October 22, 2020

Saturday Ramblings 9.11.10

Well, we really know how to attract a crowd here at the iMonastery. All we have to do is list our five favorite anything and the commenters flock like hillbillies to a flea dip. My five favorite movies? (Harvey; Close Encounters Of The Third Kind; Joe Vs. The Volcano; Endless Summer; The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain.) Favorite hamburger joints? (1. In ‘N Out  2. Who cares? It’s not In ‘N Out.) Favorite episode of Gilligan’s Island? (I like the one where the castaways almost get off the island, but then Gilligan does something stupid and they stay stuck. What? Oh.) This week was a musical week as we told you our favorite albums, and we loved hearing about the music you like to listen to. We may try to put together an iMonk concert tour for next summer. In the meantime, put in your earbuds and crank up this week’s Saturday Ramblings.

From the Too Many Matches But Not Enough Brains department: It seems pastors across America are tripping all over themselves to burn copies of the Koran today. It was all started by the pastor in Gainesville, Florida who announced he and his congregation would burn the Islamic holy book on 9-11. Then he said he wouldn’t if the mosque planned to be built near Ground Zero in New York City would be moved. Pastors of other churches in Tennessee and Kansas jumped on board to say they were burning Korans on 9-11 as well. One said it is to save the souls of Muslims. Other reasons given are to teach Americans our constitutional rights and to make us better Christians. We try to stay neutral in most matters here during the Saturday Ramblings, preferring to let you ramblers wrestle things out among yourselves. But in this case, let me just give the official iMonk stance on burning anyone’s scripture. It is wrong on every level imaginable. It does nothing to lift up Jesus or bring glory to our one true God. As St. Paul Harvey would say, these pastors would like me to mention their names…

Meanwhile, the daughter of the Florida pastor referenced above thinks he has gone mad. She said a community he formed in Germany some years ago transformed from a Christian community to a sect-like gathering. This explains some of the motivation behind this act. What it doesn’t explain is why others would follow someone like this. Are people really that desperate for a shepherd?

Finally on this subject, Greg Stier offers three reasons why not to pull the tail of a lion–in this case, burning the Koran as a public demonstration. Very well-reasoned argument, as well as a warning of what not to do next time you visit the zoo.

A few weeks ago we asked our Writers’ Roundtable to weigh in on one of the greatest novels of all, To Kill A Mockingbird. Now Matt Litton brings us The Mockingbird Parables: Transforming Lives through the Power of Story. Read this short interview with the author and I think you will want to add his book to your reading list. I really like how he relates Boo Radley to God the Father. Very insightful stuff here.

I know this is a few years old, but going along with our musical week here at the iMonastery, this insight into the “theology” of Tom Waits deserves another look. I like how the author discusses that the grace of God, for Waits, “is thus a kind of unnatural incursion, a perversity, a disruption of the way things are. Grace interrupts, it shatters and strips things bare to the bone.” Not familiar with Tom Waits? Try his Mule Variations. But check it out from the library first. Tom Waits is not for everyone–he does not try to be.

Continuing on our musical note, two albums of interest will be released this Tuesday. Look for Leonard Cohen’s Songs From The Road (CD/DVD). Also out on Tuesday is the new album by Robert Plant, Band of Joy. You can order either or both by clicking on these links and have them delivered to your door the day they release.

Birthdays were celebrated this past week by St. Paul Harvey (the reason radio was invented in the first place); golfer Tom Watson; Bob Newhart; Dweezil Zappa; Jane Curtin; Jeff Foxworthy; former Cincinnati Bengals owner and head coach Paul Brown; disco diva Gloria Gaynor; Sid Caesar; Peter Sellers; Otis Redding; Arnold “half iced tea, half lemonade” Palmer; and Adam Sandler.

To conclude this musical week, we offer you the following rendition of Hallelujah, the Leonard Cohen classic (made famous by Jeff Buckley and, yes, featured in Shrek) as performed by Over the Rhine. Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist are husband and wife producing some of the most beautiful, unique and wonderful music today. Are you going to be near Cincinnati tonight? OtR is performing live at the Moonlite Gardens at Coney Island tonight, and there might be a few tickets left. Yes, I will be there. Hope to see you if you can come.


  1. Jesus taught this thing called the golden rule: do unto others as you have them do unto you. Show the same respect for the sacred symbols of others as you would have them show respect for the that which is sacred or vital to you. It doesn’t guarantee that others will reciprocate, but failing to do so renders that which is sacred or vital to you meaningless.

  2. I think the whole “he’s gone mad” interpretation is actually pretty convincing. It’s been my experience that people who act like this guy (street preachers who shout at passerbys holding signs saying “God hates fags” anyone?) actually turn out to be literally crazy. I mean that inthe kindest possible way. I actually don’t get angry about these people anymore, i just sincerely wish they would call their social worker back and start taking their meds again. I worked with severely mentally ill adults for a few years and the conversations I’ve had with the yelling religious people resembled these patients so much. I have a lot of compassion for these people.

    Now the fact that the media thought it would be a good idea to give a crazy person unlimited press…that’ another issue entirely. Seriously, I know it’s a good story but have some professional standards!

  3. In know Leonard Cohen’s song is a little “over-covered,” but this has to stand as one of the best.
    Beautiful. Thanks for a Saturday morning moment.

  4. IMonk, you write:

    “What it doesn’t explain is why others would follow someone like this. Are people really that desperate for a shepherd?”

    This is to me the key point about such people. There will always be mentally ill or corrupt people who have delusions about themselves as World Leader, all-knowing, etc. They are not interesting, or only clinically interesting. The only thing that can make them matter is followers. Why do people follow such delusional gurus?

    And yes, it is fun (I suppose, though it seems horrible to me) to stand in a huge crowd, chanting, incanting, focusing one’s anger on a target group. We’re number 1! They are the cause of our problems! My leader will take care of ME!

    The fact that other Christian “leaders” think it’s a good idea to follow Mr. Mentally Ill is dismaying. The fact their congregations are ready to get behind them and do the “we’re number 1” bit is a discredit to followers.

    Can anyone explain that – not Mr. Mentally Ill, I don’t care a fig about him, but I do wonder about the pastors in Kansas and Tennessee. Why would they follow such an obviously delusional example? And why don’t their congregants stop them? I don’t come from an evangelical tradition, so I’m hoping some of you can explain what is going on.

  5. More of a problem than the nut-case pastor, is the media and blogs and etc.etc. that give the guy oxygen. It’s a three ring circus that everyone loves to participate in.

    I’m so glad I live in the so-called “post-Christian” Europe!

    • expat:

      I’ve seen some of the media across the pond. Doesn’t seem any better to me.

      The everybody you write of is not everybody. The circus has been painful to watch.

      It’s been painful because of your correct statement about fueling the fire.

      And, in case you don’t know, you can count the “nut-cases” who would do this on one hand.

  6. I love Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” He wrote a HUGE amount of verses for this song and sometimes sings it one way and sometimes another way.

  7. From a wikipedia article about Cohen’s Hallelujah:

    “Different interpretations of the song may include different verses, out of the over 80 verses Cohen originally wrote. In an April 2009 CBC Radio interview, Cohen said that he finds the number of covers of his song ‘ironic and amusing’ given that when he first wrote the song, his record company wouldn’t put it out. However, he now thinks the song could benefit from a break in exposure.”

    Cohen said, according to that same article: “I was just reading a review of a movie called Watchmen that uses it and the reviewer said – ‘Can we please have a moratorium on “Hallelujah” in movies and television shows?’ And I kind of feel the same way…I think it’s a good song, but I think too many people sing it.”

    Cohen sent 15 pages of lyrics to a man (John Cale) who asked for them!

    • Having unfortunately subjected myself to “Watchmen” (not a recommended experience) I have to concur with Cohen on his requested moratorium. I think the use of the music in that movie left a permanent scar and I can’t hear that song the same way ever again!

    • JoanieD:

      John Cale was one of the founding members of The Velvet Underground, one of the most seminal groups of the 1960’s.

      • Christopher Lake says

        The Velvet Underground and John Cale were crucial in expanding my musical/artistic tastes as a teenager growing up in a small town in Alabama. Small wonder that I never really fit in too well there with those tastes– though I did also grow to love classic country music later. 🙂

  8. I can’t imagine how Mr.Jones ran across a bunch of Korans. It must have taken a bit of effort. I’ve never looked, but I’ve haven’t seen one in a store before. I think Mr. Jones could have used his Koran collecting time on more constructive things.

    How about putting out a flag on 911 like many of my friends are doing?

    Now, I am as concerned about the move of Islam as anyone. I am concerned because it teaches that Jesus was a great prophet. According to the Bible, “great prophet” doesn’t cut it. That description doesn’t even get close to the truth.

    Christians are to be concerned that all of humanity know the truth. It will set them free. How can a Christian not have grave concerns with the spread of Islam?

    Mr. Jones has now made national news. Chalk another one up for our wonderful mainstream media. If they covered every similar event on the radical Muslim side, there wouldn’t be enough journalists available.

    Mr. Jones is a very unwise man. I remember a Christian T.V. program that aired years ago that began with the words:

    It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

    Better still; scripture says that we should pray for our enemies.

    I think Mr. Jones would have accomplished much more by organizing a prayer conference today. He could have focused his prayers on the Muslim world and their lost condition.

    I understand that now he and some of his parishioners are carrying handguns because the F.B.I. has informed them of death threats.

    Lord, have mercy.

    • “I understand that now he and some of his parishioners are carrying handguns because the F.B.I. has informed them of death threats.” – What did they expect?

      • re. finding the koran in bookstores – it is in my local Barnes & Noble, but hard to find because it is not in the normal alphabetical order. This is because, according to the person who helped me find it, the koran may not be shelved below any other books; so they put it on the top shelf.

        re: the death threats – While I agree that burning the koran is rude, death threats strike me as even ruder and less tolerant. Why on earth should we excuse that kind of over-reaction?

        Nobody comes out of this mess looking good. The pastor needs to take his meds, the media need to take a good look at their bottom-feeding selves, and the indignant muslims need to take a chill pill. This sort of over-reaction from them only supports the pastor’s contention that islam is uniquely violent.

        • The Koran / Qur’an may not be shelved below any other books? Please tell me you’re joking. Does that mean that, once I get my Kindle, if I put the Qur’an on it, I have to keep it on the top of my schoolbooks? Or that I have to organize my folders within the Kindle to be root/Quran/Other?

          I’m familiar with cultural sensitivity, but that’s lucicrous.

    • Regarding the media…

      Where was the world media when Bibles were burned last year in Afghanistan; ordered so by certain U.S. Army leaders? Did the world media have a field day with that?



    • Something constructive like putting up a flag. I believe the kids would say rofl

  9. I wish I could be in Cincinnati this evening – absolutely love Linford and Karin!

  10. “You say that it’s Gospel but I know that it’s only church.” Tom Waits

    Hah! Funny, that’s a familiar sentiment.

    Tom is the man and always will be.


    • I don’t know if Michael Spencer was a Waits fan or not, but that quote could have been the subtitle for Mere Churchianity.

  11. I love you, Jeff, but “flock like hillbillies to a flea dip”? You know what? God loves hillbillies too.

    And the answer to your question is YES, some people are really that desperate for a shepherd.

    Point 3: The man in Kansas is the leader of the group (I don’t say church) that protests at the funerals of servicemen and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He and Mr. Jones of Gainesville, Florida, are obviously cut out of the same cloth.

    • I know God loves hillbillies, Bob. I grew up in the midst of them. But hillbillies do love a flea dip.

      And that is the reason I did not mention the pastor from Kansas’s name, or say where he is from. He doesn’t need any more publicity.

  12. Chris Moellering says

    Mr. Cohen’s lyrical song gets a lot of covering in our house…my daughter plays it on piano a lot, I join in with my bass sometimes. It just has a very nice musical flow to it, very natural rise and fall.

  13. “What’s he BUILDING in there?……….”

  14. Heaven’s Gate, Jim Jones, the tiny “churches” in Gainesville and in Kansas …actually, yes, people are that hungry for a shepherd, and not just the fringe element of society. Look in the eyes of those folks who turned out for Barak Obama’s acceptance speech in Chicago in 2008. As the news cameras panned across their faces I couldn’t help thinking that these people were expecting the Messiah and they are bound to be bitterly disappointed. As good as a President may or may not be, expectations were set far too high for any mortal to satisfy. Even Glenn Beck.

    By the way, this is most assuredly NOT intended as a political comment. My point? …the fields are ripe for picking.

    …and there still was no music after 1972 (but Leonard Cohen comes close).

    • I’m thinking the same thing (about your main comment). On the lighter side, I’m also thinking the same thing about that last sentence. Wait a minute…yes, Randy made a few albums after ’72. There was music after ’72 after all.

  15. I’ve been thinking for a while that I probably love Tom Waits’ music and Flannery O’Connor’s stories for the same reason. They both portray sin so well that grace becomes obvious. Over at theFaith and Theology blog (see link to Tom Waits’ “theology” in Jeff’s ramble), they’ve been thinking the same thing:

    As [Archbishop of Canterbury] Rowan Williams remarks in his study of Flannery O’Connor’s fiction, “the actuality of grace is uncovered in the moment of excess – which may be in a deliberately intensified gracelessness” (Grace and Necessity, p. 105). A “deliberately intensified gracelessness” – that is the world of Tom Waits’ lyrical theology.

    Watching Waits sing “Chocolate Jesus” is something like the preaching of Flannery O’Connor’s bizarre character Hazel Motes, who started “The Church Without Christ”—where the blind don’t see, the lame don’t walk, and what’s dead stays that way.”

    But if you really want to see the gospel preached, read “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. The escaped convict, The Misfit, gives a pretty darned competent review of the gospel–right before he blows the little old lady away with a handgun because she got on his nerves.

    Will somebody explain to us fans of Waits and O’Connor why we aren’t going straight to hell for enjoying this stuff?

    Maybe there’s a bible verse somewhere. Let’s see… how about Romans5:20-21…

  16. Christopher Lake says

    Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Over The Rhine…. that’s it. If one can be “musically in love” with a *blog*, I’m there. 🙂 Now, if I could just find a practicing Catholic woman with this musical/artistic taste!

    To more eternally grave matters… burning the Koran is an act of idiocy on every level. As Christians, we want Muslims to come to know and love the one, true, Trinitarian God, as revealed in Jesus Christ. Hello, Koran-burning pastors? I don’t know if any of you are reading this (somehow, I doubt it), but these actions are *not* helping the cause of bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Muslims!!! 🙁

  17. I guess I tend to give the pastor guy a little more slack than most.

    I mean 9 years ago, some guys burned down two buildings and killed 3,000 people in the name of that book. So today he burns 200 of those books in the name of those buildings. Maybe a little bizarre, but understandable. Rather muted compared to the inspiration it came from.

    Rude? Sheesh. Is rude even on the radar comparatively?

    Not Christian? Probably not, but somewhat understandable in the long run.

    Will it help issues? I have come to the conclusion that in terms of this current jihad, nothing is going to help this situations. Will it hurt. Maybe, but there weren’t a lot of Koran burning before those buildings.. and surprisingly not a lot of them after either. I have become cynical enough to agree with Spengler that wars do not end until all the men willing to die for their cause get their wish. Not the reality I want….just the reality that exists.

    What I think is just as tragic are the pastors mentioned above who are now jumping on the bandwagon and having Koran roasts of their own. When is Christianity going to stop the “Me too!” trend and just do what is right, mature, and–uh–Jesus shaped?

    Jesus shaped means praying for this Pastor, his flock, the Muslims who do not desire deadly conflict, and then maybe again for this pastor. Then for all us us. We have bigger issues than some guy taking out his frustrations on some books, be they Bibles or Korans or Nicolas Sparks novels.

    For all religions are not the same. The fabric of our republic, built on that assumption, is starting to crumble.

    • Sorry but on reading the us constitution and the declaration of independence and I can’t find any reference to the assumption that not all religions are the same. Can you point it out?

      • Perhaps I should have said more that the underpinings of our modern society and the interpretations of the Constitution since then rely under the assumption that all religions are basically the same, they “just have different names for God..”

        However, one could make the same case that the Constitution and Declaration make the same points. The Declaration does not specify the god, but gives him the more general description of “Creator,” “Nature’s God,” “Supreme Judge,” who exercises “Divine Providence.” Though these could be interpreted to be the Christian God, they could also represent the god of the Jews and the Muslims. Maybe some other faiths as well (though perhaps not the Buddhist or Atheist). In short, it is not explicitly Christian and could be interpreted as saying at least the three faiths mentioned are “fundamentally” the same. Same God, different names..

        And once the “religious test” for office was dropped, all of the above points basically became moot. One could hold office and believe whatever one wanted. Again, administratively, they are all basically the same.

        The constitution does not mention god at all, in any context. (Saying it does in terms of the date stretches things a bit in my opinion.) Also, historically, one has to confront the fact that both documents break the here-to-fore established pattern for at least European states to mention Jesus explicitly in their organizing documents. Not so the US. The more general terms are used instead. The change is conspicuous.

        So at least the foundation stone of “all religions being fundamentally the same” is linked to the US documents, if not developed from them. At least a good direction for the development of a Master’s thesis in that regard..

        • Wow, I don’t get “all religions are basically the same” in either of our founding documents. I get that all may practice any religion (or not – which IS a religion, BTW) as a matter of personal choice and that the government of each state or by the federation will make no effort to push, one way or the other, any particular establishment or practice of a religion.

          And yes, that means that we can follow (or not) complete idiots. Jesus loves them, too.

          • Okay. My point is the subtle analysis of elements that are NOT stated in the Declaration of Independence or Constitution compared to similar documents in the other nations of the time. If you are looking for an explicit statement that “all religions are fundamentally the same” then you are correct. I admit defeat.

            Though even the admission “I get that all may practice any religion (or not ..) as a matter of personal choice and that the government of each state or by the federation will make no effort to push, one way or the other, any particular establishment or practice of a religion.” is a tacit admission that no religion is more valid than the other in terms of societal structure and organization.

            Otherwise, such a statement is philosophical madness. Unless all bow to the “sovereignty of the Secular State,” to quote Conservative columnist Ken Connor. Such then would be the structure of Rome, something Revelation had a few things to say about.

            However, we can end this as perhaps a useless debate on this forum.

            BTW, I don’t judge the pastor in this case as a “complete idiot.” I am more understanding of the validity of his protest, even if I disagree. See my original comment above.

          • The claim made was that “NOT all religions are the same” was a founding principle of the usa”. That is not a principle that appears in any of the relevant documents.