Colbert, Amway and the end of the world

Scott Paeth discusses Molly Worthen on Democrats and the progressive Catholic social tradition, seconding this point from Worthen:

The handful of nationally known Catholic political thinkers who might be called progressive, or at least compassionate and cosmopolitan — like the journalist-scholars Garry Wills and E. J. Dionne Jr., blogmeister Andrew Sullivan, or the feminist nun and blogger Sister Joan Chittister — are far outnumbered by the ranks of prominent Catholic conservatives in the trenches of activism and policy making.

Photo by Kevin Mazur of TIME

I’d add one pretty important name to that list: Stephen Colbert.

On Friday, Colbert and New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan shared the stage “before 3,000 cheering, stomping, chanting students at Fordham University.” That crowd wasn’t there for the cardinal.

Nor was the cardinal the best source of theological wisdom:

Another question [from the audience] was even more pointed: “So many Christian leaders spread hatred, especially of homosexuals. How can you maintain your joy?”

Cardinal Dolan responded with two meandering anecdotes — one about having met this week with Muslim leaders, and another about encountering demonstrators outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

But Mr. Colbert’s response was quick and unequivocal. “If someone spreads hate,” he said, “then they’re not your religious leader.”

* * * * * * * * *

Tony Jones quotes from Neal DeRoo about an upcoming conference on “The Christian Evasion of Popular Culture“:

As Christians, we should not call for the Church to engage culture, but rather to engage culture better, which means, in part, to be more self-aware of the ways in which it has always already been engaged by culture. … As Christians whose lives are thoroughly enculturated, we have not avoided culture so much as we have evaded dealing with it directly and purposively.

My late friend Dwight Ozard liked to say that this was another point where American evangelicals neglected at home what their missionaries insisted on abroad. Even fundies with a 19th-century colonial missiology can understand that the first thing a missionary needs to do is learn the language.

* * * * * * * * *

What is the deal with evangelical Christianity and pyramid-marketing companies?

It’s not easy to find an evangelical institution, agency or nonprofit that isn’t on the hook for some amount of Amway money. And now I learn that Gary Bauer’s not-ready-for-community-theater anti-Obama ads are funded by a shady outfit called “Corporate Land Management.”

Corporate Land Management won’t say what they do or sell, but they share an address with Premier Designs — a jewelry company that has designs on becoming the Amway of baubles and bangles. From Premier’s website:

  • You can be your own boss.
  • Make 50% on every sale and you get paid immediately.
  • Premier pays you a 10% commission on the wholesale of anyone you sponsor to compensate you for time spent mentoring them.
  • You’ll also earn 10% on everyone in the second and third levels of your sales organization.

So, for the record, Gary Bauer thinks marriage equality is grievously immoral. But exploitative multi-level marketing schemes? He’s totally cool with that.

* * * * * * * * *

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life says 34 percent of all Republicans are white evangelical Protestants.

That’s not surprising. What’s more unexpected — at least for those who buy the dominant stereotypes about the “liberal” mainline Protestants, is that white mainline Protestants make up 20 percent of the Republican Party.

That’s a bigger share of the GOP than white mainline Protestants make up of the Democratic Party, where they are only 14 percent of the total.

And Pew also tallied up the invisible, unmentionable category of white evangelical Protestant Democrats. We make up 9 percent of the party. That’s not a huge slice, but it’s a lot bigger than you might expect considering that Republican evangelicals keep insisting that we do not exist at all.

* * * * * * * * *

Vorjack has some insightful thoughts about NASA scientist David Morrison. The Awl profiled Morrison, a “specialist in asteroids and potential asteroid impact.” But he’s also “the man responsible for the Ask an Astrobiologist page at NASA,” responding to hundreds of emails about the End of the World.

As part of that work, vorjack notes, Morrison deals “with the young people who are unable to process the deluge of rumor and suggestion.” Some samples from The Awl piece:

“I’m scared because I’m in 10th grade and I have a full life ahead of me. …”

“I am really scared about the end of the world on 21 December. I’m headed into 7th grade and I am very scared. … Can someone help me? I can’t sleep, I am crying every day, I can’t eat, I stay in my room. …”

My friends growing up were not worried about some pseudo-Mayan 2012 nonsense, but I had several who were just as freaked out because of what we were taught about the Rapture, or about the hellfire that might await them. (These kids were all “saved,” but could they be sure about that?)

“Conspiracy theories and end times predictions are frequently ghost stories for adults,” vorjack writes. “They’re stories that give us that creepy little thrill.” But kids, being kids, mistake the pretense for something real. They assume the adults pretending to believe these scary stories really do believe them, and so the kids are scared.

That’s cruel.

It’s also revealing, because if the adults really did believe their own scary stories, they ought to be even more freaked out than the kids.

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  •  “Car mine, woman mine, landmine.” as he pulled each item to himself.



  • Münchner Kindl

     There was a similar scandal when Max Liebermann, painter of jewish origin, painted “12 year old Jesus at the temple” showing Jesus as “barefoot jew boy” .

    There was such an anti-semitic backlash from society against the picture and the painter that Liebermann painted parts of it over: He gave Jesus sandals and a longer clothing from better material and gave him blond instead of brown hair.

  • Edo

    Not necessarily a valid comparison if Jesus always knew when he’d die, but did he always know?

    Honestly a good question, depending on what you think about kenosis and such…

    If not, when did he find out?

    Good Friday? *ducks thrown tomatos*

  • friendly reader

     Here’s a translation of the whole thing. It’s very fragmentary and still tentative. It’s fascinating stuff and I look forward to following it – but man, the media likes to stoke flames of controversy over stuff they do not understand.

    @AmaranthNightphoenix:disqus : You also have the example of Jeremiah, who was ordered by God not to marry because Judah would soon be destroyed. Since historical Jesus potentially believed the world would end in his lifetime, he might also have felt that he shouldn’t bother with it. Again, see the Essenes for other ideas similar to this.

    @2b8e9565b320bc8df44b6b6a5c477dc9:disqus : his family seemed to consider him a washed-up failure, and he wasn’t a rabbi in the modern sense. “Rabbi” means “teacher,” and that’s what his followers considered him. Jesus was definitely more in the apocalyptic branch of first century Judaism than the one that became rabbinical Judaism.

    All that said, Jesus still might’ve been married at some point, and it doesn’t make much of a difference to me one way or the other. If we’re going to play midrash on the infamous missing years, I admit I find the image of Jesus as a childless widower whose loss prompted him go out and find Himself emotionally resonant, even if it’s got no Biblical support per se. It would definitely make him someone who knows our sufferings.

    (Also, I love the irreverent puns you guys have been throwing around. I wish I had half that wit. :D )

  • banancat

    It is wrong to ask why women allow men to treat them badly. There are many answers to that question but I won’t list a single one because it is the wrong question. When you ask that question, you are either implying that women are stupid, or that they are responsible for stopping men’s bad behavior. The question to ask is why men treat women badly, not why women “allow”them to do so.

  • Tricksterson

    While I consider the probablility of his having been married high I’m willing to consider that he might have lived celibately.  Just don’t try to convince me he didn’t masturbate as a teenager, cause i ain’t buying it.  Nobody’s that pure.

  • Tricksterson

    Which according to Jewish tradition, makes him a Jew.

  • Tricksterson

    I used to think that too until it was pointed out to me that the rules governing what became the rabbinical tradition didn’t even start being formed until after the destruction of the Temple.

  • VMink

    I always find myself going back to this blog post when running into the question of why women are with who they’re with. Maybe not 100% relevant, but at least tangentially.

  • nerdycellist

    Yeah, I’d really like more emphasis on Mary M, Apostle to the Apostles, rather than Mary M, positive or negative female stereotype. But as an occasional fanfic reader, there’s something deeply romantic about a marriage between two like-minds (I was going to say equals, but this would be the one instance where it would be untrue). Any road, if Jesus was indeed celibate, why don’t religious leaders go around calling him The Virgin Jesus, like they do with his mom? (rhetorical: because women are defined by their hymens. men are defined by whatever they want.)

  • everstar

    I think your point about wanting Mary M to be her own figure and not a subsidiary of other figures is a good one, and one I’m familiar with.  I think my own childhood fascination with Artemis/Diana stems from that, as well as my fascination with Diana of Themyscira, better known as Wonder Woman.  It’s part of why I’m so furious with DC for turning her into Superman’s girlfriend.  Grrr.

  • vsm

    I disagree. Women staying with abusive men is a real phenomenon many of us will encounter in our lives. If a loved one is in such a relationship yet refuses to leave it, it will be better for people to know about it along with potential causes. If they don’t, they may not react at all well. Of course, care should be taken to discuss the matter in a way that doesn’t place blame on the victim.

  • banancat

    And what if your loved one is the abuser? Do you try to figure out how to make him stop? Instead of focusing on how to get victims to leave, we need to focus on how to get abusers to stop abusing. You can pretend to care about both but, amazingly, I only hear about the former and rarely the latter.

    It is also disingenuous when someone says “Gee, I just don’t understand why women do this” like it’s some baffling unexplained thing. People who say this likely haven’t even tried to understand, yet this is nearly always how I hear it and it comes across as saying “Gee, I just can’t understand how women could be stupid enough to let themselves be victims.” I don’t think I have ever seen someone bring it up in good faith with the goal of understanding better. It is always just a seemingly polite way to tell victims to just stop being victims. And it is counterproductive to the alleged goal of helping victims.

  • Carstonio

     I haven’t been reading the current continuity, but I feel the same way you do about the pairing, which I learned about last month. The ultimate visual indignity was borrowing the iconic image of the Superman/Lois reunion in For Tomorrow. No disagreement that the pairing turns DC’s leading female character into a subsidiary figure, but personally I’m more interested in what this means for Superman. The old cliché about a flying man needing an Earth woman to keep him grounded was exactly right. Lois is a force of nature even without superpowers, and she treats the most powerful person in the world as an equal. Pairing Superman with a female superhero undermines the dual nature of his character, rendering his human side irrelevant.

  • vsm

    Getting abusers to stop sounds like the better option, but how do you make sure it works and that their partner is safe during the process? I’ve known two women who had partners who beat them while drunk. One tried to help him stop drinking, but he kept falling off the wagon and continued his abusive behaviour. I don’t know how they’re doing these days, other than that they’re still together. The other woman left her partner and was never hit again, as far as I know.

    Trying to get abusers to stop is indeed a good idea, and not talked about nearly enough. We are often willing to write such men off as complete bastards, but where does that leave you? You can’t really shoot them or tattoo “abuser” on their forehead. The abusive men I knew were actually perfectly agreeable when sober.

    Even if we assume the question is always presented in bad faith, it can lead to valuable discussion and the asker learning something new. For instance, there have been rather good answers in this thread.

  • everstar

     I’m not happy about what it means for Superman either, but Wondy is closer to my heart, ergo I’m more worried about her.

    It’s just so… ugh.  I really want there to be a fan comic somewhere of Lois Lane and Mary Jane Watson-Parker teaming up to take over the world.  EDITORIALLY DISCARDED TRUE LOVES UNITE.

  •  I know of no study, but I know exactly what you mean.  I was terrified of harvest moons myself, due to the whole bit about the “the moon turned to blood” or something very close to that. 

    I was paranoid not only about the state of my own salvation, but also that of everyone I knew except my dad; so I wasn’t expecting to be left alone, merely murdered  horribly with my loved ones as the world ended (x_x) I do not miss those days, not one bit.

  • banancat

     We could start by putting abusers in prison where they can’t hit more victims, just like we do (or should do) with other kinds of assault.  We can also change the cultural narrative to make sure all men know that it’s not acceptable to abuse women.  When men find out that their male relatives, friends, and acquaintances are abusive, they can tell those men that their behavior is unacceptable.  We can work to dispel myths about abuse and why it happens.  There are plenty of things we can do while framing it around the person who is actually responsible.  It’s all well and good to help victims escape from abusive relationships, but if that’s what you focus on then the abuser will move on and find a new victim.  The best way to be supportive of victims is to place responsibility squarely where it belongs – on the abuser.  Did you happen to read the blog post that I linked to?  I don’t want to rehash all of it here, but if we ask questions that make victims feel ashamed or embarrassed, that is not helpful.

  • Daughter

     Terry Real is a therapist in the Boston area who used to specialize in helping male abusers change. He became well-known for the success of his work (and published a book about it: I Don’t Want to Talk About It).  He now does overall relationship counseling, so I don’t know if he has stopped working with male abusers.

  • Joshua

    Thank you.

    Yeah, so fragmentary it’s hard to tell what is going on, but very interesting.

  • Lori


    And what if your loved one is the abuser? Do you try to figure out how to make him stop?  

    I did. And when he didn’t stop I A) stopped being his friend and B) let his wife know that if she ever needed me all she had to do was call. She never did, but several years later she did call someone else and made her escape.

    People who say this likely haven’t even tried to understand, 

    Some of us have. Some of have done so for a living.

    It is always just a seemingly polite way to tell victims to just stop
    being victims. And it is counterproductive to the alleged goal of
    helping victims. 

    Sometimes it’s an actually sincere and perfectly polite attempt to understand whether to woman wants to stay with the man and therefore really all you can do is be supportive in whatever way you can because she’s an adult and you can’t, and shouldn’t try to, make her choices for her. And if she doesn’t want to stay understanding why she hasn’t left can make it more likely that you can offer help that might actually be able to use.

    Yes, asking why some people are abusers and how to make them stop is critical, but the fact is that most abusers don’t stop so if that’s all you’re asking you are, in a way, writing off their victims.

  • The abusive men I knew were actually perfectly agreeable when sober.

    Very few abusers, in my experience, are only abusive when drunk.  The alcohol is usually just an excuse to be less subtle about it than usual.

  • The_L1985

     I don’t know, the stuff about Gethsemane implies he at least knew by Holy Thursday.

  • The_L1985

     Yay for translation of the whole fragment!  I’m a bit curious as to how (or whether) line 4 (Jesus said to them, “My wife…”), line 5 (“She will be my disciple and…”) and line 7 (“I dwell with her because…”) are related to each other.

    Yay, archaelogical puzzles!!

  • Tricksterson

    He knew what yahweh wanted of him but he still thought there might be a chance to avoid it because the whole Gethsemane thing is him asking if it’s necessary or if there might be another way.

  • The_L1985

     There’s also a Pervocracy post (about a year old; can’t look that blog up at work without people asking awkward questions) that i think is entitled “Why doesn’t she just leave him?” and also deals with this problem (mainly by pointing out actual reasons abused women have for not leaving their abusers).

  • The_L1985

    “It’s all well and good to help victims escape from abusive
    relationships, but if that’s what you focus on then the abuser will move
    on and find a new victim.  The best way to be supportive of victims is
    to place responsibility squarely where it belongs – on the abuser.”

    Or we can do BOTH.  There is no law that says we can’t do BOTH.

  • The_L1985

    This.  Remember folks, emotional abuse is still abuse.

    If your SO cuts you down all the time and makes you feel like you’re not good enough or strong enough or whatever, then you are being emotionally abused.

    They don’t have to hit you to abuse you.

  • banancat

    But we’ve been claiming to do both and focusing way too much on only one “side”. It’s like those rape prevention tips that focus on not being a victim because it is just pragmatic in the “real world” or whatever. Claiming to focus on both will tend to perpetuate the status quo, for the same reason that being an “equalist” will never be the same as being a feminist. We need to make a specific effort to focus on the abusers because that is not b being done yet.

  • banancat

    But this type of article isn’t as helpful as you think because it still assumes that women have to justify “letting” the abuse happen. It also assumes that people asking the question actually want to understand the answer.

  • The_L1985

    1. We are focusing on the abusers.  But you can never ignore the victim’s side of things because the fact that abuse has victims is what makes it a bad thing in the first place.

    2. Getting victims away from abusers is part of having justice done for abusers.   Finding out an abuse victim’s excuses for staying with the abuser can help you give that victim good advice, so he/she can leave the abuser behind.

    3.  Nobody is blaming the victim.  The faux-rape-prevention thing you mentioned is blaming the victim.  There’s a difference between “why didn’t you know this guy was abusive before you dated him?” and “Hey, she’s abusive.  Let’s help you get away from her.”*

    4.  When we give abuse victims the tools to help themselves out of that abusive situation, guess what?  The person who helped them knows who the abuser was! For that same reason, the person who helped the victim get out, can also help the victim press charges against his/her abuser!  I’m not sure how this is anything other than a win/win for society.

    “Claiming to focus on both will tend to perpetuate the status quo, for
    the same reason that being an “equalist” will never be the same as being
    a feminist.”

    No, for the reasons I gave above.  Also, feminism is about gender equality, so I’m not sure what you mean by this whole equalism thing.


    * Mixing up the genders here, because either gender can abuse either gender.

  • The_L1985

     OK, let me explain.  The article says, “I know it’s hard to see an abuse victim in that situation, but it’s important to remember that abuse victims rationalize their suffering by [list of reasons] and that a strategy to help the victim out needs to bear in mind that those reasons/excuses exist.  This is why abuse victims need your help!”

    And…not all of those excuses are “I know I’m being abused, but XYZ means I’m afraid to get out.”  For example, one excuse is “It’s not really abuse because he/she hasn’t raped me/hit me/left a mark from hitting me.”  That’s a case where the victim refuses to admit being a victim, because abuse is something that happens to Other People, Not Me.

    Also, yes, some of the people who ask the question do, in fact, want to know the answer!  The others can go [expletive deleted].

  • The_L1985

    Also, when you say “letting the abuse happen,” do you mean “letting it begin happening in the first place,” or “allow the abuse to continue?”

    Because while people generally don’t know beforehand that someone’s going to abuse them, it requires serious rationalization to not recognize while it’s been going on that yes, the pain you’re going through is real and a Very Bad Thing.

  • KempsterMDJD

    The general role of post-apocalyptic dystopia in popular culture is close to unchallenged these days.  Plague, ecological destruction, ‘Blade Runner’ economics, aliens out of bellies, on and on:  a menacing future indeed.  When I was a kid, nuclear war, far and away.  But no balance today.  ‘Star Trek’ at least had an ambivalent but mostly positive take on an actual civil society, progressively inclusive and boldly going physically and scientifically; its day seems to have passed.  Dystopias seem to me no more inevitable than Radiant Futures; if this isn’t the best of all possible worlds, neither, surely, is it the worst…