And we’re not through yet

And we’re not through yet January 7, 2019

• The title of this post comes from Bruce Cockburn:

That song came to mind reading this post from Nancy LeTourneau, “Will the Supreme Court Sanction the Robbery of Tribal Lands?

The stark strangeness of this case is due to the fact that the actual letter of the law is not in serious dispute, it’s just immensely inconvenient. Normally, a defendant can’t offer much of a defense when they’re found to be knowingly in possession of stolen goods. No court would agree that you can keep such stolen goods just because returning them to their rightful, legal owners would be “disruptive” for you. But that will likely be the winning “argument” in this case.

• Here is BeliefNet, cheerfully publishing what it knows to be false: “High Ranking Satanic Priest Finds Jesus.”

As astonishing as it is to see that anyone is still trying to work this con, it’s even more astonishing to realize that so many people still fall for it.

But then I don’t think anyone ever does really fall for it. Participating in a flattering lie is just too much fun not to pretend it’s true. The fantasy of superior virtue — and the support system that agrees to reinforce that fantasy for those willing to play along — is well worth the price of the free-will love offering these grifters collect.

• “The Ministry of Mr. Rogers.” Robert Sullivan reviews a recent biography and recent documentary about Fred Rogers. Both, Sullivan says, veer into hagiography, and so he takes pains to explore the less-than-saintly aspects of Rogers’ life. And there were some.

But still, even taking those into account, I’m reminded of the end of Orwell’s “Reflections on Gandhi“: “How clean a smell he has managed to leave behind!”

Photo credit NASA. (Just in case you were thinking maybe somebody else traveled 4 billion miles to snap some pics of a dark rock the size of a small city.)

• “Sinclair himself was disappointed, as his purpose was socialism, not food safety reform. But socialism would have required a much better book.”

• “Members of the most diverse Congress ever opted for over a dozen different religious and non-religious texts in their swearing-in ceremonies,” Jack Herrera reports.

For much of U.S. history, members of Congress — as well as witnesses in court, firefighters, and presidents—have chosen to swear on a copy of the Bible when taking their oaths. However, the 116th Congress is the most diverse in history, and the texts used in swearing-in ceremonies on Thursday were as diverse as the new class. Jefferson’s Quran [used by Rep. Rashida Tlaib] joined more than a dozen other religious and non-religious texts that were used by new representatives and senators to take their oaths: Ilhan Omar, a Democratic representative from Minnesota and the other first Muslim woman to serve in Congress, also opted for a Quran. Krysten Sinema, the new Democratic senator from Arizona, opted for a law book that contained both the U.S.’s and Arizona’s constitution.

This is a positive development. Swearing an oath on the Christian Bible has always been a superstitious practice, not a religious one. It has more in common with a four-leaf clover than it does with any Christian notion of sacred vows.

But then again, Christian notions of sacred vows are always a bit tricky, considering that Jesus Christ himself had this to say about them:

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No;” anything more than this comes from the evil one.

That’s from Matthew 5:33-37. Words that can be found inside the covers of the Bibles on which hundreds of members of Congress last week placed their hands as they recited their oaths.

Modest proposal: If you’re going to swear an oath with your hand resting on a book, then don’t use the one book that forbids you to swear an oath and says that doing so is “evil.”

 

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