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.

  • Tricksterson

    I bet you’d also like to hear arguments as to why unicorns are real.

  • Tricksterson

    I’m already a shaman of Trickster, now I want the nifty spells that go with it.

  • Tricksterson

    Well, that’s because they have no souls.  And fear sunlight.  And are really pale.  That’s it!  Gingers are a form of vampire!

  • EllieMurasaki

    That’s it! Gingers are a form of vampire!

    I resent the implication that I have anything whatsoever in common with Edward Cullen.

  • Tricksterson

    Redheads have long been associated, for reasons I’m unaware of, with witchcraft.  Also there’s a tradition that Judas was a redhead.

  • Tricksterson

    Hush nosferatu!

  • AnonymousSam

    In other news, according to this site (which is unfortunately in Hebrew), there’s a war brewing between the Jews and the Gentiles which will cumulate in the coming of the Messiah and the end of the world.

    One of these days, I’m going to sit down and calculate the average number of years between predictions about the Apocalypse.

  • Matri

    Hmm, what is the plural of “apocalypse”?

    Apocalypses? Apocalii?

  • AnonymousSam

    Apocalypses, the ellipsis of the undefinable variable.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Insert your own Second Coming joke here.

    With apologies to Matthew 28:6…Yeah, verily, he is risen! Come and see the place where he lay!

  • Kiba

    I resent the implication that I have anything whatsoever in common with Edward Cullen.

    It saddens me that when people think vampire now that’s what pops into their head. 

    /cuddles a copy of Dracula 

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     Absofrigginlutely.  That sounds eerily like my own experience to be honest.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    Hrm, and since we already live in a world of lawless megacorps…

    I have to go, plans to write, explosions to make, cyberware to get.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Look, the trinity is hard enough to understand without adding reproduction into the mix. If you’re half of a triune god on your father’s side, are you like two and a half persons? If your dad is Jesus, then is your father also his Father? Does that make you your own grandpa?

  • http://twitter.com/jclor jclor

    I thought the idea was that jesus was fully divine and fully human.  Thus, mortal AND God.

    And I always figured you had to be mortal to die … on a cross or elsewhere.  Otherwise, it turns Big J into a merry prankster.  (“Alright, Dad … no one’s looking.  Beam me up!”)

  • EllieMurasaki

    And I always figured you had to be mortal to die … on a cross or elsewhere.

    Gods can die. Baldr did. Other Norse gods will. Don’t know about other pantheons offhand. I recall the Greek gods needed to dine regularly on nectar and ambrosia to be immortal, but I also recall the Titans getting locked away forever when presumably it would be simpler to deny them nectar and ambrosia until they were killable and then kill them. (I am more recently acquainted with Disney’s Hercules than with any honest treatment of the Greek myths. Hence my confusion.)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Many of the worst misogynists in America are married. Todd Akin was married for 37 years, and Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and guys like that are all married. And I don’t think we need to go into the whole “anti-sex” thing with these guys.

    What I still wonder about is how the hell do guys like that ever actually attract a woman?  Their views about women’s roles and rights are just so abhorrent, what kind of woman would even want a man like that?  I mean, I can understand those kinds of views from an unmarried man who has been made bitter through a lifetime of being rebuked and not realizing his own hubris and sense of entitlement get in the way of companionship, but how does a married guy get to be like that?  Or just sustain views like that?  

    How can any mentally healthy and emotionally self-sufficient woman tolerate a guy who fundamentally disrespects her like that long enough to marry him?  

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Re: That painting: I get Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and…James? But who’s the pretty boy apprentice with the Egyptian-styled hair? 

  • EllieMurasaki

    How can any mentally healthy and emotionally self-sufficient woman tolerate a guy who fundamentally disrespects her like that long enough to marry him?

    Belief that all men are like that and many are worse? Living with sexism and gender binaries damages the psyche, and the damage is worse if one thinks there’s no alternative? Though if any of the men you mentioned were rich before they got married…

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    So, when Jesus was with Mary, did he say, “Oh my me” or “Oh my father”? :P

  • Maniraptor

    Ooh, this has been my favorite apocryphal gospel since I found out about it. The Gospel of How Kid Jesus Killed Anyone Who Got In His Way, And That’s Why You Should Love Him. I mean, how can you not love the contrast?

    Religion, it was different in the past (and that’s kinda neat)!

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Belief that all men are like that and many are worse? Living with sexism and gender binaries damages the psyche, and the damage is worse if one thinks there’s no alternative? Though if any of the men you mentioned were rich before they got married…

    My first impulse would be to try and fix them, or failing that, at least ensure their progeny do not grow up similarly broken.  An effective sexual education education and encultured gender egalitarianism (for both sexes) should go a long way toward helping shrink the environment in which sexism is tolerated.  

    Unfortunately, those who institutionalize sexism in their own marriages have this damnable habit of wanting to perpetuate that institution in their children, and the only ways I can think of to run interference in that tend to quickly overstep a lot of civil liberty bounds.  

    There has to be some solution here we are missing… 

  • EDB

    That painting: I get Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and…James? But who’s the pretty boy apprentice with the Egyptian-styled hair?

    The kid with the basin? That’s John the Baptist, in a reference to his baptizing his cousin.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Rarity and Twilight Sparkle would like a word with you.

  • RavenOnTheHill

    I think the relationship is a vulnerability to affinity scams.

    Croak!

  • Darkrose

    I want my datajack, dammit!

  • Tricksterson

    The Olympians and other Greek gods were born immortal.  Nectar and ambrosia were however their food and drink so I suppose they could starve to death but there’s not record that any of them did.  Probably they ate and drank because Nectart and ambrosia were yummy.  However mortals could become immortal by eating and drinking the fod of the gods.  As i recall there was a story about a mortal who was given one but not the other (forget why) and was immortal but continued to age.  Finally the goddess responsible turned him into a grasshopper.  There was another story of Chiron the centaur who was greviously wounded by a hunter but could neither die nor heal the wound until Zeus granted him the gift of death.  Again, why Apollo or Asclepius didn’t heal him, I don;t know.

  • EllieMurasaki

    As i recall there was a story about a mortal who was given one but not the other (forget why) and was immortal but continued to age. Finally the goddess responsible turned him into a grasshopper.

    That one was he asked to be immortal but neglected to ask to be forever young.

  • Tricksterson

    Sure, let me get my flamethrower.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     Honestly, a lot of these guys are themselves pretty involved in perpetuating institutionalized sexism in the world. It’s not always because their husbands manipulated them into it somehow; they truly believe in the whole complementarian thing.

    Now, they might not necessarily impose these rules on themselves, of course — Beverly LaHaye is a famous example, a woman who spends a lot of time working on the opposite coast (in D.C.) as her husband (in California) lobbying against the idea that women should work outside of the home. But I wouldn’t give her or people like her any kind of victim status automatically; sometimes people marry the LaHayes and Robertsons of the world because they get along with them.

  • friendly reader

    I for one definitely do not ship Jesus and Mary Magdalene.To me it’s just the newest version of the attempt to turn her from the Apostle to the Apostles and a leader of the early church into someone defined entirely by her sexuality. First she’s defined as a prostitute, now she’s defined as a wife – can’t she be an independent woman, defined on her own?

    Anyway, it’s not entirely clear from the passage itself whether the “wife” is Mary or the Church, and it’s from the fourth century, and as such doesn’t exactly “prove” one way or the other whether the historical Jesus was married. It does potentially prove that there were a variety of opinions on the matter, which I find more fascinating than the question of whether he was actually married or not.*

    To me, the idea of Jesus being married (and thus having sex) is more interesting in how people react to it than the idea itself. You’ve got the people who insist he couldn’t have (because sex is base, worldly, dirty, what have you) and people who insist he must have (because sex is an essential part of the human experience and all good, normal people have it). And then you have people like me who think he may have he may not have (because sex is something some people have and some people don’t have, and depending on how you have it can be good or bad,** and we shouldn’t make a value judgment just on whether you’re having it or not).

    *And yes, there is some evidence of celibate groups like the Essenes in first-century Judaism, and arguing that Jesus was celibate would also probably mean arguing he was a member of one of these other groups before heading out on his own, which is, again, to me a way more interesting thing to consider. Could Jesus have been a member of a “wrong” group? Way more implications to the question of Jesus’ nature than whether he had sex!
    **Given the attitudes at the time, historical Jesus being married =/= historical Jesus being pro-woman.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Could Jesus have been a member of a “wrong” group?

    I’ve heard it argued that Jesus was a Pharisee. Given that contemporary usage of the term ‘Pharisee’ derives entirely from the negative way Jesus spoke of them, this amuses me.

  • friendly reader

    And more relevant to Fred’s actual post, screw this Mayan prophecy crap. All that’s happening in December is that the current 13th bak’tun (a period of 114,000 days) will come to an end. Mayan monuments have dates going way past that point, and native Mayans have no prophecy of the world ending on that day (or of it particularly ending at all). Then you add in the “Quetzalcoatl” crap (because of course Aztecs and Mayans were exactly the same!) and it’s enough to make you scream at the stupid.

    That said, I am looking forward to a once-in-a-lifetime odometer turning of one of the world’s oldest continuous-use calendars. :)

  • EllieMurasaki

    All that’s happening in December is that the current 13th bak’tun (a period of 144,000 days) will come to an end.

    We all freaked out over Y2K, so why shouldn’t we freak out over the Mayan equivalent?

  • Dash1

     

    Long way of saying a lit of people just don’t think it through and don’t realize Jesus was Jewish.

    Or, as Archie Bunker said, “Only on his mother’s side.”

  • http://www.nightphoenix.com Amaranth

    I’ve also wondered at times about the “zOMGNOWAY!” reaction that happens whenever someone suggests Jesus might have been married.

    My thought is, if Jesus knew all along that he was going to die a gruesome death at age 33 or so, I can see why he might have not wanted to get married. I mean, who’d want to put someone you loved through that if you didn’t have to?

  • EllieMurasaki

    My thought is, if Jesus knew all along that he was going to die a gruesome death at age 33 or so, I can see why he might have not wanted to get married. I mean, who’d want to put someone you loved through that if you didn’t have to?

    No shortage of public-interest stories about people who were diagnosed with cancer and then married their significant other because the SO wouldn’t have it any other way, even if that did mean the SO would be burying a spouse soon thereafter. Not necessarily a valid comparison if Jesus always knew when he’d die, but did he always know? If not, when did he find out?

  • depizan

    Belief that all men are like that and many are worse?

    That would be my guess, too.  I’ve met women who think like that.  For icing on that particular WTF cake, these women were a writer’s circle, and all wrote romance novels.  More horrifyingly, one of them was my Criminal Law teacher.

    I went to one of their writer’s group sessions and spent the entire time with my face stuck in O_o.  They literally saw men as vile scum who were incapable of anything good*, yet they wrote romance novels (staring scum…which, oddly, they couldn’t get published…) and, even more boggling to twenty-something me, they dated and/or were married.  I could not (and still can’t) see marrying something that, to you, is a cross between Cthulhu, a Sith Lord, and a cartoon cave man.  W.  T.  F.

    *The other newcomer had written a scene in which her romance’s hero surveyed his ranch and thought, among other things, that it was beautiful.  They all jumped on her, declaring that men aren’t capable of seeing beauty.  All they see is what’s theirs.  (Naturally, my mind went straight to Looney Tunes as I imagined a guy going “Car mine, woman mine, landmine.” as he pulled each item to himself.)

  • http://www.nightphoenix.com Amaranth

     “No shortage of public-interest stories about people who were diagnosed
    with cancer and then married their significant other because the SO
    wouldn’t have it any other way, even if that did mean the SO would be
    burying a spouse soon thereafter.”

    That is true. I think if Jesus had actually fallen in love with someone, and vice versa, then they might have gotten married even knowing what would happen. But if he married simply because Jewish men were expected to, that’s where I could see the hesitation. Plus Jesus’ dying would have made his wife a widow, and being a widow (especially a young widow) wasn’t a fun thing to be back in that culture. He seemed like the kind of man who would worry about that sort of thing.

    If the account in the Gospels is to be believed, from near the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus seemed to know he would be killed, and soonish. He alludes to it fairly often. It doesn’t say if he knew the exact day and hour, or whether he knew before he started preaching, as far as I know.

  • Joshua

    Yeah, interesting, but I doubt it’ll turn my ideas of Jesus’ life upside down. There are a number of weird and wacky gospels, many from that kind of timeframe, that say all sorts of wild things. Plenty weren’t even Christian, there are a number of Gnostic gospels too.

    I’d love to see a translation of the rest of the fragment though. I don’t speak Coptic. Any new papyrus is a wonderful snapshot of what someone, at least, was thinking thousands of years ago.Jesus did use family terms metaphorically, e.g. Luke 8:21. Without a bit more context it’s hard to understand what the papyrus is really asserting.

  • PJ Evans

     He was Jewish and a rabbi; getting married was part of the job description.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    Thank you!    I like the quote from the Smithsonian article on the fragment:

    “In the weeks leading up to the mid-September announcement, King
    worried that people would read the headlines and misconstrue her paper
    as an argument that the historical Jesus was married.”

    King clearly knows the drill.

    I agree with your point about defining Mary Magdalene in terms of her sexuality.  Taking her from being a financial supporter and apostle in her own right to being the little woman isn’t as big a come-down as claiming she was a prostitute, but it’s not clear to me that it’s really a promotion.

    I’m not sure I agree that Jesus being celibate would have implied he was an Essene at one time, though.  Presumably there were plenty of people that shared some of these group’s ideas without sharing all of them actually being members.  I thought it was more that the existence of the Essenes and similar groups showed that the celibacy, asceticism, etc. was definitely a thing that was going on in Judaism at the time and thus Jesus not being married would not actually have been as weird or noteworthy as some people claim.

  • Jessica_R

    And see, the real reason I hope he wasn’t married is that I *hate* squished together couple names. It was bad enough when I saw it fandom, I think the world did in fact end when it spread to real life use. 

  • Lori

     

    Their views about women’s roles and rights are just so abhorrent, what kind of woman would even want a man like that?     

    A woman raised from birth to believe that being the wife of a man like that is her purpose in life and that bucking the system will result in her going to hell.

  • Lori

     

    Now, they might not necessarily impose these rules on themselves, of course – 

    Phyllis Schlafly, that hypocritical asshat.

  • Lori

     

    Or, as Archie Bunker said, “Only on his mother’s side.” 

    But that’s the side that counts. You’re Jewish if your mother was Jewish.

  • Lori

    No shortage of public-interest stories about people who were diagnosed
    with cancer and then married their significant other because the SO
    wouldn’t have it any other way 

    Dying of cancer is not exactly the same as being executed by the state for stirring up trouble. Being the widow of that guy would likely not be a happy lot. If I cared enough about someone to want to marry him I’d also care about him enough not to publicly, legally tie him to that.

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

    The Bible doesn’t actually say. He either always knew or found out in the gap between age 12 and the age 30 that isn’t covered. (At least not in any of the standard books. If it’s in the Apocrypha I wouldn’t know.)

  • Lori

     

    They all jumped on her, declaring that men aren’t capable of seeing beauty.  All they see is what’s theirs.  

    O_o, indeed. Holy crap.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    That would be who I pegged as James; I meant the young man directly across from Joseph.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    That was Eos who forgot to give her boyfriend eternal youth. Divine ADHD, I guess. 


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