7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.18)

1. Let me echo Rob TsinaiJim Burroway and many others in offering my hopes, prayers and best wishes for Thomas Peters, and in soliciting yours for him as well. Peters, the communications director of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, sustained a major neck injury in a swimming accident. As Burroway wrote:

We all hope and pray for Peters’s epiphany on the central questions surrounding our families. More so, we hope and pray for his speedy recovery so that epiphany can occur. But in any case, whether that epiphany will ever occur or not, we hope and pray for his speedy recovery.

2.Same-sex marriage becomes law in England and Wales.” This seems appropriate.

3. After the dismal experience of watching Doc Gooden struggling through his appearance on Celebrity Rehab, I’m happy to learn that Darryl Strawberry is doing well. Make that the Rev. Darryl Strawberry. The 12 steps, I think, are excellent preparation for pastoral ministry and an education in the theology of grace. Here’s hoping he abides in that grace. I’d hate to see him wind up on Dr. Drew’s couch.

4. My initial reaction to Russell D. Moore replacing Richard Land as the Southern Baptist Convention’s new “ethics” spokesperson was that we were in for just more of the same, but with a younger, smiling face and bit more media savvy. But it’s impossible to imagine Richard Land ever saying something like this. Granted, a measure of skepticism is reasonable here, and Moore’s comments may in part be a savvy response to Land’s earlier, awful comments on the slaying of Trayvon Martin. Yet for all that, it’s a surprisingly apt response from an unexpected source. (I was also pleasantly surprised by the empathy expressed by Moore’s mentor, Al Mohler.) The SBC has a long way to go, but these are small steps in a better direction.

5. Rep. Michele Bachmann continues to astonish. Earlier this week there was her interview with the right-wing website WorldNetDaily in which she said, of President Obama, “He has a perpetual magic wand and no one’s given him a spanking yet and taken it out of his hand.” That’s the sort of thing one can only say if one is too innocent to realize one is not innocent at all. Marcus Bachmann is a clinical psychologist. He’s studied Freud, so he knows that sometimes a magic wand is just a magic wand — but sometimes it isn’t.

Which brings us to the second Michele Bachmann story this week, courtesy of Buzzfeed: “Documents Detail Implosion at Leading Conservative Christian Political Firm.” That’s not the fun part. The fun part is in the subhed: “Strategy Group for Media CEO Rex Elsass lost the faith of his employees and the control of his office. Also, he may have accidentally mailed a vibrator to Michele Bachmann.”

An email thread from May 29 … featured Strategy Group’s former voter-contact consultant P.J. Wenzel making reference to Elsass sending “female pleasure machines” to Bachmann. … One person familiar with the story told BuzzFeed that Elsass had intended to give Bachmann a vibrating head massager to help alleviate her migraines, and that the employee he sent to buy the gift accidentally purchased something that more closely resembled a sex toy — and sent it to her office.

Now go back and re-read Bachmann’s comment on Obama. OK, then.

(Oh, and speaking of politicians and their wands — Bob Filner, the Democratic mayor of San Diego, needs to step down. I don’t think every politician who gets caught having an affair necessarily needs to resign, but affairs are consensual. This isn’t. He should go away now.)

6. In an odd coincidence, shortly after I posted this yesterday, MaryAnn McKibben Dana posted her own musings about religion, improv, and a magician. She tussles with a quote from Penn Jillette — one that I think means both more and less than he thinks. Wholly apart from the tired theist/atheist sparring, though, I think there’s something in that quote that could be fruitfully mined by all kinds of storytellers, Here’s what Jillette said:

If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.

There, I think, we have the set-up for at least two — but probably many more — speculative novels. His point about science is narrowly true, but there’s no reason to assume that scientific discovery must always follow the same precise path at the same pace. There’s all manner of world-building fun to be had by toying with that history and making it unspool in a different order — accelerating some discoveries or postponing others. And set aside the silliness of thinking that because religion is rooted in the context of human experience and human history it must be nonsense and instead just focus on the delightful storytelling possibilities of the hypothetical scenario Jillette provides.

Science fiction writers have been doing both of these things for a long time, of course, creating alien worlds with wholly different scientific and religious histories, but Jillette’s remark, it seems to me, neatly frames the challenge and the possibilities.

7. The photo for yesterday’s 7 things post was of former Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Rennie Stennett. He was holding up seven fingers because he had just set a new Major League record with seven hits in a nine-inning game (a 22-0 rout of the Cubs). Stennett’s record is one of several that I think will never be broken — the others are held by Cy Young, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Vander Meer, Fernando Tatis, and Chan Ho Park. Of all of those, Park’s is probably the most secure. No one would ever want to break Park’s record, but I doubt they’d ever get the chance, since if you’ve given up two grand slams to the same batter in one inning, there’s no way you’ll be allowed to pitch to him again if he comes up a third time with the bases loaded.

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