Not many powerful, not many of noble birth

Not many powerful, not many of noble birth December 21, 2020

• My wife and I met in a bar. Classic American story. I don’t know how you met the love of your life, but I’m guessing it didn’t involve a bowling alley, a dick tattoo, and one of you getting arrested for indecent exposure. Those all factor into the story of how newly elected Q-Anon-friendly Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert and her now husband met. Ah, love.

Frederick Douglass:

The American church is guilty, when viewed in connection with what it is doing to uphold slavery; but it is superlatively guilty when viewed in connection with its ability to abolish slavery. The sin of which it is guilty is one of omission as well as of commission. Albert Barnes but uttered what the common sense of every man at all observant of the actual state of the case will receive as truth, when he declared that “There is no power out of the church that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it.”

Robert P. Jones, 168 years later:

The heartbreaking truth is that, without white evangelicals, the primary issue that has rent the soul of America since our beginnings — the struggle for racial equality and justice — would suddenly become much more manageable.


• The “Space Force” has announced that they want to be called “Guardians.” What and whom they guard and from what and from whom they guard it they haven’t said. But, OK, “Guardians” it is. At least the Marvel-comic connotations of that are less sinister than those of the agency’s runner-up choice, which was apparently “Sentinels.”

Here was the announcement from the Space Force which, as I noted on Twitter, looks like a flier for a Vacation Bible School theme from the SBC a year or two after the original Star Wars came out:

I admire the ambition implied here with the image of the entire Milky Way galaxy (they’re really leaning into that Marvel comic reference). But that’s a bit presumptuous given that Zefram Cochrane won’t even be born for another 20 years, and until we get faster-than-light travel, it’s not really credible to claim that our local Guardians’ jurisdiction extends more than, say, 240,000 miles or so.

I’m not sure if “Heritage. Mission. Culture” is intended to serve as the new agency’s motto or if that’s just a madlib series of nouns photoshopped in to replace the lead actors’ names on this movie poster template. I really hope it’s not meant as a motto because it doesn’t make much sense and, to the extent that it does, it’s awful.

“Heritage” is a weirdly backward-looking word to find in materials meant to tout the future of the “Space Age.” Plus it’s just a creepy, creepy word — one that connotes a mixture of The Wicker Man and the Klan. It’s almost impossible to use the word “heritage” without sounding like George Wallace and/or a village elder in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” Place that word alongside “mission” and “culture” and it all just sounds like some creepy backwoods cult’s rite of initiation. Like, your car breaks down and you trudge for miles trying to get back to town when, finally, you see a light up ahead, only later realizing it’s from a bonfire encircled by men in robes chanting, “Heritage. Mission. Culture. Heritage …

I don’t know who came up with this stuff, but these are not the people I want representing the rest of us at First Contact.

• I am not Catholic, but I grew up among lots of Catholic friends and neighbors in what became the Diocese of Metuchen. My high school was about 10 minutes from the cathedral, which I passed on my way to Eddie’s house. That cathedral was where the first presiding bishop of the diocese, Theodore McCarrick, preached and preyed all through my teenage years in Central Jersey. As far as I recall, McCarrick never showed up for any of the handful of Catholic weddings and funerals I attended back then in Dunellen and Piscataway and Plainfield.

I now live outside of Philadelphia with a wife and two daughters who were all baptized Catholic. Apart from weddings and funerals, we’ve only attended two Catholic services. One of those was the girls’ confirmation, held at St. Elizabeth and presided over by Msgr. William Lynn. The second was a Christmas midnight Mass at St. Joe’s in Downingtown, celebrated by Fr. Joseph McLoone.

So. Small sample size, but that’s my sample.

• An apparent/alleged Chinese spy named Christine Fang came to the United States in 2011 as a student lived here for four years before drawing close scrutiny from U.S. intelligence agencies and returning to China. During that time she sought to befriend numerous American politicians, including California Rep. Eric Swalwell and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. And she may have really really befriended a couple of midwestern mayors (if you know what I mean, nudge nudge, wink wink).

Anyway, since Swalwell is a Democrat and a Trump critic, this story was Big News on Trump-y media, where days of hinting and hoping there was some huge scandal lurking within left them disappointed. Sort of. I mean, after spending a few days headlining “Wouldn’t it be something if this Democrat had been compromised by this Chinese spy?” only to find out he probably wasn’t, they’ve moved on. But for the next forever they’ll wink and sneer whenever Swalwell’s name comes up as though their darkest hopes and speculations had been confirmed. Sleazy, but that’s how they roll.

Christine Fang is also known as Fang Fang — a name she shares with the poet and novelist whose “Wuhan Diaries” provided the world with a glimpse of life under lockdown early in the pandemic. And Fang Fang is also the name of a pretty good Philly band. Here’s one of my favorites from that Fang Fang, a short song taken mostly from 1 Corinthians 1, the same passage that supplies the title of this post.



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