Now I lay me down to sleep

Now I lay me down to sleep November 21, 2021

• This Religion News Service op-ed headline — “Hate crimes are growing. Faith communities are uniquely positioned to combat them” — reminds me of the following, from Frederick Douglass’ “What, to the Slave, Is the Fourth of July?“:

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.”

Let the religious press, the pulpit, the Sunday school, the conference meeting, the great ecclesiastical, missionary, Bible and tract associations of the land array their immense powers against slavery and slave-holding; and the whole system of crime and blood would be scattered to the winds; and that they do not do this involves them in the most awful responsibility of which the mind can conceive.

Dahlia Lithwick on Texas’ “Maternity Ranches.” Lithwick focuses mainly on the problems inherent in benevolent paternalism. I’m less optimistic, because I think benevolent paternalism is always — at best — an unsustainable, transitional phase. Eventually one will have to choose between the two — between benevolence and paternalism. And then the other one will have to go.

So let’s call these “maternity ranches” what they destined to prove to be: Magdalen Ranches.

• “Self-Identified Scotsmen vs. True Scotsmen.”

The namesake joke for the so-called “True Scotsman” fallacy isn’t funny because the opinionated old Scot is being fallacious or illogical. He’s not making a logical appeal to purity or attempting victory by definition. He just hates the idea of putting sugar on porridge, finding it so self-evidently intolerable that he is genuinely confused that a descriptively accurate statement about the world does not correspond to his normative statement about how he thinks the world ought to be. His angry bewilderment supplies the joke’s punchline, but it is also why the joke is on him.

So, yes, the perpetual refining of religious surveys to redefine and re-redefine “true believers” as a category distinct from illegitimate nominal believers is shot through with sketchy power games attempting to gerrymander definitions of “true belief” that preserve TPTB. But it’s also rife with the angry confusion of old farts who just cannot fathom why anyone, anywhere wouldn’t want to eat their porridge in exactly the way they think is proper and best.

So part of our response to any form of this aggrieved attempt to delegitimize by definition needs to be to say, “Relax, old timer. Nobody is going to make you put sugar on your porridge.”

Until the old man is reassured of that, he’ll never calm down enough to be able to hear the next bit, which involves reminding him that his happiness does not depend on his getting to dictate how everyone else chooses to eat their porridge.

I wrote about my own family’s history last week. Here’s historian William Horne taking a much deeper dive into his own family’s past: “White Americans Fail to Address Their Family Histories.” Horne’s great-great-grandfather really had some racket going.

My lens for reading such family histories is Matthew 23:29-35. Here that is again:

Woe to you, pastors and theologians, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your churches and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth.

• Here’s another song for the anti-“woke” crowd. I’d say this would make a good anthem for the likes of Denny Burk and Owen Strachan, but their vibe is a lot more “Mr. Sandman” than “Enter Sandman.” Metallica is backed up here by the San Francisco Symphony, who seem to be having a blast (don’t miss the way the strings match up with the feedback toward the end):


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