People should have told you you were awesome

People should have told you you were awesome October 26, 2021

• Mike Stone, the right-wing Georgia pastor who narrowly lost the most recent election for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is suing Russell Moore, the former SBC spokesman Stone blames for his loss. It seems Trumpers gotta Trump, which means bonkers lawsuits refusing to accept losses in fair-and-square elections: “In highly unusual move, Georgia pastor who lost race for SBC presidency sues former SBC leader for defamation.”

Absolutely nothing Russell Moore said or did about him makes Mike Stone look anywhere near as horrible as the things he eagerly says about himself in and with this lawsuit:

He seeks $750,000 in damages, some of which would be to recoup the honorariums Stone will not receive by speaking in other churches since he is not SBC president and has been cast in a negative light by Moore’s actions, the suit says. “Honorariums” are payments made to guest preachers and speakers when they appear at churches other than their own. These payments typically range from token amounts to hundreds of dollars per appearance.

In other words, Mike Stone has launched his campaign for next year’s SBC election by announcing to the entire denomination that he really, really wants to cash in, hoping to make three-quarters of a million dollars in speaking fees if he wins. And in the meantime, while Moore is no longer an SBC employee, the suit covers his actions when he was in office there, so the denomination is going to be spending thousands of offering dollars to defend him in court.

Granted, that defense shouldn’t be too expensive, since truth is an absolute defense against libel claims and Moore seems to have a very strong case that his criticisms of Stone were truthful. The main thing Stone’s lawsuit is likely to accomplish, then, is to ensure that those truthful criticisms are amplified and repeated publicly for months on end.

• I haven’t yet watched The Way Down, the HBO documentary series on the Tennessee mega-church and weight-loss scheme run by the late Gwen Shamblin. Before watching that, I first need to finish watching — and then recover from — LuLaRich, the Amazon documentary series on the cult-like multilevel marketing scheme LuLaRoe.

The former concerns a women-led anti-feminist long con shaped by a white Christian nationalist form of evangelical Protestantism. The latter concerns a women-led anti-feminist long con shaped by a white Christian nationalist form of Latter Day Saints belief.

I’d never heard of either of these before learning about the documentaries exploring them. That’s not because they were small or insignificant, but because their massive (and lucrative) popularity was stovepiped within a particular cultural demographic that I’m not a part of. But I’m getting the sense that there are many more such stories that could be told.

• “On-set deaths from prop guns are rare — but not unheard of.”

One of my semi-paid acting gigs was in a neo-noir play that included several gunshots. We had a union weapons master come in for a week of rehearsals to block those scenes and to deliver a stern lecture to the entire cast and crew about safety with our prop gun.

At the end of his lecture he asked if any of us “hated guns” and I was the first one to raise my hand. He gave me the key to the lockbox where the revolver with an obstructed barrel and the blanks were kept. I was the only one permitted to load the gun. I had to personally hand it to the actors using it immediately before they went onstage and had to take it back from them immediately after they exited, reloading it and double-checking that the blanks were blanks before locking it back in the box.

I loved everything about being in that play except for being in charge of that gun.

• “What would religious leaders do if aliens showed up?” Josh Wilbur asks at Slate. He means space aliens — intelligent extra-terrestrial visitors. And to their great credit, nearly all of the religious leaders he discusses this with give some variation of the same answer: We would try to treat these new neighbors the same way our faith teaches us to treat the neighbors we already have.

Wilbur also speculates about how some religious groups might not share this reaction: “Southern Baptists and other evangelicals believe that Christ is the only way to eternal salvation and that human beings maintain a special relationship with God; it’s easy to see how ETs might represent an unwelcome third party.”

Alas, Wilbur doesn’t actually interview any Southern Baptists or other white evangelicals to hear from them directly on this subject. I’d love to see a follow-up article that does that.

• Rebecca Jennings interviews John Darnielle about the unlikely viral explosion on TikTok of a 20-year-old Mountain Goats song: “What happens when your favorite thing goes viral?” The whole thing is strangely delightful, but let me highlight this bit of wisdom in particular:

There is a certain joy in sort of feeling like, well, the kids have got a thing going on that I’m not going to fully get. But I can just enjoy watching. I think people fear getting older and fear that they’ll feel left out, but there’s a kind of buoyancy in that left-out quality sometimes, if you ride it the right way.

Didn’t expect a discussion of a heart-rending divorce song to take a turn toward joy and buoyancy, but here we are. So instead of “No Children,” I took the title for this post from Darnielle’s “You Were Cool.”

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