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Focus on Focus on the Family

In which we revisit our two-week retreat at the headquarters of Focus on the Family, November 2004, when, in the wake of the election, we (briefly) considered repenting.  Here’s the second and final post from my sojourn.


Well, as many of you might have expected, I’ve had enough of the Focus on the Family Ministry Re-Education Camp—though I’m told that if and when these Camps become mandatory for all U.S. citizens, my two weeks’ time will be credited to my account.  I’m heading back to secular life and striking up the blog again.  Thanks for waiting, everyone—I see we’ve left the half-million-visitor mark in the dust while I was away*, but please, let’s keep this in perspective.  A half million visitors in 11 months may be all right for a humble blog, but Focus on the Family gets that many visitors every week.

I’ve heard rumors that some of you don’t believe I went to Colorado Springs at all.  “Didn’t you speak at a symposium at Wayne State and go to a reception with Barrett Watten where you met artists Amy Vogel and Joseph Grigely, and then didn’t you hang out at the Cass Cafe with old friend Mysoon Rizk as well as Charles Stivale and a bunch of other people?” asked one of my friends.  “Yeah,” said another, “and weren’t you hard at work on your book and a mess of other things you were supposed to be doing this fall but couldn’t even think of doing because you were completely consumed by the election?” “Isn’t this just another one of your ruses?” said a third.  “I bet you weren’t even in Madison Square Garden for the Republican National Convention, either.”

What a bunch of doubting Thomases I have for friends!  ("Doubting Thomas” is a brand new expression I learned in Colorado Springs.  See John 20:24-29.) I can tell you from personal experience that the Welcome Center has a three-story corkscrew slide named “A-Bend-A-Go” (see Habbakuk 2:1, “I will stand at the watchpost, and station myself at the three-story corkscrew slide").  And in a way it was good that I was there in November, because November is their “Marriage Theme Month.” Which makes sense, after all, since October was “Homophobia Month.”

But really, enough was enough.  It wasn’t the homophobia so much, or the repeated showings of The Passion of the Christ (not that there’s anything wrong with having an obsessive fixation on Christ’s battered, bleeding, nearly nude body!).  Instead, it was the child-beating.  I’d forgotten about the child-beating.  Which was stupid of me, since before Dr. James Dobson became a major power player in the Republican party (and what’s up with you conservatives trying to claim that liberals are exaggerating about this?  are you all on drugs or something?), he was renowned as a “Christian childrearing expert” who counsels parents to begin striking their children at around the age of fifteen months, preferably with a wooden spoon, preferably on the back of the leg.  In books like Dare to Discipline and The Strong-Willed Child:  Birth through Adolescence, Dr. Dobson promoted an entire regime of child torture, starting with the wooden spoons and moving right through neck-pinching, with special tips on how to produce maximal pain on tiny necks while leaving minimal physical signs of abuse.  How could I have forgotten?  So this is why these people didn’t have any problem with Abu Ghraib!

Anyway, Dr. Dobson hasn’t let his child-torture business lie fallow while he’s taken on his larger crusades against gays, lesb***ns, and Arlen Specter.  Focus on the Family Ministries still runs a vibrant child-beating laboratory, informally known as the “Spare the Rod Room,” where spanking implements and techniques are tested night and day.  Wooden spoons of various designs, materials, and swing-weights are rigorously researched for their effects on the tiny, fleshy legs of toddlers and infants, with the parent’s comfort uppermost in mind.  Around here, they say that nothing is worse than developing bursitis or “palm splinters” by using a heavy, unwieldy, or shoddily made wooden spoon when you “dare to discipline” your child!  But the constant thwacking kept me up at night, not to mention the poor little buggers’ piercing screams.  Ah, well, Christ went through far worse, and look where it got Him!

Still, I’m looking forward to a good night’s rest for a change.  And more blogging!


* Back in 2004 we used to get really excited about little things like that.

Posted by on 10/18 at 08:31 AM
  1. Uhh, welcome back, I guess. Again.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  10:09 AM
  2. Meta-welcomes are welcome, Peter.  In a metameta kind of way.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/18  at  10:12 AM
  3. Back in 2004 we used to get really excited about little things like that.

    Bite me, Hiatus Boy.

    captcha: “saw,” as in “don’t make me come up with some vaguely masculine, blustery challenge having to do with pruning tools and fallen silver maples.”

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/18  at  10:16 AM
  4. Well, at least they haven’t started recommending fiery-pit time-outs. Yet.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  10:27 AM
  5. Bite me, Hiatus Boy.

    Well, I just did.

    And what’s a “silver maple”?

    Posted by Michael  on  10/18  at  10:31 AM
  6. Dobson is so behind the times.  All the cool Christians use the iRod.  (History of the ad campaign here).

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  10:37 AM
  7. Striking a child FOR ANY REASON in Lutheran Scandinavia is against the law.

    In New York State the rule is you can’t leave a mark that lasts for more than 24 hours.

    It isn’t just Christians of course who hit kids.  It’s quite common in the islands of the Caribbean (where Santeria is practiced) and probably quite common among Foucauldians who worship the Marquis de Sade.

    But for Scandinavian Lutherans it is absolutely forbidden on any pretext, and is considered an assault, and treated as one. 

    This is one more way in which my denomination is out of touch with many Christian denominations, and with the S/M culture of Foucault.

    Dobson is quite extreme.  There’s a range of Christian denominations.  To avoid spitting on your grandmother’s grave you should not paint such a broad target in my view, but you’re you, and you have such freedom in this country!  Go ahead and spit!

    Posted by Kirby Olson  on  10/18  at  10:42 AM
  8. Hey, congratulations, Chris. You do a lot of good and interesting writing over there. I’m at a loss as to why you haven’t attracted your own personal site troll, which is a sure way to drive up the hits counts, with all the back and forth engendered by the obliquely relevant contumely that sort provides. Maybe if your writing style was a little less demure?

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  10:42 AM
  9. Yes. More site trolls, please. The last one was delicious.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/18  at  10:47 AM
  10. And what is the Marxist stance on corporal punishment? I hear Groucho used a spatula.

    “Kirby Olson” anagrams to “is Brooklyn.” I think this Scandihoovian thing is all a ruse.

    What evidence is there for or against the supposition that James Dobson is heavy into S&M and has a basement dungeon much like the one in Pulp Fiction? Are there any photos?

    Posted by Orange  on  10/18  at  11:06 AM
  11. Yes. More site trolls, please. The last one was delicious.

    I thought we’d already worked that one out? Or did Bowie Kuhn nullify the trade on the grounds that it was bad for inside baseball?

    Oh, and check out Chris’s demure writing here.  That one should have earned him his very own Gary Ruppert.  Is there no justice?

    Posted by Michael  on  10/18  at  11:21 AM
  12. It occurs to me that the Great Writ has been fundamentally superceded by Dobson’s “Christian childrearing practices” writ large.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  12:15 PM
  13. A few days ago Kirby said “I would guess that there are more like a half a million [professors] further to the left than Churchill who want America burned to the ground” And now he thinks Michael paints with too broad a brush.  I guess there’s no pleasing some people.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  12:33 PM
  14. "Striking a child FOR ANY REASON in Lutheran Scandinavia is against the law” - KO

    Sweden banned corporal punishment in 1979 to compensate for the influence of German authoritarianism and Lutheranism on the treatment of children. Specifically, Lutherans would beat their children to “drive out the devil and make room for God’s Will.”

    As is so often true, Christianity’s contribution to ethics can be summed up as a colourful obstacle.

    Scandinavia may oppose child-abuse, but Lutheranism certainly did not. And… the argument that people other than Christians abuse children is also irrelevant. What’s important is that not only does Christianity fail to prevent the abuse of children, it actually prescribes it.

    In cases where children do not believe in god, have not honoured their parents (whatever that means), or have (holy fuck’in shit) used the lord’s name in vain… the biblical prescription is death. I just can’t say enough bad things about a system of laws that equates swearing and murder.

    To not follow these biblical laws is to not be Christian. I know Michael comes from the school of “there are Christians, and then there are CHRISTIANS”, but I don’t. For me, this is true, as if to say that there are Nazis, and then there are NAZIS. The so-called moderate Christians do nothing more than grant credibility to the debilitatingly immoral influence of earth’s oldest death cult.

    (note to Jim: this isn’t battling ideologies, nor am I forcing an ideology on anyone. I don’t really have an ideology. Certainly not a “Foucauldian” or Marxist one. And I’m quickly approaching posts of a Trollish length. Sorry Michael.)

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  10/18  at  12:58 PM
  15. I think Michael was actually confessing that he’s been high-sticking all his life and hacking in the hockey rink and feeling quite some guilt about having hit so many people in the back of the legs with his stick but decided to project this evil on to the usual scapegoat, Christians, to escape the censure involved.

    Is it forgivable?  First, you have to confess!

    Posted by Kirby Olson  on  10/18  at  01:32 PM
  16. I think Michael was actually confessing that he’s been high-sticking all his life and hacking in the hockey rink and feeling quite some guilt about having hit so many people in the back of the legs with his stick but decided to project this evil on to the usual scapegoat, Christians, to escape the censure involved.

    Jesus saves!

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/18  at  01:34 PM
  17. And I score on the rebound!

    Posted by Phil Esposito  on  10/18  at  01:36 PM
  18. We’re here all week, folks! Tip your waitress! G’night!

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/18  at  01:42 PM
  19. Are there any shad racks at the FOTFMREC? You know, the wooden thingies used for shad planking? You can see some in this picture:


    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  10/18  at  01:43 PM
  20. Are there any shad racks at the FOTFMREC?

    Why, yes, each person is assigned one, and one is to keep them in one’s cabin when not in use.  If you neglect this rule, you’re not permitted to sleep that night.  It’s the policy known as “Shad rack in me shack, or a bed no go!”

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  01:55 PM
  21. LOL!

    captcha: “addition” as in “nice addition!”

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  10/18  at  02:11 PM
  22. Exquisitely constructed, mds. Those of us about to groan salute you.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  02:12 PM
  23. I bow down before thee, mds.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/18  at  02:15 PM
  24. three captcha words in a row: heart space office----mmmm.

    And what’s a “silver maple”?
    A damn good wooden spoon source??? Or maybe just an inlay for a laminated paddle.  Willows make better rods of course, they have that whipping action thing going. 

    I’m at a loss as to why you haven’t attracted your own personal site troll
    Because Chris has really nasty sharp horns with an extra pointed spiky barb that thrusts deeply up into the heart space.  Hard to be a troll when he makes those wet drops fall from your eyes. 

    “Was that a rod??  Damn that hurt??”

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  02:23 PM
  25. Because Chris has really nasty sharp horns

    Could be the back hair, though.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  02:29 PM
  26. Chris, all Scandinavian countries are at least 80% Lutheran.

    So it’s the same thing.

    Sweden banned corporal punishment in 1927.

    You don’t give a source.  I do:


    Remember, Germany is only about 35% Lutheran.  Hitler and Goebbels and the Nazi hierarchy for instance were Catholics, (like Michael).  There were no Lutherans in the top Nazi hierarchy.

    The worst abuses toward children are in the remaining communist countries—esp. Red China and in North Korea where beating children in schools as well as humiliating them in other ways is still the norm.  Recently there was a case in which a teacher hit a child 380 times with a stick.

    Canada also still allows corporal punishment: but then what else is Canadian ice-hockey?

    Posted by Kirby Olson  on  10/18  at  02:32 PM
  27. Chris, all Scandinavian countries are at least 80% Lutheran.

    Kirby, if the Statue of Liberty was a real 5’6” tall woman, her mouth would be one and three quarters inches wide.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/18  at  02:41 PM
  28. Because Chris has really nasty sharp horns with an extra pointed spiky barb that thrusts deeply up into the heart space.

    I bow down before thee, mds.

    Why, thank you, Mr. Clarke.  That’s very… YEEAAAAAGH!

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  02:46 PM
  29. Hmm:

    While doing some research for this article, I learned that Sweden had first banned corporal punishment of children in schools in 1927 and later introduced a comprehensive ban by law in 1979. The example set by Sweden was soon followed by the rest of the Nordic countries and by the United Nations ten years later in the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    Good reason to stay in school during the years between.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  02:55 PM
  30. Kirby:

    1) Here is your link fixed. (/ not . between society and children. Cut and Paste is your friend.)

    2)The second section has the quaint title of The Swedish corporal punishment ban of 1979.
    Yes there was some action in 1927:

    The 1979 ban was the final result of half a century of education and legal progress on the issue of child abuse in Sweden. Corporal punishment had actually been banned in Swedish grammar schools as early as in 1927, and in elementary schools later on since 1958.

    but I think even you would admit that you’re brush was a bit wide.

    Am always glad to help a fellow symbol-manipulating animal to manipulate his symbols.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  02:58 PM
  31. Am always glad to help a fellow symbol-manipulating animal to manipulate his symbols.

    Especially if the symbols are asterisks, if you know what I mean.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  03:20 PM
  32. if the Statue of Liberty was a real 5’6” tall woman, her mouth would be one and three quarters inches wide.

    And not only that!  If Sweden were located on Saturn rather than Earth, it would be 6.4 percent heavier—and yet Saturn itself would float in water! Paradox—or God’s design?

    Posted by Michael  on  10/18  at  03:52 PM
  33. Is Kirby doing more of that one-hand typing about corporal punishment again? Gritting his teeth as he writes about the Foucauldians (or is it only that subset of Foucauldians who worship Sade?), about the people of the Caribbean, about the Nazis, about the Catholics, about the Red Chinese, and about the North Koreans, who recently hit a kid 380 times. Can you imagine, 380 times! It’s important to note, you see, just exactly how many times the North Koreans hit this kid. Such attention to detail should not go unnoticed. Good work, Kirby, very good work. Your enthusiasm in researching this topic is truly awe-inspiring.

    Captcha: “sun,” as in, get out of the basement, Kirby, brush the Cheetos off, and get some.

    Posted by John Protevi  on  10/18  at  03:56 PM
  34. if the Statue of Liberty was a real 5’6” tall woman, her mouth would be one and three quarters inches wide

    If a radioactive mutant chicken survived the GNF event, and grew to be the size of the Statue of Liberty, would it then have lips?

    Posted by John Protevi  on  10/18  at  04:00 PM
  35. And would it be motivated to cross the road?

    captcha: that’s <b>progress</d> for ya

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  10/18  at  04:03 PM
  36. Like I said: 1979.

    It was illegal to leave the Church of Sweden (the Swedish Lutheran church) until the dissenter law of 1860. In 1951 this law was extended to allow citizens to legally be non-Christians. 78% of Swedish citizens are considered Lutheran today, mostly because children born in Sweden were automatically registered as Lutherans until 1996.

    According to the 2005 Eurostat “Eurobarometer” poll, only 23% of Swedish citizens responded that “they believe there is a god”, and 53% answered that “they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force” and 23% that “they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force”.

    (mostly copied out of the wikipedia entry for Sweden)

    So, Kirby, now that we’ve established your absolute ignorance when it comes to Sweden, Lutheranism, and God in general; do you want to know why your linkage between Marxism and various atrocities in North Korea and Russia are completely without merit? Or how about how Hitler was a Christian, and not - as you’ve claimed - an atheist? Maybe we’ll note that Russian Gulags pre-date Communism (called labour camps), or perhaps we should draw attention to the history of corporal punishment that far pre-dates Marx in much, if not all the world. Perhaps it’s enough to note that modern Swedish socialism rose proportionately to the declining attendance in Lutheran churches, not, as you so often claim, because of them.

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  10/18  at  04:14 PM
  37. Sweden is more liberal than Finland with which I’m more familiar.  At any rate, you guys will have to forgive me since I’m going on a brief hiatus.

    I have to go down the hall to go to the bathroom for a few minutes.

    Now Hitler was a Christian.  But I said he was raised as a Catholic!  A good Roman Catholic, just like Michael.

    And then they both ended up as socialists!

    We have two Democratic Senators who are also Lutheran: Byron Dorgan and Tim Johnson.  There are two Republican Lutheran Senators, too.  Can you tell me who they are?  And about twenty in the house of representatives.

    How many do you communists have, and how many new seats do you hope to get?

    Lutheran surrealism is sitting out this election, but we throw our support to the Lutherans in the house and senate.

    Do you even have any good cartoonists?  Gary Larson and Dr. Seuss were both Lutherans.  And don’t forget Lou Gehrig!

    How many communist baseball players can you find?

    Ok, now I must go on the hiatus.  Enjoy the rest, communists!

    Posted by Kirby Olson  on  10/18  at  05:12 PM
  38. "What evidence is there for or against the supposition that James Dobson is heavy into S&M and has a basement dungeon much like the one in Pulp Fiction? Are there any photos?”


    And don’t think that Dobson is the only twisted Christian dude out there. There are plenty more Brides of Christ enslaved by their rosaries beads where he came from:


    The “Passion” movie reveals Christianity’s underlying sado-masochism glorifying and romanticizing misery and suffering. Worse yet, until the fifteenth century it was thought that only Jesus as a unique son of God could bear such torture, but German monk Thomas a Kempis in 1418 wrote a book “Imitation of Christ” putting forth the thesis that everyone should suffer like Jesus and that suffering is good for you.

    I must go back to lighting candles at the altar of the MArquis de Sade now. I am going to light one for Kirby. smile

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  05:14 PM
  39. Foucault, are you familiar with Kirby’s work?  Because he’s an expert on yours.

    If a radioactive mutant chicken survived the GNF event, and grew to be the size of the Statue of Liberty, would it then have lips?

    . . .

    And would it be motivated to cross the road?

    Bill’s response to John’s important question clearly assumes that there would be “roads” for radioactive mutant chickens to cross after the GNF.  That is a heterodox position associated primarily with the We Are All Giant Neutron Bomb Fireball Now party, and will not be countenanced on this blog.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/18  at  05:31 PM
  40. That is to say, Michael, after the BIG ONE it’ll be all roads, all the time, everywhere.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  10/18  at  05:34 PM
  41. No Michael, I’m afraid I’m not familiar with Olson’s inadvertently hilarious novel, TEMPTING. I tried to google it, but no luck. I did learn that someone is pissed at either Kirby, or Texas Tech Press, or both for the following offense:

    “Please protest to Texas Tech University Press for describing Stewart Home who is one of six writers discussed in their book Comedy After Postmodernism by Kirby Olson as a “notoriously violent punk author”.

    And someone else thanks Kirby for remembering her to his “flabby poet pals.”


    So he is apparently much-loved in the literati world, like myself.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  05:46 PM
  42. Hey cool,

    Kirby is an authentic author! And his book actually sounds quite interesting.


    Posted by  on  10/18  at  06:01 PM
  43. would it then have lips?
    I don’t know about the lips, but it would have a huge mouth. 

    there would be “roads” for radioactive mutant chickens to cross after the GNF.
    And not that to get to that statue one would have had to cross water without benefit of a road??  The GNF might also melt all polar ice and glaciers, followed shortly thereafter by massive nuclear winter freezing, rendering whatever possible surreal lifeforms remaining to live in subzero environments.  I suspect swede-like luthers have instruments for that.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  07:04 PM
  44. I know Michael comes from the school of “there are Christians, and then there are CHRISTIANS”, but I don’t. For me, this is true, as if to say that there are Nazis, and then there are NAZIS

    I’ve got your Godwin’s Law right here, ass.

    Posted by Auguste  on  10/18  at  08:21 PM
  45. CCP: I hope you saw my retraction. If you are the author, I enjoyed reading through your Blogging Against Stupidity site. When I have more time I’ll post you a message.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  09:00 PM
  46. "That is a heterodox position associated primarily with the We Are All Giant Neutron Bomb Fireball Now party”

    But efficiency and progress is ours once more, now that we have the neutron bomb ... oh, sorry.

    Has there already been an ABF Friday about relatively unusual phrases that auto-generate remembered song snippets?

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  09:02 PM
  47. What the hell. An iterant preacher is executed as a criminal by the Imperial Authority. His followers have some intense revelation of his continued presence. The form groups and begin to spread out through Turkey, Greece ultimately Rome. They believe things like “We are one in Christ, not jew or greek, man or woman, gentile or Christian” and create a Cosmic Christ (lord) in opposition to the Imperial Cult of the Divine Ceasars. If your interested, “In Search of Paul,” J.D.Crossnan. It archeology and textual analysis. And I am not defending what happens when they merge with the dominant power!

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  09:11 PM
  48. Damn. Read “master or slave” instead of “gentile or Christian”

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  09:14 PM
  49. CCP: Instead of Christian/CHRISTIANS equal nazi/NAZI. How about saying Nietzsche or Wagner led to NAZIS or Marx led to Totalitarianism or Frued to 60’s FREE LOVE. Your free to think of Christianity as morally debilitating, but there are a lot of good Christians out there (who vote)or those brought up in Christianity with a plethora of experiences, anger to faith. I think it can be a source of valid thought and action if it moves more toward its source.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  10:12 PM
  50. Michael,

    I think I waste too much of your web space on an irrelevant topic to it. It does tend to come up a lot in your discussions though.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  10:23 PM
  51. It does tend to come up a lot in your discussions though.

    Jim, you’re aware that these are re-posts from November 2004, right?  Because I’m looking through my archives and not seeing any posts on Christians or religion for the last six months at least.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/18  at  10:36 PM
  52. An iterant preacher is executed as a criminal by the Imperial Authority. His followers have some intense revelation of his continued presence. The form groups and begin to spread out through Turkey, Greece ultimately Rome.

    The Christians were created by man

    They evolved

    They rebelled

    There are many copies

    And they have a plan

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/18  at  10:36 PM
  53. I’ve been studying hard on this GNF thing and all of the requirements for orthodoxy, (no roads left, happens in all nations simultaneously etc.) and I have had the following revelation: when the time comes, the Earth itself will become the GNF.

    Therefore, to hasten the end times, I recommend that we abuse the Earth: strip it, drill it, pave it, pollute it, stab it with our steely knives and otherwise degrade it and ourselves in a mad, self-deluded, status-driven rush to oblivion. It will take quite the sacrifice to do so, but I’m sure we can make it if we really want.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  10:46 PM
  54. Michael,

    I was refering more to the comments by your readers here and elsewhere not to your posts. But I’m starting to sound like a nuisance and don’t want to disrupt a great blog site.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  11:03 PM
  55. Chris, is that a Star Wars movie you’re describing?

    Posted by Orange  on  10/18  at  11:08 PM
  56. jim, if you get Michael thinking that persistent commenting on issues tangential to his posts is “disruptive,” he’s liable to ask me to take a time out and sit on that bench over there next to the worroS fo llorT.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/18  at  11:18 PM
  57. Actually, you’re quite welcome here, Jim.  And in the future (at some point or other), I do want to write two or three more serious posts about religion (I went to a Jesuit high school, after all, where they taught me how to think and how to argue about such things), and I’d be curious to see what you make of them.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/18  at  11:20 PM
  58. Chris and Michael,


    Posted by  on  10/18  at  11:26 PM
  59. Chris, however, is hereby banned for that completely irrelevant link up there in comment 3.  And also for certain heterodox positions with regard to the proper cooking of salmon in the aftermath of the GNF.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/18  at  11:55 PM
  60. Of course, Michael will be hearing from my attorneys, as I have retained counsel with the firm Pollock and Mandelbrot.

    captcha: “hour,” as in “billable.”

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/19  at  12:05 AM
  61. "I was refering more to the comments by your readers here and elsewhere not to your posts. But I’m starting to sound like a nuisance and don’t want to disrupt a great blog site.”

    Poor pitiful Jim.  Will no one demonize him as he so clearly wants to be demonized?

    BTW, Jim, I do think you have a bit of a gap in your agape.  You apparently think that the following three are approximately equivalent:
    Wagner is to Nazis as Marx is to Totalitarianism as Freud is to 60’s FREE LOVE.  There’s a world of Christian values right there.

    Posted by  on  10/19  at  12:06 AM
  62. Rich,

    I am not getting this.I meant that that Marx, Nietzsche and Freud should not be read this way. What the hell is demonizing? Great Christians: John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bill Clinton. Please don’t tell me they were Christian in name only. And don’t tell me they were hypocrites for there sex lives; what happened to Clinton was a travesty. But unless you can have some reapprochment with Christianity, you will get nowhere. And we might end up with another Republican abomination in the White House.

    Posted by  on  10/19  at  12:14 AM
  63. Heh, I’m teaching a unit on 17th-C American Puritanism in my Intro to American Studies course here in Japan, and my co-bloggers back home are arguing over God’s existence, so once again I am awed by the sublimity of Divine Providence.  But somehow I managed to go through my entire life w/o actually reading The Crucible (so many Great Books, so little time, you know).  Certain passages in it remind me why the We Are All All About the Great Books Now Party has always already been part of the We Are All Giant Nuclear Fireball Now Party:

    Hale (Act II):  Nurse, though our hearts break, we cannot flinch; these are new times, sir.  There is a misty plot afoot so subtle we should be criminal to cling to old respects and ancient friendships.  I have seen too many frightful proofs in court--the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points.

    Danforth (Act III):  But you must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between.  This is a sharp time, a precise time--we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world.  Now, by God’s grace, the shining sun is up, and them that fear not light will surely praise it.  I hope you will be one of those.

    This is practically the 2-Minute Townhall version of the Republican governing and election strategy since 9/11, isn’t it?  Not to mention their approach to that whole War on Terror thing, eh?

    Now, you may be thinking, “Wait, Miller wrote the play to criticize just this sort of logic!”

    To which I respond, “Sure, and you probably expect me to believe that Octavia Butler wasn’t trying to create a fictional utopia in Parable of the Sower precisely to inspire Republicans to try to realize it, too.  Begone, Imaginary Hypothetical, surely ye be the voice of the Devil.”

    Now we probably know why God created the Great Books:  to hasten the arrival of the GNF!

    Posted by The Constructivist  on  10/19  at  12:49 AM
  64. I ran across a couple copies of Dobson’s *Dare to Disclipline* in my university’s library and felt a strong desire (a fleeting desire, but still disturbing) to censor a library.

    Posted by luolin  on  10/19  at  12:51 AM
  65. I work at the Oakland Seaport with container ships. It is a hard environment, but I can tell you this. They are mostly Christians who believe a woman should have the right to choose though the act of abortion is disturbing; we wrong to invade Iraq; and gays should be allowed to marry. Now, you cannot scare these people with esoteric rantings (Al Gore) but they are Christians and unless you can get by youy hatred you (we all) are screwed.

    Posted by  on  10/19  at  01:11 AM
  66. No one is responding to this log. What do people want? A home. You know what; I think we can do this. CCP, Chris Clarke, Rich, Amanda, I am calling you out. We can do this in the next election. If you can be cunning as wolves and simple as sheep. BTYW I live in SF and always am to host! We need to get going! Thanks, Michael.

    Posted by  on  10/19  at  02:22 AM
  67. Ok, my real name is Jim. So, basically, I’m so confused I’m incapable of response. Thanks. You’re all a bunch of assholes.

    In the interest of being constructive though, let’s shift the Christianity argument to some place new and very very weird. Basically, I’m the one who has an issue with all things Christian, so, we can proceed from there. Let’s, as a point of mutual understanding, imagine a wonderfully illuminating analogy.

    I am Israel, and Christianity is Hamas. Give that a second to coalesce in your mind. But not too long! Essentially my position with Christianity is this: acknowledge my right to exist and we can begin negotiations. Until then? Well… fill in the blanks.

    You may be asking yourself, holy cow, and criminey, however do I recognize CCP’s right to exist? Well, I’m gunna tell you. Cause I like you. And, because I’m an all around good’a’guy. Here’s what you’re gunna do: disavow all biblical commandments but commandments 6, 8 and 9 (or 5,7, and 8 if you’re Christian), and renounce the universally prescribed punishments for biblical infractions (better known as death). Along with this, announce that “faith” should always be abandoned where it contradicts with reason, and swear to never attribute anything that’s unknown to this thing you call “God”. Also, it would be nice to acknowledge that the bible is basically a not very good book. That would be nice, and tasteful to boot, but what’s really important is that you recognize it as a book that ultimately promotes the most immoral of human behaviours. Let’s call it “Pure Hate”. Do these things. These simple things. These simple human kindnesses. And we will have a future. Do not do them, and you’ll doom our species to another millennia of ignorance.

    I fear, we’ve almost destroyed ourselves already, and human civilization is at most ten thousand years old… or so. We have hospital waste that will last longer that the whole of human civilization so far. Can we really afford another millennia of hoping the tooth-fiery will save us?

    Come on… grow the fuck up. Or embrace the GNF!

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  10/19  at  02:55 AM
  68. Kirby: “How many communist baseball players can you find?”

    Well, Fidel Castro, for one. Though he probably doesn’t get out as much as he used to.

    Posted by  on  10/19  at  07:49 AM
  69. "I meant that that Marx, Nietzsche and Freud should not be read this way.”

    And you also presented Nazis, Totalitarianism, and 60’s Free Love as three very bad things towards which they should not be read.  One of these three does not belong with the rest.  Can you guess which one?  Especially in the context of agape.

    But mostly, jim, you seem to be acting out a desire to be victimized as a Christian by the Christian haters who you are eager to see populating these blog comments.  In the process, you’re making desperate bids for attention, as in “I’m calling you out”.  That’s really the Christian narrative in the U.S. today—spend a bit of effort feeding the homeless, and ten times that effort boasting about it, demanding that people admire you, and acting hurt when they roll their eyes.

    Posted by  on  10/19  at  08:32 AM
  70. Christian haters? Where?

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  10/19  at  09:08 AM
  71. Now, you cannot scare these people with esoteric rantings (Al Gore) but they are Christians and unless you can get by your hatred you (we all) are screwed.

    I’m not sure there are any Christian haters in these parts, but, if I catch your general drift, I think you’re right. If you go over here you’ll see that I say that “that the fundamentalists and evangelists we (the progressive left) find so fearsome are, to some extent, a figment of our imaginations. For whatever reason, we prefer to demonize them rather than dialogue with them.” Yes, if we can’t figure out how to engage in respectful dialog with fundamentalist and evangelical Christians then we, and they, may well be screwed.

    This piece Malcolm Gladwell published last year in The New Yorker is worth reading, as are the various publications listed on this CV.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  10/19  at  09:54 AM
  72. Cass Sunstein on Barak Obama:

    I’ve just finished reading Barack Obama’s new book, The Audacity of Hope. An immediate reaction is that whenever possible, Obama likes to propose solutions that do not reject the defining principles of those with whom he disagrees--and if he finds it necessary to reject those commitments, he does so in a way that shows unfailing respect for them, and that puts their beliefs and (perhaps above all) their motivations in the most favorable light. This is true on questions involving the economy, national security, immigration, the role of religion, abortion, affirmative action, and much more.

    In this way, Obama’s book has the same feel as the central argument in John Rawls’ Political Liberalism, with Rawls’ emphasis on the value of achieving an “overlapping consensus” from people with diverse foundational beliefs. (Rawls hopes that the overlapping consensus can include Kantians, utilitarians, religious believers, atheists, agnostics, and many more, all of whom might be able to accept certain principles from their own foundations.) Rawls argues for an overlapping consensus in part on the ground that it enables people to live together, but more fundamentally because it embodies a principle of civic respect.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  10/19  at  10:13 AM
  73. Who’s more twisted: Ceausescu or Dobson?

    What was more twisted: the Cultural Revolution of Mao or the Puritan Revolution of the 1600s?

    Who had better ideas: Lenin or Luther?

    Whose ideas made for better societies: Lenin’s or Luther’s?

    I’m worried that since you guys grew up in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution and having given up on your Jesuit counter-Reformation pasts you may never have given the actual Reformation much of a thought.  I mean, where until now would you have even been exposed to it?

    I did notice in graduate school that the most ferocious Marxists were former Jesuits.

    And perhaps the formatting has already been settled by the time a person is forty so that once a Jesuit, always a Jesuit.

    Dunno. I’m just opening an alternative: Lutheran surrealism.

    Note to Foucault: my book Comedy after Postmodernism was savaged by Stewart Home (who’s in it, and sent the letter to my publisher) and who is a quite popular leftist writer in London (30 or 40 novels).  We’ve been friends for years whenever we’re not arguing.  He stayed with me in Finland.  He sent the letter to Texas Tech UP as a gag.

    Carmen is a Cat is an American woman who was recently evacuated by the marines from Lebanon.  She’s a Muslim poet.

    My novel Temping is probably my best work so far, but I doubt if anyone reads novels much.  It’s all theory.  Go figure.

    Now I must practice my figure skating.

    Posted by Kirby Olson  on  10/19  at  10:54 AM
  74. What the hell does Lutheranism have to do with anything, anyway? Lutherans are scarcely anything but Catholics with less Mary and less kneeling, near as I can tell. Where are the Baptist surrealists? Off partying with the Episcopalian Marxists and the Quaker pacifists?

    And what’s with all of Kirby’s false dichotomies? I haven’t seen anyone in these comments proudly proclaiming themselves to be Maoists. Kirby loves him a straw man, doesn’t he?

    Who has better ideas: Lenin, Luther, or Obama? Raise your hand if you think options 1 or 2 offer the best option for today’s political environment.

    Posted by Orange  on  10/19  at  11:31 AM
  75. Wait, I said too much. Should’ve just said “I don’t see how Luther is at all relevant to any of the discussions here. And I don’t want to hear a vigorous argument that he somehow is.”

    Posted by Orange  on  10/19  at  11:33 AM
  76. The discussions under way here are actually Catholic versus Protestant discussions.  People pretending to be Marxist are delusional.  They are actually Jesuits first and foremost who have tried to reincorporate their Jesuitical viewpoints in a counter Reformation of the Lutheran freedom of investigation.

    ENORMOUS difference #1:

    Lutherans believe that the New Testament is about the future, about the Nude Jerusalem.  Catholics and most other Protestants believe that we can live in love right now.  That is laughable.  Look at the state even of this blague.  Jesuits can agree, but only in order to try to hold on to their monopoly of power.  That is the ONLY source of their agreement, and it is so because they are pigs, but they can’t face that…

    Lutherans believe that we are actually in the realm of LAW, as defined by the OT, and that therefore the OT still completely applies to THIS WORLD, NOW.

    Enormous Difference #2:

    Lutherans have TOTAL freedom of investigation.  Catholics have NONE.  They believe that only the Pope is right, even when it comes to art and mechanical engineering.  Catholics look to authority.  Lutherans look to themselves.

    Luther said that the only field a theologian was competent in was theology.

    Hence you have vigorous intellectual communities full of invention in northern Europe.  You have sluggish idiocy in southern Europe.

    Transplant this to America, and you have pretty much the whole conversation here.

    The counter-Reformation is what kept South America in such a dull state and why it doesn’t function and people are trying desperately to get out.

    The Reformation is why America and Canada function.  Puritans and Hug You Nots function.

    The Counter Reformation produces Pascal.

    The Reformation produces Hegel, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Marx,—for starters.

    Anyone who can’t see the importance of this conversation isn’t Kirby Olson!

    Posted by Kirby Olson  on  10/19  at  02:14 PM
  77. Jesus will keep you warm—nay, hot—at night in Nude Jerusalem when your spouse goes off the grid.

    I didn’t know Bush, Cheney, Rove, and Rumsfeld were Jesuits. Live and learn!

    Posted by Orange  on  10/19  at  02:20 PM
  78. No, Orange there are TWO forces of dumbness in this country.

    One are former Jesuits turned Marxist.

    The other is Calvinists and Wesleyans who have remained Calvinists and Wesleyans.

    They are like the two clashing cliffs between which Orpheus sends the dove of Lutheran Surrealism.

    Posted by Kirby Olson  on  10/19  at  02:34 PM
  79. My novel Temping is probably my best work so far, but I doubt if anyone reads novels much
    Ugh??? great* just great*
    Olson doesn’t bother to give us a lot of psychological depth in anyone but his narrator (the other characters, after all, are “horrible mistakes” to Milhouse); in fact, the book reads a bit like a comic book described at great length by a precocious but weirdly fucked-up thirteen-year-old


    Posted by  on  10/19  at  06:35 PM
  80. Lutherans believe that we are actually in the realm of LAW, as defined by the OT, and that therefore the OT still completely applies to THIS WORLD, NOW. [emphasis added]

    I got your Numbers: 31 right here, Kirb.

    (17)Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, (18) but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

    I will say that I am looking forward to Michael’s promise of two or three more serious posts on religion - as this is an area of significant inner conflict for me based on considerations of:

    1) Political & social pragmatism, given the religious identifications of my countrymen, especially as we work collectively to rid ourselves of the amoral criminals currently running the Federal government.

    2) My own upbringing and the continuing beliefs of my family and the comfort and good that I have seen come through church involvement.

    3) My firm belief that the “way of thought” represented by most major religions suffered what will ultimately prove to be mortal injury from a series of cumulative blows from the Islamic Golden Age and Occam through the Reformation and Enlightment, and beyond. Of course it is still alive today, writhing around dangerously like a great white shark landed in a small boat - but dying it is. (though it may take you - or your leg - with it.)

    4) My firm belief that die it should - as its reliance on truth via revelation and appeals to authority are ultimately not helpful (are indeed downright dangerous) to advancing the current situation of individuals, nations and the species. [And I will use potential landmines like Numbers: 31 above as an example.]

    Posted by  on  10/20  at  01:39 AM
  81. Spyder,

    I do think that you are being a bit unfair by selectively quoting from what is on the whole a quite favorable review.

    Posted by  on  10/20  at  01:49 AM
  82. JP Stormcrow, thank you for this.  I too waver. 

    On one side there is the absolute of Christianity.  God speaks, I listen.  You have the virtue of ten commandments, which provide a structure (Luther’s small catechism is really cool because in addition to the negatives you also get positives—not only should you not kill, but you should also try to get Michael to wear his seat belt; not only should you not commit adultery but you should try to get your friends who are thinking about it to stay monogamous—etc.).

    But then there are the ridiculous caveats such as those you name above.  Leviticus gets even weirder in places.  But the idea of law remains.  What Lutherans mean by law however is not so much as the OT as it stood but the law as it stands in actual practice.  That is, we believe in following the laws of our society.  Thus, if same-sex marriage is voted in, and becomes law, then we believe in respecting it.  If the speed limit says 55 we go 55. 

    Luther had already waived much of the OT, but he says we are still in the realm of law and in the realm of institutions such as marriage (superlapsarian), the economy, the church, etc.

    I didn’t mean that the laws of the OT still stand, but that the examples that they imply still hold, although not in their minute particulars.  Luther even waives the first commandment not to make graven images, and says that since Jesus was an illustration, then we have the right to make illustrations, too, by example.  My pastor says that although Leviticus tells us to stone gay people, that he himself will stand on the lawns of any gay person and say you have to go over my dead body first.  Because the laws say that everyone is entitled to civil rights.  And it’s the current laws that we obey.  We are permitted to ask for new laws or to change them, but meanwhile we must follow the actual laws that are in place, and not do anything according to vigilante justice.

    And thus the picking and choosing begins as the authority of the Pope is put in doubt, and now suddenly it’s just me deciding what I will and won’t do, and making up reasons, and finally you get gnostics like Kierkegaard deciding the everything is totally subjective and that there are ONLY INDIVIDUALS, but the LAW REMAINS as a communal force.

    These are some of the trials that my character Milhouse Moot faces in Temping.  I am not Milhouse Moot (somehow this talented scholar Douglas Robinson who wrote the brilliant online review has decided that I am Milhouse Moot, but I am Kirby Olson, and Milhouse is a sort of doppelganger).

    Posted by Kirby Olson  on  10/20  at  12:07 PM
  83. the captcha is image, as in these lines from the 60’s lyrics of Shawn Phillips:

    But only reflections and never an image
    In her mind’s unfathomable moat
    But some castles where she wanders are yet crumbling into dust
    In this house of visions on top of the hill the glass has turned to rust

    We speak and play the game
    Are you worried about the haste?
    Can you identify with I?
    Do many pieces still remain?

    Today is like tomorrow then
    A little scared of the affairs of men
    Everybody also knows that they’re been afraid
    ‘Cause they are frightened by a love life with everybody
    Terrified by the thought of
    Unity is probable
    Vanity is escapable
    Violence, the workings of a tortured mind

    And the church said you know we stand for truth
    But we’ve got to be organized
    We’ve got money in the pocket
    Anybody don’t like it
    Can be excommunikized
    And you can’t buy back a single soul
    That’s been lost in all those wars of sides
    And he didn’t believe money or political power
    Could be seen in God’s great eyes
    But you may not know he’s been there
    till a long time after he’s gone

    I do think that you are being a bit unfair
    without question; motto of SEALS: never fight fair.

    Posted by  on  10/22  at  12:25 AM
  84. While mildly entertaining, the blasphemy and woeful ignorance of Biblical faith in this ‘whip smart’ blog entry and subsequent comments is not shocking nor surprising.

    Check out Romans 1-3. Ask yourself if you’re suppressing the truth of the things that can be known about God (expressed through general revelation by way of nature, and by the existence of a conscience, which God has given to every human being.)

    If you have ‘kind of noticed’ certain things that are only explained by the existence of God, yet have never honored Him or given Him thanks, you can expect a gradual dimming of His presence in your life. Romans says that ‘they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man (Buddha, for one) and birds and animals and reptiles.

    What happens next? The phrase “God gave them up” is repeated several times in the ensuing verses, to demonstrate that while patient and rich in mercy, the good and just Judge has His limits. Remember the flood? How about Sodom and Gomorrah? Just some old fairy tales? Are you willing to spend eternity in hell based on your opinion that the Bible is not true? Pretty high stakes, don’t you think?

    On judgment day, when you stand before Holy God, do you think that if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds God will say, ‘welcome to heaven’? Ephesians 2:8-9 states “for by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” We cannot save ourselves on the basis of our works. All we can do is by faith, take God at His Word. Reading His Word daily, with faith, is a good place to start.

    What do good judges do to the guilty? Let’s say your crime of murder has landed you in a courtroom. Just before the judge slams down the gavel, you say “But judge, I have helped little old ladies across the street and fed the homeless.” Would a good judge then let you go free? Neither will God, the ultimate “good Judge.”

    Now, on to “The Law” given to Moses. The Ten Commandments. Maybe you have noticed that they are impossible to keep. The Bible says “no one is righteous.” The commandments show us how we are hopeless on our own to meet God’s perfect standards.

    Since ‘the fall,’ and our consequent spiritual death and separation from God (which is our inheritance through Adam) God has graciously revealed a way back to Him. Under both the Old and New Covenants, blood was required for the atonement or reconciliation between Him, a Holy God, and us, sinful humankind. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.

    Remember Adam and Eve? Immediately after their first sin they hid from God. To cover their nakedness, “The Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” Blood had to be shed for the ‘clothing’ of the transgressors.

    The first (sinful) Adam was clothed in garments that required blood to be shed. The second (perfect) Adam (Jesus) shed His own blood and clothed us with His righteousness, making it possible for us (through faith in Him and acceptance of His sacrifice) to be acceptable to God.

    If we lie one time, we have broken God’s law and deserve to burn in Hell. We all know that we have lied more than once and there’s all those other commandments that we’ve also broken.

    Many people mistakenly think that the Old Testament God is vengeful and the New Testament God is “all about the love.” Well, it’s the same God. He is the “same yesterday, today and forever.” If anything, keeping the law is even MORE impossible now in light of Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5. Looking with lust is now considered adultery. Being angry is tantamount to murder. Whoa. Clothed in Jesus by faith not only do I have the blessed hope of His return to look forward to, I have fulness of life now, purpose and His peace which passes all understanding.

    Is it really worth it to spend so much of your God-given time and effort spitting in God’s face? Some of you will say YES, and there was a time in my life when I did as much. But I pray for your sakes that you will see the reasonableness of faith and stop fooling around with your low esteem of true believers and God Himself. I really don’t care what you think of me. You can hate me with all you’ve got. My hands are free from your blood if you are determined to go to hell. But I hope you won’t and that we will meet in heaven someday.

    Posted by  on  10/31  at  03:56 AM
  85. Great website again! I really found some useful information on your website. Thank you for that. Keep up the good work!

    Posted by Alpharetta car insurance  on  03/02  at  03:43 PM





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