7 things @ 9 o’clock (9.30)

1. About halfway through the first season of Breaking Bad, I realized two things: 1) This was a really good show, rewarding attentive viewing, and thus is probably the sort of thing I’d prefer to watch on DVD/Netflix after its run; and 2) This is a tragedy — inexorably headed for an unhappy ending, and thus something I’d be better off watching on DVD/Netflix. (Some days I love a good tragedy. Other days I’m not really up for that kind of story. Those days don’t usually coincide neatly with a network broadcast schedule.)

All of which is to say that I’m out of the loop on one of the things I imagine everyone will be talking about today. Feel free to discuss it in comments anyway, but careful with the spoilers.

2. Roger Olson is deeply offended at having been called a meliorist. Apparently this is a thing, now, among white evangelicals with way, way, way too much time on their hands. Someone named Gerald McDermott is apparently trying to make his bones with the white evangelical in-crowd by sniffing out alleged meliorists and denouncing their melioristic meliorism. Both the accuser and the accused are convinced that this is a grave charge.

I suppose the never-ending quest to find some way to occupy our time other than by loving our neighbors has now led to these accusations of and defenses against “meliorism.” This word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

White evangelicals are my people, but boy howdy, we’re a deeply weird bunch.

3. “There’s a lot of prayer, scripture and impulse to conversion – probably enough to prompt most non-religious people to close it without finishing,” Kay Campbell writes in a book review for Alabama.com. “There is a lot of txt-msg abbr from cell phone conversations, a lot of predictable dialogue, and enough banality to likely keep the book off the Pulitzer committee’s desk.” The man loves his telephones — even in a book about the Apostle Paul.

4. I’m noting this story because it’s a potentially hopeful development — and also because this is another one of those things President Obama just did, publicly, that the religious right continues to deny he has ever done: “Obama tells Rouhani he’s concerned about jailed U.S. pastor Saeed Abedini.” Abedini’s wife said the president’s advocacy on behalf of her husband was “an answer to prayer”: ”I am very grateful to President Obama for standing up for Saeed and for the other Americans who are held captive in Iran.”

5. Kyle Mantyla notes: “Exxon will begin offering benefits to legally married same-sex couples. We wonder what [Family Research Council] will say.” I’m torn. On the one hand, I’d love to see the FRC and NOM and One Dozen Moms and all the other right-wing groups direct their wrath at Exxon. But on the other hand, I’ve watched company after company flourishing in the wake of religious right boycotts, and that kind of success, for Exxon, would just get channeled into even more funding for corrupt politicians and climate denialism. Religious right vs. Exxon is one of those games where you wind up rooting for injuries.

6. I intend to be very happy about this news from New Jersey as soon as Gov. Chris Christie’s attempt to block this in the courts fails.

7. In other news from the state I grew up in, this is my third-favorite of Bob Hill’s “7 Classic Springsteen Stories” (via John Fea):

And so, I went to see this psychiatrist, and, uh – this is true – and, uh, I sat down and I said, ‘”Doc, uh, for years I’ve been getting in my car and I drive back to my town and I pass my houses late at night and, y’know, what am I doing?” And he said, “I want you to tell me what you think that you’re doing.” So I go, ‘That’s what I’m paying you for.” So he says, “Well, what you’re doing is that something bad happened, and you’re goin’ back there, thinkin’ you can make it right again. Something went wrong, and you keep going back to see if you can fix it, or somehow make it right.” And I sat there and I said, “That is what I’m doing.” And he said, “Well, you can’t.”


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  • GDwarf

    Hah, I can kind of follow why meliorism is seen as bad (not only is it associated with “Liberalism”, but it kinda-sorta implies that humans can trump God’s plan and/or that this is not the best of all possible worlds!) but having a witch hunt over the idea that humans can improve the world is weirdly amusing. I mean, is not this accusation itself an attempt by a human to improve the world?

  • Michael Pullmann

    Thanks for the link to a definition of “meliorism”. Now, could someone explain why it’s a bad thing?

  • From a certain evangelical position, it’s bad because it stands in opposition to the concepts of depravity and decline. What beggars me is that it’s a philosophy at all. Is “people sometimes make things better” really a premise that attracts a lot of debate?

  • GDwarf

    Yep. There was (heck, is) a persistent school of thought that holds that humans cannot do anything good of their own volition. They take the idea that “all goodness flows from God” to the extreme that any good that occurs must be caused by God. You thought you wanted to feed starving orphans because you’re a kind person, but that was really God directly influencing your thoughts. Had that not happened you would’ve spent your money on a puppy-kicking machine instead, or something.

    I don’t know huge amounts about this philosophy, other than the fact that it shows up fairly often throughout the history of the Christian church, and probably occurs elsewhere as well.

  • Vermic

    Kudos to Jerry Jenkins and his embrace of the txt-msg abbr style. By peppering his newest book with text conversations, Jenkins not only takes his first bold stride into the 21st century, but at the same stroke synergizes his love of phones and his love of extreme laziness. What’s next for this pioneering author? In coming years, we can expect him to continue pushing the limits of his medium, finding new ways to shrink the tedious middlemen of “story” and “content” which ever stand between the writer and his readers’ pocketbooks. Already he is planning his 120-page I, Saul sequel to publish in 60-point type, triple-spaced and with 3″ margins — an audacious format rarely explored since the days of Rey and Geisel. It won’t be long before perfection is achieved, a Jerry Jenkins book with no words at all, an endpoint eagerly awaited by readers of all stripes.

  • chgo_liz

    But isn’t “natural” in opposition to “God’s will”? For this stripe of Christian, I mean.

  • chgo_liz

    It’s precisely this sort of argument that really drives me bonkers. They’re saying that their god lets them spend their lives doing all sorts of depraved acts (because it’s their nature, which he created), but every once and a while (on a whim) he’ll intervene to make them do something nice instead. What the heck kind of god is that to worship?

  • GeniusLemur

    I think they honestly don’t know, so they take the precaution of hating everything.

  • Monala

    Did you watch the video? I was LOL’ing! Plus, check out all the modern clips where someone has a phone to their ear!

  • Ah, the book trailer. Of all the recent ideas to come out of publishing, I’m really surprised that that’s the one that got legs. It’s probably worth noting that as cheap and cheesy as it is (I’M ON MY CELL PHONE! NOW I’M RUNNING! NOW IT’S ROME! NOW I’M CALLING SOMEONE AGAIN!), it’s still probably one of the better trailers I’ve seen. The worst books always seem to have the best trailers – a sure sign that the author put more effort into marketing than into writing the damn thing.

  • GDwarf

    But isn’t “natural” in opposition to “God’s will”? For this stripe of Christian, I mean.

    I wouldn’t think so. Quite a few of these sorts of Christians argue that “natural” is the same as “God’s will.” In practice, if not in their explicit beliefs.

  • Daniel

    If Viv Ivins wasn’t bad enough- AUGUST KNOX!? And he falls in love with Sofia? Does this not smack a little of Gnosticism?
    His next book stars Calvin Dignity who falls sensibly and chastely in love with Verity. He loves her less for what she really is than what he can imagine she is, and he finds her very flexible but also very difficult to grab hold of- making her ideal for RTCs everywhere.
    I’ll admit I’m also a little partisan here- Anthony Burgess has already written a book about Paul and the birth of the church. I admit I haven’t read I Saul, but I’d hazard a guess that The Kingdom of the Wicked is better. Just based on Jenkins’ previous form.
    GAH! “August Knox”!
    P.S. can anyone tell me how to insert a proper interrobang on these comments? They’re often really appropriate.

  • 1. About halfway through the first season of Breaking Bad,
    I realized two things: 1) This was a really good show, rewarding
    attentive viewing, and thus is probably the sort of thing I’d prefer to
    watch on DVD/Netflix after its run; and 2) This is a tragedy —
    inexorably headed for an unhappy ending, and thus something I’d be
    better off watching on DVD/Netflix. (Some days I love a good tragedy.
    Other days I’m not really up for that kind of story. Those days don’t
    usually coincide neatly with a network broadcast schedule.)

    You will LOVE Breaking Bad. :)

    I was absolutely enthralled by the series finale. It really did a great job of reaching back to all those elements of the story arc that viewers have been wanting to see resolutions to from Day One. :D

  • Those names? He’s not even trying anymore, is he?

  • Ross Thompson

    You could copy-and-paste from the u2020 block here: http://www.csbruce.com/software/utf-8.html

    But having an operating system that supports a compose key is the ideal way to go about it.

  • VMink

    So… wait, according to these gatekeepers, apparently Christians should not be making the world a better place by comforting the afflicted, liberating the oppressed, feeding the hungry, raising up the poor?

    I’m missing something here. This sounds less like Christianity, and more like Satanism as envisioned by Jack Chick. (And even some Satanists would look at this and go “WTF?”)

  • Daniel

    I think it’s another really brilliant, though totally accidental, insight into his own character. Jerry Jenkins – sorry, Jerry B. Jenkins (all great writers have a middle initial) really wants to be thought of as “August”. I like to think the name selection process was a bit like the draw for the FA Cup, with one bag full of positive adjectives and the other full of religious reformers’ names. Number 23: Venerable plays Number 59: Luther, Number 41: Strident plays number 63: Chelcicky…

  • Daniel


  • Vermic

    I’ve been marathoning the series for a few weeks now, am currently approaching the halfway point of Season Five, and I can’t wait to finish — not merely because the show is so compelling, but because I’m concerned about being spoiled before I finish.

    In a few more days I will finish and spoilers won’t be a problem, but it’ll feel strange to adjust to a world in which there is no further Breaking Bad.

  • Tell me about it. It’s really the end of an era in so many senses. But there’ll be Homeland and Revolution to make up for it.


  • AnonaMiss

    Gender essentialism warning on the Roger Olson link.

    The linked post includes praise for his former mentor not speaking up to aid the feminists we are given to believe he agreed with; and his previous post is a handwringing over how society is trying to “transform boys into girls”. Oh sure, he gives a “not that there’s anything wrong with being a girl” disclaimer, and also “being a man doesn’t necessarily mean conforming to the world’s masculine stereotypes”, but fuck you too, Mr. Olson. You don’t get to whistle for the dogs and then couch your words in faux-egalitarian ‘separate but equal’ bullshit.

  • commonlaw504

    That’s the first time I’ve seen Revolution favorably compared to Breaking Bad.

    Actually, scratch that, that’s the first time I’ve seen Revolution described in a favorable light.

  • TheBrett

    1. I’m totally going to do that someday, especially since I now have Netflix. I did finally get around to watching The Wire all the way through, so maybe I’ll be good for this one.

  • Regarding #6, please stand back and admire, from a safe distance, the cognitive dissonance of Gov. Christie:

    “Governor Christie has always maintained that he would abide by the will of the voters on the issue of marriage equality and called for it to be
    on the ballot this Election Day,” said Christie spokesman Michael

    Abiding by the will of the voters, eh? Except it would appear that Christie has in fact vetoed the will of the voters (via their duly elected representatives) last year:

    Udi Ofer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of
    New Jersey, said a coalition of groups pushing for gay marriage would also keep pressing state lawmakers for an override of Christie’s gay-marriage veto last year.

    Which is par for the course for those who oppose marriage equality. They fulminate mightily about unelected activist judges forcing their will on the people; but should elected representatives pass laws, they start talking vetoes, repeals, special recall elections, and amendments that would de-constitutionalize marriage equality laws.

  • The most perfectly constructed set-up and finish I’ve ever seen. It’s Chekov’s gun porn. The most enthralling narrative art I’ve seen or read since ‘the Godfather”

    Five stars, recommended :)

  • MarkTemporis

    Yeah. To me, considering any attempt to improve humanity’s lot as evil kind of places you in opposition to all humanity.

  • Cathy W

    I caught about the first half season as it originally aired, and then missed an episode, and realized, “I’m going to have to catch up with this later”. It’s apparently not later yet… and now I’m wondering: is it actually suitable for marathon viewing, or is it the kind of thing where you need a week between episodes to recover emotional fortitude? Because what I watched was kind of rough, but I get the impression that it was the happy, cheerful, light-hearted part of the material.

  • I happen to like Revolution. :P I do have a bit of fondness for such post-disaster type series.

  • Oh hell yes marathon it. That’s how I watched the first four seasons. :D

    It was like HOLY SHIT WHAT A ROLLER COASTER! And then the fifth season was like that on steroids.

  • Elizabeth Coleman

    I find the show to be a little too intense for me, so I make a point to look up summaries before I watch it. Saves a lot of strain on my delicate heart, and I can better focus on the other awesome elements of the show. (I’m looking forward to Ozymandias since it was directed by Rian Johnson)

  • Ethics Gradient

    This attitude also turns up in some unexpected places. For instance, Chris Hedges, who is quite left wing, criticises atheists for thinking that humanity is, overall progressing:

    Finally, Hedges’ central criticism is that we atheists believe in moral progress. This is a dangerous fantasy, he says, because the dream of utopia inevitably leads to the slaughter of those who do not share it. Instead, he argues that the only safe route is to accept that humans are incurably evil, that human nature cannot be changed, and that there neither is nor has there ever been any moral progress of any kind, and the sooner we accept this the better off we’ll be. I am not making this up. Here it is in his own words:

    “The utopian dream of a perfect society and a perfect human being, the idea that we are moving toward collective salvation, is one of the most dangerous legacies of the Christian faith and of the Enlightenment.

    … They peddle the alluring and enticing fantasy of inevitable moral and material progress. This vision is not based on science, history or reason. It is an act of faith. It is a form of the occult.

    …There is nothing in human nature or human history to support the idea that we are morally advancing as a species or that we will overcome the flaws of human nature. We progress technologically and scientifically, but not morally. We use the newest instruments of technological and scientific progress to create more efficient forms of killing, repression, and economic exploitation and to accelerate environmental degradation as well as to nurture and sustain life. There is a good and a bad side to human progress. We are not moving toward a glorious utopia. We are not moving anywhere.”

    That was written before Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, but I haven’t seen anything from Hedges saying he’s changed his mind.

  • I can’t stand that kind of “humanity is NEVER getting better so we should just stop trying” kind of crap.

    It’s the same sort of stuff racists used to openly say as their excuse for treating people of color as lesser beings.

  • Cathy W

    I liked the premise, but found the execution kind of lacking – the very worst thing being that I couldn’t believe Charlie had grown up in that society.

    Did you watch Defiance at all?

  • Matri

    No no no, it just places you in opposition to liberals and the left. And those liberals and the left are ALL ABOUT making the world a better place.

    Therefore Jesus, because shut up.

  • Defiance? Watch it I indeed have. :P

    As for Charlie, I got the impression she was seriously sheltered by Ben, who has a bit of an in-verse reputation for being something of a shrinking violet in the post-Blackout society. Part of that may well be because he knows what Miles Matheson and Bass Monroe are fully capable of, and so hobbled Charlie unintentionally by trying to keep her so unaware of the kinds of things con artists, scamsters, hucksters could get up to, never mind more serious criminals like thieves, rapists and murderers.

  • Oh FFS. Bill Maher had stand-up comedy routine where he did exactly this, too. “This country is becoming feminized. I’m sure there are plenty of steel-eyed women out there and hyperemotional men with them, but am I wrong when I say this country is less about logic and more about feelings nowadays?”

    This steely-eyed sometimes-woman wants to kick both of them in the sack.