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Apocalypse Now, Part 3--"Tell Me Something . . . What Do You Know About Wakanda?"

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"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."--Barack Obama.
"I'll tell you what's at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."--Lyndon Johnson.
1. It seems pretty clear to me now that the beginning of the political apocalypse in the United States can be dated to November 4, 2008, in Chicago's Grant Park.  On that night, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States.  It may seem idiotic to have to say, but that evening is significant because Obama was the first non-white person to be elected President, and more specifically the first black person of African …

Apocalypse Now, Part 2--A General Theory of the End Times

Growing up in the 90s in the South, the idea of the End Times was sort of in the wind, primarily in the evangelical world and the infamous Left Behind books, which then leaked into the rest of the culture.  That vision of the End Times is nonsensical and idiotic, and in fact actively pernicious in many ways (one of which I went into at some length here).  But I didn’t really have any other framework to talk about or think about apocalypticism, and so I had to park it in the netherrealm of “Christian doctrines we pretend aren’t there.”  Because the New Testament is almost entirely apocalyptic in tone and emphasis—it’s not just the Book of Revelation—so by excluding apocalypticism you are excluding much of the Biblical witness.

If you have been reading this site for any length of time, you know I am a fan of the work of Rene Girard.  There are many reasons why this is, but one of the main reasons is that provides a different way of talking about concepts in the Christian faith that I fo…

Apocalypse Now, Part 1--The Shit Sandwich that is Coming

Charlie has hit every major military target in Vietnam, and hit 'em hard. In Saigon, the United States Embassy has been overrun by suicide squads. Khe Sahn is standing by to be overrun. We also have reports that a division of N.V.A. has occupied all of the city of Hue south of the Perfume River. In strategic terms, Charlie's cut the country in half... the civilian press are about to wet their pants and we've heard even Cronkite's going to say the war is now unwinnable. In other words, it's a huge shit sandwich, and we're all gonna have to take a bite.  --Lt. Lockhart, Full Metal Jacket (1987).

Everything is going to shit.  In your heart, you know I'm right.

For my American readers, we are collectively living in Year 2 of the slow-motion car crash that is the Trump regime.  And, as I sit here on New Year's Eve, every indicator suggests that we are about to enter into some sort of new, more baroque version in Year 3, as the Mueller investigation closes in…

The Prosperity Gospel For Rich People

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I mentioned in a previous post about the increasingly obvious generational divide in the Episcopal Church, which was on display at General Convention.  I can't really speak to the attitudes coming from the Baby Boomer crew toward the younger generations, but the critique coming from the younger folks toward their elders can be boiled down to "your theology/theological praxis is bad."  For the younger folks of a more conservative bent with regard to the fundamentals of the faith (as distinguished from the sex/gender issues that are almost inevitably the fault lines in Roman Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism), this is usually expressed as the criticism that the Baby Boomers have watered down or sold out core Christian doctrines and distinctives.  But even among the younger folks who have a more progressive theological orientation you can find frustration with the Baby Boomers, leading me to believe that "they don't take the Creeds seriously enough" is…

The Impasse

But the Church’s theological factions are sufficiently far apart that each would rather do nothing than let the other side lead reform — because the liberals think the conservatives want an inquisition, the conservatives think the liberals want Episcopalianism, and there is some truth in both caricatures.

--Ross Douthat, "Sheep Without Shepherds," November 17, 2018.

We are coming to the end, I think, of things to say about the sex abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church that are not restatements of previous ideas.  But, to go out, I'd like to unpack this is a very smart and insightful observation by Ross Douthat.

Let's take the second part first.  On Twitter, Francis biographer Austen Ivereigh expressed confusion as what Douthat meant by "Episcopalianism" in the above quote.  Maybe things are different in the UK, but I don't think Douthat was being obtuse at all.  "Episcopalianism," in the US Catholic context, is simply a push by folks to be…

This Is Why You Always Listen to Samuel

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots…

We'll Take What You Can Carry, and We'll Leave the Rest

This Saturday, our priory of the Community of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer had our first monthly day of reflection.  There are five of us here in Columbus, at least for now--we have a half-dozen or so folks who are interested.  In any event, we met for about four hours, mostly just talking about what is going on in our individual and collective lives, as well as a book we are reading together.  In many ways, it was like chapter meetings that have been going on in monasteries and other religious communities for 1600 years.  But, there is was at least one way in which it was different from those chapter meetings.  Among the five of us, only one--me--is a straight man.

In the last 36 hours, I have been trying to put together what I think the significance of this fact is, because I think it is significant, at least on some modest scale.  While we were meeting, we learned that one of the oldest horrors that have stalked Christian and Christian-influenced societies, anti-Jewish pogroms, had…