Hey Mormons, Help a Guy Out

As part of a long commissioned piece that I am currently writing, I use a joke. Would any Mormon Jeremy Lott’s Diary readers please let me know if the highlighted part in the first sentence is correct. Bonus: If you read all the way to the end of the joke, I may have improved the punchline. Here it is:

There’s an old joke about the flood and the true believer that gets recycled endlessly in sermons from Protestant, Catholic and Mormon pulpits. Heavy, pounding rains have busted a local levy and water starts pouring into a Midwestern town. The evacuation order goes out. Almost everybody gets out of town to avoid being swallowed up by the flood.

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Three Candidates for “Life Verse”*

1. John 8:32: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

2. Mark 9:24b: “Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief.”

3. Psalm 137:9: “Blessed is he who seizes the Babylonian baby and dashes it against the rocks.”

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Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Campaign

Don’t let Rick Warren’s diplomatic words give you the wrong idea. He didn’t cancel his planned Saddleback presidential forum — a reprisal of the of the Obama-McCain forum four years ago — because he was fed up with the “irresponsible personal attacks, mean-spirited slander, and flat-out dishonest attack ads” of both parties.

No, Warren the megabestselling megachurch leader threw in his moderator towel because intends to take sides in this election. As he explained to the Orange County Register, his paramount concern is the “crumbling of our constitution’s first guaranteed freedom: the freedom of religion.”

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Pastors Are Natural Lawbreakers

If time allows, I may have much more to say about this sermon preached by Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll that Real Clear Religion linked to this morning. But for now let me just observe, from the point of view of a pastor’s kid, that pastors are natural lawbreakers.

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All Columbined Out

“What We Write About When We Can’t Write About Anything Else,” was the title of a very meta take on the James Holmes shootings in the Atlantic. Author Jen Doll claims to speak for “writers on the Internet” and their need — our need, I suppose — to find something to say in the wake of the latest real life horror story.

Doll marches us through most of the ways writers mine stories like this one for content, and package their takes for public consumption. Throughout, she assumes an almost irresistible urge for writers to have Something to Say about the shootings. The weight of it is just too much to resist. She signs off with an unintentionally comic ending, “There will be a day for writing about semi-colons again. It just won’t be today.”

I thought the piece well done for what it is and thus linked to it on Real Clear Books. It does a good job of showing how the great mass of working writers out there is moved to type out vast oceans of characters, highlights some of the strengths and pitfalls of crowd source analysis and exposes the real tension between journalistic concern and opportunism.

But she overreaches as well. Many American writers will be so moved. No doubt about it. But a lot of us — likely a growing number — just won’t anymore because we’re all Columbined and 9/11-ed and Oklahoma City-ed out. There may be a deeper lesson there, but we’re not looking for it anymore.

To wit, I went to Dark Knight Rises at the first midnight showing. Had I been Aurora rather than Bellingham, that might have been me and my friends Holmes was shooting at. Perhaps my Viking helmet would have deflected a bullet but I’m happy not to find that out.

One friend I talked to used to work in Colorado and had seen movies at that very theater. Another friend went to Seattle for a whole Batman-based extended weekend. Before the first showing, they staged fights between people in Batman and Bane costumes. At later showings the theater understandably asked them to go lighter on the costumes and the antics.

At no point have I felt an overwhelming urge to write something about… any of this. I did venture to a few people that gosh, it would have been nice if the police hadn’t taken that lunatic alive. But I didn’t feel strongly enough about the point to argue for it. Now that we learn that Holmes told police his place was booby trapped, I’m glad I didn’t. The last thing we needed was a higher body count.

Moreover, my sense is that the shootings may mark the time when Americans had officially had enough of freaking out. Obama received some criticism for his handling of it but not much and, really, I think we get what an impossible thing this is for any president to deal with The Right Way. Mitt Romney said some very nice words about God and grief that should be well taken.

Calls for censorship or gun control went mostly ignored, and most of us just went about our business. Dark Knight Rises took a box office hit, yet it still beat Dark Knight‘s opening weekend. Also it deservedly set the record for highest opening of all time for a 2D movie.

Hollywood was glad of this but probably did the right thing in holding back early box office reports in deference to the dead and generally keeping it buttoned up. Reuters tells us, “A spokeswoman for Warner Brothers, which produced Dark Knight [Rises], had no comment.” That’s a nice departure, isn’t it? Sometimes the best thing to say in awful circumstances is absolutely nothing at all.

My Life as God’s Punchline

Those readers who have been praying to God about my recent heart troubles can now devote their efforts to some far more worthy cause. After several weeks worth of tests, doctors haven’t found any structural damage to it.

The only odd thing they detected was a number of what are called “premature ventricular contractions.” It’s a new experience for me, but both my doctor and the Mayo Clinic website agree that these are well within the range of you’re-probably-not-going-to-die. I’ll just have to live with the darkly comic diagnosis of being a premature ventriculator.

Politician Don’t Preach

To go by some responses to my latest American Spectator dispatch, you’d think I was calling for a new secular inquisition to purge all religion from politics. Thank God a good number of readers see that interpretation for the Guinness Book of World Records-winning stretch that it is.

Like most Americans, I am comfortable with a good amount of religious influence on politics and occasional nods to God from the stump. What I object to is an absolute refusal to see any distinction between the sacred and the secular. The stump is not the right place to sermonize and the pulpit is a poor place to politick. Feel free to disagree with that, but you’re wrong.