December 16, 2017

Saturday Ramblings — Nov. 29, 2014

Saturday Ramblings, November 29, 2014B16267

Many of you spoke last week, pining for the Saturday Ramblings of old, full of opinion, controversy, and bite.

Okay then. We’ll do our best. You will note that the Rambler wagon is back this week, gassed up and ready to take us over the river and through the woods to our various seasonal and holiday gatherings. Come on, pile in, and let’s go rambling through some of the events and articles that got our attention in recent days.

Here on the edge of December, the upper Midwest seems like a good, wintry place to begin.

• • •

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Black Friday in Wisconsin . . .
At Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee, people arrived early on Black Friday for a unique sale: on beer. The brewery was offering a limited edition of 5,000 22 oz. bottles of Imperial Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels. They were gone within 3½ hours.

In Wisconsin, people pay no mind to the weather. Though it was snowing and about 15°F, about 800 were in line when the doors opened at 8 a.m. They were treated not only to the opportunity to buy the special brew, but also to breakfast, a DJ providing music, and beer to drink on tap.

Now there’s a Black Friday a Lutheran could love. Or as Homer Simpson would say, “Beer for breakfast? Ummm!”

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Lamenting Ferguson . . .
Far and away the biggest news story was the non-indictment of police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of 18 year-old Michael Brown. One of the best pieces I read on the subject was by Peter W. Chin at CT.

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man[B]oth Michael Brown and Darren Wilson are the products of our society—American society. Our country was birthed out of armed and violent rebellion. We used brutality to subjugate slaves and drive Native Americans from the lands that they had lived upon for millennia. Now, over two centuries later, we suffer more violent deaths than any other wealthy nation in the world. We have experienced more school shootings than 36 other countries combined. We have been continuously at war for 14 years. We glorify violence in nearly every form of media that we consume, from video games to movies, from television to music. Violence has so permeated our culture that there is not a single young American who has not been taught to believe that most any problem can and should be solved by throwing a punch, or else pulling a piece.

Yes, Ferguson is about racism and inequality and crime. But these conditions and sins exist in every person and every nation in the world. What sets our nation apart from others is how frequently we resort to violence in response to racism and inequality and crime. We use violence to perpetrate crime and to protest inequality, and violence to police crime and to end protest. So our problem is not just racism. It is that racism and violence continuously reinforce and exacerbate one another, making healing and progress an impossibility.

I have been extremely reluctant to talk about this matter. We are in a stage of such heightened emotion and rhetoric that adding one more voice to the chatter does not seem wise. I simply have one question and two comments.

Question: What forces turn a local event like this into a public spectacle?

People die every day across our country, often in violent ways and amid volatile, unjust circumstances. What made this particular incident so inflammatory, so disposed to lead to the kind of violence, lament, and debate as we have seen in recent days?

Comments:

• I will never know what it is like to be black in the U.S.

• Police officers in diverse communities have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. There is so much room for misunderstanding, so little room for error.

• • •

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Time for churches to get out of the [civil] marriage business? . . .
At First Things, R. R. Reno encourages Christian ministers to stop signing government-provided marriage certificates. He encourages them instead to sign a “Marriage Pledge” as a clear witness of the Christian understanding of marriage.

Therefore, in our roles as Christian ministers, we, the undersigned, commit ourselves to disengaging civil and Christian marriage in the performance of our pastoral duties. We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles ­articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church’s life.

Trevin Wax reports that this pledge has its Christian critics, however. For example, he quotes John Stonestreet of the Colson Center:

By backing out of the civil marriage business, we risk reinforcing the growing opinion that our views on marriage are valid only to us and belong only in the private, religious recesses of our culture. We also risk perpetuating the very troubling myth that marriage is something that government defines, instead of something it recognizes. If we are still in the business, we can remind them. If not, we can’t.

Of course, whether the church can be a legitimate agent of the state without compromise is a valid question. But keep in mind that the church is not an agent of the state per se; it only serves as one in this matter. And don’t agents of the state who demonstrate and proclaim their loyalty to a higher authority have a stronger witness than someone who is not an agent of the state at all?

What does your Chaplain think? I have long said that the idea behind the Marriage Pledge is sound. I don’t see any reason why ministers or religious representatives should sign government documents legalizing marriages as state agents. If couples want their marriages recognized by the state so that they can receive civil recognition and benefits, fine. Legal authorities should do that. Marriage as a sacrament is a different thing, a covenant relationship before God confirmed within the fellowship of a community of faith. Mixing the two perpetuates American civil religion, not the faith once delivered.

I will probably write more about this in days to come, but that’s a start. What do you think?

• • •

Jan Calendar

Fundamentalism lives . . .
iMonk Community member Elizabeth reminds us that the “ol’ time religion” of Christian fundamentalism is still alive . . . and as scary as ever. Along with some pictures of the new Sword of the Lord calendar, she described a bit of her own background:

My parents stored over 40 years of old Sword of the Lords under their bed, and my dad would read to me every visit – shudder. In my youth John R. Rice was nearly mythical. I have his Rice Reference Bible still as I manage to give away any other one I get, but I won’t pass that on to a person who wants a Bible.  I cringe when I read the Sword of the Lord’s masthead: An Independent Christian Publication, Standing for the Verbal Inspiration of the Bible, the Deity of Christ, His Blood Atonement, Salvation by Faith, New Testament Soul Winning and the Premillennial Return of Christ; Opposing Modernism, Worldliness, and Formalism. It represents and exalts every aspect the “Jesus Loves You, but . . .” teaching of my childhood.

You will note on the calendar sample above that they just couldn’t bring themselves to name the “Federal Holiday” on the third Monday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day). They also have their own very selective list of “saints” for each month: people they consider independent, fundamental heroes of the faith. Remarkably, a couple of them: Lester Roloff and Jack Hyles, are well known for their sexual abuse scandals. The calendar also includes a few politicians throughout the year, namely, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and, of course, Ronald Reagan.

• • •

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Back to beer . . .
Okay, this is too good to be true. A beer Advent calendar!

It is just one of several commercialized Advent calendars that are now turning the traditional penitential season secular. It’s another way to capitalize on making the whole season bright through transforming it into preparing for Santa rather than for Jesus’ coming. Just the other day, I saw the one mentioned in the article that is sold by Starbucks, and it was slick and attractive. But nowhere near as good as 25 days of beer!

If there is a “war on Christmas,” it is not the one culture war Christians are talking about today, where people get offended at being wished “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” It is the unrelenting commercialization and hype that turns the entire season into one long shopping jag in honor of almighty capitalism. Ironically, these are practices many in the Christian world wholeheartedly support even while decrying the “secularization” of Christmas.

Makes me want to go have a beer.

• • •

Finally, for many young and young at heart, here’s another thing to eagerly anticipate in the season to come:

Comments

  1. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

    Stick it in your ear, Steve 😀

  2. “What forces turn a local event like this into a public spectacle?”

    The media…and the race hustlers (those who make a very good living inflaming racial issues and keeping them burning as long as possible.

    • This doesn’t answer it for me. There are plenty of opportunities for what you say. Why this situation?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        History helps. St. Louis is a fascinating place with a disastrous history. Well before this ugly chain of events people interested in cities have been studying St. Louis; it is a place where everything went wrong, and every choice was disastrous; a place that gutted itself economically.

        People forget that St. Louis is the most “dying city” – in terms of poverty, population, and jobs – in the United States. It is a broken place and has been for a long time.

        • More broken than Detroit? That’s where I grew up and when I go back, I cannot believe the poverty and collapse.

          • St. Louis (city and county) have all the problems Adam mentioned and then some. I am surprised that tensions born of inequality didn’t produce this kind of response sooner – much sooner.

        • Adam,
          Excellent point. Another aspect of this story that needs to be part of the discussion is the fundamental structure of St. Louis County. The county has 90 legally incorporated municipalities of which nearly all of them have their own police force. And also nearly all of them have their own municipal courts. This naturally includes St. Louis City, but it also includes cities that are no more the one-tenth of a square mile in area. And those micro-cities have employed constant 24/7 police presence. And as such with that many municipalities and courts, the matter of how are they going to be funded becomes a major concern.

          The solution to the funding problem can not be found in the tax base as the valuations will not cover the municipal expense. So the source of funded becomes fees and traffic citations. This leads to a motivated police and court structure to generate citations which pay their own salaries. Which leads to an oppressive police presence that is not necessarily race driven, but is primarily budget driven. Hence the powder keg atmosphere is laid down waiting for a match to be lit.

          This is so much more about oppressive police presence than it is about race. The presence just happens to be in a black community.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            This is so much more about oppressive police presence than it is about race. The presence just happens to be in a black community.
            I was just telling my wife this. I believe Ferguson is about much more than racial inequality.

      • They pick their spots and events. There are tragic events like this all the time. They can’t do them all. But they do latch onto some, and milk them for all they are worth.
        And you have convicted liars and race baiters like Al Sharpton fueling the fire. And the media loves to keep this stuff going for as long as possible. Doing great harm to future young minority children with every passing minute.

        • Steve, I doubt that many of those “young minority children” would appreciate the opinion you’ve stated or the way you state it.

          A big part of the problem that attends situations like these is the lack of tact and sensitivity we use in the way we talk, especially when outsiders make opinionated pronouncements like they know the obvious truth and it’s inconceivable why others don’t.

      • Randy Thompson says:

        Why this situation?

        I think this tragic story is ideal fodder for the national media. It gives our violent country what it is looking for, on both sides of the racial, cultural, and political divide. One part of the country sees itself in the young man who was killed. The other part sees itself in the one responsible for his death. I fear that both sides find what they look for without seeing what actually happened. This makes for good ratings, because everyone is watching because they feel they have a stake in these events–which side will win? For many, watching the sad events surrounding Ferguson is like watching an NFL game where the teams dislike each other. (For the record: I don’t know what happened.)

        This is also a golden opportunity for the media to do what it shouldn’t be doing, which is passing on speculation and rumor in the interest of providing current, lively (and “entertaining”) content to fill the time when no one knows what is actually going on. The news-empty minutes are filled with the imaginations of the TV correspondents and the talking heads and no one seems to notice (or care?). John Sommerville explains this very well in a book that should be required reading for anyone who gets their news mainly via television: “How the News Makes Us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society.” Wisdom does not generate ratings. Conflict does, as do the snap judgments that too often go with it.

    • Actually I do not thing this is true, although the media and the activists are certainly factors.

      I’m continually struck by the vast differences in perception of events between black friends and white friends, when these catalyst events take place. They become instant symbols for people on all sides, summoning a perceptions and narratives that must, I presume, run deep in the still racially conscious imaginations of communities. The response on all sides is too forceful and too collective for a few leaders in either community to produce by fiat of talking; their words are hitting something raw and angry.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        A line which is always good for a laugh with my black friends: “The difference between whites and blacks is that the police really *are* my friends.” To look at Ferguson and see nothing but media hype and race hustlers (the traditional term is “outside agitators”) is… um…, missing the point.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Yes. And it discounts decades of history, generations of accumulated resentment, blitheringly short-sighted federal, state, and local governance, and terribly inequitable infrastructure – infrastructure projects that at the time were openly promoted as dividing communities as that was viewed as a positive by those in control at the time [many of those people may be gone now, what they built remains].

          These events do not JUST HAPPEN out of the blue. That is why they do not occur everywhere or every time something bad happens. This place was a tinder box that has been being loaded up for a long time.

          If someone wants to know how this happens one needs to read the history of St. Louis. And it is a good story too – villains, back stabbing, collusion, bombastic personalities, …. St. Louis history gives Chicago history a run for its money – and that is saying something!

          • Adam – yes.

          • Given this, there may be no particular aspect that turned this specific incident into a national spectacle; perhaps it was merely the straw that broke the camels back, though much like every straw that went before.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Race Hustlers wouldn’t have anything to Hustle and exploit if it weren’t for an existing underlying situation.

          That said, as a White guy all I see in the coverage is burning and looting and rioting — like “wilding” troops of chimpanzees who have marked ME as The Enemy. (Several guys both in talk radio and in person have commented they would have liked to have had an over-stocked gun store in Greater St Louis during the long Grand Jury delay; I remember photos of white guys during the 1965 Watts riots coming out of gun stores in adjacent areas with enough firepower to equip an infantry squad plus about twenty basic loads of ammo per piece.) NOT helped by the fact that humans (like all primates) are sight-oriented: If something or someone LOOKS different, IT is Not Like US.

          • Faulty O-Ring says:

            Comment removed: offensive

          • George Christiansen says:

            “Race Hustlers wouldn’t have anything to Hustle and exploit if it weren’t for an existing underlying situation.”

            There is always something to hustle. It is simply a question of taking the facts and filling in the gaps with your own narrative.

            If we can pretend that criminal conviction rates of black men are accurate we can build a case that either race or black culture make black men more criminal or that the justice system is racist and non-blacks are just not being caught or well prosecuted, which gives us a distorted statistic in the first place.

            There was a unarmed white guy (how old can whites be before we have to stop calling them children?) shot by a black officer in Salt Lake City. Very similar details, except one actually had to do some homework to find out the officer was black. This received almost zero media attention.

            Same data. Different conclusions.

            The reality though is that very few people ever even see any actual data. They just hear the narrative.

            Many whites filter it through their love of the underdog and some weird cocktail of self loathing and a chance to feel better than other whites by indulging in some white guilt and some blacks see it through the desire to explain things that would be to painful to acknowledge as their own community failures.

            We generally do not have many people willing to face the implications of their narrative being wrong.

    • One of the factors that has turned this into a national public spectacle is that the killing of this particular young man by police has resonated among African-American communities throughout the country, where events like this have occurred far too often. It has become symbolic of a problem that is not merely local but exists in African-American communities in every part of the nation, where young black men are routinely stopped by police for no apparent reason, other than the suspicion that police have of young black men.

      And this happens not only in African-American communities. I know a young black man in my own mostly white community who has been stopped by police, both on the sidewalk and in his car, 20 times in the last five years for no good reason. His reasonable assumption is that he has been stopped so many times only because he’s a young black man in a mostly white community.

      African-American communities live in fear of the police. When young, unarmed teenaged boys are so often killed by gun-wielding police, it’s reasonable to be afraid of police. This particular incident has touched off a sense of solidarity among all those communities, however near or far-flung, and a recognition that they all live with the same fear. This particular incident, this killing, has made African-Americans across the nation feel like a single embattled community; as a result, they’re speaking with one voice.

      The fear, the outrage, being expressed by African-Americans is not the result of media manipulation; it’s heartfelt and real. And it’s explosive. There are two Americas: black Americans know this; many white Americans would rather not know it, and so they blame the media, or they just bury their heads.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Furthermore, any African-American knows this. When I hear whites wonder what all the fuss is about, I suggest they take one of their black friends out for a beer or a cup of coffee and ask for an honest assessment of black-police relations. If they don’t know any black friends well enough for such honesty, they don’t have any black friends. At best they have black acquaintances.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          I remember sitting on the porch of my college apartment – which at the time divide the good [while] “historic” neighborhood and the bad [minority] old streetcar suburbs. I was on the bad side. And elderly while lady lived across the street. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon. The port next to mine had a pair of black youth reclining listening to their boom box – loudish, but not overwhelming. The elderly white lady across the street called to police about the noise [she called the police frequently]. A squad car arrived. Two white cops get out.

          Note that I may be white as white [Finnish] but I grew up despising the police. We have an ‘thug-of-the-week’ whiteboard on the refrigerator that usually featured the name of a local cop. As kid I was yelled at numerous times by police and at least once pushed up against a wall. Cops are your friends… bull snot.

          Those two white cops got out of their car, and I felt bad for them. That was the first time in my life. They did not want to be there, it was obvious, they did not want to “enforce” this noise complaint. But what choice did they have – a citizen had filed a complaint. The two black youth bristled with hostility. Fortunately it was bluster and preening and it all passed without anything bad happening – except the perpetuation of this stupidity.

          I wasn’t involved. I didn’t say anything. Nothing was said to me. But that moment changed me, for the better I think. The cops were not aggressors, they were [partially] unwilling tools. And the two black youth on the porch were just sucked into playing their part in this dance.

          Sometimes people, maybe not good or bad people, are just trapped in a sequence of events. It is easy to say they should heroically change the situation; easier said then done, when it plays it in all kinds of little ‘inconsequential’ events, over and over again.

        • George Christiansen says:

          You will find the same exact thing to be true among certain demographics of white though. Cops are more active in poor neighborhoods because there is more crime there.

          Whites of a certain appearance and age are just as likely to be stopped in a neighborhood where they look out of place; be it a mostly black neighborhood or a wealthy white one.

          It is ridiculous that we tolerate the police stopping anyone who is not either committing a crime or matching the description of someone who has, but I do not think that it is as much an issue of race as of “something looks out of place here”.

          The idea that Michael Brown was initially stopped for jaywalking is ludicrous to me. Maybe if he actually was being reckless and crossed in such a way as to endanger driver, but really? We have a law telling people how to cross the street? This requires police involvement.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Whites of a certain appearance and age are just as likely to be stopped in a neighborhood where they look out of place; be it a mostly black neighborhood or a wealthy white one.

            Remember that humans, like all primates, are SIGHT-oriented. If something or someone LOOKS different, he/she/it IS different. THEM, not US.

      • I know a young man of Indian background (India, not Native American). He is an accountant, has a Master’s degree, clean shaven, articulate, hard working, intelligent. He has been stopped twice by police & frisked for no apparent reason. The last time he was a few blocks from his office. He was wearing a suit and tie, on his way to work, minding his own business. The reason for the stop & frisk? One can only assume it is because he is non-white.

        My son who is about the same age, employed, clean shaven, hard working, etc and white has never once been stopped.

        This is why things blow up in places like Ferguson.

      • Why do young African Americans, aged 15-34 kill each other at astounding rates? Why is this demographic different than Hispanic, Asian or white?

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          You are changing the subject. These are good questions–especially for those willing to consider a possible answer apart from “because they are all thugs”–but they seem, in the context of this discussion, very much like an attempted distraction.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Ever seen MTV when it went “All Gangsta Rap, All The Time”?
            AKA “Thug Culture”?

            There used to be a black radio talk-show host who went by the handle “The Black Avenger”. One of his repeating statements on-the-air was “There is white trash, and there is also black trash. And we have let black trash define ‘what it means to be Black’.”

        • Richard, what Oscar brings up is NOT a distraction, it is the very crux of the issue. Something like 90% of young black males are killed by other young black males, and the media, as well as the Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons of this country say not a WORD. A white police officer kills an attacking black male, and he is targeted as a racist murderer, regardless of the evidence and the grand jury findings.

          Certainly there are racist police officers, and plenty of law-abiding young black men, and these can and do lead to horrible acts of racially motivated violence. BUT to pretend that “cops” are killing off all these young men, while ignoring the REAL fact that most are killed by their peers, is lying at best and propaganda at the worst.

          Cry wolf enough times and no one pays any attention to the REAL atrocities and unprovoked actions by a few bad police officers!

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Something like 90% of young black males are killed by other young black males, and the media, as well as the Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons of this country say not a WORD.

            Because that would take away from the Sharptons’ and Jesses’ personal agenda: REVENGE ON WHITEY.

            Cry wolf enough times and no one pays any attention to the REAL atrocities and unprovoked actions by a few bad police officers!

            And what does make it through the media filters are riots and rampages and Sharpton and Jesse. Until Whitey’s reptile brain is calling for tougher cops, more laws, more M-16s, more M-4s, more Kevlar, more armored vehicles, more heavy weapons, more cammies. To reinforce the Thin Blue Line (now thin camouflage-and-Kevlar line) protecting what that Silicon Valley bigwig called “The Civilized Parts of Town” from the rampaging chimpanzee troops Outside.

            And it gets UGLY.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I know a young black man in my own mostly white community who has been stopped by police, both on the sidewalk and in his car, 20 times in the last five years for no good reason.

        DWB = Driving While Black. It’s a running joke, though nobody’s laughing.

      • the killing of this particular young man by police has resonated among African-American communities throughout the country, where events like this have occurred far too often.

        When young, unarmed teenaged boys are so often killed by gun-wielding police, it’s reasonable to be afraid of police.

        So why is this one making so much news? If this is happening all the time, why aren’t the other stories making as many headlines?

        has made African-Americans across the nation feel like a single embattled community; as a result, they’re speaking with one voice.

        No, they aren’t. Many of them would never respond to such events with more violence and looting, and many of them are the victims of such dastardly behavior.
        I know many black Americans who are not afraid of the police. Some of them are the police.

        • George Christiansen says:

          “No, they aren’t. Many of them would never respond to such events with more violence and looting, and many of them are the victims of such dastardly behavior.
          I know many black Americans who are not afraid of the police. Some of them are the police.”

          There have been black men like Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams who, while not naive about racism, have been pointing to much different explanations for the problems that plague black Americans at a disproportionate rate for decades. There are may more doing the same now.

  3. “Our country was birthed out of armed and violent rebellion.”

    Haven’t most nations had their genesis in some primordial act of violence?

    • I would guess so. England had its waves of Angles, Saxons and Celts. Then it was conquered by the Vikings who were eventually expelled, then the Normans…

      Canada perhaps managed to avoid that, though I’d imagine things haven’t always gone so swimmingly with their First Peoples (better than the US though). No bloody revolution against the UK (I think the UK learned a thing or two about trying to fight a war halfway ’round the world by fighting the US).

      Australia brutally subdued their native population, but they didn’t fight a bloody revolution against the UK.

      Finland didn’t have to fight a bloody revolution against Russia (they waited till the Russians were having a violent revolution of their own to declare independence). Whether there was violence further back, I wouldn’t know.

    • Canada did not come to have “their genesis in some primordial act of violence.” And, the basic disposition of Canadians is quite different from Americans. I have family on both sides of the Lakes. My Canadian side fled NY into Ontario during the Colonial revolution.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        i.e. you’re the descendant of Tories who had to get out of the breakaway colonies.

        Sounds like what shook down is the Tories sorted out into what’s now Canada and the rebels into what became the US, and it colored both countries’ attitudes and history since.

        • Tories perhaps, yes. However, I prefer to call that side of the family “Loyalist”. I do have the paperwork as qualification as a U.E.L.. (don’t tell uncle Samuel…..)

          My father was born on the farm outside of Beamsville, Ontario (in the Niagara Peninsula). Gramps lost the farm in the 30’s because of back taxes and moved the family to Brantford. Gramps was a custom builder and dad worked with him. By the time dad was about 18 he got tired of being Grandpa Norm’s dog leg, so he crossed the border and hitched all across the US. Met and married my mom in ‘52 in Phoenix. (He went to the Greyhound ticket agent window in L.A. and asked where could he get to with the amount of money he had to which the agent said that he could either buy a ticket for Las Vegas or Phoenix. Dad told the agent, “you choose”, so the agent sold him a ticket to Phoenix.) He married my mom, but apparently he also dated another gal in Phoenix. After is engagement to mom the other gal turned dad in to INS for working without documentation. He spent a night in the county jail. The next morning INS told him that he had two choices; return to Canada or enlist in the military. He chose to enlist. 1952—the Korean war, *cough, ahem*, I mean “police action”. Did his basic at Ft. Ord California. Spent the rest of his hitch at the Presidio in San Francisco. I was born at the base hospital. (I asked him once why he didn’t get shipped to Korea. He said that he expected to because everyone else in his battalion certainly did. But, after basic he remodeled an office for an officer, then it seemed that all he did off-duty was office remodels….). Dad became a US citizen in the early 60’s. He became more American than most Americans. Very patriotic.

          I’m married to a gal born in Hamilton who spent most of her life in Ottawa. Her attitude on social issues is often very different than my “native” thinking. She also has a very different perspective when it comes to guns and violence (who woulda thunk it?). We, Americans, are acculturated to violence–it’s in our DNA. Canadians are not. Yes, that is a generalization, but one that fits in my experience more often than not.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Many-many years ago in Psychology Today, there was this theory about “Thrill-seeking personality” and “Thrill-seeking culture”. And that the USA is the leader in this personality and culture. The fallout from this is US culture has a lot of individuality, innovation, creativity, and adventure at the cost of side effects of violence, unrest, and conflict. The idea was these are side-effects (some of them pretty dark sides) of some positive aspects of the culture and attitude.

  4. For the first several hundred years of its existence, the Church was not in the marriage business. The pagan state presided over marriages, pagan and Christian. If the Church disapproved of your marriage, or other aspects of your personal life, you were excluded from the fellowship. We’re headed back to that model, or at least parts of the Church are headed back to that model. It’s a tenable one, and a faithful one.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “We’re headed back to that model, or at least parts of the Church are headed back to that model. It’s a tenable one, and a faithful one.”

      I agree, and support the return to that model. Priests/pastors should not be agents of the state.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

        I think I would say it differently – marriage is an institution of the state. Where I disagree with most evangelicals is the idea that marriage is a Christian institution. This in turn leads me to agree with you and Robert.

        • Marriage clearly existed prior to the beginnings of Judaism – Christianity is a relative latecomer by comparison. I don’t understand the way in which people are bridling at the idea that the state has something to say about marriage. (Well, I do, because the kinds of marriages that these folks *don’t* want are between same-sex couples… which means that they wish to deny the legal rights and protections given by the state to those who don’t meet their criteria for marriage.)

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Because nothing disconnects every neuron above the Christianese reptile brain and waves a bright red murder flag in front of what’s left than HOMOSEXUALITY(TM).

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            Well said, numo.

    • Let me see, how many variations of “Biblical marriage” can I count in my Bible?….Now tell me, which of those numerous variations constitutes “Christian marriage”?

      Each and every one of the pestilent Christian denoms/ecclesial structures should regulate within their fellowships what they deem to be “faithful marriage”.

      No church organization should be agents of the State by religifying civil unions.

  5. An interesting thing is that right now, it’s Diocesan policy in most Catholic dioceses not to marry folks without a marriage license. I know this because I’ve known some older folks who wanted a Sacramental marriage but without the civil end of things due to the threatened loss of pensions, etc. So, in both cases, they had to ask around and find a priest who would quietly preside without attracting unwanted attention from the Bishop. Putting this pledge in motion would at least undo those diocesan rules.

    Ed Peters is a canon lawyer, he has a blog and disagrees with the pledge pretty strongly. I have to agree with his contention that if it is an evil deed for the priest to sign the papers, then how is it licit for the parishioners to go sign the papers?

    It would be an inconvenience. In Cook County, there is a waiting period after getting a marriage license before you can exercise it (no doubt to try to avoid marriages entered into in a drunken state). So couples would have to get their license, have a church wedding, then have a civil one (or vice versa, I suppose though Catholic theology makes that doubtful as well as the first exchange of vows with consent is the wedding from what I understand); so 2 trips to the county clerk (and in Cook County this can involve quite a wait!), plus one to the church.

    • It’s my understanding that many other denominations have similar policies, including my own, the LCMS. It doesn’t help matters that in some states, it is actually illegal for a clergyman to hold a marriage ceremony without the couple having a marriage license (presumably either one that has already been obtained or that he himself signs).

      My thoughts on the matter is that civil marriage is baloney. Marriage is not, at its heart, a legal contract: it is a promise between a man and a woman and the subsequent living out of that promise. There’s nothing wrong with a couple wanting to pursue legal codification for their union, but there is something wrong, in my opinion, with the government attempting to define marriage or to issue marriage licenses at all. It is unmitigated hubris for the state to think itself the rightful arbiter of what rightly belongs to individuals, families, and communities. I do support the marriage pledge, not because civil “marriage” has abandoned biblical principles, but because it was never right at all in the first place.

      • I don’t see that Jacob. It is part of ordering the life of our society, which is the very essence of what government is all about. Without definitions of relationships we would have a hard time doing that.

        • Personal relationships, by definition, cannot be adequately defined by a bureaucracy. They are by nature the domain of the members of the relationship and their close associates. Let the government deal with individual rights, I say, and let the people have the freedom to associate with each other on their own terms.

          Our disagreement on this issue probably rests in the fact that you think government should order the life of society, and I do not; at least not in the same sense. But I think it’s still possible to make a case that marriage is sacred enough to be exempt from the prying arm of the state. It’s understandable to advocate for legislation and regulation to govern the public realm of society (“public” not in the sense of the government but in the sense of organizations, institutions, and corporations that establish themselves in the public eye). But do we really want the government intruding upon the most intimate of human relationships?

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            Bologna. Marriage without a police force and courts system is entirely meaningless. Or what are you saying? That a married man should have the freedom to “associate” with the babysitter and his wife should have no legal recourse? And when she decides to divorce this scoundrel, does he keep all the assets in his name? Or do we have laws defining marriage and asset allocation? In one fell swoop you have completely gutted marriage of any meaning at all!

          • No. The legal aspect of marriage would not disappear, it would be governed by private contracts.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            No, it wouldn’t be governed by private contracts. It would be governed by the bailiff, because at some point the social contract must be enforced – with force. Or are you suggesting private individuals be given the power to imprison, divide wealth, or otherwise enforce the marriage contract? At some point the power of the state comes to bear, which begs the question: given the necessity of the state’s justice system, courts, law enforcement and truant officers, bailiffs and bailiwicks – how exactly is this not the state’s business?

          • Clearly, it’s the business of the courts to enforce contract law if there is a dispute. What I’m saying is that the government should have no power to define marriage or to officially institute a policy of marriage. If two people want to get married, and if they want to codify their union in a contract, their agreement would fall under the domain of the law like any other contract.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            What I’m saying is that the government should have no power to define marriage or to officially institute a policy of marriage.
            And I’m saying that if the state is using their treasure to enforce the marriage contract, then they not only have a right, but an ethical obligation to define and officially institute a policy of marriage. The government, by the will of the people, does just so with every other form of contract. Without this necessary interest everything from tort reform to limited consumer interest rates would no longer be available.

      • “My thoughts on the matter is that civil marriage is baloney. Marriage is not, at its heart, a legal contract…”

        Perhaps it isn’t to religious leaders. However, it is, according to civil society, just that: a legal contract. If you do not want that aspect of the institution to matter, then you will have to get rid of vast network of financial, legal, and tax laws that relate to marriage and provide protections and advantages to married couples, govern communal property, and relate to how assets are divided in the event of divorce or death.

        In other words, in all but the most spiritual terms, you will have to abolish marriage.

        • Yes, most of my younger family members have had non-church ceremonies and all the older adults have breathed a sigh of relief that the legal niceties had been taken care of. It’s just a lot easier to buy property and have both sides of the couple protected in the event of death or divorce if a marriage has been enacted. The same is true of children. Without a legal marriage, a young woman can give the couple’s child up for adoption in Utah (not sure about other states) without the permission of the father. Many people don’t have wills so having the legally married spouse able to inherit is very important; without it, the dead individual’s parent might have more say in how the estate is divided than the partner. And same with medical and end of life decisions.

        • But neither religions nor governments have a claim on marriage. If marriage is a legal contract to civil society, then civil society needs to change, because it is wrong. Marriage was a promise between two people before the state hijacked it, and it can be that now. This wouldn’t be abolishing marriage; the marriage phenomenon is as old as the hills, and can survive the loss of the state as its master.

          This is not to say that the legal element would be gone from marriage, either, merely that the couple would be able to draw up their own contract on their own terms without having their union defined by the government. And yes, our tax system, and a good chunk of the law, would need to be revamped. I’m not pretending like this could happen overnight.

          • Jacob, I think your view of marriage is overly romantic and informed more by modern libertarian and individualistic ways of thinking than by actual history. Rarely has marriage been “a promise between two people” without some kind of community or state involvement in the process. As Adam said, having a say in such contractural relationships is in the interest of the broader community for social, economic, and property reasons. This is not the state “intruding” on marriage, these are legitimate interests of community wellbeing.

          • You misunderstand me; I do think that families and communities should be involved in both the initiation and continuation of a marriage. I do not believe that marriage happens in a vacuum. Community involvement, however, is different from state involvement. The state is not a community; it may artificially group thousands of communities under the banner of a nation, but it cannot truly bring them together. If community wellbeing is a concern with regard to marriage (and I agree with you that it is), it should be the business of actual communities and not the government, which has no concept of what is right for any community but can only act on the rule of the majority across a large demographic, which does not represent the interests of any particular community at all.

          • Sorry Jacob, we’re just talking past each other. Let’s try again when and if I take this up as the topic for an entire post.

          • civil society is not going to change because marriage is working for the vast majority of people (at least in the US, not sure about other areas). It’s been adjusted to work in our current society, so it is more flexible than it once was, by allowing divorce and different sorts of couples. It is available to those with religion (any religion) or without. Benefits at work are geared toward marriages (and in IL civil unions) as are legal rights to parentage of children, probate, etc.

            It’s simply too much legal benefits and responsibilities to just throw our arms up and say we’re undoing all this because marriage predated civilization (if it even did, and I’m thinking contemporary marriage flows more out of the post French Revolution era than it does pre-society).

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Jacob, I think your view of marriage is overly romantic and informed more by modern libertarian and individualistic ways of thinking than by actual history.

            “Libertarian and individualistic” as in “A = A! Objective Truth!”?

            Because every time I’ve heard the term “Statism” invoked, Chapter-and-Verse Scripture from Atlas Shrugged usually follows. (Main newspaper in my county calls itself “Free Market Libertarian” AKA Randian Objectivist with a coat of paint. They’d have a lot more credibility even her in the OC if they didn’t hold up Dickensian England as their Perfect Free-Market Society.)

          • Chaplain Mike: sure; you are right in that the topic is deep enough in that it probably deserves a post to its own, and I hope we can get down to the root of things sometime in the future.

            HUG: rest assured, I’m no objectivist. 🙂 Many libertarians actually strongly dislike Ayn Rand, because they don’t agree with her and she makes them look bad. Many modern hardcore libertarians (of the Rothbardian variety, at least) base their ethics, or at least their vision of the legal system, on the non-aggression principle: that all aggression is wrong. This is, of course, debatable (and I personally do not accept it as an ethical axiom), and can lead you into some strange places if you take it far enough, but it is at least more tenable than objectivism, which is to my understanding basically a much less intelligent version of Nietzche’s philosophy.

          • The very word “Objectivism” would have drawn Nietzsche’s scorn. Nietzsche’s views would more rightly be called perspectivist. Ayn Rand was Horatio Alger pretending to be a philosopher; Nietzsche would have had nothing but contempt for her philosophy.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “the couple would be able to draw up their own contract on their own terms without having their union defined by the government.”

            They largely can. Marriage-as-contract actually is mostly marriage-as-default-contractual-terms. These defaults mostly can be altered as the couple sees fit with some thought put into real property ownership, written wills, pre-nuptial agreements, and the like. Where things get tricky is in certain crunch situations: a horrible accident has occurred and a hard decision has to be made in the middle of the night. The marriage contract tells the medical personnel who has the power to make that decision. They don’t need to first get a notarized copy of the customized contract that these two people made, and wake up the legal department to scrutinize it before they proceed. From a civil perspective, the argument about gay marriage is largely an argument about having the right to choose who is this decision maker.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            HUG: rest assured, I’m no objectivist. 🙂 Many libertarians actually strongly dislike Ayn Rand, because they don’t agree with her and she makes them look bad.

            Well, there’s Objectivists in Libertarian clothing — op cit the editorial staff of that local paper I mentioned.

            The very word “Objectivism” would have drawn Nietzsche’s scorn. Nietzsche’s views would more rightly be called perspectivist. Ayn Rand was Horatio Alger pretending to be a philosopher…

            Not just a philosopher, but self-described “Only Truly Rational Mind That Has Ever Existed”. Now THAT’s Full of Herself. Real piece of work there.

            Now for some related weirdness, here’s a little something I found on the Web about two years ago:
            Ayn Rand as My Little Pony villain!
            Join one Bad Apple, former con pony, ne’er-do-well, and undercover agent for the Equestrian Crown as he infiltrates Vault’s Vale in “Apple Shrugged”. Got a lot of Objectivists screaming:
            http://www.fimfiction.net/story/5172/5/the-bad-apple-chronicles/apple-shrugged

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

        I couldn’t disagree with you more strongly, Jacob. Marriage is and always has been a legal agreement – and one enforced by the sword and prisons of the state, as it should be.

    • If I were a parish minister, I would not marry couples without a civil license either as a rule. But that does not mean I would have to be the one who signs it.

      • what about a civil union license? In IL, we have both civil unions and marriages open to all couples. The older couples who risk losing federal or company benefits have the option to availing themselves of a civil union which is essentially a state only form of marital contract.

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          On the other side of the spectrum, does anybody remember “Marriage Plus,” from the George W. Bush administration? It was an alternative form of marriage laws which, if selected, would theoretically disallow no-fault divorce. I believe it went into effect in Louisiana, and was selected by…oh, tens of couples.

          • That Other Jean says:

            That sounds a lot like the “covenant marriage” that Libby Anne was discussing on the 24th in regard to the Duggar daughters Jill and Jessa, over at Love, Joy, Feminism. Apparently it’s legal in three states–Louisiana, Arkansas, and Arizona. It’s entirely voluntary, but it does make divorce much harder, in that a divorce will only be granted in the cases of adultery, spousal or child abuse, if one of the partners commits a felony, or if the couple have been separated for two years. Of course, if you have the time and money to establish residence in another state, the covenants no longer apply.

    • Ed Peters is a canon lawyer, he has a blog and disagrees with the pledge pretty strongly.

      What’s his reasoning?

      • Well, you can check him out at his “In Light of the Law” blog, but it mainly comes down to the fact that there is nothing evil in the priest attesting to the fact that X and Y were married on this date if, in fact, X and Y were married. Furthermore, if it is evil for the priest to attest to it, how is it any less evil for the couple to attest to it?

        Additionally he gets into the thicket of canon law with the issue of when marriage is well, marriage. In Catholic theology, the partners confer marriage upon one another and the priest only witnesses (requirement of clergy only dating back a few centuries to combat clandestine marriages) it and the marriage begins with the exchange of consent. So in the case of non-Catholics (Catholics being required to observe Canonical Form) this could get interesting.

  6. Beer for breakfast? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! I prefer “Brother Thelonius”, a caramel y, smooth and malty brew with hints of dried fruits. Perfect to go with Rambling on a Saturday morning.

    On Ferguson, no, we do NOT need more voices. But the question why this one: Primarily the media and the grievance industry. Yes, we are a violent society, but some segments are more violent than others, and THAT not by just a percentage or two. Unfortunately, the leading cause of death among African American males aged 15 to 34 has been homicide. The perpetrators? One of their own race in 94% of the cases. This is a tragedy of epic proportions. Why aren’t the grievance hustlers speaking about this? One answer is that it takes work and it takes time. No instant results, no regular face time on TV, no sound bytes on radio.

    The same week that Michael Brown was killed, in Colorado, I believe, a police officer shot and killed a white kid who was sitting in his car and couldn’t hear the cop’s commands because the kid had ear buds in his ears while listening to music. No coverage on THIS one, though.

    On civil marriage: The state has already DEFINED what constitutes marriage in most states, and is leaning the same direction in the remainder of the 50. The battle has been joined and the results have been finalized, so lets get the Church out of the business of signing licences and INTO the business of blessing them instead. After all, what IS a marriage ceremony but a statement to society that a couple has made a vow before God and family.

    And for the second year in a row I have barricaded myself at home on Black Friday, refusing to enter the fray. Had a good time reading, playing solitaire and napping. Peace!

    • Vega Magnus says:

      Aren’t whites involved in homicides typically killed by other whites too though? I seem to recall reading the percentage is something around 85%, but I can’t remember exactly. In any case, I think it is unfortunate that the Ferguson case has overshadowed several other recent incidents of police officers killing unarmed black people, and several of the situations I can recall were considerably less ambiguous than the Ferguson case.

      • Vega, the stats I saw this week were that 87 percent of white people who were murdered were killed by other whites (in the U.S.). Since we live in a VERY segregated society in terms of residence, the implication seems to be that simple geography best explains why around 90 percent of people murdered are killed by those in their own race.

        • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

          According to the CDC for 2010 (latest available) the number one cause of death for African-American males aged 15-34 was homicide, from as high as 50% (!!!!!) to 35%. For white males, homicide is never #1 (unintentional injuries lead all categories until the later years when cancer takes over), and never higher than 3rd (15-24) at a rate of 10%. This is a real issue that real sociologists (Cornell West comes to mind) are taking seriously.

          However, I don’t think these statistics have anything to do with Ferguson. I think it is a smoke screen to detract from what is really going on.

          • Is what is really going on the militarization of American streets by police acting in semi-military capacity, and not infrequently as of late being armed with military grade weapons?

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            Yes, Robert F, that is what was on my mind!

          • Robert – the New York Times did extensive coverage on the increasing militarization of US police forces a month or two ago. I am sure that other news outlets have done similar investigative reporting.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            A recent issue of TIME reported that during the Nineties there was a Federal program training police primarily in behavior and conflict resolution that had some good results. Until it got lost in the “War or Terror” after 9/11 in favor of “Armored Vehicles, Kevlar, and cammies” free for the asking on the Feds’ dime.

            Then all we hear from the media re Ferguson are riots, rampages, and burnings and Sharpton and Jesse. Whitey sees, and Whitey reacts — screaming for tougher cops, more laws, more M-16s, more profiling, more M-4s, more Kevlar, more armored vehicles, more heavy weapons, more cammies. To reinforce that Thin Blue Line (now thin cammies-and-Kevlar line) and PROTECT what that Silicon Valley bigwig called “The Civilized Parts of Town” from the rampaging chimpanzee troops Outside.

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          Are we separating out the ones who were killed by their friends or relatives?

      • Yes, you are correct, but the prime cause of DEATH in those age groups is what is striking.

    • “The same week that Michael Brown was killed, in Colorado, I believe, a police officer shot and killed a white kid who was sitting in his car and couldn’t hear the cop’s commands because the kid had ear buds in his ears while listening to music. No coverage on THIS one, though.”

      Think about this, however. If police misconduct and misinterpretation occurs often enough that Ferguson can hit a massive raw nerve among black communities – and this occurs regularly to white people too (per your example), then we have a striking problem with police brutality that is insufficiently addressed. This would seem to validate the concerns of the protestors, would it not?

      • Quite aside from police violence against unarmed people, white or black, if white young men were stopped randomly in the street by police with the same frequency as black young men (factoring in the difference in population sizes, of course), there would be a full-scale rebellion in white communities.

        • If white young men were routinely taught that the police are the enemy and should be resisted, even to violence then, yes.

          Clearly you haven’t listened to those Black voices who are speaking out against this type of mindset.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            Where do you live? In my neck of the woods, everyone is taught to hate and fear cops. And most of the perps are meth-riddled anglos.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Like the best analysis I heard of the Treyvon Martin shooting. How both Treyvon & Zimmerman were coming into the situation with prior baggage that primed them to distrust the other and go to worst-case immediately. And once their paths crossed, it was like crossing two hypergolic chemicals.

          • Faulty O-Ring says:

            Their “baggage” was, by and large, accurate. Zimmerman’s problem was that society couldn’t face the truth.

            • Again FOR, the inflammatory rhetoric you are using is not helpful. It is condescending and suggests that the “truth” is obvious and people are fools for not seeing it like you.

              Not the style of interaction we appreciate here on IM.

      • George Christiansen says:

        The problem is that we are dealing with a potential policing problem and turning it into a racism problem (and doing so before one shred of evidence beyond the race of the people involved is known).

        Why are people being stopped for jaywalking?

        Why did the officer do such a horrible job, even if the shooting was ultimately justified? Yes, there are circumstances where a person may be able to get their hands on your weapon, but this officer put himself in a horrible and stupid position. Plus there is a certain element of respect missing when an officer doesn’t even bother to get out of his car to address you.

        Once there was the element of Brown being a potential burglary suspect the stop becomes justified, but the manner in which it was done becomes even more irresponsible.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “Beer for breakfast? ”

      That is why it is called a Breakfast Stout and fermented with oatmeal. DELICIOUS!

    • Wow, isn’t Brother Thelonious like 10-12% alcohol? That’s quite the am buzz! (Also, one of my favorites. Have you tried their Belgian-style ale, Pranqster? It’s amazing.)

  7. I wanted to add one other story in the news this week – an article in the New York Times about a major controversy at the Unitarian Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley. The quote in last paragraph was the most interesting and telling:

    “Unitarian Universalism is not a theologically grounded religion,” Ms. Brock said. “If we mess up our principles and values, we don’t have a theology to fall back on. We’re not Catholic — we can’t just keep giving communion until we figure it out. If we don’t have our values figured out, our institutions become pointless bureaucracies.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/22/us/inquiry-focuses-on-leaked-documents-at-starr-king-school-for-the-ministry.html?_r=0

    • Thanks for this. I’m currently studying Isaiah. This article fits into the opening theme of Isaiah: God weary with the offerings of a people whose hands are stained with blood. Their religion became marked by empty rituals rather than justice and mercy.

  8. Faulty O-Ring says:

    Michael Brown was a thug who got what he deserved. To the extent that he “stands for” black society (and certainty any number of blacks have been demonstrating / rioting in his name), then black society is lawless, uncivilized, and undeserving of civil rights. There is no way to say such things in polite society, but the truth is widely recognized, and one day will erupt in a very different direction. For now, ask yourself what would have happened if white civilians had armed themselves and shot some of the black rioters?

    • They would have been “white rioters”.

    • “. . . then black society is lawless, uncivilized, and undeserving of civil rights.”

      The reason such things are not said in polite society is that they are needlessly inflammatory and patently unhelpful. I expect more from an IM commenter.

      • Agreed. Way over the line.

      • When white people go into the predominantly black and other minority communities it is to cop drugs and they are stopped a lot. In fact it becomes apart of the economy there. The problems are so many generations without work and having some reason to feel good about themselves. Most police here in my city spend more time in these communities and responding to what is happening there. It becomes the us versus them and I know what that means being from the other side of the tracks myself at times in my life.

        I still have a problem with police and I try to work through it. I wonder how I can do that when so much of my tax dollar is spent trying to fine me or is protecting me with all that expensive equipment by the side of the highways as I drive. Here the State Police Barracks are right beside every major highway. There will always be bad policemen but the majority are not. They are doing what they were indoctrinated to do. Wonder where that overflows on to all of us here.

        I have spent much time in the neighborhoods. So many problems. We have to have someone to lead and be willing to experiment on hand ups and change laws to where we actually care about people instead of just throwing money at them and hoping it will go away. I believe we can do that and I believe we will. Will it happen fast enough? We have a loving Lord who will lead many of us and never even have to say or push that on to someone else until they ask then we can tell them.

        There is a whole army of people that will help if they think what they are doing will make a difference. Most of the predominantly white people here think it is useless especially when we have no backing and no plan. That part can be civil and done by civil authorities. It makes more sense to help people off the useless life of drugs and alcohol then it does to spend ever increasing amounts of money to house them in prisons and enforcement. Oh but wait that would get rid of a lot of jobs.

        We must move forward in our creativeness to survive in the world economy with all hands on deck . Our strength must be our diversity and a leader willing to institute the changes. Change was the forum and words need action.

        The selfishness of what happens in the neighborhoods shouldn’t surprise anyone. We treated a block to the ice cream truck and failed to put parameters on what everyone could get. You should have seen that bill and all the banana splits and stuff. I have fed starving animals and they eat like it is their last meal. I have been at food banks and people stock up and it can lose control at times. I have seen the red eyed man on a binge and God calls to him. I have had people come up to me and say do you remember me. I don’t but I gave them a hand when they needed it. These things are important. More important than just about anything else.

        I think I needed this.

        • w, I think your fundamental premise about black communities being havens for drug dealers is flawed.

          • It isn’t a fundamental premise numo. It is a fact that in every neighborhood white or black there are drugs.

          • Your fundamental premise is that black people are the dealers – at least, that’s how your opening sentence reads to me. Of course there are drugs being used by people of all colors, of all income levels. But to flatly state that white people are going to black neighborhoods “to cop drugs” just skews things tremendously, imo.

            Just my thoughts… perhaps you weren’t intending to say what i understood you to be saying? (Serious question, because text-only can be a poor communication medium.)

          • A fundamental premise that is flawed is your fundamental premise about what you think is mine. It then alludes to that fact that being flawed then what ever else I had thoughts about being flawed also. This subject has so much content there could be no way to ever cover it here in this kind of forum. The fact is when a cop sees a white guy driving and hanging out in projects and then leaving and knowing that he doesn’t live there is a dead give away to some of things he might be doing there. That is not my total thoughts on the subject but only a small part of all the underlying problems caused by drugs and drinking which spawn most of the crime and which leads to the higher percentage of presence of police in these areas.

            I am not so stupid to when I see these things not to believe what I am seeing having been a product of that world. I included all minorities in the sentence and neighborhoods. In my city the serious decline of the public school systems have made them predominantly black. Which leads to neighborhoods being that way also. I really don’t think white dealers would be welcome in these neighborhoods unless they are exporting the product to the suburbs. Which if I was looking for a fix I would not go to the suburbs being new to town to find it. I am sorry it is this way.

            I am sure we could go a lot further but my thoughts I have run by many good people of color and they are in agreement with many of my thoughts as I am with theirs.

            In white neighborhoods it isn’t long with traffic that doesn’t belong there to be a dead give away to what is going on and what follows is time consuming investigations to take down very small time dealers and make it look like something is being done which by the way happens all the time in the city too. Only thing that is different is the amount of violence is more in the city maybe because it is more centralized but it really gets down to money and turf which is in more limited supply.

            In the open air markets and corners all kinds of people are going but a white person in certain places at certain times certainly is suspect. I know enough police in the city here to know they certainly welcome anything that could change the conditions to help these young bucks to a more productive life. it breaks a lot of hearts and mine is one of them.

    • That Other Jean says:

      “Micheal Brown was a thug who got what he deserved.”

      Since when did being a large black male person, or a person who may have stolen cigars, or a person who shoved a store clerk, or a person walking down the middle of the road, become capital crimes? I’m sorry if the police officer who shot him was afraid, but that’s a problem with the officer, not Michael Brown. Nothing he did was deserving of death.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

        Yes. It is astounding to me how the concepts of justice and due process have gone down the toilet so quickly.

      • Faulty O-Ring says:

        Did you miss the part where he attacked him? I think you’re seeing and hearing only what you want to see and here.

        • That Other Jean says:

          No, I didn’t miss that part. Hitting a policeman isn’t a capital crime, either. A fist is not the equivalent of a gun. Michael Brown did not have a gun. The officer was in his car, and could have closed his window,
          and/or driven away if he felt that he was in danger. He did neither.

          • You really can’t mean that. Any person hitting and attacking a police officer is a loose canon. I know I was one.lol If he had left and this man’s next victim was one of your loved ones then what. Or if on the course he was on was murder then what. You are armed and in threat of your arm being in the possession of your attacker you have to do what you must. Have you ever been in a fight for your life? Have you ever had a gun pointed at you with a finger on the trigger? I have and if you have then qualify yourself. You never know what that place will bring you to. His training might have been what saved his life. The sadness is always that a young man lost his life and because of that many lives are being hurt. Have you ever had your hands over a man who had to shoot someone as part of his job. I have and this man many years later still struggles with it and it is something he has to live with everyday. I can’t make a judgement here I hate the news as it is untrustworthy and full of opinion.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            Yes, w, I have been in a fight for my life. And I prevailed, as you can tell since I’m typing. I don’t actually know what happened in Ferguson, but I do know that the only way the officer could be in the position he described at testimony was if he was not following protocol. According to his testimony, that lapse in judgment put his life in danger and resulted in the death of the young man. He may have been a thug, and he may have been an idiot to wrestle with an armed officer of the law, but the outcome is not what our society wants, no matter how you slice it.

          • I understand Dr. with back up the incident might have had a better outcome and should have been there. When they have come for me they came with as many as 6 and as few as 3 as I am a big man of 275 plus and even then with maybe a little more whiskey I might have wanted a go but my take on things is they would mess up killing me and then I would have to live so I just went with them. Those are days in my past now and many times the guns were not in the hands of police. Did I say that it is what our society wants?

          • Doc the comment was to Jean and due process for the officer in question was delivered or not?

          • George Christiansen says:

            “Deserved” steps into a realm that none of us have any business going, but the idea that we should give people attacking someone any kind of benefit of the doubt is simply ignorant. People kill other people in fights accidentally.

            Someone attacking another person with ANY weapon, including their hands, has ZERO right to expect that person to assume anything less than the worse about the attackers intent. Attacking a police officer points to those assumption being more likely to be justified.

            What would ANY reasonable person think that a person grabbing their gun had in mind? Brown was someone who was CLEARLY willing to risk jail or too dumb to realize that he was most certainly going there if he attacked the officer?

            ALL the good money was on Brown shooting the officer and then using said gun in future crimes.

          • That Other Jean says:

            My point was that there were other, non-lethal ways of handling stopping Michael Brown for whatever reason the police stopped him. The officer was still in his car; he never lost possession of his gun, since Michael Brown’s hand was shown to have been grazed in the hand by a bullet; and lastly, the officer should never have gotten out of his car when Michael Brown fled in order to chase him, still firing at him. Michael Brown should not have died for whatever misdeeds he committed.

            I doubt that we’re going to change each others’ minds on this subject. Shall we end this discussion here, as amicably as possible?

          • Regardless of what Brown did leading up to his death, we have eyewitnesses saying he had his hands up in the end. Yes, there are other contradictory eyewitnesses too – but if there’s any ambiguity at all, the case should certainly go to trial!

          • Joel, there are contradictory eyewitnesses, ballistics reports, and autopsies. He was not surrendering. I can agree that what he did was not a capital offense, but I have zero sympathy for anybody who attacks a police officer. If you want to live, that one’s a no brainer. I’d prefer a society where people are afraid to attack police over one where it’s open season on them.

          • Yes, Brown did attack Wilson at first. The ambiguity lies in what happened after he ran away. There are many different eyewitness reports on that – some saying that he put his hands up, that he was charging Wilson, or that he was slowly talking toward him.

            I wouldn’t charge Wilson with murder, but he should be tried for manslaughter. Whether he’s guilty or not I don’t know, but there’s enough of a prima facie case to go to trial. And the prosecutor did not follow standard grand jury procedure at all, suggesting he wanted to lose the case.

          • Also, Wilson did help create a hostile situation leading to the first fight – blocking the road, possibly slamming the door open directly into them. That doesn’t justify Brown’s initial assault, but cops are supposed to avoid escalation of force whenever possible.

    • “There is no way to say such things in polite society, but the truth is widely recognized, and one day will erupt in a very different direction.”

      I’m sure words much like these were spoken in defense and support of the creation of the KKK. The more things change, etc.

      In the words of Paul Westerberg in his song, “Here Comes a Regular,”

      “Am I the only one
      who feels ashamed?”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        This is something I’ve been expecting for a long time. I call it “Self-Defense White Supremacy”, a revival of White Power not out of any race or religious or eugenics reason, but out of simple “If We Don’t Stomp on Them, They’ll be Stomping on Us!” tribal conflict.

        I’m surprised that the next KKK isn’t doing a recruiting drive based on this conflict and fear. Any sort of race preference — Jim Crow or Affirmative Action, real or perceived — has a side effect: Resentment in those who didn’t qualify for the special preference. And if that Resentment builds up enough — especially if it is one of those things Which Cannot Be Said in Polite Society — it’s going to grow in secret until it bursts out more destructively than if it Had Been Said.

        • The difference, I think, is that a lot of water has gone under the bridge since white supremacy had any kind of a hey-day and there are too many of us who have supported the civil rights struggle over the past century to let that stuff take hold.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Even if it can’t take hold, it can still make a lot of trouble along the way.

            Can’t make the jelly any more, may as well shake the tree.

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          I said not a word about white supremacy. The KKK (actually there are many of them, not just one) is of no real consequence.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “I’m sure words much like these were spoken in defense and support of the creation of the KKK. The more things change, etc. ”

        The claim at the time was that the KKK was necessary to defend our womenfolk from rampaging hordes of negro rapists. That particular form is a bit passe today, but the underlying emotional appeal is the same.

        • Sadly, things worked the other way around, in the South – and probably in other places as well. There’s a good book on the NAACP’s pioneering work to stop the sexual assault of blck girls and women by white teens and men, titled The Dark End of the Street. Long before she refused to sit at the back of the bus, Rosa Parks was investigating rape cases for the NAACP…

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “Sadly, things worked the other way around, in the South…”

            Well, sure. The rape scare had several things behind it, but certainly a big part was the fear held by many white men that others would do unto them as they had done to those others.

          • Richard, i follow what you’re saying, but look at the ostensible reason for the gruesome murder of teenager Emmet Till. Or the Scottsboro “Boys” imprisonment.

            Even the slightest suggestion of sexual attraction had horrific consequences. Black men knew enough to look the other way, and white men were more than pleased to make sure that they did.

            Contrast that with the gang rape of a young black woman (while walking home from a church prayer meeting) by a crew of white teenagers, which is one of the cases Rosa Parks worked on for the NAACP. It wasn’t an isolated incident by any means, but it was the 1st time that black activists were able to make some headway in mainstream newspapers and other media on behalf of this young woman and others like her. (Discussed in The Dark End of the Street.)

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Contrast that with the gang rape of a young black woman (while walking home from a church prayer meeting) by a crew of white teenagers, which is one of the cases Rosa Parks worked on for the NAACP.

            “Gettin’ some Brown Sugar” as a privilege of Whiteness?

            Sounds a lot like the attitude you get with Yiffy-Boyz (Furry porn types) regarding imaginary critters —
            Just human enough to not be bestiality, but not human enough for it to really be rape.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          The claim at the time was that the KKK was necessary to defend our womenfolk from rampaging hordes of negro rapists.

          Now it’s rampaging hordes of rioters from the hood.

          In history, both Prohibition and Reefer Madness had a strong race aspect — keeping booze or reefer or coke out of the hands of that rampaging horde after Our White Wimmen. (I also find the Klan’s foaming-at-the-mouth tunnel vision on “Protect Our White Wimmen!” akin to a dog breeder who protects his purebred bitch from a random male dogs.) Though it did provide one of more memorable scenes from Blazing Saddles:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=493pL_Vbtnc

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Comment deleted: inappropriately personal

    • What exactly happened between Darren Wilson and Michael Brown? I honestly don’t know. It seems that the eyewitness accounts say different things and the physical evidence can be read different ways. The court would need to hash it out.

      With that said, the grand jury verdict is a serious injustice. All you need for an indictment is a prima facie case for probable cause, which we certainly have. An indictment is not a conviction. And plenty of people who know much more about law than me have argued that the prosecution intentionally used bad legal tactics that are almost never used in grand jury proceedings to “throw” the case and avoid an indictment. A terrible breach of ethics if true.

  9. “Question: What forces turn a local event like this into a public spectacle?
    People die every day across our country, often in violent ways and amid volatile, unjust circumstances. What made this particular incident so inflammatory, so disposed to lead to the kind of violence, lament, and debate as we have seen in recent days?”

    I believe a huge factor in this situation was the public spectacle of having a human body lay out in the middle of the street for 4 hours. (That fermentation period pushed this over the top for a community that already had a history of heightened racial tension.)

  10. [It is just one of several commercialized Advent calendars that are now turning the traditional penitential season secular. It’s another way to capitalize on making the whole season bright through transforming it into preparing for Santa rather than for Jesus’ coming. Just the other day, I saw the one she mentions that is sold by Starbucks, and it was slick and attractive. But nowhere near as good as 25 days of beer!

    If there is a “war on Christmas,” it is not the one culture war Christians are talking about today, where people get offended at being wished “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” It is the unrelenting commercialization and hype that turns the entire season into one long shopping jag in honor of almighty capitalism. Ironically, these are practices many in the Christian world wholeheartedly support even while decrying the “secularization” of Christmas.

    Makes me want to go have a beer.]

    Or something stronger. Pray for those of us in retail who have to face this insanity during Advent. The real ‘war on Christmas’ is the taking of the “Merry” out of Christmas. It is a season that has more suicides than any, and there is little of the “Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men.”

    Ah, yes, Star Wars 7. The rise of Darth Mickey, Jar-Jar Goofy, and Donald Skywalker. I can hardly wait.

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

      I always go out of my way to talk to retail workers during the holiday season. I worked retail before, and know what it is like.

  11. “Question: What forces turn a local event like this into a public spectacle?
    People die every day across our country, often in violent ways and amid volatile, unjust circumstances. What made this particular incident so inflammatory, so disposed to lead to the kind of violence, lament, and debate as we have seen in recent days?”
    I’m not sure what drove it within its local context, but I’ve seen/heard an attitude further away that certainly seems to be fueling the divide: And that’s the response (chosen ahead of time by both sides) “I’m not listening to you nor will I attempt to empathize…” Someone on my FB said “we don’t need to listen to the black man; he needs to listen to us” ie become like the white, suburban evangelical I am before I’ll listen to any of your concerns… (most, if not all my white, evangelical acquaintances hold and express variations of this theme…)

    Some of this same kind of tone-deafness exists on the other side as well and I think it should be called out as well, without the “you’re-just-a-racist” retort – BUT – I believe beyond the shadow of a doubt, that in most, if not all of the country, there exists a racial bias, in which, I, the white male, is privileged just a little more than some other subsets of people. Now it’s certainly not as big of a privilege as it used to be, but it’s still there. And because of that I believe a little more of the burden of reconciliation lies with me. I believe, and I think you could find this theme backed up in Scripture, that the people in positions of privilege/power usually, if not always, have the greater (but not all) responsibility to right the wrongs perpetrated by disparity.
    This goes for all kinds of privilege; Jesus didn’t tell the poor man to buck up and work all day and night to make ends meet and maybe get lucky enough to rise up to the level of the rich man: He told the rich man to make a move. He didn’t tell the lesser man to fight and claw his way to the preferred seats at the banquet table: He told the one who had a claim to that seat already to go choose the lesser seat so someone else had a chance at it (I think I have that parable or teaching right – if not please correct me)

    But, so often, we and our forefathers, like those who settled this country, choose not to use our position to right wrongs but to further privilege ourselves. Who had the most redemptive/least violent power to change the slave culture in the South? The plantation masters of course. If they had made the moves, the civil war would never have happened. Who had the most power and tools and potential to forge a mutually beneficial existence with the Native Americans? The white settlers with guns of course. But they weren’t willing to sacrifice their “place” and the rest is history. Who has the most power and connections and potential to bring back jobs and living wages to our communities? The big shots on Wall Street and in the Gov of course. But they choose not to because they know if might involve a lower profit margin and a little less privilege…

    So yes, the looting, the vandalism, the hyperbole, the fearmongering – should be condemned. But it may also mean that I/we in positions of privilege have a lot, lot more work (and listening) to do…

    • Thank you, Andrew. Well put.

    • Andrew, you were going good till your second to last paragraph which sounded good but was full of over simplification and reflected the the usual misconceptions of history.

      Yes, peace and justice lay heavily on the heads of those with the power, but we must not make blanket statements about ANY group. Life is not that simple.

    • Yes, this is the best comment I’ve read on the events in Ferguson. If we want to follow Christ, we would…

  12. A good response from McKnight on the Furgeson issue

    accountability — constant coverage, repeating rumors and not facts, drawing conclusions too early, keeping the process under constant scrutiny — have me thinking about the importance and problem of media coverage of an event like this.

    The first is by our friend Karen Spears Zacharias: (And I would add to her observations that media have become “judges” and “prosecuting” and “defense” attorneys well before the full evidence from both sides is known — and this distorts the story and complicates the process.)

    Forgive me for harping, I know I keep repeating myself on this matter, but Media seems to have forgotten its role in society. Making good TV is not the role of Media. Reporting is the role of media. Reporting means to focus on facts, not spouting opinion. Someone noted that one of the news anchors took to the airwaves and declared during a major newscast that the Grand Jury had “failed” in its job to indict the police officer. As if an indictment was a forgone conclusion.

    Everybody has an opinion these days.

    To hell with facts.

    Now I may be of the opinion that an injustice was done, but I have very little knowledge of the facts of the case. I might have an opinion about whether I think an indictment was in order but it’s just an opinion. I have nothing to base that opinion on other than that which has been reported to me by Media. I am not qualified based upon my limited access to the facts of the case to make an informed decision.

    Media these days is too unreliable a source. They rely too much on rumor and innuendo. Gossip and yapping heads.

    They have forfeited their reporting skills in order to be the first with a story, any story.

    Sometimes Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom seems more documentary than fiction.

    In the past, Media has taken its role of responsibility seriously. They pursued the rumor until they had the facts, then reported Watergate and My Lai and yes, on Birmingham and Selma. They took seriously their job to inform us, but never assumed it was their job to work us into a lather of civil disobedience.

    These days far too many of our so-called journalists are newsmakers, not reporters.

    • Yep. That describes the situation pretty well.

    • The news media that you want to see is sadly not supported by ratings based decision making. The sad truth is that more people will tune in and watch the commercials between segments for racy rumors and contentious opinions than reporting of well researched facts.

    • Brianthedad says:

      The change? The same commercialism lamented herein regarding Christmas. All sides, foxnews and msnbc, local and national, print and electronic, are businesses. I came to understand this when an NPR guest noted that listeners of talk radio aren’t the customer; they are the product. Advertisers are the customer being sold listening ears and watching eyes. Extending that to all forms of media, news or otherwise, clears all this up. We are the product. No more. No less. More hype drives more eyes and ears. High-sounding journalism school lectures notwithstanding, this is what it all has become.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I know I keep repeating myself on this matter, but Media seems to have forgotten its role in society. Making good TV is not the role of Media. Reporting is the role of media. Reporting means to focus on facts, not spouting opinion.

      Ever seen Forties movies about reporters (Media of their time) like The Front Page? Back then, Media types were characterized as pathological liars and sociopaths who’d run over anything or anybody for The Big Scoop (Blockbuster Ratings), and compared to their Careers and egos, there was no such thing as collateral damage among the Small People.

      This changed with Watergate. Media (especially “Investigative Reporters”, what used to be called “muckrakers”) became Our Betters, an Oracle of Truth and Righteousness which we Small People can only sit back wide-eyed with trembling lips in Awe of their Great Truth and Righteousness. And this went to their heads even more, especially since the way to Strike It Big was to “Get Somebody. Anybody.”

      “Bubble headed bleach blonde
      Comes on at Five;
      Tell you ’bout the plane crash
      With a gleam in her eye;
      Interesting when people die —
      Gives us Dirty Laundry!

      “Kick ’em when they’re up!
      Kick ’em when they’re down!
      Kick ’em when they’re stiff!
      Kick ’em all around!

      “Kick ’em when they’re up!
      Kick ’em when they’re down!
      Kick ’em when they’re stiff!
      Kick ’em all around!”
      — Don Henley, “Dirty Laundry” (said to have been inspired by an actual obnoxious News Media crew that Henley had run-ins with)

      • “Did they do the operation?
        Is the head dead yet?
        You know the boys in the newsroom
        got a running bet.
        Get the widow on the set,
        we need dirty laundry…”

    • George Christiansen says:

      I don’t know how new the phenomenon is, but it is clear from what passes for news and the posts on FB that many people are indeed choosing to live in the echo chamber of their own biases.

      I comfort myself with the thought that there are still a lot of people who do not bother with the news or FB or any of the myth of needing to “stay informed” and be “aware” of the world.

      I imagine them living their lives the best they can without deluding themselves into thinking that knowing about the tragedies of the world has any connection with being a better person.

  13. Quote from Chin “[B]oth Michael Brown and Darren Wilson are the products of our society—American society. Our country was birthed out of armed and violent rebellion.”

    Chin nails it with this and his whole article: But what has been bothering me the most for many years now, is this: The evangelical subculture, with all of its christianeze about following Jesus and wanting to build His kingdom, etc etc seems to not mind this american proclivity or history all that much, except for maybe the video games or if it’s minorities being violent. Other than those two things, they come across as wanting more “american” violence… If they’re not wanting it, then they’re blessing it or justifying it (especially the historical) or making excuses for it, or “scripturalizing” it or willfully choosing to be ignorant about it…

    This is actually the wedge that fell down and cleaved me open and drove my thinking/being away from american evangelicalism… it was exactly what I describe above that happened post 9/11 in a broad swath of evangelicalism that drove me to begin deconstructing their “religion”… Why were they so comfortable with revenge? Why did they fantasize about Armageddon? Why do they treasure guns so much? Why can’t they condemn Hiroshima/Nagasaki? Why? Why?

    • I’m your cheering section this morning, Andrew — hear hear!

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Yep, it was the *hideous* response to 9/11 that nailed the coffin on Evangelicalism for me; I went from being uncomfortable to a little bit afraid and thinking “I do not like being one of these people”.

      “Why do they treasure guns so much? Why can’t they condemn Hiroshima/Nagasaki? Why? Why?”

      Why do they stand up in community meetings and complain about how putting in sidewalks will bring “those people” into their communities? And nobody else stands up and says “Say what?”. If it walks like racism, sounds like racism, it probably is…

      • OldProphet says:

        All Evangelicals don’t condem Hiroshima/Nagasaki!? Stereotypes anyone? I’ve read some idiotic rants but this tops them all. Sorry we Evangelicals can’t measure to your holiness and perfection????

        • OldProphet, you have a point and I can see how my characterization is generalizing. I should have said the “evangelicals I personally know” – because that’s how it was, and continues to be… the evangelicals I know do not condemn nukes; they do not question the cultural obsession with guns. They did not question the apparent revenge motive in a lot of the post 9/11 moves. They ‘might’ condemn some of the violence done to Native Americans or slaves…but that’s about it. And every last one of them looks forward to Armageddon. But maybe I’m surrounded by a particular group of evangelicals on the far end of the scale and that’s skewing my perspective?

          • Andrew, i suspect you’re right in the middle of a very tpical demographic chunk of white American evangelicals. Black, Asian and Native American evangelicals – along with Hispanic/Latino evangelicals – tend not to be inthe God + guns contingent.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And every last one of them looks forward to Armageddon.

            Armageddon as in “That Great And TERRIBLE Day” or Armageddon as “Spectator Sport and I have a Catered Box Seat”?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Why do they stand up in community meetings and complain about how putting in sidewalks will bring “those people” into their communities?

        Wait.. PUTTING IN SIDEWALKS will bring THEM(TM) into our Civilized(TM) Part of Town?

        Living behind the Orange Curtain, I’ve seen some real doozies when it comes to Homeowners’ Associations and “The Irvine Attitude”, but THAT’s beyond anything I’ve seen.

    • And where are the pro-lifers protesting Michael Brown’s dead & bullet riddled body being left in the street for hours? Where is the mourning for him? Isn’t ALL life precious? Or are only the lives who haven’t screwed up precious?

      The whole Ferguson situation calls for mourning. I don’t know what Mr Brown was doing that day, but I don’t believe it was worthy of death. I don’t know what the police officer was thinking, but I doubt he planned on killing somebody. So we have two lives ruined for what?

      • And by the “lives who haven’t screwed up” I meant ” who we perceive of having somehow screwed up”.

      • George Christiansen says:

        I’m sorry. Was I expected to video tape my sadness regarding this event and email it to you?

        Maybe nobody in your tiny little world was saddened to the degree you expect, but maybe they were and you didn’t notice? Maybe they were too quickly interrupted from their sadness by having to answer accusations of racism?

        I don’t mean to pick on only you, but I see this same self-righteous ignorance in a lot of the discussion about Ferguson.

        The news channels don’t speak for me. The president doesn’t speak for me. The pope doesn’t speak for me. I am betting these statements and many like it could be applied to most people and yet people love to talk about what “everyone” thinks or does.

        To steal a quote from Thomas Sowell: “I, like you, have never met a pollster.”

        • I’ve seen plenty of mourning for Mr Brown, but I must have missed it from, for example, the same group of pro-life clergy that went before the Congress to protest the loss of life caused by the forms of birth control that Hobby Lobby refused to fund. Perhaps they will. Or perhaps they did and I missed it. I know these two things are to some extent apples & oranges, but it bothers me that I haven’t heard much from the groups that were quite vocal about the fertilized eggs that may or may not be harmed by a morning after pill, but don’t seem to have the same reaction to a dead teen lying in the street for several hours.

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      He’s equating a thug with a cop doing his job, and you praise him for it?!

      • The problem is, we don’t really know if the cop was just “doing his job.” I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t have the facts, and I suspect you don’t either.

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          So you don’t respect the decision of the court..?

        • George Christiansen says:

          I am curious if the officer was convicted of wrong doing you would be as open minded about THAT decision.

          Not making an accusation, but the question poses a good thought exercise for all of us regardless of what side we “agree” with.

        • It is not a grand jury’s job to determine guilt or innocence. That was not the decision they made. They decided not to pursue the matter further. Many, many questions are unanswered.

          • George Christiansen says:

            I understand the process. Obviously they would have had yo decide to indite him first.

            You either missing or evading my point.

            Much like the claim that we need a serious discussion on race in this country is generally a call to come to only the conclusions of the person making it, the call for justice in Ferguson is generally only a call for some punishment of the police officer.

            People seem to want changed minds to THEIR side, not genuine discussion.

            • George, I was actually answering the other commenter who asked me if I didn’t agree with the court decision, not you.

              Serious discussions on issues like race don’t take place in an atmosphere like we’ve had recently. Passions and prejudices are too inflamed on all sides. The problem is, once things simmer down, people go back to the status quo and don’t see the need for a serious discussion. So it’s unlikely we’ll have one then, either.

              One thing I learned from reading about how the issue of slavery was debated before the Civil War is that nuanced discussions rarely win the day. Those who supported slavery, particularly from a Christian perspective, had a simple argument: the Bible justifies the practice. They had chapter and verse and it was cut and dried. The abolitionists, on the other hand, had a nuanced argument, based on the trajectory of Scripture toward freedom and dignity for all people. It was much harder to sell, and they were often shouted down by those who could make what seemed like a common sense realistic case.

              We have not progressed beyond this. A nuanced, thoughtful give and take kind of discussion will never be loud enough or black and white enough (forgive the pun) to be heard over people with clear cut convictions. That’s why it has taken a Civil War, 100 years of reconstruction and Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement and its aftermath to even get us where we are today.

              This is exactly why I am reluctant to have a full-blown discussion here and why I only asked a surface question about why situations like this turn into major public issues.

  14. One of the reasons that American history may be so violent is that our Constitution, its Preamble, and many of our other founding national documents, as well as much of our national founding narrative, contain a revolutionary strand. That perceived governmental oppression and violence may appropriately be met with counter-violence and rebellion is something stitched into our national historical narrative.

  15. Marcus Johnson says:

    Just reminding everyone to make that extra effort today to shop local.

    • And if “local” means you’re near Glen Ellyn, IL you can stop by The Beer Cellar for your beer advent calendar. Just gotta put a plug in here – the shop is owned by my daughter and son-in-law:)

  16. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    ” Opposing Modernism, Worldliness, and Formalism”

    In this context what do the Sword Of The Lord people mean by “formalism”? Do they mean by Formalism the form of literary criticism [seems a bit high brow next to Moderning and Worldliness” or do they mean something else?

    • I am assuming it means “dead” religious practices that in their view are only external — I.e. Liturgical worship.

      • Technically liturgical worship and all its trappings (vestments, candles, etc), but in many of these groups code for a lot more. Typically it includes pretty much all church history over the last millenia and a half (excluding, of course, the history of their own sect), leading to an aversion for first Councils and the Creeds that came out of them. For many it’s a sincere effort to elevate substance over form that results in a lack of context for the substance that’s left.

        • I can’t find my copy of the “time line” of baptists, but it begins

          AD 30 – John the Baptist

          then skips to the Waldensians in the 12/13 century

          then skips to Wycliff

          then skips to the 17th century English separatists

          then to 1639 and Roger Williams and then begins a more regular time line to the 1960’s.

          • Josh in FW says:

            Is this what you are referring to: http://mbcmckinney.com/data/trail_of_blood_timeline.pdf

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Similar to the One True Church timeline of the Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

            Which has the side effect of detaching you from any solid history and turning The New Testament Church into some sort of Mythological “history” divorced from any reality. And the Bible into just another book of Myths that all happened “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away”.

    • Formalism is a catch all for people you think have too much education and are too “high falutin” in the style of preaching or response to preaching. Depending on where you are, it can mean anything from a general college education vs. a local church sponsored Bible College (preacher boy school) to running across the pews and using theatrics like a wood chipper to chop up baby dolls and spew them over the congregation to illustrate the evils of abortion*. Bob Jones University has become too formalist for many of these folks and places like West Coast Bible College have replaced a more well rounded education. Billy Sunday is a hero – stringing together theatrics with sound bites meant to grab emotional reactions to get people down the aisle or mad about a social ill.

      * This actually happened when my husband and then 7 and 9 year-old sons visited my in-law’s. My 9 year old is very thoughtful and sensitive (still won’t watch Princess Bride due to the soul sucking). He was so traumatized that my husband had to lead him out while he trembled and cried. My husband, who is no fan of abortion, was livid and forbade the in-laws from asking to take the kids to that church.

      • Oh my. I thought I had heard it all…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Formalism is a catch all for people you think have too much education and are too “high falutin” in the style of preaching or response to preaching.

        The original Internet Monk said once that the highest praise you can have for a preacher in the Mountains was “He has NO book larnin’, and He Is LOUD!”

        running across the pews and using theatrics like a wood chipper to chop up baby dolls and spew them over the congregation to illustrate the evils of abortion*

        Was this preacher-man some sort of failed Alice Cooper or Ozzy Osborne?
        Or Emerson Lake & Palmer doing “Karn Evil Nine”?

        At least with an Alice Cooper concert you KNEW what you were getting into beforehand!
        “If you want to listen to my music, you can do that at home. When you’re paying money to go to one of my concerts, you’re there to See a Show, and I’ll give you a Show!” — Alice Cooper (from memory)

  17. Richard Hershberger says:

    “If there is a “war on Christmas,” it is not the one culture war Christians are talking about today, where people get offended at being wished “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” It is the unrelenting commercialization and hype that turns the entire season into one long shopping jag in honor of almighty capitalism. Ironically, these are practices many in the Christian world wholeheartedly support even while decrying the “secularization” of Christmas.”

    I have been saying just this for years, from which I infer that you are a man of wisdom and insight. Furthermore, anyone who has ever seen “A Charlie Brown Christmas” knows this. Laments about the commercialization of Christmas used to be a fixture of the season, and rightly so. Then the Culture Warriors ginned up the “War of Christmas” for their own political purposes. A major element of this was unconditional surrender to and embracing of the commercialization of Christmas. Now they complain when Christmas is not commercialized enough: when the commercialization stands apart from Christmas. We buy stuff, we are now told, because of Jesus. feh! Yes, Jesus is the reason for the season, but the season has nothing to do with buying stuff. That is at best a nice tradition for the kids. At worst (and usually, in practice) it is a replacement for Christmas as a religious event. This is why it seems sensible to cancel Sunday services, should Christmas happen to fall on that day, and why many churches’ Christmas Eve services bear so little resemblance to Christian worship, looking much more like school recitals or theatrical productions.

    • Amen. And as I’ve said to people, “If there is a war on Christmas, judging by all the decorations, buying, selling, radio Christmas music loops, cheap plastic Christmas crap, Christmas is winning”

    • http://jezebel.com/christmas-must-be-stopped-lets-declare-war-on-christma-1654018169

      I think they get it just about right. I like the comment about how “Meanwhile, Christmas has overflowed its traditional borders, annexed Thanksgiving and begun laying siege to Halloween.”

    • Not to mention the fact that in many areas with mixed Jewish-gentile communities, “Happy holidays” has been a standard phrase for over 50 years… popularized by the Bing Crosby musical “Holiday Inn.”

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        The first president to use “Happy Holidays” on his official greeting cards was that rapid proponent of political correctness, Dwight D. Eisenhower. A few years ago I was the executor of the estate of a church member. Among his possession was a greeting card from President George W. Bush. It too said “Happy Holidays.” It is an utterly routine construction and has been for generations. Republicans have used it all along, and still use it except when they remember that they are supposed to be offended by it.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Exactly.

  18. Richard Hershberger says:

    In other news, “Lux Dei Design,” a “church branding agency” is seeking funding for a “McMass” project to “reinvigorate the flock by opening McDonald’s franchises in churches.” Sadly, this seems not to be a parody:
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/11/christian-branding-agency-seeks-1-million-for-mcmass-project-to-put-mcdonalds-in-churches/

    • Kind of cruel for those who have to observe a fast before Mass. It finally answers the question how can a Catholic possibly break the hour before Communion fast (given that Communion is usually given about 1/2 an hour into the Mass and it generally takes 15 minutes to get to Mass from home, this leaves a very small window of temptation.

  19. “Question: What forces turn a local event like this into a public spectacle?
    People die every day across our country, often in violent ways and amid volatile, unjust circumstances. What made this particular incident so inflammatory, so disposed to lead to the kind of violence, lament, and debate as we have seen in recent days?”

    One thing I have noticed is that white people like myself tend to focus on the more narrow issue of whether there should have been an indictment or not, while blacks are looking at the larger context of the events. This explains most of the disconnect I have seen.

    Regarding that context, this figure is haunting: a black teenager is 21 times more likely to die at the hands of police than a white teenager. Please read that statement again. Source:

    http://www.propublica.org/article/deadly-force-in-black-and-white

    Discussing an issue without context can be a good way to ignore how that issue symbolizes the pain, frustration and fear of a much larger problem.

  20. Regarding the grand jury decision itself, a writer for the Gospel Coalition gives the best analysis I have seen of the evidence, and concludes that the jury failed and injustice triumphed.

    http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2014/11/26/why-i-believe-the-grand-jury-got-it-wrong-and-injustice-triumphed/

  21. Taking matters into your own hands is as American as violence and apple pie.

  22. David Cornwell says:

    I’ve often thought about the American frontier, and how the relationship between men and women were handled. My own ancestors moved to what was the “west,” pre-revolution and immediately afterward. Some were the very first white settlers in the Ohio Valley to the area of what is now Cabell County, WV. Another was the second permanent settler in the Appalachian area of what is now Logan County, WV. He went there originally when he was a young teen fugitive running to hide because he had revengefully killed some Native Americans during a time of peace treaty. After the Revolution he was pardoned for services rendered.

    They started having babies very young. There were no county clerk offices within range of even a fast rider. They remained “married,” with the women giving birth multiple times. Eventually many of the wives would die, some very young. The men needed help minding the children, so very soon they found a new partner. They needed both children and wives to help with the work.

    My question is: what made these marriages legal? How soon was the paper work completed, notarized, and filed? What made them sacred? Did they need to wait until a preacher showed up? How many waited for sex until all this was completed?

    Marriage has two important constructs, and maybe a third one. One is the legal component; the second, for Christians, is the sacramental, involving promises made before the Church and God; and possibly the third is the personal aspect involving the attraction of two people to each other with the mind, body, and spiritual bond that takes place.

    I have the feeling that in frontier marriages much of what happened was utilitarian in nature, and fueled by the same kind of young lust and attraction that is still with us.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      What you describe was not merely a frontier phenomenon. There have been periods in history when the church was essentially a middle- and upper class organization, with the working class left to fend for themselves. The rising urbanization of England in the 18th and 19th centuries is one example. The Church of England was part of the older rural society, but was unprepared to keep up with the changing demographics. The new urban working classes more or less sorted themselves out, without benefit of clergy.

    • My family has similar stories of Jews who pushed West into new territories before any kind of Jewish infrastructure was put up. They married with whatever family was available to witness and had their children and were entered into the family trees. In some cases, where a Jewish wife wasn’t available, there were marriages with the Native Americans. I doubt that these were exactly based on mutual attraction or even necessarily consent on her part (it wasn’t unusual for Native Americans to be captured and made bondservants at that time. Marrying a bond servant is a long tradition in Torah).

      Truthfully, these marriages make me a bit squeamish about my family tree.

      • -> “Truthfully, these marriages make me a bit squeamish about my family tree.”

        But without that family tree, you wouldn’t have come to be. 😉

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      My own ancestors moved to what was the “west,” pre-revolution and immediately afterward.

      When “The Far West” was the Appalachians, “Wyoming” was a county in Pennsylvania, and serial killers Big and Little Harpe were far from the worst of the bandits working the Natchez Trace preying on the travellers and settlers.

      (Book on the subject: Spawn of Evil by Paul Wellman; True Crime in that time and place.)

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Wyoming still is a county in Pennsylvania. So is Indiana. California is merely a borough, but it is a university town, home of California University of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is an odd place.

        • I’ll second that. A grand experiment born of a Quaker.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I’ll third that. Both of my writing partners are in Pennsylvania. One near Harrisburg, one near Allentown. I’ve been to Pittsburgh and Philly, and my father came from a “Watsontown” north of Harrisburg.

  23. Ship of Fools had a Bad Advent Calendar competition this year.

    BTW I know the local university church is very insistent on actually having a license which they sign for its wedding ceremonies (they have explicit blessing ceremonies for renewal of vows or for when same sex couples couldn’t legally marry) is that they have had couples in the past trying to deceive relatives. If clergy decide to perform wedding ceremonies without it being a civil as well as a religious ceremony, they should be very clear to all involved before and at the ceremony that it is not creating a state recognized marriage.

  24. Regarding the new Star Wars trailer/teaser, I posted this on my FB page…

    Three thoughts went through my mind when viewing the teaser/trailer to the next Star Wars movie:
    1) Awesome!
    2) I remember watching the trailer to the Phantom Menace and thinking, “Awesome,” and that movie turned out to be “Meh…”
    3) Yeah, but…this looks awesomer!

    Also, regarding the lightsaber. Sure, the “hilt-like” mini-blades would seem to serve no purpose than to perhaps sever the fingers of the wielder….they look cool! I want one!!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      2) I remember watching the trailer to the Phantom Menace and thinking, “Awesome,” and that movie turned out to be “Meh…”

      “MEESA AM JAR-JAR BINKS!”
      (Actually, I kinda feel sorry for Jar-Jar. Attempt at comedy-relief character who became a walking Epic Fail.)

      • I watched the whole series recently (indoctrinating my daughter to the movies for the first time), and I was amazed at how limited Jar-Jar’s role became in movies II and III. Clearly, the backlash and Epic Fail of the character in Phantom Menace led Lucas et al to really scale back Jar-Jar’s presence in the follow-on movies.

        • Actually, in the first episode, I kind of liked Jar-Jar. He was good comic relief. Of course, in the next two, it seems he turned to the Dull Side of the Force, and really put me to sleep. He’s no fun trying to be respectable.

          Of course, my fears are, I will see Darth Mickey, Jar-Jar Goofy and Donald Duck Skywalker. There were some things in that preview that made me wonder if that was the direction it was going. It could be worse. Anybody remember that Star Wars Holiday Special, that none of the cast wants to admit exists?

    • The trailer looks great; my one fear is that it has a very standard, modern-action movie feeling to it, and I hope that with a new director the new movie can still keep that old Star Wars vibe; but of course trailers are for marketing purposes and are of course going to adopt the prevailing Hollywood aesthetic.

      I think the purpose of the hilt is to guard against the ever-present danger of having your sword hand cut off, as seems to happen in almost every Star Wars movie. I have to admit, when I heard talk of a triple-bladed lightsaber in the movie, I immediately imagined Darth Maul’s lightsaber with an extra blade sticking out the side and thought, “What?! Way too over-the-top.” But the way it actually turned out looks amazing.

      • Yes. And for us believers, it provides “Christian symbolism” (shaped like a cross, it is!). Little does that Dark Sith Lord know, he’s wielding the Sword of Truth!

        (Feel free to groan and throw tomatoes at me.)

  25. Well, since some of the material in this edition of the Saturday Ramblings is serious in nature (Ferguson and riots), what do y’all think of Ray Rice being re-instated in the NFL?

    Personally, I don’t mind it. I thought the NFL’s reaction (“should we ban him for life?”) was way over the top and done solely for image purposes. NFL hypocrisy really bothers me lately. I live near Seattle and find the whole Marshawn Lynch media circus a bit ridiculous. Loved Richard Sherman’s/Doug Baldwin’s cut-out press conference last week!

  26. Melissatheragamuffin says:

    Quakers have always had a seperate certificate from the state issued marriage license and it is that certificate which is most important to most Quakers.

  27. Vinnie from Tennessee says:

    Someone anonymously gave me a subscription to The Sword of the Lord in late 1979, shortly after I became a Christ-follower. I’ve read every book and pamphlet written by Dr. John R. Rice, and they were the main source of my early discipleship. I think Dr. Rice graduated to Heaven in 1980, and I never had a chance to meet him, but his ministry was certainly a blessing to me.

  28. The fine details behind the reasoning to not sign civil marriage certificates is lost on me as a layman. I do find some irony in this discussion in the same thread with a story poking sticks through the cage at fundamentalists. Fundamentalism, as I understand it, began with the defeat at the Scopes trial, resulting in the retreat into the fundamentalist ghetto. This seems like a similar retreat, allowing the culture to define our actions through reactionism. Perhaps this a practical response. It certainly doesn’t address the reality of homosexuality in the church. I think the church can reach a better, truly Christian, answer through the power of grace. Otherwise, welcome to the ghetto, and help yourself to a calendar.

    • You have a point, and I have struggled with it. One critique I have of the Marriage Pledge is that it is being done for separatistic reasons, largely as a protest to what conservatives deem the redefinition of marriage in our society. Not a fan of that kind of thinking.

      That is not at all why I have thought ministers should consider opting out of being agents of the state. I just don’t think that’s in their job description, except in an American civil religion culture where the flag often shares equal billing with the cross on the altar.

  29. So people have burnt the church where Michael Brown’s father had just been baptized:
    http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/michael-brown-shooting/feds-probing-arson-michael-brown-sr-s-church-n255961