‘We send back music’

Commitment to building a more loving world can unite us if we’re willing to let it.”

“It’s harder to shake hands, and to listen, and take that risk of being sucked in, that responsibility, when all you want is something safely anonymous that assuages your guilt so you can go do the weekend chores, unencumbered.”

“Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community. Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone.”

“It seems very strange to me, looking back at my now 20-some odd years of experience in the evangelical church that for the large majority of it, I heard about social-justice related issues only around holidays (think rice bowls and red kettles) and at Christian concerts presented in conjunction with some sponsor-a-child organization.”

“What the world needs is people who have come alive.”

“I’ve found the Bible doesn’t work very well as a cookbook.”

“A decade would pass before it was embraced by another artist, and its true introduction began.”

“Thanks to Jack Klugman, the Waxman-Hatch Orphan Drug Act became law in 1983. In an ending Hollywood might have scripted, it has been a remarkable success. The FDA has approved more than 300 orphan drugs, with 1,100 more under development.”

“I guess ‘Columbia earth scientists posit large Black Sea flood 7,600 years ago, which may or may not be the inspiration for the Sumerian epic of Utnapishtim, and we’ll never know for sure,’ just doesn’t make for good headlines.”

“In its race-ethnicity series ‘In America,’ CNN has examined Blacks (exhaustively), Latinos and Asians. I believe, and I am not alone, that an as extensive series examining Whites in America(the United States specifically) should be brought to the public.”

“He thinks he’s being inclusive, yet almost certainly is clueless that ‘the blacks, the Jews, and the Hispanics’ would be offended by his idea of inclusion.”

“The Pope thinks he’s arguing against homosexuality, when in fact he’s explaining why ex-gay therapy is a moral shame.”

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

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  • The Catholic Church isn’t really a fan of ex-gay reparative therapy, AFAIK. Instead, their “Courage” organization preaches chastity to gays.

  • “A decade would pass before it was embraced by another artist, and its true introduction began.”

    Thankfully, because if all we had was Cohen’s original cover of the song I would be a sad person. Cohen’s an amazing songwriter but frankly I think he’s an awful singer. My favorite cover of that song will always be Rufus Wainwright’s. He has a lovely voice.

    Hell, I generally don’t like covers of Beatles songs, but Wainwright’s “Across the Universe” is one of the only ones I’ve ever heard that rivals the original for quality.

  • I don’t see a functional difference. Either way the message is “there’s something fundamentally wrong with you that you should be ashamed of, and unlike straight people, you should not have the luxury of being allowed to act on your inherent sexual desires.”

  • “I’ve found the Bible doesn’t work very well as a cookbook.”

    Testify to that. I made a divine grilled ham and cheese sandwich yesterday. ^_^

    The white student union dude – WTF. It’s like those guys who think universities need “Men’s Centers” and come up with a passel of sophistry to justify it.

    What leaped out at me in the “Whites in America” link was this:

    Given the myth that the South is solely responsible for slavery,
    viewers will be surprised to learn that Browne’s ancestors were NorthernersFactually true it may be, but things like this serve to assuage Neo-Confederates who want to tell themselves lies about how bad slavery really was.It’s a classic human action: faced with the consequences of doing a bad thing, diffuse responsibility off of you and onto anyone else who can plausibly take the blame.

  • It would be foolish to deny the similarities, but there’s a functional difference. “We shall turn you/your relative straight” sounds much more appealing then “we’ll turn them to chastity”. For that reason, “Courage” had been receiving much less publicity then “Exodus International” and various Fundamentalist Protestant “ex-gay” groups.

    On a meta level, Fundamentalist Protestants like to rely on soundbites, while Conservative Catholics construct highly developed interconnected sophistic systems of thought.

  • From the epicly failing church signs:
    You can’t walk with God and hold hands with Satan

    Why not?

    I think that this feud has gone on long enough and it’s about time the two work things out but you know Satan isn’t going to show up without someone there to hold his hand because God has really hurt Satan in the past and is probably at least somewhat afraid of God as tends to happen in parent child relationships where the parent sends the child to hell.  And, moreover, walking seems to be a good format because it doesn’t trap you in a room or, worse still, a car, so there’s always the option to peal off and go your own way if things go badly, which they might.  An escape plan is important so it seems like walking with God while holding Satan’s hand would be a good idea if attempting reconciliation because walking is generally non-threatening, the physics of the situation place you between the two members with a bad history thus offer a certain amount of protection to the two parties, and the hand holding is probably an important emotional support that Satan needs to even try and go through with this.

    Assuming a Christian concept of Satan, otherwise it’s much shorter:
    Why not?  Satan works for God after all.

  •  It’s the Catholic church. That “unlike straight people” bit isn’t entirely accurate.

  • SisterCoyote

    I definitely like Rufus Wainwright’s cover the best, but I don’t think Cohen’s  a bad singer. Definitely a better songwriter than singer, yes, but he’s not half bad in his own right, at least in his later works – he almost sounds like Tom Waits, a little less gravelly.

  • Tricksterson

    I agree.  After all, you have two hands and they obviously need a mediator.

  • Tricksterson

    That goes without saying.  Gravel is less gravelly than Tom Waits voice.

  • The Pope’s anti-gay tirade and the fact that it was a better argument for his opponents’ position than his own was one of those moments when after facepalming liberally I looked up to heaven and addressed the Holy Spirit thusly.

    “Oh, come on. Now you’re just making fun of him aren’t you?”

    The last time I did this was when I found out about Hildegard of Bingen being canonised at a time when the Vatican is chasing the sisters…


  • David Starner

    Spoiler for So you want to be a wizard, by Diane Duane:

    One of the things I love about this book is that when they’re forced to read from the Book of Moon with Night to reinforce the definition of the universe, when they get to the name of the Lone One (Satan), they change one letter; from being locked into an endless cycle of regret and pride, to having an out, to being able to escape the cycle. That is, no one is beyond redemption, should they chose it.

  • On the flood link – I wonder how many of those creationists claiming are claiming that this flood in 5600 BCE is evidence of “Noah’s Flood” are also insisting that the earth was created in 4004 BCE? Little problem with the timeline there….

  • EllieMurasaki

    Some of them think Ussher was wrong and ten thousand years is nearer the mark than six thousand. (Which is, strictly speaking, true.) Others think the methods used to date this flood are flawed similarly to the flaws in the methods used to date rocks and stars, and the actual date of this flood was 3600 BCE or whatever.


    when they get to the name of the Lone One (Satan), they change one letter;

    And that is where Santa comes from.

  • Jessica_R

    I guess I’m the grouch who will just lament that if there was justice in the universe any cover of “Hallelujah” would be given a good long nap, as I’m sick of it as it has become shorthand in TV and movies for “this is meaningful and moving!” 

  • Lori

    I prefer the Jeff Buckley cover to either the original or the Wainwright cover, but I agree with you about Lenard Cohen’s voice.

  • Lori

    I’m with you on wanting a moratorium on using Hallelujah on soundtracks. I don’t think that makes either of us a grouch. It’s lazy and often used inappropriately.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    I’ve noticed lately that Catholic arguments against marriage equality sound an awful lot like arguments for marriage equality. Every time I read another speech from the Pope or Patheos blog post on commitment and family and children and sacrifice and how marriage is more than just a word, I think, “You’re absolutely right, and that is why you’re losing.”

  • Jessica_R

    I think the bigger confession is that I really, really don’t like that song, in any version, it’s a long, dreary drag to my ears. 

  • Amaryllis

     Safely-dead Catholic women are frequently canonized at a time when the Vatican is trying to tell live-and-talking Catholic women to sit down and shut up.

    Nothing new there. (They’re even talking about canonizing Dorothy Day.)

  • Amaryllis

    “I’ve found the Bible doesn’t work very well as a cookbook.”

    And has no one here ever made a Scripture Cake?

    I tried it once. Didn’t much care for the result. But then, our Biblical forebears knew nothing of the divine cocoa bean, without which, dessert just isn’t worth it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    But then, our Biblical forebears knew nothing of the divine cocoa bean, without which, dessert just isn’t worth it.

    Royal Dansk butter cookies. Your argument is invalid.

  • Carstonio

    I thought the relevant theological argument was whether scripture is a rule book.

  • Lori

    Even the blessed Royal Dansk are better with hot chocolate.

  • Kiba

    I think the bigger confession is that I really, really don’t like that song, in any version, it’s a long, dreary drag to my ears.

    You aren’t alone. I feel the same way.

  •  Ah but if you take the idea that the Holy Spirit inspires canonisations then you have to wonder why that happens.

    If you don’t then you have to wonder if the hierarchy knows the meaning of irony. Actually they clearly don’t even if the Holy Spirit is involved because otherwise they’d have caught on by now.  (Remember saints are supposed to be role models so they are effectively saying ‘Stop being rebellious and act more like this rebel’…

    But either way most Catholic women I know are quite capable of seeing the dissonance between canonised women and what the hierarchy says and siding with the saints, don’t you think?

  • Lori

    I think the bigger confession is that I really, really don’t like that song, in any version, it’s a long, dreary drag to my ears. 

    FWIW, I still don’t think that makes you a grouch. I’m actually thinking of reading that book because I’ve long been amazed that the song is so popular. It is a little dirgy and not the sort of thing that folks usually love, so I’m interested in the guy’s theory about why it caught on.

    Sort of related—I’m equally fascinated by the popularity of “Take Five”. Dave Brubeck’s recent death caused several people to write about it,but no one seems to have any satisfactory explanation for why so many people love a song that’s in a time signature that drives most Westerners nuts. (Most Westerners expect the space between emphasized beats to be equal, even if they don’t realize it*. Since songs in 5 violate that convention they drive most of us sort of nuts, even when we can’t quite put our finger on why.)


  • vsm

    I’m having trouble picking a favorite version of Hallelujah. Rufus Wainwright’s doesn’t work for me because it’s all too lovely. As others have said here, the song’s been turned into something that should immediately evoke a mood of Great Sadness and Fragile Beauty, so the ideal Hallelujah should work against that a bit. Wainwright’s voice would be good for this, but the piano arrangement is much too pretty. Besides, it omits the all-important verses about the Lord of Song and taking his name in vain, and we cannot condone such acts.

    That’s my problem with most Hallelujahs, really. Jeff Buckley’s is so frail and achingly beautiful I can barely keep a straight face. Same with John Cale and k.d. lang, though her Bird on a Wire is great. Cohen’s own approach with the alienating 80’s production and understated delivery is by far the best way to do the song, but he showed terrible judgment in picking the verses. I mean, how the hell do you omit both “love is not a victory march” AND “all I’ve ever learned from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew ya”?

    I suspect the definitive version for me will forever be the way my ex did it, which I suppose is rather fitting.

  • Lori


    If you don’t then you have to wonder if the hierarchy knows the meaning of irony.  

    It’s tough to see irony when you’re blinded by the blessed light of distraction.

    IOW, I think the Church is fully aware of what they’re doing and why. They’re just hoping no one else will notice.

  • I’m not a music theorist, but to me, “Take Five” feels like it’s in 3/8 time. I know it’s in 5/4, but that doesn’t seem to matter. When I play it, my body wants to treat it like 3/8 — and it works to treat it like a swingy 3/8. For me at least.

  • Trixie_Belden

    I think the bigger confession is that I really, really don’t like that song, in any version, it’s a long, dreary drag to my ears.

    Thank heavens!  Every time I heard it, it was presented in this way that implied “this is an amazing song that will touch your soul”, and I couldn’t stand it.  Not only is  it dismal musically, the lyrics – at least in the verses I’ve heard – seem to be rather darkly sardonic or even snarky, rather than  plaintive.  It’s good to know we’re not alone.

  • Imo, “Hallelujah” is yet another whiny “love sucks because I didn’t get my way” song by another whiny man who didn’t get his way and therefore decides the problem is with love and with the woman who couldn’t stand his whiny ass any longer, rather than with himself. I absolutely loathe it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    We are still talking about Leonard Cohen, right? I always thought the song was a critique of King David. Possibly with a bit of Samson thrown in–I can’t remember whether David has a hair-cutting story or not, but I know Samson does.

  • vsm

    I think it mostly uses Biblical imagery to comment on life and love. The second verse combines David/Samson and Bathseba/Delilah into a single man and woman, probably to suggest both treated each other horribly in the relationship. Assuming the song is about a single relationship, the second verse also seems to be sung from a different POV than the rest of the song, which discusses the relationship between the speaker (who tends to compare himself to David) and addressee, rather than addressee (David/Samson) and a third person (Bathseba/Delilah). I’m not entirely sure what to make of that. The lyrics are kind of sloppy, like how they keep rhyming ya with hallelujah, or how you can apparently drop whole verses when performing it, which might be a part of its charm.

    As for Lliira’s criticism, it’s certainly a whiny song, but I do think there’s a strong sense of self-criticism in it. The speaker admits that all he knows about love is how to shoot at the other person and that his effort for the relationship didn’t amount to much, despite it being his best. If you think that the David/Samson character in the second verse is actually the speaker, you also get him comparing their relationship to the one between David and Bathseba, which isn’t very flattering to him.

  • We Must Dissent


    To me it’s always seemed like the singer is listing everything that went wrong with the relationship and how difficult it was and that it’s over, and even though it’s left him broken and in pain it’s still worth singing “Hallelujah” about .

    And even though it all went wrong / I’ll stand before the Lord of Song / With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

  • Tricksterson

    To quote P. J.’Rourke, “I’m so conservative I want gays to marry and raise families.”

  • That last part feels snarky to me. But I have had a terrible day and Leonard Cohen grates me the wrong way something fierce.

  • We Must Dissent

     That would be an interesting take on and way to perform the song. I’m certainly sick of overly precious renditions.

  • banancat

     That could be interpreted two different ways though.  My gay uncle did exactly that, but with a woman.  He was raised Catholic and was really the perfect example of what his church wanted from gay men.  He married a woman in a loveless marriage, had a kid, and pretended really hard that everything was ok.  Of course it didn’t work out well in the end but I sincerely believe that the church he used to part of would see his failing as not continuing the lie for even longer.

  • Carstonio

    That’s the subtext that the O’Rourke joke doesn’t capture. The families rhetoric is really about gender roles. Catholic and fundamentalist doctrines are explicitly theistic, while the allegedly secular condemnations of homosexuality and feminism as unnatural are implicitly theistic, arguably pantheistic. The goal of conservatives is not for people to marry and have children regardless of orientation, but for people to remain in their proper places in a gender hierarchy.

  • Tricksterson

    No, having read Rourkes essay “What the Right Gets Wrong” he’s fine with gay marriage and adoption.  The only subject he really goes off the rails on is abortion.

  • Carstonio

    I suspected as much. My point wasn’t about O’Rourke’s own beliefs, but his apparent failure to understand that “family values” isn’t an ideological statement.