April 16, 2014

Saturday Ramblings 12.14.13

RamblerWe are at the end of another busy week here at the iMonastery. Wrapping paper, ribbons and bows have been flying freely. For a while we couldn’t find Martha until someone looked under the tree and saw a package wiggling just a little too much. No fear—we set her free and fortified her with a large glass of eggnog, so all is well. As a matter of fact, we have all settled down and are enjoying our eggnog—fat-free, as prescribed by Mother Superior Denise. Adam Palmer and Mike Bell baked some gingerbread men cookies, which are full of fat as prescribed by Betty Crocker. Christmastime is upon us. Now all we need is to watch Elf for the 26th time this month and the season will be complete. Well, all except for our Saturday morning ritual. Shall we ramble together?

Pope Francis continues to be rockstar popular. Time named the pope their Man of the Year. I’m sure there are conservative Catholics who are upset with the Bishop of Rome being pictured on the cover of Time. After all, they don’t want a pope who connects with so many people in so many ways, or so it seems. There is no pleasing some people.

But even Pope Francis is not the biggest name in all of history. That crown belongs to … oh come on, you have to ask? But Napoleon at number two? Really?

So there is a news babe on Fox by the name of Megyn Kelly. I say “news babe” because she can’t possibly be a journalist. Ms. Kelly “reported” this week that Jesus and Santa are both white men. “Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change,” Kelly said. “Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?” And she gets paid to say things like this? Really? Would someone please introduce her to the Middle East, where men and women are neither black nor white …

And continuing with that bastion of journalism, Fox News has a map showing where the “war on Christmas” is taking place across our God-forsaken land. So I click on the icon over the state of Oklahoma and it tells me of a happening in Frisco, Texas. Perhaps Fox should concentrate on the war on geography first.

Meanwhile, over at First Thoughts, Matthew Schmitz writes in praise of Xmas. And on HuffPo, Fr. Peter-Michael Preble says he used to be a War on Christmas crusader until he got some perspective.  I used to get peeved when one town after another would outlaw their Christmas display, then I started to see news reports of how Christians are being treated in other parts of the world and suddenly it all seemed so stupid. Your thoughts?

Ok, raise your hand if you didn’t see this coming. A Ten Commandments monument was erected outside of the Oklahoma courthouse last year. Now a group of self-proclaimed Satanists wants to erect their own statue next to it. And then a Hindu group petitioned to put up a statue to Hanuman, the monkey king. As Adam Palmer said, We deserved this.

And then there is FloridaIn protest of a Nativity scene at the Florida Capitol, Chaz Stevens has put up a Festivus pole with beer cans around it. Can we please just stop it all already? The Ten Commandments are no less Scripture if we don’t put up statues of them in front of courthouses and capitols, and Jesus is still Immanuel if we don’t put a manger scene in every city park. And if we do, then let’s not complain when Satanists and Hindus and Seinfeldites want their say as well.

Pat Robertson got an apology—and a donation—this week from a newspaper that reported, wrongly as it turns out, that Robertson raised money using a shell of a missions organization. Seems there is some good in this world after all.

And in a story first sent to us by First Lady (and Mother Superior) Denise Spencer, it seems that chimpanzees are not the same as people. The Nonhuman Rights Project filed three separate suits on behalf of four chimpanzees in New York state last week in a bid to secure for Tommy, Kiko, Hercules and Leo — all male chimps held in various parts of the state — the “right to bodily liberty.” Neither Denise or I made this up. But I will say that The Nonhuman Rights Project would make a great name for a rock and roll band.

Happy birthday greetings went out last week to Louis Prima; Ted Knight; Harry Chapin; John Bench; Tom Waits; Larry Bird; Flip Wilson; Gregg Allman; Dame Judi Dench; Donny Osmond; Michael Dorn; Deacon Jones; Dick Butkus; Jakob Dylan; Chet Huntley; David Gates; Booker T. Jones; Frank Sinatra; Dickey Betts; Neil Peart; Skunk Baxter; Ted Nugent; and Dick Van Dyke.

Wow. Look at all the great names who had birthdays this week. Ok, the people with the great names had the birthdays, and the great names just came along for the ride. You think I could only choose one for our bonus video this week? I narrowed it down to two. The great Dickey Betts (here with Chuck Leavell on piano) playing Jessica, and Tom Waits singing (I guess you can call it singing) about a Chocolate Jesus. Enjoy them both.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Has it occurred to nobody that the First Commandment prohibits…graven images?

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Probably not. You’re thinking of the Second Commandment.

      • And therein lies one of the many problems with such monuments. Different traditions number the commandments differently, with some placing the ban on graven images in with the no other gods stuff While others seperate them out. So not only does such a monument favour one particular religion, it can favour one branch of one religion.

      • And written words are not an image. The command concerns false worship, not some sort of prohibition against chiseling.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Meh, not so much.

          The reason why I believe those two commandments were given as separate statements were because they addressed two separate issues: the first commandment addressed polytheism; the second commandment addressed idolatry. Both are really closely related, and serve as perfect complements to each other as far as false worship (actually, the first four commandments address false worship), but there really are two separate statements.

          And, rhetorically speaking, words are images, same as pictures, sculptures and other forms of artistic expression. It all has to do with how that image is used. Is it explaining who God is, or is it a stand-in for God, so that we can point to it and say, “Hey, before you come into this building, know that this is who our God is”?

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Snide comments aside, Wexel, you’re right; the ban against making graven images as an embodiment of one’s faith is a theme that repeats itself throughout the Bible.

      I would get away, though, from just dropping the second (or first, depending on your faith tradition–thank you, Donalbain, for the reminder) commandment as the final word on this issue. In its proper context, the ten commandments were the prologue to a much larger contract that God make with the newly freed people of Israel. Consequently, the second commandment has been preserved for us, but it’s not really written to us as an immediate audience.

      That being stated, the reason behind the commandment is much more important than just the commandment itself, which is why this whole Nativity/Ten Commandments/Crucifix in public places thing really annoys me. It would be one thing if these symbols were actively used as tools to explain who God is, but they’re not. They’re being used to represent God, or one’s faith, at the expense of other faith traditions. Just like speaking in tongues, if there is no one to interpret the symbol, then its only purpose is to represent God and, in doing so, to contain and possess God.

      • +1

        Dana

      • I don’t agree with many things John Calvin taught, but I think he was spot on regarding the human mind being the true factory of idols. This agrees with what Jesus taught regarding what makes us unclean: not the physical elements that enter the body but the sinful desires inside. A statue, icon, or carved words are neutral. They are symbols, to which we attach either sacred or demonic meaning.

  2. Marcus Johnson says:

    So, yeah, Kelly’s statement was undoubtedly stupid, but in light of her “defense” last night, which really just made things worse, I have a couple more labels for her:

    1) It’s code for racism. If racism is defined as the attitude that certain racial identities possess qualities or characteristics that make them superior or inferior to other racial identities, what quality could possibly better for a racial identity than, “We got Jesus and Santa”?

    Normally, I would blame Kelly’s ignorance on the fact that she is just the standard blonde stereotype perpetuated by Fox News, but her delivery of that statement suggests something more dangerous: the fear that, by acknowledging Jesus as a Middle Eastern, first-century Jew, and Santa as a fictional character with Turkish origins, she would be surrendering two of the greatest qualities attributed to White racial identity.

    2) Let’s assume, though, that Kelly was only talking about a fictional Santa and the concept of Jesus, not the real-life, olive-skinned, hairy-chested, curly-haired men who would certainly wind up on a no-fly list just because of how they look. Let’s assume that Kelly only meant that Jesus, the way we worship Him, is as a White man.

    In that case, it’s not only racist, it’s also an endorsement of idolatry. The idea behind the second commandment and “no graven images” was supposed to be that God cannot be contained by, or represented by, physical objects or human characteristics. Saying that Jesus is White just for the sake of relating to him limits him, reduces him, makes him her possession that she can remodel to suit her individual preferences, like her car or her hourse, rather than her Savior.

    And what’s with her sad statement that the fact that the real-life historical Jesus was not White “is far from settled?” By who? Racist idolaters like herself?

    • I may be mistaken, but I believe that this was in response to a particularly racist piece in “Slate”, wherein it was suggested that a depiction of Santa as Caucasian was de facto oppression and racism against children of color, and that therefore, Santa should be depicted as a penguin as to not alienate or disenfranchise non-white kids.

      • You are mistaken. And you are pathetically lazy. It is VERY easy to find the actual article and respond to it honestly, but instead you choose to lie about it.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        Pattie, while I disagree with the solution which the Slate article suggested, the premise that “a depiction of Santa as Caucasian was de facto oppression and racism against children of color, and that therefore, Santa should be depicted as a penguin as to not alienate or disenfranchise non-white kids” is not, by any means racist. It doesn’t fit even the most basic, Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of racism, much less the more refined definitions prevalent in the social sciences. Now, if the writer suggested that Santa should be a Black man, because White people got enough symbols as it is, then I would feel free to drop the “r” word on her, too.

        That being stated, the solution to the problem is not to change Santa from White to Black, or back to his Grecian or Dutch roots, or to change him to a penguin. The solution is to admit he doesn’t exist, and to stop using him as an icon in the Christmas tradition and, instead, go back to celebrating Christmas as an extended time of worship and selfless giving (or, for our secular friends, as a time to reconnect with family and celebrate selfless giving).

        Given the better solution, though, maybe we should just celebrate Santa as a penguin. There’s still the impossible question, however, about how to convince children that Santa Penguin makes creative sense, since Santa is at the North Pole and penguins are at the South.

    • Of course it was racism. And when we got rid of racism it was “institutional” racism. And we got rid of that it’s now “white privilege,” or or ancestral guilt. It’s scapegoating, Marcus, and it’s an appetite for ritual sacrifice that is never sated. Find some casual, off-the-top-of-the-head statement someone made, whether 30 minutes or 30 years ago, “sense” some “latent” or residual racism in the remark, pull out hammers, nail victim to cross. Pat self-righteous selves on back for “fighting oppression.” Find next scapegoat. Repeat.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        We haven’t gotten rid of racism, not by a long shot, and White privilege is a term we use to better understand how racism works in certain societies, not just a phrase used to shame White people.

        And I wouldn’t call Megyn Kelly a “victim” by any means, much less a crucified martyr a la Jesus. She made a dumb comment that was a reflection on her lack of cultural or historical awareness and ignorance. Case in point: her claim for Santa’s whiteness were not based on his Dutch or Greek heritage, but on the “fact” that the Santa in Miracle on 34th Street and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade were also White. I’m not sure how that counts as evidence for anything except for that she make a stupid comment based on little to no education or experience.

        She’s not a scapegoat. She’s just a racist, and an apologetic one at that. Just because she’s not dropping the N-word or standing in front of a burning cross doesn’t mean that she hasn’t automatically associated certain characteristics to her own White identity which clearly make White the “winner” in the race superiority game that’s been going on ever since we came up with racial categories.

        • Marcus – +1 and then some!

        • Wow, you sound just like Jesus!

        • Wow. A pure rant in Cultural Marxism. Listen, Marcus, you are really good at being judgmental and calling others racist. You spend your life crucifying the Paula Deens and Megyn Kellys, you think you are superior and righteous, and you work hard to destroy my freedom. You always judge others, even those a thousand miles away on a TV, while never looking in the mirror at your own sin, as Christ commands.

          If I want to be a racist, and say Santa or Jesus is white, that is my FREEDOM. Your efforts to fire, crucify, and eventually – mark my words – imprison people who exercise free speech are a direct threat to MY FREEDOM, and people who try to take my freedom go to a lower Dantean circle than any racist. When the rest of us finally wake up to what you’re really up to – a power grab – you’ll have to learn to tolerate freedom.

          • Amen brother! Stand up against that imaginary persecution! Show the world you will not back down in the face of the imaginary Marxists who want to put you in prison!

          • This seems a tad bit paranoid, Clark. Just a tad.

            And doesn’t institutionalized racism undermine freedom? Or are you not concerned about that, because you imagine that it’s only somebody else whose freedom would be undermined by racism, not your own?

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            I am really good at calling someone a racist, because I have studied the term extensively and I know what it means and how it looks in 21st century America. I haven’t mentioned Paula Deen once in this post; that’s a discussion that has nothing to do with Kelly’s statement. And I’m not sure how calling someone a racist means that I’m limiting their freedom.

            I haven’t asked that we fire, crucify, or imprison Kelly, either. That’s the kind of tinfoil-hat paranoia that prevents people like me from feeling safe around people like you. You are allowed to be as free as you want to say what you want, and I’ll fight for your right to say what you wish (I have, by the way, and I have the military records to prove it). But if I believe that what you do or say falls under the definition of racism, I’ll say so.

            Now, do you have a substantive argument to present? I laid out a pretty detailed argument for why I thought Kelly’s statements were racist, and you basically went poo on yourself. How about a reasonable argument?

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            As someone that grew up in South Africa under apartheid, I damn well know racism when I see it. Kelly’s statement is racist. End of story.

          • +1

          • + 1, Marcus and Klasie.

    • Santa Claus comes from the Dutch tradition. I have no problem with him being depicted as other than Caucasian, as long as that is kept in mind. The original Saint Nicholas was from Asia Minor and could have looked like anyone; that area was the crossroads of the known world. Same as portrayals of the Baby Jesus – he was a Semite, and skin coloring varies; King David was described as “ruddy”, which probably meant he had red hair, or so I’ve read. It’s not likely Jesus would have been a blonde, but other than that, I think however he is portrayed, as long as it is respectful, is fine. The point is that he was fully human as well as being fully God.

      Dana

      • Back when he was alive I used to say our pictures of Jesus should look more like Yasser Arafat than the So Cal hippie that was typically shown. Never did go over very well.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:
  3. Good morning, Jeff. Who would you pick for second place as the “biggest name” in history? I don’t know who I would pick.

  4. WOW – Fox News makes all Christians look like idiots, I think it’s another reason why the world hates us. I’d sign a petition any day to boycott Fox News!

  5. Just to let everyone know, we are having some serious issues with spam right now. ‘Tis the season, I guess. If your comment doesn’t show up right away, please be patient. Or try it again in a few minutes. Thank you for understanding.

  6. Scott Fisher says:

    I am not a Fox News Fan or devotee, but I generally appreciate Megyn Kelly’s reporting. She is smart and often one who is willing to ask hard questions. I was disappointed in the term “news babe” being used. I agree that her statement about Jesus being white is ignorant historically and culturally. I supposed Lara Logan is also a “news babe” in your mind because she blew a major story on Sixty Minutes when she used an unreliable source. Let’s give Megyn a “mulligan” on this one! Seems like the Christmas Spirit kind of thing to do.

    • “News babe” is an insider term used for a pretty face who does not have strong journalistic skills. Megyn Kelly, like so many TV news anchors today, is simply an entertainer. There are not very many true journalists around these days, unfortunately. News equals “Entertainment Tonight.”

      Last night, Kelly said she was just trying to be funny. As I said, that is entertainment, not journalism. Thus, “news babe.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “News babe” is an insider term used for a pretty face who does not have strong journalistic skills.

        With two BIG credentials jiggling on her chest.

      • Sure Jeff, but if you work for CNBC or MSNBC (heck, for that matter, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC) then by default, you’re not capable of being a “news babe” and you of course have the highest level of journalistic integrity. Never mind Dan Rather (probably couldn’t spell the word “integrity”) or Martin Bashir, Chris Mathews, etc. This is just too easy.

  7. The Fox News bit just makes me angry because my elderly parents hang on every word just about anyone on Fox says. They and most of their friends.

  8. Scott Fisher says:

    Too broad of a brush regarding Kelly and I still don’t like the term. But that’s what keeps me coming back to Internet Monk. We can disagree and still respect each other! I am always stimulated in my thinking and challenged by the writers and the posts!

  9. Am I not the only one who feels like the Pope Francis hype reminds me of the evangelical circus and reality TV mega-hype?

    And for mega-hype, Duck Dynasty in the evangelical circus world has gone crazy. Now they are having Duck Dynasty nights at churches.

    • That Other Jean says:

      About the Duck Dynasty hype, I agree with you completely. About Pope Francis and reality TV/Evangelical circus, not so much. Pope Francis seems genuine in his humility and concern for other people, and perhaps even in his attempts to reform his Church–though it’s very early to give credit for that. The folks in reality TV and much of the Evangelical circus are in it for the money.

    • Dan Crawford says:

      The evangelical circus is vapid and self-promoting – I don’t believe that can be said about the Pope. If all the publicity compels some people to read what he says and attend to the Gospel, then I’m all for the Man of the Year.

    • Allen,
      While I respect Pope Francis, I agree with you about being uncomfortable with the hype about him in the media.

      Today I read an article in the religion section of the local paper which lauded the Pope and his efforts to change some of the focus of the Roman Catholic Church. It praised him for being savvy and canny about the media, and next paragraph for being transparently humble in his concern for the poor.

      Most of the time, savvy and canny do not travel very well together with humble and transparent; I’m not sure many in the media know that this is so, or would be able to discern why this Pope may, against the odds, indeed hold all of the aforementioned qualities together with integrity.

      In other words, I think that the media hype around the Pope very often does not know whereof it speaks, like the ever so brief “media hype” surrounding Jesus Christ that ended the day after Palm Sunday.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I’ve heard of Duck Dynasty Chia Pets (the chia grows beards), but DUCK DYNASTY NIGHTS AT CHURCHES?

      Do they pass out ZZ Top beards at the door?

  10. The controversy about monuments in Oklahoma . . . sheesh. I have two things to say about it. First, the monument builders display a naivete (a nicer word than ignorance, perhaps) as to HOW people come to belief in God or gods and what worship really is. Has anyone ever become a Christian/Satanist/Hindu from driving by a downtown monument? These monuments aren’t even shrines, which remind the faithful of many traditions to pause and pray. If they were, people would put them somewhere more peaceful and accessible. They are just an in-your-faith (Whoa! Freudian slip of the fingers?) challenge to the world at large.

    Second, some of the best Christmases I’ve ever celebrated were in semi-Muslim post-communist surroundings. The outside world went on with its business while our home was quietly decorated and carols were sung. A couple of years Eid came around the same time, so we had neighbors inviting us to celebrate with them. Some of the neighbors who became friends shyly wished us a happy holiday, too, No consumerism, no culture wars, just Christmas. And being surrounded by Muslims, atheists, and animists didn’t do us any harm at all.

    On another note, that American Conservative article was brilliant. My favorite line: “All overlooked that, for Catholics, economics is a branch of moral philosophy.”

  11. Thanks for the point over to the AC article. I for one am loving this new pope. And I think the author makes a good point that his have always been the position of the RCC. As for me, theologically I may be evangelical but politically I’m completely Catholic. Rock on Francis.

    BTW, I live on the opposite side of Missouri but it might be worth the drive over to OK to see a monkey statue.

  12. David Cornwell says:

    “My favorite line: “All overlooked that, for Catholics, economics is a branch of moral philosophy.”

    Which well it should be. One of the things that I love about the Catholic Church is that it has a “moral philosophy” aka known as “moral theology” or “Christian ethics.” (I’m not a Catholic, so if I’m wrong, please let me know.) Some of the new moral theologians are brilliant writers.

    It is a wide ranging topic and involves new ways of talking about Anselms “virtues,” fruits of the Spirit, violence, and a whole range of subjects (economics). So, for instance, when one speaks of abortion, it is addressed in terms of the violence committed against human life. Thus it is not limited to just abortion, but all acts of violence of one human against another. This is an example, which to me also shows to me the limitations of much evangelical theology. However there are now some Protestant moral theologians doing outstanding writing.

    Within Catholicism there is a fairly new publication “The Journal of Moral Theology,” a publication of Mt Saint Mary’s University, which considers the issues of this fascinating subject.

    • Can you point me to the Protestant writers?

      • David Cornwell says:

        Some of these have been influential across many church lines, whether Catholic or Protestant. One is Alasdair Chalmers who actually converted to Catholicism. MacIntyre, who is not strictly a theologian, but more bent to philosophy. However he has affected many with “After Virtue.” He has taught at Notre Dame and Duke.

        Geoffrey Wainwright is ordained in the British Methodist Church. He taught at Duke Divinity School until he retired in 2012. One of his important contributions is “Doxology: The Praise Of God In Worship, Doctrine, And Life: A Systematic Theology.”

        Richard Hays, another Duke Divinity professor, is a New Testament scholar and now Dean of Duke Divinity School. He is a United Methodist. I think his most important contribution in ethics is “The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethic.” He is a friend of, and has high praise for N. T. Wright.

        John Howard Yoder, a Mennonite, was an inspiration to almost all these writers. His best known work is The “Politics of Jesus.” He taught at Notre Dame for a period of time.

        Stanley Hauerwas taught at Duke until this year, when he retired. Before that he was at Notre Dame. He almost accidently read Yoder’s work, then sought him out, befriended him in Goshen, Indiana, and helped persuade Yoder to come to Notre Dame. Hauerwas is a United Methodist. However he has Mennonite and Catholic leanings and now attends an Episcopal Church. He refuses to attend a church regularly which does not take the Eucharist seriously. He has written scores of books, essays, and papers. Moral theology (Christian ethics) is his field and he has taught many, Catholic and Protestant.

        And I’ve just finished reading Harmon L. Smith’s “Where Two or three Are Gathered: Liturgy and the Moral Life.” This book’s purpose is to discuss the language of Christian worship and the language of morals. He points out how prayer, Eucharist, and baptism are tied to our moral understanding of issues such as war, physician assisted suicide, abortion, and much more. He has taught at Duke and is an Episcopal priest.

        Karl Barth’s teachings and writings were also in many ways the seedbed feeding many of these people.
        I’m sure I’ve missed some writers. There is an overlapping web that connects these theologians with others in the Catholic Church. I can’t help but think that this is good news.

        Sorry this became so long, but one needs some understanding of the names mentioned, thus the length

        • David Cornwell says:

          “Alasdair Chalmers” should be: “Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre”

        • No, I appreciate it all. I teach at a university and we have wonderful theology library. So I’ll print this off and start exploring the list after I get a couple of books I have behind me. Thanks again.

    • David Cornwell says:

      This was meant as a comment in response to Damaris’ post but somehow slid down.

      • @David…I am Catholic, and there is a consistent ethos within the Church. It is pretty much guaranteed to hack off damn near everyone politically!!! The left-leaning folks are unhappy with the Church’s position on marriage, contraception, abortion, and most other sexual ethics. Right siders are unhappy with the positions regarding the death penalty, treatment of the poor and underclass, and other economic issues. However much one may disagree, there is certainly an internal constancy to Church teaching!!

        • David Cornwell says:

          ” It is pretty much guaranteed to hack off damn near everyone politically!!!”

          To me this sounds like good news! It’s the Church being the Church.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          The left critique, or at least the more informed one, is not that the Roman church doesn’t take those positions on the death penalty and economic issues, but that puts its time and effort and moral capital into the sex issues. In other words, show me a bishop threatening to withhold the eucharist from a politician for his vote on war or aid to the poor. What is different with Pope Francis is what issues he concentrates on.

    • What you say is true. I recall, when first investigating the Catholic Church, an unexpected thrill when I stumbled on all the moral theology stuff. In my evangelical church, we used to talk about (and be preached at about) morality endlessly. But we never did the kind of systematic analysis and accounting of it that the Catholic Church has done.

      If there are Protestant writers tackling this kind of thing recently, more power to them.

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Ok, raise your hand if you didn’t see this coming. A Ten Commandments monument was erected outside of the Oklahoma courthouse last year. Now a group of self-proclaimed Satanists wants to erect their own statue next to it. And then a Hindu group petitioned to put up a statue to Hanuman, the monkey king. As Adam Palmer said, We deserved this.

    Wonder how much of this is just “Let’s Jerk Their Chain”?

    And if these “self-proclaimed Satanists” are just the local version of the Discordian Society? (Since Anton LaVey, “Satanism” has become a franchise brand name, just like Mars Hill and Acts 29. Plus, can you think of a better way to get a rise out of Culture War Xians?)

    And then there is Florida. In protest of a Nativity scene at the Florida Capitol, Chaz Stevens has put up a Festivus pole with beer cans around it. Can we please just stop it all already?

    Add another verse to Wild Man Fischer’s Xmas Classic:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjRpaWGv8k4
    “I’M A FESTIVUS POLE!
    I’M A FESTIVUS POLE!
    I’M A LOT LIKE
    A SEINFELD XMAS TREE!”

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      ‘Wonder how much of this is just “Let’s Jerk Their Chain”?’

      In the case of the Satanists and the Festivus pole, all of it: those aren’t real things apart from the chain-jerking. As for the Hindu statue, Hindus in India certainly do place statues of gods around and about, but I strongly suspect that responding to the Ten Commandments monument was the proximate motivation. In none of these cases does this undermine the underlying point being made.

  14. I love Francis’ turn of phrase,”“globalization of indifference””. It is so apt when we look at society as a whole.

    After watching a European film I was disturbed by the general tone of the film, so I asked a British friend of mine why it was that Americans still argue about some moral issues that Europeans just let pass with indifference. He said “Because we (Americans) still care.”

    Francis is right to attack the casual way that most societies treat traditional moral issues, not just sex, but economics as well. Both left AND right ignore the results of the “morality” of their ideas. Neither are correct in their assumptions.

  15. I recommend the “Get Religion” blog, in the last year moved to Patheos. The purpose of the blog is to highlight how religion is actually behind much news, but is rarely covered. The crew there also highlight good religion reporting. Because of their purpose, there is a good sampling of religion news from around the country/world; one can find out more information through links, etc.

    If you read “Get Religion,” you know that The Guardian is not really to be trusted for its sources. Newspapers in Europe don’t subscribe :) to the neutral point of view we advocate in this country. If you want to read good religion reporting in an English paper, the column by the Times’ Ruth Gledhill is just about the best.

    Dana

    • I really don’t recommend it. The Get Religion blog should really be called “Get Right Wing American Politics”

      • It has never struck me that way.

        And I still think Ruth Gledhill is a very good religion writer.

        To each his own.

        Dana

    • re. the Guardian, Independent, etc.: ???!

      I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here, Dana.

    • Neutral? EVERYONE, especially journalist, have a bias, one way or the other. For any of them to say that they are neutral only distracts from their blind spots, of which there are several.

  16. So Saturday Ramblings is becoming Saturday bash Fox News, Right Wing American Politics, Dave Ramsey, Kelly Meygn, Mark Driscoll, Rush…blah, blah,blah. After all, they are the only stupid, racist, jerks left in America. It’s amazing for guys who use to listen to Rush or watch Fox News are able to give us their most recent statements. I searched Martin Bashir on InternetMonk and came up with 0 hits. Since Martin isn’t on Fox News evidently he hasn’t said anything that deserves comment on Saturday Ramblings. I don’t get a chance to listen to Rush or watch much of any news channel but if a guy talks for 15 hours a week or a news channel that’s on 24 hours a day doesn’t make a crazy statement occasionally they would be perfect.

    • YUP! This is what makes this site a “once in a while” instead of a “start your day” read for me these days. Blind spots are called blind spots for a reason.

    • Jeff collects this stuff during the week, Don, partly from what he sees and partly from what people send to his attention. I hope you’ll feel free to send him things that catch your eye during the week. It’s hard for any one person to be universal. If others chip in, it can only help. Plus it’ll help Jeff in his busy life.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      Fish in a barrel…..

    • Spot on Don. I used to think it was sad what happened to this site, but now I find it most amusing. It’s pure gold to sit back and watch the oh so smart elites tell the rest of us how enlightened they are.

  17. On the Ten Commandments, monument or not, you would never know that this is Scripture by asking Christians to name them. Most Christian kids, and I suspect their parents, also, cannot name them in any form or order.
    We fight for symbols while the essence evaporates.
    Maybe Christians should be concerned about that. http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/teaching-children-the-ten-commandments/

  18. I’m going to speak up for the lowly chimpanzee, an innocent part of God’s creation whose contacts with humans have been a disaster for that species. Chimpanzees somehow manage to refrain from putting humans in cages for decades, from chaining them by the neck to poles, and from injecting poisons into humans just to see what happens. So, no, champanzees aren’t humans, but I believe humans would do far better if they could bring their own behavior more into line with that of their simian cousins.

    Or is that the point here: Most people here don’t believe we humans evolved from apes, and to emphasize that point it is necessary to chuckle at the unhappy lot of the apes we’ve managed to catch and cage? I doubt anyone here is actually in favor of animal cruelty, but some of us do seem to need mockery to distance ourselves from obvious examples of it.

    • So many things I’d like to say but ‘thank you’ will have to suffice.

    • H. Lee – many thanks from me as well.

    • a P.S.: I believe that we de-emphasize compassionate treatment of other species (here in the US) and should really be focusing more on this in our theology (well, make that “theologies”). I’ve come to regard this issue in a whole different light in recent years, due to personal involvement with rescued animals.

      I have a rescue rabbit living here with me. Rabbits are highly intelligent creatures, contrary to most of what passes for “knowledge” – see http://www.rabbit.org for more. (A house rabbit site, btw, not an animal rights activist site.)

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      >I’m going to speak up for the lowly chimpanzee, an innocent part of God’s creation whose

      I would not describe them as “innocent”. They are part of God’s creation, I do not know if guilt or innocence is relevant to them.

      > contacts with humans have been a disaster for that species.

      And many many others.

      > Chimpanzees somehow manage to refrain from putting humans in cages for decade

      This is not fair. Chimpanzees do now know how to build cages, nor possibly do they have the vision to imagine the outcome of such practices. So it is not a choice on their part.

      > So, no, champanzees aren’t humans,

      Agree

      > but I believe humans would do far better if they could bring their own behavior
      > more into line with that of their simian cousins.

      I completely disagree. Chimpanzees and many other high-order animals are no peace loving innocent fern-gully dwellers. They can be violent and dangerous – very much like us. Both species would be much better off if the humans acted much less like them and aspired to the full manifestation of our unique gifts.

      > Most people here don’t believe we humans evolved from apes,

      I do. The evidence has been compelling for some time and with recent genetic studies and recovery of ancient DNA the evidence is simply incontrovertible. Avoiding the conclusion of human evolution requires intellectual gymnastics of an olympic level [and, btw, I am completely disinterested in discussing that issue unless someone has a peer-reviewed refutation of that evidence. Of which there are none].

      It is truly grievous however the callousness of the greater Christian community to creation and all of its inhabitants. Corruption in institutional religion does not bother my faith one whit – that is to be expected of human endeavor. The circus of Evangelicalism can be put aside – it is embarrassing, but nothing new or unique. That racists and partisans hide behind the cloak of religion also does not bother me – they will always hide behind whatever cloak is available [they will just as stubbornly use Progress, or Marx, or 'the arts', or stand naked for all to see if Ayn Rand is currently in vogue]. But the ***pervasive*** dismissal of concern for God’s creation and *all* it’s inhabitants is something that constantly troubles me. The view that the welfare of other creatures – by proxy of the environment they inhabit – can be dismissed with the wave of the hand seems embedded in nearly every sub-sect of Christianity. No amount of data or math with move it, none of it is even deemed worth hearing.

      Our increased knowledge has taught is so much. But our morality [and laws] seem to have barely budged in light of it. Partly this may be due to extremism. Opposite of Christianity’s out-of-hand dismissal of the quality of other beings is the claim that creatures are on the same level as men – a claim that seams equally incredible. But it seems to be the plague of modern thought, or at least American thought, to demand that to every query there must be a two-party multiple choice answer. A creature is a Human or it is nothing at all.

      If you say [as I do] that the dog to which I am a custodian is a “person”, people can only hear that as saying my dog is “human”, which is absurd. But I mean a “person” as in aware that it itself exists and aware that others exist as themselves [the recognition of agency, or theory-of-mind, which ever you prefer]. Certainly that is at least the root nub of any moral notion. Even possessing that root nub merits some crumb of dignity. And it quickly turns into a moral challenge to myself – how often when tired or irritable to I show others of my own kind [who are only a little lower than the angels] less patience and charity than I would regularly grant to that dog.

      But when we have creatures all around us [such as the dog] which reliably pass scientific tests for theory of mind, object persistence, persistent memory, empathic learning, and even some notion of fairness… can we in good conscience continue to use the concept of “mere beast”. We should recognize some ordering of things, and some humility that that ordering may not be as clear as we first think it might me.

      Man was made a little less than the angels. And we have long imagined that beneath us was a great gulf until be at least reached the beasts. Perhaps that chasm is not as wide as we have imagined. Why does that notion trouble so many people? They are less than us, but how much less [and how much do we over value ourselves - for contrary to popular imagination violence within a wolf family is almost unheard of (they do not 'vye for position). Yet in our own families...). We can be unspeakably savage.

      It would seem, at least to me [but clearly I am odd-man-out], religion would generally embrace this. Isn’t part of religion, and certainly Christianity, the looking to the heavens and wanting [if not demanding] to be seen in return. I suspect what motivates much of science fiction is the same – the desire [or hope, for some] to meet something that can look back into our eyes and *see us*. The notion of humanity alone floating in a cold abyss with all of our words radiating out into impenetrable silence – is there anything more horrible?

      I recall the story told by a lady who while diving encountered a sperm whale. At first there is the fright of this unbelievably massive creature with cavernous jaws RIGHT THERE next to you [and to those who do not dive - big things are big, a big thing underwater with your clumsy human body and fragile contraption - is like encountering the leviathan]. And it turned and looked at her with a giant eye, and then she saw it. She at least was certain – beyond any doubt whatsoever – that it did not merely look at her – but it saw her. There was inquisitiveness in that gaze. How she could quantitatively tell I cannot answer, but she was 110% convinced. But how do you see compassion, affection, or contempt in a gaze?. Generally I would never dare to share such a story in Christian circles, it would be dismissed out of hand. That lady was clearly a sentimental fool.

      It would be a great relief if some theologian of note would consider the torrent of research data on this manner. I do not know how you adapt what is in scripture to this knowledge. This task needs a great and well-read mind.

      • Wonderful thoughts, Adam. I’m afraid that our entire technological planetary civilization is deaf to your words, but it shouldn’t be, and I especially wish Christians would hear and acknowledge the truth of what you’re saying.

      • Good points indeed.

        The world is a far bigger place than we think, and teeming with life that has very little, if any, interaction with us humans. We make ourselves out to be the center of the world’s activity, when in fact, our share in it is really quite small.

        It’s not all about us. And I am certain that the whale “saw” the woman, probably in ways that would be too much for our pride if we knew about them.

      • I love your points. Don’t present me with any arguments, just take my word for it. That’s beyond rich.

        I love what this site has become, I really do. It provides me with great comic relief during my day.

  19. Sigh….nice strawman Jeff (conservatives don’t want a Pope who connects with so many people in so many ways). We just get a kick out of the MSM fawning all over the guy because he’s made a few commentst that they misunderstood.

    I love how Benedict XVI also regularly snuck out at night to serve the poor but that went unreported, since the MSM had already written the narrative that he was evil, for you know, believing what Catholics had always believed.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Proof once again that some people see the glass as half full, while other people claim that the fact that the glass is only partially full is proof positive that the liberal mainstream media conspired to deprive us of water, and they probably lined the glass with poison, and back in the day, you could always get a full glass but the water has been withheld by the gays and Lutherans and where is Michael Spencer Ron Paul 2012 they took r jobs…

      Like I said, haters gonna hate…