December 5, 2020

Saturday Ramblings: October 29, 2016


Pope Leo X as the Antichrist, as pictured in a Reformation era flyer


Despite the fact that, in one of his last writings, Martin Luther:

  • addressed the pope as “Your Hellishness,”
  • called him a person who shoveled horse shit into people’s mouths;
  • despite his description of the pope as “full of all the worst devils in hell-full, full, and so full that [he] can do nothing but vomit, throw, and fart devils!”;
  • despite the fact that he called him “a desperate scoundrel, the enemy of God and man, the destroyer of Christendom, and Satan’s bodily dwelling,” “a crude ass, unlearned in the Scriptures,” and “a pope of Sodomists, this founder and master of all sins” —

— despite all that, Pope Francis will ramble to Sweden this week, where he will honor Luther at a conference that kicks off a year of commemorations of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary.

Here’s the announcement from the National Catholic Reporter:

Pope Francis travels to Sweden Monday on a trip that marks the start of yearlong observances for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. He will be meeting with the Lutheran World Federation, which was founded in Lund, Sweden 70 years ago. Some 10,000 people are expected to attend a joint Catholic-Lutheran conference and prayer service under the theme From Conflict to Communion – Together in Hope.


Francis will attend a Catholic-Lutheran prayer service at the Protestant cathedral of Lund on Oct. 31, the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of a German cathedral, which questioned the sale of indulgences and the Gospel foundations of papal authority and sparked the Reformation.

Pope Francis, with this initiative toward healing old wounds, is our Rambler of the Week.

• • •



That’s right, in case you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, the unthinkable matchup in Major League Baseball’s World Series has come to pass. The Cubs haven’t been in a World Series since 1945 and the Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948. The teams split the first two games in Cleveland, and will meet at Wrigley Field for the next three games. Who’dathunk it?

In related news, the Prince of Darkness announced that a heavy frost surprised residents of hell when they awoke this morning. A hard freeze warning was issued for tonight. “We just might freeze over,” Lucifer warned.

Also, this just in: God did not make the little green apples. And it does not rain in Indianapolis in the summertime.

Go Cubs go.

Update: The Indians just beat the Cubs 1-0 in game three. This Cubs fan is very, very anxious.

• • •


Well, we’re just a little more than a week away from the 2016 elections here in the U.S. To say the least, we here at IM are underwhelmed by our choices for president this year. So we’re looking for alternatives, and this guy…

He’s suave. He’s debonair. Cool under pressure. And you can bet he knows his stuff. We present our fourth alternative candidate for President of the United States in the election of 2016: Deputy Bernard P. Fife.

Just ask him where Aleppo is, you’ll see.


• • •


An extraordinary and extensive exhibit has come to the Minneapolis Museum of Art (Mia) in this Reformation season. “Martin Luther: Art and the Reformation” opens October 30.

Mia partnered with four German institutions for the show, including the Luther House in Wittenberg, which is closed in preparation for its jubilee year, allowing a number of key works to travel to the U.S.

Here’s an overview of the exhibition:

Five hundred years ago, one man took a stand that shook Europe and changed the world. Now you can see the story of Martin Luther and the Reformation brought to life through astonishing artworks and historical objects, traveling outside Germany for the first time ever. Luther used art and the newly invented printing press to challenge Europe’s leaders and spread a revolution of religious, cultural, and societal change. This exhibition includes paintings, sculpture, gold, textiles, and works on paper—as well as Luther’s personal possessions and recent archaeological finds—that shed new light on an explosive era and the man who ignited it.

In addition to archaeological objects that tell the story of Luther’s life, the exhibit contains some rare pieces, including the pulpit of Luther’s last sermon. There’s also a copy of the Ortenburg Bible, a hand-colored copy of Luther’s translation of the Bible into German, and paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder, who helped shift the style and tone of religious art as a way to communicate Luther’s message.

• • •


It’s almost unfair to put this right after the notice about some of the sublime and world-changing art of the Reformation. But Jack Chick died last week, and the “art” he exhibited through his tracts was one of the staples of the modern Jesus movement that I was involved with in the 1970’s.

Here’s the report from Christianity Today:

Jack Chick, the cartoonist who wanted to save your soul from hell, died Sunday at age 92.


Jack’s Chick’s not-so-subtle warning about Halloween

The biggest name in tract evangelism, Chick distributed more than 500 million pamphlets, nicknamed “chicklets,” over five decades. His signature black-and-white panel comics warned against the dangers of everything from the occult to Family Guy.

Chick’s messages were controversial—including among evangelicals—but his work enjoyed a global reach. His most popular tract, This Was Your Life!, was translated into more than 60 languages.


Chick came to faith shortly after World War II through Charles E. Fuller’s radio show, “Old Fashioned Revival Hour.” The former technical illustrator began drawing and funding his first comic books and pocket-sized tracks in the early 1960s, according to Christian Comics International. Chick Publications grew to start its own print shop, and took off in the ’70s.

• • •


Another influential person from 1970’s evangelicalism went the way of all flesh last week. C. Peter Wagner, whose Wikipedia entry describes as “an Apostle, theologian, missiologist, missionary, writer, teacher, and church growth specialist best known for his controversial writings on spiritual warfare.”


Wagner had a missionary background in South America, which influenced his perspectives on spiritual warfare. This emphasis ultimately found Wagner heading up Wagner Leadership Institute, which serves to train leaders to join in a movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation, an organization Wagner also helped to found.

My own little corner of fundamentalist evangelicalism decried his charismatic teachings and didn’t have much to do with Wagner. What I do remember was his teaching about spiritual gifts, which was his major contribution to the Church Growth movement. Most everything that became common regarding spiritual gifts teaching and implementation in evangelicalism (defining the spiritual gifts, teaching that every Christian has at least one spiritual gift, using inventories that help people “find” their gift”) owes Wagner credit (or blame, depending on your point of view).

• • •


And that’s not all, folks, though the next name may not be as well known to you if you did not go to Bible college or seminary, or have a familiarity with the theories and practices of Christian Education.


Lawrence O. (“Larry”) Richards was a Wheaton College Graduate School professor in the late 1960s, when his seminar on Christian education was highlighted by the National Association of Evangelicals, launching him into the national spotlight.

A Dallas Seminary graduate, his books were standard fare in our dispensationalist-oriented Bible College, including Creative Bible Teaching. One professor said that Richards developed “the most comprehensive theory of Christian education by any evangelical writer of the 20th century,”

Larry Richards wrote more than 250 books, and is probably known by most people for his children’s and youth Bibles. His kid-friendly versions of the NIV include the jungle-themed Adventure Bible, which is the top-selling children’s Bible in the world, and the Teen Study Bible, which sold more than 4 million copies.

• • •


How can I tell if a quote really came from C.S. Lewis?

Does social media make us dumber?

What’s it like to be a female pastor’s husband?

Was this the spot where Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb?

How are giant sequoias weathering California’s drought?

What’s it like to be the Catholic chaplain for the Chicago Cubs?

How does Christian theology affect one’s body image?

• • •


Hey, maybe he didn’t realize he was being watched. But I would think being followed by a helicopter after police tried to arrest you on an outstanding warrant might be something a person wouldn’t miss.


Nevertheless, 35-year-old Joshua Adkins either didn’t know or didn’t care.

While leading police on a chase, including the helicopter that kept tabs on him, Adkins did something most fleeing criminals wouldn’t do — he stopped at In-N-Out Burger and ordered a meal. Apparently, he got ahead of his pursuers just enough to satisfy his hunger. But then, when he drove into a neighborhood and tried to flee on foot, the cops got him.

Doesn’t say much for Adkins, though you might give him credit for not going to jail hungry.

On the other hand, it says a lot for In-N-Out Burger.

• • •




  1. on the bright sidewalk
    a brown spider curls in death
    its life in the wind

    • senecagriggs says

      You can never overestimate the mouth watering goodness that is – In ‘N Out Burger – a franchise that slaked my hunger may nights during my college years in SoCal. If you’re gonna get caught, DO drive thru the nearest In ‘N Out. You won’t regret it.

      • Well, I’ve never even seen an In ‘N Out, but I’m glad my haiku stoked your appetite…And if you ever happen to be on the East Coast, I recommend White Castle: a sackful will do ya…

        • seneca griggs says

          Really Robert – White Castle? Puhleese [ grin ]

          • Oh, another burger snob, huh?

          • I grew up eating White Castles (that’s what we called the burgers) at the Nungesser’s location in North Jersey. To this day, whenever I eat a burger anywhere, I’m comparing it with White Castles in the back of my mind, and finding it wanting. Sadly, I haven’t been near a White Castle restaurant (they’re few and far between), nor eaten a White Castle, in decades; there are frozen ones available in the local supermarkets here in South Central PA, but they just aren’t the same, and I won’t eat them. Sigh.

        • White Castles are amazing…

          But you gotta try Culvers.

        • I don’t think we have White Castle restaurants in Florida (I’ve seen them up North), although the frozen burgers are available in stores. We do have Krystal. Their little square burgers and other items are really good. My favorite burger chain is Whataburger. Unfortunately they moved out of central Florida several years ago. There are a couple of locations in the Jacksonville area and five in Tallahassee, all being a rather long drive from Orlando. One of the best places for a really good burger in Orlando is a local place,
          Shannon’s Casual Cafe in the Pine Castle area south of downtown.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        In-N-Out has some of the best burgers here in SoCal. Place is so popular that the drive-thru line extends over the whole parking lot all day & night. In-N-Outs are always so packed that the east coast chain Five Guys is starting to make inroads; burgers just as good and a LOT less crowded.

        I suspect In-N-Out is Christian-run, but a lot lower-profile than, say, Chick-Fil-A. There’s a Bible verse zip code in fine print on a lot of their wrappers, and (more important and less Christian(TM) these days) they are known for paying and treating their employees very well.

  2. Dan from Georgia says


    BTW, Chick tracts were/are awesome. Where else can you get specific details of demons? For example, how they laugh…

    HAW HAW HAW HAW!!!….

    Wagner. Yes, I took those spiritual gift inventories several times. Didn’t have a problem with it.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      I don’t have a problem with the inventory things – but they weren’t “Spiritual”. It was a personality profile. We give essentially the same thing to all job applicants. They are a useful tool, but they are only what they are – no magic involved.

      And their ability to identify prophecy or discernment? I am skeptical of that. If you want to know someone’s discernment it would be more effective to examine their finances, IMO.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Jack Chick Tracts (especially “This Was Your Life”) was my first invitation to/impression of Jesus Christ.
      The damage is still there.

    • Those Spiritual Gift inventories were quite the fad in Assembly of God churches. I grew to dislike them because the results were never consistent, and I felt that it fed the unfortunate tendacy to put people in catagories that didn’t really fit. After a while, I just refused to fill them out.

      • Dan from Georgia says

        They were/are popular in E Free churches too. Of course, lots of stuff was popular in E Free churches without so much as questioning their validity.

      • I filled out spiritual gift inventories in both nondenominational and liturgical churches. I’m not sure they were all that effective for me.

        By the way, I wonder who designated Mr. Wagner an “apostle.” While I believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still active today, I’m also concerned about those designated as “apostles” and “prophets” without any evidence they possess such gifts.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        By “spiritual gift”, do you mean something other than Tongues Tongues Tongues Tongues Tongues?

  3. Don’t really have anything much to say except GO TRIBE!!!!

  4. An anonymous person in the building where I work would occasionally put Chick tracts in the men’s bathrooms. I put out a request via email that if he was going to continue to do that, would he please get *Dark Dungeons*., as it is considered a collector’s item in the role-playing games community.

    He never fulfilled my request.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I remember when “Dark Dungeons” came out.

      I was gaming only intermittently by then, but I remember my DM’s comments on it:
      “So that’s what ‘a typical DM’ is supposed to look like? If I found a female gamer who looked like that, I’d have married her long ago.”

  5. I early voted and wrote in Andy Taylor for Sheriff (our Sheriff is running unopposed). Maybe he’ll make Bernard P Fife his deputy.

    If it wasn’t for Chick Tracks I would never have known that the Catholic Church had Abraham Lincoln killed or that Pope John Paul II was chosen Pope because he was a communist.

    • Or that Santana is really a disguised ‘Satan’. Sure wish I hadn’t thrown out all those rock albums on vinyl in 1980.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Or that God was going to show everyone (especially you) a movie of your life in excruciating detail and rub your face in everything you’ve ever done before casting you into Eternal Hell.

      FIFTY years later, and the damage is still there.

      • I’ve discovered you can mitigate and somewhat recover from the damage if you walk away entirely from Christianity and just dgaf anymore.

  6. I didn’t know about Chick Tracts until my late 60’s. Raised CocC, ya knows. Quite sheltered. First time I saw one my response was, “Is this serious, or satire?”

    • Richard Hershberger says

      I had the same reaction the first time I heard Rush Limbaugh. This was just as he was rising to national prominence. I wasn’t a talk radio listener, but happened upon him on the radio by accident. My first reaction was that this was a dead-on parody n of right wing talk radio.

  7. Not “late 60’s”, rather late 30’s…

  8. Great pick for Rambler of the Week!

  9. Yes, the Pastrix was “the real deal.”

    Thank you Jesus for faithful women.

  10. I had no idea those Chick things were still around! I remember them showing up in the college library, stuffed between books back in the 70s & early 80s.
    I sometimes marvel at what was considered “evangelism” in the 70s. Go knocking on doors and asking people if they knew they might spend eternity in hell? Put these Chick tracts in a public bathroom? I know what my reaction was and is now to tactics like that. Hint: it’s not a positive reaction.

    • The 70s? Somebody has been putting tracts in the restroom where I work for the entire ten years I’ve been there, though they’re not Chick tracts.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I was on jury duty a couple weeks ago, and there was a “This Was Your Life” and other classic Chick Tracts on the bus-stop benches in front of the courthouse.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      1970s? When I was involved in college ministry in the 1990s there was a girl who would sneak into public restrooms, unspool the TP, and respool in with tracts inside. Nobody seem to think that was nuts.

      • Wow, now I am depressed! I thought these tracts had gone the way of bad 70s clothing. In the toilet paper roll? Really? Because when I’m in the restroom doing my business, I sure am not wanting to think about spiritual things.Or maybe I am living wrong.

    • I’ve seen Chick tracts placed in the bathrooms at the health care facility where I work.

  11. Randy Thompson says

    Stopping at an In-N-Out while being chased by police makes perfect sense to me. It’s In-N-Out, for heaven’s sake!

  12. I think the CT article on body image skews things a bit. I don’t think it’s correct to say that traditional Christian teaching predominately emphasized the creational value of the human body, and that the idea that it’s a sump of sin is a Johnny-come-lately. I think ambivalence about the human body’s worth, along with the value and place of human sexuality, has been there from the beginning, and is a pernicious part of the tradition(s) that we’d do well to leave behind. Not all things traditional are good.

    • Though traditional Christian theology has always been far more Manichaean in its understanding of women’s bodies and and sexuality than men’s.

      • Well, again, this was more prevalent on the western side than the eastern side, although there was some of this floating around there too, mostly in the writings of monastics. But generally, all the greatest Eastern Fathers affirmed the goodness of created matter, including and especially the human body. The sins into which we are led because of the bodily appetites are generally viewed as less problematic than other kinds of sins; the body itself has always been viewed as a good thing (e.g. flagellation was not practiced at all). The more positive view comes from: 1) the different view of “original sin” in the east – it’s not the guilt of Adam, or its stain, that’s passed down via physical reproduction as in Augustine; and 2) The Incarnation. If the body were that bad/evil in itself, then the Second Person of the Trinity could not have become incarnate. He created human bodies the way they are so that he could take one on in the fullness of time. I think today’s body image problems have to do with fallout from the diminished understanding of the Incarnation in the west, especially among non-sacramental Protestants.

        And you can’t be disrespectful of the female body without diminishing the importance of Mary the Mother of God (who was not a different sort of human than we are – EO doesn’t need a doctrine of the Immaculate Conception because of #1 above, and has always seen Mary as absolutely and completely human the same as everyone else). Eastern Christians don’t easily go there.


        • Dana,
          Is it really true historically that in traditional Orthodox countries there was no double-standard applied to the evaluation of men’s and women’s bodies and sexuality, or that it was less prevalent than in the West? I’m not asking about what happened at the level of the writings of the Fathers, but at street level, in the city alleys and the peasant villages and local churches, in the practicalities of daily living for the average person. Was it true historically that Russian Orthodox women were not held to a different and higher sexual standard by the Orthodox men (and women) in their society, and judged more severely than the men for failing to hold to it? Or in Greek Orthodox society? In the admittedly little exposure to the histories that I’ve had, this has not been the impression I came away with.

          • Well, women aren’t supposed to receive communion during their periods, or after childbirth for a certain number of days. tHe Pedalion assigns heavy penance for a miscarriage. Women are often not allowed behind the iconostasis at all, I’m not sure why, though this is changing and depends on jurisdiction.

            • Fester, do you have any links to this information?

              I thought women were never allowed behind the iconostasis, in any jurisdiction, so my info. is clearly not accurate. (Though most of it isn’t about contemporary practice, so I guess I should get up to speed.)

              As for the rest, no comment.

            • OK, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt in tetms of “historical practice” and “some jurisdictions,” but it certainly isn’t the case in the OCA re. miscarriage –

              In fact, I wish services of this kind were common practice everywhere. People need to grieve these losses, and society at large doesn’t have any provision for public mourning. Which is awfully hard on people.

              As for women who’ve recently given birth, etc., these practices were part of Western xtianity for a very long time. A woman with a (relatively) new baby being “churched” was a big thing, back when.

            • Oof. I found some of the texts regarding miscarriage.

              Also noted that one of them admonishes men not to strike their wives when they are 7 or 8 months pregnant, lest the wife miscarry and the husband thus become a murderer.

              … church history can be very painful. I’m done with it for tonight.

        • And on the contemporary scene, Putin has been described as embracing, with the Russian Orthodox Church, a “family values puritanism” for Russian society intended as a repudiation of “decadent” Western values and sexual mores. This sounds remarkably like what the evangelical religious right would like to realize in the US, only without the icons and the Marian devotions. Such a project cannot go forward without an unhealthy dose of body-negative Manichaeism.

          • if you read good cultural histories of Russia, i’m afraid you’ll find that wife-beating was such a common practice among the Russian peasantry that it was, apparently, done out of boredom at times. this is from 19th c. records, but the practice of men beating their wives and children has carried on to the present day. Both Russia, Greece and former Soviet Bloc countries are al hugely patriarchal; ditto for other countries (like Armenia, Egypt and Ethiopia) where there are substantial EO populations.

            I honestly do *not* believe that women have ever been held in particularly high regard in these societies, any more than in former Soviet Bloc countries that are predominantly Catholic, or in much of Western Europe, for that matter (Italy, Spain, Portugal, much of France….).

          • needless to mention, but…. wife-beating appeared to be socially acceptable in tsarist times, and that’s likely still the case.

            i can provide references, btw.

          • re. Putin, it’s partly a political power grab. Russia literally saw itself as the new, and vastly improved, version of Rome (hence tsar – Caesar). Putin is as much an imperialist/expansionist as his tsarist predecessors.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              “Two Romes have fallen;
              A third — Moscow — stands;
              Never shall there be a Fourth!”

          • btw, Solzhenitsyn wrote some (imo) pretty scary stuff about the revival of religion and (more or less) a theocratic society in Russia. His polemics are likely dear to the hearts of many.

          • Putin is a horse of a different color.

            Wife beating in Russia – yes, it happened. I’ve launched into The Brothers Karamazov, which is unsparing in its portrait of 19th century Russian life. Of course at street level there have been varying degrees of theological understanding, and lots of whatever sin you care to describe. I’m not saying the society of Orthodox countries has been perfect. I am saying that if an Orthodox person pays attention to what he/she hears in the Liturgy and really takes it to heart, the double standard is minimized, if not eliminated. The theology doesn’t really leave any room for it. Just because there’s a lot of patriarchy doesn’t mean the theology supports it.

            I realize that my experience is limited and I can be idealistic, but why do you & numo have to deflate so much of what I express about Orthodox theology, and what I have found in EO? “Well, it’s not that way on the street.” “Putin is a beast.” “Solzhenitsyn wrote scary stuff about a theocratic society.” Yes, we Orthodox are weak and arrogant; we have double standards, we have all the problems you enumerate. We’re not “excellent” – we’re a very messy lot, and I knew that going in. And I wouldn’t be anywhere else, for it is here that I find Jesus, right down in the mess with us.


            • Well, Dana, when you make a comment asserting the superiority of Orthodox Christianity to Western Christianity with regard to its evaluation of the human body and its acceptance of human sexuality, is it wrong for us to ask whether that theology has resulted in some positive difference in the real world where most men and women live? It’s one thing to talk about the ideals of a theology, and many from different traditions can to that; but if the ideals don’t work outside the seminary classroom, if they have no practical application that makes a difference in the everyday social world, then how do we know they are true or real, or truer than those of other traditions? I don’t think it’s unfair to ask for illustrations of how a theology said to be superior in certain respects has the made the places its inhabited for centuries better in those respects. Is it?

              • Robert,

                I will let Fr Stephen speak, since he communicates much better than I do.



                We won’t know the reality of the present until we get to the end. That’s not a cop-out or evading your point; it’s simply how reality is.

                May God grant you, and all of us, every grace.


                • Dana, it’s not meant to “deflate,” though I’m sure I could have been more sensitive in my wording, and I apologize for having come across as attacking.

                  I’m sure your parish is good. It’s just that… it’s an American parish. I will admit to getting very frustrated when broad-brush comparisons between Eastern and Western xtianity are made, at least where American-born EO people are concerned. Because somehow, *all* of Western xtianity ends up being indicted. I honestly don’t think you intended to be dismissive, and I know that you and Robert both grew up in the RCC. It’s just that we’re not *all* a bunch of austere, pseudo-Manichean killjoys! I think it *is* possible for Western xtians to have healthy views – balanced views – and I get a little concerned about the assertion that the EO are so much more accepting when I look at things like the number of days per year that are supposed to be spent fasting, along with some of the writing from the Eastern tradition about food, eating, how much is OK and how (literally) full one should feel after eating and so on. (And Russian and Soviet history was one of my undergrad minors, but that was a long time ago.)

                  How many parish priests in 19th c. Russia thought nothing of hitting their wives? I hope it was a tiny minority, but I feel dubious about making any assumptions one way or another, if only because Russian lit (and even folk tales collected during the 19th c.) have some pretty dodgy passages, where domestic violence is viewed as both normal and socially acceptable (and very closely tied to alcoholism, which has been a serious problem in Russia for a long, long time). Even in aristocratic families, the burden put on women could be very intense – like Tolstoy’s demand that his wife not have sny household help while having child after child *and* recopying his drafts of War and Peace 7 times over. Granted, that’s extreme, but women just were subservient to men; male superiority was assumed. And it still is. A couple of years ago I read an essay by a young emigre who struggles with wanting a Russian bf or husband, even though every one she’s had has been cruel to her, both physically and emotionally. She says it’s part of the package.

                  I’m rambling, but i guess my point is that belief vs. standard social customs often are – as in the West – two entirely different things. And because we are not immigrants, we really don’t know how all of it works in actual fact. It is, I’m sure, easy to idealize, but I don’t think the reality comes any closer to thr mark than it does in any other part of the world.

                  Myself, I struggle with being able to accept the supposed dichotomy between East and West. (And more than that; my comments on Luther on this post are a case in point, snd I was/am Lutheran born and raised and back in the fold. But I cannot idealize Luther himself.)

                  • On a much more personal note, the upcoming electtion has me feeling very anxious, and I’m afraid that’s coming across in my comments here. My apologies, all, if I’ve come across harshly. I’m afraid for our future (in a supposedly “Christian” land where
                    “Christian” virtues seem eclipsed by all kinds of ugliness these days).

                    Fwiw, the people I’ve known who have truly shown these virtues in my own,life have, more often than not, been of other faiths or of none. Virtue is virtue, I’m thinking.

                  • I agree with you, numo. I’m also unable to idealize Luther and the other Reformers, or the pre- or post-Reformation Roman Catholic Church, or the Church Fathers, or the Church or churches in any place or time, East or West, ancient or modern.

                • Dana,
                  I apologize for any offense I’ve given to you by my questions and/or implied or explicit critiques. In my own defense I will say that my questions and critiques arise out of my real concerns, however much they may lack in subtlety or sensitivity. I value much of what you share here about your discovery of Eastern Orthodoxy and its spiritual importance to you.

                  I will also risk saying that I sometimes feel offended by your assertions of Eastern Christianity’s superiority over its Western counterparts. Sometimes this offense is no doubt solely the result of my over sensitivity, which results from my own ambivalence about the history and pedigree of the Protestantism I’m a part of.

                  But other times I think that sensitivity may be touched off by a lack of historical substantiation to your claims. I know that you’ve had a positive experience in the thinking and practice of Orthodoxy, but mere ideation combined with positive personal experience is not adequate to the claims of historical superiority of one branch of Christianity over others. That requires a finger pointing to the places where this superiority, or deeper insight and truth, has proved itself in the transformed lives of people, and communities, outside of the seminary and the cloister. At least, that’s the way I see it. Once again, I’m sorry if this or anything else I’ve said offends you or anyone else.

                  Thank you for the links, but I’m afraid Fr. Stephen does not really my answer my questions or concerns in them. Once again, I mean no offense by this; perhaps the lack is in myself.

                  • Dana,
                    One last thing: I do recognize that you and Orthodoxy would point to the the canonized Saints as evidence of transformed lives. I respect that you find adequate evidence there, but I personally, along with many others, have a high degree of skepticism about the historical accuracy of the remembered lives of these Saints. I confess to wanting to see some degree of transformation in the lives of average men and women in the areas of claimed superiority, especially in societies where the form of Christianity in question has been practiced and widespread for centuries, before acknowledging the reality of the superiority. Once again, please accept my apology for any offense given.

                    • Thank you Robert (and numo).

                      I appreciate that my experience is limited. I understand your concerns. I’m sure I have a robust case of convertitis, and I definitely don’t know all of the history in Orthodox lands, or of Orthodoxy itself. I’m still learning. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there are plenty of Evangelicals and other western Christians who are better Christians than I. I am, in fact, convinced that there is plenty of good in western Christianity.

                      My experience is that, theologically, even the best of western theology, both “high church” and “low church”, left me hanging. I needed the whole bloomin’ cloth, not simply swatches that occasionally made some sense but remained disconnected from the rest of it. Searching for that holistic way of understanding who God is and what he is up to, and experiencing God, over years continually led me to very high, very wide brick walls across my path. I couldn’t find the connections between all the good stuff to make a coherent whole – until I found N.T. Wright. And after a few years, even his schema came up short in a few areas. I made do with that not-quite-completeness for some months – that turned to years – and was pretty much resigned that that’s how I’d have to live the rest of my life as a Christian, with all that good constantly coming up short of an organic, seamless theology-as-way-of-life. Until.

                      (Parenthetically, yes, I would point to the saints. There are plenty of them in the last couple of centuries when questions of “historical accuracy” have been sharpened, and hagiographies are much less florid. Their lives hold up.)

                      I realize your experiences are different. I respect that. It’s okay if we don’t agree. We are all where we are for reasons. Forgive me, too.


                    • Fr Stephen wrote something today that bears inserting here:

                      “I think that we live in a culture that is a train wreck – and analysis of the wreck can, at best, only tell us how we got here. Orthodoxy is not a solution to the wreck – its detritus and carnage often show up in our own lives. Orthodoxy is, however, a medicine in which we can begin to heal, in some measure, and continue on the track of union with Christ…. Orthodoxy is not perfect (in its expression), nor is it “better” in many respects. It is simply what it is – the Church founded by Christ that has endured and been faithful to what it received. We are deeply troubled today by many things – however, we struggle with those many things in an Orthodox manner.

                      “Had there never been a Great Schism, or Reformation, there would be Orthodoxy alone. And there would still be Orthodoxy struggling – because there is no other way of being in this world. Whatever our situation, I want to struggle in an Orthodox manner….”


                    • Dana, no need to apologize – though it’s kind of you to do so.

                      I guess, from my point of view, the body of Christ is the body of Christ, an the divisions between the O. churches, the RCC and the Protestant churches are not that significant in the whole from the pov of the risen and reigning Christ. IOW, i honestly believe that we only have glimpses here and there (as in Paul’s not-so-reflective mirror, whether the surface of still water, or a piece of highly polished brass).

                      What I do get, though, is that where you are is a place that’s good for you, and for many others. If we seek the peace of Christ together, it (and he) will be present.

                    • Dana, just curious – how long since you were received into the Orthodox church?

                      On another point entirely, while I appreciate the beauty of icons very much, I struggle with the kind of dematerialized, flat, scematic visual style. I know that varies, and has varied, over long periods of time, as well as having other stylistic, social and cultural components. I have done a fair amount of reading on the whys (theological), too, but oh… when I look at reproductions of the beautiful icon of St. Peter that was discovered in the big, hidden trove at St. Catherine’s monastery on Mt. Sinai, I wish people in antiquity had hung on to that gorgeous Greco-Roman style of “portraiture” a while longer. Peter, in that icon, looks like a humsn being I could pass on the street, and I find it much easier to think of the human beings who have been canonized whe I encounter that less abstract manner of portrayal. Same with the forbidding facial expressions and features of the standard Christ Pantocrator. He looks scary and forbidding to me – though I do certainly recognize the beauty and technical excellence of many of these frescos, mosaics and panel paintings.

                    • numo,

                      I was received on Pentecost (7 June) 2009.

                      I can agree, at least provisionally, about “from the pov of the risen and reigning Christ.” Except, that’s not where we are; we don’t have that pov. I dunno, I suppose there’s something in the way I’m constituted that I need to ask questions about meaning – you know, a little kid asking “Why?” all the time… 🙂 I find there are very stark differences, from the pov of someone still living on earth (and engaged in the struggle, as Fr Stephen wrote) between important central aspects of theology in the east and west: on the kind of god God is, why he has done what he has done – esp re what we call “salvation” – what salvation even is, the view of humanity, our purpose, our situation and our ultimate end, and place of the Church in all that. Those are really big issues for me – have been all my life. Seeking truth about all that, and (as I matured) seeking help to be the kind of person who can love no matter what, was what led me out of RC, through pretty much all the flavors of Protestantism, and then to EO.

                      Re icons, I totally agree with you about the early portraiture style. The reason we have those magnificent ones at St Catherine’s is that they survived the two furious rounds of iconoclasm in the 7th and 8th centuries, one of the things brought on by the clash between Christianity and Islam. St Catherine’s is way out in the boontules of the ME, and problems in Constantinople kept the iconoclastic faction from hunting down the icons there. I have sometimes wondered how iconography would have been different now, if we still had those ancient ones for reference for iconographers. Remember that even in what might be termed “degraded” examples there are actually multiple perspectives going on, which was quite an advanced thing. And of course, you understand that the purpose of icons isn’t to record like a photograph, but to enable one to encounter the Ultimate Reality of the persons/events portrayed. Some representations help us with that more than others. Beyond that, though, I personally look for icons in which I can somehow see that the facial expressions of the persons portrayed, especially the Lord, could be turned into a smile… I’ve never met up with icon purists, though I know they’re out there (and they’re not usually actual iconographers). My experience in EO is that It’s okay to like the icons you like, and not like the ones that don’t “speak” to you. Like everything else, God meets us where we are.

                      Thank you.


                    • Dana – in reverse order:

                      – I can remember 1st seeing the trove that was discovered (hidden inside a wall) at St. Catherine’s in Natl. Geographic, which might have been the 1st time any photos were published. I was very young, had never seen anything like them, and the made a big impression on me.

                      Much later, my entire grad seminar (medieval requirement) was focused solely on icons from the trove that had no obvious date. Everyone was assigned an icon, and all of our research was focused on finding enough internal and external evidence to assign a provisional date. This was all due to our being in D.C., where there are a *lot* of specialists in Byzantine art because of the Dumbarton Oaks collections and libraries (early xtian, Byzantine and pre-Columbian). The library is probably the most extensive in the western hemisphere re. Eastern xtian art, etc., although mostmof the books are (understandably) in Greek, and in various Slavic languages. For the most part, the icons assigned to us were the middling-bad ones, though there’s one that’s pretty spectacular and is being reproduced more often. Since these pieces were gifts from pilgrims, they came from every part of the empire, which is why there’s such variance in quality. (I got one that nobody could love; it’s also *very* hard to date, though it wasn’t as hard to figure out where it might have been created, roughly speaking.) It was a very tough course, though fascinating in its way. (I did “cheat” a nit, by buying a b&w catalog of all the icons discovered in the wall, which was somewhat helpful.)

                      – ISTM that, to a degree, you might need to have some kind of comprehensive structure (theologically and otherwise) per seeking and finding answers to the big questions. While I’m no less of a questioner than you, I have not found any single church (denomination or system of thought) that, for me, is or provides what seem to be comprehensive answers, though I certainly have been part of systems that make that claim. Ultimately, that hasn’t worked for me – there are just too many conflicts, and often, contradictory “answers” that pit one part of Christ’s body against another. I haven’t reverted to Lutheranism to grab hold of All The Things, nor do I beleve in certain things that many would say I “have to” accept. The things I do believe in are contained in the ecumenical creeds for the most part, so honestly, you and I have that in common,, and likely much more.

                      The thing is, we are both in this big, big house – and (to borrow from a passage that’s about something related), it’s a house with “many mansions.” I realize that Orthodoxy is more exclusive than that, but I still think we’re *all* in the same house. And while I understand the quote from Fr. Freeman, I think he is awfully idealistic. Because splits were occurring long before the Great Schism and the Reformation, and… they were mainly in the East. Even if there had never been an East/West split (really more like a series of splits), there would have been splits – I’d suggest that you might want to check out the split in Russia (happened after the Reformation), which resulted in severe persecution of those who fit under the “Old Believer” heading. A lot of people died, and the split was just as painful and contentious within Russia as any of the terrible wars/persecutions that were set in motion by the Reformation.

                      I don’t think any group of human beings can claim exemption from internal dissent (we see it already in the NT, in a very one-sided way at that). It’s one of the more unfortunate aspects of our humanity. The Orthodox are no different than anyone else in that respect, imo.

                      Just my .02-worth, and certainly anything but definitive. But the important thing is that we’re talking. 🙂 Again, imo, we have plenty to learn from one another, and since the church originated in the East, the East is part of every Christian’s heritage, whether they realize it or not. So, too, the church fathers, the early creeds, etc. (Fwiw, the Lutheran view of communion is far closer to the Eastern view than it is to that of the RCC…)

                    • Dana, you are certainly correct on “stark differences,” but I still think that it’s possible for westerners to accept and believe in many things that have historically been in the geographical domain of Orthodoxy. Even the RCC has to look carefully and be more ipen per all of the different Eastern Rite churches that are in communion with it.

                      Personally, I am uneasy with a lot of hesychastic practice (which is mostly monastic), but that’s me. I do see it as a parallel to the more extreme practices that developed in various Western religious orders, though certainly, the lack of physical violence (no flagellation, cilices, etc.) is a plus. *But* I also tend to believe that EO asceticism regarding food (esp. as practiced by monks and nuns) is not any healthier, kinder to the body and mind, or superior to the more questionable Western practices. It all seems unnecessary to me, and even though some folks will use passages from the NT to support all of these things, I don’t see it there. People have taken Christ’s words to all kinds of extremes, including self-castration, starting in the early centuries of the church’s existence. I see no explicit commands to do any of those things – rather, the oposite. Fwiw, again, just my personal opinion.

  13. I read last night that Peter Wagner had died. I was checking out a church in California, Gateway City Church in San Jose, because I have relatives who go there—in fact, my wife is out there now. Wagner is an important figure among the founders and currrent pastors of Gateway.

    This is too heavy for a Saturday Morning Rambling, but does anyone here know about Gateway San Jose? It’s part of the New Apostolic movement and apparently into Dominionism (which seems to me a large factor in the push to elect a certain candidate for president (no matter how disqualifying) for the sake of party values and the future of the Supreme Court and control of government. Gateway also seems to be a family-run dynasty, large though it may be. and this Apostolic stuff seems a bit cultic and end-times-y.

    Here’s an excerpt from a speech by Wagner at Gateway City Church, San Jose, in 2004. Sorry. Skim it and ignore it and get back to your coffee if you like, but if it’s a concern of yours, please comment.

    Number four. The fourth thing we have to understand. We have to understand that the church has a God-designed government. The church has a God-designed government. We now live, this is 2004, we now live in the second apostolic age. The second apostolic age began in the year 2001, ok? And in this whole first chapter in this book I argue my point, I think rather… I hope it’s convincingly, that 2001 marks, is the year that marks the second apostolic age, which means for years the government of the church had not been in place since about, you know, the first century or so. It doesn’t mean weren’t apostles and prophets, because the government of the… the foundation of the church according to Ephesians 2:20 is apostles and prophets, Jesus being the chief cornerstone. It doesn’t mean there weren’t apostles and prophets, it means the body of Christ hadn’t recognized them and released them for the office that they had so that they’d function as apostles and prophets in the foundation of the church. But we now have that, I believe we’ve reached our critical mass in the year 2001. Now I’m concentrating on apostles in this teaching, not so much prophets, you’ve got a couple more prophets coming on the scene here. But here’s the thing. If God gave apostles to the church, which He definitely did, ok, and I don’t have to convince anyone at Gateway that He gave apostles to the church, but here is my point. If He gave them to the church as the government of the church, He must have given them both to the nuclear church and to the extended church. Now, the thing is, I’ve written five books on apostles already, and all my books, with the exception of a mention, maybe a paragraph, the substance of every one of my books has been on apostles in the nuclear church. I haven’t written a book on apostles in the extended church. So, this is new.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Yep, sounds familiar. But Critical Mass in 2001… I have no idea what that means. The Dominionist movement can’t be viewed as thriving. Maybe he means they finally have identified enough Apostles and Prophets that they can perform the more powerful spells? Semi-serious. So much of this talk sounds Dungeons & Dragons to me.

      • I don’t know what any of this means. And I’m tired of reading the bible as a lawyer, defensively and to research against extra-biblical influence. This stuff should be merely fascinating, as if studying church history, or psychology, or something otherwise harmless—but when the extra-biblical starts to infiltrate your own church, or your family’s, it’s no fun anymore.

        On a lighter Saturday morning note, Wagner’s speech (sermon?) does qualify as a Rambling.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Yep, sounds familiar. But Critical Mass in 2001… I have no idea what that means.

        Probably something like the Mackinista who lectured me in the Nineties that “Apple Macintosh will drive Microsoft into bankruptcy by the year 2000!” and cited a reference in the Harry Turtledove SF novel Guns of the South where the South African Neo-Nazi time travellers bring back a Mac — “NOT A WINDOWS MACHINE!!!!” — from uptime 2014.

        When suggested that his scenario was not that realistic, his face purpled, his veins popped out, and the screams of “DIE, HERETIC!!!!!!” began. Full “APPLE AKBAR!” reaction.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Funny. True, there is nothing unique to Religious when it comes to Magickal Thinking.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            First the Soviet Union, then various Social Justice/Culture Warriors showed how you can turn politics (and activism) into a Fundamentalist Religion.

    • Ronald Avra says

      I think I’m going to need to make a second pot of coffee for this one.

    • Wagner was WAY out there. Google “Operation Ice Castle,” for example…

      Fwiw, I was around more than one church in D.C., back in the 90s-00s, that took his pronouncements very seriously, though that was strictly off the record and you won’t see/hear it in sermon transcripts from thst time. That’s because one of two things happened: the recorder was turned off, or the speaker’s lapel mic was deliberately covered by his tie for the duration of the remarks pertaining to the NAR/Dominionism.

      It’s scary stuff. I personally think that Wagner and other so-called “apostles” have/had serious psychological problems, and boy, do they know how to manipulate people!

      • I had forgotten about Operation Ice Castle — wowza. Man this is a bizarre group, and yet many of them are taken seriously in mainstream evangelicalism.

        Seconded on the Psychological problems. It takes just a few seconds of reading through the Elijah list or Charisma to start worrying about the conditions of people who take themselves this seriously.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Is that the one where the Big-Name Spiritual Warrior battled “The Queen of Heaven” in the Himalayas and ended up bragging how his prayers killed Mother Teresa? Bad Craziness…

      • Burro [Mule] says

        The central narrative of C.P. Wagner’s New Apostolic reformation was nothing more than the standard “BOBO” [Blink off-Blink On] paradigm of the Reformers of the Church on steroids. The church was Fine during the apostles’ day, but then went off the rails almost immediately after, only to be restored in the days of Martin Luther/Alexander Stone/Joseph Smith/William Miller/Charles Parham/William Branham/C. Peter Wagner. It has suffered a bit of a set-back recently, but the Shadow will grow and take shape asgain, I have no doubt. The central argument of the Montanists – ‘these other so-called Christians are so worldly! No wonder they have no spiritual power! – will always find ample entrance into human hearts.

        Strange as it may seem, this hog manure has a pedigree. They have been a thorn in the side of responsible Pentecostals since the early ’40s.

        “Reform your hearts, not the Church, lest ye remake the Church in your image, and be bereft of Christ!” St Theophan the Recluse

    • I wasn’t around for the 70s Wagner and the era of Spiritual Gift tests, Church Growth, etc. When I heard of him in the late 90s and early 00s it was stuff like this. This, unfortunately, seems to be where he wanted his legacy to be. His New Apostolic Age stuff was bizarro world, and this is just a sampling of the more lucid stuff. Yes, it’s Dominionism — and the NAR crowd doesn’t seem to mind calling it that. There really is a belief that there are a set group of prophets/apostles that are going to usher in the 2nd coming with their amazingness, and we had better get in line. It’s why most of the people involved (Bill and Beni Johnson, Charisma, Lou Engle, Lance Wallnau, Dutch Sheets) want Trump in, they think he’s going to give them a place at the table for influence, which will keep the endtimes revival on track for Jesus to come back to a world ready for him with his people in charge. Really.

      And most depressing of all, Wagner’s weirdest teachings are in the DNA of places like Bethel Church/Music (and its worship band Jesus Culture) and IHOP, which gets its music into mainstream evangelical churches all of the time.

    • He’s a heretic. Cult leader. I won’t mince words. Yes I know people who adore him, but the damage he has done is possibly unredeemable. He can have his church and his God and his followers, I’ll have no part of them anymore.

      • Well, at least he’s dead.

        The church my wife’s sister & husband go to, Gateway City Church in San Jose, is apparently Wagner’s spiritual offspring. We’ve received some of their info, which seems benign enough. Email newsletters. A video course that was more milquetoast than disconcerting. In fact, it didn’t make me suspicious at all, it was so bland. Friendly enough pastor in the video. He inherited his post from his uncle the founder, and is a product of their own college and seminary.

        My wife is out there for a week but she jumped on another plane for Portland OR to visit #3 daughter this weekend, so I won’t get the scoop on that church. Instead I’m getting the crash course on its background. Thanks, all.

        • Ted, Wagner and his people (along with other charismatics of a similar bent) are full-out Dominionists, though in a slightly different mold than Rushdoony, partly because of their emphasis on supposed “territorial spirits” and “taking territory for Christ.” Meaning literal, physical land. Sadly, a lot of these people have been received with open arms in Uganda and in many other countries where they have been able to exploit local customs and beliefs in attempts to establish (among other things) theocratic governments. The dictator of Uganda is in their back pocket, and has been for many years, decades, even.

          I know this stuff because I was part of a church that ended up starting deep involvements in Uganda around the time that they, um… kicked me out. Fwiw, the physical building they own is located on Capitol Hill.

          The NAR-type strategy for taking over the government, the financial sector and culture/entertainment is called (by them) the Seven Mountains strategy.

        • Also, blandness is a hallmark for those who are, as you and your wife are, outsiders. They don’t tell just anybody about their strategies and weird “spiritual warfare” plans, though you can see plenty of crazy stuff on the internet, on many sites.

          The thing is, they *will* lie about their goals, because they believe that lies further their cause, which is partly that of “steeplejacking.” YWAM is very, very similar in its intent and purpose. (The church I got booted from has 3 generations of familial involvement in YWAM and receding organizations, via the founding pastor, who is part of a small dynasty of ministers from the same immigrant Scots family. They also have very close ties with YWAM and similar in the UK and in France, and who knows where all else by now.)

          • preceeding

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Also, blandness is a hallmark for those who are, as you and your wife are, outsiders. They don’t tell just anybody about their strategies and weird “spiritual warfare” plans, though you can see plenty of crazy stuff on the internet, on many sites.

            Just like Scientology and its “Wall of Fire/OT III” inner mysteries.
            Only when you have been thoroughly vetted and groomed will you be introduced to the Inner Ring.

      • Patrick Kyle says

        We at least agree on this. C.P Wagner was an anti-christ and a false prophet. I was involved in the Anaheim Vineyard back in the late 80’s very early 90’s, when John Wimber (of Righteous Brothers fame) was pastor. Bunch of charlatans. The Luther quote at the end of the Ramblings is quite apropos.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Was “Anaheim Vineyard” the one in the former Federated Stereo big-box industrial building along Anaheim Blvd between I-5 and Ball Road?

    • This stuff is so boring.

      • And he’s dead.

      • Robert, are you being ironic? I’ve seen it up close, and it’s damned scary.

        • Oh, I acknowledge that it’s scary. I just mean that the fantasy scenario involved in the long quotation above from Wagner is imaginatively pathetic, and it’s hard to understand how people take such mind-deadening tripe to heart.

          • Oh, Google Operation Ice Castle, and you won’t be bored at all! Wagner sent some of his lieutenants to Nepal, etc. for that one, though…

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                Just read that.
                This is crazier than I thought.
                Making Mighty Magick, smelling out DEMONS and WITCHES, and going after political power.
                Witchfinders-General running the Government for GAWD.

                Oh, and this Demoness named “The Queen of Heaven”?
                It’s a thinly-veiled St Mary.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                Oh, and the titles:
                “Convening Apostle, C. Peter Wagner…”
                “Prophetess Ana Mendez, Special Task Coordinator of the World Prayer Center…”
                “Apostle Mary Glazier, Alaskan head of the US Strategic Prayer Network, formerly the Spiritual Warfare Network…”
                “Apostle Jan Torp…”
                “the famous witch hunter – Thomas Muthee.” (Who apparently anoninted Sarah Palin as God’s POTUS.)
                All that’s missing are “Master of Mighty Magick”.

                And how does “killing someone through prayer” differ from a Sorcerer putting a Death Curse on someone? Isn’t killing through supernatural incantations usually called BLACK Magick?

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              Like I said above, BAD CRAZINESS.

          • Robert, I think I know what you mean about this being “boring.” You’ve used the word “pathetic” too, which is probably closer to what I think you mean. I think I’d use the word “banal.” The problem is, the banality of evil seems to inspire a lot of people and do a lot of damage.

  14. Was Luther entirely sane in the later years of his life? It doesn’t seem to me he was.

    • The latter part of his life and “ministry” was not pretty.

    • I tend to think he was insanely frustrated by the fact that his reform movement didn’t stop at him, but splintered into so many different factions. I’m sure that’s not what he planned, and not what he thought God had intended. Perhaps he even came to doubt whether his reform was of God, or of the devil, given its fractious outcome.

      But how could he admit that? It would have taken a man of far greater humility, and with far more insight into himself. No, much easier to rail against his enemies, to become harsh and vindictive, to blame others, to become reactively violent…..a sad and ugly end to the life of a man who had, in my opinion, achieved something truly great, and to whom I feel spiritually indebted.

      • Hmm… you may have just described Christopher Columbus and his frustration after the discovery of the new world, which he very much saw as the will of God, and his role in it. He also thought he owned Hispaniola and became rather despotic and maniacal about it, earning him a spot in prison for a time. And the whole new world thing became much bigger than him.

        • And like Luther, Columbus also couldn’t admit something—that the earth was much bigger than he had first calculated. Because that would have meant a whole ‘nother continent, not Asia. So, no $pices or $ilk, highly transportable/marketable goods. They had to settle for gold.

    • Not sure about his mental health, but it is well known that he suffered from severe gastrointestinal problems to include hemorrhoids and constipation which, coupled with the “remedy” of the time–frequent enemas–did not make for a pleasant disposition.

      • Maybe that gave him the inspiration for a lot of his insults!

        • Historians and doctors are just fascinated by all the physical symptoms of various illnesses that he described. Some now think he was epileptic, while others think he had Menier’s Disease.

          The thing is, there’s absolutely no way to know. It gets pretty insane, just like the theorists (and theories) of who *really* wrote those plays attributed to The Stratford Man (Shakespeare, IOW).

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      nope, by the later years the guy was donkers, probably paranoid.

    • Damaris, his “On the Jews and their lies” comes from this period of his life. It’s probably the most vehement and hateful anti-semitic screed ever written, and reads like a template for both Kristallnacht and the Holocaust. One Lutheran synod in the US (the ELCA) has repudiated it, and I wish the rest would follow suit. It is utterly abhorrent.

      That said, I think his mental state can’t really be determined. It’s just not possible to “diagnose” anyone who’s no longer living. And so much of his earlier output has “crazy” elements (a weird fixation on devils and demons being one) that it’s arguable that he had serious psychological problems from adolescence onward.

      The man is a mass of contradictions, most of them unpleasant. While I respect some aspects of the man and his life’s work, I am, overall, alarmed by him and definitely by many of his views.

      Conflicted member of the ELCA

      • I wouldn’t be surprised if he had lifelong psychological problems, that became worse as he got older. I doubt that such problems were uncommon in his times.

        • If you read pretty much any bio (though not the Freudian one that became so famous), you’ll see that he was *hugely* superstitious and that a lighting strike precipitated his religious vocation.

          And yeah, I think a lot of people thought in that manner, but I also think Luther was truly ill. A genius, but profoundly messed-up. His superiors kept telling him to lay off the excessive fasts/penances, and he seemed almost incapable of following their advice. He did every extreme thing there was to do, in the monastery and on pilgrimages, before he started seeing things a bit differently.

          • Today, the compulsive, severe penances look a lot like a subset of OCD – scrupulosity.

            • OCD comment will make sense once something of mine gets past the spam filter, just above…

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              And when he flipped one-eighty, he applied the same OCD intensity against it.

              • The thing is, he wanted to reform the church from within, and up to a certain point, that’s what was, in some quarters, going on. He really was not seeking to break with Rome, let alone start competing churches, or start what he firmly believed was an out of control movement for social change.

                I don’t hold with all the garbage about the Antichrist, but tbh, i can understand why people at the time veered in that direction. Studying European history (and the history of European art, a lot of the best owned by the RCC) is a crash course in learning about the tendency of poeer to corrupt, and for religion to become a political power. I’m not saying it’s a Catholic trait – it’s exclusive to human beings, of whatever religious or political persuasion, and there were a handful of truly debached people who were popes, throughout the long history of the institution.

                I bet a lot of the worst things (from all sides) never would have happened if the Western church had kept the position to one thing only: bishop of Rome. But all since that particular course of action can’t be undone, we’re left to muddle through as best we can…

  15. Jack Chick was controversial among Christians, even evangelicals. He and those that followed were (and continue to be) very anti-Catholic. There would eventually be hundreds of titles condemning everything from Catholicism and Halloween to good ‘ol rock and roll.

    But the most recognizable and popular tract, “This was your life” pictured above, came out of Chick’s prison ministry. His illustrations were poster sized and he provided the story while turning through the pics on a easel. His presentation of the Gospel in this manner led to those illustration being put together in the very first Chick tract. The direction Chick tracts took over the years and some of their views may be a subject of controversy but Jack T. Chick’s desire to spread the Gospel, including using new and creative methods, is admirable.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And his tracts inspired LOTS of parodies.

      The one I remember best was “Shame on You, Doctor Drugoo!” from the small-press tables of the San Diego Comic Con Dealer’s Room back in the Eighties. Page-by-page, panel-by-panel parody where the title character — literally a cross between Mr Magoo and Hunter S Thompson — goes through the Jack Chick Death-and-Judgment choreography (again, literally panel-by-panel) too stoned out of his mind to even notice, making Thompsonesque cracks and observations all the way. (“Fear and Loathing at the Last Judgment” without a 300-lb Samoan lawyer sideckick, just the “uppers, downers, screamers, laughers”.)

      After going through all this, Dr Drugoo gets let out of Hell because of overcrowding and returns to life and same old, same old.

      Only saw the rag (or the character) at that one SDCC. I think the guy got shut down after that.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I have been trying all morning to find one of the funniest Chick Tract parodies online, a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic version of Chick’s Sodom & Gomorrah arc from “Gay Young Blade”. Drawn in an exact copy of Chick’s art style (including Twi & Spike as the Two Angels with a Lightbulb Celestia watching from Her throne), I called it “Behold the Unholy Spawn of Jack Chick & Lauren Faust!” but it has apparently disappeared into the Nacht und Nebel of 404s. All I could find was this low-res thumbnail on Derpibooru:

      However, searching DeviantArt on “chick tracts” brings up (in the best Christian media tradition) some consolation/booby prizes:

  16. It’s hard for me to understand why one would think that anyone who spews hatred as Luther did was an inspired man of God.

    • First, what Damaris said above. Second, he was a man of his times, which were much cruder than we can stomach. Third, he himself lived under death threats and received this kind of vitriol most of his career. Not excusing him, just trying to put him in context.

      • Being part of our times, and seen in context, has never been more evident than during this election. I’m watching good people, not only the “deplorable” and the “nasty” ones, lose their sense of reason over a candidate.

        It helps me to understand the rise of Hitler. And I really don’t like to play that card.

        • Me too, Ted. Lots of people for whom I had respect have shown a nasty side of themselves in this election that has me looking at them very differently. I don’t like it.

          • I ran into this in 2008 as well, but I live in a state that is heavily divided and is also considered a key swing state, so you can bet that candidates and their pals are doing whistle stops all over the place, fanning up unpleasant sentiments.

            • Here in Lancaster County, the Trumpkins far outnumber the other side. Lately, some of them have taken to aggressively flying giant American flags from the flatbeds of their pickups, sometimes in very odd, dark color patterns (and sometimes the Confederate flag too). I take this as an announcement, not of patriotism, but that THEY BELONG! and YOU’D BETTER TOO!

              • What seems to be happening up here is that a few people are carrying on (similar to what you described), but most people are keeping quiet and not giving any indication of who they’re going to vote for. I think that’s because they’re not planning to vote for You Know Who.

                And this is a more rural area by far than Lancaster Co., fwiw. Very hardcore R, except, I guess, for when it isn’t.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                Lancaster County as in Amish Paradise?

                I have contacts in Adams & Lehigh Counties; I’ll check with them as to how crazy things are getting.

                • Adams County is rural, and a whole different cultural thing, being right next to MD.

                  • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                    But Adams County can get weird enough.

                    Like the Biglerville Were-horse Cult. Shirley MacLaine woo-woo about channeling and projecting yourself into horses for some sort of spiritual bennies.

                    • In Biglerville? I had no idea!

                    • My point about the MD line has much to do with the KKK, and includes York and every other county that is on the MD/M-D line. Also counties adjacent to those counties.

                      The Klan had a huge presence in PA at one time, and many people slipped over the MD line (from both directions) to maintain Klan affiliations as well as to harm black people.

                      See David Bradley’s novel The Chaneysville Incident for one black novelist’s take on all of that. Bradley grew up in western PA, in a county on the state line, in a time when there was a *lot* of semi-clandestine Klan activity in the region. 🙁

                    • Btw, are you certain you have correct info. regarding “werehorses” in Biglerville? Not only can I not find anything about this, I strongly suspect thst it was either animal communication seminars or else some kind of “shamanic” practice (could be a *lot* of different things in thst vein, though generally speaking, it has nothing to do with practitioners trying to become animals!)

                • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                  Talked to my contact in Adams County; he said the Trumpeter flag-flyers in Lancaster County originated on a hoax site and either spread as an urban legend or inspired copycats.

                  And you get them out here in SoCal. This morning I was stuck on the freeway behind a truck with a huge American flag flying from a flagpole in the truck bed.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                Channeling Mick the Lip here…

                “Every day I hear the sound
                Of marching, charging feet — O Boy!
                (TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP
                TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP)
                Cause summer’s here and the time is right
                For fighting in the street — O Boy!
                (TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP
                TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP)”

                • Yeah, that Lancaster County. Amish Paradise ain’t all it’s cracked up to be…but Amish Potato salad is pretty good.

                  • It’s hardly “Amish paradise”! Any more than my part of the state, which has a large Amish and Old Order Mennonite population, though we don’t have the tourist traps that are a Lancaster Co. norm. (I wish it wasn’t like that; it’s pretty distasteful, but there’s much more to the area than all the tourist junk.)

                    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                      Only times I’ve been through Lancaster County was to visit the PA State Railroad Museum in Strasburg.

                    • There are some other very good museums in the area, whivh was still rursl when I was growing up, though by the late 60s, the area right around Lancaster was being turned into housing developments and outlet malls. Strasburg is still very rural, though.

                      And development has also spread from the Downingtown area, west into Lancadter Co. Still, once you get east of Lancaster, the Turnpike is the sole major highway until you get closer to Philly, at least if you’re heading SE from there. It takes a lobg time to travel relatively short distances on those roads, though for me, it’s like stepping back in time, and reminds me a lot of the area as a whole when I was very young. But it would be lovely to have a real highway between Lancaster and southwestern Chester Co., believe me!

    • If hate-spewing disqualifies a man for consideration of having been inspired by God, then we’d have to disqualify many or most religious leaders of Luther’s time, and many of those before and after it, Roman Catholic and Protestant alike. For example, we’d have to include for exclusion a figure like St. Bernard of Clairvaux (a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church, and among Christianity’s greatest mystics), who almost single handedly motivated the Second Crusade with his preaching. His eloquent and inspiring religious rhetoric was responsible for the spilling of much blood.

      • Correction:…we’d have to include for disqualification a figure like….

      • “Cursed be he who does not stain his sword with blood”, Bernard proclaimed.

        • In addition, there was a population boom between plague outbreaks, and there were a lot of second- and younger-born sons who would not inherit anything because of primogeniture. What to do with these boys before they caused a lot of trouble at home?….


        • Bernard wrote beautiful devotional poetry, and then turned around and said things like the one you quoted… it’s striking to me that we point the finger @ radicalized terrorism and terrorists who claim to be Muslim, while refusing to acknowledge our heritage of violent “holy” war and genocide (particularly in the Americas, per the latter). Our holy books are full of things that have been interpreted (wrongly, imo) as mandates to harm others. It’s not just “the other guys” who’ve done this – it’s us, our country, our culture.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      It was a Thug Culture, but inspired and even virtuous thugs are a real thing. I’ve known a few. And I think there is a general consensus that he suffered from something mental and became increasingly uhinged with age.

      Loosing one’s mind doesn’t invalidate previous statements.

    • pilgrim, it’s not thst simple (unfortunately). I suggest you read a bio. ot two. Am not saying this to justify any of the truly horrible things he wrote lste in his life, but many of his Catholic contemporaries (like Thomas Moore) were equally coarse and condemning.

      To my minf, none of the vehement condemnations any of them made are justifiable, any more thsn the various religious persecutions of the time.

  17. I am happy to hear that Pope Francis will be honoring Martin Luther in Sweden in commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. For some time now I have been hoping that Francis will ex-excommunicate Luther. Now’s the time.

    • Nah, Francis wouldn’t do that.

      Decades ago, probably a few years after John Paul II became pope, I was watching a TV report of his arrival by plane somewhere, probably here in the USA. The band played Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” as John Paul came down the gangway. I had to think it was intentional, and I think Luther was chuckling in his grave.

      • Not sure that he *could* do that (on his own, at least).

        • That Other Jean says

          Didn’t Pope Leo X already do that?

          • That Other Jean says

            Oops. I missed one of the ex-es before “communicate.” I’m sure a Pope can take back an excommunication, but doesn’t there have to be penance and absolution first? I don’t think Luther was ever exactly penitent.

      • Ted,
        My wife has been playing piano for Saturday evening Masses at a local Roman Catholic parish. On more than one occasion, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” has been one of the hymns, and it’s in the Catholic hymnal/worship book used at the church. This is nothing unusual anymore.

        • So they at least have buried the hatchet. I rarely find evangelicals using anything Catholic. It’s an unwritten taboo.

          • And that’s not the only Protestant hymn in their hymnal; there are quite a few, and my wife has played a number of them for the Masses. Contemporary Catholics are less afraid of contamination than evangelicals; if the theology of the hymn is not out of keeping with Catholic teaching, they are happy to sing it.

            • In Catholic churches in Latin America I have heard hymns (more like praise songs) sung to Beatles or Simon & Garfunkel tunes.

              It was Luther himself who said we should have all the music in the world, that the devil not have all the fun.

            • And you will find Catholic hymns like Come Thou, Almighty King in ELCA hymnals, too…

              Vatican II and the more recent work toward reconciliation between the RCC and some Lutheran bodies has everything to do with it, plus Lutherans like to sing, and if it’s good, they’ll sing it.

  18. Newsflash: The first arrest has been made for voter fraud in early voting in this presidential election: A Donald Trump supporter in Des Moines, IA, Ha ha!

    Of course, none of this stuff probably makes a difference at this point, now that Comey has put Clinton behind the eight-ball with his vague and inappropriate announcement of the FBI’s new email inquiry. The inquiry won’t be finished until after the new POTUS is elected, but he has seriously changed the complexion of this election with his decision to undertake this investigation at this time.

    The fix is in, huh? The whole governmental apparatus is rigged to defeat him, huh? This turn of events, one that may well usher Trump into the Presidency, shows just how wrong is his cynical and know-nothing analysis of institutional bias against him and in favor of Clinton. The FBI director certainly isn’t in Clinton’s pocket, is he? What a joke.

    • *** Newsflash: The first arrest has been made for voter fraud ***

      But was he dead?

    • Brianthedad says

      Your link Was cut short. Here’s the full link.
      I’m sure there will be dueling fraud arrests and accusations in the days to come like we haven’t seen since, well, the last presidential election.

      • I think you’re right; and it’s overwhelmingly likely that none of it will be proof of widespread voter fraud, on either side.

      • What there certainly will be is widespread voter suppression, but that will disproportionately effect the side that isn’t claiming widespread voter fraud, as it has in previous elections.

        Now I’ll stop being political for the day.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Anyone noticed we haven’t had any Christianese run-around-in-circles-screaming panics over “The Devil’s Holiday” this year?

      I think it got pre-empted by The Election

      Do you think they’ll recover enough to kick off this year’s War on Christmas on time?

  19. I grew up spending my entire summers in the Sequioa National Forest. My family had a cabin there ( Hume Lake Christian Camps), so have watched the forest since the early ’60’s. Last year the Rough Fire decimated hundreds of acres there, but Hume was spared…the firefighters used it as their post, and Hume staff took care of them–housed and fed them the whole time. The sequoias are so impressive, if you’ve never seen them, but they are suffering from the drought and beetle infestation. The forestry service for so long wouldn’t log there, cuz of the Sierra Club, etc.,…but recently have been clearing it–realizing it was all going to go up in flames if they didn’t. Again, things things are cyclical; they, the giant sequoias, will survive. Fire is a purifier.
    SoCal obviously is my locale, and In-n-Out was always our best hamburger….UNTIL we had Five Guys. They’re our new favorite–ate them back east for years, then, they finally came to SoCal, thankfully. Just sayin’
    Oh, yes, remember those tracts….oh, do I remember them….
    What was this the trifecta of death week? things come in threes?
    Side note/question: is imonk no longer available to come in to email? I can’t find a place to subscribe like it used to. Just wondering…that made it easy, esp when traveling.

  20. As to the omnipresent thuggery that characterized the best the world had to offer 500 years ago, does anyone know whether Erasmus operated outside the box on that one?

  21. Have not tried Five Guys – I live too far away from a population center that would have those franchises. BUT – an In-N-Out is being built 3 blocks from my house, to the general anticipatory excitement of all but the purest of local food snobs. Beats every other chain hands down: the food is fresh, and the eateries are kept very clean. As Headless mentioned above, they are known for their good treatment of employees; current starting pay is $12/hr.

    The work on the Edicule in the Church of the Resurrection is fascinating. It does irritate me a little that the general attitude conveyed is, “Now that we have brought our scientific instruments, we will have the Real Information about the burial site of Jesus.” Well, yes, some of it…. BTW, St Helena didn’t “discover” the tomb. She went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and talked to a lot of locals, who had kept and handed down the knowledge of where it was, as well as where the other holy sites were. (There was less of a distance in time between her and the events that happened at those sites than there is between us and what happened during the first years of the history of our country on our eastern seaboard.) She provided the financing for churches to be built on those sites. Here is one of my favorite videos, made under the auspices of those very Franciscan friars who are the Catholic custodians of the building (please forgive the initial syrupy music, or turn off the sound):


  22. Can we officially put MLB out of it’s misery after this historic World Series. It’s about time for it to retire…lol

  23. >> What’s it like to be the Catholic chaplain for the Chicago Cubs?

    In the article it says that this Catholic chaplain celebrates Mass before home games at Wrigley Field. “The Mass is open to both teams and any other employees at the baseball stadium.” My question for anyone in the know, is what outsiders might call “Communion” open to said outsiders, or is this members only. If I were a player or a janitor at the stadium, could I partake?

  24. Did you hear about the Star Trek episode in which a tiny temporal mistake caused the destruction on humanit? Apparently a glitch in the space-time continuum cause the creation of a medieval jewish catholic, at which point Luther burned the whole friggin’ planet down.

    • Not funny, Doc. Too many Jewish people were either killed outright or forcibly converted for that to be amusing.

  25. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Wagner had a missionary background in South America, which influenced his perspectives on spiritual warfare.

    Influenced in what way?
    Did he carry over South African folk magic traditions (like Zulu or Xhosa witch smellings-out)?
    Colonial-era antipathy towards any non-White customs or traditions or beliefs?


    Less than four years after gaining independence from the United Kingdom, the Central American nation of Belize notched a smaller, yet somehow lasting, triumph in 1985. That winter, the Chicago Cubs sent their star outfielder Gary Matthews, Sr., to visit the country, which is often claimed to be the most Cubs-friendly land outside the Windy City. Matthews’s visit was the culmination of a love affair that had begun in 1981, the year when Cubs games began being broadcast in the country.