Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 64 Comments
Long-time readers of this site know that there are two Episcopalians that I don’t mention around here if I can possibly avoid it. One, of course, is former Newark Bishop John Shelby “KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!!“ Spong.
MCJ veterans have long since given up sending me e-mails with “Did you see what Spong just said?!!” in the subject line. Because I already know that whatever the megalomaniacal old fraud just said had nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity and was sneeringly contemptuous of anybody who holds anything close to a traditional view of the Christian faith, in whatever Christian church they find themselves.
The other is homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson, who is a homosexual, formerly of the Diocese of Nobody Ever Gave A Crap, Bitches, Shut Up. As most people figured out a long time ago, if you ever stand between Robbie and a camera, you run a considerable risk of a concussion when Robbie knocks you down and runs over you. Publicity is Robbie’s crack and I don’t want to feed his habit.
But every now and then, Robbie writes something so titanically and magisterially stupid that I’m forced to break my own embargo. In the Washington Post’s “On
No Particular Faith Of Any Truly Meaningful Kind” section, Bishop Stompy Foot is increasingly frustrated by the fact that the Roman Catholic Church refuses to be instructed by him:
Polling shows that ex-Catholics are the third largest religious group in the United States. Many Catholic laity are experiencing a painful disconnect between the official teachings and pronouncements of the Catholic hierarchy and what they believe in their hearts. It’s no wonder they are voting with their feet.
The Detroit Free Press recently reported on comments made by Edward Peters, who teaches Catholic canon law and was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 to advise the top judicial authority in the Catholic Church.
Peters stated that Catholic teaching makes it clear that marriage is between one man and one woman. He goes on to write, “Catholics who promote ‘same-sex marriage’ act contrary to ‘Catholic law’ and should not approach for holy Communion…They also risk having holy Communion withheld from them…being rebuked and/or being sanctioned.”
Allen Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit, offered this clarification: “For a Catholic to receive holy Communion and still deny the revelation Christ entrusted to the church is to try to say two contradictory things at once: ‘I believe the church offers the saving truth of Jesus, and I reject what the church teaches.’ In effect, they would contradict themselves. This sort of behavior would result in publicly renouncing one’s integrity and logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury.”
Which is bad and stuff.
I believe that using Communion as such a manipulative tool surely profanes the sacrament. Perhaps these Catholic leaders should revisit their church’s theology of the Eucharist. Reception of the body and blood of Christ at Communion is God’s gift to God’s people, not a reward for right behavior. We receive Communion not because we are worthy of it, but because God’s offers us the body and blood of Christ despite our unworthiness.
Two responses immediately suggest themselves. The first, of course, is, “Who the hell asked you, hot shot?” And the second is that before you suggest that bishops of another church than your own need to “revisit their church’s theology of the Eucharist,” you might want to learn “their church’s theology of the Eucharist” yourself.
I’ll give you a head start. Two words. The first one’s “real” and the second one is “presence.” If you teach that Christ is really there in the Eucharist, then indiscriminately giving the real Lord Jesus Christ to everyone who calls himself or herself a Catholic but who takes it upon himself or herself alone to decide what that means is, at the very least, hypocrisy and, at the very most, blasphemy.
After all, Judas didn’t get the very first Communion, did he, Robbie? And then, blissfully unaware of the trap he is walking into, Robbie plays this card.
While some are seeking to withhold Communion from pro-choice and pro-marriage-equality Catholics, I have heard no call to withhold Communion from priests and bishops who have engaged in horrific sexual abuse against vulnerable children, nor their enablers. Bernard Cardinal Law, whose administration actively facilitated the moving around of known pedophile priests to other unsuspecting parishes, has not been denied Communion, but instead been rewarded with a prestigious church in Rome.
Picked it up yet? You get another guess since Robbie doubles down.
It seems that the church hierarchy is sending the following message: two gay men or lesbians (not to mention their supporters) who want to vow a lifetime of commitment, monogamy and love should be denied Communion, but those who exploit vulnerable children (and those who facilitate their abuse) for their own sexual gratification are still welcome.
Here’s how to set fire to Robbie’s straw man. Lose the whole Bede Parry, you-did-it-too approach. Did the Roman Catholic Church botch its sexual abuse scandal? Undoubtedly as most Catholics will spend several relentless hours telling you. Should Bernard Law spend the rest of his days doing hard time in the hole? In a perfect world.
But here’s the difference. Show me where a Vatican official told anyone that the reason the Roman Catholic Church dealt with the scandal the way that it did was because American laws concerning sexual relations with little boys are morally reprehensible and hopelessly out-of-date. Point me to any place where someone guilty of these crimes defended himself by saying that he was oppressed because of his sexual orientation.
Because once your “church” has basically discarded the concept of sin, “evil” becomes whatever the majority decides that it is. And “evil” officially becomes meaningless.
Think I’m kidding? Read on. Seems Robbie is quite the Ragsdalian.
Those who make the excruciating and gut-wrenching decision to have an abortion (not to mention those who understand why this might be a moral choice) are barred from receiving Communion, but those prelates who live a lavish lifestyle far from the real-life, harsh circumstances some women face that might make such an abortion morally permissible are accepted at the Communion rail.
And there you have it. According to Robbie, if one sinner receives Communion in a Roman Catholic parish, everyone should receive Communion in a Roman Catholic parish, regardless of whether they agree with Roman Catholic doctrine or even consider themselves to be sinners at all.
Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 | Uncategorized | 39 Comments
One of the fiercest debates among Anglican scholars concerns a single question. Can an Anglican bishop write a sermon so dense that no useful information can escape from it?
I used to be extremely skeptical of such an idea. After all, as many of you know, I spent a lot of time analyzing the sermons of Frank Griswold. Frank may be a heretic but Frank is a heretic in whom there is no guile. You always knew where you stood with Frank and he could communicate the Episcopal religion clearly, concisely and effectively.
But I’m starting to rethink my position.
I don’t know how any of you observed Earth Day this year but since I have all kinds of time on my hands these days, this is how I observed it. I drove my gas-guzzling [Note to self: at the next meeting of MCJ Corporate, propose "gazzling," a combination of "gas" and "guzzling," for the MCJ Style Book] pick-up around for no particular reason, enjoyed a 7-11 Double Gulp in a plastic cup I later threw away, didn’t recycle a bottle of Diet Peach Snapple and bought some microwavable dinner in a plastic container which will also get thrown away. Also, I inadvertently left the lights on all night.
Katharine Jefferts Schori spent Earth Day at the NatCat delivering the following sermon. After a quick preliminary, the Presiding Bishop starts out like this:
Most of us in this part of the world don’t see real, live sheep-keepers very often, but we do have abundant examples of shepherding around us. The 23rd psalm may seem like a romantic idyll, but it’s profoundly about what sheep need – food, water, rest, and the ability to fend off predators. The psalmist describes behavior that is just as essential to human thriving as it is for sheep or goats. In order for any human community to be effective or live in productive harmony, it needs leadership. When we start to talk about godly leadership, or shepherds like Jesus, we mean guidance toward what will nurture the life of the community as well as away from what will threaten or end the project. Good shepherding is life-giving and sustaining, and in the kind of language we use around here, it’s eternal. It is about what is ultimate, gracious, and abundantly life-giving. It seeks the welfare of the whole community, not simply the desires of an individual.
That’s dandy, Kate, but what does it have to do with Earth Day?
That’s the kind of leadership Jesus is claiming. It’s also the kind of leadership that he challenges his followers to exercise – he’s telling his disciples to go and do likewise: ‘Do you want to find that kind of ultimate, life-giving, gracious generosity? Well, then, gather ‘round and get with the program – because we’re going thataway, toward LIFE!’
Uh…maybe you didn’t hear my question.
This kind of holy shepherding is meant for all of us, in all our variety. We aren’t meant to march in lockstep, but to use the varied gifts of our creation and circumstances to gather others and move toward that kind of abundant life. That’s why we’re here this morning – to be fed and challenged to exercise a shepherd’s leadership wherever we live and move and have our being.
We’re using a particular lens to focus that sort of leadership this Earth Day. How do we guide and shepherd our communities to tend the pasture? Ultimately we all depend on the same pasture for our earthly living – the springs of the water of life sustain us all, and the air breathed into us is rebreathed by other parts of this planetary garden. How we use and tend the pasture will either give life or limit it for those around us and those who will follow us.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
Think with me a bit more about sheep. Flocks of sheep, particularly undomesticated ones, have internal shepherds – shared leadership by wise elders who warn of danger and guide the flock along trustworthy paths to ancient pastures and water holes. But the capricious young also have a role – they give warning of what may or may not be approaching danger, and they can help discover new grazing in unfamiliar places as they flit about. The adolescent bucks usually wander off in search of territory with greater possibility and some of them develop into leaders of new flocks in the process. In healthy human communities, effective shepherds understand themselves as part of the flock, and use their native gifts to collaborate with other sorts of leaders.
Or not. Class? What is Johnson’s Law of Intentional Profundity? Very good, class. You never sound as stupid as when you deliberately set out to sound profound.
That great dream of Revelation is an image of the flock of humanity gathered around their shepherd. Their wool is clean and white, not just because they’ve had a dip in the creek to wash the dirt off, but because all the burrs and thorns and parasites have been picked out. It’s immensely troublesome work to get a sheep looking like that – it’s not just a matter of a bath. And this isn’t just a single animal, like a country fair champion. An entire flock of sheep has been individually groomed until they reflect the sun like the top of a cloudbank. This great good shepherd cares for each part of creation as precious – beloved, even. These sheep are gathered, confident that one of their number will keep them in good grazing, and clean water, and away from the wolves. The lamb has become shepherd of all by shifting his concern from self to the whole. It is a cosmic image of the ancient challenge to care for the whole community rather than only one’s individual being.
Know something funny? I don’t think I’ve ever eaten mutton. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in the stores around here, even in the ones that sell bison or elk or meats like that. Although people do sell veal all over the place so I guess I can hit that some time. I’m not sure why I thought of that just now.
That’s the kind of shepherding we’re in for – recognizing the preciousness of the whole flock of creation. Not just the human ones, or the mammals, or the local pasture, but the vast web of interconnected matter we call creation. Every family, language, tribe, and nation of insect, woodland, coral reef, water vapor, and the rock below. Why do you suppose those sheep are waving palm branches? This cosmic act of salvation is about all creation, not simply a few human beings.
“Every family, language, tribe, and nation of insect, woodland, coral reef, water vapor, and the rock below. Why do you suppose those sheep are waving palm branches? This cosmic act of salvation is about all creation, not simply a few human beings.” Right.
I owe Frank Griswold an apology. In all the years I spent bitchslapping his sermons, I can’t remember a single time when Frank made me say, “Uh…WHAT?!!“ So if you want to read any of it, click on this Frank Griswold link and order a copy right away because I’m seriously thinking of putting that dog down.
Globally, awareness is growing that caring for the earth is an essential part of the human vocation. The sheep are beginning to become more conscious stewards of the pasture. It’s an aberration that has separated us from knowing that stewarding and reverencing the rest of creation is essential to human life – that aberration about eating an apple of self-centeredness and leaving the primordial garden pasture.
Maxim: when people read something you wrote and respond on their blogs, “Your guess is as good as mine” or “I think what the Presiding Bishop means here is…,” then not to put too fine a point on it but you suck at communication.
There won’t be green pastures and still waters for all until we become effective shepherds and pasture tenders for the whole creation. This work is about consciousness of our connection to the whole, and tender care of the other parts of that whole. It is simply another form of loving our neighbor as ourselves, for the neighbor is actually part of each one of us.
In her very next paragraph, the Presiding Bishop discusses bacteria before winding things up, I guess because of her “we’re all in this together” theme. Human beings, viruses, what’s the difference? Go ahead and insert any comment you want to because I stopped caring a long time ago and if I was still an Episcopalian and I had to sit through this atrocity, I’d have been playing Angry Birds about three minutes in.
Monday, April 22nd, 2013 | Uncategorized | 61 Comments
Congratulations! You are about to embark on a noble and eminently-worthwhile endeavor in which Christians have been engaged since Jesus ascended into heaven and something I myself used to think about doing from time to time.
Other people might be impressed by massive churches or cathedrals in which richy-apparelled ministers perform beautiful and elaborate liturgies for the glory of God and the edification of the people. I am too. But I am also moved by little storefront Pentecostal churches, affiliated with no one, who preach the Word in season and out of season.
You may have a perfectly valid motivation for wanting to begin your own church, either inside a particular tradition or outside it. You and your conservative Anglican friends may live in a place where the nearest Anglican Church in North America parish is 500 miles away. You and some of your Baptist friends may feel yourselves drawn towards liturgical traditions and might feel more comfortable starting some kind of intermediate “church” prior to becoming Roman Catholics or Orthodox Christians.
And there are many other reasons. While, as I said, I’ve considered the idea, I’ve never actually started a church myself. But I since I run one of these blog deals that all the kids are into these days, my opinion matters more than yours does. So if you’re contemplating starting your own church, here are a few factors to consider:
(1) Don’t reinvent the wheel. – Do you think worship should be beautiful? Roman Catholics do a kickass liturgy and if the beauty of Rachmaninov’s setting of the Russian Orthodox Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom doesn’t scare you to death, then I hate to break it to you but you’re deaf.
Or maybe you’d prefer worship that was less liturgical and more directly focused on the Word of God. Maybe you think the pulpit should be in the middle of the church rather than the altar, so to speak, in which case, the Southern Baptists, the Presbyterians and other Reformed Protestants have you covered.
Maybe you’d like to consider yourself “spiritual” without having to believe anything in particular, in which case the Unitarians, if you’re low-church, or the Episcopalians, if you love a good show, are possibilities. Or perhaps you’d prefer a more high-octane, pedal-to-the-metal, emotional worship in which case your Pentecostal friend could probably hook you up. But if you can’t work your way around these issues, you might want to ask yourself why you want to start a church in the first place.
(2) Since it tells the world about you, be very careful about your church’s name. – Ever wondered why people name their individual parishes the way they do? While there are exceptions, there seem, for the most part, to be two different naming conventions among Christians. One, found mainly in the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican traditions, is to name your parish after some person in the Bible (Christ the King, Good Shepherd, Mary Queen of Peace, St. John the Baptist, St. Paul’s, etc), some Biblical event (Annunciation, Holy Communion, Resurrection, Ascension, etc) or some saint.
The other, found mainly in the Reformed traditions, is to simply declare to the world who you are and where you are located (Kirkwood Methodist Church, Harrison Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, Old Orchard Presbyterian Church and so on). To me, both these approaches communicate the same message.
This isn’t about us. It’s about Him.
Contrast that with a new church here called The Gathering, which seems to be affiliated with the Methodists. I should say up front that I know nothing about that church or who attends it other than to observe that I first found out about from advertising yard signs the church puts up from time to time. For all I know, the people who attend it may be better disciples of the Lord than I am or ever will be.
But that might be the single worst church name I’ve ever seen. Leaving aside its cultish feel, it communicates absolutely nothing. A gathering? A gathering of who? And what are they gathering for? As I said before, these people may be on fire for the Lord Jesus Christ. But if one of them ever invited me to attend church at something called The Gathering, I’m going to take a rain check that I probably won’t ever cash in. Which brings us to…
(3) Timeless good; meaningful…BAD. – Do you know why people still listen to and care about Bach, Mozart or Beethoven while no longer giving much of crap about the Ohio Express, Wishbone Ash or Pacific Gas & Electric? Because the first three wrote for the ages and the last three only got into music to pull the birds, as the British put it.
Why do even non-Catholics like me enjoy Gregorian chant? Why do I love listening to such simple hymns as “It is Well with My Soul” or “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, I’ll Be There” but can’t think of a single modern Christian song that moves me in any way?
Why do singers like Mahalia Jackson, Thomas Dorsey, Willie Mae Ford Smith and Blind Willie Johnson still have a power that no modern Christian artist can remotely approach? If my apartment was ever on fire, why would I grab my lectern Bible, the three CD’s I own by this artist* and let all my other possessions burn?
If you genuinely don’t know, I feel sorry for you.
Let’s put it this way. You might start a “church” whose “hymns” consist of singing along to recordings of Bruce Springsteen, U2, BonJovi, Sting or other soon-to-be has-been artists and you might find such “worship” incredibly “meaningful.”
You might even make a going concern out of such a “church.” But I’ll bet the rest of my inheritance on this: fifteen years or so down the road, your kids will bitch at you every single Sunday morning until they go to college, eventually throwing in with the Roman Catholics, for making them sit through that elevator music you inexplicably like so much. And finally…
(4) Pick a side. – I’ve had this persistent, hacking cough for at least two months straight so I see two doctors about it. One of them gives me a quick, cursory examination and tells me that there’s nothing wrong, that the cough will clear up by itself.
The other does a far more extensive examination, sends me to a specialist who prescribes all manner of tests and who finally informs me that I have advanced-stage lung cancer.
Which one of the two is the better doctor?
It’s like this. You can tell the culture whatever the culture wants to hear in order to keep the Young PeopleTM on board, forgetting that the Young PeopleTM eventually become the Old PeopleTM who have actually thought things through.
Or you can tell the truth right from the start. Might cost you a few bodies in the seats now but it will pay dividends down the road.
*Seriously. If you ever find one of this woman’s CD’s, buy it immediately. You’ll thank me later. As scary good as the Russian Orthodox recording I linked to above is, she is as good or even better.
Monday, April 22nd, 2013 | Uncategorized | 11 Comments
When pulled over by a member of the local constabulary, “Do you know who I am?!!” is never EVER a good response.
Saturday, April 20th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 72 Comments
At a time when the world wasn’t divided into liberals and conservatives, I was born into a devout Catholic family, went to a Catholic church and elementary school and then to a seminary, run by a community of friars — monks in the world — to study for the priesthood. I was devout, committed and satisfied. I enjoyed my life in a religious community and even now feel blessed to have had the experience for 13 years in my impressionable youth.
But one day I woke up. I had been reading the radical Teilhard de Chardin and examining the New Testament with fresh eyes under the expert guidance of John Dominic Crossan, now a renowned scholar, who happened to be a member of my community and my professor. It was the heady days of Vatican II, when all of culture seemed to be coming out of a mist and, unknown to me then, I was becoming a religious liberal.
I left the order, stopped going to church and left the God of my fathers and mothers. I tried to be a musician, but theology beckoned me. I got a Ph.D. in religion after studying Freud, Jung, Hillman, Zen, Taoism, the Hermetic tradition and Greek polytheism. Yet, amid all the changes I still felt that in my very cell of cells I was a Catholic. If predestination means anything, it assures that I will be a Catholic for life.
I still love the Catholic way, though I have no use for the pomp and authority. If they elected me pope, I’d model my style on the Dalai Lama. I’d ask the churches to separate from Rome and make their own local communities, ordain their own men and women priests, invite Jews, Buddhists and interesting atheists into their communities, restore and re-imagine monasticism and teach mysticism to the average person. I’d discourage moralism and guilt and emphasize the radical way of the Gospel, living the rule of love in an uncompromising manner. I’d emphasize honor to the saints and ritual and Gregorian chant and blessings in Latin. I’d try to achieve a contemporary Catholicism without the global church with its patriarchy and authoritarianism. I’d encourage people to follow the Jesus way joyfully and gracefully and not only tolerate but eagerly seek wisdom and insight from all other spiritual traditions. After all, the word “catholic” means universal.
Friday, April 19th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 15 Comments
If I were you, I’d fiercely resist the urge to get all judgmental about Islam, Muslims, Chechens or anybody else. Because this happened in the United States of America.
As barbaric and intolerant as some of them sometimes are, I really need to think that majority-Islamic countries are incapable of this sort of thing. But if something like this had happened in one of them, I’m certain that the Muslim media would be all over it.
Unlike this country’s “free press.”
I’m not going to quote from the article here because it contains some of most hellish and nightmarish images that I can possibly imagine. Click on that link at your own risk.
Friday, April 19th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 21 Comments
Friday, April 19th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 33 Comments
The religious left is spitting nails over the recent defeat of gun control legislation in the US Senate. In as over-the-top, bat-crap hysterical screed as I’ve ever seen from an alleged Christian, United Church of the Zeitgeist honk Chuck Currie was so mad that he libeled just about everybody in sight and even used a word that probably doesn’t escape his lips very often:
The ability of a minority in the U.S. Senate to block common sense gun violence prevention measures — including background checks to keep guns from violent criminals and mentally unstable people — is a victory for the NRA, whose leadership has sided with criminals and terrorists over the common good of our nation.
In short, the U.S. Senators who sided with the NRA’s leadership committed a sin and compounded the tragedy of Newtown.
President Obama has shown great leadership in leading the charge since Newtown in advancing the cause of reducing gun violence. America’s religious leaders, including the National Council of Churches and the U.S. Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops, have joined him and the polls have shown that 90 percent of the American people have supported measures such as background checks. NRA members by a large majority have bucked their leadership to support the president’s goals.
But 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate, joined by some Democrats, where able to block the will of the majority both in the Senate and the will of the American people. Schools, houses of worships, malls, theaters and other public places will also remain unsafe (no wonder terrorists are telling their supporters to exploit America’s lax gun laws). The only winners today are criminals and those who would do violence to the American people.
EASY, there, big guy. You did hear what happened in Boston the other day, didn’t you? Some guys killed and maimed a bunch of people using pressure cookers. If you want to kill somebody badly enough, the absence of a gun is not going to stop you, jackass. Moving on, welcome to the Jana Riess Cliche Festival.
Yesterday the Senate defeated a measure that would require our nation to run background checks on people who purchase guns at gun shows and on the Internet.
The Senate did this despite the fact that 80-90% of Americans support the measure, which would have eliminated a loophole in the current law. Right now, anyone who purchases a gun at a store already has to go through this exact same background check, so the measure that the Senate abandoned would merely have made the law universal and eliminated the possibility that someone with a mental illness or history of felonious behavior would be able to buy a gun online or at a convention.
There are two major problems going on here. First, of course, is that our nation’s love affair with guns seems to have no end. Where is our common sense? In our rush to defend the Second Amendment, we easily forget that the framers of our Constitution had no earthly idea about weapons that could be purchased by individual citizens for mass destruction of human life. No one who wrote our Constitution could have foreseen ordinary Americans being able to purchase military-grade semiautomatic weapons. (As well, the actual wording of the Second Amendment is about protecting the rights of society to bear arms to form militias, as you can see here.)
Most gun control advocates in this country don’t have an issue with individuals owning rifles, handguns, pistols, or other small-scale weapons for self-defense or hunting. That’s not the question here. This is about weapons that have been used in mass tragedies such as the Newtown school shooting, weapons that do not fit that small-scale profile.
When the Founders wrote the Constitution, Jana, the “militia” was basically anyone who could fire a gun. And I’ve got some bad news for you. Legally, it still means that.
Near as I can figure, as far as Christian leftists are concerned, the only moral approach to the violence problem in this country runs as follows:
(1) Take an idea that hasn’t come close to working and wouldn’t have affected any of the recent tragedies in any way, shape or form and do even more of it.
(3) NO MORE MURDERS!! YAY!!
There’s also the demonization of people who disagree with you, the lies and misrepresentations of their opinions, indeed, the refusal to even acknowledge that they are motivated by anything other than pure evil, as the Spoiled Brat in Chief demonstrated the other day. And it certainly doesn’t hurt when Administration propaganda sheets like the New York Times wonder why you preferred to cover the decimation of some hick town in Texas when everybody else was covering the presidential meltdown.
President Obama hadn’t finished his first sentence on Wednesday when the Fox News Channel cut away from his Rose Garden remarks about the Senate’s defeat of a measure that would have expanded background checks for gun buyers.
The channel, a favorite of conservatives, has refrained from extensive coverage while MSNBC, a favorite of progressives, has taken every conceivable opportunity to talk about it.
Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” have openly campaigned for legislative reforms after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in December, which left 26 people dead.
On Thursday, Mr. Scarborough, a registered Republican who promotes his conservative credentials as well as an independent streak, assailed the lawmakers who voted against the background check legislation. Citing the failed Senate vote as evidence, Mr. Scarborough said, “This party is moving toward extinction.”
That would come as news to Fox fans, who have heard comparatively little about the subject. While most of “Joe” was dedicated to guns on Thursday, Fox’s morning show, “Fox & Friends,” didn’t mention the word once. It focused instead on news about a Texas fertilizer plant explosion.
Competitors were quick to pounce. Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, noted that ABC, CBS and NBC had broadcast special reports because they deemed the president’s remarks that important. He called Fox’s decision to skip it “a disgrace.”
Insofar as he runs one, Phil Griffin knows a lot about disgraces.
Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 21 Comments
Today, Barack Obama heard a word that he doesn’t hear very often. No:
The Senate delivered a devastating blow to President Obama’s agenda to regulate guns Wednesday by defeating a bipartisan proposal to expand background checks.
It failed by a vote of 54 to 46, with five Democrats voting against it. Only four Republicans supported it.
Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) voted against it. Reid supported the measure but voted against it to preserve his ability to bring the measure up again.
GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Susan Collins (Maine), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) voted “yes.”
The failure of Manchin-Toomey means the broader bill still includes Democratic language passed by the Judiciary Committee to establish universal background checks. That language failed to attract a single Republican vote during the panel markup, and conservative Democrats such as Manchin and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) have said they cannot support the package without changes to the language on background checks.
The Senate’s failure to expand background checks means the three pillars of Obama’s gun control agenda have stalled. The chamber is expected to also reject proposals to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.
Presidential Press Secretary
Neil Goldman Jay Carney stomped his little feet in frustration.
White House officials refused to acknowledge the likely defeat of Manchin-Toomey right up until the Senate vote.
At the White House briefing on Wednesday, press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that while they believed passing the legislation “was always going to be difficult … we believe there is a path, a very difficult path, to get to 60 votes.”
A seemingly frustrated Carney railed against NRA-backed lawmakers, whom he said had spread “a lot of bogus information” about the amendment on background checks.
As did President Cranky Pants.
Two things stand out. Barack Obama might be the most narcissitic president this country has ever had. I guess that’s to be expected when most of this country’s “journalists” have had their collective mouths around your junk since 2008.
But if I’m a Democrat and Barry just asked me to commit career seppuku just so he could get himself a legacy, I’m going to think twice. Barry doesn’t care about me but only about himself. So why the hell should I sacrifice myself for him?
Then there’s this. A few days ago, a guy or guys killed and maimed a lot of people in Boston using pressure cookers. If Adam Lanza wanted to, he could have turned those Newtown kids into hamburger if there were no guns available in the world.
Want to do something truly meaningful about this country’s “violent culture?” When you’re willing to treat the First Amendment the same way you treat the Second Amendment, when you’re willing to tell Hollywood and video game manufacturers that from now on, this country is going to treat extreme violence the same way that it treats porn, give me a call. Until then STFU, as the kids say.
Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments
A Boston Globe reporter can’t for the life of him figure why somebody would publicly play “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes in Boston right now. Hilarity ensues.
Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 16 Comments
Everything looks like a car to people who think in bumper stickers:
It seems important to point out that this is an immensely complicated history, with overlapping threads of racism, militarism, colonialism, and fear of the other. Okinawa has been treated as a colony for centuries. Its residents feel their exclusion and commodification by the larger Japanese public and by the American military. The United States has its own history of racial exclusion toward Japanese Americans, both before and during the Second World War, a history that has not been fully explored or reconciled. The United States and Japan governments have a common interest in maintaining an American military presence to provide defense for Japan as well as strategic deterrence in the Pacific and East Asia. That military presence comes primarily at the expense of Okinawans. Proposals to remove some of that military presence are likely to simply shift the burden to other island populations – either in other parts of Okinawa or on Guam, another “colony” which governments believe can be used for such purposes. Even the proposal to relocate Futenma northward to Camp Schwab involves colonizing an environmentally sensitive area.
The larger theological questions in the middle of this thorny dilemma have to do with the right use of creation, the burden that one community or people (particularly an oppressed or marginalized one) can be asked to bear for a larger community, the place of military force either as deterrent or aggressor, and the baptismal charge we share to build a beloved community and society of peace.
The underlying motivator for military presence or occupation in Okinawa is fear. Japan fears retribution from neighboring nations for old wars of aggression. Governments throughout the region fear aggressive territorial expansionism from more powerful neighbors. North Korea fears its wealthier neighbors’ ability to challenge its apparently oppressive social policies, as well as the scarcity experienced by its own people. Okinawans fear death and destruction as a result of the military forces lodged in their midst. The United States fears having its other territorial possessions colonies attacked by Asian powers, increased military access to the Pacific by those nations, it fears destabilization and the possibility of escalated violence migrating out of the region, it fears threats to its economic interests, and the loss of strategic military outposts.
Until we begin to examine our own participation in those varying kinds of fear, we have little hope for reconciliation. Why does the wider Japanese society permit Okinawa to bear an inequitable burden for the nation’s self-defense? It undoubtedly has at least something to do with many people’s unwillingness to have greater military presence in their own neighborhoods – what American speakers call NIMBY (not in my back yard!). Why does Japan rely so heavily on the United States for defense? I can’t pretend to understand the complexities of that question, but undoubtedly the people who live here can share their own theories. Why do Americans permit and encourage ongoing colonial occupation of other lands? That has something to do with the captivity of my government to business interests, many of them related to the military-industrial complex.
Our hope is based on the reconciling love of God – and reconciliation requires vulnerability. Without some openness to a future different from the present entrenched reality, there is little real possibility for lasting peace. To me it’s fascinating to consider how challenging it is even to find words and metaphors for that lifeless reality of being stuck that aren’t violent or evocative of war. Trench warfare is often used to describe this kind of immovability. It evokes those crushing stories of dug-in troops lobbing projectiles toward each other, and never seeing the enemy’s face except in the sights of a sniper’s rifle. That’s what a lot of the battle of Okinawa was like. But those images also evoke stories of profligate possibility – like the German and English troops of World War I who listened to their enemies singing Christmas carols, recognized the tunes but not the words, and then crawling out of their muddy holes for a few hours during on the ceasefire on Christmas Eve. There are stories that they exchanged signs of peace with the few luxuries they had – cigarettes or shots of schnapps – and shared pictures of their sweethearts. And then those precious hours drew to a close, with officers calling their troops back to duty and the work of killing the enemy.
Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 23 Comments
Jillian Keenan thinks the US ought to go for it:
Recently, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council reintroduced a tired refrain: Legalized gay marriage could lead to other legal forms of marriage disaster, such as polygamy. Rick Santorum, Bill O’Reilly, and other social conservatives have made similar claims. It’s hardly a new prediction—we’ve been hearing it for years. Gay marriage is a slippery slope! A gateway drug! If we legalize it, then what’s next? Legalized polygamy?
Yes, really. While the Supreme Court and the rest of us are all focused on the human right of marriage equality, let’s not forget that the fight doesn’t end with same-sex marriage. We need to legalize polygamy, too. Legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist, and sex-positive choice. More importantly, it would actually help protect, empower, and strengthen women, children, and families.
For decades, the prevailing logic has been that polygamy hurts women and children. That makes sense, since in contemporary American practice that is often the case. In many Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints polygamous communities, for example, women and underage girls are forced into polygamous unions against their will. Some boys, who represent the surplus of males, are brutally thrown out of their homes and driven into homelessness and poverty at very young ages. All of these stories are tragic, and the criminals involved should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. (That goes without saying, I hope.)
We can only hope.
Hey, I’m game. If you’re a woman who wants to take up with two or more men or if you’re a man who wants a harem, that’s between you and God. But I mainly wouldn’t mind seeing this happen because I want to be in the room the first time some homosexual Episcopal priest or bishop has to tell Mr. and Mrs. and Mrs. Threeway why they can’t have their “relationship” blessed in an Episcopal church.
Because, when you think about it, Mr. and Mrs. and Mrs. Threeway have a stronger theological case for their “marriage” than homosexuals wanting to get “married” do. After all, it says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave on to his wife and the two shall be one flesh.” It doesn’t say cleave on to his significant other Duane.
(I realize that we’re talking about Episcopalians here so serious theology is pretty much out the door but play along anyway). So some
perverted dirtbag guy can say, “Hey, I left my father and mother, cleaved on to my wife and the two of us are one flesh. Then I cleaved on to that wife there. And that one. And that hot blonde in the corner. And hey, didn’t David and Solomon git sahm several times a day pretty much every day of the week and they wrote a good chunk of the Bible?”
Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 20 Comments
Marc Lamont Hill lets the cat out of the bag. The reason why the American news media has not, up to now, covered the Kermit Gosnell case to any great extent is because it didn’t want to:
“For what it’s worth, I do think that those of us on the left have made a decision not to cover this trial because we worry that it’ll compromise abortion rights. Whether you agree with abortion or not, I do think there’s a direct connection between the media’s failure to cover this and our own political commitments on the left. I think it’s a bad idea, I think it’s dangerous, but I think that’s the way it is.”
The media are not the only ones who have gone out of their way to avoid having to talk about Gosnell. My man DFisch dug up some non-reactions from allegedly Christian churches and organizations.
•Sojourners, whose leadership is allegedly pro-life: no references on their web site to Kermit Gosnell
•Christian Century: no references on their web site to Kermit Gosnell
•Liberal Catholic publication Commonweal: no references on their web site to Kermit Gosnell since 2011
•Liberal National Catholic Reporter: Two references on their web site to Kermit Gosnell, one a news story from January about the March for Life that mentions Gosnell in passing, one from Friday in response to Powers’ column
•Liberal Catholic publication America: Four references on their web site to Kermit Gosnell, only one since 2011 in a blog post on Friday in response to Powers’ column
Oh, and in perhaps the biggest surprise of all, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Molech’s own lobby, has had nothing to say either in its blog or on its main site about the mass infanticide in Philadelphia. It does, however, have a story on its home page entitled, “The Shame of Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Using Religion to Manipulate Women.”
In other news, presidential Press Secretary
Neal Goldman Jay Carney can’t bring himself to say much of anything about Dr. Mengele.
Everyone knows that this country’s president once voted against a bill that would have required doctors to provide medical care to infants who happened to survive abortion. Everyone also knows that the American news media is not particularly bothered by what happened inside Gosnell’s chop shop (thanks again, Don Janousek) and that if it takes some inner-city girl bleeding out and dying or some other inner-city girl having to get a hysterectomy because of Gosnell’s incompetence, well, if you want to make an omelette and all that. The libs will pay any price and bear any burden to preserve their sacrament.
Monday, April 15th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 18 Comments
That’s just great. Actually, in another couple of years I can start drawing on my annuity. Seven years after that, I can hit Social Security and I seriously doubt that I’ll make it all that much past seventy anyway. So no harm, no foul.
Saturday, April 13th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 67 Comments
Remember Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who is accused of murdering any babies who happened to be born alive in his charnel house? I first wrote about him slightly over two years ago. Here is the complete grand jury report about Gosnell’s case. Highlights from that report follow:
There remained, however, a final difficulty. When you perform late-term “abortions” by inducing labor, you get babies. Live, breathing, squirming babies. By 24 weeks, most babies born prematurely will survive if they receive appropriate medical care. But that was not what the Women’s Medical Society was about. Gosnell had a simple solution for the unwanted babies he delivered: he killed them. He didn’t call it that. He called it “ensuring fetal demise.” The way he ensured fetal demise was by sticking scissors into the back of the baby’s neck and cutting the spinal cord. He called that “snipping.”
Over the years, there were hundreds of “snippings.” Sometimes, if Gosnell was unavailable, the “snipping” was done by one of his fake doctors, or even by one of the administrative staff. But all the employees of the Women’s Medical Society knew. Everyone there acted as if it wasn’t murder at all.
Most of these acts cannot be prosecuted, because Gosnell destroyed the files. Among the relatively few cases that could be specifically documented, one was Baby Boy A. His 17-year-old mother was almost 30 weeks pregnant – seven and a half months – when labor was induced. An employee estimated his birth weight as approaching six pounds. He was breathing and moving when Dr. Gosnell severed his spine and put the body in a plastic shoebox for disposal. The doctor joked that this baby was so big he could “walk me to the bus stop.” Another, Baby Boy B, whose body was found at the clinic frozen in a one-gallon spring-water bottle, was at least 28 weeks of gestational age when he was killed. Baby C was moving and breathing for 20 minutes before an assistant came in and cut the spinal cord, just the way she had seen Gosnell do it so many times.
One woman, for example, was left lying in place for hours after Gosnell tore her cervix and colon while trying, unsuccessfully, to extract the fetus. Relatives who came to pick her up were refused entry into the building; they had to threaten to call the police. They eventually found her inside, bleeding and incoherent, and transported her to the hospital, where doctors had to remove almost half a foot of her intestines.
On another occasion, Gosnell simply sent a patient home, after keeping her mother waiting for hours, without telling either of them that she still had fetal parts inside her. Gosnell insisted she was fine, even after signs of serious infection set in over the next several days. By the time her mother got her to the emergency room, she was unconscious and near death.
A nineteen-year-old girl was held for several hours after Gosnell punctured her uterus. As a result of the delay, she fell into shock from blood loss, and had to undergo a hysterectomy.
One patient went into convulsions during an abortion, fell off the procedure table, and hit her head on the floor. Gosnell wouldn’t call an ambulance, and wouldn’t let the woman’s companion leave the building so that he could call an ambulance.
Gosnell is currently on trial for his life. Given the above as well as some of the testimony that has emerged so far:
Unlicensed physician Stephen Massof, 50, of Pittsburgh, said he could not get a U.S. medical residency after finishing medical school in Grenada and went to work for Gosnell as a “backup plan” after six years of running a bar. He admitted killing two babies by snipping their necks, as he said Gosnell taught him to do. Massof has pleaded guilty to third-degree murder.
Front desk worker Tina Baldwin, like colleague Latosha Lewis, had trained to be a medical assistant at a vocational school before going to work for Gosnell in 2002. She handed out drugs at the front desk to induce labor, while Lewis helped perform ultrasounds, administer medications and deliver babies. Lewis worked from 10 a.m. until well after midnight, making $7 to $10 an hour. Baldwin now faces at least a year in prison, and perhaps much longer, after pleading guilty to federal drug charges and state charges that include corruption of a minor.
Two other clinic workers with family ties to Gosnell have pleaded guilty in the case but hope to get reduced terms in exchange for their cooperation. And Gosnell’s third wife, Pearl Gosnell, a licensed cosmetologist, pleaded guilty to performing illegal, late-term abortions.
The others involved include clinic workers Lynda Williams and Sherry West. Williams was hired to clean instruments but soon helped anesthetize patients, perform ultrasounds and carry out abortions, cutting babies in the back of the neck. She has pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, which carries a 20- to 40-year prison sentence.
If Gosnell is found guilty and Pennsylvania decided to reintroduce the firing squad, hanging or the guillotine (or introduce execution by circular saw), I wouldn’t lose much sleep. But that’s actually not the story here. The story is this. Know what that’s a picture of? That’s a picture of the seats at the Gosnell trial reserved for the media.
Notice many reporters using those seats? Me neither.
As Jim Treacher observes, if you’re what Rush Limbaugh calls a “low-information voter” and you get your news from America’s “professional” news media, you wouldn’t even know who Kermit Gosnell was, never mind the butchery he’s standing trial for.
If you don’t know who Kermit Gosnell is, that’s because you read the New York Times and Politico.com, and you watch network news.
Liberal columnist Kirsten Powers takes her profession to the woodshed.
Infant beheadings. Severed baby feet in jars. A child screaming after it was delivered alive during an abortion procedure. Haven’t heard about these sickening accusations?
It’s not your fault. Since the murder trial of Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell began March 18, there has been precious little coverage of the case that should be on every news show and front page. The revolting revelations of Gosnell’s former staff, who have been testifying to what they witnessed and did during late-term abortions, should shock anyone with a heart.
A Lexis-Nexis search shows none of the news shows on the three major national television networks has mentioned the Gosnell trial in the last three months. The exception is when Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan hijacked a segment on Meet the Press meant to foment outrage over an anti-abortion rights law in some backward red state.
The Washington Post has not published original reporting on this during the trial and The New York Times saw fit to run one original story on A-17 on the trial’s first day. They’ve been silent ever since, despite headline-worthy testimony.
Let me state the obvious. This should be front page news. When Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke, there was non-stop media hysteria. The venerable NBC Nightly News’ Brian Williams intoned, “A firestorm of outrage from women after a crude tirade from Rush Limbaugh,” as he teased a segment on the brouhaha. Yet, accusations of babies having their heads severed — a major human rights story if there ever was one — doesn’t make the cut.
But something remarkable has happened. Various media outlets in this country are apparently capable of shame and have promised to start giving this story the attention it deserves. In the immortal words of Bruce Willis, “Welcome to the party, pal!!”
As might be expected, the Anchoress called all this back in 2011.
It’s funny how framing works. A massacre perpetrated by a deranged man is not about the deranged man; it’s about “rhetoric.” But a massacre perpetrated by an abortion provider whose violations against laws of the nation and of humanity were overlooked for years is “not about abortion.” It’s about criminal behavior, and that’s all. But some of our most prominent politicians have voted against the very bill — the “born alive” bill — that defines such behavior as criminal. Meaning, I guess, that if only enough politicians had voted with Sen. Barack Obama, Gosnell’s behavior would not be “criminal” at all, and therefore we wouldn’t even be talking about it?
Well, the story of Kermit Gosnell is about abortion; it’s about abortion in America. And abortion in America is about a mindset, — even (or especially) among regulation-happy folk who will make a big noise about public safety on issues large and small — a mindset that will protect a Gosnell, and purposely turn a blind eye to abortion centers and practitioners and all of their lapses and illegalities, as long as the abortions keep on coming.
UPDATE: Ross Douthat weighs in at the New York Times.
“Leading the conversation” is how you end up with the major Sunday shows somehow neglecting to invite a single anti-amnesty politician on a weekend dominated by the immigration debate. It’s how you end up with officially nonideological anchors and journalists lecturing social conservatives for being out of step with modern values. And it’s how you end up with a press corps that went all-in for the supposed “war on women” having to be shamed and harassed — by two writers in particular, Kirsten Powers in USA Today and Mollie Ziegler Hemingway of GetReligion — into paying attention to the grisly case of a Philadelphia doctor whose methods of late-term abortion included snipping the spines of neonates after they were delivered.
As the last example suggests, the problem here isn’t that American journalists are too quick to go on crusades. Rather, it’s that the press’s ideological blinders limit the kinds of crusades mainstream outlets are willing to entertain, and the formal commitment to neutrality encourages self-deception about what counts as crusading.
UPDATE: Dale Price jacks one into the seats.
Here’s some unsolicited advice for social conservatives: never, ever speak to large-circulation newspapers or television networks.
Why not? Because they’re our enemy, that’s why. They have concocted a narrative of breath-taking mendacity regarding us: we’re authoritarian haters, patriarchal tyrants straight from the pages of The Handmaid’s Tale, and/or killers of “providers of women’s health services.” Period. Stock villains, to be quoted briefly, if at all, and subject to well-poisoning adjectives like “strident,” or “militant,” or “inflexible.” And if there is a story that indicates social conservative arguments have merit, or threatens to move the ball in that direction–it gets downplayed or embargoed.
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