American Idol finale

I have been sparing you this year my interest in American Idol, the popular talent show that causes the American public to exercise aesthetic judgments.  But now we are at the finale.  The last two standing are Scotty McCreary and Laure Alaina, 17 and 16 years old respectively.  They are both country singers, interestingly enough, and refreshingly free of attitude and vulgarity.   This season is being hailed as one of the best ever in terms of talent.  Simon Cowell is not on anymore, so the criticisms have been kinder and gentler, to put it mildly.  The replacements for Cowell and Paula Abdul, Steve Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, have been surprisingly likable.  They compete tonight, with the winner being announced on Wednesday.

I think some of you must follow the show, despite the snide remarks I have endured in previous years (“Dr. Veith!  You are the highbrow culture critic!  How can you watch this dreck?”), so I address only you fellow-travelers:  What do you think of the show this season?  What were the highlights?  Has justice been done?  Who deserves to win?

Obama wants Israel to go back to 1967 borders

President Obama’s peace plan for the Middle East calls for Israel to go back to its borders before the 1967 war.  In that war, the Arab states attacked Israel from all sides but were route.  Israel seized the rest of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and other regions–originally all the way to the border with Egypt, though much of that land has been given back.  But Israel has retained a buffer for its own security.

So are the Arab states less hostile to Israel now than they were in 1967?

 

Netanyahu, Obama and 1967 borders: Reactions to the speech – BlogPost – The Washington Post.

Who was left behind?

I’m writing this on Saturday morning, but I’ve set it up so that the post appears on Monday.  So I MIGHT be raptured by the end of the day.  I don’t know yet.  Right now I’m either in Heaven or Texas.

So who is left?  We need to hear from you.  Are the Lutherans all gone?  Where are the Calvinists?  Did the Baptists get taken?  Are the non-denominational Christians gone, or did they need to belong to a denomination after all?

We need to hear from the individuals who are always getting in theological arguments so that we can see if you have been right or not.  Roll call:  Grace?  Porcell?  Todd?  DonS?

Does anyone know if Mr. Camping is still here?  If so, what is he saying?  Just because we might not have noticed large groups of people disappearing doesn’t mean the rapture didn’t happen.  Maybe the gate is so narrow that only a handful of true Christians exist.  Maybe some homeless people, some New Guinea tribesmen, and some persecuted Christian Arabs–individuals no one would notice–got raptured.

So now let’s get ready for the Tribulation!  And the End of the World on October 21!

What do we learn from all of this?

Harold Camping speaks

I was afraid Harold Camping would disappear, making it look like he, at least, was raptured on Saturday, even if he was the only one.  But he showed up and made a statement:

“It has been a really tough weekend,” said Harold Camping, the 89-year-old fundamentalist radio preacher who convinced hundreds of his followers that the rapture would occur on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Massive earthquakes would strike, he said. Believers would ascend to heaven and the rest would be left to wander a godforsaken planet until Oct. 21, when Camping promised a fiery end to the world.

But today, almost 18 hours after he thought he’d be in Heaven, there was Camping, “flabbergasted” in Alameda, wearing tan slacks, a tucked-in polo shirt and a light jacket.

Birds chirped. A gentle breeze blew. Across the street, neighbors focused on their yard work and the latest neighborhood gossip.

“I’m looking for answers,” Camping said, adding that meant frequent prayer and consultations with friends.

“But now I have nothing else to say,” he said, closing the door to his home. “I’ll be back to work Monday and will say more then.”

via Harold Camping “flabbergasted” world didn’t end.

As I expected, the failure of the Rapture to take place when Camping predicted has been the occasion for all kinds of snarky comments in the media and the blogosphere making fun of Christians.  Never mind that Camping in one of his other doctrines that he has made up repudiates ALL churches, saying that this is no longer the dispensation of the church and that all churches have become apostate.   By Biblical standards, which labels even one prophecy that does not come true as the mark of a false prophet, no one should believe anything this guy says (Deuteronomy 13).

When we first blogged about this prophecy over a year ago, some of his followers chimed in and defended him.   I’d love to hear from them now.  I’d like to ask, do you still believe in his teachings now?  On what grounds?

The president is in violation of the War Powers Act

When American presidents send troops into combat, they have 60 days before Congress–to whom the Constitution gives the power to declare war–needs to act to authorize the action.  Friday was 60 days after we got involved in the war in Libya.  Congress doesn’t seem to care.

President Obama missed a legal deadline Friday — set in a 1973 law — that required him to obtain congressional approval for U.S. military operations in Libya.

Friday was the 60th day since Obama formally notified Congress that U.S. planes would strike targets in Libya, a bid to protect civilians from the government of strongman Moammar Gaddafi. Under the Nixon-era War Powers Resolution, the president must obtain congressional authorization of military action within 60 days or else begin withdrawing forces.

Neither happened. Instead, in a letter sent Friday night to congressional leaders, Obama expressed support for a proposed resolution that “would confirm that Congress supports the U.S. mission in Libya.”

The president also described U.S. military efforts as “supporting” and “more limited” than in the campaign’s early days. He said they include providing logistical and intelligence help to the NATO-led operation, as well as supplying aircraft and unmanned drones to attack Libyan targets.

Obama did not, however, explicitly say whether he thinks the War Powers Resolution applies to the Libyan operation. That act makes no specific exception for limited or supporting action: It applies to any instance in which military forces are “introduced into hostilities,” or sent into foreign territory or airspace while equipped for combat.

Congressional leaders have showed little desire to challenge Obama on the deadline.

via Obama misses deadline for congressional approval of Libya operations – The Washington Post.

J. W. Montgomery on Cranach’s Seal

I heard back from the distinguished scholar John Warwick Montgomery on the symbolism of Lucas Cranach’s seal, the winged serpent device from his coat of arms that he used to sign his paintings and that we have adopted as the logo of the Cranach Institute and this blog.  (See the title heading above.)

I’ve now had an opportunity to research this.  I was particularly helped by the wonderful Cranach exhibit last month at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris.   The exhibit included examples of Cranach’s coat-of-arms and the exhibit description makes the following point:  “En remerciement de ses loyaux services, Luca Cranach se voit remettre dès 1508 des armoiries, un serpent ailé tenant une bague dans sa gueule qui lui servira désormais de signature.”  [In appreciation of his loyal services, Lucas Cranach received in 1508 (from Frederick the Wise) his coat-of-arms--a winged serpent holding a ring in its mouth--which served from then on as his signature]  We are also informed that in 1537, following the death of his son Hans, Lucas Cranach modified the design of his coat-of-arms, “lowering the serpent’s wings” (Cranach et son temps [Paris: Beaux Arts/TTM, 2011], p. 65).

Viewing the serpent as a dragon, one has a strong tendency to see it as alchemical symbolism.  However, contemporary dictionaries of the subject (e.g., the standard Dictionaire hermetique [Paris, 1695]) and modern authorities (Carl Gustav Jung) present the alchemical dragon or serpent very differently:  as the ouroboros which eats its own tail, or as an uncrowned dragon symbolising the element mercury).
It is therefore far more productive to view the coat-of-arms from a straightforward heraldic standpoint.  Rietstap’s Armorial Général (2d ed., 1884) includes a listing for the Cranachs, describing the coat-of-arms as consisting of a crowned serpent with bat’s wings, holding in its mouth a golden ring with a ruby.  A variant (apparently used by later generation Cranachs) consisted of a serpent surmounting a crown of thorns.
But why the particular symbolism chosen or employed by Cranach himself?  Here, we are strongly warned as a general principle in interpreting heraldic figures to avoid simplistic equivalents or easy allegory.  Symbols are often chosen for aesthetic reasons, not with any attempts at profundity or classical/theological reference.  Emile Gevaert’s marvelous L’Héraldique: son esprit, son langage et ses applications (Paris: Editions du Bulletin des Métiers d’Art [ca. 1920]) offers some assistance.  A serpent can symbolise “prudence” and at the same time “desire” (p. 362).  (Here,  I am immediately reminded of the arms of the Aldine printing house in Renaissance Florence, consisting of an anchor and a dolphin, to carry the idea of simultaneous solidity and progress.  Note also that Cranach’s serpent is given wings, making it not just an earthly beast but at the same time a dynamic, heavenly creature.)  One thinks inevitably, as well, of the biblical reference to serpents as “wise” (Matt. 10:16).
As for the addition of a crown or diadem (uncommon on a heraldic serpent), its presence generally signifies that the arms belong to a “household of eminence”–and “a crown surmounting a figure seemingly indicates a power which the bearer does not derive from himself” (Gevaert, p. 210).  In the case of the Cranach arms, the latter point could remind the observer that Cranach received the grant from his prince–or (since any legitimate coat-of-arms results from a grant and is not the personal creation of the bearer) it might represent Cranach’s Refomation belief that he is saved and receives his talents by God’s grace, not through any personal capacity or efforts on his own part.  The golden ring in the serpent’s mouth could perhaps reinforce this interpretation, since a ring, like a circle, represents eternity theologically, and gold is the colour not just of nobility and richness but also of faith and divinity (= God).  The ruby on the ring could represent “the pearl of great price,” i.e., the gospel.
Beyond this I cannot go.  It would be important to check any surviving Cranach correspondence, particularly in the years surrounding 1508 and 1537, to see if by chance Cranach himself  interprets his coat-of-arms–as Luther does in his oft-quoted letter to Lazarus Spengler  (see my Heraldic Aspects of the German Reformation (Bonn: Verlag fuer Kultur und Wissenschaft, 2003).
JWM


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