To face unafraid the plans that we made

To face unafraid the plans that we made February 9, 2021

• This is a wild story from Religion News Service: “Baylor and Southwestern Baptist regain control of Texas foundation after failed ‘coup.’

The mix of white-collar crime, arrogance, and brazen-but-incompetent corruption is truly Trumpian. The fact that it all centers around disgraced sex-abuse-apologist Paige Patterson and his “conservative resurgence” in the Southern Baptist Convention just makes it all the more twisted. Bob Smietana does a fine job of untwisting the many threads of this tale, which is so sordid that the good side includes Southwestern Baptist Seminary and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Some day, perhaps, when they’re members of the same prison Bible study, Paxton and Patterson will find a way to look back on all of this and laugh.

• Seeing products like this on the shelf is always a little bit strange:

I don’t just mean the annoying use of competing superlatives, forcing you to read the fine print to figure out whether the maximum is really the maximum or if the ultra is actually the ultra.* What’s weird is the idea that you’d want something less than the strongest one. I’ve seen this with pain relievers, itch relievers, even Immodium. Who goes to the store for itch cream thinking, “I need some itch relief, but only a little bit”? Or “I just wanna lessen this diarrhea, not get rid of it completely“?

I’m sure there can be good reasons for this — not just marketing reasons, but medical reasons such as minimizing side effects. But it’s still strange to think that if you’ve reached the point where you’ve had to clench-walk your way to the Bad Day aisle in the pharmacy, you’d choose to settle for anything other than the strongest possible solution to your problem.**

I was going to try to work this into some kind of illustration about the absurdity and impotence of white evangelical efforts at “racial reconciliation,” because that’s another place where people are clearly choosing to prioritize minimizing side effects. And because its another situation in which people are seeking to treat symptoms on their own  in the cheapest way possible rather than consulting the experts who know how to cure the disease itself. But that analogy seems unfair to the poor souls stuck in the Bad Day aisle of the pharmacy because their insurance doesn’t cover the doctor’s visit they actually need.

• “The Trump Organization negotiated on behalf of then-president Donald Trump to make Parler his primary social network, but it had a condition: an ownership stake in return for joining, according to documents and four people familiar with the conversations. The deal was never finalized, but legal experts said the discussions alone, which occurred while Trump was still in office, raise legal concerns with regards to anti-bribery laws.”

I do not claim to be a legal expert, but my sense is also that soliciting a bribe might “raise legal concerns with regards to anti-bribery laws.”

Likewise, I do not claim to be a writing expert, but I have a sense that these convoluted stock phrases in journalism raise grammatical concerns with regards to clarity and accuracy. I appreciate that such lawyerly phrasing developed for good reasons. You don’t want to report anything you can’t directly confirm, both because that’s what journalism means and because you don’t want to be liable for libel.

But it would be nice if we could find less mind-numbing, reader-hostile ways of doing that.

• What’s with white evangelicals and shofars? Religion News Service’s Yonat Shimron (“How the shofar emerged as a weapon of spiritual warfare for some evangelicals“) and Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson (“Why pro-Trump evangelicals brought shofars to DC” and “Why Christians keep appropriating Jewish ritual symbols“) explore some of what’s going on there. But while those articles are thoughtful and fascinating, I think they all miss the main reason that white evangelicals in America have adopted/appropriated shofars in their religion: Supersessionism.

Which is to say Christian nationalism. These Christians love their idea of the shofar because in their mind Christian America is the New Israel, replacing it and claiming for itself (for America, or for white America) every promise or blessing or reference to Israel from anywhere in the Bible.

(Supersessionism isn’t specifically about America. It’s the Very Wrong idea that the [Gentile] church supersedes Israel as God’s chosen people. In theory and in the abstract, that doesn’t necessarily involve a Christian nationalism that conflates this church with America as God’s Chosen Nation, but in practice here in America it always does. In any case, Christians, step away from the shofars, please.)

• Local snowfall totals so far say we’ve had 8 inches here at the house and 15 inches at the Big Box just three miles away (where the snow-removal contractor hired to clear our parking lot was AWOL most of the week). The forecast says we’ve got more snow on the way and that none of this will be melting any time soon, so now seems like a good time to reinforce my commitment to playing snow and winter songs when it snows and not relegating them to “Christmas music” when they don’t have anything to do with Christmas.

Here’s a standard of that genre, recorded, of course, for a “Christmas album.” Back in 1988, the CCM label Sparrow Records did one of those year-end Christmas compilation records featuring its artists covering old Christmas standards. Steve Taylor took his budget and hired a mariachi band from the phone book. The result is kind of awesome:

* We sell a line of leaf-blowers at the Big Box that includes an “Ultra” and a “Super” model. The “Super” is more powerful than the “Ultra.”  This makes no sense linguistically, but it does make sense if you think about who would win in a fight: Superman or Ultra Man?

** I hope that none of you reading this are having the kind of Bad Day that sends one to the Bad Day aisle in the pharmacy. It’s good spiritual practice to visit that aisle occasionally while at the peak of one’s health. Survey all the products available there, appreciating all of the myriad painful and unpleasant symptoms they’re intended to address and be mindful of the gratitude you can have for not currently experiencing any of those yourself.

This can also be good spiritual practice for when you are having the kind of Bad Day that sends you there. Get what you need, but pause for a second to appreciate all of the other things there that you don’t need, and all of the people who do need them, and all that you might be able to do for them once you’re back to having a better day.


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