Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Lone Star of Mind

I owe one of you a hat tip for this NYTimes article, “Beto O’Rourke May Benefit From an Unlikely Support Group: White Evangelical Women”:

In the Senate race, one of the most unexpectedly tight in the nation, any small shift among evangelical voters — long a stable base for Republicans — could be a significant loss for Mr. Cruz, who, like President Trump, has made white evangelicals the bulwark of his support.

To Democrats nationwide, who have largely written off white evangelical voters, it also sends a signal — not just for the midterms but also for the 2020 presidential campaign — that there are female, religious voters who are open to some of their party’s candidates.

The women, who are all in their 30s, described Mr. O’Rourke as providing a stark moral contrast to Mr. Trump, whose policies and behavior they see as fundamentally anti-Christian, especially separating immigrant children from their parents at the border, banning many Muslim refugees and disrespecting women.

“I care as much about babies at the border as I do about babies in the womb,” said Tess Clarke, one of Ms. Mooney’s friends, confessing that she was “mortified” at how she used to vote, because she had only considered abortion policy. “We’ve been asleep. Now, we’ve woke up.”

Ms. Clarke, who sells candles poured by refugee women in Dallas, began to weep as she recalled visiting a migrant woman detained and separated from her daughter at the border. When an older white evangelical man recently told her that she couldn’t be a Christian and vote for Mr. O’Rourke, Ms. Clarke was outraged.

“I keep going back to who Jesus was when he walked on earth,” she said. “This is about proximity to people in pain.”…

Trump has been a true catalyst for America’s Evangelicals, and not just in Texas. The chemical reaction to his terrible, un-Christian sins and the general GOP piety-mouthing about ‘forgiveness’ has precipitated notice of the disconnect between those who actually believe in the tenets of Jesus, and those who just use His words as tribal markers for their own insular, mean-spirited band of bigots. Don’t know how much it can help Beto O’Rourke… but if I were a professional Christian, I’d be very worried about the next decade and beyond.

From a columnist at the Houston Chronicle:

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Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Battles

Another place, another time, from the Washington Post:

Anthony Torres was on his way to see family. He was ready to forget about the last few weeks.

He was also about to become an instant Internet sensation, the subject of unsparing insults and pitiless social media posts. In the three days to come, his story would reveal the basest instincts of the online era — and then, later, the best.

But riding a train out of New York City bound for his brother Thomas’s house in Atco, N.J., Torres didn’t know any of that yet.

He just knew he needed a shave.

So the 56-year-old took out a razor and cream and shaved his face right there in his seat on the Northeast Corridor train Thursday evening.

Unbeknown to Torres, a fellow passenger took out his phone and filmed Torres grooming. He then posted it to Twitter that night. Likes, retweets and responses ensued — tens of thousands of them.

The online condemnation of Torres was swift and cruel. He was called “an animal,” “nasty” and “a gross person.” One New Jersey media outlet tweeted, “A guy was caught shaving on an @NJTransit train and we can’t look away.”…

In the weeks before that train ride, Torres had bounced between Atlantic City and Manhattan. He slept in homeless shelters and beneath bridges. In both cities, he said, he was mugged and robbed. The shelter in New York didn’t have enough room for him, so on Thursday, he decided to go someplace that felt like home…

He said he phoned another brother for help, and his sibling sent Torres money for a train ticket.

On the New Jersey Transit train out of Penn Station, Torres said he felt the weight of a couple of tough weeks, the latest in a hard life. He was hungry. He hadn’t had a chance to shower, and he hadn’t shaved in days.

He wanted to look good for his brother’s family, he said, he wanted to look “presentable.” That impulse, a few strokes of the razor and a flick of shaving cream onto the floor were enough to vault Torres into Internet infamy…

On Monday, after the Associated Press first reported on the man behind the meme, some who shared the video expressed regret for spreading the derision without understanding Torres’s experience…

Even the passenger who filmed Torres expressed regret for the post that started it all… On Tuesday, Bentivegna posted a message that said he had licensed the video and planned to donate all proceeds to Torres and his family.

But the biggest show of support came from Jordan Uhl and the GoFundMe page he set up after seeing the video and reading the Associated Press story. As of Tuesday evening, the fundraiser, titled “Anthony Torres Assistance Fund,” had raised more than $20,000 toward a $25,000 goal. Uhl, who works at the Washington-based advocacy firm, said he’s in contact with the Torres family…

Thomas Torres said he and his four other siblings have tried to help their brother his whole life. He has health problems that stem from two strokes, and he has had trouble keeping a steady job. But, in a strange twist, Thomas Torres said, this moment — which could have been painfully embarrassing for his brother — may change Anthony’s life.

“He’s gone through hell his whole life,” Thomas Torres told The Washington Post. “I think this is an eye-opener for him, to see that so many people care about him.”…

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there / They have to take you in… “

May we always have the strength, and the luck, to be on the right side of the battles.

Late-Night Clown Shoes Open Thread: GOP Cultural Outreach

Okay, it’s Texas, where subtlety is probably a capital offense.

But does this mean we should look forward to November’s “Happy Day of the Dead, Hispanic voters! Let us remind you that Republicans *love* producing more dead people!” ads?

Monday Morning Open Thread: Shana Tova!

For those among us who celebrate Rosh Hashanah. And couldn’t a lot of us use a new year, right about now?

(Although I’ve always kept faith with the mantra of my people: Forgive, sometimes. Forget, never.)

That being said…

Remember: Sharing is caring…

Excellent Read: “The Priesthood of The Big Crazy”

In the NYRB (a publication which doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves), Garry Wills, ex-seminarian, gets to the heart of a decades-long horror — and ongoing institutional problem:

The grand jury report of Catholic priests’ predations in Pennsylvania is enough to make one vomit. The terrifying fact that hundreds of priests were preying upon over a thousand victims in that state alone makes one shudder at the thought of how many hundreds and thousands of abusers there are elsewhere in the nation, elsewhere in the world. It is time to stop waiting for more reports to accumulate, hoping that something will finally be done about this. Done by whom? By “the church”? If “the church” is taken to mean the pope and bishops, nothing will come of nothing. They are as a body incapable of making sense of anything sexual.

A wise man once told me that we humans are all at one time or another a little crazy on the subject of sex. A little crazy, yes. But Catholic priests are charged with maintaining The Big Crazy on sex all the time. These functionaries of the church are formally supposed to believe and preach sexual sillinesses, from gross denial to outright absurdity, on the broadest range of issues—masturbation, artificial insemination, contraception, sex before marriage, oral sex, vasectomy, homosexuality, gender choice, abortion, divorce, priestly celibacy, male-only priests—and uphold the church’s “doctrines,” no matter how demented…

To be a priest is to be a company man, the company being the pope and the hierarchy. The farther one rises in the hierarchy, the higher the stakes. Pope Francis probably does want to do something about the priest mystique; but he is surrounded by loyalists of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, and he is trammeled by his predecessors’ many years of priest-mystique maintenance, which is the principal task of many in Rome. Waiting for the pope to do something is to hope that the protector of the mystique will forswear the mystique.

Many victims of abuse by priests have made the mistake of reporting their charges to a bishop. They should have gone straight to a secular authority. To expect from the celibate clergy either candor or good sense on sexual matters is a fool’s game. The Vatican II Council proclaimed that the church is the people of God, not their rulers…
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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.