Blog Noir.An interplay of cultural references, snark, the occasional smutty joke, Dadaism, Mamaism, and a genuine outrage at the horrors of The Situation.
--to paraphrase Freddy el Desfibradddoro
Sunday, July 29, 2007
“Righteous, said Fred”
Friends: It is most satisfying to see a full house today. I would like to welcome the members of the Lady’s Auxiliary back to the fold. We all offer our prayers for Mrs. Carrington Bertram’s timely recovery. Also, I would like to welcome the class of visiting interns from the Lonborg-Tillman Psychiatric Institute. While I believe that some of my remarks last week were misreported, if the ultimate result of the error is bringing more people into these Holy Precincts -- well, if filling the pews is wrong, then I don’t want to be right!
This leads me to the question that I have recently been pondering. Can one be right, if it fails to be righteous? It is a matter of common knowledge that one can be Dutch without being a Duchess. But, while suggestive, this parallel doesn’t completely answer the question. I think we all know people who seem to be “right.” Our neighbor Dr. Fred Wallenstein, who naturally does not attend our church, has spent many of the last 37 years in the Biafra region of southeastern Nigeria, ministering to the sick and needy. He is “right,” as judged by the community. And yet, when we think about the disposition of his eternal soul, we ask if in God’s eyes, he should be considered “righteous”?
Today’s reading is from Jim Bakker’s The Refuge. Now, many people know that Jim Bakker was not right. Indeed, he spent time in jail, and right-thinking Christians may be sincere in their belief that he cheated them out of their money. Yet it would be wrong to conclude on that basis that he is not righteous! For in the pages of this book we find a message of Christian hope and salvation that could never be called wrongteous!
The Refuge begins with a description of our country after a catastrophe, making it a work of “Creation Science Fiction.” Indeed, Bakker has studied Biblical prophecy and is “convinced a monstrous asteroid will collide with the Earth,” and tells us how we can escape from the social breakdown that will ensue. The point is that one cannot survive on the basis of good works alone. We already know this, of course, from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, which was a real page turner in the year 63, but Jim has really punched it up for a modern audience.
In the book, a woman named Mary recounts her mistaken understanding of Christianity before the calamity: “Oh, sure, we always had our benevolent funds to help people whose homes had burned down or had been damaged in a storm. We helped lots of people who suffered with some debilitating disease that had hospitalized them or impaired their ability to take care of themselves.” This is exactly the mentality that believes that throwing money at hurricane victims is the best thing for them! Mary goes on: “But most of us considered ourselves to be self-sufficient. We didn’t need each other. We didn’t need anybody. . . or so we thought.” The important thing is to be there for the members of your own Church. Because whatever you accomplish, it is useless unless you realize that you haven’t done it through your own power.
This reminds me of a time when I was a boy and mother and I were staying with my uncle Kenneth who was a missionary in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation. At the time, despite the forced relocation of millions of Chinese and the imprisonment of soldiers from across the British Commonwealth in hideous camps, Uncle Kenneth did very well by helping Japanese soldiers meet eligible Chinese ladies. He told me that it was his contribution to the community, and indeed the community seemed to reward him for it handsomely. One day I asked him for some money to help some members of the congregation who needed urgent medical care. I’ll never forget what Uncle Kenneth said to my mother, for it was an excellent use of scripture. He said: “‘For by grace are ye saved through faith,’ and you better have faith that they only way to save that asinine Prurience is to put him back in the cangue!” But as he reattached the ancient cangue I realized that he was using “tough love” to teach me that money for doctors is inferior to faith in God.
This is also something of which Jim Bakker is aware, as his character Mary confirms:
“Well, in our church, God has been performing wonderful miracles of healing,” the saintly woman continued. “Do you mean that people actually feel better after somebody prays for them?” Stan probed. “Oh, they don’t just feel better. They are better! We’ve had folks who have been healed of cancer, heart disease, kidney failure; one fellow was even healed of AIDS.”
This is something Mrs. Carrington Bertram might also take to heart. Again, faith is the one thing that Dr. Wallenstein appears to be lacking. It is no wonder he has to go back to Africa year after year. If he had faith he wouldn’t have to keep curing the same natives over and over again!
"...Nothing in the Hayes book suggests that Mr. Cheney is about to do it — except for that the vice president spent nearly 30 hours cooperating with the author and apparently gave the okay for many of his friends and colleagues to grant similar access ... The Richard Cheney described in this book isn't vain enough to do that simply for his reputation in history. My own guess — okay, hope — is that Mr. Cheney has taken a look at the Republican presidential field and sees an opening. If Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans start receiving copies of 'Cheney' in their mailboxes, Mr. Cheney's popularity may yet begin to climb." [Editor & Publisher: 'N.Y. Sun' Still Wants Cheney to Run for President]
"So whadda ya say, Dick, you in?"
"No. I don't want to be president. I'll stay on as vice president, if Dumbya decides to stick around for another term, though."
"I don't think he can do that. Isn't there a limit or something?"
"There's no term limits in Foxholes, son... And we've still got a few tricks up our sleeve."
"Naaah, I'm just pulling your leg, boy. Just floating a little trial balloon there, cool your jets."
"Oh, ok. So, if you're not gonna run it's just Thompson then."
"He's a fantastic leader, and people loved him in The Hunt for Red October."
"Me too! D'you got any advice for Thompson?"
"I'll be more than happy to head up Freddy's vice presidential running-mate search. I know just the man for the job."
WASHINGTON (Map, News) - Dismissing the GOP presidential field as a "pathetic" bunch of "pygmies," Newt Gingrich hinted Monday he might step in to beat Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama....
Gingrich mocked Republican presidential candidates for subjecting themselves to a May debate hosted by Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball."
"You're watching an utterly irrelevant, shallow television celebrity dominate everybody who claimed they want to lead the most powerful nation in the world," he said.
It is not immediately clear if the reference to "an utterly irrelevant, shallow television celebrity" was a slap at Chris Matthews or the as-yet undeclared candidacy of former Tennessee Senator and actor Fred Thompson.
No mention appeared in the article that Gingrich had actually begun to emit gamma rays, although at a sublethal level. We cannot confirm rumors that his aides and secretary are wearing lead lined underwear, although we will spread them.
Friends: Several of you (and it seems like there are only several of you in the pews today) have confessed to me their unease about the state of world. While some of you were sanguine about the current war at its start, you have begun to question the justification for its continuation.
It would be possible to cite a myriad of economic, political and social reasons for it, but we are in Church and it is Sunday, so we are pretty much confined to spiritual reasons. Despite this handicap, we all know that there are wars that are just and ones that are unjust, and so we may ask: “How do we know this is a just war?”
Today’s reading is from the Greek classics, specifically the account by Thucydides of the Peloponnesian War. The scene is a dialog between the superior forces of Athens and the pathetic elders of Melos, who are resisting the Athenians out of a quaint desire for self-determination.
The Melians start to whine that they had done nothing to offend the brawny men of Athens. But the Athenians tell them “Shut Up!” and then use their superior understanding of natural justice to dispose of the Melites’ faith in the sacred cow of manmade justice. The nineteenth century translator John Jason Owen renders the rather swarthy Athenian response in this way:
“You know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”
An illustration of this principle is the supermarket. Let’s say that you are in a supermarket and you pass a freezer marked “Fresh Fish.” Startled, you stop and notice that it contains the corpses of several of your co-workers, people at your stage in life and some of whom played woodwinds with you in Jazz Band back in High School. Because they are your equals in social status, you think “This is Unjust!” You cry, and perhaps rend garments, and certainly do not consider purchasing them to eat unless they are significantly cheaper by the pound than the Halibut and Perch that usually occupy the section. But ask yourself: when was the last time you rent your garments in a “Fresh Fish” section populated by fish? It would be chilling to do so!
Clearly, the finely-chiseled Athenians are correct that right is only a question between equals in power. Though we might find this at odds with some of the more knee-jerk liberal interpretations of the Holy Bible, we know its truth from daily experience. I remember my Uncle Kenneth used to box my ears until they bled, but I would let him do this because he would beat the tar out my mother, his sister, if I protested. Uncle Kenneth continued to do this until his mysterious accident in the Marinade Factory.
Those of you who have read more than most, may wonder if there is not some aspect of war that is governed by a moral God who would disapprove of the strong always winning? Certainly, the Melosians thought so. They bleat:
But we trust that the gods may grant us fortune as good as yours, since we are just men fighting against unjust
But the buff Athenian logic once again disposes of the wishful thinking of the puerile Melosiacs:
Of the gods we believe, and of men we know, that by a necessary law of their nature they rule wherever they can. And it is not as if we were the first to make this law, or to act upon it when made: we found it existing before us, and shall leave it to exist for ever after us; all we do is to make use of it, knowing that you and everybody else, having the same power as we have, would do the same as we do.
In the Greek days, as Thucydides said, “Baby, it’s a god-eat-god world!” And that is a Natural law, not a manmade one. But how do we square this law with Christ’s message of mercy? That’s easy: might is a gift that is bestowed on the right. Providence isn’t available to every Tom, Dick, or Abdul. Does God want to intercede in every conflict and aid the just against the superior powers of the unjust? No. That would keep him needlessly busy! Right makes might, and that’s how we can be confident that the mighty are indeed right.
In summary, the current war is a just one because we are at the vanguard of world military power, a place we would only be if we were pleasing to His Eyes. It is the tips of our spears that point out the direction of the just war. And, we are truly lucky to have a Commander-in-Chief who understands how automatic is the moral dimension of his foreign policy.
But of course, our methods have progressed from those of the Athenians of 416 B.C., who had not the benefit of Revelation. Our Christian nation stopped well short of executing every male old enough to fight, selling all the women and children into slavery, and colonizing the land as the Athenians did to Melos. And on that relative peg we may hang the cowboy hat of our moral superiority to the well intentioned but frequently more Ouzo-reliant and sheep-friendly Greeks.
Let me raise one last example, that of Margaret Gertrude, who has been collecting money for Church activities for the past twenty-four years. If I were to hypothetically review the account books and find that the old discrepancies had once more begun to re-appear, I would certainly be justified in assuming that God, resenting pilfering from his own house, would expect action. So, as her spiritual father, I would be justified in reminding her about the Wages of Sin. Rest assured, friends, that if I did so, I am quite sure that she would once again restore the missing funds. For, I am happy to say, she desires money less than she wishes to avoid taking a second tour of the vats of the Marinade Factory!
The Mildly Triumphant Return of the I Miss Fafblog Comment of the Week, Spot! Award
Here's one for all those out there who thought that the IMFBCOTW,S! Award jumped the shark when the Awards Committee took a vacation, and didn't seem to come back afterwards...
It was a melancholy week, at the site, as we noted the one year mark on the period of inactivity at Real Fafblog -- and things got pretty quiet 'round here even. We hope the quietness is testament to vacations enjoyed, time spent with families, the brushing up of long dormant guitar playing skills, the eating of delicious foodstuffs, and the swimmings of summer... And not bleak all-consuming contemplation of a downwardly spiraling life without Fafblog!
Here is your I Miss Fafblog Commentator of the Week, Fannie Farmer (Mrs.), with some well wishes and a little perspective:
As the poet mused (approximately) - "where are the pies of yesteryear?"
Friends: Some of our brothers and sisters have come to me with a question, and it is a question about a topic that should be of great import to all of us, that of resurrection. “Our friends,” they bleat, “disappeared a year ago and we fear they are dead. Is there any hope of them returning?”
The answer to this question, of course, lies in the one book that needs to be on everyone’s Christmas list, the Holy Bible. And let me remind you that you can still purchase sets of either two cassette or four eight-track tapes of “P. M. Cavendish’s Conflagration!” and “P. M. Cavendish’s Pillar of Salt!” from Marjorie Gertrude manning the table by the bulletin boards, after the Sermon. Where else can you cut through the dross and get a concentrated dose of every smiting of every community of heathens, and every culling of every leering fornicator, all in convenient tape form? Your children will thank you for it, right after they head off to Church and then break up with that skanky harlot or long-haired freak you’ve been seeing them around with.
Today’s reading is from Matthew 22, the argument between Jesus and the Sadducees over the resurrection of the dead. You all remember the Sadducees, who minced into our Lord’s august presence without so much as a “How do you do?” They remind Jesus that a widow without children should marry her dead husband’s brother. They then try to play “Gotcha!” with the King of Kings (something you just know isn’t going to go well for them): “Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother. Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? For they all had her,” (Matthew 22:25-28). This is sort of like my favorite musical, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” except it is “One Bride for Seven Brothers,” which would be much harder to choreograph. And each brother keels over after marrying her.
What a contrast to Sheila, the widow of whom I have lately spoken to you! Sheila’s husband had no brother, and she explained to me (right before offering to relieve the shoulder pain I had been experiencing) that she therefore intended to take seriously the imperative that “all men are brothers.” Whereas this widow in Matthew seemed more like a “black widow,” which of course is a kind of deadly spider. Except she didn’t have eight legs or the Sadducees would probably have said something like “left his anatomically unusual wife unto his brother.”
She probably looked more like Fraulein von Teufel, who as we all know would as soon break a man into two pieces than marry him, whose hands may caress a man gently one minute and then rip off his appendages the next, and whose lips are akin to the succulent red petals that a flower-carrying baboon uses to lure men of the cloth into compromising situations in front of hidden cameras and then bite their bottoms over and over again!
Jesus is, of course, not tricked by the shallow quandary offered by these Sadducees. He rightly replies that: “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven,” (Matthew 22:30). And, as we all know, angels neither have naughty bits nor do they bother with courtship or marriage, since they are too busy with higher things like zither lessons and laundry. Lots and lots of laundry, one can only imagine. So in the afterlife the widow isn’t married to any of them (which is consistent with Sheila’s approach, come to think of it). But my point here is that Jesus clearly says that there is resurrection, and that people come back like angels (as a theological point, we must assume that Michael Landon will return as a sort of Mega-angel).
So whether you call it resurrection, or work at the Best Western and call it moksha or transmigration or whatever, I think it is safe to say that your friends will come back. They will be less likely to do the things they used to do, if those things were defacing statuary and rifling through drawers that contain ladies’ undergarments. If they were married to seven other people, it is safe to say they won’t be married to them anymore. But that would be septogamy, anyway, and the Church discourages such things. For those of you who find that disappointing, I would note the fact that the Bible is silent on the subject of octogamy. There. Now, you’re looking more cheerful!
Like most presidents, George Bush sometimes has trouble taking turns and complying with Congressional subpoenas. He'll throw a tantrum whenever anybody tries to make him share documents that he's playing with, or asks him to allow former aides to testify before a committee. He just rolls around the floor of the Oval Office shouting, "No! No! No! Mine!" Am I making a mistake by enabling him? Is there anything I can do to change this behavior?
Sincerely, Fred Fielding
Dear Fred Fielding,
No doubt White House Counsels have seen plenty of presidents who have trouble sharing! With a little help from Congress and the courts, your Mr. Bush may discover that sharing makes playing president three times the fun! I'll bet that if you work together, you and Patrick Leahy can help your boss move through this normal presidential selfishness to become a thoughtful, cooperative member of society.
Friends: Attendance this week does seem to have dropped a bit! I surmise this has little to do with one or two intemperate remarks I made last week, but everything to do with the perennial popularity of the annual fair in neighboring Duchess of Kent County! I can only assume that those of our flock not warming the pews have fallen prey to the charms of the sinister Scrambler and the peccant Tilt-A-Whirl. I am nevertheless glad to see many loyal parishioners have rejected the siren call of the fair for the cheery baritone of this humble house of God. And I don’t wonder that there will be something in it for you, in terms of the disposition of your eternal soul. I have always wondered whether Dante wrote of the Circles of Hell after a wasted afternoon of Skee Ball.
Let me begin today’s sermon on a personal note. In the past, several of you have asked why I go by middle name, Mark, and for what the "P" in "Reverend P. M. Cavendish" stands. There is a story behind the initial, and because my last sermon appears to have rubbed some members of the community the wrong way, I think I can establish some rapport, and make a "connection" with you, my "home-boys," by telling it to you. Some may accuse me of developing what the Youth are wont to call "people skills." To them, I can say with no fear of contradiction: "Don’t get used to it."
My sainted mother had originally intended to name a son "Clement," and a daughter "Prudence." When my father found he was the father of twins, however, he strode into the delivery room and announced (in slightly slurred speech, according to Aunt Bethany) that I could be named "Prurience," which would go with Prudence much better. My mother believes he simply stumbled on the name "Prescience," while Bethany asserts that he was thinking of "Pear Vodka." As it turns out, we will never know because of the accidental overdose of medicinal brandy that bounced him from this mortal coil the very next day. And, out of some slightly twisted reverence for the newly deceased, my mother kept the name "Prurience."
Today’s reading is from the Book of Job 7:5: "My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome." Whenever I come to this section of Job’s travails, I think of my sister Prudence. Surely his trials, while cumbersome and unpleasant, hold no candle to my own persecution at the hands of my twin sister Prudence. Though my flesh is not clothed with worms (which, I would note, in several circumstances might actually be an agreeable sensation), it is certainly worn out from too many years of Prudence’s barbs and brickbats. To take but one example of her cruelty, when she learned of the saga of my naming, she took to calling me “Inclement,” an unkind play on the name I almost was given. At other times she was simply nasty, as when she told my fifth grade teacher that I had drawn crude pictures of him being bound and beaten to death by the sinister and scantily clad German operative Fraulein von Teufel in all my schoolbooks. Once my mother heard from the Principal, it was once again time to change schools.
The one time I thought I hoped I could return the favor was when we were teenagers. Prudence’s boyfriend, Pyrrho Gomez, crashed my mother’s jalopy into an inconveniently placed sapling. They managed to drive the car back to our house, and Prudence pretended they knew nothing about the damage to the front of the car when my mother questioned her. After several days of wrestling with my conscience, I spilled every detail of the accident that I knew to my mother. Much to my surprise, she told me to shut up, and never to breathe a word to anyone. Apparently, the car needed repairs of which the insurance would now take care. "But, will Prudence be punished?" I asked. My mother’s answer was as short as it was unjust: "No."
Prudence, who regularly seems to flaunt the rules, enjoyed reminding me of her brush with discipline, one that ended with no discipline at all. Contrast this to what Job said (7:21): "And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away my iniquity? For now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be." Job needed clemency, but the Lord didn’t immediately respond, instead continuing to yank long amounts of Job’s looping chain. Sure, he later showered Job with compensation, but be fair – he had already played what has to be one of the funniest practical jokes of the Bible on him.
But what did Prudence do to get the same sort of clemency? Nothing. In fact, she regularly got away with all sorts of things I never did. For example, I was always punished for complaining too much, while she never did for her ceaseless whining about her lupus. So I’m happy that I don’t have to carry the name Clement around with me, because frankly, the whole Clemency thing is a crock.
Republicans Evacuated After Bush Presidency Derails
Several Republican lawmakers were evacuated from a GOP trainwreck Friday afternoon after the Bush Presidency derailed.
The administration came off the track just before 9:30 Friday morning near the Union Station on Massachusetts Avenue, NE near Columbus Circle in Washington, D.C.
According to the RNC, it was caused by an Bush's fixation on Iraq, challenges from an opposition Congress, and defeat on immigration, his last major domestic priority. Officials say the evacuation was just a precautionary measure.
"The General Chairman, Sen. Mel Martinez, came up to me, and said I had to hightail it outta there because Bush was 'off the tracks,'" said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
"It ruined my dinner plans," said Sen. Pete Domenici. "I didn't have time to freshen up or anything."
No GOP lawmakers were reported injured.
The causes of the derailment are under investigation by Democrats in congress.
Train service between Dupont Circle and Union Station was briefly disrupted.
And now here's George to sing for you! Take it away, George!
I Beg Your Pardon (Scooter Dooter Doo)
I beg your pardon... I never promised you a full pardon! Along with the sunshine, There's gotta be a little rain sometimes. When I take, you gotta give, and lie like a sieve, Or do time. Almost a pardon, Let's announce it in the Rose Garden.
I would sing you a tune or promise you the moon, If that's what it takes to quiet you, I'd just as soon let you go, but there's so much that you know... I must look after my Veep, still waters run deep, What if he wasn't there to pull me out... And you know what I'm talkin' about! So smile for a while and let's be jolly: Takin' the fifth's not so melancholy. Come along and share the good times while we can.
We beg your pardon, He never promised you a full pardon! Along with the sunshine, There's gotta be a little rain sometimes.