Canary in a Coalmine

Reading about the latest massive, horrific child sex abuse scandal involving the Catholic Church, I thought about Sinéad O’Connor, who was the canary in that coalmine, at least for people of a certain age. I wasn’t alone in thinking this:

He’s referring to O’Connor’s 1992 appearance on Saturday Night Live, when she adapted the lyrics of Bob Marley’s “War” to address child abuse and sang about the victory of good over evil. Then she ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II, said “Fight the real enemy!” and threw the shredded photo at the camera. From the Wikipedia account of the incident:

Saturday Night Live had no foreknowledge of O’Connor’s plan; during the dress rehearsal, she held up a photo of a refugee child. NBC Vice-President of Late Night Rick Ludwin recalled that when he saw O’Connor’s action, he “literally jumped out of [his] chair.” SNL writer Paula Pell recalled personnel in the control booth discussing the cameras cutting away from the singer. The audience was completely silent, with no booing or applause; executive producer Lorne Michaels recalled that “the air went out the studio”. Michaels ordered that the applause sign not be used.

A nationwide audience saw O’Connor’s live performance, which the New York Daily News’s cover called a “Holy Terror”. NBC received more than 500 calls on Sunday and 400 more on Monday, with all but seven criticising O’Connor; the network received 4,400 calls in total. Contrary to rumour, NBC was not fined by the Federal Communications Commission for O’Connor’s act; the FCC has no regulatory power over such behaviour. NBC did not edit the performance out of the West coast tape-delayed broadcast that night, but reruns of the episode use footage from the dress rehearsal.

As part of SNL’s apology to the audience, during his opening monologue the following week, host Joe Pesci held up the photo, explaining that he had taped it back together—to huge applause. Pesci also said that if it had been his show, “I would have gave her such a smack.”

Go get your shine box, Joe.

When she was a child, O’Connor’s dysfunctional parents fobbed her off on a church-run workhouse for delinquent girls, where she was further abused and exploited. But it wasn’t all bad — a nun there gave O’Connor her first guitar.

Nearly two decades after the pope photo incident, O’Connor appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show in 2010 to talk about the child sex abuse scandal that was roiling the church in North America at the time:

She praised the U.S. media for digging into the church scandals on this continent. She also wrote an op-ed for The Post that year. An excerpt:

Almost 18 years ago, I tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on an episode of “Saturday Night Live.” Many people did not understand the protest… I knew my action would cause trouble, but I wanted to force a conversation where there was a need for one; that is part of being an artist. All I regretted was that people assumed I didn’t believe in God. That’s not the case at all. I’m Catholic by birth and culture and would be the first at the church door if the Vatican offered sincere reconciliation.

In the Maddow interview, O’Connor’s faith that the American media would finally cause the Vatican to be held to account is almost heartbreaking. I’m not even sure which sex scandal occasioned her visit. There have been so many.

Charlie Pierce published a good piece about this today, calling it make or break time for Pope Francis. But Pope Francis allowed Cardinal Law, the notorious overseer of the pedophile protection racket in Boston who sought sanctuary in the Vatican, to live out his final days in splendor at, as Pierce puts it, “the Basilica of Our Lady of the Clean Getaway in Rome.”

The current Pope didn’t take Law in. But he let him stay. That’s a betrayal of faithful Catholics like O’Connor, people the church left haunted and broken, many of whom didn’t survive the abuse. And this afternoon, the Vatican released a mealy-mouthed statement that basically boils down to: “Sad! But before our time.” Translation: They aren’t going to do jackshit.

I have never been a member of the Catholic Church. But my husband’s family are. I found them refreshingly sane on religious matters, compared to the evangelical zealots I grew up among in rural Florida.

I remember the first time I saw a portrait of Pope Francis at a church (wedding, funeral, some occasion like that, or I wouldn’t have been there). Such a pleasant surprise after looking at Ratzinger’s dour, beady-eyed visage.

But maybe O’Connor was right all those years ago. Maybe they all must go and “return the church to the people who believe in God.”








#QAnon and ‘the Church of Trump’: A Grifter Runs Through It

“Pushing the theory on to bigger platforms proved to be the key to Qanon’s spread — and the originators’ financial gain”:

In November 2017, a small-time YouTube video creator and two moderators of the 4chan website, one of the most extreme message boards on the internet, banded together and plucked out of obscurity an anonymous and cryptic post from the many conspiracy theories that populated the website’s message board.

Over the next several months, they would create videos, a Reddit community, a business and an entire mythology based off the 4chan posts of “Q,” the pseudonym of a person claiming to be a high-ranking military officer. The theory they espoused would become Qanon, and it would eventually make its way from those message boards to national media stories and the rallies of President Donald Trump.

Now, the people behind that effort are at the center of a fractious debate among conspiracy enthusiasts, some of whom believe the three people who first popularized the Qanon theory are promoting it in order to make a living. Others suggest that these original followers actually wrote Q’s mysterious posts.

While the identity of the original author or authors behind “Q” is still unknown, the history of the conspiracy theory’s spread is well-documented — through YouTube videos, social media posts, Reddit archives, and public records reviewed by NBC News.

NBC News has found that the theory can be traced back to three people who sparked some of the first conversation about Qanon and, in doing so, attracted followers who they then asked to help fund Qanon “research.”…

The hell of it is… #QAnon’s true believers probably wouldn’t find its grift-based foundation disqualifying. Believers are notorious for being able to hand-wave away much worse behavior, and it’s been argued that the hardcore Deplorables of Trump’s base are already using his rallies as a substitute for the communal bonding they can’t find in more ‘mainstream’ churches. Alex Wagner, in the Atlantic:

Last spring, my colleague Peter Beinart looked at the increasing secularization of American society and how it had contributed to the rise of political tribalism:

As Americans have left organized religion, they haven’t stopped viewing politics as a struggle between “us” and “them.” Many have come to define us and them in even more primal and irreconcilable ways.

Non-college-educated whites are the Trump base, now set adrift:

Establishing causation is difficult, but we know that culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful.

You could draw a straight line from a disenfranchised, pessimistic, resentful audience to Trump’s brand of fear-driven, divisive politics, but this would leave out an equally important part of the Trump phenomenon, and something critical to its success: the elation. Go to a Trump rally, speak to Trump supporters, and the devotion is nearly evangelical…

Durkheim’s theory—that a gathering of the tribe can create a certain energy that renders particular people or objects sacred—goes a long way toward explaining Trump’s infallibility among his supporters. But it also brings to the fore something that Trump critics have missed so far when focusing on his (not insignificant) negatives: Trumpism, like many forms of non-secular worship, makes its believers feel good

Organized worship, cultish or not, has been a method of social bonding for as long as humans have come together in groups. And for as far back as we have records, there’s been satires about the failings of the local clerical class — satires that in no way measure the actual religious belief of the worshippers laughing at them. If the Proud Deplorables are really treating Trump as the figurehead of their communal worship, then the self-interested profit-seeking of #QAnon’s “experts” are not necessarily going to wean them off the conspiracy fantasy, any more than the steady parade of Evangelical preachers exposed as grifting frauds / sexual abusers has weaned their base away.



Repub Evangelical Venality Open Thread: Sermons on Sunday, Bribes on Monday…

With a lineup of prayer meetings, humanitarian forums and religious panels, the National Prayer Breakfast has long brought together people from all over the world for an agenda built around the teachings of Jesus.

But there on the guest list in recent years was Maria Butina, looking to meet high-level American officials and advance the interests of the Russian state, and Yulia Tymoshenko, a Ukranian opposition leader, seeking a few minutes with President Trump to burnish her credentials as a presidential prospect back home.

Their presence at the breakfast illuminates the way the annual event has become an international influence-peddling bazaar, where foreign dignitaries, religious leaders, diplomats and lobbyists jockey for access to the highest reaches of American power…

Lobbyists say the event has become even more of a coveted invitation in the Trump era, as foreign politicians scrambled to forge connections with a president who swept into office with few ties to the international community or Washington’s hierarchy of established foreign access brokers.

With its relative lack of diplomatic protocols and press coverage, the prayer breakfast setting is ideal for foreign figures who might not otherwise be able to easily get face time with top American officials, because of unsavory reputations or a lack of an official government perch, according to lobbyists who help arrange such trips. They also contend that it is easier to secure visas when the breakfast is listed as a destination.

At last year’s breakfast, Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, posted a photo on Instagram of himself seated next to Andrei Makarov, a member of the Russian Parliament who had pushed for tax breaks for Russians who faced sanctions. A spokesperson for Mr. Grassley said that the senator poses for many photos with people he meets at a range of events…

[Is it *my* fault there so many grifters, crooks & criminals hanging around the GOP?, asks Chuck.]

The congressional co-chairmen of the 2019 National Prayer Breakfast, Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, and Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, praised the gathering as one of the most important annual events in Washington.

“It is unfortunate that some have attended the Breakfast in the past for the wrong reasons,” they said in a statement to The Times. “Nevertheless, we’re as committed as ever to ensuring that the 2019 National Prayer Breakfast is a success and follows the tradition of being nonpartisan and unifying.”…

Yes, there are Democrats involved with The Fellowship as well, more shame to them — although it can be argued there’s a considerable distinction between Yulia Tymoshenko and Mariia Butina. We really do need to pull back the tax exemptions for “non-profit” quasi-religious groups like this, and I say this as a person of faith.



Late Night Eyes-Cast-Up-to-Heaven Open Thread: Who Among Us?…

… hasn’t publicly speculated about dating their teenage daughter?

For all their valiant attempts to “normalize” his behavior and that of his most racist supporters, Donald Trump remains an enormously unpopular and polarizing figure. So the NYTimes roots around in the Christianist swamps for a new and hopefully more convincing argument from this dude at the ecumenical, conservative and, in some views, neoconservative religious journal” First Things

People I knew from college or had met in New York expressed distaste for Mr. Trump’s behavior. If they were religiously conservative, they stressed his infidelity while also objecting to his insults of women. If they were liberal, they objected to his treatment of women and viewed his infidelity as a sign that his religious supporters were hypocrites. Not a single peer of mine in New York — no matter how conservative or religious — publicly supported Mr. Trump.

In contrast, almost all of the people I know in my hometown in Nebraska proudly supported him. They glossed over his infidelities and stressed that he seemed to be a good father. They were impressed by his “respectful” sons and admired the success of his daughters.

In their book “Red Families v. Blue Families,” Naomi Cahn and June Carbone popularized the idea of “blue” and “red” family models. Blue families prize equality and companionship between spouses while putting a low value on childbearing. Red families tend to be inegalitarian or complementarian, viewing the man as the primary breadwinner and the mother as the primary caregiver. Early marriage and multiple children are typical.

Red families tend toward conservatism, and blue tend toward progressivism, but the models share an upper-class stress on respectability and a strong taboo against out-of-wedlock birth.

A third model can be found among working-class whites, blacks and Hispanics — let’s call it purple. In these families, bonds between mothers and children are prized above those between couples. Unstable relationships are the norm, and fathers quickly end up out of the picture…
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Friday Morning Open Thread: Eid Mubarak!

(Hand to Murphy the Trickster God, this is the first result that came up when I typed Eid al-Fitr 2018 into Google!)

Eid al-Fitr is an important Islamic holiday that involves many Muslims waking up early and praying either at an outdoor prayer ground or a mosque. Many Muslims dress in their finest clothes and adorn their homes with lights and other decorations. Old wrongs are forgiven and money is given to the poor. Special foods are prepared and friends or relatives are invited to share the feast. Gifts and greeting cards are exchanged and children receive presents. Eid al-Fitr is a joyous occasion but its underlying purpose is to praise God and give thanks to him, according to Islamic belief…

Eid al-Fitr is also known as the Feast of Fast-Breaking or the Lesser Feast. It marks the end of Ramadan and the start of a feast that lasts up to three days in some countries, such as Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. It is one of Islam’s two major festivals, with Eid al-Adha being the other major festival. Eid al-Fitr celebrates the end of the fasting that occurs during Ramadan.

Speaking of the Beautiful Game, per Google, today’s World Cup matches are Egypt v Uruguay at 8am EDT, Morocco v Iran at 11am, and Portugal v Spain at 2pm. I’m gonna trust Alain (or Dave?) to put up the relevant Open Threads…
***********

But seriously:



America is Not a Theocracy and Attorney General Sessions and The White House Press Secretary Don’t Know Anything About the Bible

As BettyC mentioned earlier, both Attorney General Sessions and Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, decided to take their religion out and wave it around in everyone’s faces today. This was done to justify the change in policy that the President, via Attorney General Sessions, made in 2017 that children will be separated from their parents if they either present themselves for asylum or enter the US without documentation. The White House Press Secretary defaulted to the more generic argument that throughout the Bible it is asserted that laws should be followed.  The Attorney General decided to (mis)apply Romans 13 to justify the unjustifiable.

Pat Robertson’s pet Trump spirituality translator for evangelical Christians, David Brody, was dispatched to provide support.

Given that Jeff Sessions is a small minded, racist, bigoted, homophobic, xenophobic, unreconstructed Confederate, and anyone who is trying t0 profit off of conning evangelical Christians into believing that the President is both a man of devout faith and a tool of the Lord, probably isn’t much better, it should be no surprise that they went with the favorite biblical exhortation of those who were pro-slavery prior to the Civil War.

Fortunately the Bible provides believers with very, very specific instructions about how to treat strangers.

Mentioned no fewer than 36 times throughout Scripture, the Torah’s exhortations on the treatment of the stranger often appear with a companion explanation: Heed the stranger’s treatment because “you know the feelings of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).

And the over thirty-six commandments (yep, there are more than 10…) about how to treat strangers bears directly on the immigration debates in the US in 2018. Especially for those like the Attorney General, David Brody, and the White House Press Secretary who cite scripture to cover their wickedness. (emphasis mine below)

In his just published book, Justice for All: How the Jewish Bible Revolutionized Ethics, biblical scholar Jeremiah Unterman writes that “…it is startling that the legal portions of the Torah contain more than fifty references to the resident stranger….”

Unterman examines the multitude of general admonitions not to harm the stranger, along with the positive exhortations to provide the stranger with basic food and clothing, with prompt payment of wages, and with legal justice. He points out that quite a few of these verses about the treatment of the stranger are juxtaposed with statements about God. The Torah understands the care of the stranger as imitatio dei, the imitation of God through the observance of the commandments. Unterman sees this as part of the ethical revolution of the Bible and notes that “nowhere in the ancient world is such a divine concern for the alien evinced.” He concludes with a most timely reminder that these laws should serve “to eliminate any shred of xenophobia.”

A striking phrase courses through the laws of the stranger that provides another powerful motivation for fulfilling these commandments ⏤ that appeals to believers and unbelievers alike:

“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”(Ex.22:20).

“You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the soul of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex.23:9).

“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Lev.19:34).

“You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut.10:19)

“You shall not hate an Egyptian, for you were stranger in his land” (Deut.23:8).

“Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment” (Deut. 24:22)

So what does this all really mean. What exactly is a stranger? There are two types and they’re both protected by over fifty biblical commandments (emphasis mine below):

Ancient Israel was acquainted with two classes of strangers, resident aliens and foreigners who considered their sojourn in the land more or less temporary. The latter were referred to as zarim (זָרִים) or nokhrim (נָכְרִים), terms generally applied to anyone outside the circle the writer had in view (e.g., Ex. 21:8; 29:33). They retained their ties to their original home and sought to maintain their former political or social status. On occasion they came as invaders (II Sam. 22:45–46; Obad. 11). More often they entered the land in the pursuit of trade and other commercial ventures. The usual laws were not applicable to them, and they were protected by folk traditions concerning the proper treatment of strangers (cf. Job 31:32) and by special conventions resulting from contractual arrangements between the Israelites and their neighbors (cf. I Kings 20:34). In the legislation of Deuteronomy, an Israelite may charge a foreigner usury though he may not do so to a fellow Israelite (Deut. 23:21), and the septennial remission of debts does not apply to the debts of foreigners (Deut. 15:3). On the other hand, barred from the cult (Ex. 12:43), the foreigner was also not bound by the ritual laws, and it was permissible to sell him animals that had died a natural death (Deut. 14:21). The fact that Deuteronomy includes a special prohibition against foreigners’ ascending the throne (Deut. 17:15) and that Solomon specifically requested that God listen to their prayers (I Kings 8:41) may indicate the important position some foreigners occupied during the age of the monarchy.

In contrast with the foreigner, the ger (גֵּר), the resident alien, lived more or less permanently in his adopted community. Like the Arabic jār, he was “the protected stranger,” who was totally dependent on his patrons for his well-being. As W.R. Smith noted, his status was an extension of that of the guest, whose person was inviolable, though he could not enjoy all the privileges of the native. He, in turn, was expected to be loyal to his protectors (Gen. 21:23) and to be bound by their laws (Num. 15:15–16).

Since all of the landed property belonged to Israelites (cf. Lev. 25:23–24), the gerim were largely day laborers and artisans (Deut. 24: 14–15; cf. 29:10). Both the Book of the Covenant which classed them among those who were dependent (Ex. 23:12) and the Decaloguewhich referred to them as “your stranger” (gerkha; Ex. 20:10; cf. Deut. 5:14) attest their inferior position in Israelite society. While a few acquired wealth (cf. Lev. 25:47), most of them were poor and were treated as the impoverished natives. Thus, they were permitted to share in the fallen fruit in the vineyard (Lev. 19:10), the edges of the field, and the gleanings of the harvest (Lev. 23:22; see also Poor, Provisions *for). Like the other poor folk they were also granted a share in the tithe of the third year (Deut. 14:29) and the produce of the Sabbatical Year (Lev. 25:6).

Since the foreigners’ defenselessness made them vulnerable, the Israelites were frequently reminded of God’s special concern for the weak (Ex. 22:21–22; cf. Deut. 10:17–19) and were enjoined not to molest them (Ex. 22:20; cf. Jer. 7:6). They were not to be abused (Deut. 24:14) and were to receive equal treatment before the law (Deut. 1:16; cf. 24:17; 27:19). In case of accidental homicide, the cities of refuge were open to them as well (Num. 35:15), for there was to be “one standard for stranger and citizen alike” (Lev. 24:22). Moreover, the Israelites were enjoined to be especially solicitous of the welfare of the ger and to befriend him as one of their own, since they could recall the sufferings of their own people in the land of Egypt (Lev. 19:34; cf. Deut. 10:19).

It is a sad statement on the character of the Attorney General, David Brody, and the White House Press Secretary that the Bronze Age, tribal religion that forms the foundation for their own spiritual belief were far more evolved and far more humane than these three degenerate examples of the American conservative movement, conservative Christianity, and the Republican Party in 2018.

Stay angry!

Open thread!



Late Night Hypocrites Open Thread: It’s Not Lying If You Really (Pretend to) Believe It!

Speaking of National Prayer Day…


Hypocrite-in-Chief stands forth for his guy:


 
And, of course, this is just fine with the Media Village Idiots…


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