October 20, 2020

Saturday Ramblings, February 8, 2014

The Gallup organization has released its latest report of American religiosity.  41 percent of Americans indicated that they are “very religious,” 29 percent were classified as nonreligious, and another 29 percent fell somewhere in-between.  Each state was also rated, with Mississippi found to  have the most “very religious” people (61%) and Vermont the fewest. (22%).  You can check out where your state rates in the Biblethumpers  vs. pagans scale here. Or you can just view the nice map from the Atlantic: 93f40f12d

Demon possession, levitation, unnatural swarms of flies, skeptical state officials, children walking up walls, oozing substances, spirit silhouettes, an exorcism:  Gary (Indiana) police Capt. Charles Austin said it was the strangest story he had ever heard. But after studying the documents and interviewing the family and witnesses, the 36 year veteran  said simply, “I am a believer.”  The Indianapolis Star (a Pulitzer-prize winning paper) produced a 6,000 word article after reviewing 800 pages of official documents (many of which are hyperlinked to the article). The official  intake report documents that both the psych counselor and DCS [Department of Child Services] worker saw one of Latoya Ammons’s three children “walk up the wall as if he was walking on the floor and did a flip over the grandmother.” It also reports that medical staff corroborated a report of one of the children being thrown into a wall by an invisible force.

Should Christians view Muslims as allies in our culture?  First Things make a good case for it.  Your thoughts?

In Buffalo, many Roman Catholics are practicing a Mass Mob.  Like a Flash Mob, participants should up en masse, but in this case their only goal is to fill a struggling church.

Professor  Bengtson was curious: Why do some young people adopt their families’ religious views while others strike out on their own? Curious enough that he spent four decades on the question, studying  350 families. His research produced over 200 articles, but he did not publish a summary till now.  His conclusions are very interesting.  But what have you experienced?  Why do children stay in the faith or wander away?w-Abortion-02

Well this is good news: The abortion rate in the United States has dropped to its lowest point since Roe V. Wade (1973), and is just barely above the rate before Roe.  The authors of the study suggest this may be due  to better birth control, but they admit this is speculation.  Click on the picture at right to see the trend.

Culture war in Europe: In France, 0ver 100,000 conservative French marched through Paris and Lyon on Sunday accusing the government of “family-phobia” for legalizing gay marriage (and other policies).  Spain is debating a new abortion bill.   In London, it is the battle of the posters. Gay rights group Stonewall, published some downtown which said, “Some people are gay. Get over it!” A  Christian charity group responded with posters reading “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!”  Guess which posters were deemed illegal.

And increasing  anti-Semitism in Europe: In Italy,  Pigs’ Heads were sent to a Synagogue and the Israeli Embassy before Holocaust Remembrance Day. In France, anti-government protests in Paris denigrated into shouts of  “Jews you flaws, France is not yours” “Jews, We don’t want you”,  “Jews, out of France”, all while many made Nazi salutes.  Wow.

The message was not surprising, perhaps, but the messenger was.  Responding to Vatican queries, the Bishops of Germany issued an incredibly blunt assessment of the gap between the churches teachings on sexuality and what Catholics there actually thought and did.  “The Church’s statements on premarital sexual relations, homosexuality, on those divorced and remarried, and on birth control, by contrast, are virtually never accepted, or are expressly rejected in the vast majority of cases,” it said. Ouch.  It goes on.  “Almost all couples who wish to marry in church have already been living together.”  Less than three percent of Catholic couples use the Natural Family Planning of birth control  (opting for condoms or the pill instead).  Divorced and remarried couples have “become a normal part of pastoral reality in Germany.” And they suggest that the Church should move away from “prohibition ethics” and stress “advisory ethics” instead.

Et Tu, Menno?  A regional Mennonite body has licensed their first lesbian Pastor.

Your tax dollars at work: Rutgers students can now take a class called Politicizing Beyoncé.  The official class description: “We will attempt to position Beyoncé as a progressive, feminist, and even queer figure through close examination of her music alongside readings on political issues, both contemporary and historical.” The mind boggles; a respected university is going to try to exegete this???

I think I need a barber
None of these niggars  can fade me
 Im so good with this,
I remind you im so hood with this

Boy im just playing, come here baby
Hope you still like me, niggar pay me
My persuasion can build a nation
Endless power, our love we can devour
You’ll do anything for me.

The same department also lists these other gems (only one of which I made up):

  • Representation and Pornography — “This course will examine how the body has been represented in art and visual culture, as well as in pornography and consider the range of ways the nude body and pornography exist in contemporary art.”
  • Gender, Race, and Performance During the Harlem Renaissance — “This multidisciplinary course analyzes the fabled cultural awakening among African Americans during the 1920s and 1930s. It focuses on the performance of gender and race identity in literature, popular culture, and the visual arts.”
  • Gender and Bollywood — “This course examines through a feminist lens some of these films and the larger political, social and cultural issues they raise, including arranged marriages, sex, prostitution, single motherhood, women in the workplace, and gender and cultural identity. Primary course material consists of Bollywood films, which we will be watching throughout the course.”
  • Gender & Consumption — “Topics to be discussed might include: sex work, pornography, tourism, shopping addiction, hoarding, advertising, the fashion industry, celebrity culture, corporatized activism, the pharmaceutical industry, the drug trade, health, the bioeconomy, et cetera.”
  • Gender in Calvin and Hobbes — “This course examines American feminist issues in popular culture through looking at how the sexually repressed Calvin relates to his mother, his teacher, and Susie Derkins.”
  • Politics, Food, and Environment — “This course will address questions of the intersection of gender, food, and environmental politics from several different perspectives. We’ll be talking about ecofeminism, the sexual politics of meat production, [editor’s note: WHAT?] environmental activism, and maybe The Hunger Games.”
  • Homosexuality and Visual Culture — “How has history been changed by queer artists? This course will introduce you to the central role of homosexuality and homoeroticism in visual culture in the distant and recent past as well as the present day”

    The motto translates to, "Sun of Righteousness, Enlighten also the West.”  Yes, really.

    The motto translates to, “Sun of Righteousness, enlighten also the west.” Yes, really.

“If you continue on this destructive path, you will ensure your everlasting  disgrace in Jewish history for bringing calamity upon the Jewish people — like  Nebuchadnezzar and Titus who destroyed, respectively, the first and second great  Temples and the entire Holy City of Jerusalem, and who, by heavenly punishment,  brought eventual disaster upon themselves, too.”  Who were the Rabbis addressing?  One of the leaders of their Muslim neighbors?  A group of terrorists?  Iran?  No, this was addressed to none other than our own Secretary of State, John Kerry.  The Rabbis (a couple big names among them) also warned Kerry he was acting like Haman, adding helpfully (in case the Secretary was fuzzy on his Bible stories)  “Tellingly, [Haman]  and his sons eventually were hung on the very same gallows he  had prepared for Mordechai, the Jew.”

A United Nations panel  blasted the Vatican for protecting itself rather than victims of sexual abuse and accused the Vatican of “systematically” adopting policies that allowed priests to rape and molest thousands of young people over a span of decades. It added,  “the Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests”.  Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer at the UN in Geneva, said he had been surprised by the findings, which he considered “not up to date” and a distorted depiction that ignored recent progress.

Pope John Paul II wanted his diaries burned; instead, they have now been published. They record the emotions of a man who spent decades constantly questioning whether he was worthy of the role he was called to carry out, and who agonised about whether he was doing enough to serve God.

A Catholic Diocese is taking heat for its decision to fire an unwed teacher because she is pregnant. The superintendent said the woman “made a willful decision to violate the terms of her contract,” which requires her to follow Catholic teachings in both her personal and professional life.

Well, this is interesting:  What’s your take on why these trends are happening?

chartCognitve dissonance alert: Why am I on the same side of an issue as Pat Robertson?

From the “sad, but not surprising department” comes this note that more people read Facebook each day than read their Bibles.  Okay, imonkers, fess up?  Is this you? And is this a problem or a non-issue?

One of my favorite actors died this week.  The Atlantic argued Phillip Seymour Hoffman was the greatest actor of his generation.  He is having a Catholic funeral, and you can read why here.  Who gets your vote for the greatest living actor?

Birthdays of the week include: Sir Thomas More (1478), Aaron Burr (1756), Charles Dickens (1812), Charles Lindberg (1902), Ronald Reagan (1911, yes only nine years younger than Lindberg),  Eva Braun (1912), Bob Marley (1945) who provides this week’s video:


  1. Your listing of courses made me laugh. By ambushing Susie with snowballs, Calvin was clearly displaying his sexual repression. Although the first course might be interesting to see if they give a more specific definition of pornography than Potter Stewart’s.

  2. I had a rock at the Church. I left to find a more perfect church, only to find that all people, including the people of my Church, had many imperfections. I now strive with the imperfect as best we can. Gary, IN can be a hard place to learn the uglier truths of life; however, one can’t escape the evil in this world no matter how far you go.

  3. Christiane says
  4. Marina Lehman says

    Just for what it’s worth, I do feel obligated to point out that Natural Family Planning is not the same thing as the rhythm method – not by a long shot. It would more accurately reflect the church’s teaching if you changed the wording in that paragraph.

    • Daniel Jepsen says

      Done. Thanks.

    • I was going to point out the same thing. The rhythm method hasn’t been endorsed for decades, not since recent natural family planning research has achieved 95+% reliability. It’s a new and better day — family planning that requires some self-examination and self-control(a good thing), is entirely healthy, Church-approved, and doesn’t support multinational drug companies.

  5. “The same department also lists these other gems (only one of which I made up”…

    My guess is you made up the class about Calvin and Hobbes. Sadly, from my interactions with local Millenials, few of them have been exposed to that exquisite comic. 🙁

  6. Okay, so Americans strongly disapprove of marital infidelity. They also increasingly opt to cohabitate without benefit of marriage, and that trend would seem to me to effect the issue greatly, since it alters the social/sexual landscape so much, and complicates the issue of fidelity. The increase in disapproval of marital infidelity means something different now than it would have forty years ago, when cohabitation was far less prevalent, and less accepted.

    • Joseph (the original) says

      Americans may disapprove of marital infidelity, but then they seem to practice it frequently…

      Maybe they disapprove of being found out or view those that do as weak, lacking self-control, being selfish/self-centered, etc. I don’t know what the statistics ‘state’, but I would like to know what the percentage of divorces included infidelity.

      In my case, my ex-wife carried on secret affair with her boss for 10 years (yup, you read correctly) while maintaining a quasi-Christian marriage image+good mother persona.

      After my divorce, I began to pay more attention to the stories of other people that were divorced. I felt my story was somewhat unusual (or the exception), but then the more stories I heard, the more I realized my own story was somewhat ‘ho-hum’. Seems the opportunities for affairs much greater now and people take advantage of it. Also, the social stigma has been relaxed, much like the wider acceptance of divorce has.

      Lord…have mercy… 🙁

  7. “Or you can just view the nice map from the Atlantic” on the % of religiosity.

    OR you can view the map of the seven deadly sins( Google “7 deadly sins map- How does tour state stack up?”)

    On the sins map, the pride map is a composite of all 7 deadly sins. It is amazing how much the most religious region is exactly the same as the most sinful region.

  8. Who are those protestors in France? Are they Euro-fascist nativists? Immigrants? Anarchists? What is it that they are blaming on Jewish people?

    Some decades ago, Karl Stern, a Jewish German psychiatrist who lived through WWII and converted to Roman Catholicism, wrote a spiritual autobiography titled “The Pillar of Fire.” I remember that in that book there was a passage in which Stern described the pious Catholic faith of one of his families domestic servants during the time when the Nazis were rising to power.

    She had a very simple, though profound, theological perspective on the rising anti-Semitism in Germany, and it went something like this (I quote from imperfect memory): “Why are these people against the Jews? Our Lord was a Jew. It will not go well with these people.”

    It’s worth repeating: Our Lord was a Jew. It will not go well with these people.

    • I’ve been looking for that book for several years, Robert F. Where did you find it?

      • Decades ago in a used bookstore in central New Jersey.

      • Brianthedad says

        Amazon has it used for around $35 if you’re interested.

      • Thanks for the ideas, friends. I was hoping not to spend $35, but we’ll see!

        • Damaris,
          I would offer to send you my tattered old copy, free of charge, since in all likelihood I’ve gotten what I need to from it, but I don’t know how we’d work out the logistics.

        • Damaris,

          I just checked ebay, and it is available for $6.00

          • Christiane says

            I want to read that book, too.
            All the people of that time (Germany, pre to post Hitler) who left salient writings – these people were giving their own points of view into something that still makes us want to ‘look away’ instead of study.
            But I hope these writings can be collected and kept for historical examination of what it means to live in such a time and what it means to be a human being, with a conscience, at such a time and in such a place . . .

            what a crucible Germany must have been then . . . and we NEED to know everything possible about what occurred there and figure out WHY, so that the evil will not be ALLOWED to be repeated again without the eyes of an informed world moving to intervene or calling it to account in places where ‘ethnic cleansing’ is given opportunity to carve even more deeply a mark into our collective human identity..

    • Thank you for the book recommendation. I got lucky tonight. Cleveland main library has two copies, and now one is on hold for me. So, it should get to my local branch sometime this week.

  9. Richard Hershberger says

    Re variable religiosity: “You can check out where your state rates in the Biblethumpers vs. pagans…”

    I think that the word “pagan” does not mean what you think it means. A pagan can be very devoted to worshiping the goddess.

    • True enough. My sister prefers the term heathen to pagan, but she is very devout.

    • That Other Jean says

      Goddess worship is only one of a multitude of forms of paganism. Pagans can be devoted worshippers of gods/goddesses from many pantheons, single gods/goddesses, or other forms of the Divine.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        I considered expanding the post to a list of possibilities but uncharacteristically opted for brevity. “Goddess” was meant as an example of many.

    • Daniel Jepsen says

      I was being tongue-in-cheek

    • Earliest usage of the word “pagan” meant “country folk” in our not too distant usage. The term was religion neutral. “Peasant” and “peon” are from the same root.

  10. You asked about how children do or don’t keep the faith. In our case, all of our children are still Christians and more or less devout Catholics since we joined the church together a few years ago. I suspect this is partly because we have always been close as a family, as Prof. Bengtson mentioned, but also because we have seen ourselves as an embattled minority. Our children grew up in a Muslim country and now live in a pretty depressed rural area. They have been part of my husband’s and my search for Christian community and integrity and (I think) appreciate it where they can find it. If religion for them had represented a dull status quo, I imagine they’d have more reason to break from it once they began thinking for themselves.

    • Brianthedad says

      Your experience points out one of the problems of modern US culture as it relates to “passing on the faith”. Sounds like your family has real experience in the value of their faith and how to live it, what it means to be Christian in a non-Christian culture, and in being close knit for mutual support. We (broad brush alert) here seem to manufacture those via the culture war. Today’s youth have exquisite BS detectors, having grown up being marketed to with ever more sophisticated methods. The irony is many churches fail in their attempts to pass on the faith by trying to liven up things using many of the same marketing techniques that the target audience has already tired of, which results in their perceiving a “dull status quo”. The article reveals that the difference is in the parenting, not the church or its programs.

      • Yes, it’s about “keeping it real.” My siblings and I are not in the same particular Christian tradition in which we were raised, but the fact that my parents actually lived out what they believed with grace and perseverance is surely the reason we all still identify ourselves as Christians. There was simply no BS to detect at home.

        By the way, pronouncing your handle as “Briant Hedad” makes me think of you as Assyrian, with a child quite possibly named Tiglath-Pileser or Senacherib. Please don’t invade Georgia.

        • Brianthedad says

          Lol. Well, I live next door to Georgia, but they are safe unless they continue stealing our water!

          My concern is the desire in many of our churches to strain hard to be seen as keeping it real and exciting, and ending up coming across as somewhat fake or hypocritical. Perhaps some of that effort could be put into assisting parents, and others in the congregation, in becoming similar to the people you describe your parents to be. I think that’s called making disciples.

          • Sorry about the water — and you’re completely right about us stealing it. If it makes you feel better, I never water my yard. (Hmmm… that brings new meaning to “NIMBY”….)

            Nothing is real and exciting about anything that tries too hard to be real and exciting, whether in church, at work, or in bed, for that matter. One would think this general truth would be universally acknowledged, but as you note, it’s clearly not.

  11. Richard Hershberger says

    “Should Christians view Muslims as allies in our culture?”

    Historically Christian culture has benefited greatly from Islam. The revival of ancient learning came largely via Islam, for example. More generally, our culture has routinely benefited from interaction with others. This is why we can get a decent curry.

    Sadly, however, it turns out that the linked piece is actually discussing not culture, but the culture wars, and by “Christians” it means “Christians on the conservative side of the culture wars”. Leaving aside the “should” question, I expect that it will happen. The history of culture warfare shows that culture warriors generally are willing to set aside pretty much anything else. The most prominent example is the alliance of American White Evangelical Protestantism with Catholicism. Traditionally, if there was one thing that American White Evangelical Protestants all agreed on, it was that they opposed Catholicism. That was abandoned in the 1980s when American White Evangelical Protestantism adopted the Catholic position on abortion, pretended it had held this position all along, and made it a defining characteristic of American White Evangelical Protestantism. More recently, Mormons–another traditional foe–were let into the fold (though this may have been a temporary accommodation for the accident of political candidacy). Being anti-Muslim is yet another traditional position. But given that many Muslims hold similar views to culture warriors on culture war issues, an alliance would not surprise me in the least.

    Mind you, I think it is a wonderful thing to call off those traditional feuds and discover those others are human beings after all. My religious tradition called off its feud with Catholicism several decades before American White Evangelical Protestantism did, but I don’t imagine this puts me in a position to look down on American White Evangelical Protestantism for its tardiness, seeing as how my tradition’s feud lasted over four centuries. While I am far from a fan of the culture wars, I consider such accommodations to be the silver lining. The Holy Spirit works in wondrous ways.

    • It depends of which flavor of Islam. It is not monolithic in its observance, just as Judaism varies widely in practice.

      For the most part your observations dealt with a society where most people look alike, speak alike and come from the same society. Islam poses other challenges to acceptance. Sure, their conservative views may sometimes coincide with us but what motives lay beneath those values is what makes the difference.

    • First Things founder, the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, co-authored the 1994 manifesto “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.” So it’s not too surprising that the argument to include Muslims would be made there twenty years on.

    • My understanding is that the largest contribution to the revival of ancient learning came through the direct reception of Greek texts from Constantinople by means of the sack of said city, and also through peaceful exchanges of texts among Byzantine and Italian scholars during the late middle ages, as politics and travel allowed; see S. Runciman. Yes, there was Muslim influence through Spain, but most of that stopped at the Pyrenees. Muslims did a fair bit of translating, but not always with the approval of the Caliphs. “Western Arab translations of Greek works (found in Iberia and Sicily) originate in the Greek sources preserved by the Byzantines.” (Wikipedia article on Transmission of the Classics)

      In the middle ages, the famed Muslim physicians studied Greek medicine in Alexandria, and with good Jewish doctors there and elsewhere. Same for other sciences; Muslims were good at using and transmitting the knowledge already extant, but rarely made original discoveries. They did make significant original contributions to the advancement of mathematics, and a few to philosophy, but again the latter under the huge influence of medieval Jewish philosophers.

      I don’t have any bone to pick with Islam or Islamic scholarship. I think that some people in the west, in an attempt to be positive toward Muslims and not offend, tend to overstate the case of contributions to western culture via Islam. Yes, there were many good contributions by certain brilliant individual Muslims. Our “western heritage” actually largely came from the eastern Christian world via Greek schools around the Mediterranean, including in Rome, and circuitously through the Irish monks who preserved a lot of the significant ancient texts. The Muslims who overran the eastern Christian world disseminated some of what became “western learning,” but the bulk of it came to us in other ways.


      • Richard Hershberger says

        I know just enough on the subject to get myself in trouble, but my understanding is that a non-trivial corpus of ancient Greek literature survives only via translation to Arabic. What fraction of the entire surviving corpus of ancient Greek literature this might be I haven’t the foggiest. So upon reflection, I overstated the case when I wrote “largely” and I withdraw that word.

        On the other hand, the Latins only thought to sack Constantinople because they were on their way to try to sack the Holy Land, and got distracted. So perhaps we should credit the Muslims with an assist on that one.

        • Credit duly noted.

          That was one hell of a distraction. There’s enough blame for the Great Schism to go around on both sides of the Adriatic, but with the Sack of Constatinople the eastern Christians were not in any mood to mend fences. It was bad, very, very bad.


      • A lot of Greek philosophy, literature etc. was very much part of the scholarly atmosphere in Baghdad, relatively early in the history of Islam. Neo-Platonism had – and continues to have – a very strong influence in much Islamic thought/philosophy, very much including Sufism (Muslim mysticism, which is quite diverse and can’t be parsed in blog comments).

        It’s easy enough to find good, accurate accounts of the early flourishing of learning and the arts in Baghdad; for many centuries, it was one of the cultural capitals of the world. Our basic history texts here are incredibly lacking; so much of what ultimately brought about the Renaissance actually came from the Middle East, brought back by people who foughtin the Crusades. This even includes many musical instruments that we commonly think of as having originated in Europe. A good book on that subject (basic visual encyclopedia of musical instruments) will show this clearly enough. (Some of it does come from N. Africa via the parts of Spain and Portugal that were ruled by the Berbers and Arabs as the kingdom of Al-Andalus, of course.)

        I think Orthodox sources tend to downplay the very real part that Muslim scholars had in helping to preserve and disseminate works that are key parts of Western civilization, for obvious reasons. I studied Byzantine art in grad school (as a requirement, am only passingly familiar compared to other folks I knew at the time) and one of the very striking things we were taught is this: the Byzantine Empire was really not at top form when it comes to literature and philosophy. There aren’t even very many Byzantine works (apart from theology, etc) that are translated into modern languages, aside from several books lionizing a number of the emperors.

        It’s a puzzling thing to me, really, and I wish I knew more about it all.

        • “…the Byzantine Empire was really not at top form when it comes to literature and philosophy. ” As well one might expect from an Empire whose emperor shuttered Plato’s Academy after 900 years of existence. (It was Justinian, I believe, and so nearly another 900 years before the empire’s ultimate demise.) The Byzantines went all-in on the liturgical arts — they’re basically unsurpassed, in my opinion — and this certainly included iconography.

          But indeed there’s practically nothing one can point to in the empire’s millennium of existence in the way of scientific or literary advance (apart from liturgical poetic forms.) It certainly is a puzzling picture. It was the pretty much OK of times, it was the…pretty much OK of times.

          But at least Russia eventually picked up the torch when it came to literature.

          • Yes, it was a total dead end as far as literature and most of the other arts are concerned; ditto for philosophy, scientific inquiry and much more.

            I always got the sense that the Empire was quite static and stifling in its addiction to an early version of red tape, though I suppose someone had to provide stability (however rigid and unbending) in an empire where assassination and other evils were rife at the top. The usual Western take is that the Ottoman sultans were cruel (and some really were), but if anything, they simply picked up where the Byzantine emperors – with their murderous and often sadistic tendencies – left off.

            I cannot trust Runciman on the Byzantine Empire or the Crusades; there’s a wealth of more recent scholarship that is far more even-handed toward both the eastern Empire as well as the Muslim civilizations that also existed in the ME.

            Although the. Eastern Empire claimed to be Christian, I think there’s a frightening fusion of church and state that needs to be taken into account.

            There’s also the fact that when the proponents of icons won their long battle with the iconoclasts, things just (imo) stagnated. There’s just nothing like the intellectual inquiry that went on in the West – no universities, nothing except the church, the military and government bureaucracy.

            But when you settle on a fixed method of representation (as with icons) and allow minimal deviation from approved representation and imagery, well… There was never going to be a rediscovery of perspective, of principles of classical architecture, of drawing and painting and sculpture as there was in the West. As beautiful as the best icons are, they’re meant to convey a sort of “disembodied” quality, which is largely ache I best by avoiding all of the tenets of Greco-Roman realism.

            My caveat: I think the best Greek and Russian icons are glorious, but I always feel that theyre not enough – yes, you guys have proved the value of icons in worship, but now let’s tackle some tough questions! Again, I’m not meaning to imply that the Orthodox as a whole avoid intellectual activities and discussions, but there seems to be far less of it than in the West. For me, beautiful as it all is, it just isn’t enough. (Famous last words – watch me convert to Orthodoxy down the line! 😉 l

          • Justinian was a piece of work! A tyrant, in the modern sense. It’s a shame that he cadets such a very long shadow.

          • Russia might never have become a litetasry powerhouse were it not for Peter the Great’s forcibly wrenching the country into the modern world. Some subsequent rulers continued that, and the Russian love affair with French culture (among the upper classes, at least) helped make writing a desirable and respected activity. I don’t think Tolstoy and Doestoevsky would exist without the great tension between admiration (and emulation of) the West, while at the same time struggling to maintain some kind of “authentic” Russian identity in the arts and literature. You can see this everywhere: the great love of ballet, which came from France, the love of both Western-style high art and Russian folk forms- come to the 20th century and you’ve got Stravinsky writing pieces thqwtbadhere to Western forms, while at the same time writing super-Russian ballet scores. (Which are also famously modern.)

            In don’t think the Byzantines were all that interested in the things that fired artistic expression in Russia.

      • Err, do you mean that men like Maimonedes were the real muscle per Islamic philosophy? If so (if I’m reading you right, anyway), I wonder if that’s true. Not saying there wasn’t cross a fertilization, because there was. But to put all of Islamic philosophy’s achievements down to Jewish philosophers (from the West) seems unfair to both the Jews and Muslims in question.

        That said, I might really be misunderstanding the intent here, and if so, I apologize. Would love some clarification for the sake of my muddled brain!

        • My understanding is that what Islamic philosophers achieved was kick-started by their exposure to the Jewish philosophers, and reached a point where it did not advance much further. Not trying to underplay their achievements; simply seeking balance.

          Yeah, the Byzantine government, such as it was, existing alongside the massive flowering of the liturgical arts and theological strides of the eastern Church is really a puzzlement.

          I don’t know what “tough questions” you want to tackle; there are different underlying uses of Plato and Aristotle in the west, and that affected the direction of philosophical theology. My reading along these lines has been suspended until I get through Wright’s “Paul.” Maybe then I can add something worthwhile to that discussion…


    • Christiane says

      just a thought about this:
      ” Traditionally, if there was one thing that American White Evangelical Protestants all agreed on, it was that they opposed Catholicism. That was abandoned in the 1980s when American White Evangelical Protestantism adopted the Catholic position on abortion, pretended it had held this position all along, and made it a defining characteristic of American White Evangelical Protestantism.”

      wasn’t the ‘turning point’ when certain leaders wanted to become politically powerful and thought to court Catholics into their bank of contributors . . . and here I am thinking of the role Pat Robertson played in the effort to court Catholic funding for his ‘CBN’ and also for his eventual presidential bid. ???

      there must have been a trigger, and I have always seen Pat Robertson as being in the center . . .

      how far off base am I here?

  12. Every time I hear a story of abusing priests, I think one thing: Let the priests marry if they want to… drop enforced celibacy NOW.

    • Then what, pray tell, do you advise about married people who abuse?
      Sexual abuse is a crime. The Catholic Church has made impressive strides, still far to go mind you, to address this problem. Don’t smear that vast majority of wonderful priests with such a simplistic generalization. The UN’s report has done a great disservice to the effort to counteract this horrifying experience in the Church.

    • Genuine question: Would male priests who abuse male children — or even female children — be “cured” by being married? In my limited understanding, pedophilia is an entirely different issue that has little to do with mature, married sexuality.

      Celibacy is a challenge, especially in a culture that scorns or fears it; but it is definitely an advantage for several types of work. Celibacy is not Catholic dogma, just a practical discipline; there are married Catholic priests every now and then.

      • Eastern Rite priests are usually married. I think the RCC would attract many more candidates for the priesthood if they would drop the mandatory celibacy requirement, which was started primarily to keep priests’ sons from inheriting church property.

        How celibacy became something other than a practical thing not required of all clergy is a whole ‘mother story!

    • To echo what Tom C has said above: many a study has shown that rates of child abuse are just as high in many protestant denominations with married clergy…what your proposing simply isn’t a solution to this problem.

    • I understand where you’re coming from, and it probably would remove a certain kind of abuser: a confused, repressed man who sees celibacy as a chance to hide from their sexuality. But, as others have mentioned, there are plenty of married clergy (and teachers, both male and female) who abuse children. If anything, marriage provides an opportunity for cover. Single man who loves kids? Watch him, he might be a perv. Married man who loves kids? Adorable–he’ll be such a great father!

      The fact of the matter is this: as long as society has positions of power and trust that give access to children, predators will seek those positions out.

  13. I do believe that angels, and demons, exist. Theoretically, then, I’m open-minded about the possibility of demonic possessions actually occurring. But this story seems farfetched to me, despite the involvement of supposedly neutral officials and professionals.

    In fact, I think superstition is second nature to human nature, and you don’t have to scratch very hard to find great credulity even in the most disciplined and rational mind. Add to this that I’ve never been very impressed with the level of rationality of officials and law enforcers, and then that the priest involved new enough occult lore, and gave it enough credence, to try using salt to close the hellmouth, and I’m very insulated against accepting this story on face value.

    • I personally think this story is a complete fabrication, as with the Amityville Horror.

      In fact, some claims they’re making seem to be pulled directly from the plot of Toni Morrison’ novel Beloved, which is all kinds of sad and ironic. But maybe they’ve been watching too many horror movies? I just can’t accept the claims they’re making – even though I do believe in both angels an – to a degree – demons. There based to be a reason for them making such extravagant claims, and I’m not convinced it has much to do with the supernatural per set.

  14. MariaTheresa says

    The protests in France were part of something called the “Day of Rage.” It was a collection of people angry at a) the current French president, b) gay marriage, c) the sanctioning of a French comedian for anti-semitic remarks and d) policies that conflict with Catholic teaching and e) policies that conflict with Muslim practices. All in all, it was a good example of what you get when varied groups unite in a culture war based on Things We All Hate.

    I really enjoyed the article about families and religious belief. Especially the part where the researcher notes that maybe a checklist of “Do you believe X?” statements is not the best way to understand how people live their beliefs.

    • Your point c isn’t just about antisemitic remarks. The guy in question, who USS the name Dieudonne, has been publicly making his personal variation of the “Sieg Heil!” salute, and it’s caught on, unfortunately. I think the guy deserves to have the book thrown at him, very hard.

  15. Ah yes the celibacy boogieman…….Sexual abuse occurs within Protestant faiths as well. So what’s your plan for those ministers who are married and commit sexual abuse?

    • flatrocker says

      Thanks Donski.

      When oh when are we going to stop the simplistic and dangerous notion that celibacy and peodophilia have a cause and effect relationship. As if child molestation will be eliminated or at least curtailed through non-celibacy? This is like saying “If only we were free to exercise our genital expressions, our children would be safe”. How naive to buy into this bait and switch.

  16. Priests and pastors who commit crimes (felonies) ought be prosecuted. And not allowed to be clergy in churches, after that.

    • I completely agree. And I’ve always been curious as to why those clergy who have abused children have not been brought to secular justice. Statute of limitations?

  17. Regarding that U.N.C.R.C. report, first I had a bit of a time trying to find the actual report as nobody seemed to have provided a link to it in the midst of all the headlines, and the U.N. website was even less user-friendly than the Vatican website, but I think I tracked it down:


    Now, in the middle of the thing, what is really making me (and several others) annoyed is that, to use a phrase I’ve seen used by the iMonks before, they’ve left off preachin’ and gone to meddlin’:

    B. General principles (arts. 2, 3, 6 and 12 of the Convention)


    26. The Committee recommends that the Holy See bring all its laws and regulations, as well as its policies and practices, in conformity with article 2 of the Convention and promptly abolish the discriminatory classification of children born out of wedlock as illegitimate children. The Committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

    (I have no problem with recommending using different language about children born out of wedlock; I see no reason to stigmatise a child as a ‘bastard’ when it’s the parents who have failed in their obligations. But asking the Church – and this is the confusion between the STATE of the Holy See and the INSTITUTION of the Roman Catholic Church – to drop opposition to adoption by same-sex couples is going beyond the C.R.C.’s bounds.)

    Right to identity

    36. In light of articles 6, 7, 8 and 19 of the Convention, the Committee strongly urges the Holy See to cooperate in studies to determine the root causes of the practice of anonymous abandonment of babies and expeditiously strengthen and promote alternatives, taking into full account the right of children to know their biological parents and siblings, as enshrined in article 7 of the Convention. The Committee also urges the Holy See to contribute to addressing the abandonment of babies by providing family planning, reproductive health, as well as adequate counselling and social support, to prevent unplanned pregnancies as well as assistance to families in need, while introducing the possibility of confidential births at hospitals as a measure of last resort to prevent abandonment and/or death of a child.

    (Mmm-hmmmm. This is about the practice of “baby boxes”, or baby hatches. The C.R.C. says the Holy See should solve the problem by providing contraception and abortion education instead of places where babies can be given over for care, instead of – to quote the Abandoned Infants Assistance National Resource Center of the U.S.A. – “Discarded infants are newborns who are abandoned in public places other than hospitals (e.g., dumpsters, alleys and warehouses).” So the Catholic Church is being told to drop its doctrinal stance on the meaning and purpose of sex and the protection of life.)

    F. Disability, basic health and welfare (arts. 6, 18 (para. 3), 23, 24, 26, 27 (paras. 1-3) and 33 of the Convention)


    55. The Committee urges the Holy See to review its position on abortion which places obvious risks on the life and health of pregnant girls and to amend Canon 1398 relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted.

    (Okay, do I have to spell this one out?)

    Adolescent health / HIV/AIDs

    57. With reference to its general comments No. 15 (2013) on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, No. 4 (2003) on adolescent health and No.3 (2003) on HIV/AIDS and the rights of the child, the Committee reminds the Holy See of the dangers of early and unwanted pregnancies and clandestine abortion which result notably in high maternal morbidity and mortality in adolescent girls, as well as the particular risk for adolescents girls and boys to be infected with and affected by STDs, including HIV/AIDs. The Committee recommends that the Holy See :

    (a) Assess the serious implications of its position on adolescents’ enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and overcome all the barriers and taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality that hinder their access to sexual and reproductive information, including on family planning and contraceptives, the dangers of early pregnancy, the prevention of HIV/AIDS and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs);

    (b) Place adolescents’ best interests at the centre of all decisions affecting their health and development and of the implementation of policies and interventions that affect the underlying determinants of their health;

    (c) Ensure the right of adolescents to have access to adequate information essential for their health and development and for their ability to participate meaningfully in society. In this respect, the Holy See should ensure that sexual and reproductive health education and prevention of HIV/AIDS is part of the mandatory curriculum of Catholic schools and targeted at adolescent girls and boys, with special attention to preventing early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections;

    (d) Guarantee the best interests of pregnant teenagers and ensure that the views of the pregnant adolescent always be heard and respected in the field of reproductive health;

    (e) Actively contribute to the dissemination of information on the harm that early marriage and early pregnancy can cause and ensure that Catholic organizations protect the rights of pregnant children, adolescent mothers and their children and combat discrimination against them; and

    (f) Take measures to raise awareness of and foster responsible parenthood and sexual behaviour, with particular attention to boys and men.

    (Measure (f) I can find nothing to object in; I do think boys and men need to be given the tools to recognise their responsibility extends beyond ‘use a condom’. All the rest of it – well, same old, same old: stop telling kids sex outside of marriage is wrong, teach them to use all the methods of contraception, when those fail tell them where to go for an abortion, but for the love of Mike, scare them out of the notion of getting married when they turn eighteen because that’s the worst thing that could happen them!)

    • The irony here? The Committee on the Rights of the Child are using this report to scold the Holy See over failing to implement in full the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

      The Holy See has ratified this convention; the United States has not: “The 193 states that have ratified the Convention (“States party to the Convention”) (which includes all UN member states except Somalia, South Sudan and the United States) are required to submit initial and periodic reports on the national situation of children’s rights to the Committee for examination.”

      So if we were really serious about ignoring the U.N. on this, we should emulate the U.S. and scrap the Convention altogether; then we wouldn’t have to issue progress reports to the U.N. Committee and they could go whistle for it!

    • Daniel Jepsen says

      Martha, I felt I should include the story since it was the UN, but I didn’t really want to take all the time to analyze the document. So thanks for this.

  18. Thanks for the Saturday posting. I’m amazed how you discover these? I imagine it must take some time and investigation. By the way, I still enjoy your sabbatical photos some time ago above Lake Tahoe. Thanks from the west coast.

    • Daniel Jepsen says

      Thanks for your nice words, Jerry. It has taken more time than I thought it would, but I have enjoyed it, and the commenters here are kind and intelligent, so that makes it worthwhile.

      I haven’t posted much on slicedsoup since I’ve been spending my writing time here; I’m glad someone still finds it.

  19. So, anyone have any thought about the stories re: domesticated camels in Israel’s history that came out this week?

    (this might a dup posting – site error’d on 1st attempt.)

    • Brianthedad says

      I read about it somewhere. Of course it had the same breathless tone that most of these reports do. Archaeology proves bible wrong! I thought it was interesting but I take the news people’s spin on most of these with a grain of salt.

  20. The Gallup organization has released its latest report of American religiosity.

    New Study: Conservative Protestant areas of America have the highest divorce rates, even among Non Christians.

    Red States, Blue States, and Divorce: Understanding the Impact of Conservative Protestantism on Regional Variation in Divorce Rates

    • If strict sexual ethics lead to higher divorce rates, then why do conservative Catholics who don’t use birth control have extremely low rates? (I’m not Catholic by the way)

  21. Best living actor of my generation? Kevin Spacey.