They can’t even sing to their shadows

They can’t even sing to their shadows January 4, 2018

• Shortly after posting my own critique of “Bebbington quadrilateral” shenanigans, I came across Tim Gloege’s fierce essay on Religion Dispatches: “#ItsNotUs: Being Evangelical Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.” Like me, Gloege thinks this four-point description was a helpful, useful device for Bebbington’s own history of 18th- through 20th-century evangelicalism in Britain — but that it’s way too conveniently elastic to be an honest or analytically helpful lens for understanding contemporary white evangelical belief and practice here in America. Here’s a taste:

“Biblicism” functions similarly. Imagine a political scientist defining Republicans as “those who take the Constitution seriously.” Who would accept this transparently partisan statement? And yet many people today accept that evangelicals are “biblical,” while everyone else…isn’t? This is how former megachurch pastor Rob Bell and popular author Rachel Held Evans ceased to be evangelical: not because they quit the Bible, but because they came up with “wrong,” (thus “unbiblical”) answers about hell and being gay. “Biblicism” is evangelical gerrymandering.

Diverse weights and diverse measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 22:10). 


• Ye have heard it said that ye should never give a sucker an even break; but I say unto you that preying on suckers — even Trump-enabling, resentment-driven suckers who are happy to burn down the country — is still punching down and that, verily, is never cool.

So even though I appreciate the impulse to accept the money eagerly offered by the kind of people who would buy crap like this, I still think it’s kind of predatory and cruel to take it from them.

• “God holds us responsible for what we will not look at.” — Oswald Chambers

James Fallows writes about open secrets, and about the insidious way we avoid acknowledging our knowledge to avoid the obligations that such knowledge entails.

And then Fallows applies that to our current national crisis — the crisis that has a name: Donald J. Trump. Everybody knows. Even Trump’s supporters know. Those who pretend not to know aren’t fooling anyone, even themselves. And their make-pretend of not knowing does not absolve them from responsibility and from complicity.

• Today in Baptists Who Are Unclear on the Concept: Meet Tom Miles, a Democratic state representative who is trying (for the third time) to have the “Holy Bible” declared the official state book of Mississippi. Miles claims to be Baptist.

What kind of Baptist wants to establish a religious text as the official state book? Only the kind of Baptist who would also insist on baptizing all infants in that state into the official state Volkskirche. Or the kind of Baptist who has absolutely no hint of a trace of a clue about what it is that makes Baptists Baptist. (Hint: It’s the baptizing. If you don’t understand how that requires a total rejection of official state religion, ask any Baptist to explain it to you — or, at least, any Baptist not from Mississippi.)

I suppose an “official state book” doesn’t mean much more than an official state bird, or wildflower, or fossil, but arguing that as a defense of this bill suggests that its main redeeming feature is that it’s a meaningless waste of time.

The bill might prove to be far worse than just a waste of time, though, since Miles proposed legislation says only that “The Holy Bible” would become the official state book. Which “Holy Bible”? I don’t only mean which translation, but which canon? There’s more than one. Would Tobit be a part of Mississippi’s official state book? How about Mark 16:20? If Mississippi legislators want to start making official biblical declarations, then they’re going to have to take an official stand on such questions. I don’t think they have the authority or the capacity to do that. I don’t think it’s any of their business.

But then I would think that. After all, I’m a Baptist.

• RIP “Fred Bass, Maestro of the Strand.”

• This one from Josh Ritter seems time-of-year appropriate:

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