7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.25)

1. Facebook is not my forte, but I’ve set up a page for this blog and — fingers-crossed — should have it set to update automatically whenever anything is posted here. (This is something I’ve tried every six months or so in the past, but there’s a chance it may actually work this time.)

2. BookRiot offers its survey results showing the Top 20 Books You Pretend to Have Read. I wrote high school book reports on two of those (Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations) without having read them, but I think I’ve been pretty honest about the other seven books on the list that I haven’t read.

3. Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. This is the job of preachers, journalists and jesters.

Note that this combines what seminary-types call both “pastoral” and “prophetic” ministry. Can you do both at the same time? Sure. Just follow this one rule: Always punch up; never punch down.

Note that both parts of that are an ethical obligation. Punching down is immoral. So is failing to punch up.

That’s why the Magnificat is funny. And it’s why Louis C.K. and Chris Rock and Maria Bamford preach such challenging sermons.

And it’s why all the hand-wringing of the Tone Police completely misses the point.

(Dianna E. Anderson has a longer, more detailed response to that post. Since it’s the umpteen-thousandth reiteration of the same old same old, I’ll spare you the umpteen-thousandth reply from me. And, in any case, the definitive response to the Tone Police was written 50 years ago.)

4. “The Internet Strikes Again, Mormon Edition,” vorjack writes, summarizing Laurie Goodstein’s New York Times piece, “Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt.” That article is kind of the flip-side of Peggy Fletcher Stark’s early 2012 report for the Salt Lake Tribune: “Mormons confront ‘epidemic’ of online misinformation.”

Old models of controlling the information available to your followers just won’t work if those followers have access to Google. That’s why, as vorjack writes, “the Internet is the greatest threat to religious dogma in the modern world.” (And why, as I’ve written here before, “The evangelical bubble cannot be sustained.” See also here, and here, and here.)

Of course, while the Internet makes it impossible for dogmatic leaders to control the information their followers can learn, it also facilitates their ability to replace any given false dogma with something else just as dogmatic and false. For every site like Recovery From Mormonism or Homeschoolers Anonymous, there are a dozen sites like the Blaze or Breitbart. …

5. Tony Campolo talks about the collapse of Exodus International and its larger meaning for the idea of “ex-gay ministry.”

“Please understand that Exodus was not just another ministry,” Tony stresses. “It was an umbrella group.” It set the course for the whole network of smaller pray-away-the-gay organizations, producing the printed materials used by many of them. It established “reparative therapy” as the central strategy for most of those other groups.

The end of Exodus, in other words, is a very big deal.

Tony knows this subject well. Exodus invited him to be the keynote speaker at their national conference when it was held at Eastern University back in the late 1980s. I was living on campus during that conference and I went to hear Tony speak. He stood up in front of this group, thanked them for inviting them, and then spent the first half of his address explaining everything that was wrong with reparative therapy and with Exodus’ whole purpose, approach and existence. It doesn’t work, he told them — speaking just as bluntly and frankly as he speaks of it in the (glitchy) audio linked above. He told them they were hurting people and they should stop.

It was not what they wanted to hear and the atmosphere was pretty tense. After a half-hour or so of that, though, Tony segued somehow into his usual storytelling mode, rattling through some of his greatest hits. And by the end of things, everyone was crying and laughing and signing up to tutor poor kids, just like always.

6. Is it possible to break into someone’s house, take $18,000 worth of their stuff, and never have to give it back or worry about legal repercussions? Yes it is — if you’re a bank:

One Ohio woman [says] First National Bank foreclosed on her home, even though it isn’t her bank. She says not only was her home broken into, but some of her belongings were taken, sold, given away or thrown out.

… “They repossessed my house on accident, thinking it was the house across the street,” she said.

… When she called the police to sort out the situation and get her things back, the chief told her the case was already closed.

She then presented the bank president with an estimate of $18,000 worth of property missing, she says he refused to pay up.

“He got very firm with me and said, ‘We’re not paying you retail here, that’s just the way it is,’” she says. “I did not tell them to come in my house and make me an offer. They took my stuff and I want it back.”

She says she’s angry now, as the bank isn’t apologizing and is instead, she claims, giving her attitude over breaking into her house and taking her things.

“They’re sarcastic when they talk to me. They make it sound like I’m trying to rip the bank off. All I want is my stuff back.”

It’s a sweet deal, being a corporation. Some judges will say you have a religious free-exercise right to ignore laws you don’t like, and the police don’t even care when you burglarize a private home.

7. The solar system is really big. How big is it? Two very cool short videos put it in perspective.

"My forehead hurts from how much that made me frown."

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