The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: August 18, 2018
Rest in Peace to the Queen of Soul…
From “The Church of Aretha Franklin” by Michael Eric Dyson at the New York Times:
Just the mention of Aretha Franklin’s name conjured transcendent sonic fury. She came to it honestly. Her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, was one of the most storied preachers of his day. His rhetorical genius made its way onto dozens of recordings that were treasured possessions in many black homes.
…He was a master of the chanted sermon, where words are put under pressure of music and speech bursts into song. The young Aretha learned from her father and turned into a gospel wunderkind.
…When it came time for her to switch from sacred to secular, to head for the soul music charts after she had brilliantly charted the path of the soul in gospel music, she confronted brutal blowback from some black believers.
They thought that she had betrayed her first love and her true calling. But they were wrong. After experimenting with numerous genres, from blues to jazz, Aretha Franklin found a bigger canvas on which to sketch her artistic vision, which drew both from ancient soul passions and progressive moral possibilities. Thus, she transformed Otis Redding’s punchy “Respect” into a timeless anthem for racial pride and a cry of feminist recognition. Her church got larger, her congregation composed of millions of people in search of a soulful vision of spiritual direction beyond sanctuary doors.
When she returned to the world of gospel in 1972, and again 15 years later, her embrace of the phrases and emotion of the sanctuary put at ease those who may have feared that she had somehow lost it, or that God had somehow forsaken her. Her father let the world know, in spirited remarks on her 1972 album, “Amazing Grace,” that his daughter “never really left the church.” And clearly it had never left her.
During her remarkable career, Ms. Franklin made sure to incorporate her concern for social justice and redemptive politics as she performed at civil rights fund-raisers for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s and to benefit the efforts of the Rev. Jesse Jackson. She offered to post bond for the jailed revolutionary Angela Davis in the early ’70s, going against the wishes of her father. In her statement at the time she said: “I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace.”
…The Baptist church that we both sprang from eventually took great delight in her reign as the most dominant force in American music. The preacher in me believed that hers was the best way to tell our story to a world that might never darken the doors of a church but was sorely in need of a dose of the Spirit.
A few words about Aretha Franklin:
- Aretha: a remembrance in the Detroit Free Press
- Aretha’s contribution to the civil rights movement
- How “Respect” became an anthem for civil rights and feminism
- Aretha: queen for the world, a Detroiter for the city
- A performer without peers
The story of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church by predatory priests accelerated exponentially this week with a mind-boggling report from Pennsylvania.
“There have been other reports about child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. But not on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.” So begins the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s grand jury investigation into clergy abuse, released to the public on Tuesday afternoon. The 900-page report, which investigated all but one of the state’s dioceses, identifies over 1,000 victims of child sexual abuse and over 300 predatory priests.
The report explains why abuse flourished for so long. “While each church district had its idiosyncrasies, the pattern was pretty much the same. The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid ‘scandal.’ That is not our word, but theirs; it appears over and over again in the documents we recovered,” the report asserts. Church officials kept complaints in a “secret archive,” to which only the bishop kept the key. The report also states that diocesan files repeatedly relied on euphemisms to describe clergy abuse; the files refer to rape as “inappropriate contact,” for example. Predatory priests were referred to treatment, and in the rare instance the church removed a priest from his parish, his congregants never learned the real reason for his departure.
As Megan McArdle writes in the Washington Post, “The report reads like one of those lurid anti-Catholic novels that flourished in 19th-century America. Only this story was authored by the church hierarchy itself — a hierarchy that has thus far evaded full accountability.”
If Jesus were here today, would He not be running through American cathedrals, knocking over tables as He did with the money changers in the Temple? “According to scripture,” He said in the Gospel of Matthew, “my house will be called a house of prayer; but you are turning it into a bandits’ den.” The words are a fitting indictment of the men who are accused of committing a moral theft of unimaginable wickedness — in their thoughts and in their words, in what they did and in what they failed to do.
The innocence of children was stolen, as was the church’s sanctity and the faith of congregants, many of whom are today asking how they can possibly continue to believe that this is the one true church that Christ founded through Peter. They do not expect the church to be perfect; even St. Peter, after all, denied Christ three times. But they do expect to find the reflection of Christ there.
According to news reports, the church hierarchy in Pennsylvania and beyond has already denied Christ’s gospel three times: once when it sheltered predators in silence; once when it failed to remove everyone who was involved in covering up any crime; and again when two of the six dioceses involved tried to shut down the grand jury investigation that produced the report. Now they face the same choice Peter did.
They can offer the full record of faithlessness in abject penitence, witnessing for repentance and redemption even at risk of martyrdom. Or they can deny Him a fourth time by minimizing the past and protecting those who helped maintain that grisly silence. Which is to say, they can choose to be a millstone around the neck of the faithful — or the rock on which the church can be rebuilt.
Another Moral Line with Children Has Been Crossed…
From The Washington Post:
Deliberately taking a small child’s life is unlawful everywhere in the world, even when the child is terminally ill and asks a doctor to end his or her suffering once and for all.
There is an exception to this rule: Belgium. In 2014, that country amended its law on euthanasia, already one of the most permissive in the world, authorizing doctors to terminate the life of a child, at any age, who makes the request.
For a year after the law passed, no one acted on it. Now, however, euthanasia for children in Belgium is no longer just a theoretical possibility.
Between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2017, Belgian physicians gave lethal injections to three children under 18, according to a July 17 report from the commission that regulates euthanasia in Belgium.
Belgian doctors, however, also ended the lives of a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old. These were the first under-12 cases anywhere…
The Post calls this the result of a “libertarian technocracy” in Belgium, that limits the ability of laws or oversight commissions to oversee such matters, instead trusting medical experts to make the right decisions. Last year, a woman with dementia and unable to make a decision in the matter was euthanized at her family’s request. This led to a petition, signed by 360 Belgian doctors, to tighten controls on euthanasia for psychiatric patients.
Now there is precedent for allowing children to make this decision.
From Fox News:
The Cornerstone Nashville church used a cougar, lion, mountain lion, a ram and miniature ponies in the sermon that focused on going back to school.
In the sermon, senior Pastor Galen Davis compared a lion and mountain lion to each other and used them to demonstrate the differences between fear and faith. The mountain lion, Davis explained, isn’t considered to be a big cat because it cannot roar; instead, he said, it screams.
“We have to move from being a people of fear to a people of faith,” he told churchgoers. “That when the scream of fear comes in our life, we know it’s not the real lion … We know that it’s not what God has for us.”
PETA has criticized the church for using the animals. One PETA representative said the organization “is encouraging Cornerstone Nashville to serve the meek by pledging never to exploit vulnerable animals ever again.”
If you ask me, the real criticism should be reserved for the totally lame sermon.
And hey, I love baseball as much or more than anyone else, but preaching in an untucked baseball jersey? Is this a thing now? Dude, you just look silly.
Finally, yes, of course, using the animals is over the top and ludicrous.
The evangelical circus is alive and well. With animals.
While we’re on the subject…
Speaking of people who just don’t get it, time to revisit our old friend, Dr. John MacArthur. One of my friends once said of Johnnie Mac, “He ain’t neutral about nothin’.” Well, he ain’t neutral about “social justice,” that’s clear.
Evangelicalism’s newfound obsession with the notion of “social justice” is a significant shift—and I’m convinced it’s a shift that is moving many people (including some key evangelical leaders) off message, and onto a trajectory that many other movements and denominations have taken before, always with spiritually disastrous results.
Over the years, I’ve fought a number of polemical battles against ideas that threaten the gospel. This recent (and surprisingly sudden) detour in quest of “social justice” is, I believe, the most subtle and dangerous threat so far.
The good doctor once again betrays his historical ignorance of anything outside of what he considers to be the “pure stream” of orthodox faith. If he didn’t have his head stuck in the separatist sand he’s bogged down in, he would recognize that, in many ways, evangelical faith has often been at the forefront of social movements, protests, and efforts to bring justice for the marginalized and to promote societal change, especially in the wake of the 2nd Great Awakening here in the U.S. Perhaps it is because MacArthur and other neo-Calvinists consider anything coming out of the 2nd Great Awakening to be tainted by a kind of evangelical faith they don’t deem genuine.
Whether he wants to admit it or not, the abolition movement, campaigns for women’s rights, workers rights, and assistance for the poor have deep roots in an evangelical understanding of the gospel. On one side or the other, evangelicals have been leaders in the “culture wars” in this and other countries. For MacArthur to say this is a “newfound obsession” is simply absurd. For him to claim that it is “the most subtle and dangerous threat so far” is one of the silliest statements I’ve ever heard.
Of course, we here at Internet Monk have been loudly critical of “culture war Christianity,” but that’s because in our generation, we think the approach of those who make that their priority (particularly the Christian Right) has led them to embrace strategies, attitudes, and behaviors that are contrary to the way of Jesus — specifically seeking positions of power to impose their beliefs on others.
That’s not MacArthur’s beef. He has an issue with “social justice” itself, and to me that reveals he has a gospel that is too small. In my view, he simply does not understand the trajectory set by the New Testament and its emphasis on a good news that is actually meant to change the world, not just relieve the guilt of individual consciences.
I would agree that there are social justice advocates who cross lines and make the same mistakes those on the more conservative ends of the culture war do. That, again, is not what MacArthur is saying. He is painting with a broad brush here that ignores not only the reality of church history but also the message of a large portion of the Bible. See the prophets for more information.
Finally, I have to brag on this…
Last Sunday night, I was working on the blog and listening to the Cubs play the Washington Nationals. In the top of the ninth inning, the Nats scored a couple of insurance runs to make the game 3-0. The Cubs had been so bad at the plate all night, I shut the audio stream off and kept working. A little while later I brought up the MLB Gameday page, which is a visual reenactment of the pitches and a running feed of each play as it happens.
David Bote, a reserve who has been filling in for the Cubs’ best player, Kris Bryant, was pinch-hitting in the bottom of the 9th. The Cubs had loaded the bases, there were two outs, and it was a 2-2 count on Bote. Next thing I knew, the feed announced that the young player had hit a game-winning, walk-off grand slam home run. And he did it on Sunday Night Baseball, before a national TV audience.
This is one of the rarest of feats in baseball, the heroic thing every young player dreams of doing in the backyard. Here is that dramatic final at bat: