Tweetstorm of the day

Somebody woke-up worried about the Mueller investigation this morning.

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Quotes for the day

He had a liking for all forthright and pugnacious men, and a contempt for lawyers, schoolmasters, and all other such obscurantists. He was not pious. He drank whisky whenever he felt chilly, and kept a jug of it handy. He knew far more profanity than Scripture, and used and enjoyed it more. He had no belief in the infallible wisdom of the common people, but regarded them as inflammatory dolts, and tried to save the Republic from them.

H.L. Mencken on George Washington

It really is time to stop buying every voter in certain states a cookie. You people saddled the nation with a corrupt, incompetent oligarch who turns everything and everyone he touches into hazardous waste. You did it because he stroked your cultural and social yearnings until you trilled like a chorus of locusts. You are done no good service by politicians who keep telling you that you’re the salt of the earth, or by reporters on expedition who demand that the rest of us be careful of your tender feelings. If you want the country to stop being moronic, stop voting for morons.

Charles Pierce

If this be elitism, make the most of it.

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Self-satisfied ignorance

Bruce Gerencser has posted an item that reprises an old gripe hereabouts — the resolute ignorance of many evangelicals.

Over the years, I met pastors who prided themselves in being men of one book. One man, a Church of the Nazarene pastor, was proud of the fact that his entire library fit on two four-foot shelves. His library consisted of a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, several books of illustrations, and a smattering of easy-to-read, pabulum-level books. These kinds of pastors believe that they can just read the Bible and understand exactly what the text says and means. After all, the Holy Spirit lives inside of them.

Religion is protected by our First Amendment, which is a good thing, but that freedom has a dark side: If I wanted to rent a storefront and open Uncle Bob’s Church of Corndogs and Eternal Sunshine, and start making all sorts of gaudy and extremely loud metaphysical pronouncements, there’s nothing to stop me. If I can draw a crowd and get myself a whopping tax shelter and a Bentley … well, good for me. It works for Joel Osteen, right?

The bald fact that a man stands behind a pulpit and howls and bellows says nothing — Nothing. — about his knowledge; it proves only that he is able to draw a paying crowd.

Nor, in fact, does a seminary degree. I operated a used bookstore directly across the street from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for a couple of years, and acquired very nearly a complete set of the books then in use at the seminary. It was thumbing through them that I learned something I’d never previously suspected — that there is a huge body of water between the conclusions of modern Biblical scholarship and the traditional Christian narrative; they are different countries.

Southern Baptists encourage early marriage by their seminarians, and I am convinced that one of the reasons is to imprison young men with family responsibilities — to short-circuit the possibility that he will leave on the day he realizes that the traditional narrative he grew up with is untrue. After all, he is married to a pretty, flawlessly groomed and –mannered young woman raised to be a preacher’s wife — who is impatient to get out of married student housing — has children, debts to pay off, et cetera, et cetera. He is treated with deference wherever he goes, and is invariably asked to give the blessing before the meal. He is assured that even the most Godly have episodes of doubt, reminded that anguished souls cry out for succor, on and on.

His entire identity, his whole sense of himself, is … I’m a preacher. So he takes the path of least resistance, which he has been trained from infancy to do anyhow, pockets his diploma, finds a job, then spends the rest of his life knowingly mouthing falsehoods.

And that’s the well-educated pastor. He avoids theological depth when speaking to his congregants, in order to minimize his lying, and thereby avoids in-depth discussion of the very thing in which he has some expertise. He consoles himself with the thought that he has sometimes actually helped people: those immigrants making their way in a strange country, that troubled family, that rebellious kid. Honestly, part of me feels sorry for those guys; they are usually reared to their disastrous lives and never had an even chance of living like honest men, and they haven’t the personal courage that their brains require.

But the majority, I am certain, haven’t the slightest idea that they are preposterous idiots. They go through life stout-heartedly shouting the exact same nonsense that was shouted in torch-lit caves 2000-years ago, that was shouted to the accompaniment of medieval auto da fes, that is taught today in rural Bible Colleges located over the town laundromat. And they do actual harm — to gays, for instance — and they make the world a poorer, meaner place.

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Tin ears

I share with many adults a tendency to feel annoyed when snippy teenagers presume to give me life instruction, and I’m entitled to feel annoyed; I’ve seen a lot more, done a lot more, and accomplished a lot more. But the NRA’s response to nationwide high school protests against the too-easy proliferation of assault weapons, by the most high-profile victims of those assault weapons, is stupid beyond words.

Has it occurred to these morons that there would be no protests if guns were being properly controlled? Sure doesn’t look like it.

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Baptist divide keeps growing

A Baptist theologian who left the SBC during the so-called “Conservative Resurgence” and joined the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is saying aloud what every clear-headed grown-up has known for a long time: The Southern Baptists are a destructive presence in our national life.

Baptists are doing a lot of harm in today’s society, emergent church leader Brian McLaren said in a podcast posted recently on a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship blog.

[ … ]

McLaren said he believes the Christian faith is undergoing an identity crisis more profound than the Reformation 500 years ago.

“Watching the success of Donald Trump win over especially white people, and especially white Christians and especially white evangelical and Baptist Christians, in my opinion this is a pivotal moment,” he said.

Not only has science revealed, and created, a world that doesn’t comport with conservative Christian claims about reality — e.g., evolution — the entire Abrahamic narrative is disintegrating before the onslaught of scholarship which shows that much of the Old Testament’s history of the Jews is make-believe.

  • Few scholars believe that Moses and Abraham were historical figures.

  • There were no 40-years in the Wilderness.

  • There was no Egyptian captivity.

  • King David was probably no more than a prominent regional thug.

And that’s just for starters.

This is exactly the crisis of legitimacy that Nietzsche foresaw as long ago as the late 1800s, and explains why Christianity per se has ceased to enjoy any intellectual or ethical credibility and has degraded into cultural tribalism. But Christianity and Islam are the foundations of Western and near-Eastern cultures, and their inability to explain the world has brought us to a paradigm shift in human thought as dramatic as the death of paganism before the rise of monotheism.

I am convinced, that is, that much of the world’s instability, and disputes like these among Baptists, are not transient so much as symptoms of a vastly greater, epochal, change that is underway. East and West are organized on the basis of religious marketing lies — and those lies have failed. The question then becomes the oldest in philosophy: How, then, shall we live?

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