January 19, 2021

Saturday Ramblings: November 28, 2015


1973 AMC Matador Coupe

In honor of my brother-in-law with whom we just spent Thanksgiving, who once drove a bright orange version of this ’73 beauty, we feature today’s two-door Matador, which he lovingly remembers as “a piece of junk.” Of course, he only paid 300 bucks for it, but it is true that AMC/Rambler made some dreadful cars in the 1970s. This one looks like it will do for taking us rambling, however, so climb in and let’s go!

Along the way, just because we can, and to conclude the Church Year 2014-2015 with a bit of levity, we feature a fond look at nuns having fun as we ramble.

Nuns Having Fun (18)

Turkish nun taking aim at a Russian fighter jet. Now you know…


Ramblers-Logo36An advertisement featuring the “Lord’s Prayer” was banned in theatres in England recently, creating a lot of discussion and debate. Here is the ad:


Bishop Steven Croft of Sheffield responded with a piece in the Washington Post offering reasons why the theatre companies might have been right to do so. First, he outlines the facts:

The Church of England has produced a 60-second commercial. The only words are the words of the Lord’s Prayer, said by children, the bereaved, people at work and so on. The ad is to promote a new Web site, JustPray.uk. The plan was (and is) to show the film before Christmas at screenings of the new “Star Wars” film to help everyone think about prayer and to pray. What could be more simple?

The distributors have declared the Lord’s Prayer unsuitable for screening. They believe it carries the risk of upsetting or offending audiences.

He then gives seven reasons (one for each line of the prayer) why this prayer speaks powerfully against “the point of view of global corporations and consumer culture, . . . [and] the perspective of the gods and spirits of the age.” He concludes:

There are only 63 words in the Lord’s Prayer. It takes less than a minute to say them.

Yet these words shape our identity, give purpose to our lives, check our greed, remind us of our imperfections, offer a way of reconciliation, build resilience in our spirits and call us to live to the glory of our creator.

No wonder they have been banned in the boardrooms of consumer culture.


Nuns Having Fun (19)

The Cubs are negotiating with the agent for Sister Mary Catherine, a starting pitcher who (it is reported) has a “wicked” fastball.


Ramblers-Logo362001_ape_download_movie (1)In an article at RNS questioning whether humans are hard-wired for violence, Marcia Pally writes:

It turns out, however, that we’re evolutionarily wired not for violence but for cooperation. ‘The vast majority of the people on the planet,’ writes Douglas Fry, ‘awake on a typical morning and live through a violence-free day — and this experience generally continues day after day after day.’

The real story should be the 13,748 gazillion times human beings default to cooperation and kindness!

Noting that this should motivate us to do more research on the real causes of violent behavior, she notes that many blame religion. However, she analyzes and then rejects that notion, concluding that “blaming religion for human aggression is like blaming adultery on the marriage vows.”

Furthermore, she notes that evolutionary biology and anthropology do not support the notion that violence leads to evolutionary advantage, but that “hyper-cooperation” brings the most benefits. Why then don’t we cooperate more? Pally puts her finger specifically on two perversions in our cultural relationships: (1) fear, and (2) the absence of self-transcendent meaning.”


Nuns Having Fun (8)

Nuns in Denver, CO going one toke over the line. Sweet Jesus.


Ramblers-Logo36In September, the company that makes and sells Nutella started a marketing campaign that allows fans of the hazelnut spread to personalise a 750 gramme or one kilogramme jar. Everyone but one five-year old girl in Shellharbour, New South Wales, Australia, that is.

You see, her mom named her Isis, after the Egyptian goddess Isis, revered as a matriarch and friend of the disadvantaged. She also named her 8-year-old son Odhinn after a god in Nordic mythology. Odhinn gets the Nutella, Isis is out of luck.

Here's little Isis, snuggling with her mom, just before she beheaded her.

Here’s little Isis, snuggling with her mom just before she beheaded her.

Heather Taylor, the little girl’s mother, was quite upset, but as Michael Koziol writes in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Unforeseeable though it may have been, the Taylor family are now dealing with the consequences of the unfortunate name choice. Ms Taylor has to shield her daughter from news reports, and regularly receives looks of disbelief in public places.

“I am starting to get to the point where I don’t want to call her name out,” she said. “Because she’s going to start noticing people looking.”

Ms Taylor also feels particularly aggrieved by a Woman’s Day article published earlier this month, which ranked “Isis” as No.1 on a list of 12 baby names that should be criminalised.

Hey, guess what No. 2 on the list is?


You can’t make this stuff up.


The Cubs are also looking for a contact hitter. Sister Rosa, who practices with a ruler every day in her classroom, rarely misses when she swings.


Ramblers-Logo36A group of 100 African-American pastors and religious leaders is scheduled to meet at Trump Towers in Manhattan at 1 p.m. on Monday. I can’t believe I am actually writing this, but the group is expected to endorse The Donald for president.


Pastor Darrell Scott, here shown with his eyes open

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times reports that Trump appears to have overcome some of the problems dealing with race that his campaign has had, at least with this group of black ministers, and they are ready to put their stamp of approval on him. Rappeport writes:

Darrell Scott, the pastor of the New Spirit Revival Center in Ohio, helped organize the coalition of religious leaders and said that after meeting Mr. Trump in person he was convinced that Mr. Trump was the candidate best suited to be president. He also said that the public portrayals of Mr. Trump as a racist and demagogue seemed unfounded after they spoke.

“I was looking for some subtle hints of racism,” Mr. Scott said. “I didn’t see it at all.”

Mr. Scott, who said he was a registered Democrat who had voted for President Obama, said that he had been impressed by Mr. Trump as a leader and that he liked his ideas for improving the economy. He said that when he closed his eyes and listened to all the candidates, he found Mr. Trump to be the most appealing.

Yeah, and if I close my eyes and listen, the only thing I hear is circus music.


Some orders use a labyrinth, but for the Sisters of St. Thomas nothing stimulates contemplation better than a walk across the “monkey bridge.”


Ramblers-Logo36I was not aware of this. Amazon has apparently converted the U.K. through the gospel of Black Friday. Even though they do not (of course) celebrate our U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, we still were able to infect them with the shopping bug.




Helaine Olen at Slate reports:

The e-commerce juggernaut first introduced Black Friday to Britain in 2010. The concept proved popular. As a result, other U.K. retailers began to offer Black Friday discounts, both online and in stores.

But it wasn’t until 2013 that the day achieved something near the legendary status in Britain that it enjoys in the States. That’s when Asda, a U.K.-based superstore owned by, yes, Walmart, began to run Black Friday promotions in its physical stores promising “earth-shattering deals” with “unbeatable” prices. The chain’s chief merchandising officer specifically cited Walmart’s Black Friday sales as an inspiration. Guess what happened next?

British consumers, who for years had thrill-watched American Black Friday shoppers on YouTube, knew exactly what to do. They mobbed the front doors of Asdas across the British isles hours before the 2013 Black Friday sales began, and then, as if on cue, began to fight over the goods when allowed inside. There were reports of a “stampede over cut-price televisions” at a Belfast, Northern Ireland, Asda, and a “scuffle” over the same product at one located near Bristol, England.

The article goes on to describe other “scenes that shamed Britain.” Ha, ha, the U.S. wins again! And it’s not even really worth it for the stores. According to Olen’s report:

Now, it seems, the British are stuck with Black Friday much as American retailers are—their shoppers now expect it. Some retail analysts predict customers will spend more than 1 billion pounds on combined online and in-store shopping this Friday.

Nonetheless, it’s not even clear Black Friday is a win for British or American retailers, never mind shoppers. LCP Consulting reported only a third of retail executives they surveyed in the United States and Britain claimed the shopping holiday was profitable, with another 28 percent saying it was not only a money loser, but “unsustainable.”


Ramblers-Logo36For our musical selection today, we present Adele’s remarkable performance of “When We Were Young” from SNL last week. Her new album, “25,” was just released.


  1. Eckhart Trolle says

    See? He DOES have a great relationship with the blacks.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says


      Remember when the GOP presidential hopefuls would make pilgrimage to BJU to get the Blessing and Anointing from God’s Shadow On Earth?

      Well now the MenaGAWD make pilgrimage to The Trump to deliver the Blessing and Anointing.

    • “…the blacks…”? Now there’s a suspect linguistic construction.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

        Very well played by our troll friend. Sounds just like a clueless comment I might see in some places on facebook!

  2. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I was not aware of this. Amazon has apparently converted the U.K. through the gospel of Black Friday.



  3. That Other Jean says

    .”I was looking for some subtle hints of racism,” Mr. Scott said. “I didn’t see it at all.”‘

    Well, there’s your problem, Pastor. There’s nothing subtle about Donald Trump.

  4. The company has rules about what adverts it shows. One of the rules is that they don’t show religious or political ads. This is not hard to find out, and indeed is one of the first things I would do if I was planning to run an ad campaign in the cinema. Strangely, the CoE either didn’t check this, in which case they are incompetent idiots, or they did know this, and are using this as a disingenuous way to get free coverage for their campaign instead of paying what would no doubt be hugely expensive rates at what is the most anticipated cinema event in decades.

    Now, I am not saying which is true, but if I was a declining organisation, desperate to cling onto to even a tiny shred of apparent relevance in the modern world, I know what I would do!

    • “…Except that when the Church of England entered into negotiations, the advertising executives welcomed them with open arms.”

      – Quoted from the Archbishop Cranmer blog on 25th November, which deals with this in detail. As he says:

      “A ‘policy’ which is not written in a policy document is not a policy. A ‘policy’ which was not previously disclosed to the client and only subsequently set out in an expedient email is not a policy. A ‘policy’ of which the cinemas’ own media agency – “the market leader in UK cinema advertising” – is not aware, but then conveniently posts to its website when the Church of England goes public (and Stephen Fry gets involved), is not a policy.”

        • Richard Hershberger says

          That document bears no date. This seems odd to me, as I would expect something like this that is subject to revision to have a date identifying which version it is. But this might be an American cultural expectation of mine which does not apply here. In any case, lacking a date, this is not the slam dunk you seem to think it.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

            It’s not. ISO (international standards organisation) has stipulated the boundaries for document control process. Suspicious or not, it is bad management.

          • Actually it sort of does in the pdf internal info, November 20, 2015. However that is only the date the pdf was created not necessarily when the document was written which could have been much earlier. When the particular clause of the policy was created is the question. Given the wording (explicit mention of no belief) it could have been to prevent advertising for atheism so been put in place during the atheist bus ad campaign a few years ago. Apparently a political ad which presented both sides and so was allowed at the time did run during the Scottish Independence vote; it was not popular. Both Scientology (which was running a bus campaign in my area not long ago) and Mormons (television ads) are known to advertise, and, I can see the DCM being reluctant to show ads for either (not sure if they even showed the recent hour+ ‘documentary’ produced by the Mormons [Meet the Mormons]). I note the Humanist Society Scotland head spoke in support of allowing the ad, admittedly he thinks it would be the CoE doing an own goal
            https://www.humanism.scot/what-we-do/news/gordon-macrae-speaks-to-bbcradioscot-about-lordsprayer-cinema-advert/ (note he isn’t the only side speaking).

      • Let’s remember that the C of E is has for its current Archbishop of Canterbury a very astute former businessman who also is impeccably ethical: neither he nor his Church are stupid enough or cynical enough to have fallen into either of the alternatives you give. The company they’re dealing with, well, that’s a different story: such companies are often known for both stupidity and amorality.

        • Really? You have examples of ethical breaches by DCM?

          • Of course not; I said it’s not unusual for companies to play this kind of game, when they believe they can get away with it. Do you have examples of the contemporary C of E, or the current A of C, doing the kind of unethical thing you suggest as one of the alternatives?

          • So, you have no examples of this company doing anything unethical, just as you have no exmples of this church doing anything unethical. And yet you think the benefit of the doubt rests with the Church of England?

          • Yes, I think the benefit of the doubt rests with the C of E. So far, there’s no evidence to the contrary; rather, this company seems to have played fast and loose with the dating of their policy, which seems to me to require explanation from them.

          • But that was a nice switch on your part. Given your comment at the beginning of this thread, the onus for providing evidence of possible unethical media manipulation on the part of the C of E is with you, since you suggest that as one of your alternatives for how this matter has developed. It’s cute the way you tried to push that onus over to me, but I’m returning your volley: Here.

          • Clay Crouch says

            Incompetent idiots or disingenuous? Why are your knickers in such a twist regarding the Church of England?

          • As soon as you can can can provide actual EVIDENCE of them playing fast and loose with anything, please let me know.

      • Someone in this film, from the Community of St Anselm, told me last week that indeed they were welcomed with open arms to start with, then it changed. That is what they understand to be true about the situation.

  5. Yesterday, when my wife and I were checking out after doing our weekly grocery shopping (which we do every Friday, though usually in the evening rather than earlier in the day, as we did yesterday), the cashier wished us “Happy Black Friday!” as we concluded our business and were starting to depart. She had said the same to the customer who had been ahead of us. From the way she said it, I had the sense she’d been programmed by management to say those words. Ugh! I’d much prefer, “Happy Holidays!”

    • Andrew Zook says

      Do you think anyone will start a boycott because of that…? Wonder if it will register on the culture-war radar.

    • Ronald Avra says

      Large retail corporations tend to dictate many details of their employees interactions with customers/guests. While it helps a brand identify itself, it does tend to produce employee interactions with patrons that come off as artificial, impersonal, and somewhat inhuman.

  6. Yeah, and if I close my eyes and listen, the only thing I hear is circus music.

    Yeah, and if I close my eyes and listen, the only thing I hear is the Horst Wessel Song.

    • Exactly. Donald Trump has long since stopped being an amusing sideshow. He is spreading racist lies, he is encouraging violence against those who oppose him and he is contemplating some very nasty policies. The fact that he is leading the polls for the nomination of major political party, is just part of what makes me very scared for the USA.

      • Every day, the parallels between modern America and the late Roman Republic get less and less… subtle.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          “AVE, CAESAR!”

          I keep hearing more and more rumblings as to how long before the US has a Dictator and/or its first Coup.

          Current money is between 2016 and 2024.

      • Would that be your take on every Republican? You see the fact that pundits and those that run the establishments of both parties have parroted the pc stuff for so long that many arent listening anymore. Where is the concern for the racism in the current Administration? Im not seeing this leveled their way. Why arent you calling them out on their rascist abortion policies? Ill leave it at that. While I dont agree with all Trump stands for, this mindset only seems to apply to to white guy or anyone who leans right.

        • No. But it would be for the Republican who said “Perhaps he needed to be roughed up” about a protester at one of his events. It would be for a Republican who said that he needed to consider a database tracking all people of one religion. It would be for a Republican who retweeted lies about black crime rates. It would be for a Republican who claimed that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey were celebrating 911. It would be for a Republican who responded that his fans are “very passionate” when they engage in racist assaults against a homeless person.

          If there is another politician who is doing that sort of thing, let us know, and I will happily rail against them as I rail against the terrifying spectacle that is Donald Trump.

          • I agree. In fact, just this last week other Republicans were using the word fascist in connection with Trump’s name; that is extremely unusual, and highlights the extreme scariness of Trump’s ideas and their popularity.

          • Don’t forget his mockery of the physically challenged reporter. Trump is despicable, and the fact that he appeals to so many Americans is scary.

          • Patrick Kyle says

            Trump is what you get when you spend decades strong arming the public, ramming politically correct insanity down everyone’s throat, AND upholding a two party system wherein both parties make a habit of saying anything to get into office then betray their constituents.

            Get ready, the train is coming… Mock, deride, belittle, complain. It won’t make a difference. When even the RNC is panicked, change is coming, for better or worse.

          • And how would you suggest we get ready? Perhaps you can tell us how you are getting ready?

          • Patrick Kyle says

            I do not fear Trump nearly as much as I fear Hillary. Scandal and Congressional investigations follow that woman like a foul odor, and where there is a stink, there is s**t. I think most commenters on this thread are far more comfortable with Hillary’s left leaning Jack Boot as opposed to Trump’s more populist one.

            I already mourned the passing of our country and our political process as I had known it when Obama was elected a second time. Now it’s your turn.

            That being said, we should be thankful that whomever gets elected, the transition of power will be peaceful. We take this for granted, and it may not always be this way, but this time and the next it probably will be.

            Still, I have nightmares about that Wicked Witch getting into office, and will vote for Trump in a heartbeat if she wins the Dem nomination.

          • **I already mourned the passing of our country and our political process as I had known it when Obama was elected a second time. Now it’s your turn.**

            So, when people voted a way that you didnt like, that was the passing of your country?

            ***I do not fear Trump nearly as much as I fear Hillary. Scandal and Congressional investigations follow that woman like a foul odor, and where there is a stink, there is s**t. ***

            The point of the congressional investigations was to hurt Ms Clinton in the election, just ask Mr McCarthy

          • I was going to refrain from voting in protest of the poor choices, or perhaps cast a write-in protest ballot, but you’ve convinced me to vote for the Machiavellian against the Fascist, if only to counter your vote.

          • Patrick Kyle says


            You said, “So, when people voted a way that you didnt like, that was the passing of your country?”

            Really? That comment is ridiculous. I grieved when the majority of the electorate voted for a guy who not only was inept but whom we knew very little about ( no college records, birth certificate only when absolutely forced to produce one) with shady associates (terrorist Bill Ayers, and that crazy ass preacher whom he claimed as a Pastor.) A guy who won a Nobel Peace Prize only because he was black and got elected. Who as President said he had a list that rhymed with ‘bucket’ that he would accomplish by decree without congressional approval. Who socialized our medical system and forces us to participate under threat of federally mandated ‘fines.’ I was not thrilled with Bush 1 or Clinton but Obama is far worse. And those ‘moderate rebels’ he funded in Syria appear to be Al queda at best . (This begs the question as to why we are toppling regimes in the Middle East to begin with. The ‘Arab Spring’ was on Obama’s watch.

            As to Hillary’s investigation, do a little historical research. The Clintons have been under investigation or threat of impeachment in almost every public office they have ever held. And no, it’s not because they are wonderful people that bad people are trying to ruin. Anyone who has ever dealt with pathological liars, con men, shysters, or crooks, could listen to three minutes of Hillary’s testimony before Congress and know exactly what she is. If you believe her, I have an incredible deal on land in Florida….

        • Andrew Zook says

          Many Republicans are not like Trump…. but many Republicans are following Trump and think he is the messiah that will get things done (for them). In some ways the latter is worse.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

            Let’s call it what it is – they will back a winner, no matter what. You know, maybe there is something to be said for that parliamentary thing after all…

      • I’m not concerned with “The Polls” because they are media driven. I am waiting for actual elections, the primaries, and IF Trump is STILL leading then I will despair. Iowa doesn’t count because it is such a small sample, not being a general primary. For now haters on ALL sides are having a great time demonizing each other.

  7. On the basis of the photo above, I think Black Friday should be renamed Day of the Dead (sadly, in view of its recent commercialization by more and more open retail stores, Thanksgiving night may also be aptly renamed Night of the Living Dead).

    • I am quickly falling into depression because Black Friday is passing Thanksgiving in the public’s attention.

    • I know this may be a little simplistic in comparison to some of the deep theological discussions I read here on imonk, but this conversation happened this morning between my wife and nine year old son. It did bring some perspective. Mouths of babes and all.

      Hey mom, yesterday was Black Friday, so what is today?
      Small Business Saturday I think is what they call it.
      What about tomorrow?
      Hmm… I think it’s go-to-church-and-love-Jesus-instead-of-all-the-stuff-you-think-you-have-to-buy day.
      That’s not very catchy, Mom, but I think I like it.

    • Randy Thompson says

      The media images of Black Friday are profoundly ugly, spiritually, morally, and emotionally, and yet very few people seem to notice. .

  8. Marcia Pally is pretty wet if you actually read her. “Teaches multiethnic multilingual studies,” huh?

    Her whole conclusion is just tedious ‘ISIS only exists because of colonial exploitation’ BS. No. No one has done anything to ISIS. Nothing justifies the evil of their violence and their religion.

    • I would say the entire gut-bucket of problems we’re currently experiencing has much to do with Western nation’s policies and resulting unintended consequences beginning with the British navy under Churchill’s appointment as First Lord of the Admiralty by Asquith, the subsequent conversion of the Navy from coal to oil, then the division of the Middle East by the Allies after WWI. And, don’t forget the Balfour Agreement which essentially gave permission to the Zionist to execute a land-grab in Palestine. US policy since WWII has only exacerbated the problems. Our alliance with the Saudi dynasty has funded their importation of Wahhabi-ism world wide which has been a tool of radicalization within Islam. Anyone remember how many of the hijackers of 9/11 fame were Saudi nationals? Hmm? So explain to me why we attacked Iraq…

      • Let’s just blame the Brits and French for Sykes-Picot and all of today’s problems and be done with it!

      • Well, no. The better explanation I have read is that colonialism is an effect of Islamic malfunction, not it’s cause. Islam is a religion of marginal lands: desert, steppe, mountains, scrub coast. The Barbary Pirates, the Ottomans, even the initial expansion of Islam: all occurred because Moslem lands weren’t actually sufficiently productive to support Moslem populations (the treatment of women as babymaking livestock certainly did nothing to help this situation).

        The west spent 300 years trying to fight off Moslem piracy by sea and brigandry by land before it finally dawned on us that if we wanted peace, we would have to rule Moslem lands ourselves.

        You want to hear about a Moslem golden age? It was when they were ruled by the French and British. The cities of India, Istanbul, modern-day Morrocco: the west built it all.

        • Oh, the old “Colonialism was the best things for its subjects/victims” perspective; there’s nothing new in that, conquerors have been saying things like it to justify themselves since the dawn of humanity. Anything can be justified by the amoral logic involved in such thinking; and just about everything has been, including, “We destroyed the village to save the village.” And once the conquerors are overturned, and history is revised and rewritten, the next set of conquerors make the same claims about the fate of their new subjects.

          • Well, okay then: how have post-colonial societies been doing these past 40-50 years? In a few cases, pretty well (India, China). In the vast, vast majority of others: absolutely terribly. Anticolonialism has been a world-historical disaster.

          • Colonialism destroyed the existing cultures; of course the result has been a mess, revealed when the colonial powers left. China and India were able to prevail (in certain respects) because they were already very complex and ancient societies, widespread civilizations older than Europe itself, with certain inner resources that European colonialism could not undo (in the case of China, Europe hardly succeeded in its colonization, except insofar as the European invention of Communism overtook all of China).

          • @Robert: Look up culture in Mughal India. These were societies that could teach the Taliban and ISIS a thing or two about gender apartheid. In the form of purdah practiced by some Moslem princes upon their wives was to completely isolate her from all human beings, male or female. Female servants were not acceptable because they might be pregnant, and their fetuses might be male, and those male fetuses might somehow impregnate their wives.

            Such a wise, advanced civilization . . .

          • @J: Almost as wise and advanced as the civilization that become embroiled in war that cost 55,000,000 lives in the twentieth century.

        • And the only reason they wanted “peace” was to rapaciously exploit indigenous resources, material and human, and then export their ill-gotten gains back to Europe. Europe got rich by taking (sometimes under the pretend guise of equitable business-dealings, often not) what didn’t belong to it from other places around the world. There’s no making a pretty picture out of that by claiming the subjected peoples profited in some way; that it left a outposts of European opulence where it tread was the result of trying to create little bastions of Europe in those alien places, places where they themselves would be more comfortable while they exercised often ruthless rule ordered by those still at home. Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness reveals the reality behind the facade and lies.

          • The one thing Conrad got wrong in his novel, and it’s a serious error that has caused some critics to accuse him of racism, is the implication that the “heart of darkness” was a contagion that European colonizers caught in the colonies, among the indigenous peoples, and brought back to Europe with them when they returned. The word darkness in the title itself implies this, no doubt by authorial intent.

            But the iniquity has always existed in Europe’s heart; it didn’t need to be caught or imported from other places in the world. The heart of Europe has long been one infected with imperial lusts, and the whiteness of death that follows in the wake of imperial violence: the heart of whiteness.

        • J says, the best lies have an element of truth….

        • J says:
          November 28, 2015 at 9:18 am

          Well, okay then: how have post-colonial societies been doing these past 40-50 years? In a few cases, pretty well (India, China). In the vast, vast majority of others: absolutely terribly. Anticolonialism has been a world-historical disaster.

          That is the same argument that Churchill used in attempting to maintain British hegemony over India.

        • You want to hear about a Moslem golden age? It was when they were ruled by the French and British. The cities of India, Istanbul, modern-day Morrocco: the west built it all.

          Extremely uninformed….

          It was the Islamic culture of the mid-8th to 13th century that was the bright spot in the Western and Middle Eastern world. Europe in the Middle Ages was literally DARK. The Abbassid Dynasty promoted and enabled the flourishing of literature (re-discovered the Greats of Greco-Roman culture) and art, scientific discovery and inquiry, combined with good governance. Under the Abbassids, Islamic culture became a blending of Arab, Persian, Egyptian, and European traditions. The result was an era of stunning intellectual and cultural achievements.

          European progress stands on the shoulders of the Islamic Golden Age.

          • And here let’s also acknowledge that this Islamic civilization was an imperial one, on the march and expanding around the world, partly by force of arms, including into medieval Europe. Europe overreacted to the threat of Islamic imperialism, and in violent ways that cannot be countenanced by any understanding of Christian discipleship, but the threat was nevertheless a real one. There was a time when Muslim civilization was the imperial and colonizing one, and Europe was one of its hoped for colonies.

          • It’s exactly this dimension of imperial and expanding Islamic civilization that ISIS is trying to revive.

          • My understanding is that the Islamic world flourished under the Abbassids because they were open to non-Islamic sources of knowledge and incorporated them into their largely Persian culture – which was already more “advanced” – as we value those sorts of things – than Arabic tribalism. That Persian-based way of thinking was appreciative of and learned from Greek and eastern Roman literature, Jewish medicine, and the beginnings of science in the west (which was at first largely based in alchemy). Sitting between cultures as they did, it was logical 🙂 that they would incorporate mathematical concepts from India. We need to remember that their descendants are the ***Iranians,*** who have kept all of that rich native and incorporated cultural heritage alive after the Mongols/Tatars overran the area, and since (and in many ways in spite of) the re-emergence of (Wahabbi) Arabic tribalism.

            And Western Europe wasn’t so dark before or during this time, either. It was a few Renaissance thinkers who labeled it as such, and the label belies Modern European prejudice. The monasteries kept much of the literary heritage alive, not locked away – it was available to those who could read even before the rise of the universities. Society was small and localized, which had advantages. There was plenty of technology, evident in the building of the great cathedrals. Agriculture and the underpinnings of science developed. The arts flourished, largely underwritten by the Church. There wasn’t the explosion as in the early Abbassid period, but the Persians and the western Europeans were mining most of the same deposits, so to speak.

            You might be interested in knowing that St John of Damascus, a brilliant theologian, poet, biographer and mathematician, lived at the beginning of the Abbassid period (c. 700). His father was a high official in the government in Damascus, and being Christian did not cause these Muslim rulers problems. John’s brilliance was recognized by them, and he also became Chief Councilor under the Caliph. You can read about him here:

            It was St John who fully focused the theology in defense of icons. The emperors and some others in Constantinople were afraid that the Muslims were winning such great and rapid victories because their no-images-allowed theology was correct, and therefore went about destroying icons, some of them quite ancient (iconoclast = “icon-smasher”). St John showed how that line of thought was wrong, using the Incarnation of Christ as his basis. His liturgical poetry is found in every important service of the Orthodox Church. His feast day is coming up, 4 December. Venerable Father John of Damascus, pray for us.


          • And Western Europe wasn’t so dark before or during this time, either. It was a few Renaissance thinkers who labeled it as such, and the label belies Modern European prejudice.

            I’m glad you said this, Dana, before I could answer Tom. I got cured of the term “Dark Ages” by a professor who gave us good reason to rethink it. I think it was the Plague that gave the middle ages the term “Dark,” or the self-congratulatory pride of intellectuals in later periods.

            Some of the greatest art, architecture (with engineering to accommodate) and music comes out of that period. Hard to call that Dark.

          • Patrick Kyle says

            Robert F,

            Europe did not ‘overreact’ to Islamic expansion. Muslims sacked Rome, overran Spain, and had they not been defeated by Charles Martel at the battle of Tours, the Christian West as we know it would never have existed. The Reconquista of Spain took 700 years. They also ransacked the Holy Land. The Crusades were a defensive campaign to bring the battle to the Muslims in their lands and keep them out of Europe.

          • Sure, there were technological advances in the West and monasteries certainly contained and preserved literature and some degree of education. However, in comparison to the affluence of the Islamic world Europe looked like a pig sty.

            And yes, the Caliphates were intent upon world dominion.

            Nothing much has changed, except that much of the Islamic world is looking more like Europe around 1000 CE.

          • Tom aka Volkmar, great comments today! Nice to see someone else taking on these common ideas and refuting them with good historical evidence/analysis.

          • In Western Europe, the monasteries were islands of culture in a wasteland of decay; in fact, they were the repositories which preserved much of the knowledge of the ancient classical world that was saved through the Middle Ages. Even aristocracy, including kings, were often unable to read, and depended on clerics to do their reading for them; that’s one of the reasons the Church became so powerful. Literacy was much more widespread among the aristocracy in ancient Greece and Rome.

          • Numo,

            Tom has made a lot of historical statements, as have the other commentators, but there has been no actual evidence.

          • @Robert: “Europe overreacted to the threat of Islamic imperialism…”

            Really? ‘Overreacted’? Given that official Moslem policy was to STEAL CHILDREN:


            Ever visited the Adriatic Coast of Italy? There are ruined watchtowers every 10-20 miles there. Why are they there? To watch for African coast pirates who would come to steal people. Not gold, not treasures: People.

            Adults could sometimes be ransomed from the Barbary Coast pirates. But children never could. If a Moslem stole your children, they were gone forever.

          • @J: The history of the Crusades is there for anyone to Google. That history is permeated by horrendous acts of violence committed by Crusaders against innocent non-combatants in Europe and Palestine, as well as ignoble chapters like the ransacking of Constantinople. But you’re right, these things weren’t overreactions: they were actually atrocities.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            It was the Islamic culture of the mid-8th to 13th century that was the bright spot in the Western and Middle Eastern world. Europe in the Middle Ages was literally DARK.

            And then Islamic culture stagnated and Europe pulled ahead.

            Probably helped by the Curse of Runaway Early Success; nothing sets you up for stagnation and failure as an initial unbroken winning streak. You will not have any idea how to handle failure when your winning streak finally comes to an end.

            Kind of like what happened to Apple Mac & Microsoft Windows. While the early lead sat on its laurels intoning “We Are the Superior System”, its rival built their market dominance step by small step. And when the ex-leader realized they’d been left in the dust, they reacted with Fundamentalism.

      • Eckhart Trolle says

        It’s not the fault of the USA. They were the victims of colonialism as well.

    • “The foundation of fundamentalism is fear.”

      Richard Rohr

      The power brokers, whether local Middle Eastern potentates/dictators or Western powers, have not served well the economic interest (and otherwise) of the people of Muslim heritage. Islam had a “golden age” centuries ago and has not experienced anything golden since–and much of that blame lies directly at the door of tribalistic Islamic cultures. Islamic cultures tend to have extreme difficulties dealing with modern Western cultures. Much of that, imo, is because Islam is a faith based on an inerrant perspective as regards to their Book. The same problem is apparent in “Christian” fundamentalism.

      • Good insight, Tom, in both comments. Yes, the West bears great responsibility for the growth of radical Islam; and, yes, nothing justifies the actions of the radical terrorists. It’s both/and, not either/or.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Much of that, imo, is because Islam is a faith based on an inerrant perspective as regards to their Book. The same problem is apparent in “Christian” fundamentalism.

        And the emphasis on Predestination doesn’t help.

        There are a lot of similarities in doctrine and attitude between the fanboys of Mohammed and Calvin; I suspect these are side effects of similar ideas of the nature of God (Omnipotence and Sovereignty as His main attributes) and Predestination.

  9. EVERYTHING that AMC produced was merde. However, no car manufacturer was doing much better in the mid- to late 70’s. As a result the American driver began seeing better quality in the imports. And of course the “oil crisis” (largely the result of Nixon’s price and wage control measures) drove us to greater fuel efficiency.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      “the “oil crisis” (largely the result of Nixon’s price and wage control measures)”

      My recollection is that the OPEC boycott had something to do with it, too.

      • Yes, it did Richard. However, the oil storage farms on the west coast (especially on the hills around Riverside) remained consistently full even as the crude was being loaded into tankers headed to Japan where the price received was 2-3x the US price controlled market.

  10. Richard Hershberger says

    Regarding the Lord’s Prayer ban (and it should be made clear that it was a corporation doing the banning here) I am reminded of the UCC’s advertising campaign stating that everyone was welcome at a UCC church. This was judged so controversial that at least one television network refused to air the ads.

    • Yes, and in our capitalistic love of the free market, what we see here is the market at work. A corporation will aim for the most consumers possible to sell the most goods or services possible. If they think an ad will lose more customers than gain, it will be scrapped. Or if they think a bad ad will gain more press for them, it might be a go. Store clerks say ” happy holidays” in order to broaden the consumer base, to welcome even those consumers who don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s why Amazon is marketing Black Friday deals to people who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. All in the pursuit of more customers.

  11. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

    Yeah, so, completely underwhelmed by Marcia Pally’s article. She pretty clearly does not have an education in evolutionary biology, and I don’t think she has thought through her position very thoroughly. For starters, this idea that violence may or may not contribute an evolutionary advantage is a frame of reference that got booted to the scientific curb sometime circa 1970. The fact is that animals are violent, including inter- and intra- specie violence. This is especially pronounced among the apes. Chimps, for example, engage in gorilla warfare against other tribes (pun intended), while baboons have a fiercely patriarchal culture and routinely engage in striking, biting, and injuring females. These actions are the result of these species’ evolution. It is as if she believes that given the right circumstances, genetics will automatically produce behaviors that are positive and constructive. Science just doesn’t show that.

    • Nature has a nasty habit of being whatever we want it to be at any particular moment. Which is why it doesn’t make a particularly good guide for morality.

      • Randy Thompson says

        The further away from “nature” you are, the pleasanter it seems to be. There’s no “red in tooth or claw.” I wonder where Marcia Polly lives. I’ll bet it’s somewhere that’s very urban.

        Her comment seems divorced from reality, and that ages long blood bath we know as human history

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Nature has a nasty habit of being whatever we want it to be at any particular moment. Which is why it doesn’t make a particularly good guide for morality.

        Remember when dolphin sexual behavior, i.e. swing-both-ways horndog — hit the intellectual consciousness? Dolphins were already More Evolved and Civilized than humans (they didn’t build atom bombs or draft their young and send them to Vietnaaaam) so…

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Correct. The clear evidence of violence and empathy are evident in our closest cousins, Bonobo’s and Chimps. It is true that a species does require cooperation – otherwise it will go extinct – but that only means that co-operative behaviours are often associated with successful species, but not that successful species are always cooperative.

      Violence often occurs in the furtherance of local power structures – leader of the troop, expansion of territory – the warfare chimp that is referred to.

      Sentience can of course help us to be aware of the destructive nature of certain aggressive behaviours, and the application of rationality can go a long way in further curbing the extremities of our behaviour, by allowing us to see the full impact or not of events. Sexual proclivity will not cause earthquakes, but lots of unprotected sex might cause the spread of disease. Negotiating peace is much better in the long run than going to war, and if you collect information (ie, get to know) people, maybe you will fear them less. Mind over instinct, maybe….

      Read Frans van der Waal….

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Or Thomas Cahill, “Gift of the Jews”.

        What I took away from reading that one was that the purpose of ha-Torah (and the subsequent Bible) was to get humans toTranscend the Animal.

        Gene Edward Veith presents a similar idea in the opening chapters of his book on literary criticism (whose title I can’t remember) — that “No Graven Images” closed off the cheap-and-easy way for sight-oriented humans (“Monkey see, Monkey do”) and emphasis on Word instead activated and trained different ways of thinking — more abstract than the emotion-and-sensation of animal brains.

    • As always, we have a choice before us: life, or death. Choose this day life

    • Well Dr., humans are not apes, even if we possibly had some overlapping ancestors. It is true that “genetics” doesn’t produce positive and constructive behaviors. Humans are much more complex than that. I have, however, read about studies that show that, for all our will to survive that – at least on an individual level – will be exhibited in willingness to harm others, most “normal” people have to be taught to intentionally kill, and don’t do it unless the threat level is very high. We somehow understand that it’s not to our advantage to wipe out everyone around us. At the same time, we can easily fall into the trap those students did in the Stanford Prison Experiment. I think the answers Science gives about all this can be helpful, but are incomplete. I think Klasie is closer to it – except it’s not “mind” over instinct. It’s self-giving action that puts the welfare of the Other on at least par with one’s own welfare (love) over instinct. Part of us inclines that way, and that part needs to be nurtured.


      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        Dana -by “mind over instinct” I was more talking about how we are to think about our developing morality, not where morality comes from. Morality is already present in the great apes to a limited extent – empathy, conscience, guilt, responsibility to the group etc. Self awareness and the ability to think abstractly about morality opens the door to “mind over instinct”…

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

        Too be honest, I’m not entirely sure what you’re trying to say, Dana. Your first sentence is a non-sequitar, not to mention self-evident. The purpose of the study of higher-order animal behaviors is, like most scientific research, to provide predictable models for understanding the universe. Apes engage in routine behavior that we find ethically reprehensible, and they certainly are not subject to the same external forces as, for example, terrorists. Your second sentence appears to be entirely incorrect. “Genetics” (by which I assume you mean some form of biological determinism) does appear to produce positive and constructive behaviors. It also produces some pretty crappy ones. The point being, Pally is intending to use “science” to justify her social theory, but actual science doesn’t say what she’s saying. Just saying.

        • By “genetics” I meant the study of genes; I assumed that was the common understanding. That’s not the same as determinism. Such study produces information, which could influence behavior. It does not produce behavior as such. Information can help in constructing models, and models can be helpful in some ways. I don’t think animal models directly translate to why humans do what they do. I was trying to say that science and animal models can’t explain everything about human motivation. Humans share some commonalities with animals, but humans are different. Down deep, there is something in humans that bends toward helping/not harming others, especially other humans, unless that thing is somehow blocked or broken. It’s not about morality as much as it is about love. If you don’t agree, with either me or Pally, that’s fine.

          Humans share some commonalities with animals. It’s fine to classify us as such on a physical level, and science can explain a lot on that level. But humans are ultimately not the same as animals. There’s more to it than simply the physical.


          • Eckhart Trolle says

            You clearly haven’t seen that video of the female gorilla who rescued a toddler who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo. We are apes. Only someone with prejudiced ideas about (other) apes would consider this an insult.

          • I’m with you, Dana; humans have a different ontology than apes, and all other animals, because Jesus Christ is a human being, and his incarnation is unique.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            Dana, google Frans van der Waal – the notable primatologist. You might enjoy his great work “The bonobo and the atheist”. The gap is not so great as you suppose.

          • Klasie, I did the googling. I would have no argument with Dr de Waal’s observations. Animals have an animal nature appropriate to each species. Sometimes that nature includes behaviors that we would describe as morality. Humans have a different nature, a human nature. While sometimes similar behaviors can be observed, as Robert noted above, Christ united himself with human nature, not with any animal nature. That is of great import.

            In “The Abolition of Man,” CS Lewis cataloged a sort of common human morality he called The Tao. I think most people try to live according to an ethic of common values, and believe they are living that way, whether they are religious or not. Of course non-religious people are moral.

            The human problem – even for Christianity – is not that we are not moral enough. It is that, before the Incarnation and the rest of “the Christ event”, we were spiraling toward non-existence; and because humans are the priests of creation, we were dragging the rest of creation with us into that black hole. Science has no way to describe or explain that reality, or the why and how of the rescue operation…

            Again, I have no problem if you disagree. I’m sort of used to not being understood in these things. I hope it’s not because I’m not clear. Do go and read Fr Stephen – he’s eminently clear.


          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

            I’d say that’s an interesting personal philosophy, Dana, but it isn’t science, and the facts we have observed in the natural world don’t support your conclusions. Thank you for sharing your perspective, though.

          • Doctor, what I expressed as the human problem is not my personal philosophy. It’s the teaching of the Orthodox Church; it’s reflected in the work of John Walton and John Sailhamer, whose writings Chaplain Mike has highlighted every so often.

            Of course it’s not Science. Science is terrific for observations of the material world, and for constructing some models/hypotheses to test those observations. (The conclusions resulting from those tests have to be interpreted, btw.) It can’t answer the questions about why we exist, the existence of the Deity, and what that Deity is up to.

            Peace to you, Doctor. Knock knock – Who’s there? 🙂


          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

            The doctor…

      • Actually we humans are apes. We are genetically closer to chimpanzees, both species, than gorillas and closer to gorillas than we are to orangutans. All of these species are classified as great apes (Hominidae).

      • Humans most definitely are apes. There is no way, without special pleading, to define the set “apes” that includes all the other apes, but that excludes humans.

        • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

          Which reminds me of Dr. Feduccia and his outlandish paleornithology theories. Which is only vaguely related because it involves the commonly accepted understanding that birds are dinosaurs (theropods actually).

    • She traffics heavily in the ‘studies have shown’ without, even once, footnoting any of those studies by name or giving any indication of what specifically they said.

  12. Dan Crawford says

    The only thing I hear when I close my eyes and listen to the Donald is the loud trumpeting of gas passing.

  13. Hey Mike, I saved out a bowl of lobster stew for you on Thanksgiving Day to reward you for the sonnet you wrote (I like to support the arts) but the cyber-demons wouldn’t let me tell you in a comment. I think they wanted the stew for themselves. I hope you’re at least enjoying leftover turkey soup. I know I am.

  14. WHAT? No nun comments (except for Robert’s link)?

    I worked hard on those!

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