have been him on the tape after all.

Most of Mr. Trump’s aides ignored his changing story. But in January, shortly before his inauguration, Mr. Trump told a Republican senator that he wanted to investigate the recording that had him boasting about grabbing women’s genitals.

“We don’t think that was my voice,” Mr. Trump told the senator, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Since then, Mr. Trump has continued to suggest that the tape that nearly upended his campaign was not actually him, according to three people close to the president.

A)  Another baseless claim from FoxNews.  B)  These are the people he is now in charge of; does he not understand that?  C)  Why does he trust crazy conspiracy theories over the best intelligence gathering and analyzing organizations on the planet?

“This investigation’s going to be over with pretty soon,” Trump’s told friends at his Golf Club and Mar-a-Lago, adding his “brilliant” lawyers have assured him of a rapid conclusion to Mueller’s probe.

And he still hates Barack Obama, and wants to erase him from history:

In recent months, they say, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. He has also repeatedly claimed that he lost the popular vote last year because of widespread voter fraud, according to advisers and lawmakers.

Many Republican lawmakers — not wanting to undermine the party’s fragile negotiations over a much-sought tax overhaul — declined to talk on the record about Mr. Trump’s pattern of plunging into what one senator called “his rabbit holes.” But the president’s success last year has also left some in his party in awe of his achievement and uneasy about angering his base of supporters.

It isn't, as Sen. Jeff Flake is quoted as saying, that we all need to agree on common facts.   It's that Donald Trump doesn't even have a passing relationship with reality.  Speaking of reality, about that "base of supporters":

Mr. Trump’s friends did not bother denying that the president was creating an alternative version of events. One Republican lawmaker, who asked not to be identified, said that Mr. Trump’s false statements had become familiar to people over time. The president continues to boast of winning districts that he did not in fact win, the lawmaker said, and of receiving 52 percent of the women’s vote, even though exit polls show that 42 percent of women supported him.

The man has the lowest approval rating in Presidential history.  He's more unpopular than prickly heat.  He has the political acumen of a carnival barker.  He has no accomplishment to his name after 11 months in office.  He says he's popular and he has a "base" that supports him, but he also says Barack Obama was born in Kenya and aliens stole his electoral landslide.  After elections earlier this month, what "base" does this man have?  He's political poison, and the only reason he still has political power is that his own party will never impeach him and he can't be forced from office for another 3 years.  What is the powerful cabal he commands, and when will it rise up for him and do his bidding?

Or he theirs?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Woeful American Ignorance of Biblical Studies

Dom Crossan is a religious man, a one-time (or would be, I honestly don't know which) Catholic priest.  My seminary professors, some ordained ministers, some merely laity, were uniformly believers, if not uniform in their Christian beliefs.  And yet:

There also is a lot of slippage between claims that the Bible is enormously influential (which is indisputable) and that the stories it tells are fundamentally true (a claim disputed not just by atheists, agnostics, secular scholars and scientists, but also by billions of adherents of the world’s other religions). Every resource of museum design and careful argumentation has been mustered to sweep up these unrelated ideas in one, big, overwhelming package.

Granted I'm taking this out of context, and the rest of the review of the museum is worth reading (if WaPo will let you in; sometimes I can get there, sometimes I can't.  YMMV).  But I suspect my seminary professors, religious scholars all, as is Crossan, would disagree with the claim that the stories of the Bible are "fundamentally true."  At least "true" in the sense clearly meant by the Museum of the Bible:

But both the traditional and immersive exhibitions start with unstated assumptions: that the Bible is the most important book in the world, that there is concrete archaeological evidence to explain its origins, that it has been transmitted through the ages with remarkable accuracy, and that it is fundamentally a blessing to mankind.

Debates about the meaning of the Bible are confronted openly and without bias, so long as they don’t undermine those assumptions. 
I wouldn't say that there is concrete evidence to explain all the origins of the Bible (more of the evidence is textual than not, which is the problem for many non-scholars), nor that it's been "transmitted through the ages with remarkable accuracy."  I mean, how do we know, especially as we have no original manuscripts from the hands of Paul (or actually his amanuensis; writing was a menial skill for centuries, as was (to some extent still is) typing), or "Luke" or "John" or "Moses," for that matter.  And while it's part of the Torah, Deuteronomy was definitely written after the Exile, not before (the name, from the Greek, means "second law," what lawyers would call a "second restatement" of the law), so it can't be from the hand of Moses, as tradition says it is.  Besides, we don't know how many versions of the books of the Bible existed before the canon was set, and a perusal of any Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament will reveal dozens of footnotes per page listing variant readings from several manuscripts for almost every word in any text you choose to examine. "Remarkable accuracy" is really a matter of consensus over which word to use in what sentence; and then there's the question of translation.

As for being "fundamentally a blessing to mankind," first I'd go with "humankind" (all those lessons in inclusive language!), but secondly I don't put any kind of magic power in the Bible to be, itself, a blessing.  That's a very peculiarly Protestant point of view, and not one shared by all Protestants or denominations.  The Bible is like the scrolls of the Torah, to my way of thinking:  not to be handled lightly or irreverently, nor shared with those who are not of the community.  Which is not to say hidden away, either, but it is not to be left in hotel rooms in hopes the "magic" of the book will reach the heart of the reader.  Without a community to interpret it it's more likely to sow confusion than enlightenment; then again, without an English class or two, who would tackle Moby Dick today, or Eliot's "The Waste Land," or even Yeats' "The Second Coming," yet what do you miss without someone to help you interpret what you read there?  But that flaw is baked into the design of the Museum, it's not a fault of the WaPo critic.

The claims of the Museum are not the claims of all Christians in the world, nor of all Christians in America; and the claims made by Dom Crossan or the Jesus Seminar (one of my seminary professors was a member; and yes I'm dating myself now) are not heresies held by no one but atheists and agnostics (I have no doubt there are several Christians who would consider me a member of both classes).  I have a dream that one day all people in America will understand the rich complexity of Christianity in America, and not automatically assume we are all either "nones" or unqualified supporters of what the Museum of the Bible means to represent about Christianity.

A guy can dream, can't he?

The Fart of the Deal


"Given that the president doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead," Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.

"If the President, who already said earlier this year that ‘our country needs a good shutdown,’ isn’t interested in addressing the difficult year end agenda, we’ll work with those Republicans who are, as we did in April," the Democratic leaders continued. "We look forward to continuing to work in good faith, as we have been for the last month, with our Republican colleagues in Congress to do just that.”
He still doesn't understand he's not the only party in these matters, does he?  And as for that tax issue, that's not working out too well, either.  Seems some GOP Senators understand what's the matter with Kansas:

As the Senate races toward a vote Thursday or Friday on a 250-plus page bill to overhaul the American tax code, with no hearings and without a complete analysis of the bill’s impact, a cadre of Republican senators say they’re working “feverishly” on a last-minute rewrite. Skeptical of the wild economic growth GOP leadership promises will make up for all the revenue lost in the legislation, the change they’re seeking would create a “backstop” or “trigger” mechanism to undo some of the deepest tax cuts in the bill after several years if that magic economic growth doesn’t materialize.
NPR reported this morning at least 6 Senators are unlikely to vote for the tax bill right now.  I'm sure these provisions will salve their concerns.

How Can You Drain the Swamp When You're Turning It Into a Cesspool?

He can't even honor some WWII veterans

“The name ["Pocahontas"] becomes a derogatory racial reference when used as an insult,” the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes’ general secretary said in a statement Monday. “American Indian names, whether they be historic or contemporary, are not meant to be used as insults. To do so is to reduce them to racial slurs.”

Yeah, but what do they know?

“I think what most people find offensive is Sen. Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career,” Sanders said, referring to Warren’s claim — first brought up in 2012 by then-political opponent Scott Brown — that according to unproven family stories, she had Native American heritage.

“She said it was a racial slur,” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl pressed. “What is your response to that?”

“I think that’s a ridiculous response.”

“Why is it appropriate for the President to use a racial slur in any context?” NBC’s Kristen Welker asked.

“I don’t believe that it is appropriate for him to make a racial slur,” Sanders said, “Or anybody else.”

“A lot of people feel as though this is a racial slur,” Welker said.

“Like I said, I don’t think that it is, and I don’t think that was — certainly not the President’s intent,” Sanders said.

Because really, isn't the President's intent all that ever really matters?  He can't be a racist if he doesn't intend to be, amirite?

Besides, the real problem is not that Trump brought this up for no reason whatsoever while receiving the Navajo Code Talkers in front of a portrait of Andrew "Trail of Tears" Jackson,* but that Sen. Warren ever mentioned family stories that she has Native American heritage (which is an appropriate subject of mockery by the President on all occasions, somehow).

“Why is it appropriate for the president to use a racial slur in any context?” NBC News’ Kristen Welker asked.

“I don’t think that it is appropriate for him to use a racial slur, or anyone else,” Sanders replied, before adding, “I think Senator Warren was offensive when she lied about something to advance her career. I don’t know why no one is asking about that question and why that isn’t constantly covered.”

It would certainly distract from what Trump said, which was clearly a distraction from what Trump tweeted over the weekend, and from Roy Moore, and from global warming and the failing tax reform bill.  And anything else you were distracted from, like simple human decency.

*Which, it turns out, was one of the first things Trump did upon taking office:  have the portrait of Jackson hung in the Oval Office.  Clueless or venal, does it really make a difference at this point?

And while I'm adding footnotes, I have to include this conversation on CNN last night:

“How can Sarah Sanders stand there at the podium and say, ‘Oh it’s not a slur, the president doesn’t mean it as a slur,’” host Don Lemon asked, referring to Trump’s comments at a Native American World War II veteran tribute in the Oval Office on Monday, and Sanders’ subsequent claim it was not a racial attack on Warren.

“Don, the reason she does that is because her job is contingent on her being a serial, congenital liar in defense of Donald Trump’s latest outrages,” Wilson opined. “She probably has some tiny, shriveled husk left in her soul where she realizes this is the wrong thing to do, but she does it anyway because otherwise they’ll replace her.”

Trump defender Mike Shields countered that every press secretary “advocates on behalf of the president,” but Wilson buying it.

“Few presidents go out and sling racial overt code words like that,” Wilson replied. “Few presidents go out and crap on the dignity and legacy of people like these code talkers, these heroic veterans, and then send their press secretary out to answer questions in a way that isn’t saying, ‘Wow, the president regrets what he said today, he truly wishes he had not said that.’”

“Instead she goes out and tries to bury people in an avalanche of horsesh*t every day, because this is her job,” Wilson continued. “I get that’s her job. The White House press secretary has to defend the indefensible. In very few other cases in our modern history, has the press secretary had to go out and defend someone who is slinging stuff that is demonstrably racially charged.”

Shields tried to argue that Barack Obama’s press secretary lied when he told reporters, “If you want your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”

“Yeah, but how racial was that?” Wilson asked. “There’s a difference in arguing and advocating for policy, and going out and defending–

“Don, you asked, ‘What’s going on here, what’s going on in the country?’” Shields said, cutting Wilson off. “We just had the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday that we’ve had in 20 years, the economy is booming.”

Wilson visibly rolled his eyes at Shields’ remark.

“What does that have to do with calling someone a racial slur?” Lemon asked.

“It makes racism totally cool then?” Wilson chimed in.
"It's money that matters!/In the U.S.A!" (Sorry, Mr. Newman)

And then Eric had to chime in:

It just gets better.....

Christmas is coming/you can't put a price tag on that

I'm going to wallow in nostalgia here, because it's my blog and I can do what I want to.  These pictures are from an article about a book, Mid-Century Christmas.  I start with that one because we had those ornaments in my house.  We had the Shiny Brite round ones, and also the weird shapes:  one looked vaguely like a cluster of grapes, most like shapes not found in nature, some vaguely "space age" and "stream lined," but still pretty much the size of those balls above.

They were soon "old-fashioned" and replaced with handmade ornaments and dated ornaments and simply less shiny ornaments.  We also had some much larger round glass ornaments, deep blue, that went on the aluminum tree we put up for a short time:

That's not exactly the tree we had, but close enough.  It had a color wheel, too, which was supposed to change the color of the tree.  That worked better in concept than in reality.  The branches shot up at sharp angles and the color wheel (a flood light with a disc divided into quarters and primary colors for each quarter, which rotated slowly in front of the light) sat on the floor, throwing light up onto the bottoms of the branches, not at all dousing the whole tree in light, not even in a dark room.  We hung the huge blue balls on that tree, and turned on the color wheel, and it was....well, it was "modern."  I thought one year about hanging the tree from the ceiling, but the branches would have to have been glued into the pole that held them, and my father never would have tolerated my attempts at a mounting in the ceiling for the tree's base.  The tree lasted a few years, then was relegated to the attic in perpetuity (where all the larger Christmas ornaments dwelt 11 months of the year), and long before I could get my own house and take it, the aluminum tree was given away, along with all the glass Christmas ornaments.  By that time, of course, they were so out of style they were back in style, so too late.

Now I have to content myself with the 8mm movies my father made at Christmas, silent stuff with bad lighting (I still remember the light bar, a row of 4 flood lights which threatened to set the curtains on fire with their glaring heat and blinding brilliance.  We were always squinting on Christmas morning, according to the official record.)  I can't watch them, though, because I no longer have a projector nor have I paid to convert them to DVD, and now that I think of it, I'm not even sure where they are anymore.

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Circling the psychic drain

“The chief. He’s the general and the chief,” Trump said during the White House event, referring to his chief of staff John Kelly. “I said, how good were these code talkers? He said, sir, you have no idea. You have no idea how great they were, what they have done for this country and the strength and the bravery and the love for the country.”

“So that was the ultimate statement from General Kelly, the importance,” Trump continued. “And I just want to thank you because you’re very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago, they call her Pocahontas. But you know what I like you.”

“This was supposed to be an event to honor heroes, people who put it all on the line for our country, and people who, because of their incredible, work saved the lives of countless Americans and our allies,” she said. “It is deeply unfortunate that the President of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur.”
And then, going back to "fake news," that tweet is the most recent one of a long, long weekend:

Yes, that was only two days ago.  And again today:

And really, it isn't even like the press is uniformly interested in making you look bad:
“President Trump? Ali [Velshi] and I [Stephanie Ruhle] cover business and the economy, especially as it relates to politics every single day,” she explained. “So where are these companies coming back specifically and not just pledges,  Foxconn may be coming.”

“[Republican congressman] Jim Renacci said this the other day, from Ohio, the president’s bringing all these jobs back. What are you talking about?” Ali Velshi excitedly interjected. “What jobs? Just tell me where they are. We’ll go, we’ve got reporters, we’ll find out what these are. We don’t know about these.”

“Please sir,” host Ruhle said, addressing the president. “We’re not being biased here. We would love to cover these and cover wins of this administration for the people in this country, specifically those forgotten Americans who are desperate for those jobs.”

I think Trump is losing it.  Indeed, despite what he says about the tax bill:

All signs point to it being in serious trouble:

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) told reporters in a Capitol Hill press conference that he’s skeptical the promised economic growth will fill that hole, and refused to say how he will vote on the tax bill itself.
“What if we don’t get 0.4 percent growth? Is there any backstop?” he asked. “I’m not opposed to tax reform, but we need to do it right.”

Lankford also suggested that conservatives who have long railed about the size of the federal deficit are acting hypocritically by backing the deep tax cuts without corresponding spending cuts.

“We can’t ignore the debt and deficit issues,” he said. “As conservatives, we’ve said for a long time that to get ahead of the deficit we have to control our spending and have a growing, healthy economy. Well, if we use all of the tax reductions to just offset, we’ll never get on top of it.”

Funny I haven't heard of OK's other Senator before, but he doesn't sound comfortable with this legislation at all; and he isn't the only one:

Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran shared similar fears in town hall meetings and local interviews over the Thanksgiving break.

“We don’t want to increase the debt and deficit as a result of tax cuts,” he told a crowd in Clay Center on Saturday. “I’m also cognizant of what people saw happen in Kansas.”

Republicans can only lose two votes from their caucus and still pass the tax bill. With deeply conservative lawmakers like Moran and Lankford wobbling, in addition to more moderate members like Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the upcoming Senate vote is likely to be a nail-biter for GOP leaders desperate to avoid closing out the year with no major legislative accomplishments.
Sen. Moran doesn't want to wish Kansas on the country; and what does Jeff Flake care about his political future?  Dare we expect a Christmas miracle?  And if the GOP can't deliver on a tax bill, what do its major donors do?  And what do they do about Trump, except isolate him further?  And I haven't even gotten to Mueller.

All Accusations Must Lead to Punishment

So, here's the problem:

In an interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press Sunday, Pelosi declared a “zero-tolerance” policy on sexual harassment. Then she stood by Michigan Rep. John Conyers — a powerful Democrat who, it was recently reported, quietly settled a wrongful dismissal case in 2015 when a woman on his staff said she was fired for refusing his repeated sexual advances. Conyers maintains his innocence.

Pelosi could have rattled off a set of meaningless prepared sentences to fill air and buy her party time to figure out what to do. She did telegraph repeatedly in the interview that she expected Conyers to “do the right thing.” Shortly after the interview aired, Conyers announced he would step down from his powerful position as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee — a decision that would be very difficult if not impossible to reverse. Losing such a key position is a bad sign for anyone who hopes Conyers will survive in the House.

Pelosi has, in the past, worked to push out members involved in inappropriate behavior. But in public, on a popular Sunday show, she ran through a list of excuses for Conyers that are the very reasons women are afraid to come forward and report sexual harassment in the first place.

This argument is prefaced with a personal anecdote:

I was very young when I told my boss that a colleague had showed me a video of himself in his underwear at my desk, how he called my cellphone late at night drunk, and how he turned up at my front door one night. When he asked me to meet his parents, I told her, enough is enough.

My boss groaned. That’s bad, she agreed. Then she told me how to handle it: “You can’t just reject him like a normal man,” she warned. “Just stop by his house for one round of drinks with the parents.”

It was a punch to the gut. The woman I saw as a role model, an advocate, and, frankly, a feminist encouraged me to accommodate him, instead of telling him to back off. My colleague’s behavior was an annoyance. My boss’s behavior was a betrayal.

Or it was a lesson that the world is not arranged to protect you, and sometimes you have to stand up for yourself by yourself?  I've had my share of bad bosses and while I've never been sexually harassed, nor do I condone such behavior, I quickly learned the universe was not organized to give me the justice I desired.  Did Nancy Pelosi betray "millions of women" because she didn't demand John Conyers' resign from Congress over a settled allegation of sexual harassment by a former staffer, especially in the light of Conyers' staffers who all say he's been a gentleman to them?  Are all those women dupes of the system, betrayers of the sisterhood, traitors to the accuser who must be believed even though we don't know what the accusations actually are, or who made them?

Frankly, if this is the argument being put forth post-Trump and post-Weinstein, the whole situation is going to devolve quickly into a stew of allegations and accusations that don't produce justice, just backlash.  The arguments are rapidly becoming not about correction and solution, but about purity and punishment.

That direction lies madness and failure.

The Commodification of Persons Continues Apace

I am reading (Simone Weil's) essays as a part of my Lenten reading...She says that we "...must experience every day, both in the spirit and the flesh, the pains and humiliations of poverty...and further we must do something which is harder than enduring in poverty, we must renounce all compensations: in our contacts with the people around us we must sincerely practice the humility of a naturalized citizen in the country which has received us."

I keep reminding the young people who come to work with us that they are not naturalized citizens...They are not really poor. We are always foreigners to the poor. So we have to make up for it by "renouncing all compensations..."
Dorothy Day, from The Dorothy Day Book, p. 11.

Susan Sarandon on why Hillary Clinton still should not be President:

“Well, I knew that New York was going to go [for Hillary]. It was probably the easiest place to vote for Stein. Bringing attention to working-class issues is not a luxury. People are really hurting; that’s how this guy got in. What we should be discussing is not the election, but how we got to the point where Trump was the answer.”

Susan Sarandon understands "working-class issues" as well as Donald Trump does.  And still being locked into the "economic anxiety" arguments for Trump voters is not a sign of political astuteness, either.

Yes, yes, it's easy to beat up on the "liberal Hollywood movie star who is out of touch with middle America," but do they have to make it so easy?

We need Sarandon the way we need Kirsten Powers, formerly of the Clinton Administration, who told NPR this morning that while she's the same age as Monica Lewinsky, Ms. Lewinsky is frozen in amber 25 years later and still too young to make adult decisions for herself "back then" because of the power differential between her and the President she set out to seduce (by her own admission).  Which is a patriarchal attitude, but apparently an acceptable one because she's not a patriarch, or something.  We do tie ourselves into knots insisting everyone else do as we say, not as we do.

ADDING:  It's piling on, but I knew there was more to that Sarandon interview than just concern for the working class:

Sarandon replied: “Not exactly, but I don’t mind that quote. I did think she was very, very dangerous. We would still be fracking, we would be at war [if she was president]. It wouldn’t be much smoother.”

The quote she references is about how Hillary would have us in a war by now.  But it's the comment on fracking that's obtuse.  If fracking has slowed, it's because the price of oil is down, not because Trump has implemented policies to limit it (as if!).  The free market, in other words, is in control.  I'm in touch (so to speak) with the oil business, and business is not good if only because Saudi Arabia hasn't turned off the taps, so exploration and drilling (and so fracking) is still down.

Hillary Clinton would have had no effect on that at all.  (And yeah, with 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, not to mention those aiding the battle against ISIS, we are still "at war").

You know, when the liberal icons are as clueless as Trump.....

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Ultimate Outrage Machine

It's the internet; I need a cat picture once in a while.

Ignorance about religion and churches runs rampant on the Internet.  Some of it is even entertaining, like this:

In an effort to update a 31-year-old handbook proscribing [sic] how services should be conducted in terms of language, the national Evangelical Lutheran church in Sweden dropped the terms ["he" and "Lord"]  after the church’s 251-member decision-making body met for eight days.

According to Archbishop Antje JackelĂ©n, the decision was made because, “Theologically, for instance, we know that God is beyond our gender determinations, God is not human.”  She added that the idea had been floated as far back as 1986.

While the change won’t take place until May of 2017 [sic] for the church’s 6.1 million baptized members, it was immediately attacked in the U.S. by non-members who took great offense on behalf of God.
No, that's not funny; this is:

Writing at Right Wing News, Sierra Marlee, who described herself as “not particularly religious,” complained the language change was “ridiculous.”

“I’m not particularly religious, but even I know this is absolutely ridiculous. The Social Justice Warrior culture has just gone way too darn far and now even the churches are starting to succumb to its influence,” she wrote. “If you’re pinching the bridge of your nose right now in a desperate attempt to stave off the impending headache of reading the rest of this article and voluntarily exposing yourself to such idiocy, I’m right there with you.”

Showing off her knowledge of English language prayers she added, “For those who are in the know, The Lord’s Prayer commonly refers to God as ‘Our Father.’ Apparently, Swedish Lutherans are being led away from such language, and are now encouraged to say ‘Our Parent who art in Heaven.’ That being said, it will continue to be called ‘The Lord’s Prayer.'”
The Lord's Prayer has been rendered into English in many forms since the KJV almost everyone thinks of (ditto the 23rd Psalm), and besides, they don't commonly speak English in Sweden, so it won't be changing "Our Father" for them. Not literally, anyway.  But wait, there's more!

Conspiracy-mongering website Infowars had a unique, but not surprising take, with editor Kit Daniels writing, “Of course, there’s no coincidence the Church of Sweden’s shift away from traditional Christianity coincides with the rise of Islam in the Scandinavian country.”

Should we tell him almost all of the mainline American Christian churches made this shift in the 20th century?  Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt:

According to Blunt Force for Truth, God was “castrated” by the feminists.

“As feminism wormed its way across the cultural landscape in the 60’s and 70’s, Boston College professor Mary Daly spoke of her desire to castrate God,” the website asserts. “It looks like her vision has come to fruition in the Church of Sweden, where clergy have now been urged to use gender-neutral language in reference to God, advising them to avoid terms like ‘Lord,’ ‘He,’ and of course ‘Father.'”
I don't suppose it would do, then, to read Julian of Norwich from the late 14th century:

And so in our making, God almighty is our father by nature; and God all wisdom is our mother by nature, along with the love and goodness of the Holy Ghost; and these are all one God, one Lord....
For our whole life falls into three parts.  In the first we exist, in the second we grow and in the third we are completed.  The first is nature, the second is mercy, the third is grace.  As for the first, I saw and understood that the great power of the Trinity is our father, and the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our mother, and the great love of the Trinity is our lord; and we have all this by nature and in our essential being.  And furthermore, I saw that as the second Person of is mother of our essential being, so that same well-loved Person has become mother of our sensory being; for God makes us double, as essential and sensory beings.  Our essential part is the higher part, which we have in our Father, God almighty; and the second Person of the Trinity is our mother in nature and our essential creation, in whom we are grounded and rooted, and he is our mother in mercy taking on our sensory being.  And so our Mother, in whom our parts are kept unparted, works in us in various ways; for in our Mother, Christ, we profit and grow, and in mercy he reforms and restores us, and through the power of his Passion and his death and rising again, he unites us to our essential being.  This is how our Mother mercifully acts to all his children who are submissive and obedient to him.

But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that I needed to know, answered with this assurance: 'Sin is befitting, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.'

With this bare word 'sin" our Lord brought to my mind the whole extent of all that is not good, and the shameful scorn and the utter humiliation that he bore for us in this life, and his dying, and all the pains and sufferings of his creatures, both in body and spirit--for we are all to some extent brought to nothing and shall be brought to nothing as our master Jesus was, until we are fully purged:  that is to say until our mortal flesh is brought completely to nothing, and all those of our inward feelings which are not truly good.  Have me insight into these things, along with all pains that ever were and ever shall be; and compared with these I realize that Christ's Passion was the greatest pain and went beyond them all.  And all this was shown in a flash, an quickly changed into comfort; for our good Lord did not want the soul to be afraid at this ugly sight.

....And because of the tender love which our Lord feels for all who shall be saved, he supports us willingly and sweetly, meaning this:  'It is true that sin is the cause of all this suffering, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.'*
I had to include the whole quote because of the language Eliot made so famous at the end, and to better put it in context.  Oddly, this was not considered heretical by the Church at the time or since.

I attended four years of seminary at the end of the 20th century (early to mid '90's, to place it better), and we were taught to use 'inclusive language' then.  I have a translation of the New Testament I acquired at that time, using wholly inclusive language in the rendition into English.  So far as I know all the mainline non-conservative Christian denominations in America use inclusive language in their liturgies now.  This stopped being controversial 20 years ago, easily; at least widely controversial.  And now Sweden is catching up, and tout le internet goes mad.  Well, the crazier right wing section of it, anyway.

It's funny how upset they are by something that doesn't affect them at all.  But this occurs as the internet has become the rage machine of choice, so these clowns have to respond to it without knowing they are 20 years behind the times.  I think I will amend the remarks of Chris Milk and dub the internet the "ultimate outrage machine." Seems to be what it's best at.

*This is, by the way, perfectly in keeping with Sophia (Wisdom), which is always personified as female in the Hebrew Scriptures, being an agent of the Creation and so part  of our "essential being."

O Paradeisbaum, O Paradeisbaum! (Redux)

Just put up one of these and call it good (I've got two of them this year!)

Um, okay.  Maybe there's a reason FoxNews is not shown internationally, after all:

On Sunday’s edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Pete Hegseth noted that the there was a shortage of Christmas trees because fewer had been planted after the economic crisis that occurred at the end of Bush’s second term.

“There is a nationwide Christmas tree shortage,” Hegseth explained. “Apparently, 10 years ago during the financial crisis, during the downturn, there were less trees planted. It takes about 10 years for a tree to be chopped down and put in your living room. Because of that shortage — basic supply and demand tells us that if you have less of it, it’s going to cost you a little bit more. You might be shelling out another 10, 15 bucks.”

“You can’t put a price tag on Christmas,” Boothe chimed in.

Hegseth suggested that the cost of Christmas trees could be averted by going to “middle America” and chopping down a tree, which he said he had done “many, many times.”

The President's favorite FoxNews show, y'all.

Because, ya know "You can't put a price tag on Christmas."  And wandering onto someone's property and chopping down their trees is A-OK in "middle America."

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Calliope and Euterpe clear their throats in a meaningful way


In a 2015 TED talk, Chris Milk, founder and CEO of the VR company Within, called virtual reality the “ultimate empathy machine.” (Milk likely borrowed the phrase “empathy machine” from the late Roger Ebert, who had called cinema “the most powerful empathy machine in all the arts.” Television and the novel arguably have greater claims on that title, but that’s a debate for another time.)

These things that pass for knowledge I don't understand.....

Friday, November 24, 2017

Oh samX tree, Oh samX tree!*

Universal signal of Xmas distress?

To begin with, don't believe what you read on the internet, including this blog post you are reading now.  For example, when did the "upside down Christmas tree" start?

Legend has it that England's St. Boniface was furious when he saw pagans revering an oak tree in 7th-century Germany where he was teaching. He cut it down, but a fir tree sprang up on the same spot. Boniface used the triangular shape of this fir tree as a tool to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The pagans who had been converted to Christianity began to revere the fir tree as God's Trinity Tree. By the 12th century, it was being hung upside down from ceilings at Christmastime in Central and Eastern Europe as a symbol of Christianity and God the Son becoming a man because it resembled the shape of Christ being crucified.

No, probably not (how an upside down tree=Holy Trinity is not explained because, you know, symbolism is weird 'n' shit), because the Christmas Tree has nothing to do with pagan celebrations.  If St. Boniface was preaching in Germany in the 7th century, nobody was observing Christmas except as a church mass devoted to the birth of Christ.  They sure weren't wassailing or remembering Saturnalia (in Germany?  900 years after the observance died out in Rome?) or doing anything we associate with Christmas.  Christmas trees didn't enter Christmas observances until Germany in the 16th century, or about 400 years later than the fir trees supposedly being decorated in "Central and Eastern Europe."  And the tree came from the Garden of Eden, not pagan rituals (the Druids were the tree worshippers; they lived in England, not Germany).  It was the Paradeisbaum in German morality plays, and got connected to Christmas because the tradition of observing the feast days of Adam and Eve fell in the time around the observance of Christmas, an observance not settled on until about the 6th century.  And even then, as I say, it was a religious service or feast day on the church calendar; not a season of 12 days of Christmas and the like.

Oh, and "legend has it" is the "some people say" of stories about history with no basis in history at all.

I don't know how long people have been hanging Christmas trees from the ceiling, but I remember it from my childhood as a quirk some people did just to be different.  The trees you can get now are simply inverted artificial trees on a floor-mounted stand.  Kind of a weak cousin, if you ask me, to hanging a live tree upside down from the ceiling and proceeding to decorate it.  If my mother had only kept our aluminum tree from my youth, I'd hang it upside down this year (if I could glue the branches into the pole, that is).  But just as Irving Berlin started the War on Christmas with the help of Bing Crosby in the 1940's ("Holiday Inn," if you don't catch the reference by now), so too people in the '60's were attacking Donald Trump and America by hanging the trees the wrong way up.

Don't we have Roy Moore to worry about?  Or how store clerks greet us this month?

*What?  It was the best I could do!