Something like a pipe bomb ready to blow

Something like a pipe bomb ready to blow January 16, 2024

Johannes Kelpius was the leader of a pietist doomsday cult whose mixture of astrology, alchemy, and Bible study convinced them the End Times were set to begin in 1694.

Kelpius may have been wrong about the End of the World, but he got one thing right: He realized that an idiosyncratic, apocalyptic, biblicist doomsday cult like his belonged in America. So as the End of the World began, Kelpius and his followers set sail for the New World:

They sailed up the Schuylkill River on St. John’s Eve at the summer solstice on June 22, 1694. They took this landing date as another auspicious sign and climbed the promontory – the site of the current Philadelphia Museum of Art – to light bonfires and perform rites and rituals to expel evil spirits and demons.

So even more than 300 years ago, tourists arriving in Philly couldn’t resist running up the Art Museum steps.

• News item: “Wheaton College restricts employees’ ability to state preferred pronouns.”

Here’s the new policy for anybody on the payroll at Wheaton: “The College does not permit the statement of preferred personal pronouns by employees when conducting College business, when on a platform where they are publicly identified as College employees, and/or when using the College brand in print or digital media, except when employees are required to submit such pronouns when registering for a conference or for membership in a professional organization.”

The thing about bowing down and sucking up to the kinds of right-wing donors that have Wheaton on a leash is that these right wing donors are not very bright.

For a sense of how very, very not very bright this new policy is, let’s just read some names from Wheaton’s alphabetical listing of faculty: Andy, Jamie, Brit, Jerry, Aubrey, Ki, Chris, Danny, Kim, Dana, Alex …

Fox-addled donors and administrators are caught up in a right-wing-media-induced moral panic over “pronouns.” So now, if you work for Wheaton, you’re not allowed to use pronouns to give anybody a hint of your gender even if your name is Leslie. Instead you have to say something like “As in Nielsen, not Van Houten” or “As in Uggams, not Newbigin.”

Then again, that might still get you in trouble at Wheaton once those right-wing donors find out you’ve been reading Leslie Newbigin. (“Decolonizing” missionary work? Rejecting a Constantinian return to Christendom? Sean Hannity warned those donors about people who talk like that.)

• How do you get people to read a somewhat arcane exploration of rituals in early Christianity that includes a prolonged discussion of Cyril’s Mystagogical Catecheses?

You title the post: “Naked Baptism In The Early Church.”

(Note: This wasn’t just because the white robe-over-bathing suit ensemble I wore at my 20th-century baptism hadn’t been invented yet. It was a theological statement.)

• “Jason Isbell is Keeping His Night Job.” Kaleb Horton interviews the singer/songwriter about the terrifying, exhilarating experience of acting in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. And about what it’s like to “say things people aren’t used to hearing in this accent.”

You should read the whole thing, but if you don’t wanna do that, at least just skim down to the hilarious story about working on a scene with Leonardo DiCaprio and how he realized “this is why one of us has an Oscar, and one of us is me.”

That link is a good excuse to include one of my favorite Isbell songs here, the lyrics of which supplied the title to this post:


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