menu

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock news

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock news October 19, 2021

Kudos to Sister Maxine and Pastor Billy Joe of the Full Gospel Church of Jesus Christ in Smilax, Kentucky.

And also to NPR’s Sarah Varney for a report that doesn’t sink into either Cletus Safari condescension or Axios/Politico-style irrelevance.

• Since 2009, the Green family has spent a formidable chunk of their billions collecting ancient artifacts, papyrus fragments, and cuneiform for display in their extravagant Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. Many years and many millions of dollars later, all they have to show for that is “a single cuneiform inscription, 15 papyrus fragments … and about 10 other ancient bits and bobs.”

The rest of their collection — once consisting of more than 16,900 antiquities — has since either been repatriated as illegally acquired black-market property or else exposed as a forgery. That’s all from Erin L. Thompson’s piece for Slate, “That Robby Hobby: The Museum of the Bible wants you to believe it’s the victim of swindlers. It’s not.

The Greens might as well have tried building their collection by purchasing all their artifacts from Jimmy Bats.

• Atlas Obscura uses the Sotheby’s auction of his unique collection as an excuse to share some delightful stories about the late great Ricky Jay.

You and I will never have the pleasure of witnessing Jay perform Mallini’s ice block trick in person, but feel free to invest some time watching videos of him on YouTube. He really was magical.

• I’ve read this sentence several times, first with puzzlement, then with a kind of weird delight: “What was desired to be leveraged for the advancement of the Gospel by those who called me here, I will not jeopardize any longer because of serving in this role.”

That opaque pile of words is from Ronnie Floyd’s resignation letter announcing his departure from the Southern Baptist Executive Committee he has led for the past two years. A man paid to be a professional communicator wrote that. Is this what his sermons sound like?

Figured out how to salvage that sentence, though. Just replace that first comma with a question mark: “What was desired to be leveraged for the advancement of the Gospel by those who called me here?”

• Speaking of self-aggrandizing word-salads and sanctimoniously indignant defenses of power that deny accountability for abuse, how about that Carl Trueman article?

The pseudo-intellectual “anti-elite” white evangelical elites are sounding more and more like end-stage “edgelord” comics whose stand-up routines no longer include jokes or punchlines, just long, unfunny rants about how they don’t care about what’s funny, only about the pleasure of punching down, and how if you can’t handle that, snowflake, then it’s your problem.

• Even if you have no interest at all in the Washington State football program, you’ll want to read this from David Roth:

There is a reflexive media fetish for binaries, which has unhelpfully created the idea that there are two viable sides to the question “is it good to take collective and individual action against a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans?” And rightwing media, which has been desperate to create the appearance of massive martyrdom campaigns against mandates in the absence of any such thing, is forever looking for victims of this purported overreach so that they might be instrumentalized as part of their ongoing campaign of base-infuriation. That this is never anything but cynical—the dissidents these efforts spin up are always one-and-done players in the Fox News Cinematic Universe; the (vaccinated) politicians and demagogues propping and pumping up this sham resistance quite obviously value those refusing as nothing more than culture war cannon fodder and plainly regard them utterly disposable rubes—doesn’t make it much less believable to those inclined to believe it.

To see it for what it is would, for those enlisted in the movement, require that these people see themselves as not just something other than the heroic main characters of reality, but as part of a world in which other people live lives that are not just meaningful but real. The rest of this worldview simply would not and simply could not endure that; the cruelty and heedlessness upon which it is built could not survive that realization and still be justifiable. There’s just no giving it up.

• “A scuba diver has found a 900-year-old Crusader sword with a three-foot blade off the coast of Israel.” (via)

That reminds me of my college trip to the West Bank and Israel. Driving north from Jerusalem, we passed what seemed to us, as Americans, to be spectacular ancient ruins. Our tour guide, a local, was unimpressed: “That? It’s Crusader. It’s nothing.”

The Israeli Antiquities Authority now has the sword but that doesn’t make it an “antiquity.” In that part of the world, it scarcely even registers as old.

• I’d be fine if every statue of Thomas Jefferson were replaced with a statue of Thaddeus Stevens. Honor the founders of the country we live in, not just the founders whose mistakes they had to fix.

• I think I appreciate the gist of this call for a month-long national “media holiday,” but I can’t be sure of that because it never clearly explains what it means by “the media.”

I’m pretty sure that the writer wasn’t intending to call for a month’s sabbatical from daily devotions, lectionary readings, sermons, textbooks, classroom lectures, concerts, recorded music, live theater, NWS alerts, and books of all kinds. Those are all part of “the media,” but I suspect the writer thinks of those as the good kind of media, rather than the bad kind we all need to take a break from.

I suspect, though, that this isn’t just another “kids these days with their phones” rant. I suspect, rather, that this is the heartfelt plea of someone who wants to say, “Fox News and Facebook are killing our people,” but who perhaps realizes that naming those names specifically will get him in trouble with the very same people who desperately need to hear those specific names. That timidity, and the fuzzy lack of specificity it entails, is why none of these vague expressions of concern about “the media” will have the desired effect.


Browse Our Archives