The Internet Monk Saturday Brunch (1/21/17)


”It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

There was a big to-do in Washington, D.C. yesterday. We’ll do our best to block it out of our minds and conversation today. I’d like to avoid indigestion and/or food fights if possible.

Ah, I see our loyal servant is bringing the fruit tray and coffee now. It’s time to indulge in some of the news and notes from this past week outside of Washington. Enjoy!


When my son was little, he once told me when he grew up he wanted to be “an artist and a garbage man.” What else would you expect from a little boy who sat for hours by the picture window in the living room, drawing and coloring and watching the traffic on the street outside?

This week I heard the story of John Marboe. He is a Lutheran pastor who grew up admiring his local garbage collectors in Alexandria, Minn. And when times were lean for his family, he decided to take on some shifts hauling trash. What meaning does he find in this odd combination of trades?

I keep doing it because it’s, I don’t know if I want to say it’s more important but it’s differently important. You’re doing something for people, and I think especially I’m aware of that when it’s hot out, when it’s really smelly, when there are a lot of maggots. But as a garbage man, I probably know more about people on my route than their pastor does because their trash tells a story.

…it puts me in touch with that side of life which is about loss, that everything is temporary.

…And to do the trash, it’s sort of a reminder that every small thing that we ever do for other people is valuable, even though it might be really small and unnoticed.

Read or listen to “Trash Tells a Story” at NPR StoryCorps


Jan Hoffman of the New York Times reports:

The rate of abortions performed in the United States has fallen lower than during any year since 1973, when the Supreme Court legalized the procedure, according to a new report by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

The latest numbers, for 2014, continue a trend of declining abortion rates for most years since 1981.

In 2014, there were an estimated 926,200 abortions — a rate of 14.6 per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15 to 44) — compared with 1.06 million abortions in 2011, the year of the last Guttmacher report, or 16.9 per 1,000. In 1973, the year of the Roe v. Wade decision, the rate was 16.3. In 1981, the rate was 29.3.

Now for someone like me who does not support the practice of abortion (whether or not it should be legal and available is another question), this is both good news and bad. I have often expressed my opinion that those who are pro-life should focus first on reducing abortions by helping change certain conditions that cause people to choose the procedure. So, this continuing drop in the rate of abortions is unvarnished good news. On the other hand, I still find the idea of nearly a million abortions per year sad and unacceptable. It was not clear to me from reading the study how many of those abortions might have been considered medically necessary.

One of the biggest factors in the decline of abortions, the report suggests, was access to birth control.

Researchers suggested that increased use of long-term birth control, such as intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants, contributed to the most recent decline. In particular, the proportion of clients at federally funded family planning clinics who sought such methods increased to 11 percent in 2014 from 7 percent in 2011. Because women who rely on these clinics are disproportionately young and poor and account for a majority of unintended pregnancies, researchers said, even a moderate increase in reliance on these methods could have an effect on the abortion rate.

Read “Rate of U.S. Abortions Hits Lowest since Roe v. Wade” at the NY Times


According to geneticists, anywhere from 1-5% of the genome of modern Europeans and Asians may come from Neanderthal ancestors. It seems that around 50,000 years ago, when the ancestors of modern humans migrated out of Africa and into Eurasia, they encountered Neanderthals and, uh, took things to the next level. Those who stayed in Africa missed out on the Neanderthal tango (no Neanderthal DNA appears in present day Africans).

Dr. John Anthony Capra, an evolutionary genomics professor at Vanderbilt, has been trying to learn what a partial-Neanderthal heritage means for people today.

What we’ve been finding is that Neanderthal DNA has a subtle influence on risk for disease. It affects our immune system and how we respond to different immune challenges. It affects our skin. You’re slightly more prone to a condition where you can get scaly lesions after extreme sun exposure. There’s an increased risk for blood clots and tobacco addiction.

To our surprise, it appears that some Neanderthal DNA can increase the risk for depression; however, there are other Neanderthal bits that decrease the risk. Roughly 1 to 2 percent of one’s risk for depression is determined by Neanderthal DNA. It all depends on where on the genome it’s located.

He even thinks that Neanderthal DNA can make a person more prone to nicotine addiction.

Sorry if these words are hurtful to any of you.

 Read “What Did Neanderthals Leave to Modern Humans?” at the NY Times


Did Jesus believe in “original sin”?

Who were the first “Protestants”?

How did Christianity diverge from 1st century thought about the afterlife?

What predictions of “conventional wisdom” about the church failed to come true in 2016?

How should we interpret the Genesis Flood account?

Is the Bible a “personal letter” from God to you and me?

What, exactly, is the problem with hypocrisy?

Does America’s “gospel of success” leave any room for failure?

How does televangelist Paula White answer her critics?

Is “globalization” the problem?


Babies born dependent on opioids, tiny victims of an epidemic across our nation, are often born facing having to deal with symptoms of withdrawal — twitching and tremors, trouble with feeding, and difficulty sleeping.

Boston Medical Center has developed a program to help these little ones. They call it CALM, an incomplete but apt acronym for Cuddling Assists in Lowering Maternal and infant stress. This program revives a definitely old-school approach, putting an emphasis on non-pharmacologic care. Often, that starts with skin-to-skin cuddling.

Programs like CALM are being developed across the country, recruiting volunteer cuddlers for those babies whose parents are unavailable because they are in residential treatment programs or otherwise unable to be as present as needed. The CALM program itself has 100 volunteers who take two-hour shifts, holding, rocking, singing, and providing soothing presence to the little ones.

STATNews reports on the results so far:

  • A 40% drop in medication treatment rates
  • Saving the hospitals money. It costs $2100 per day for the medical center to house one of these babies and huge cost savings is realized with shortened stays.

And all it takes is someone who will devote himself or herself to cuddling a baby.

Read “Call in the Cuddlers” at STATNews


For my money, the greatest cover song of all time began to be recorded on this day in music history. On January 21, 1968, Jimi Hendrix started to lay down his version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” at Olympic Studios in London.

Recording the song was a long process that eventually moved to New York’s Record Plant studio, where the majority of the Electric Ladyland album was cut. There Hendrix had access to a 12-track and then later a 16-track recording machine that enabled him to obsessively overdub guitar and bass tracks repeatedly until he got what he wanted.

I’ll let Ray Padgett in his “Cover Me” article take it from here:

After the endless overdubs and re-recordings of guitars, vocals, and bass, it came time to mix the record. By this point Chandler, who had produced the original London sessions, was long gone. His original mix had been relatively subdued, focusing heavily on the acoustic guitars and giving even the loud solos plenty of room to breathe.

The new version Hendrix mixed with Eddie Kramer went in the opposite direction. “It was a case of Jimi and I doing it together and just making it sound as commercial as we possibly could,” Kramer said. With 16 tracks at their disposable, they had plenty of room to add compression, reverb, chorusing, and other studio tricks to make the entire thing louder and more in-your-face. With many other tracks too long or too far out to ever take off, the goal for “Watchtower” was becoming clear: hit single.

It worked. Release as a single in the US on September 21, 1968, and backed with “Burning of the Midnight Lamp,” “All Along the Watchtower” became Hendrix’s first and only Top 40 single on the Billboard charts, climbing from #66 on its debut to a peak of #20 (it made #5 in the UK, where Hendrix had more of a track record). It in fact sold more than the group’s previous four singles combined – and that includes “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady.”

It resonated particularly with troops in Vietnam. The army’s official radio broadcasts were tightly controlled, but GIs overseas had made a regular practice of setting up pirate radio stations in the field, and “Watchtower” began to get heavy airplay. One veteran recalled in Stephen Roby’s Black Gold, “I just spun the dials…lo and behold there’s Midnight Jack broadcasting: ‘Midnight Jack, man, I’m deep in the jungle… What can I play for you, man?’ He’s gone for about 30 seconds and I imagine he’s putting a reel-to-reel tape on and here comes Jimi Hendrix…”

Perhaps most importantly to him, Bob Dylan loved it too – though it’s not clear whether or not Hendrix ever knew, as all Dylan’s public comments occurred after Hendrix’s death. “It overwhelmed me, really,” Dylan told the Florida Sun-Sentinel in 1995. “He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day.”

One cool thing about article linked and quoted above is that it contains audio samples of various takes captured in the process of recording “All Along the Watchtower.” Check it out. And here’s the finished single, a classic, and in my view as I said, the best cover song of all time.

195 thoughts on “The Internet Monk Saturday Brunch (1/21/17)

  1. I see your Ramones cover of “Spider-Man” and raise you one Butthole Surfers cover of “Underdog”:


  2. P.S. This is also the difference between “Augmented Reality” and Virtual Reality. Since Augmented Reality overlays on the RL picture repeated on your smartphone screen (like Sparkling Eddie overlays on Forks, WA), it is actually more insidious than Virtual Reality. In Virtual Reality, you can pull the plug and (except for the withdrawals) Cyberspace goes away — ALL of it; in Augmented Reality, the RL screen background is still there.


  3. It’s later.

    In some back-and-forth on a private writer’s forum some years ago, I got a consensus for my idea that realistic-background fantasy (like Harlequin Romances, Twilight (sparkle sparkle), or their Chrsitianese knockoffs) could detach you from reality into their fantasy world a lot more than actual F&SF could.

    Example: A Tale of Two Twilights — Twilight the sexual fantasy of a bored Utah Mormon housewife (sparkle sparkle) and Twilight Sparkle of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

    Twilight (sparkle sparkle) is set in the actual town of Forks, WA; an event which the actual inhabitants of that town curse after being overrun with Twilight tour buses and Twitards of every age and type. Forks WA is a real place; the settings are for real, with the exception of a Perfect Greek God at Forks High School who Sparkles in the Sunlight and a studly werewolf tribe outside of town (whose ACTUAL Amerindian tribe of the same name also curses the Twitards). You can easily delude yourself that the Perfect Greek God (sparkle sparkle) and those Werewolf Hunks With Pecs are also just as real as Forks itself, waiting to sweep you off your feet (and away from your balding, boring, aging husband) like the Perfect Fabios of all those bodice-ripper covers. (Same goes for that fanfic knockoff of Sparkling Eddie, Christian Grey of 50 Shades fame. Rich as Sparkling Eddie or Donald Trump, just you have to put up with a little of his “sexual proclivities” to enjoy all his riches and fame and perqs of being his possession.)

    Twilight Sparkle is a magical talking purple unicorn in the magical land of Equestria. NOT repeat NOT a real-life place or species. You can’t go to Ponyville like you can to Forks (if you ever can, you’re sitting on top of a gold mine in ticket sales); a magical talking purple unicorn is NOT going to show up on your doorstep one day to sweep you off your feet into her magical land like Sparkling Eddie. (If so, you are officially in a bad wish-fulfillment fanfic. Or you’d better start checking your closets and under your bed for Rod Serling or Q.) There is DISTANCE — a Planck’s Wall of distance — between Forks and Ponyville, between Washington State and Equestria, between Earth and Equis.

    So which of the Twilights is more likely to pull you away from reality into theirs? The one with the closer connection to real life or the obvious fantasy critter from the obvious fantasy world?


  4. Wow. TWELVE comments deleted plus in moderation.

    Either we saw some really high-level Derangement Syndrome In Action or (in the words of Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force) “He’s dropping F-bombs all over the place!”


  5. Only, yeah, I heard “””Younger Millennials and Generation Z would come around to church and faith just like earlier generations.””” a few times. And they accuse Tolkien fans of being escapist!

    I have found through experience that the accusation of “Living in a fantasy world” translates to English as “How Dare You NOT Live in MY Fantasy World!!!!!”

    Have to run now; will elaborate on this later if I have the time.


  6. Yes, I’ve subsequently learned that. But not according to Propaganda Minister Spicer. It looks like his job is to delegitimize and discredit main stream journalism, and instead provide “alternative news”/ propaganda produced by the White House, so that when the administration fails to fulfill its promises or looks bad, it can just deny the legitimacy of the reporting and supply its own fictive report of things instead. They started with accounts of the numbers of attendees at the inauguration. What else would you expect from the President Birther?


  7. It can also be found in the Tanakh, re. sins of the fathers being visited on the children. Am sure it plays into Augustine’s ideas, except that it seems awfully unmerciful. And at the risk of sounding lime a broken record, it’s not the same as “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” (Old rhyme from England, to help folks remember the catechism and such.)


  8. Episcopal priests and many Lutheran ministers will also hear confession, though i doubt any but the Anglo-Catholic sorts would bother with trying to use physical barriers, screens and the like.


  9. By no means all Torah scholars, though the view is very popular among many haredi communities in Israel. Can’t believd too many Reform, or even many Conservative, scholars would accept it as a valid argument for *now.* And i bet that’s true of more thsn a few Orthodox scholars as well.


  10. Maybe Genesis 6 only recounts the first instance of this happening. And since God said he wouldn’t again wipe out all flesh by a flood, maybe he couldn’t wipe out future such descendants.


  11. Perhaps it’s just that this has been a really rough week for a lot of us, and you have to let the snark out somewhere.
    There just doesn’t seem much to laugh about right now, though I hope Chaplain Mike can come up with something we can rally around next week. This Brunch has been pretty grim–talk-compelling, certainly–just not a lot of good temper and satisfaction. I could use a get-away car. . .um. . .Rambler, too.


  12. But he didn’t really didn’t do a good job of it, ’cause they were still in the land when Israel crossed the Jordan. Which is the real “theological lesson” of the story. This story is theological justification for genocide against those living in the Levant at the time. This is not my own idea, it is a fairly common view among torah scholars.


  13. That they are. And if you’re near a Spanish grocery, check for chicharron–the same thing, but better. BBQ pork rinds are pretty good, too.


  14. +1. I was hoping to give it a few weeks, but if this is any indication, please, some old ramblings are in order.


  15. I would say that military spending is a BIG part of the problem. It indicates a propensity toward destruction rather than investment in people and infrastructure. Isn’t it in excess of 50% of the budget?


  16. Pelagius lost the argument to Augustine. However, I’d rather side with Pelagius in this. Augustine was just too damn negative…

    I take Paul’s point in Rom. 5 to be the same as Augustine said;

    “Fallor ergo sum.”

    To turn it a little; I fail because I am human.

    My identity in the first Adam is rooted/preconditioned in the fact that my individuality feeds a propensity to personalize everything, thus incompleteness. I think it’s best said in Eph. 4

    “So I say this, and insist in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts.”

    The issue is HOW we THINK of God, an ignorance of the reality of the whole-ness of God–and that is what Jesus’ life corrects, that in him we see God as not separate and apart from us but rather near and intimate–yet “whole”/fully integrated in Self connected with all creation and especially other people.

    So, is that not what the original sin is all about? Believing a lie about God and trying to hide out of fear?


  17. Yikes! Bring back Saturday Ramblings! Saturday Brunch is nothing but a Snark-fest. The comments today are rather depressing.


  18. All have sinned = everyone has done wrong, NOT Augustine’s idea of so-called “original sin.” The ecumenical creeds omit any mention of it, in fact.

    Saying that human beings sin does not mean total depravity, or being utterly evil. You’re reading later doctrinal developments back into the NT. That’s something that translators, historians, linguists and textual scholars don’t have the luxury of doing, especially not when sacred texts are involved.

    Your argument would mske more sense if you took it from the jump: Augustine saw x + y + z = original sin. And then looking back at the texts of Scripture and doing a compare/contrast thing. It might enable you to see how Augustine’s view differs from what the NT says, and could lead to some pretty interesting reading. Or not, since I don’t think that’s your goal, but you still might find it worthwhile. But you would hsve to be willing to see Judaism as something other than what you once called it in a reply to me, i.r. “a failed religion.” Barring that, you’ll just keep going in circles…

    As a postscript, I’m really uncertain as to whether Paul’s views on this are fully in accord with the sayings of Jesus in the Gosprld, but I’m not expecting a perfect 1:1 correspondence. They’re close enough as it stands.


  19. William, I think it’s time to take a break. No one’s picking on you. You are just not contributing anything constructive to the conversation. Those are the rules, and they were here long before I came along.


  20. I’ve never been able find love in this story. I don’t get that from it, no matter how many interpretative twists people use to try to go there. It’s not loving to exterminate every living thing; it’s not loving to promise not to do it again in the same way, all the while saying that it was warranted and will be again. It’s an abuser’s version of love, and it makes the abused remain forever in the purgatory of wondering when the other shoe will drop. I have never been able to get love out of this, w, sorry. For love, I look to the crucified and risen Christ forgiving and embracing his killers and betrayers. He’s the long game.


  21. Yep it is so self evident head removal. How about Noah didn’t intercede till after the flood which meant his heart might have been pretty hard. Me I would have said just take me and leave them and help them. I’m just saying. What i want to know is how God’s love is coming through this story……Anyone?????


  22. The theological lesson is: When the angels come to have sex with you, don’t do it, because God will have to recleanse the human gene pool by killing off all your half-divine children.


  23. Excuse me, but I grew up in Nationalistic Apartheid SA. The Anti-globalization rhetoric, together with the other stuff, coming from the Trumpian right is extremely familiar to me. It is the sane Fascist, Nationalistic, Rascist, Pseudo-Patriotic claptrap in religious garb than that sold by Malan, Verwoerd and Vorster. It is to be resisted. It is evil.


  24. What I will never understand is why “pro-life” advocates are rarely pro-birth control, or for sex education, or advocates for proper medical care for pregnant women. It would seem obvious that preventing pregnancy in the first place prevents abortions, but so many “pro-lifers” are adamant in their opposition, and then blame women for getting pregnant, even though they don’t want to be. Few women are in complete control of their sex lives, and their partners may not be cooperative in preventing pregnancy. How is this a woman’s fault?

    Also, the term “pro-abortion” couldn’t be more of a misnomer. Very, very few women approach the idea of having an abortion casually. Many would prefer not to end the pregnancy, but are in no position–financially, socially, mentally, health-wise, or in some other way—prepared to care for a child. In almost all late-term abortions, something has gone drastically wrong with the pregnancy, and the child would be born with terrible handicaps, or live a short, painful life. How can that outcome be preferable to ending a pregnancy?

    Some women will choose to carry a problem pregnancy–whether the problem is theirs or their infant’s–and others will know that dealing with the problems a particular pregnancy presents is beyond them. Pro-choice (not pro-abortion, please) advocates believe that that choice should be left up to the woman who will bear the child. If she chooses to give birth, she should have adequate medical care, by right; if she chooses to end the pregnancy, she should also have proper medical care. Sex education, birth control, medical care–the tools for keeping abortion what pro-choice advocates have always said we wanted–safe, legal, and rare.


  25. For a long time I wondered why I was attracted to this blog, since I’m not a post-evangelical but a post-Catholic. But now I understand that all my life I’ve been laboring under the burden of a fundamentalist doctrine of hell (which can be found in Catholic teaching from former times, and was still making its way into the heads of Catholic kids like me in the 1960s as part of our religious instruction and formation), and because of that constrained by some of the same mental shackles that many here struggle with. I intend not to let that particular burden cow me any longer; I’ve made up my mind to be done with it, and to really trust in the goodness of God in Jesus Christ.


  26. w, Please, cool it. You are saying things that are irrational and a little scary. I say this as a brother, not an enemy. Please cool it.


  27. There were around half a million people in marching. Nearly as big as the crowd the day before, the overwhelming majority of them ordinary Americans from all walks of life. I for one am not focused on the handful of celebrities, though this political season may lead us to think we should do nothing but that. The sheer size of the assembly of protesters is a powerful message that there is a vast swath of Americans who are not in lock-step with the new political dispensation.


  28. w, I think the lesson was, “God is a judgmental kinda guy who wiped your ancestors out with water because they were so evil, but he’s promised not to wipe you out the same way, even though you probably deserve it. But be careful, because he might find another way to exterminate you and everything else.” It’s not history, it’s a legend presented to impart a nasty theological message that I personally think is not at all in keeping with the God who is revealed in the death, resurrection and ongoing presence in our midst of the Lord Jesus Christ.


  29. Also see the Apostle Paul’s discussion of the first and second Adam. See especially Romans 5 :12-20 Practically lays out the Doctrine of Original Sin right there on the page….


  30. Awwwe c’mon everyone of those cities you mention are so polluted…….Your old days are stupid. I’m so glad you are not in front of me because I would tell you with that weak arm of yours to try and move me…….Piece of …. using the racists word of wasps…… Man I don’t know who you think you are


  31. Tom regardless who is in office education and rethinking how we look at things and counseling getting better. The reason why the law passed to begin with was women who didn’t want babies went through extreme circumstances not to have them. Hangers yanking them out. Backroom abortions causing infections. Women who would hit themselves in the stomach to premature birth to even jumping from ladders. You can’t change things with law…..That being said would we have as many? I think not but what we are seeing is an adjustment to those who thought it easier to actually thinking what right do I have to do this.


  32. Robert what exactly was the theological lesson and I’m not saying to be in your face I really am trying to see it and can’t for some reason.


  33. Jesus said that the Disciples were evil. ‘If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts….’ Also said that you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless you are born again. This presupposes a universal separation from the Father, or some problem or condition that necessitates a new birth. Paul’s admonition that ‘all have sinned’ also points to a persistent and chronic condition of sinfulness. The question becomes, if we were not born with a predilection to sin, how come everybody is a sinner?


  34. Hmmm – you miss the point. Completely. Industries change. Places changes. Jobs change. New careers get created. Nothing is static. Longing for the old days is stupid (that is what Solomon says, not me).

    As to the rest of your comments – you are faulting people for being in a different part of their growth curve. That is ridiculous.

    And as to your cities comment: I suppose Shanghai, Phnom Penh, Jakarta, Lima, Nairobi, Mumbai, Mexico City etc don’t count. Not being full of WASPS…


  35. Hey, Robert B, maybe it’s that simple and straightforward for you. If so, go to it man. Good for you.

    But it’s different for many of the rest of us, and your words of discouragement are not going to stop us from exploring other ways of understanding scripture and Christian faith. You are wasting your breath with insults that we shrug off with a laugh; we’ve heard it all too many times before, uttered by more compelling (and congenial!) voices than yours.


  36. Oh and our minorities which are fast approaching majority could really use those jobs to rebuild the only thing that makes any sense which is cities. Major hubs and railroads not to mention roadways which at some time will be obsolete and did we really need to go here go back……awwwwwwwe c’mon don’t patronize me I never said that I personally believe our diversity is where our future is and our creativeness…..To tell the truth I totally expected that comment…………


  37. What exactly are you talking about? Is there a discussion on this thread about the events of yesterday, which we were asked not to discuss, that I’m missing out on? Please tell me where I can find it, because I’d like to join in, but only if someone else has trespassed first.


  38. Sorry as always you have missed the point. Environment which people hold as important Is totally not of importance and all we have to do is look at the cities where now they have manufacturing and we don’t. Manufacturing for us at least here in this country where holding an automatic weapon gets you a life sentence and may I remind you not ticky no laundry……. Hmmmmmm You can be so condescending at times even when you’re wrong.


  39. *clapping*
    What an awesome cover that is. Dang, those guitars in the opening.

    I will also throw in the Ramones’ version of the Spider-Man theme song from the 60s (the one that goes: “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can…”)


  40. Hmmm – you miss the point. Completely. Industries change. Places changes. Jobs change. New careers get created. Nothing is static. Longing for the old days is stupid (that is what Solomon says, not me).


  41. I’m sorry not at all and you totally missed the mark. The reason why cities make sense is the work force that is within its borders. So Baltimore who had a tremendous work force now has no place to go. If you look at the row homes and how they were built we can’t do that today. The stoops themselves were quarried stone. Cities make no sense whatsoever if there is not something within the borders to fuel them thus urban sprawl. Then we use more energy to go to work and all the costs associated with that and that doesn’t even start with the one thing that is precious which is farm ground. I’m sorry if you might think I’m a racist but many countries did very little to educate people and try to keep population growth down. Now they want to enter a world economy while paying people very little and could care less about environment. I’m just getting started. So I’m going to stop.


  42. “Secret knowledge”? You mean like…

    When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

    ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,
    and may indeed listen, but not understand;
    so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”

    -Mark 4:10-12


  43. And the use of the Confessional (and the Seal of the Confessional) is to keep things private and head off gossip.

    (Speaking of which, “Thou Shalt Gossip” seems to be the Eleventh Commandment at a LOT of churches. To the point of some even announcing the Juicy stuff from the pulpit to shame the dissidents..)


  44. There are a lot of cover songs that have so completely rearranged the DNA of the original, that I actually prefer them. With your indulgence, I’d like to share a few. I’ll have to do it this way to avoid moderation purgatory.

    Some may even come close to Jimi’s achievement with the Experience.


  45. People who complain about globalization don’t know diddly squat except slogans. Globalization brings jobs to Developing nations. You want to bring the jobs home (btw, the unemployment rate doesn’t support the thesis that they left. The kinds of jobs people do changed. That is an aside). But bringing jobs “home” means lots and lots of othwr people won’t have them anymore. Mexicans, Tunisians, Bangladeshis, Chinese, Indians etc. Sure they don’t alwats pay well. But you know what is worse than a job that pays badly? No job!

    In the last few decades more brown and black and Asian peopke have come out of poverty because of globalization than ever before.

    Anti-Globalization forces are racist. Even if they have no intention of being so.

    If you want to help people, encourage trade, standards of welfare, minimim wages etc. Everywhere.


  46. Since he’s also featured today at IM, I’ll say that the only worthy rendition of the National Anthem is the one Jimi Hendrix did at Woodstock.


  47. I posted a brief reply above. Now some additional after more reading. I have followed this blog for years going back to Michael Spencer. I enjoy most of the weekly posts. Today however is more grandstanding and preaching apparently for all of us “rubes” out there who need the benefit of the collective wisdom expressed here today. What did Jesus REALLY believe? The 4 gospels can’t tell us that. There must be more to it than that! There was a word for that. Gnosticism. “Secret knowledge” The hubris displayed here by several posters is indeed breathtaking. I’m hoping that some of these comments are actually self important stunts by students. To actually hold this stuff as sincere belief is staggeringly arrogant.


  48. As an avid reader who seldom comments I can’t help but notice that even when asked not to do so, the usual inhabitants of this blog can’t help themselves. The bubble is alive and well here.


  49. I’m not. I don’t know about anyone else here, but I find comparisons to Hitler pretty tiresome (that was part of Ashley Judd’s remarks). And there was no need for Madonna to state she’d thought about blowing up the White House. There have been some other statements by these and other speakers which I dare not repeat. If these activists think they’re helping their own cause, they are seriously mistaken.


  50. Stuart, you must be nostalgic for Bush 41. How are you about broccoli? He hates that stuff, much to Barbara’s ire.

    That’s about all the presidential comment I should make. Better let the dust settle first over DC.


  51. Capitalism is a tool that can be used for good, i.e. determining the value of something within a community of people. A lot of people have sold it their souls, impelled by greed, and made it their idol. That can happen with anything.

    The desert monastics were encouraged to be self-sufficient; a lot of them wove baskets and sold them, or received remuneration for other manual labor or crafts. Their understanding of “poverty” was to live simply with only as much as they truly needed. Having a few coins in their pockets meant that they could give some help to those who *were* destitute.

    Capitalism itself isn’t the problem. The problem is exploitation because of lack of love; capitalist maneuvers can be very good tools to reap the monetary rewards of exploitation. But we can use those tools in a different way, non-exploitatively – if we so desire.



  52. numo,
    In agreement with the bulk of what you said here. But I think it was my comment that was more harsh in criticism about the performances than oscar’s. As has been appointed out above, I was out of line, and I apologize for that. I let my own fear about the new political dispensation turn into a verbal attack against an innocent bystander and easy target.


  53. gosh, that’s quite a story about the Catholic Church …….. usually people come to my Church from other Churches for things they can’t get at their own, like exorcisms 🙂 or a brilliantly-done midnight service on Christmas Eve with real traditional Christmas hymns;

    but that story takes the cake. I’m sad for those people. But I’m glad they come for help anyway.

    The truth is, when we go to confession, it’s private. There is a screen between the priest and the person confessing. No ‘church discipline’ done publicly to shame someone in front of the whole congregation, which I think must be horribly unhelpful for all concerned.


  54. Oscar, “actual deeds” have, in fact, been happening in large numbers since Nov. 8th. Just lookmat the hate crime statsnon the SPLC site. Some things – like a knife being held to someone’s throat – happened fairly closebto ehere I live.

    Your tone could be more gracious, too. Don’t tell me not to worry when in actual fact, there’s plrnty to eorry sbout. Although I don’t fit some of the demographics per easily targeted people, I’m in one of them for sure, given my gender. And I know more than a few people eho fit into all of the categories singled out by white supremacists, thugs and people using a candidate’s overtly hateful rhetoric as an excuse for evil words snd deeds. If I could be at one of the marches todsy, I would be.

    As for whatever you saw on TV, I don’t have cable, and can’t pick up OTA channels, due to living in a mountainous region. So thst all went right past me, And anyway… they’re just kids. Have some mercy for them, ok?


  55. And I think that to live as a community in the presence of the powerfully alive lJesus means that our worship must consciously practice his presence. This goes for corporate as well as individual devotional life. In this regard, I’ve come to see that the kind of thing that Richard Rohr is (and others are) teaching (though I disagree with him in some particulars: I don’t see any evidence of the non-dual mind, for instance, and I don’t think that there is a Perennial Tradition more important than the person of Jesus. But those are mere quibbles, when I drop fear of ending up in hell for getting things wrong, and calculate in the importance of getting centered on the presence of Jesus) is indispensable to the life and the well-being and future of the Church. Worship is practice of the presence of Jesus, who is the sacrament of God.


  56. The other thing that I believe we can have confidence in is that, after his death, the earliest Christian community experienced the renewed personal, relational presence of the living Jesus in their midst, and in the world, and that his presence was powerfully known in a forgiveness and reconciliation and love that transcends death. It was this experience that generated the memories that were interpreted by the writing and redaction of the New Testament. Our own beliefs and practices as a Christian community should be centered around the trust that he still lives among us and in the world in this mode, in this way, and that he continues to extend to us the power to model our lives as individuals and communities on the forgiveness and love and reconciliation that he offers to us even now, in this moment. For me, that’s what it means to be Christian, and to be Christian community.


  57. +100… to Adam – and one of the worst aspects of that “petulance”…is a broad swath of our populace and its leaders who willfully choose to ignore what other countries have learned to do better…for years now — and they do this because those good things are deemed un-american.
    Paths to cheaper healthcare? Nope – won’t do it because it’s not OUR way.
    Better education? Nope… gotta pay for it with loans and property taxes and gotta keep that football!
    Less crime/gun violence? Nope… that 2nd amendment golden calf dare not be tweaked in any way!
    Better political processes/elections/etc? NO WAY… that would be messing with the world’s most sacred text of all time, the Constitution!
    And on and on with a hundred other areas…


  58. I’d say why not live like Jesus lived, and quit worrying about what he actually said or possibly knew.

    Okay, as long as we remember that we also only know about how Jesus lived from the New Testament, none of which was written by him. And the accounts of how he lived and what he taught overlap significantly, so we are always getting both of those through the prism of the NT writers’ and redactors’ merging of the two as well as their interpretation. I think it’s as much a mistake to make a kind of law for how the Christian life should be lived out of the accounts of what Jesus did and said as to make a list of orthodox Christian beliefs and theology from it. What we can know with relative certainty is the model of how he lived, without making a law out of it, and seek to walk in his footsteps given our situation and context, without making our eternal felicity depend on the exactitude of our knowledge of his actions or beliefs. But to do this, we must put away any fear of ending up in hell (everlasting/eternal conscious torment),for ourselves or others, as a result of failure to get things exactly right.


  59. As in making the Sign of the Dollar alongside John Galt?

    Hell if I know, but since the 2008 elections the guy’s got more celebrity impersonators than Elvis.


  60. I was involved on the periphery of the pro-life movement in the Eighties (when Reagan was God’s Anointed POTUS who would overturn Roe v Wade), and noticed something about EVERY Pro-Life Activist group I encountered:

    They had developed severe tunnel-vision that ONLY they were Truly Pro-Life (all others were lukewarm apostates) and ONLY Their Way Was The Correct Way.
    * NRLC – Elect (Godly) Republicans who will appoint (Godly) Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe-v-Wade (and return prayer to schools).
    * ALL – NRLC on steroids, including threatening Eternal Hell to those who didn’t fork over the money to get Bork on the Supreme Court.
    * Operation Rescue – If you’re not going to jail for participating in a Rescue, you’re no better than an abortionist and God Will Spew Thee Out of His Mouth.

    All competing One True Ways, infighting and bickering to the point none of them could reach critical mass and maybe accomplish something. The Universe Cannot Have Two Centers.



    P.S. “CALM” as an acronym?
    I know between the Feds and Microsoft every three- and four-letter combination has been exhausted, this sounds like they were having C.S.Lewis coin their acronyms. (In his fiction, Lewis coined some of the biggest groaners I have ever heard, and I work in a Microsoft shop.)


  62. Exactly!! Was thinking this morning of just how many statements of Jesus reflect a post-Temple, possibly post 70 AD knowledge of events in the area, and how easy it would have been for the authors to put ‘predictions’ into Jesus’ mouth. We just don’t know what he said, and unless we believe in some controlling supernatural force preventing (or even guiding) what the authors put into Jesus’ words, we have to assume it’s a possibility.

    Some would call that a challenging test of faith to think like that. I’d say why not live like Jesus lived, and quit worrying about what he actually said or possibly knew. The point of the Christian life is to walk like Jesus walked, not just direct happy thoughts to his memory.


  63. Absolutely. And they will blame shift and call out fallacies whenever those things are brought up. They are not willing to actually do good works to help; their faith is dead.


  64. Make no mistake, original sin is a non-Biblical theology. It’s not anti-Biblical, it may be a-biblical, but it’s definitely non-Biblical. Same with YEC. Same with inerrancy. It’s NEW revelation that has become established as fact, on par with anything in the Bible, on par with any Papal decree, on par with any new prophet’s revelation.

    So we’ll allow for development in thought about geology and cosmology past the biblical literary categories, but not for theology?

    Absolutely in regards to geology and cosmology and science about God’s creation and the ANE and biblical authors! Theology is a whole different beast. When does the canon close? Is revelation progressive? Is revelation progressive past the immediately apostles? How far do you want to open that can of worms?


  65. Ok, I’m confused. Are you both seriously admitting that extra-Biblical, post-apostle theological development is good and important? New revelations that succeed everything that came before? That the canon is in fact not closed but wide open?

    Where do you stop with that? You just made any truth claim by any group valid. Mormons, Islam, 7th Day Adventists, 3rd Rain…all are now equally valid, and the sole discerner of what is true now becomes you.

    Are you ok with that?


  66. Pensions and health-care for old people are not was is causing wage stagnation for the bottom 90%. Come-on how would that even work.


  67. When people complain about “globalization” they are complaining about the set of policies deliberately put in place to funnel money from the bottom 90% of the population to the top 10%, of which outsourcing is particularly visible. The acceptance of this transfer is heavily abetted by people like good old Zakareia up there that wants to pretend it was a inevitable natural process rather than bi-partisan public policy.


  68. Robert, my criticism was for the song choice itself. Perhaps the groups performance was as the composer intended, but the song itself was terrible. probably some “modern” composer who features discordant lines and dissonance as art.


  69. >> He has many many times said if more pro-lifers would quit marching & being outraged and actually step up to the plate and help kids already here, he’d have more respect for them.

    Thank you, Suzanne. I generally stay out of this dog fight, but am personally much more concerned with the kids world-wide living in orphanages and institutions and deplorable conditions. It is overwhelming and way beyond my ability to help, but I have neighbors with foster- and adopted children, including two that were eating out of dumpsters, and one that was intentionally blinded. And these neighbors aren’t ideologues of either stripe. Hats off!


  70. > I’m sure that some people just leave the church and face things alone


    > But I’m not sure this is only true of churches where the “gospel of success”..

    Agree. I do not really believe in “gospel of success” / prosperity gospel as a stand alone thing – at least is the United States. To me this looks like a manifestation of American Purity Culture, descended from Clapham Victorianism. It is subtlety encoded everywhere in our culture, you almost can’t help but feel it in your bones.


  71. How do I know what Jesus believed in? I only know what the New Testament writers and redactors say he believed in, and they’re mum on Original Sin, among many other subjects. Given what they wrote, we know remarkably little about Jesus mental furniture; even more remarkable is that Jesus left us nothing that he wrote himself so that we could have a direct insight into his thoughts. Apparently he didn’t think it was important to do so, but here we’ve spent two thousand years trying to figure things like this out, and definitively determine things about him that he did not tell us himself.


  72. Okay. Perhaps we should ask oscar to cut some slack for that choir from Missouri, too, as long as we’re being non-partisan. They did at least as well as the girl, and under the same conditions. Thanks for leading the non-partisan way, flatrocker. You’re a regular Moses.


  73. Yawn, Robert. Just yawn.
    The performance you found awful, I simply saw as human in its flaws. I’m sorry it offended your seemingly classically trained ear. While I am no fan of this president, I did find myself admiring the courage of this young girl.

    If we can get beyond the knee-jerk partisan language that seems to be needlessly injected where it doesn’t belong, there simply was a sense of something refreshing in her performance – flawed as it was. Cut her some slack.


  74. From the front lines of foster care, I agree. It’s one of the reasons we left our church of many years and moved to a local campus of a megachurch. While I’m no fan of the worship hour with fog machines, light shows, and overamplification, many of the congregation understand and live the point you made above. They are broadly prolife and supportive of families and singles, with church level support for single parent, adoptive, and foster families and people of all ages and situation. I’m sure it’s as imperfect as any other church, but for right now, it fits for what we believe we need to be doing.


  75. It’s sad that in their time of great need people feel so isolated by fear of judgment from churches. I’m sure that some people just leave the church and face things alone, rather than continue as members, feeling both lonely and constantly afraid of being discovered in their neediness. But I’m not sure this is only true of churches where the “gospel of success” is preached, though I have no doubt it’s worse in them. It seems to be a pervasive problem in our society, as well as churches. It isolates people from networks when they are most in need of them.


  76. I’ll admit that my comment was harshly worded.

    But flatrocker, the choir from Missouri that oscar harshly criticized as “AWFUL”: they were not much older than the 16 year old, and I’m sure they were nervous too with all those living presidents watching and etc., but I notice you offer no criticism of his lack of charitableness. Could that be because yours is a politically partisan comment?


  77. I’m sure many competent singers would’ve been willing to perform, but of course they would rather put a poorly trained16 year old who had a brush with fame on the spot rather than choose a competent unknown to do the job. How very uncharitable of them, flatrocker.


  78. A 16 year old girl singing in front of a global audience with 5 presidents looking over her shoulder.
    And she came off a little nervous with an uncharacteristically wavering voice. So what.
    How very charitable of you Robert.

    (maybe she should have lip-synched instead?)


  79. Suzanne, that is a false equivalency. It’s like saying that if Women’s Rights Groups (pro abortion) would spend more time in the inner city and areas of rural poverty to help relieve the reasons women choose abortion then pro-lifers would have more respect for Rights groups. Or maybe one could say that millennials are “begging the question” when asked “What is it that is in the womb?” My post is not about abortion or pro-life, it is about arguments used in the discussion. But, really, there IS no discussion, just slogans and imprecations.


  80. That singer absolutely butchered the National Anthem. It’s an admittedly difficult song to sing, but she didn’t come close to staying in key through even the easier parts. And the more difficult parts were a train wreck. An awful performance.


  81. numo, save your fear and anxiety for actual deeds. There has been plenty of vocalizing about fears since November and I doubt that your own will add anything new to the conversation.

    But I WILL say something about the “show”…that choir from Missouri was AWFUL!!! Who chose that piece?


  82. > The problem is not even primarily military spending

    Never meant to assert that was true – the point is that we are exercising a faux-austerity. That compels us to spend rather than invest. There are many many things we could do – and don’t – that have very compelling ROIs.


  83. >> Did Jesus believe in “original sin”?

    Absolutely, tho he didn’t call it that. “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.” To locate the origin of “Original Sin” as a human concept, please contact Brother Augustine. When Augustine was lifted up and Origen was excoriated was when the train went off the tracks in the Western Christian church, and perhaps that event could be called the “Origenal Sin.” I would say that compared to the church’s promotion of Original Sin with its attendant handmaiden, Everlasting Conscious Torment, that silly monstrosity of the Ark down in Kentucky isn’t even in the running for Best Scam of the Common Era, and doesn’t even beat “CE” itself. I exempt the Eastern Church from all this, as usual, tho they have a few lesser scams of their own.


  84. Forget what you know about the concept of “original sin”; it was simply not something anyone believed in at the time of Christ.

    So we’ll allow for development in thought about geology and cosmology past the biblical literary categories, but not for theology?


  85. Good for fans of Ron D. Moore’s terrific reboot of Battlestar Galactica as well. You know who you are. 😉

    The plot lines and vharacter development in BSG are also very relevant to the topic we’re supposed to avoid.


  86. My millennial children have both turned their backs on the pro-life movement because of its disregard for post-birth lives. My son works in social services. They cry out for people to foster children from at-risk homes. He has many many times said if more pro-lifers would quit marching & being outraged and actually step up to the plate and help kids already here, he’d have more respect for them. I know plenty of very pro-life people who write letters, protest, give money to crisi pregnancy centers, but only a handful that are willing to actually take in the kids when their parents fail them.


  87. Eeyore, not at all the same thing. Havingnthe ability to sin does not mean that one has a fundamentally “tainted” nature, nor that one’s individual sin is somehow passed on biologically to one’s offspring. Thst doesn’t even mske sense.

    Forget what you know about the concept of “original sin”; it was simply not something anyone believed in at the time of Christ.


  88. The problem is not even primarily military spending. It is an unsustainable entitlement system; piling national, local, and personal debt; decaying infrastructure and economic base; stagnant and declining wages for the non-upper classes (and yes, globalization does have a bit to do with that); and an ingrained assumption that the post-WWII economic boom was the natural order of things that should have gone on indefinitely.

    Oh, and also peak oil. 😉


  89. you gotta admit that there’s more to the issue than simply being “pro-birth”.

    Sadly, many people will make no such admission.


  90. Did Jesus believe in “original sin”?

    I very much doubt it. It would appear that 2nd Temple Judaism may have had a form of “original sin”, such as the disciples question in Jn. 9; “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”


  91. The gospel of success story reminds me of the conversation I had this summer with a friend who I met years ago in college (30+ years!). She goes to a Catholic Church in the Houston area. There is a big contemporary evangelical mega-church in her area (not Joel Osteen). She said they get people frequently from said mega-church coming to their Catholic Church when they need help; financial, counseling, etc. When asked why they don’t ask their own church, they invariably answer that they don’t want their church to know they need help. The Gospel of Success. Don’t let people know you aren’t succeeding. They might think you aren’t praying hard enough, or love God enough, or aren’t committed to Jesus enough. It’s never enough.


  92. I was forced to a long pause in reading the opening article about the decline in abortions.

    Amazing how 8 years of a Liberal presidency can do so much more in this area than the previous 8 yrs of a Conservative presidency. I know it’s more complex than that, BUT, you gotta admit that there’s more to the issue than simply being “pro-birth”.


  93. As far as I’m concerned, the Flood is a biblical legend used to impart a theological lesson, as the linked article asserts. Period.


  94. “Globalization” is a perpetual project of the human species. The prosperity of any nation depends on its successful influence in the international world, in one form or another. The only question is whether it will primarily seek to dominate, or cooperate with, other nations in its endeavor to grow and extend.


  95. The “gospel of success” in nothing but bad news and condemnation to me. I don’t cut the mustard; I’m a loser. I’ll go read the Magnificat instead.


  96. The article on Globalization is spot on: “””over the past three decades the U.S. government spent $14.2 trillion fighting 13 wars. That money could have been invested in America, building infrastructure and creating jobs.””” THIS! My goodness, we’ve been trying for YEARS to make a single connection between two railroads, one that goes directly over the other [as just one of many examples]. America’s policies are economically suicidal – and nobody talks about it. It is an immense silent tragedy; the problem is not Globalization, the problem is a juvenile and petulant perspective on the world. We have everything we need to win the game, vast spare capacity, but “NO!”, we choose to sit in the corner, cross our arms like a spoiled child, and blame something nebulous [globalization, “big government”, “wall street”, blah blah woof woof].


  97. There’s nothing like loving human touch from a trusted source to remind us that we are not alone, at any age. And I for one have very much needed to be reminded of that all my life. My well-being and sanity have sometimes depended on it.


  98. Hendrix’s remake of Dylan’s song about the Apocalypse seems quite apropos, given the subject we’ve been asked not to discuss today.


  99. Those predictions for the church in 2016!!! What nutcase made those? I kinda want to believe they were intentionally ironic.

    Only, yeah, I heard “””Younger Millennials and Generation Z would come around to church and faith just like earlier generations.””” a few times. And they accuse Tolkien fans of being escapist!

    “””Large, fast-growing churches are attracting crowds through the abandonment of orthodoxy””” This one is weird. Last fast-growing churches are …drumroll… attached to large fast-growing communities. Author misses the mark on this one.

    “””The church has moved past racism.””” – Have you been to a church, pretty much any church? To be fair – did anyone say or predict such a thing?

    I suspect Crosswalk is kind of a weird site, I’ve never spent any time there. The responses seem heavy with the Church Growth world view. I thought Church Growth was extinct.


  100. Did Jesus believe in “original sin”? I don’t see how he coild have, as a Jew and rabbi of his time. It just isn’t there in the Tanakh, and is an (imo) pretty weird gloss on the text of the 2nd creation story in Genesis that didn’t come along until centuries later. (Though if you look into the Jewish interpretations of that passage in the Talmud, you’re going to run into some sci-fi-ish stuff, in the wilder rabbinic conjectures, at least.)

    Which isn’t the same thing as asking whether Jesus believed that Adam and Eve had sinned. It can be really hard for us to pull back from things we are certain about in order to see how certain ideas developed and gained currency, but we are the richer for trying.

    As for not talking about things in D.C., I’ll abide by your request, but I do hope you will take on some of the ethical issues, CM. I feel like so many religion blogs are maintaining an ominous silence, it’s not funny. Not sure if I can keep biting my tongue, though I don’t want to lash out at anyone. It’s more like anxiety and very real concerns are tearing me up, and I have almost nowhere that I can risk saying anything, and next to nobody to discuss things with.


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