Archive for September, 2011


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Anglicanism’s Global South primates just concluded a meeting in China and issued their usual communiqué.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

13. We are wholeheartedly committed to the unity of Anglican Communion and recognize the importance of the historic See of Canterbury. Sadly, however, the Anglican Communion’s Instruments of Unity have become dysfunctional and no longer have the ecclesial and moral authority to hold the Communion together. For instance:

13.1. It was regrettable that the Lambeth Conference 2008 was designed not to make any resolutions that would have helped to resolve the crisis facing the Communion.

13.2. The Primates’ Meeting in Dublin in January 2011 was planned without prior consultation with the Primates in regard to the agenda. There was no commitment to follow through the recommendations of previous Primates’ Meetings. The responsibility given by all bishops at the 1988 and 1998 Lambeth Conferences for the Primates’ Meeting to “exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters” seems to have been completely set aside.

13.3. The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the Anglican Communion Standing Committee, and Communion-level commissions such as the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) and the Anglican Communion Liturgical Commission no longer reflect the common mind of the churches of the Communion because many members from the Global South can no longer with good conscience attend these meetings as issues that are aggravating and tearing the fabric of the Communion are being ignored.

14. We have devoted much time to discuss the Anglican Communion Covenant and the Preamble by the Province of South East Asia documenting the historical events leading up to the Covenant and insisting that the Primates should be the proper moral and spiritual authority for the monitoring of the Covenant. The Covenant with the Preamble have been commended to our respective Provinces for further study and decision.

Global South primates?  None of us have any doubt in our mind that all of you love God as much as it is possible to love Him.  We also know that all of you loyally serve both Him and His only begotten Son in conditions that would terrify many an effete, comfortable western Anglican. 

Many of you see more of your brothers and sisters in Christ die for the faith once delivered unto the saints in one year than any of us in the West have seen in our entire lives.  So please don’t take these four words the wrong way.

That ship has sailed.

We don’t need another description of the current Anglican situation.  Most of us know what the current situation is and have for at least five years or so.  And we know that the West has broken the “instruments of unity” beyond repair.

The question is what conservative Anglicans do about it.

You “are wholeheartedly committed to the unity of Anglican Communion and recognize the importance of the historic See of Canterbury,” do you?  Good for you.

Rowan Williams is not on your side and never has been.  One could make the case that Dr. Williams’ passive-aggressive actions or non-actions since this controversy began indicate a hostility toward your view of the Gospel. 

You correctly point out that Rowan Williams gamed the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the single most important meeting in Anglican Christianity, so that the one, overarching Anglican controversy, the thing that was tearing the Anglican world apart, would not only not be solved, it would not even be addressed.

“The responsibility given by all bishops at the 1988 and 1998 Lambeth Conferences for the Primates’ Meeting to ‘exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters,’ seems to have been completely set aside” at the 2011 Dublin Primates Meeting. 

Seems to have been?  Correction.  Was.

And you know something?  Merely “insisting that the Primates should be the proper moral and spiritual authority for the monitoring of the Covenant” and leaving it there isn’t going to get that primatial power back any time soon.

I’m glad that you go on to say that your provinces intend to work toward self-sufficiency.  Anything that reduces the pernicious influence of the Americans and Canadians is all to the good. 

But all of you desperately need to realize something.  The See of Canterbury is part of the problem; Rowan Williams is not your friend, he never has been and he doesn’t respect you or your theology.  And if Dr. Williams does quit next year, his successor will probably not be your friend either.

What do you do about it?  Fact of the matter is that, having put action off as long as you have, your options are extremely limited.  You could bring Bob Duncan and/or Donald Harvey to the next international Anglican gathering, demand that they be admitted and make a very public show of walking out if they are not. 

You could elect a shadow Archbishop of Canterbury, if you like, whose theological views are more in line with your own and proclaim your allegiance to him.  But the point is to finally do something about the Current Unpleasantness other than talk about it.

Because to paraphrase an old American pop song to which, borrowing a line from Oscar Wilde, you’d have to have a heart of stone to listen to without laughing, “Tin bishops and Schori coming.  You’re finally on your own.”


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, September 19th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Come to find out that the wife of former congressman Anthony “Natural Casing” Weiner isn’t all that fond of this country:

Yet where was Mr. Weiner during this race? Well, The American Spectator has had its investigative team following him and they report from posh Positano, Italy, along the Amalfi coast, that last week he dined with his wife Huma Abedin and a very cosmopolitan party at a very upscale restaurant, La Sponda. Mr. Weiner appeared subdued, but Huma was rather vociferous and denouncing the prudery of America to her polyglot companions. She objected to the provinciality of America, talking about the country as though this were 1924 and Anthony Comstock were burning licentious books. Apparently her dinner mates approved of her husband’s hobby. Maybe it was an international photography club for exhibitionists, though our crew reports that all were fully dressed.

Which is odd considering what her job is.

Of course Huma is a State Department employee, and an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has had many of the same problems with her hubby.

Or maybe not so much.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, September 19th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

The Arab Spring, ladies and gentlemen:

 A major Jewish holiday appears to have become the latest victim of strained Israel-Egyptian ties.

Israel’s Agriculture Ministry says Egypt has banned the export of palm fronds to Israel and Jewish communities abroad. The fronds are used in prayer services during the upcoming Succoth festival.

The ministry says it was notified by Egypt this week. Egypt supplies about 700,000 of the fronds to Israel each year. It says no reason was given. There was no immediate comment from Egypt.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, September 19th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 22 Comments

I wish Haley Barbour was running for US president.  Not because I think he is closest to my views on the various issues of the day; I’d just relish the idea of northeastern US liberal heads exploding at the possibility that the most powerful nation on Earth might be led by a Mississippian. So people like me have to take whatever we can get.  Gail Collins of the New York Times is not at all happy about the prospect of an proud Texan winning the top job next year:

You think of Rick Perry, you think of Texas. And more Texas. Perry the cowboy coyote-killer, the lord of the Texas job-creation machine, the g-dropping glad-hander with a “howdy” for every stranger in the room. He barely exists in the national mind outside of the Texas connection.

The difference is that Perry obsesses about Texas, too. On the campaign trail, he’s the ambassador from the Lone Star State, promoter of the Texas Miracle, filtering almost everything through a Texas prism. On his maiden voyage through the Iowa State Fair, some hecklers were giving him a hard time, the typical hazing for a new face on the national scene, and Perry’s response was instinctive.

“That may not be an Aggie over there,” he yelled, pointing at a heckler.

Aggies are alums of Perry’s alma mater, Texas A&M. Not a group you normally see a whole lot of in Des Moines.

Then he was off to talk some more about economic growth in Texas. And lambaste the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, by saying that he would be treated “pretty ugly” in Texas. Some aides seemed surprised to find this was not regarded as presidential language, since Perry says that kind of thing in Texas all the time.

Perry comes to the race with a remarkable lack of national experience and exposure. The only recent equivalent would probably be Sarah Palin, and it’s not surprising that Texas and Alaska would produce the people with little frame of reference outside of their home states. Both places are huge, so it’s easy for people who live there to think they’re in a self-enclosed world. If Texas or Alaska had the population density of New York City, either one could contain every person on the planet, although of course a lot of them would be very uncomfortable.

We have had several Texas presidents, but none so deeply, intensely Texas as this guy would be. (Walking on the stage with the other debate candidates, Perry is so much broader of chest and squarer of shoulder and straighter of spine than the rest of the pack that he looks as if he might have been stuffed.) Dwight Eisenhower, who was born in Texas, moved out before he was 2. Lyndon Johnson had long since become a man of Washington when he entered the White House, though he worried that Northerners would make fun of his twang — which they sort of did. George H. W. Bush was basically an Easterner who had moved to Texas for his job. His son was much more of a Texas product, but his parents sent W. off to boarding school to erase some of the evidence.

While MoDo is, well…MoDo.

Rick Perry, from the West Texas town of Paint Creek, is no John Wayne, even though he has a ton of executions notched on his belt. But he wears a pair of cowboy boots with the legend “Liberty” stitched on one. (As in freedom, not Valance.) He plays up the effete-versus-mesquite stereotypes in his second-grade textbook of a manifesto, “Fed Up!”

Trashing Massachusetts, he writes: “They passed state-run health care, they have sanctioned gay marriage, and they elected Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Barney Frank repeatedly — even after actually knowing about them and what they believe! Texans, on the other hand, elect folks like me. You know the type, the kind of guy who goes jogging in the morning, packing a Ruger .380 with laser sights and loaded with hollow-point bullets, and shoots a coyote that is threatening his daughter’s dog.”

At a recent campaign event in South Carolina, Perry grinned, “I’m actually for gun control — use both hands.”

Traveling to Lynchburg, Va., to speak to students at Liberty University (as in Falwell, not Valance), Perry made light of his bad grades at Texas A&M.

Studying to be a veterinarian, he stumbled on chemistry and made a D one semester and an F in another. “Four semesters of organic chemistry made a pilot out of me,” said Perry, who went on to join the Air Force.

“His other D’s,” Richard Oppel wrote in The Times, “included courses in the principles of economics, Shakespeare, ‘Feeds & Feeding,’ veterinary anatomy and what appears to be a course called ‘Meats.’ ”

He even got a C in gym.

Perry conceded that he “struggled” with college, and told the 13,000 young people in Lynchburg that in high school, he had graduated “in the top 10 of my graduating class — of 13.”

It’s enough to make you long for W.’s Gentleman’s C’s. At least he was a mediocre student at Yale. Even Newt Gingrich’s pseudo-intellectualism is a relief at this point.

Our education system is going to hell. Average SAT scores are falling, and America is slipping down the list of nations for college completion. And Rick Perry stands up with a smirk to talk to students about how you can get C’s, D’s and F’s and still run for president.

Perry told the students, “God uses broken people to reach a broken world.” What does that even mean?

Don’t hit church much, do you, MoDo?


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, September 17th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 75 Comments

I think it’s safe to say that Joanna Brooks doesn’t get Get Religion’s Terry Mattingly.  Commenting on a GR post about the Mormon view of Mary, Brooks starts out:

I read with interest this week a column by Get Religion’s Terry Mattingly taking to task a Guardian UK religion blogger named Tresa Edmunds for using the word “worship” to characterize Catholic views of Mary in her article “Why Mormons Do Not Worship Mary.”

Edmunds, an observant Mormon feminist who regularly blogs about Mormonism, used Catholicism as a more familiar point of reference for comparing and contrasting Mormon views on the mother of Jesus Christ.

Brooks wants you to know just how nefarious Mattingly is.

Mattingly, an Antiochan Orthodox religion journalist whose Get Religion blog “work[s] with the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life and a philanthropist… with the byline Roberta Green,” has made the criticism of minor usage errors a major concern as of late (Roberta Green is Roberta Green Ahmanson, who, along with her husband Howard Jr., is a significant donor to conservative Christian political causes). For their “sins” in using the term “worship” in place of the orthodox term venerate, Mattingly criticized Edmunds and the Guardian’s copy editors, calling them “ridiculous.”

Ahmanson money, huh.  That pretty much invalidates everything Mattingly has to say about everything then.  Now if Terry just took George Soros money, he’d be fine.  And how does Joanna respond to the whole “worshipping Mary” concept?  With some of the most embarrassing writing I’ve ever seen about pretty much anything at all.

But Mattingly’s piece reminded me of the day I sat in the back pew of a Catholic church on the eastside of Austin, Texas, with my friend Rose, who is Tejana and Catholic. Pointing to a gorgeous mural of a dark-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe that spanned the cathedral chancel, Rose smiled at me conspiratorially and said, “I bring my kids here to see God as a big, brown-skinned woman.”

Don’t tell Rose that she doesn’t worship Mary, or that she doesn’t “get” Catholicism, as heretical as her feminist Tejana take on it might be.

Joanna?  Kitten?  I hate to be the one to break this to you but Jack Chick thinks that’s messed up.  Ian Freaking Paisley just called and and told me that he doesn’t want any of that.  Good Lord, lady.  Does Religion Dispatches have editors or people who will tell you when you’re making a public jackass of yourself, stuff like that?

If your friend Rose actually does worship Mary, she not only doesn’t “get” Roman Catholicism, she doesn’t “get” Christianity of any kind as Mary herself would be the first one to tell both of you.  But speaking of “getting” things.

It’s worth asking the question of what it really means to “get religion.” Religion scholars long ago acknowledged two valid perspectives on religious experience: one that focuses on religious institutions, their policies, their projects, and the “official” story, and another that focuses on the way religion is lived everyday in “unofficial” yet very real ways by common people of faith.

Should I tell Brooksie?  Or should I just let her keep digging?

Mattingly clearly cares about promoting precise descriptions of orthodox institutional religious doctrines and policies. But that doesn’t mean that he “gets religion” any better than the rest of us who report from the pews at the back of the worship hall, or from all of the unauthorized places—homes, schools, street corners, campuses, government—where religion wields major power.

Because it’s really not very nice to watch someone publicly humiliate herself like that.  Although, to be honest, this sort of thing is perversely fascinating.

A few weeks ago, Mattingly criticized RD for running my story on a recently-installed, openly-gay Mormon congregational leader in San Francisco. Get Religion insisted that this story on Mitch Mayne wasn’t really news, and that it was bad journalism to claim that Mayne’s call to serve indicated “evolving” views of homosexuality in Mormonism, because only orthodox institutional statements from high-ranking Church leaders count as evidence.

Okay, NOW we’re getting somewhere.  Joanna posted something on that World Wide Web thingamabob, someone actually criticized her online and she’s upset about it.   Her response was devastatingly effective, consisting largely of, “Yeah, well, the major argument in response has to be…SHUT UP!!

But as someone who’s been writing about Mormonism and homosexuality for 20 years, since I was an undergraduate at Brigham Young University, I stand by my observation that Mormon views on homosexuality are changing.

The “I was raised Catholic” argument, ladies and gentlemen.  The thing translates well, you have to give it that.

And so long as it focuses on defending orthodox institutional points of view, that’s one story Get Religion may never get.

I think we’re done here.  Joanna?  Snookums?  Get Religion was not established to determine who does or does not “get religion.”  This is why Get Religion was established.

Because those “minor usage errors” you casually dismiss up top there matter.  They matter quite a bit.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, September 17th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 30 Comments

Sometimes I wish I’d gone to law school.  Because if I had, I would, right about now, be positively salivating at the prospect of suing the city of San Juan Capistrano, California back to the Stone Age:

A city best known for its historic Catholic Mission is facing a lawsuit from a couple cited by code-enforcement officers for holding a Bible study in their home.

Chuck and Stephanie Fromm paid $200 in fines after receiving at least two citations from the city of San Juan Capistrano. They appealed the tickets to a hearing officer who sided with the city, leading to the August 31 lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court.

But according to city records, a code-enforcement officer gave the Fromms a verbal warning about the meetings in May. Citations were issued in May and June, according to city records. San Juan Capistrano City Attorney Omar Sandoval said the city had not yet been served with a copy of the legal action, so he could not comment.

The Fromms’ citations say they violated section 9-3.301 of the Capistrano Municipal Code, which prohibits “religious, fraternal or non-profit” organizations in residential neighborhoods without a conditional-use permit. The footnote on the section says it “Includes churches, temples, synagogues, monasteries, religious retreats, and other places of religious worship and other fraternal and community service organizations.”

In other news, the swallows have decided to begin returning to Rancho Cucamonga instead of San Juan Capistrano.  “It’s nothing personal,” said a spokesbird.  “And we’re not ruling out going back to Capistrano at some point.  We just felt we needed a break from those over-officious douchebags.”


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, September 17th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 28 Comments

For the last couple of days, I’ve posted stuff that people actually care about so as a change of pace, I figured I’d start off the weekend with an item that interests absolutely no one.  If there’s been an inexplicable spring in your step lately and if the air where you live has seemed clearer and smelled sweeter, there’s a reason for it.  The Episcopal Organization’s House of Squishops are all in Ecuador:

It is through disaster that doors of the human heart and of social structures are opened, said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Sept. 15 during the opening, bilingual Eucharist of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops fall meeting here.

One hundred and sixteen bishops, some joined by their spouses and/or partners, are gathered at the Hilton Colon Hotel in downtown Quito for the Sept. 15-20 meeting.

Kate got this shot in.

“The labor of a new age began at September 11th. We saw new beginnings during [Hurricane] Katrina five years ago, and in Haiti 20 months ago. The destruction of Irene opened the people of the East Coast to something new — and Tom Ely [bishop of Vermont] and Bill Love [bishop of Albany, New York] will tell us something about the beginnings in their dioceses, particularly among the poorest and the weakest. Andy Doyle [bishop of Texas] can share something about the beginnings in the aftermath of fires in a state where the governor still thinks climate change is a fairy tale.”

Dear LORD, I miss Frank Griswold.  Now there was a heretic in whom there was no guile.  If Frank ever makes it to town and wants to take me up on this offer, dinner and the first three rounds are on me and that’s not a joke.  But whenever I read anything Kate says about anything at all, I always see, as Gertrude Stein once observed about Oakland, California, no there there.

The Hilton Colon Quito is a pretty nice hotel.  Some quick research indicates that it runs roughly $100 a night, give or take.  It’s not four-star but I certainly wouldn’t turn it down.  Then again, my idea of heaven is a dinner of hot dogs and baked beans garnished with too much hot sauce and washed down with a Corona or four in a Motel 6 in Tucumcari, New Mexico so consider the source.

But Kate?  If “climate change” isn’t “a fairy tale,” then why the goshdarn heck are you and the rest of the squishops flying thousands of miles and pumping all those greenhouse gases into the atmosphere just to have a meeting?  Has no one at Church Center gone and learned what “videoconference” means?

We have to physically meet in one place.  We have to exchange ideas and relate the successes of our ministries.  How 1995 of you.  If you’re not doing anything after you fly back from the Southern Hemisphere, ask one of your kids how to set up what I believe all the young people these days refer to as a “webcam.”

You can meet over the Internet.  And if Ecuador or other provinces can’t hack it, the Episcopal Organization is more than financially capable enough to provide the technology for them as well as to train them how to use it.

But we can’t worship over the Internet, can we?  Whenever two or three are gathered together in His name and all that?  I’m going to let that one go for the time being except to say that these days, the Internet makes “gathering together” a rather fluid concept so as far as worshipping over the Web goes, the jury’s still out.

We certainly can’t take the Eucharist over the Internet, can we?!!  True, but why do you think you need to?  This is a business meeting.  Never mind the fact that all of you don’t need to be there to begin with, you don’t need to be in the same room in order to hear about all the great stuff happening all over the Episcopal Organization these days.

But if you feel that you absolutely have to take Communion, here’s a thought.  Instead of taking it off by yourselves in your fancy hotel that most Ecuatorianos can’t afford to stay in for one night, never mind five, why not visit one of Quito’s Anglican churches and receive it there?  Not only can you display a little humility by taking the Eucharist from a common priest, you can actually rub elbows with all those least-of-these you always claim that you care so much about.

It’s a win/win.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Friday, September 16th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 39 Comments

I don’t want to beat the Pat Robertson controversy to death but it may interest Pat to know that at least one Episcopalian basically agrees with him:

“I’ve never heard of it put in quite that way before,” said the Rev. Frank Corbishley, Episcopal Chaplain at the University of Miami. But, “I would not judge a person for moving on with his or her life.”

Corbishley agreed with most of Robertson’s assessment, saying that if an Alzheimer’s-stricken wife “is not mentally right, she would not be hurt by [her husband] moving on. She’s oblivious,” he said.

However, Corbishley added that one should continue to provide care for his/her loved one, even if they end a relationship with divorce. “We do believe that, in principle, marriage is till death do us part.”

And now for the punchline.

“But life is a lot more complicated than that.”

Sometimes.  A man named Malcolm relates the following.

Years ago, a Christian friend of mine got married when both of them were in their mid-twenties. After a couple of years his wife was struck down with a brain disease that left her fit but with no knowledge of anything from about the age of five—she had no knowledge of my friend at all.

He cared for her for a year or so, but it became more and more difficult because she kept trying to escape from this stranger that she was being forced to live with. Eventually she had to move back home to be cared by her parents, who she did recognise, and he then looked after her as best he could for the next decade.

He did meet someone else, whom he did eventually marry, but it was after a year of talking to many experienced clergy, even the archbishop, about whether he could get divorced. This was amongst Sydney Anglicans, who have a high view of marriage and clergy will lose their jobs if their marriage breaks down.

So I agree Pat Robertson is an idiot for what he said, but rare exceptions can be made. While saddened, I find it hard to look down on my friend for what he did.

Exceptions like this one are not the problem.  These happen all the time.  But exceptions that morph into rules are.  There is a great gulf fixed between the circumstances of the case Malcolm relates and Robertson essentially stating that there is never anything wrong with divorcing a spouse who is Alzheimer’s-afflicted or brain-damaged or in a coma and marrying someone else so don’t feel bad about it.

I should hope that had Sydney’s Anglican archbishop at the time been confronted by a man who demanded, “You allowed Malcolm’s friend to get a divorce.  Well, my wife’s got Alzheimers.  Why won’t you let me divorce her and marry my girlfriend, you hypocrite?!  I promise that my wife will receive the best possible care for the rest of her days,” he would have politely but firmly been shown the door.  Because there’s a major difference between allowing an individual exception and establishing a general rule.

None of us are promised an easy drive in this life and some of the roads we have to travel are far rougher than the roads of others.  The title of this post has no “ifs” in it. 

But it has two “whens.”

Big ups to carl.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, September 15th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 32 Comments

We may well have finally seen the end of the public career of Pat Robertson.  Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology and also the senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, tears into the egregious Robertson:

This week on his television show Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson said a man would be morally justified to divorce his wife with Alzheimer’s disease in order to marry another woman. The dementia-riddled wife is, Robertson said, “not there” anymore.

Robertson’s idiotic statement wasn’t just Pat being Pat.  It was WAY worse than that.

This is more than an embarrassment. This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Because to a Christian, marriage means a whole lot more than merely having somebody to sleep with.

Marriage, the Scripture tells us, is an icon of something deeper, more ancient, more mysterious. The marriage union is a sign, the Apostle Paul announces, of the mystery of Christ and his church (Eph. 5). The husband, then, is to love his wife “as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). This love is defined not as the hormonal surge of romance but as a self-sacrificial crucifixion of self. The husband pictures Christ when he loves his wife by giving himself up for her.

Then Moore adds this devastating point.

At the arrest of Christ, his Bride, the church, forgot who she was, and denied who he was. He didn’t divorce her. He didn’t leave.

And if a man truly loves his wife, he could no more leave her than he could cut off his own arm regardless of what accident or disease had done to her.

A woman or a man with Alzheimer’s can’t do anything for you. There’s no romance, no sex, no partnership, not even companionship. That’s just the point. Because marriage is a Christ/church icon, a man loves his wife as his own flesh. He cannot sever her off from him simply because she isn’t “useful” anymore.

So it’s probably too much to expect someone as limited as Pat Robertson to understand truths like those.

Pat Robertson’s cruel marriage statement is no anomaly. He and his cohorts have given us for years a prosperity gospel with more in common with an Asherah pole than a cross. They have given us a politicized Christianity that uses churches to “mobilize” voters rather than to stand prophetically outside the power structures as a witness for the gospel.

But Robertson’s statement might actually be helpful if it reminds us all of something basic.

If our churches are to survive, we must repudiate this Canaanite mammonocracy that so often speaks for us. But, beyond that, we must train up a new generation to see the gospel embedded in fidelity, a fidelity that is cruciform.

Jesus tells us he is present in the weak, the vulnerable, the useless. He is there in the least of these (Matt. 25:31-46). Somewhere out there right now, a man is wiping the drool from an 85 year-old woman who flinches because she think he’s a stranger. No television cameras are around. No politicians are seeking a meeting with them.

But the gospel is there. Jesus is there.

Amen.  In other evangelical news Joni Eareckson Tada, who’s been a quadriplegic for 44 years, probably won’t be dropping by The 700 Club any time soon.

Any marriage has its challenges, but add a serious disability and they can, at times, seem overwhelming. This is why God instituted marriage as a lifelong commitment – Heaven knows it requires vows, solemn and serious, to weather a couple through the demands of disability.

I was dismayed when this week Pat Robertson said to a nationwide audience that Alzheimer’s disease is a kind of death that makes divorce justifiable. When a Christian leader views marriage on a sliding scale, what does this say to the millions of couples who must deal daily with catastrophic injuries and illnesses?

The left is justifiably making hay over this controversy and the right is angry, humiliated and ripping Pat Robertson a new one.  So congratulations, Pat.  More than just about any American right now, you’re a uniter not a divider.

Thanks to Frank Lockwood.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, September 15th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Skynet has become self-aware!!

On the September 14 edition of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” host Chris Matthews admitted to socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that it “sounds Marxist” but he truly believes that automation in the economy has killed jobs by replacing human clerks in CVS and camera operators at MSNBC with “robots.”

I don’t want to skip to your left on this but…. [W]hen I see automation, when I go to a CVS that used to employ a lot of people just above the poverty level, above the minimum wage. And you walk in there now, it’s all machines. Now it’s very convenient for the customer, it’s all machines. There’s a check-out machine, by the way, that talks to you and says ‘Don’t forget to put your CVS card in.”

And by the way, I used to have about seven or eight cameramen. I don’t have them anymore. It’s all automated, it’s all robots.

Everywhere we go is robots!

You used to go to a gas station, you’d have somebody would check your tires, check your oil. There ain’t anybody there, there’s nobody working at a gas station!


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, September 15th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Avoid overdependence on spell check.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, September 15th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 15 Comments

I realize that it’s been a very long time since anyone cared what Pat Robertson said or thought about anything at all so normally I wouldn’t waste any time on him.  But when you call yourself a Christian leader(or any other kind of Christian, for that matter) and you say something this stupid, this obscene, this far over the line and this far beyond the pale, you need to be slapped down hard.  Seems Robertson was answering a question from a viewer of his TV show the other day:

Pat Robertson advised a viewer of yesterday’s 700 Club to avoid putting a “guilt trip” on those who want to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer’s. During the show’s advice segment, a viewer asked Robertson how she should address a friend who was dating another woman “because his wife as he knows her is gone.” Robertson said he would not fault anyone for doing this. He then went further by saying it would be understandable to divorce a spouse with the disease.

“That is a terribly hard thing,” Robertson said. “I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things because here is a loved one—this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years. And suddenly that person is gone. They’re gone. They are gone. So, what he says basically is correct. But I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again. But to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.”

To say the least, Pat’s co-host was taken aback.

Co-host Terry Meeuwsen asked Pat, “But isn’t that the vow that we take when we marry someone? That it’s for better or for worse. For richer or poorer?”

The old fraud had a glib answer.

Robertson said that the viewer’s friend could obey this vow of “death till you part” because the disease was a “kind of death.” Robertson said he would understand if someone started another relationship out of a need for companionship.

“It’s really hurtful because they say crazy things,” Robertson said. “Nevertheless, it is a terribly difficult thing for somebody. I can’t fault him for wanting some kind of companionship. And if he says in a sense she is gone, he’s right. It’s like a walking death. Get some ethicist besides me to give you an answer because I recognize the dilemma and the last thing I’d do is condemn you for taking that kind of action.”

“A kind of death.”  Really.  The woman’s still breathing, still digesting food and can still see.  But she just not that great of a conversationalist anymore; hell, she doesn’t know who her husband is.  Or at least she’s no longer able to express it.

So since the old girl’s “kind of” dead, her husband has, as far as Pat’s concerned, nothing to be ashamed of if he divorces her and marries someone else as long as his first wife is taken care of.  After all, a person needs “companionship.”  And you can always check up on your ex once a month or so.

Reality to Pat Robertson; it’s entirely possible to find female companionship outside of marriage.  Happens all the time.  The person who I consider to be my best friend in the world is a woman I went to high school with and worked with but seldom see.  She and I exchange e-mails all the time.

There have to be married men at this guy’s wife’s facility whose wives have the same need for companionship that this guy does.  So here’s a thought; take one of them to a movie or a play.  Take one out to dinner.  Join her book club. 

Accompany her to one of her family weddings or invite her to one of yours.  Cook her a meal or let her cook you one.  Take a day trip somewhere.  The possibilities are endless.

Newsflash: none of those possibilities require divorce and remarriage, jackass.

Almost as if it was humiliated at merely having to report this story, Christianity Today went on to include an example of a man who has forgotten more about Christian marriage than Pat Robertson has ever learned.

Robertson McQuilkin faced a similar situation two decades ago. He decided to step down and end his 22 year tenure as president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary. Instead, he helped care full-time for his wife Muriel. She died in 2003 after suffering for 25 years with the disease. During the last decade, Muriel could not recognize her husband caregiver.

In a CT article written after his resignation from Columbia, McQuilkin explained his decision.

“When the time came, the decision was firm. It took no great calculation. It was a matter of integrity. Had I not promised, 42 years before, ‘in sickness and in health . . . till death do us part’?

I’ve mentioned before from that 1990 through 1992, I was unemployed and living with my father, a man with whom I had never been particularly close, while watching my mother die of Alzheimer’s one day at a time.  It was hell but my father and I got “lucky” in one respect.  Mom was a small, rather weak woman toward the end so she succumbed to pneumonia after only two years.

So the idea of watching your wife die every day for 25 years astounds me.  But despite the differences between the two of us, I know one thing about my dad.  If Mom had been more vigorous, if it had required 25 years and my father had been physically able to be there for her, he would have been there.

Every single day.  For as long as it took.

Funny thing was, my father stopped going to church at all long before all this.  My dad was not a communicative guy so the subject rarely came up but the few times that it did, such religious sentiments as he had definitely did not run not in a conservative or orthodox Christian direction.

So it’s all the more interesting, at least to me, that whether he knew it or not, my father understood what marriage is far more deeply and far more profoundly than a “serious Christian” like Pat Robertson.  Which says something about Robertson, I guess, but I’ll leave you to decide exactly what that something is.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

My mother was born in 1919.  She was four years old the last time a Republican represented New York’s 9th Congressional District.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 47 Comments

Dr. Ivar Giaever, who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1973 and who supported Barack Obama’s election for president, recently resigned as a Fellow of the American Physical Society.  The following e-mail explains why:

Sent: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 3:42 PM
Cc: Robert H. Austin; ‘William Happer’; ‘Larry Gould’; ‘S. Fred Singer’; Roger Cohen
Subject: I resign from APS

Dear Ms. Kirby 

Thank you for your letter inquiring about my membership. I did not renew it because I can not live with the statement below:

Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide as well as methane, nitrous oxide and other gases. They are emitted from fossil fuel combustion and a range of industrial and agricultural processes.
The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring.
If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.

In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible? The claim (how can you measure the average temperature of the whole earth for a whole year?) is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degree Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me is that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this ‘warming’ period.

 Best regards,

 Ivar Giaever

 Nobel Laureate 1973

 PS. I included a copy to a few people in case they feel like using the information.

Al Gore?  Get even more wood for the auto-da-fe.  You’ve got one more heretic to burn.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

By way of a comparison, Spengler would like us to consider the following:

A small country, its land reclaimed from a hostile nature, fights for survival against overwhelming odds for 80 years. Surrounded by enemies dedicated to its destruction, it fields the world’s most innovative army and beats them. Despite three generations of war, the arts, sciences and commerce flourish. Its population grows quickly while the conflict empties the failed states that surround it. And it becomes a beacon of hope for the cause of freedom.

But that country’s not the one you might think it is.

I refer not to Israel, but to the Dutch Republic of the 17th century, whose struggle for freedom against Spain set the precedent for the American Revolution. The final three decades of the Eighty Years War (1568-1648) coincided with the terrible Thirty Years War.

The results of that terrible time brought about a revolution.

In 1600, a million-and-a-half Dutchmen faced an Austrian-Spanish alliance with more than 10 times their population; by 1648, the people of the Netherlands numbered two million, while the Spanish and Austrians had perhaps a quarter of their people. Holland had become the richest land in the world, with 16,000 merchant vessels supplying a global trading empire, graced by artists like Rembrandt and Vermeer and scientists like Huygens and Leeuwenhoek.

The comparison, of course, is not an exact one.  For one thing, the Dutch faced far longer odds.

We might speak of the “isolation” of the Dutch at the outset of the Thirty Years War, although England backed them from the outset; that is why Philip II of Spain launched the Great Armada in 1588. Holland faced more formidable enemies than modern Israel; in place of the feckless Third World armies of Egypt and Syria, the Dutch fought Spain, the superpower of the 16th century, with the world’s best professional infantry bought with New World loot. The superior Dutch navy disrupted Spanish lines of communication, and a new kind of mobile infantry defeated the static Spanish square with continuous musket fire.

And Israel’s enemies have largely failed already.

The prospects for a formal peace are the worst since 1977, while Israel’s military position has improved. The Syrian army is too busy butchering protesters to attack the Jewish state, and the uncertain position of the Bashar al-Assad regime weakens its Lebanese client Hezbollah. Egyptian popular sentiment has turned nastily against Israel, but the last thing the Egyptian army needs at the moment is a war with Israel that it inevitably would lose.

Egypt is a failed state. It has no way out. Chinese pigs will eat before the Egyptian poor, as wealthy Asians outbid impoverished Arabs for grain. Egypt imports half its caloric consumption, and its foreign exchange reserves last week dipped below what its central bank called the “danger” level of $25 billion covering six months of imports, down from $36 billion before Hosni Mubarak was toppled.

The reported reserve numbers probably include Saudi and Algerian emergency loans. With no tourism and much of the economy in shambles, the country is sliding towards destitution; it barely can feed itself at the moment. What will Egypt do when its reverses are gone? Almost half of Egyptian adults can’t read, and the 800,000 young people who graduate yearly from the diploma mills are qualified only to stamp each other’s identity cards. It is not surprising that football rowdies attacked Israel’s embassy in Cairo last week.

And Turkey’s sudden hostility to Israel masks national weakness, not renewed national strength.

The rupture in Israeli-Turkish relations, in turn, reflects Turkish weakness as well as the fanaticism of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey faces a short-term squeeze and a long-term crisis. Erdogan won re-election last June more as an economic manager than as neo-Ottoman imperial leader, but his economic success rested on a 40% rate of bank credit growth, and a consequent current account deficit equal to 11% of gross domestic product, the same level as Greece or Portugal.

Add ethnic hostilities to that mix and you’ve got a state in rapid decline.

Turkey’s economic problems are a discomfort; its ethnic problems, by contrast, present an existential threat in the long run. In a quarter of a century, Kurdish will be the cradle-tongue of nearly half of all Turkish children, as Kurds have four to five children per family while Turkish-speakers have just 1.5. At some point, Turkey in its present form will cease to exist.  Kurdish nationalism is stronger than ever.

But like the Dutch, Israel seems to understand that this struggle will take a great deal of time.

Spain embargoed Dutch trade and succeeded in damaging its economy, although Dutch attacks on the Spanish fleets bringing treasure from the New World provided some breathing room. One by one, Holland saw its German and Danish Protestant allies beaten by Austro-Spanish alliance, and by 1625 was fighting alone. By the late 1620s, though, Holland was winning a war of attrition against overextended Spain, and could match the Spanish in the field.

The Dutch were smart and tough, but they beat the Spanish empire in large part by being better than their adversaries. The Dutch republic offered Europe’s first example of religious toleration. Iberian Jews and French Huguenot found refuge in Holland against religious toleration, and the skilled immigrants made invaluable contributions to the Dutch economic miracle – something like the Russian immigrants to Israel today.

When Dutch armies invaded the Spanish Netherlands (now Belgium) they offered religious freedom to the Catholics they absorbed. Countries that attract talented people have an enormous advantage over countries that drive them out.

Food for thought.

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