• The state of Iowa may well elect a U.S. senator who believes in — and fears — Nicolae Carpathia, the fictional Antichrist character in the World’s Worst Books. Tim LaHaye’s John Birch Society paranoia and ignorance about what the United Nations actually is are now so mainstream that a major party candidate for national office openly uses Left Behind as a foreign policy manual:
Out here in Real World Land, Agenda 21 is a nonbinding international initiative aimed at promoting sustainable development. It was signed by that enemy of private property, George H.W. Bush, in 1992 and includes terrifying suggestions like pursuing city planning policies that will produce less garbage and encourage commuting. It has no actual ability to mandate anything, and no enforcement mechanism. In WingnutLand, Agenda 21, like everything else the UN does, is a shadowy plot to destroy U.S. sovereignty, take away your land, exterminate farmers, force errebody to eat tofu, and probably take away your guns, too. And Joni Ernst is one of the folks who thinks that’s a serious concern.
Fifty years after William F. Buckley tried to purge the Bircher whackaloons from the Republican Party, the neo-Birchers have taken over the whole show. Thus, Calvinism.
• Speaking of the whackaloons in the driver’s seat, here’s one of this week’s heroes: Saba Ahmed.
• And speaking of heroes, it’s worth using one of your monthly free stories from The New York Times to read about Teresa Fitzgerald, “The Sister of Second Chances.”
• RIP Tony Gwynn. In 19 years in the majors, he racked up 3,141 hits, a .338 lifetime batting average, and 0 enemies.The man mastered his chosen craft. He worked at it and he took great joy in it. May all of us strive to be half as good at whatever craft we choose to pursue.
• As the Southern Baptist Convention increasingly becomes identified with folks who oppose the separation of church and state while supporting a hierarchical vision of the church, I’ve often joked that they ought to just finish the trend and embrace infant baptism. Well, it turns out that’s no joke: While overall baptisms in the SBC are declining, the number of preschoolers being baptized in the denomination is on the rise. We’re talking age 6 and under.
I give up. Just give Al Mohler a funny hat and declare him the SBC pope already. There’s no remaining reason not to.
• “This executive order would protect over 1 million LGBT workers, the largest expansion of workplace protection for gay and transgender workers in the country’s history.”
• Here’s a nifty little animation of a challenge/dare/pep-talk from Nobel laureate Jody Williams. I spoke with Williams on the phone a few times back in the 1990s. Back then she wasn’t a Nobel laureate, she was just a stubborn lady sitting at her kitchen table in Vermont, phoning and faxing every organization she could to win their support for her quixotic campaign to rid the world of landmines.
She convinced me that landmines were an indiscriminate atrocity — an unnecessary, indefensible form of violence that claimed the lives of noncombatants years or even decades after the end of hostilities. And I was able to turn around and convince my boss to have our organization endorse Williams’ campaign. (We did so not because of the reasons above, or because the human suffering caused by landmines is unjust on its face, but because we decided that opposing landmines was congruent with being “pro-life” — the slogan to which we pledged allegiance in lieu of bothering with actual ethical thinking. This, like most of our attempts to provide non-partisan substance to the cipher of that slogan, didn’t catch on.)