August 31, 2014

Saturday Ramblings 10.5.13

RamblerIt has been a wild week here at the iMonastery. There is considerable unrest here, to the point where we were afraid of an iMonk shutdown, just like our beloved federal goverment. The Iced Tea party was insisting on watching Wheel Of Fortune, while the Curly Wig party wanted to watch Family Feud. We settled it the old-fashioned way: I unplugged the TV and we played Monopoly. Then there erupted a disagreement over got to be the shoe and who got to be the iron. What a way to run a railroad. Sigh … shall we ramble?

The government is closed for business, thanks to the children who run the joint. It was reported that some 800,000 “non-essential” government employees were told to stay home. If they are non-essential, should they even come back? One preacher says our nation needs to be delivered from the Tea Party. And check out some tweets making the rounds. I especially like what some hecklers in the 18th century resorted to doing. Can we try that today? I would pay good money to see cats hurled at politicians. Who wouldn’t?

Senate chaplain Barry Black tried his best in his prayers to prevent the shutdown.

The changes under Pope Francis continue to set him apart from those who came before. He now calls the atmosphere at the Vatican as “narcissistic” and needs to change. In a first, the Vatican bank opened its books for scrutiny, publishing their first annual report ever. But do they give a free toaster when opening a checking account?

Not everyone is a Pope Francis fan, it seems. Baptist leader Russell Moore calls the pope’s recent interview with a Jesuit magazine a “theological wreck.” I assume that means the pope’s honeymoon is officially over?

And make your travel plans to be in Italy next spring for the canonization of two former popes, John XXIII and John Paul II.

A label has now been attached to many religious people you and I know: the Nominals. They profess to be of a certain religious bent, but don’t actually practice their religion.  “They’re proud — but not practicing — Catholics. They’re Protestants who don’t think Jesus is essential to their salvation.” Discuss.

We reported on this earlier this week. Chuck Smith, the founding pastor of the original Calvary Chapel, passed away this week at the age of 86. Smith was one of the pioneers of the West Coast Jesus People Movement, baptizing hippies in the Pacific Ocean. It was a way to cleanse their souls. And the rest of them as well. I visited Pastor Chuck’s church in Costa Mesa about four years ago. Those hippies were now wearing ties, and their ponytails were gray. Pastor Chuck’s sermon wandered around quite a bit, but everyone seemed to be happy, so who was I to complain? Rest in peace, Pastor Chuck.

Hans Kueng, the Catholic priest and rebel theologian, has one more way he wants to be remembered: He supports assisted suicide, and may take that route himself. Thoughts?

Adam Palmer ruined my week by telling me that another Narnia movie is going to be made. The Silver Chair is now in development. After the most recent train wreck (Voyage Of The Dawn Treader), I will not be wasting my time with any more movies in this series. The books are wonderful. I’ll stick to those. And I am going to give the latest Christian movie, Grace Unplugged, a wide berth as well. I am going to use my hard-earned entertainment bucks to go see Gravity. And I can’t wait.

Those celebrating birthdays this week include William S. Paley; Ed Sullivan; Jerry Clower; Moon Unit Zappa; Gene Autry; Madeline Kahn; Mark Farner; Truman Capote; Johnny Mathis; Bonnie Parker; Walter Matthau; Jimmy Carter; Mahatma Gandi; Don McLean; Groucho Marx; Bud Abbott; Gordon “Sting” Summer; Lindsay Buckingham; Stevie Ray Vaughan; Anne Rice; and Dick Tracy.

Need you ask? Enjoy.

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Comments

  1. One preacher castigates the Tea Party but gives the democrats a pass on the infant holocaust that is supported by the rank and file. I guess it depends on whose ox is being gored.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      Assuming you are referring to abortion, your framing of the issue begs the question, in the traditional sense of the phrase.

      • @Richard…..technically according to the formal rules of rhetoric, you are correct….HOWEVER….

        Many of us feel very strongly that the systematic execution of innocent lives trumps any and all other political issues, due to its moral gravity. We view this as morally analogous to the final solution of the Third Reich, and just as ignored and normalized as the latter was in 1942.

        • +1

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          In summary, some people feel so strongly about this issue that they deny the need to formulate a coherent argument in support of their position, and are outraged that other people are unpersuaded by their incoherent argument.

          I have to say, I am impressed at how quickly this thread got Godwined. I doubt that it is a record, but that was mighty quick nonetheless. Do I get to call your side names, too?

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            +1

            Congrats to Oscar and Pattie, for finding a way to bring in the irrelevant conversation of abortion where abortion did not exist! Next, I will find a way to introduce Obama’s secret Kenyan roots into the conversation.

          • @Richard…do not recall ANY argument regarding abortion intended to persuade others. I WAS explaining WHY the focus on this issue is so important to ME, Oscar, and others, since he brought it up…..

            Secondly, I have no idea what “Godvined” means…..so I cannot comment on that.

            Third, the coherent argument that does not influence you and others is remarkably simple….unborn children are human, killing humans is murder. The argument AGAINST this hinges on part one….they are NOT human: although the “Yes, they are human but not IMPORTANT enough humans” is gaining speed.

          • Pattie, Godwin’s Law states that a heated online discussion inevitably resorts to comparison with Hitler.

            It’s especially common in discussions about abortion, and I understand that many anti-abortion groups, and churches, have learned not to fall into this comparison because it will alienate people and stop discussion altogether.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “the coherent argument that does not influence you and others is remarkably simple….unborn children are human, killing humans is murder.”

            Now we are getting somewhere. We have a major premise and a minor premise and a conclusion. Your conclusion follows from your premises as night follows day. The minor premise I will let stand as being a definition. It’s not really how the word is used, but I will stipulate it.

            Your major premise is far more problematic. I have often seen it asserted that zygotes and all later stages of embryonic development carry all the moral weight of humans. I have rarely see this assertion supported, and then not well. In contrast, there is ready evidence that early stages are in fact not accorded the full moral weight of humans, even by the most adamant opponents of abortion.

            Were such moral weight accorded to zygotes, much attention would be given to menstrual flow out of concern for the possible presence of unimplanted blastocysts. We would hardly be willing to throw a dead baby out in the trash with the used tampons, would we? Indeed, we would be searching carefully for any sign of a blastocyst. If one were found, friends and relatives would fly into town from across the country to share in our mourning. We would have foundations devoting millions of dollars to ending this carnage, which is far greater than that caused by intentional abortions. Yet we have none of this. Why not? It could be because the people arguing most vehemently don’t understand the issue, but this excuse only goes so far. On the individual level there is a responsibility to educate yourself if you are going to argue a topic. On the collective level it is simply not credible that no one arguing against abortion has thought it through. The natural conclusion is that something else is going on: that while the individual arguer might be arguing in uninformed good faith, the collective argument is not.

            Then we have this:

            “the “Yes, they are human but not IMPORTANT enough humans” is gaining speed.”

            I have never once seen any pro-choice advocate make this argument. I won’t claim that none ever has, but only on the principle that no argument is so damn fool that no one has ever made it. It is certainly not a major strain of pro-choice thought. I have, however, frequently seen it asserted by pro-life advocates that pro-choice advocates make this argument. There are several conclusions we can reach from this, beginning with the strong likelihood that the individual making this claim has never sat down and had a rational discussion with a pro-choice advocate on the topic. Might I suggest that calling the other person a Nazi as an opening gambit is not productive for rational discussion?

          • Richard Hershberger,
            I hear your arguments. I find some of it compelling. But I have objections to some of what you’re saying.

            Even when women have a late term miscarriage of a fully formed baby, and suffer tremendous emotional trauma from it, little recognition is given by the wider society and rarely is any sort of communal ritual undertaken to recognize the loss, because by longstanding custom and convention birth is what marks the entry of the child into the wider context of social life.

            That does not mean that the miscarried child is not a fully human being, and I would be surprised if you thought that a fetus in its eighth month was not a human being in the fullest sense. If a fetus in the eighth month, despite being a fully human being, after being miscarried is not afforded the same social recognition that a delivered baby is afforded two minutes after birth because of social conventions and customs surrounding birth as a milestone rather than because any difference in the value of either as a human being, then why wouldn’t the same be true of a fetus in an earlier stage of development?

            An extension of the above argument would also apply to the lack of vigilance you mention with regard to spontaneously aborted blastocysts; the further away from birth a fetus or embryo or blastocyst is, the harder it is to be aware of it as a part of the human community, and the more invasive and onerous would be attempts to track its existence in the name of honoring its humanity at its death, or protecting its life. No human life has absolute value, and there is a point at which monitoring for potential human life in the name of protecting it detracts from other values that inhere in human liberty and freedom. None of this says anything about the fetus actual value, or status, as a human being.

          • Point of order….I did NOT call anyone a Nazi, I said that I find abortion on demand morally equivalent to the policies of the Third Reich, and equally as acceptable in society at that time and place.

            AND….sometimes the Hitler analogy fits….Uncle Joe Stalin and Pol Pot were more or less equally opportunity mass murderers. In recent history, and to my knowledge, only WWII Germany sought to eliminate the undesirables, defectives, and useless burdens in PARTICULAR.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “Point of order….I did NOT call anyone a Nazi, I said that I find abortion on demand morally equivalent to the policies of the Third Reich, and equally as acceptable in society at that time and place.”

            Right: I’m not a Nazi. I’m merely just as bad as the Nazis. You were playing nice all along, after all.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            @ Robert F:

            This all goes to Pattie’s major premise: “unborn children are human”. Removing the loaded language, and expanding on what I think she means by “unborn children” (based on the usual vocabulary of this debate: if I am wrong I hope she will correct me) the major premise is that a human zygote and all subsequent stages of development carry all the moral weight of a human being. This is either an assertion to be supported with facts and logic, or it is a definition.

            Being a Christian, I am fully prepared to accept texts from the Christian Bible in that “facts” category, though a non-Christian presumably would not. The interesting thing is how seldom anyone offers any such facts and logic. Rather, the assertion is stated repeatedly and loudly and assumed to be true. The sad truth is that the Bible doesn’t really offer any help here, even by the low standards of proof texting.

            This leaves us with its being a definition. The point I was vaguely pointing toward is that this is not in fact the definition that people actually use for any purpose other than debating abortion. You are certainly correct that it is logically possible for a cytoblast to carry the full moral weight of a human being yet for persons of good will not fully act on this. We are all fallen creatures. But when we see that the sole context in which this definition is applied is the abortion debate–that endless funds are applied to this debate, while nary a penny is devoted to any of the vast implications of this definition, I cannot help but conclude that there is something else going on here. This is not to say that any given individual is not arguing in good faith, but the argument is based on unexamined assumptions, and those promoting the pro-life position do not encourage their supporters to examine these assumptions.

        • Many Animal Rights activists feel equally strongly about the murder of bunny rabbits.

          • What are you saying, Wexel: a bunny is a rat is a pig is a dog is an unborn child? Here’s a multiple choice question for you: which of the aforementioned is human?

          • The “unborn child” has human DNA (as does semen), but to call it a fully-fledged “human” would be to beg the question. But your species-ist assumption that humans (however defined) have more rights than non-humans is quite arbitrary. If aliens land, I hope they have a more considered ethical philosophy, or else they may feel themselves justified in eating us!

          • There’s nothing arbitrary about it at all. I’m following a long tradition of each species putting itself at the center of its own interests. It’s rather ridiculous to think you can be human without privileging human perspectives. It comes with the territory.

            Anyway, I know you’re having your little bit of Wexel fun with me, and if extraterrestrial aliens land, I’m sure they will mistake you for one of their own, so don’t be overly concerned about their ethics.

    • Dan Crawford says:

      Both parties should be condemned equally but I have noticed that “pro-lifers” have deliberately and consistently turned a blind eye toward the anti-life and merciless social darwinism of the party that claims it is “pro-life”. Passionately committed to making sure an embryo comes to full-term and is born, the “pro-life” party has no trouble at all voting against medical care for mother and child, depriving them of food stamps, guaranteeing them no access to medical care as adults, depriving them of the right to vote – all in the name of transferring income and tax benefits and political power to the wealthy and powerful. A long time ago, I supported several “pro-life” organizations until I discovered they were using my donations to support the campaign of Republican politicians instead of doing anything to actually help mothers and children. I support one “pro-life” organization that provides such care – if it should ever be tempted to support any (and I mean any) politician, my contributions will disappear.

      • You have a very valid point of knowing where and to whom donations are going…..true pro-life groups are consistent in supporting humans from conception to natural death, with all the life-supporting issues in between. These groups tend to be religious, NOT political. The crisis pregnancy center I support continues with food, transport, housing, and education for the women LONG after delivery, whether they choose to parent or adopt.

  2. Some are calling Francis “Pope Badass I”. Some, as in a friend and me.

  3. Look, I understand the issues surrounding end-of-life medical decisions and how they effect “quality of life.” I don’t think sustaining a human life is just a matter of extending minimal biological functions by the application of extraordinary medical means.

    But assisted suicide frightens me because I can easily imagine great social pressure developing what would essentially result in a “duty to die.” When the money has run out and the family is incurring great debt, when the doctors are saying that anything but palliative treatment has become pointless, when the pain and fear has isolated one in mortal illness, it would be easy to arrive at the place where the decision to continue would be seen as selfish by both patient and families, as well as medical professionals and the wider society.

    At that point guilt plays on all the other vulnerabilities at this extremity of life, and the whole question of “choice” becomes merely an academic one. The expectation becomes that one should unselfishly give up and let others go on. I think this may have already started happening in other nations that have legalized assisted suicide.

    And that would be very sad, because would bring the forces of family and society against the terminally ill, subtly or not so subtly coercing and shaming them into something they might not want, and leaving them morally unsupported if they would rather keep up the fight.

    That would be sad and tragic.

    • “Bring out yer dead! Bring out yer dead!”

      “I don’t want to go on the cart!”

      “Oh, don’t be such a baby.”

      I can remember laughing at that.

    • “Soylent Green is people!”

      Robert, you have hit on the very heart of what makes this so sad and so wrong.

      • Jeff,
        Although I often give the impression of myself as a bitter old former Roman Catholic, the lessons I learned about the value of all human life as a child growing up in the RC Church have stuck with me, and I’m grateful for that heritage and that moral vision (although I now disagree with the RC Church on other moral issues, such as inclusion of GLBT people in church and society).

        It’s a vision of the value of human life not as autonomous and vital and robust, but rather embedded in the wider community of humanity, and the life of God. For all its attempts at now foundering socialism and its embrace of the “good life” (as conceived in consumerist and voluntarist categories), Europe is now in the grip of an essentially Nietzsche-an, agonistic and tragic view of life.

    • Donalbain says:

      If the money is running out for treatment, then the problem is with a system where that happens.

      • Donalbain,
        The money for healthcare is running out in countries where socialized health care exists, too; the families may have less of a burden, but then the pressure on terminal patients, and others, to bow out gracefully rather than fight and expend limited resources comes from the physicians and health care administrators (who are really government functionaries in nations with nationalized health care), who have budgets to keep and expenses to watch.

        This makes the pressure to be unselfish by dying more intimidating, coercive and irresistible than when it comes from family.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Not really.

          • Okay, I give: what’s “Not really.”?

          • +1, Klasie – although I do think Robert F has good points on this as well.

          • The reality is that there are limits to the resources that can be spent on healthcare no matter where the money comes from. In the US, it seems that there is such fear of end of life issues that any notion that maybe, just maybe, sometimes it’s ok to let nature take its course with certain patients is seen as the first step to mass euthanasia. Almost every health care worker I know has told me that we as a culture spend way, way too much money sustaining patients who have no hope of getting well.

            Anyone who thinks insurance companies have any less concern for budgets that need to be kept and expenses that need to be watched than tax sponsored healthcare is dreaming….And we, the patients, get caught in the middle.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            What Suzanne said.

            I’m from Canada. We’re always complaining about the healthcare system. But the money isn’t really running out, nor is the care that abysmal. It is just one of those things we like complaining about – like the weather, or sports, or modern music, or something. Mostly we just like complaining.

          • Suzanne and Klasie – yes.

            The whole “end of life issues” thing is really about appropriate care for those who truly are dying – not using extraordinary measures to keep people alive indefinitely, and suffering through it. There are doctors who are very insensitive to the dying; it’s only been in the past 20 years that drugs like morphine have been allowed to be prescribe for those who are dying and in great pain + other associated issues.

            I don’t think that providing truly compassionate care for the terminally ill is *anything* close to the slippery slope, really – though I also agree that there is one. Equally, I think some assisted suicides are the right thing to do. (I know, I know – and even 10 years ago I *never* would have agreed with that, but life happens, and we end up seeing and experiencing things that change our ideas and perceptions as a result.)

            At the same time, I also believe that many health care professionals are extremely insensitive toward common problems: take depression and treatable illness in the elderly. Tons of older people who need – and deserve – treatment for depression are not getting it; the same is true of many common illnesses (even sinus/ear infections and bronchitis, if you can believe it). There’s a very unfortunate – and wrong – tendency to simply say “Well, they’re old people” and just let things slide. The elderly are *very* much underserved in these areas and more, and it’s just plain wrong.

        • Dude, seriously. You just made that up.

        • @Suzanne…I am also in health care (education, now) and spent a decade in Hospice, so I admit my views lean heavily toward comfort care for natural death, which is 180 degrees away from euthanasia and assisted suicide. We DO spend obscene amounts of money and resources on those at the end of life, because so often the family demands “everything be done” when all “everything” does is buy a few miserable weeks or months at the very best.

          In addition, one of the reasons our infant mortality rate looks terrible compared to other western countries is the fact that we almost never consider a premature baby too young to save, when other countries call them “miscarriages”. This is NOT inconsistent with my anti-abortion stance, as it all comes down to natural versus induced endings of a pregnancy. Ditto for the comment way back about “mourning blastocysts”…..As a Catholic I believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death…..whether than death is as a 64 cell zygote that never implants or a 104 year old who needs total care before she slips away in her sleep.

      • If the money is running out for treatment, then the problem is with a system where that happens.

        Not a valid statement. With today’s technology it is possible to spend an almost infinite amount of money keeping someone alive. And the system in the US is set up to make it hard to stop spending money no matter what the possible outcomes are.

        My father went through a pointless year of chemotherapy at a cost of likely $200K or more. He did it because he had the health coverage that would pay for it and my mom was delusionally convinced he could be cured. Was that money that society should have spent on him. What if it had been out of pocket and he didn’t have it. (And trust me, my mom is totally irrational when it comes to medical issues.)

        If someone is 95 and in heart failure, should they be put on a transplant list? A heart lung machine? Or made to be comfortable?

        Going back 50 years ago at a certain point the amount of money spent didn’t change things. Today you can easily drop $10K for another day unconscious with no hope of ever awakening in the ICU.

        There is not easy answer and saying that the money should just be spent certainly isn’t one.

    • I can see it happening where the terminally ill are “encouraged” to be euthanized, to where the terminally ill are involuntarily euthanized, all the way down to where those with chronic medical conditions would be euthanized upon diagnosis because “it’s not worth the money to treat them”.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Don’t forget the attitude that as long as you do it “Humanely(TM)” and “PAINLESSLY(TM)”, you Didn’t REALLY Kill them. Just Go Sleepy-Sleep….

    • I agree with your ‘slippery slope” argument, Robert. It’s slippery, indeed.

      Heather

    • +1

  4. This past week, a person in Belgium who had had three unsatisfactory sex change operations asked for and received physician-assisted suicide. This person was 44 years old and had no physical illness, as far as I’m aware. Is death the best we have to offer desperately unhappy people?

    Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24373107

    • I remember a news story from perhaps a year ago, might’ve been in Belgium, about twin brothers in their 40′s who had a disease causing them to gradually go blind; they requested and were given assisted medical suicide, on the basis of their claim of depression, partly at the idea of having to live without ever being able to see each other.

      Clearly something is going morally amiss in countries that have legalized assisted suicide.

      Part of it stems from the tendency of affluent people to consider suffering such a curse that in the name of ending it, it is permissible to also end the sufferer. Add to that the fact that in affluent societies only a vital and “autonomous” life is seen as worth living, and you have a potent mix in support of getting the dying out of the way as soon as possible, and freeing up resources and energy for the project of “living well.”

      There’s a dark side to the term “health and wellness.”

    • In addition, the attitude spreads from the terminally ill to those who, though otherwise healthy or non-terminal, suffer from chronic physical and/or psychological pain. Soon it is deemed a waste of resources, that otherwise could be used to support “vital” “autonomous” life, to seek to prolong the lives even of those who are only depressed but have no other serious health issues, particularly since medical science increasingly views depression as a purely physiological condition, and especially if initial attempts at treatment have failed.

      Concern for “quality of life” becomes an umbrella issue under which to gather all those who have protracted physical or psychological distress of any kind, and then offer them the option of assisted suicide or euthanasia as “treatment.”

      And this is not merely a conjecture about slippery slopes; this is actually happening in northern European countries now, as per Damaris’ comment and link above.

  5. Regarding The Silver Chair, I was more than ready to give up the Harry Potter movies after The Goblet of Fire. Happily they were able to pull off the last of the series, so maybe there’s hope? On the other hand, if it’s primarily for foreign audiences, we probably won’t have to suffer through it if production quality lives up to Dawn Treader standards. Makes me want to go back and watch the BBC series and reminisce.

    • I was ready to give up the Harry Potter books after Goblet of Fire, they went downhill so fast. Seems to be a truism in any kind of publishing these days (with movies it happens even sooner): stop editing, stop caring, and rake in the dough!

      • I believe the Harry Potter series went downhill as soon as they introduced Michael Gambone as Dumbledore. So sad that Richard Harris couldn’t complete the series.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          I actually thought he was better. And the books changed tenor, that’s all. The last book was actually exceptionally brilliant.

          • Gambone refused to follow the script, and tried to recreate Dumbledore the way he thought he should be. There was a pretty big personality gap between Dumbledore in the books and Gambone’s character.

          • I prefer Gambon to Harris in this role, hands down. Gambon is – imo – far more gifted and brought a great deal of nuance to the part. (As he does to many others.)

          • Klasie – yep, the final book is pretty amazing, overall. I think it has helped a lot of people – kids and grown-ups – who are dealing with grief, among other things.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      For the record, I always wanted to have Pink Floyd do the soundtrack for The Silver Chair. At least for the beginning and ending frames.

    • Ah yes, the BBC series of The Silver Chair. With Tom Baker as Puddleglum. Whenever I’ve read the book since, I can’t help but hear Puddleglum’s lines in those rich Doctor-y tones. Good memories. A pity it was the last one they made in the series.

    • The Last Battle or nothing.

      Either way, expect a train wreck.

  6. “Nominal” adherents have been known for some time. Often, clergy are only too pleased to include them when it makes their churches look bigger, e.g., in “Catholic” Latin America.

    The category raises the question of what it means to be an “actual” adherent, and who gets to decide. (Denominational hierarchs?) Jews, for example, are very much divided on the question of what Judaism requires of them, and Humanistic Judaism recognizes the possibility that one can be a good Jew and yet not believe in God, for example. What it means to “practice” Buddhism is very unclear, since the religion comes with a range of optional practices and commitments.

    For those raised in a certain religion, it becomes a part of their cultural heritage even if they later abandon aspects of it. The question of what obligations it owes to them, or them to it, is a difficult one.

    • cermak_rd says:

      In Catholicism the answer is, if you were baptized into the Church, even as a wee infant, you’re still a Catholic. So I, for instance, am still counted even though I long ago switched my allegiance.

      There used to be a form to opt out, but

      1. few bothered with it until it became a cause celebre and

      2. I guess it played havoc with marriage canons because :

      a civil marriage where both had officially and formally defected from Catholicism would be recognized by the Church as a marriage

      but a civil marriage where one had not defected and still had been baptized would not be;

      Which required a lot of paperwork being kept. A dirty little secret is that individual Catholic’s official files are all over the place (they’re kept at the parish level which gets confused when people move parishes, parishes close or merge, etc.) and it’s not unusual for paperwork not to be findable just to verify reception of the Sacraments, leading to a lot of conditional baptisms, etc. Now add to that the letter of defection which is supposed to be kept on file at the Diocese level. If the Church had an adequate computer system, it would be no problem, but honestly, I think it’s all still kept on paper. Meh, it’s the Vatican, they don’t do change.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Like how Philip Pullman once described himself as “Church of England Atheist”.

      • Is that the same guy who said (and I paraphrase, hence no quotation marks): I don’t know if I believe in God or not, but I know that I believe in the Church of England?

        Couldn’t be, I guess; that would make him a Church of England agnostic, not atheist.

  7. Anonymously Yours says:

    Jeff, if you can afford the ticket, watch Gravity in IMAX 3D. It was my first time watching an IMAX 3D movie, and it set me back $17.00, but the effects were amazing.

    Physician-assisted suicide? From a few stories I have been reading, Obamacare sounds like it is turning into a death sentence for the chronically ill who already have insurance through their employers. Three stories, in fact: (1) a woman whose employer-provided insurance is considered “Cadillac” insurance now, which means she will have to pay taxes on the employer share of her premiums, and the insurer will no longer cover her extremely expensive hormone compoundings, which she takes to prevent the onset of quick-occurring dementia, which killed her mother at a young age (the insurer offered to replace the natural hormone compounds with synthetic, but this woman’s doctor and research says the synthetics will have no effect if she develops the condition); (2) a man with Type I diabetes, whose cost of drugs will skyrocket; and (3) a leukemia patient, who can maintain his health by taking drugs the rest of his life, but who may now have to take another job just to be able to afford his drugs.

    So, whether it is intentional or unintentional, it sounds like Obamacare has been designed to kill off the chronically ill among us who have decent insurance plans right now.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Remember the cheering that time during the last presidential campaign about “They should hurry up and die!”?

      How dare those moochers and second stringers soak up MY money!
      A = A!
      Objective Truth!
      Who is John Galt?

    • Final Anonymous says:

      All things that have been happening for years, which is why people have been begging for healthcare reform and regulation of insurance companies. Seems like appropriately directed anger would be at said insurance companies, doesn’t it? I guess it doesn’t have the same ring of excitement as a conspiracy by a black Muslim president and his godless demtards.

      Intentional? Seriously?

      • [P]eople have been begging for healthcare reform and regulation of insurance companies…

        I’m one of them. My Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield went up 5% in July, and this week I received a notice that it will go up 16.5% in January.

        I shall be checking out Obamacare soon.

        • Good luck with that. This same government that is defining health care affordability also says that a family of 4 living on around $23,000 a year is not below the poverty threshold.

          • You don’t have to be at the federal poverty level to access ACA coverage. Almost anyone who needs it can get coverage (unless your income is in a certain range and you live in a red state that’s refused the medicare expansion, but that’s another story), and there are subsidies to help starting at either 2x or 3x the federal poverty level income.

            The federal definition of the poverty line has been way off for a long time; numerous administrations of both parties have let this slide and done little to change it.

      • Quite true. If we are going to cite stories of people getting denied healthcare, there are all kinds of sad stories out there, like the young local kid about five years back who needed corrective surgery to keep from going blind. The insurance company (whose CEO is one of the top-fifty highest paid in America) declared it “elective” and refused to pay the $50K. Thankfully the news story prompted a public campaign and the boy’s vision was saved. I guess it isn’t socialized medicine when its voluntary.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      People haven’t even started signing up for insurance until Tuesday of this week. It is kind of ridiculous to ascribe a holocaust of old and poor people to an initiative that is only four days old, especially when there is absolutely no evidence that it has happened.

  8. About the Nominals – Wait…I’m a Messianic Jew. I believe that Jesus/Yeshua is the Messiah. I’m still Jewish. My mother is a believe too. Not sure what is wrong with that?

    Most Jewish believers are strong in faith.

  9. I would have some concern that throwing cats, dead or alive, at our politicians would probably result in being shot as a “terrorist”….The Forever War continues.

  10. Marcus Johnson says:

    Speaking on behalf of all the cat lovers in iMonk, I think our kitties deserve much better than to have to make contact with a US congressperson.

  11. David Cornwell says:

    Regarding suicide: However much sympathy we have toward someone who suffers, we need to remember the violence connected with suicide. It is not only violence against the gift of life itself, but against oneself, one’s family, and one’s loved ones. And even more it is violence against God.

    Suffering in life cannot be escaped. If nothing else, as followers of Christ, we should teach the world, and each other, about what it means to suffer and we will have to bear it ourselves, very alone, at times. Christ went before us to a bloody and violent Roman cross, very alone, forsaken. But in the end that violence could not hold Him. We are a people who embrace Resurrection.

    • David,
      The problem is not that we have too much compassion for those who suffer, but that we have the wrong kind of compassion, the kind that wants to wage “total war” against suffering and expunge it, and if necessary the sufferer (collateral damage, you know) along with it. We have, as Stanley Haurewas called it, “killing compassion,” and we’re teaching the sufferers to be kamikaze pilots in the war against their own suffering.

      • David Cornwell says:

        I agree. Hauerwas has much that we as American Christians could learn from. And he does not fit into our neat categories.

    • cermak_rd says:

      I agree that all suffering cannot be escaped. However some can. That’s why we have SSRIs and opiates.

      I know that Catholic Christians (don’t know about other types) believe in redemptive suffering, the idea that your suffering is useful for your after life progression. This is why Kung considering suicide for himself seems wrong to me, because it does not mesh with his theology (trivia point, when I was received into the Catholic church lo these many years ago, we used “Christ Among Us” as our text through RCIA)

      But on the other hand, I reject as monstrous the idea that other people must suffer because it will gain them in their afterlife progression if they do not, in fact, hold to that theory of afterlife progression (or even believe in an afterlife).

      I find the slippery slope argument, though I to some extent disagree with it, to be at least a non-monstrous argument against using the machinery of the state to prevent people from having a quick, painless way out when they feel they can no longer continue.

      It’s not all about pain either, if you poll healthy people on when they would want to die you’ll see it’s at the loss of autonomy point.

      • I can guarantee that at least one Catholic in physical and spiritual pain has been prevented from suicide by her faith, the specter of mortal sin, and the redemptive power of offering up suffering to the Lord and His horrid suffering and death.

        I STONGLY imagine that there are thousands more…..maybe trillions more over the millenniums….

        • maybe trillions more over the millenniums….

          I seriously doubt there have been a trillion people who have ever lived on earth.

      • David Cornwell says:

        I agree. I’m not against alleviating physical and mental suffering. With our knowledge of medicine it would be unthinkable not to do so. I use some opiates to relieve terrible back and leg pain from spinal stenosis. These things help us to live better in the time we have remaining.

        And I can understand the pain that drives some to suicide; we’ve had it in our family from an adopted son who was schizophrenic. His suffering was terrible. However I firmly believe he did love God, and had just returned from a little charismatic church where the preacher was speaking about heaven. The preacher was crushed by what happened. His funeral was one of the largest I’ve ever attended. Those who knew him, those who were suffering with him, many others hurting mentally and from addictions flocked to the service.

        There are unsolvable paradoxes and tensions involved with life and death.

        • David – I’m so sorry for your loss. As you say, there are unsolvable paradoxes and tensions, and I truly can understand how people who are suffering (physically, mentally, and both) all too often end up at a place where suicide seems like the only option,.

          We need better mental health care, better pain management (and similar) for those who are in need of it, and i don’t see any of that coming from the private sector anytime soon.

          In my small community, publicly-funded mental health care options were “deleted” a few years ago. Where I live, the safety net is minimal and is now stretched so thin that many are falling right through it. :(

      • Dan Crawford says:

        Hans Kung is a Catholic the way Bill Keller of the NY Times is Catholic.

        • cermak_rd says:

          And my reply would be that to the Catholic church, they are both still Catholic. Neither has been ex-communicated and both were baptized in to the Catholic church. Hence they are Catholic. To the Catholic Church, there do not seem to be any divisions between super Catholics, Uber catholics, righteous Catholics, lapsed Catholics or any other kind. If they’re not in a state of grace they’re not to receive Eucharist, but, except in the rare cases of Sacramental Embargo or excommunication, no one judges that but the individual.

  12. “… It was reported that some 800,000 “non-essential” government employees were told to stay home. If they are non-essential, should they even come back?…”
    I heartily dislike the way the media and others (including you, now) are pushing the meme that “non-essential” means “useless” and “wasteful”. In the current shutdown context, “essential” simply means vital to safety — policemen, firemen, medical personnel, et cetera. If you’re not one of those, you’re not categorized as “essential”, even though your work could be regarded as essential in a longer timeframe. In my small town dominated by its military base, thousands of civilians (federal workers employed by the DoD, many who are retired military are furloughed, and they are hurting. :-(

    • cermak_rd says:

      I noticed that the NTSB at least has some people still working, as they issued a report to the CTA (our local transit authority, which is still working, so apparently Chicago has a healthier government than the US as a whole) regarding our run away train problem (we had a runaway train that managed to evade all the failsafes and ran into another train. Fortunately no one was killed though there were a lot of mostly minor injuries).

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      He was being sarcastic.

    • I have been laid off more than once because business was hurting and my position was classified as “non-essential.” Yes it hurts, but the truth is that an organization can continue indefinitely without many of those non-essential employees. Often this painful step helps make the organization healthy again, they are able to expand again, and overall people end up better off than they were during the Unhealthy Organization phase. I am of the opinion that many of those non-essential employees should not come back to work until our government gets on a healthy financial footing gain. BTW, I am Tea Party. Feel free to throw your cats.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Good lord, sarahmorgan, stop and smell the sarcasm. If you’ve been following Jeff for a while, you know when he’s just throwing a statement out for the sharks.

      • My husband, my friends, & my friends’ husbands have been furloughed. It’s not a matter of easy sarcasm for us. But go ahead and be exasperated and condescending and laugh at it all. :-)

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        Sarahmorgan, we’re laughing at the term “nonessential,” not the plight of your friends or family. It is ridiculous to call the work that these employees do “nonessential,” and the joke made fun of that label.

        My sympathies go out to your friends and family, but it is not reasonable to take Jeff’s comment and assume that it applies to you personally.

    • I hear you.

      • the “i hear you” was for sarahmorgan.

        I used to work for the feds, in D.c., and the human cost of shutting down the government is astronomical – not to mention the billions spent on shutting it down and *then* on reopening.

        Example fo human costs: in every federal building there are numerous janitors, cleaning and repair people, cafeteria and concession stand workers. they make next to nothing as it is – and as of now, they’re more than likely not going to be able to make it past the next payday (supposing it even comes; those who are federal workers are paid biweekly, while those who are on contracts, well – ???)

  13. I thought Moore was going to give accurate critique of the Pope’s comment “Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them.” But then he said:

    “What these interviews seem continually to do is what evangelical theologian Carl Henry warned Protestants of in the 20th century, the love of God from the holiness of God. God is, Henry said, against both the liberal Social Gospel and obscurantist and angry fundamentalism, the God of both justice and justification.”

    That’s really not what the Pope’s comment does. Modern western evangelicalism seems to want reduce every problem to the unnecessary and binary “legalism vs. antinomianism” conundrum. It’s not what is happening here. Did Moore miss that the Pope’s comment highlights “evil” and encourages people fight against it? Hello? That’s a way of delcaring God’s objective hatred of sin. There’s not really a theology of “gushy love without any standards” here. There is maybe a touch of relativism, but with such a short and unelaborated comment, it’s easy to fit that into a wider Biblical understanding of good and evil.

    God is not “against” the Social Gospel, either. The Gospel is simply not limited to a Social Gospel.

    Proselytsim, “trying to convert” someone, is not the same as “reaching people for the good news.” Moore just isn’t making the correct distinctions here.

    And then he mis-anayalyzes Luther (makes him a baptist, really) by saying:

    “In the church, [Luther] saw rules and rituals but, in that, felt only condemnation.”

    Misleading. Luther ultimately didn’t feel codemnation from the rules and rituals, but from the doctrine of justification by works. He kept most of the rituals, and the rules that he felt were Biblical.

    None of this wouldn’t bug me so much if these weren’t errors perpetually made by Reformed evangelicals. Moore was looking for a theological train wreck before he even heard the Pope make these comments, found an easy target, and then repeated some standard tropes to try and prove them wrong. Not uncommon.

    • Can someone explain to a non-Evangelical (OK, let’s be honest, to a flaming liberal) what is supposed to be unChristian about the Social Gospel? Doesn’t the Social Gospel say that Jesus wants us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners, and stuff like that? And isn’t that what Jesus actually says in Matthew 25, when he is separating the sheep (good folks who have done all these Social Gopel things) from the goats (bad folks who haven’t)

      There is probably something I’m missing here..

      • Yeah. It’s a knee-jerk reaction among theological conservatives against the possibility that someone’s going to leave out personal salvation or the holiness of God, and only talk about feeding the poor. It’s a selective Bible-reading that bifurcates the Gospel into two differennt modes of emphasis and favors one over the other, or often just ignores the other altogether.

        You get around all this by defining the Gospel correctly- the Kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus is Messiah, and has defeated death and sin, and inauagurated and new political order, a new creation, in which his people are free to live in the presence of Christ and out from under the yoke of sin and injustice (they’re basically the same thing). There’s no bifurcation necessary.

        • and out from under the yoke of sin and injustice This is precisely what the prophets were saying. This is a good line and I might borrow it.

        • Nate,

          Good.

          Here’s how NT Wright says it;

          “The powerful announcement of the Gospel is that God is God, Jesus Christ is Lord, that the powers of evil have been defeated, that God’s new world has begun. This announcement, stated as a fact about the way the world is rather than as an appeal about the way you might like your life, your emotions, or your bank balance to be, is the foundation of everything else.”

      • I think that there was a tendency in the last century toward detaching the gospel part from the social part. There were (apparently) liberal reformers who lost focus on God in their desire to change the world for the better. The evangelical response in some cases went to the opposite extreme — the attitude became “What’s the point feeding and clothing people who are bound for hell? Salvation is more important.” This was — and is — especially true in the mission field, where there is ongoing, heated debate concerning the value of “pure” evangelism versus helping ministries.

        Our inability to think in broader terms than “either/or” baffles me.

  14. The good Reverend Currie seems to be adrift in the wilderness. I read the Bible as teaching that it is the Church that has the responsibility for the care and provision for the poor, the widows, the orphans. A large portion of the Church in America has forfeited that responsibility to government and now finds itself instead in the entertainment business. As it appears that his two churches are themselves working on behalf of the needy, the Reverend might better see blessing rather than burden in his opportunity for market expansion. Conflating the mission of the Church with mission of government is every bit as dangerous as conflating a passionate Christian faith with American idealism (i.e., some Tea Party adherents).

    I would also take issue with his misappropriation of Isaiah 10:1-2. Isaiah was not picking on the Republicans of his day but was taking to task his whole culture with particular wrath reserved for the theocracy that ran both the temple and the civil government. It takes two to tango and two to fight. Neither the liberal nor the conservative camp seems willing or able to solve problems and they are both apparently willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I say a pox on both your houses.

    Oh …and give me Dr. Ben Carson in 2016. End of rant.

    • Mr. Park,

      You say, “I read the Bible as teaching that it is the Church that has the responsibility for the care and provision for the poor, the widows, the orphans. A large portion of the Church in America has forfeited that responsibility to government …”

      Don’t we have to look at what actually happened with that Biblical idea, though? Look at the Great Depression, in which people were actually starving right here in America. The churches couldn’t and didn’t feed them all; I see no evidence they even attempted to do so. There were just too many poor people. That’s why “the government” stepped in, in the shape of FDR and his WPA projects, which saved many people’s lives as well as greatly improved our infrastructure and other aspects of American life.

      Or go back to England and Europe after the Industrial Revolution, and right up into the 20th century. There were great numbers of people living on starvation rations, there were horrible slums full of hungry, desperate people who could be and were hanged (or deported) for stealing a loaf of bread… Well, you get the idea. The Church did very little to alleviate these problems, and seems in general to have ignored them. Remember William Blake’s terrible indictment:

      How the chimney sweeper’s cry
      Every blackening church appalls,
      And the hapless soldier’s sigh
      Runs in blood down palace walls…

      Of course, if all of us followed Jesus’ commands, and actually loved our neighbors as ourselves, all of these issues would melt away. As holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who’s not a Christian, said, “For the price of one battleship we could feed and cure all the children in Africa, and you ask me is there evil. There is evil, and its name is indifference.”

      Since we do in fact fail to love our neighbors as ourselves, I think relying on “the government” to — not love, but feed and clothe our destitute neighbor is about the best we are likely to do.

      • I would hope this last sentence of yours is not inevitable. Biblically I read that it isn’t. Not that i expect it to be a worldwide, universal phenomenon, at least anytime soon, but in localized ways, with small bodies of believers….a lot could happen.

      • The forfeiture by the Church is not a recent phenomenon. Let’s go back to the time of the crusades when the Church distracted the masses from their misery by sending them to war. Today, though, we have football. :)

        The Church for centuries kept the poor ignorant and destitute for it’s own political advantage. They were dependent on the Church for food and clothing and social contact. The printing press, over time, changed all that (admittedly a gross oversimplification). Politicians on the left have, for three generations now, consciously and otherwise, cultivated a constituency that finds itself dependent now on the government for subsistence. Things will stay that way as long as the dependent poor continue to grow in number. Neither side has clean hands in this argument. Generally I think of liberals as leading with their hearts and conservatives with their heads. We could use some balance, it seems to me. And the poor will always be with us.

        Until we not only learn how to love our neighbor but also how to know who he is the debacle will continue. You are spot on in that regard. Yet another failure of the Church here? …thanks for your thoughts!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Or go back to England and Europe after the Industrial Revolution, and right up into the 20th century. There were great numbers of people living on starvation rations, there were horrible slums full of hungry, desperate people who could be and were hanged (or deported) for stealing a loaf of bread…

        You mean the Type Example of (in the words of our local “Libertarian(TM)” paper’s editorials) “the Free Market Economy”? (Alternating with praising Ayn Rand as a Goddess.) They’d be a lot more credible if they didn’t hold the two up as The Perfect Free-Market Society.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “I read the Bible as teaching that it is the Church that has the responsibility for the care and provision for the poor, the widows, the orphans.”

      I don’t. Or rather, I don’t read the Bible as teaching that these things are peculiarly the responsibility of the church. They are the responsibility of everyone. In a democracy, the responsibility of everyone is necessarily the responsibility of the government (though not exclusively so).

      The trouble with couching this in terms of being the church’s responsibility is that this is frequently used as a vehicle for condemning the tyranny of the government using taxes to feed starving children: some taxpayers may be just fine with children starving, and it is held to be unconscionable to force these taxpayers to contribute toward feeding the starving children. If churches feel that starving children need to be fed, they are free to do so, while the rest similarly enjoy liberty.

      Of course this is really a way of hand-waving the problem away while arguing for low taxes, which is the real point. The curious thing is that many people who make this argument also self-identify as Christian. That is some mighty fine mental compartmentalization! At least Ayn Rand was honest about her contempt for Christianity. Many of her modern followers want it both ways.

    • A large portion of the Church in America has forfeited that responsibility to government and now finds itself instead in the entertainment business

      I would agree that the evangelical church at least has segments that construct worship too much as entertainment. But as for whether the church or government should help the needy, why the dichotomy? The reality on the ground is that we really need both, and there’s no reasons Christians shouldn’t support both. The scope of poverty and hunger in our nation is far too large for the church alone to address, even if was doing all it could. And there are a host of issues that tend to attach to poverty, including poor health (mental and physical), lack of transportation, sometimes addictions, often family instability, increased likelihood of victimization, and many others. In short, too much for any church, no matter how devoted or well-intentioned, to address by itself.

      Christians should do what they can personally and through their own community of believers, but should not eschew larger institutional and governmental efforts that are in line with God’s desire that we help the poor and th needy.

  15. Regarding Hans Küng – I have to bite my tongue over my first reaction to that comment. Look, I can’t judge the man’s sincerity on his views anymore; he’s been making a career out of being a contrarian for thirty years. Probably he is honest in what he says. If he’s going to go that route when he feels he’s lost his faculties, who knows?

    Regarding Pope Francis and his (in)famous interviews, the one with all the Jesuit magazines (not just the American one – hey, what good is it having one of your order be the pope if you can’t have a little favourable treatment when it comes to exclusive scoops?) and now the one with the ex-Catholic, now atheist, editor of La Repubblica (“Italy’s largest-circulation daily”, according to Rocco Palmo) and there has been wailing and gnashing of teeth over it, not all of it from the extreme Right fringe either.

    I’ve been enjoying myself way too much sticking up for Francis in answer to the sincere worries of some of my fellow conservative Catholics, and honestly, I have no idea why I’m so relaxed. I should be tearing my hair out. I would have been, formerly (I sympathise with the plaints of “Doesn’t he realise what these remarks will sound like when they’ve been splashed all over the papers and TV?”) but somehow I’m not worried.

    I suppose I can’t believe just yet (until he does something irrevocably and provably heretical or heterodox, not just difference in emphasis) that he’s the worst calamity to hit the Church since whatever the last worst calamity was and that this marks the beginning of the end, when next week we’ll be having the ordination of married lesbian transgender women priests in the Sistine Chapel before he sells it off to the Communist Party of Italy.

    :-)

    • Dan Crawford says:

      Martha is much too kind to the concerns of conservative Catholics about Francis – they’re really upset about his concern for the poor, the marginalized, the ones who have to struggle to live in societies obsessed with money and power. American Catholic prelates who aren’t happy with Francis have already made it clear that the issue is his implied criticism of the support they gave to politicians who believe that those who can’t afford access to medical care should prepare to die. Sadly, for them, such ideas have been contrary to the thinking of recent Popes – including JP II and Benedict XVI.

      • Dan, the Catholic bishops in the United States are overwhelmingly supportive of universal healthcare. Their objection is to not having a conscience clause for those opposed to abortion and birth control. When I read what the USCCB publishes, I see a body of work that is essentially very liberal, some might say socialist, and pro poor.

    • Christiane says:

      Why are people surprised that Francis is a champion for the poor?
      And when was being an advocate for the poor really the same as being a ‘liberal’ or ‘socialist’ ?

      For years, the conservative Christian right has negatively defined the words ‘liberal’ and ‘socialist’ so as to serve the purposes of a certain political party and, for their base, it almost worked. Then along comes this pope and all of a sudden the right is highly agitated:
      ‘what IS this new teaching that the leader of the Roman Catholic Church is speaking’?

      And YES, we CAN be at ease because Francis is speaking what the Church has always known:
      that Christ Himself has a preference for the poor, the marginalized, the disabled, and the sick among us ;
      and that the Church is here now to serve and protect them against the exploitation and the contempt of the greediest who inhabit our world.
      Francis is pointing to Christ with a vibrant voice, not moderated out of concern for offending the ‘right’ or any political base. He is just being Francis . . . the man who in Argentina took a bus to work instead of a limo, who lived in a modest walk-up apartment and cooked his own meals instead of living in the Church’s more luxurious accomdations, who helped care for a disabled priest . . .

      The extreme conservative Christian right will likely spare no effort to diminish the enormous power of Francis’ voice for the poor. But this time, they may have more than met their match.
      How do you diminish what is already humble?

  16. When Pope Francis heard the comments from the Baptists Russell he was heard saying ” John I know but who is this Russell” ?

  17. Joseph (the original) says:

    re: the movie Grace Unplugged.

    sure, a sappy, saccharin-sweet kinda happy-clappy Christianese plot trying to be ‘hip’ & relevant to some version of young Christians somewhere out there in the wild world of today…

    {sheesh}

    but how about mention of the truly scary documentary God Loves Uganda? no mention of that exposé of what is going on in that African nation? Mufasa!!!

    Lord, have mercy… :(

  18. Having seen Gravity this past weekend with my daughter, I urge everyone to see it. It is a profound and wonderful movie, and actually deals with the question of faith to some extent. It’s notable that the Russian and Chinese space shuttles both have religious figures on their “dashboards” (a Russian icon, a Buddha statue), while all that’s seen in the destroyed American shuttle is a floating statuette of the Martian figure from Bugs Bunny cartoons. Reaching the end of hope, the female astronaut Ryan says, “I don’t know how to pray. No one ever taught me.” It is a very though-provoking movie in may respects — possibly because the director ISN’T American?

    • No thanks. Still has Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in it. Pass.

      But I’d recommend those with eyes to see and ears to hear go see Don Jon. It’s going to be important.