• Daniel Schultz offers a breezy and appropriately irreverent round up of the year’s religion news: “2018: Wave Goodbye to Another Year in Religion.”
• And here’s another year-end list that has several distinct religion news elements to it: “The 10 Most Popular ‘Fresh Air’ Interviews Of 2018.”
That includes Terry Gross’ interview back in July with the Rev. Rob Schenck: “Once Militantly Anti-Abortion, Evangelical Minister Now Lives ‘With Regret.’” Schenck has written a memoir tracing the change of heart he needed to preserve his own soul, the change that led him away from centering his faith on the self-righteous, self-deceiving lie of abortion-is-murder ideology.
It is not the first memoir of its kind, and it will not be the last.
• Wired’s Garrett M. Graff provides “A Complete Guide to All 17 (Known) Trump and Russia Investigations.” That sounds like something convoluted and dense, like this sort of thing:
But really it’s much simpler than that. It’s crime and corruption, after all, and that tends to be crudely simple, venal, and even kind of dumb. “The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.” Graff’s guide will be a useful resource in the weeks and months ahead — a program that will be helpful for keeping all the players straight as their crooked little games are brought to light and prosecuted.
• “The New Authoritarians Are Waging War on Women,” Peter Beinart writes for the Atlantic, trying to place Trumpism within the global authoritarian backlash seen in Brazil and Poland, Hungary and Italy and the Philippines. This bit struck me as perceptive:
Commentators sometimes describe Trump’s alliance with the Christian right as incongruous given his libertine history. But whatever their differences when it comes to the proper behavior of men, Trump and his evangelical backers are united by a common desire to constrain the behavior of women. That alliance was consecrated during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, when Republicans raged against Judiciary Committee Democrats for supposedly degrading the Senate by orchestrating a public hearing for Christine Blasey Ford, who had accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. …
• The Bunk Police. Differing weights and differing measures are an abomination unto the Lord.• Erik visits the American grave of Henry McNeal Turner — minister, Union officer, legislator, journalist, great American.
• “There is also, once you stop to think about it, something distasteful about men in power — particularly two men credibly accused of sexual assault — using a term that harks back to an era in history in which a patriarchal society wrongfully persecuted (mostly) women.”
That’s from a helpful Vox explainer of “witch hunts.” That could mean one of two things and, in this case, it means the second one.
The first meaning of “witch hunt” — chronologically and logically — referred to actual hunts for actual witches (crusades unhindered by the fact that there never were any actual witches). The second meaning, derived from that, is the use of the phrase “witch hunt” as a claim of innocence suggesting that all the evidence arrayed against you is illegitimate and that your crimes are imaginary.
It is, as the folks at Vox say, “distasteful” when powerful, privileged men resist any accusation against them by comparing themselves to the powerless women and men who were unjustly accused and punished by powerful, privileged men. Yet that’s almost always how the phrase gets used nowadays and who it gets used by — the very same kind of man who is most likely to be prosecuting an actual witch hunt, blaming problems of his own making on the imaginary threat posed by some powerless other.
The same distasteful irony arises whenever would-be inquisitors are held to account. They’re likely to dismiss all allegations against them, no matter how credible, as an “inquisition.”
The chutzpah involved in this “witch-hunt” defense is galling, but it’s also revealing in that it’s a kind of admission — an accepting of the reality that actual witch-hunts are illegitimate, unjust, and cruel lies. That doesn’t just reach back to Salem and to other such baseless moral panics from ancient history — it applies today, to PizzaGate and QAnon and James O’Keefe’s lies about Planned Parenthood and to every other way in which opposition to imaginary Satanic baby-killing “witches” shapes our politics and religion.
• The title of this post comes from Donald Trump’s dream design for the walls he says he wants to build along America’s borders. It’s not a line from this old Radiohead song. But it could be: