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, October 28, 2007
A Late Autumn Outing
So pleased was I to be invited on a Late Autumn picnic by Mr. J. A. Patel, proprietor of the local Best Western, and his ravishing daughter Gwendolyn that I said yes without a thought to the fact I had not yet prepared my sermon for this morning. And yet, as the Lord said to Job, Who provides food for the raven, when its young cry out to God, and wander about for lack of food? And just as the Lord will cause the mother raven to regurgitate juicy morsels of partially digested food into the mouths of the baby birds, he also surprised me with a perfect partially digested sermon topic to nourish me at that lovely picnic!
“Republicans?” I averred. “They have nothing on the clergy. Think about Aimee Semple McPherson. Father Brendan Smyth. Jim Bakker. Ted Haggard.”
“But Reverend Cavendish,” said Mr. Patel. “Surely you are not proud of this record!”
“Not proud,” I said, “But I’ve always felt there must be a reason for it. And the same goes for Republicans! Why else would so many Republicans be exposed as sinners? If it isn’t part of God’s plan, what else could account for it?”
“Well,” said the comely Ms. G., “could it be that they choose not to come to terms with their appetites, instead hoping for rules from some external power to limit those appetites for them? Then, as they gain power and influence and have more opportunities to satisfy their cravings, they find that they have no inner moral compass to keep them from succumbing to temptation?”
“Pish!” I indulgently intoned, “next, you will be saying that morality is least likely to be found among those who talk the most about it! And what would that imply about your favorite Philosophy professor, your treasured Herr Professor Brust-Hätschelt?”
I hoped the jealousy with which I was increasingly consumed did not show in my voice! Gwendolyn began to answer, but J.A. shushed her and began to unwrap the cucumber sandwiches. Soon the conversation took another turn, and I ended up relating my unexpurgated reading of the theological message of the hit 1970’s movie “The Black Hole.” Since Ms. Patel is of the younger persuasion, I am sure that my immersion in “popular culture” was a welcome surprise!
Yet at the same time, isn’t her statement shocking?
The heathen impulse to project their own weaknesses onto the clergy aside, the statement shows no understanding of the special circumstances in which the hypermoral oft find ourselves. Today’s reading comes from newspaper clippings I have saved that explain exactly why it is that Clergy and Republicans are more likely to be tempted by God.
The first comes from the Washington Post (4/11/88, page A3), in the wake of the fall of a friend and Bridge partner of mine, the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart.
Swaggart has drawn a similar parallel. In 1986, he told The Globe and Mail of Toronto, “It’s my business to make you kind of hot where you’re sitting. It’s my business to keep you up at night, to make you toss and tumble, unable to sleep.”
And of course, Jimmy was a master at doing just that (here, of course, I am limiting myself to a discussion of the context of his preaching!) Is it any wonder that he ended up being a little too familiar with the “toss and tumble” of life? The article, by Laura Sessions Stepp, continues:
For some revival preachers, relaxing after a performance is difficult, according to Dobbins. The evangelist may not take time to cool down, Dobbins said. He may believe that he does not need the quiet introspection that grounds him in his faith. He may feel that he cannot express such physical intensity with his wife, whose religious background is often similar to his own.
Just so. I often find that preaching is a deeply visceral and stimulating experience. I end up sweating like a ginseng junkie who just ingested a foot of the good brown root. For this reason, it is vitally important to cool down afterwards, and my guess is that not enough clergy (or altar boys!) do. This is, of course, the reason for the gazebo and jacuzzi in the new Rectory. But the reasoning here is unimpeachable, and by itself explains the clergy scandals, but wait! There is more!
The second reading comes from the erstwhile Satanist and Stalinist New York Times (11/6/06, page A1), which I rarely read. But I was interested in the story of Ted Haggard, with whom I once – purely by chance -- happened to share a hotel room in Chiang Mai. The quotation comes from Larry Stockstill, the pastor of the Bethany World Prayer Center in Louisiana, from which Haggard’s New Life Church began in 1985 as an outreach mission:
“What’s going to happen in the nation?” Mr. Stockstill said. ”You know what -- I don’t think that’s your concern or mine. He chose this incredibly important time for this sin to be revealed and I actually think it’s a good thing -- I believe America needs a shaking, spiritually.”
This quotation deserves deep reflection. If Ted Haggard revealed his sin at this time, it is because America needed a spiritual shaking! His sin was part of his mission. In a sense, he was the lightning rod for a sinful nation. It is lucky for the nation that we only needed a shaking, because I hesitate to think what sins he might have revealed if we had needed a spanking, a tanning, or a whupping!
This of course puts us in mind of 1 Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures,” and how He once bore the burden of our sins. Ted Haggard was so Christ-like, he performed all sorts of thoroughly sinful acts out of compassion! Indeed, one might infer that all the names I mentioned to Mr. Patel were up to nothing more than giving the nation a needed shaking!
And of course, it is but a hair’s breadth from sinful clergy to sinful Republicans. But what this makes painfully clear is that it is only a Republican of the highest moral fiber who will end up panting on all fours in order to cleanse our political process of its orgy of immorality!
It is possible another Senator will be outed, and another name will be dragged through the mud (and I pray that this prospect has nothing to do with Kay Bailey Hutchison’s announcement she will retire! Or that time she accompanied Liddy and Condi to Kennebunkport!) But if and when it happens, I hope you understand that, as with sinful clergy, it is because the Republicans are favored by God that this has happened, and the true fault lies, as it always does, with the Democrats and Atheists for whose sins they are suffering!
Now, I know all of the Fafmissen aren't climatologists studying the effects of global climate change, and very few of us are PR/Advertising hacks expert in making the deadly palatable. However, that shouldn't stop us from speculatin'! Here is your Back-Talk question: What might the public health benefits of global climate change be? (Answer in the comments!)
No, “Confidence and Confidentiality” is not the title of a Jane Austen novel, but my name for the two extremes on the continuum of pastoral behavior. On one hand, we have the clergyman wracked by doubt and bound by the fear that he may accidentally divulge private information about the members of his flock. He is concerned with "Confidentiality." On the other, we have the supremely self-assured clergyman who speaks freely in the knowledge that God would not let him reveal personal facts that God did not meant to become public. He exudes "Confidence."
Which one am I?
Need you ask? I remember when little Timmy Idaho was a little boy and his daddy "Big Idaho" confessed to me that he knew little Timmy would never be more than "a lickspittle conformist Company Man," but didn’t have the heart to tell him. With Timmy in Church, a timid clergyman would sooner die than divulge such a potentially embarrassing fact. But if God had not meant for me to wield his sword of truth, he wouldn’t have given me my sword-wielding epiglottis or tonsils or whatever it is that makes the sound in my throat (or taught me how to confidently weave such virile metaphors into my sermons!)
I’m sure many of you recall the “pastoral privilege” exception that you granted me last year. The more demented of you may not remember that after Big Ray of “Raymond’s Hardware and Barber” went on his tragic electric razor-spree at the Cat Show, many members agreed with me that I should be released from my pledge of confidentiality to report to the community things like Raymond’s recurring nightmare about being ravaged by long-haired Persians.
Now, while we all initially agreed that the “pastoral privilege” exception applied only to conversations that revealed dangerous anti-social tendencies, I have since consulted the Good Book, and found Biblical passages that justify expanding the “pastoral privilege,” and they are today’s reading.
First, we must not forget Exodus 20:5, one of several passages where the Lord tells us that the sins of the fathers will be revisited upon the sons:
For I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and fourth generation of those that hate me. . .
The Lord God is a jealous God, which is why good Christians (and Hebrews) must not discourage children from a little healthy competition about social popularity, for it would not make them a “Heather” in the eyes of a Lord that understands jealousy. Au contraire!
But more importantly, if a son has a plan to shave a cat, three or four generations of that person’s family in either direction also likely have pet-shearing fantasies. That is why I am fully justified in extending the “pastoral privilege” exemption from keeping confidences to pretty much everyone related to the person.
Second, there is the question of whether their anti-social speech may have affected others. Continuing on the theme of how people might be influenced by false prophets, remember what 1 Corinthians 12:2 says about mute idols:
Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
Clearly, people are easily misled, and it is fair to say that any soul who comes into contact with a person with anti-social tendencies might be swayed by them. So although I might warn you about a person with such tendencies, that person’s evil cat-shaving plan may have already infected others with impressionable minds or a sense of grievance against felines. So the “pastoral privilege” exception should be applied to anyone who had contact with a person with anti-social thoughts, or indeed with the members of the several generations of that person’s family.
It is safe to say, then, that the “pastoral privilege” exception applies to pretty much everyone in town. I can only imagine an exception arising in an Andromeda Strain type situation where one was either a drunken old man or a crying baby in quarantine deep in an underground laboratory as the town above them is decimated by contagious deadly disease. With God as my witness, I swear that, in such a situation, I would take their secrets with me to the grave!
And, brothers and sisters, just as I intend to err on the side of confidence over confidentiality, I urge you to look into your own lives, and think about how confidences are dangerous to you and your family. I urge you to come and share those confidences about family members with me (after all, if the 9-11 terrorists had not been so consumed with secrecy, then we might never have had reason to attack Saudi Arabia.)
Yet I feel that were you to come to the Rectory to do so, you would find it inadequate for the purpose. A small sitting room with lighting inadequate to prevent a sensation of claustrophobia! A living area a full three rooms away from the kitchen, guaranteeing that the crudités are cold by the time they arrive! A guest bathroom without a functioning bidet!
Sadly, several of you have opposed the construction of a New Rectory, calling it an “unneeded expense.” At the Annual Congregational Meeting, I noted that Mrs. Bill Jefferson, a self-described “fiscal watchdog,” expressed the notion that the estimate of $2.5 million for a New Rectory was perhaps overindulgent.
To that I would simply remind you all of the maxim that “people in glass houses and who have several different strains of painful recurrent herpes shouldn’t heave stones at their local religious leader.” As the Pope is wont to say, “halt den mund, capische?”
Of course, Mrs. Jefferson’s opposition was supported by Mr. Mormoni, whose father was a close friend of Big Idaho, to whom I alluded earlier. I respect Mr. Mormoni’s argument that the Old Rectory is in fact only five years old, and hence could still be used to advantage.
I should also mention that Mr. Mormoni’s mother was also a close friend of Big Idaho. So close that I remember them leaving the union temperance prayer-meeting one time together. Mrs. Mormoni had left her purse, so I decided to follow them and return it. I hesitate to continue the story in this venue, however, because of the presence of people who may be put off by descriptions of unnatural acts that involve albino ferrets, a gyros wheel, and embalming fluid. Perhaps another time?
Finally, Fran “Pantsy” Nelosi was the most vocal about her opposition to the New Rectory, based on allegations about some imagined misdeeds of mine in the Woodshed. As Chairwoman of the Women’s Missionary Society, Pantsy’s misguided opposition has swayed more than one parishioner.
While there is little that goes on in town that does not eventually come to my attention, it was not until last Tuesday that Dr. Zimbardo confessed to me that Pantsy is not as enamoured of missionaries as her position in the society might indicate! But again, time is winding down, and I would like to reserve some time for a couple of procedural matters. The full details of Dr. Zimbardo’s testimony may or may not be the subject of a sermon at a future date.
At this point, I would like to formalize both my interpretation of the expanded nature of the “pastoral privilege” exception. Are there objections?
No? Well, then, I wanted to follow up with a final chance for anyone to object to hiring Hal Ibbertson to begin work on the New Rectory. As the man said, speak now or forever hold your peace.
No? Well! That touches me! It touches me so deeply, I will cease to ponder how to visit iniquities, and instead consider whether some confidentiality may be mixed in with my own confidence. Perhaps confidence and confidentiality will become my new watchwords!
President-in-waiting Rudy Giuliani answers questions on the campaign trail:
"If (there's) something living on another planet and it's bad and it comes over here, what would you do?"
Giuliani, grin on his face, said it was the first time he's been asked about an intergalactic attack. [Ed: the question was about interplanetary attack. The child specified no galaxy. What is "Giuliani" hiding with these weasel words?]
"Of all the things that can happen in this world, we'll be prepared for that, yes we will. We'll be prepared for anything that happens."
Dear Spot, I was just finishing putting the dishes in the dishwasher when there was a loud banging on the door. I went to answer, but just as I reached it, it burst open and two largish individuals in suits barged in. I started to protest and the first one interrupted with, "Shut yo fuckin mouth! Da boss's turn to talk." Then we both quietly turned to look at the other one. He looked around the room thoughtfully, nods and tells me, "You gotta real nice family here, if you want to health care for 'em you're gonna have to go through us. If you don't, when they need somethin big, they ain't gonna get it." I politely asked what he had to do with my doctor. He tells me that they take 30% off the top and use the rest to pay for medical emergencies. The thing is that I have to pay up front, every month. Every month they will take their 30%, and then, if we eventually need something, they will pay for it - if they think it is important. I did not know things like this went on in any civilized country, and I must have looked skeptical because he looked at me and said, "Look, we got a legit business here, this is how it's done in this country. Now I'm puttin you down for a thousand a month, if you don't pay it's your kids that'll have to suffer."
Spot, is that really how they do it here in the states? If I don't give these guys a cut, I really have to do without health care? Why?
Should children be seen and not heard? I remember I was once riding on a train in Umbria, and some local urchins were screaming up and down the aisle like the flames of Hell were licking at their ankles. I quoted the remark about their being seen and not heard to the priest sitting across from me. We struck up a conversation, and he introduced himself as Monsignor Tommaso Stenico. Soon we were talking as if we were old friends!
“Vecchio cazzo,” he said after a pause in the conversation, apparently having trouble with my Anglophone surname, “I was wondering whether you could help me with some research I am planning to carry out with some of the younger priests in my parish?”
It dawned on me that the Monsignor had mistaken me for another type of person entirely! I am aware that, behind my back, some of you have called me “denominationally challenged,” but I must point out that at that time in my life I was certainly not a Papist. So the Monsignor’s overture, while not unwelcome to the ears of a supporter of the general importance of research, was misdirected. Nevertheless, there was something about his question that rang alarm bells, and since at the time I was covertly gathering information on the secret lives of the Papists, I decided to play along.
A few hours later we were at the Archdiocese, listening to Ethel Merman records and roasting marshmallows in his Toshiba microwave (I realized that Tommaso also knew all the lyrics to “Anything Goes”!) From there, we spent several weeks on the Lido with a Corsican student priest named Tadzio. It was not until the following Summer that we realized both of us were operating undercover, I doing research on the rites of the Papists, and he gathering information on those who damage the image of the Church with homosexual activity! What an absurd misunderstanding! We were disappointed, but also relieved to know that none of what happened between us was genuine. Still, it was not wasted effort, since I learned how to give excellent pedicures – a skill that has helped me out of more than one sticky Theological quandary!
Today’s reading is also about children, and the recent accusations that the Bible uses children in an inappropriate way. Specifically, the liberal media has complained about the treatment of Isaac in Genesis 22, arguing that Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his own son on God’s command, only to be reprieved at the last minute, is using children in a cynical and exploitative manner. Ninja-like as ever, I will wield my keen Theological acumen to eviscerate these objections.
• In Genesis 22:7-8 God instructs Abraham: And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
Now, I realize that it might seem like Isaac is clearly too stupid to live. But remember that this was a long time ago, before it was trendy to be skeptical about one’s parents’ motives. Today, any child would wonder: “I wonder if I am the lamb?” But those were simpler times. Isaac was probably thinking to himself something naïve and innocent, like “I wonder if they still sell chorizos on the top of the Temple Mount?”
• Later, in Genesis 22:9-10, we find no direct statement that Isaac realizes that his father is about to sacrifice him: They came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
Boys love campfires! Isaac, who is clearly familiar with sacrificial pyres, probably had longed to see the flames from the altar’s perspective. Sure, it must have seemed creepy to see his father about to gut him like a fish, but the situation here for this kid looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under the old “no surprises” Abraham. Plus, today he didn’t have to go to school. It must have been a good experience: Isaac eventually lived to be over 137 years old!
And yet the Liberal Media condemns the Bible’s use of the near death of a child as a teaching tool. Indeed, they have tried to smear both Abraham and Isaac, claiming that the whole event was a publicity stunt intended to divert attention from the perception that Abraham was “weak on sin” after trying to save the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. They also note that Isaac later claimed his wife Rebekah was his sister in Genesis 26, claiming this makes Isaac an “incest fetishist.”
Noted Civil Rights activist Michelle Malkin defends such slander: “If you don’t want questions, don’t foist these children onto the public stage.” Knee-jerk liberal Mark Steyn whines: “If a political party is desperate enough to send a boy to do a man’s job, then the boy is fair game.” Militant Atheist Rush Limbaugh says this is par for the Bible as a whole: “‘Fiction’ is their byword. Make it up. Make sure people cry about it. Have a lot of emotion attached to the fiction, and have no guilt about it.”
This is typical liberal claptrap. God wasn’t exploiting Isaac, God was taking him on a crazy adventure, introducing him to new experiences that he would never have had at home. I remember once when Monsignor Stenico told me that Tadzio, the student priest I spoke of earlier, said the same thing about his experiences in the cabana!
In conclusion, I don’t want to hear any of you using the name “Isaac” and the term “child abuse” in the same sentence! Such balderdash debases the whole notion of binding and threatening to kill children!
The Russian government under Vladimir Putin has amassed so much central authority that the power-grab may undermine Moscow's commitment to democracy, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday.
"In any country, if you don't have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development," Rice told reporters after meeting with human-rights activists.
"I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin. I have told the Russians that. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma," said Rice, referring to the Russian parliament.
What Do We Want? Accountability! When Do We Want It? Whenever!
[This humble post began as a comment in the thread for the previous post, mainly in response to mistah charley, ph.d.'s latest entry. Admittedly, it probably won't make a whole lot of sense unless you read his comment first.]
Here is a poorly conceived haiku... (syllables in parentheses don't count, right?)
Who are them taking polites (Gr.) out of politics? Our feckless leaders.
Though "feckless" isn't really the word for it. As mistah charley, ph.d. says, "...by intent, not just in effect..."
On my other blog, (where I've been posting almost as infrequently as here,) I posed a question knowing full well what the answer (or determined lack of an answer) of any candidate with even an outside shot at winning would most certainly be. And which, to be more perfectly opaque, I will not express here.
When excellent arguments like mistah charley's seem to fall upon deaf ears, what deterrent do We People have for once and future leaders with similarly sinister ambitions? Citizens arrest and extradition to Nuremberg?
QUESTION: What word should replace "feckless" in the above verse? ... Or we could take a stab at the other questions (above), I suppose.
To our Latin-speaking forefathers, swallowing was gluttire, a word that is also the root of "gluttony," one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
As you remember, last year’s Cavendish Encyclical was about the dangers of gluttony, a topic that has been at the forefront of my mind since Mrs. Betty Overholser skipped services to escort her growing daughters Nora and Nellie to the clothing store. You must recall the Encyclical’s conclusion that the Overholser women would today be closer to God if they tried to distance themselves from saturated fats!
Missing services is surely a sin of omission, but buying larger clothes for children who consume too much is simply enabling them, and hence is an additional sin of commission. My sainted mother, when I was a husky lad, used a shoehorn and whale oil to force me into my old clothes. I still remember her singsong voice: “No new clothes for Prurience, as long as Prurience keeps inhaling licorice sticks between meals!” Soon simple respiration became a challenge, and I grew mindful of my weight in a way I had never been before! I remember one October morning, walking home in the wind and rain. As my jeans constricted my blood flow, I saw Catherine of Siena materialize in front of me. She lectured me on the evils of gluttony, and I realized that if my own attempts at bodily discipline failed, I would need to rely on some Other Power to discipline my body!
I remember a later epiphany when, having survived into adulthood, the widow Sheila, of whom I have spoken to you before, instructed me further in the voice of Catherine of Siena. She told me that I could repay the martyred saints by helping others discipline their bodies! And how she made me labor in the fields of the Lord! Of course, when I related this imperative to Mrs. Overholser, she understood it in completely the wrong way, and to this day I am grateful to Judge O’Grady for viewing my offer in the theological light in which it had been intended!
But I digress. When it came to light that I had issued a “Secret Opinion” pursuant to last year’s anti-gluttony Encyclical, some of you suspected me of speaking out of both sides of my mouth (Indeed, at times when my blood sugar level falls during a sermon, I have been known to suck on a Carl’s Jr. M&M Shake, and this does cause me to talk about of both sides of my mouth. But my point is that both sides are saying the same thing. It is sort of like getting one sermon in Stereophonic Sound. Seriously. What’s not to like?)
Today’s Reading will bear this out. In order to reassure you, I offer you selections from both last year’s Encyclical, and the “Secret Opinion” that has your knickers in a collective twist. As you will see, there is really no contradiction between the two:
The 2006 Cavendish Encyclical Contra Gluttony: It is the excessive desire for food that typifies gluttony, for we must not forget that over-consumption of food necessarily leads to its withholding from the needy. The 2007 “Secret Opinion” on the Encyclical: Since the sin of gluttony applies when over-consumption deprives the needy of food, “excessive desire for food” only applies to those foods that the needy might crave. So it is gluttony to eat too many staple foods and other products sold at the Piggly-Wiggly, but never gluttony to eat too many gourmet items that the masses do not crave, such as products that arrive from Harry and David, or items bought at Whole Foods.
The 2006 Cavendish Encyclical Contra Gluttony: Gluttony applies not just to food, but also to resources. Indeed, the United States consumes over 25% of the world’s resources, despite being less than 5% of world population. The 2007 “Secret Opinion” on the Encyclical: St. Thomas Aquinas defined one of the five aspects of gluttony as studiose or “eating too daintily.” For this reason, if you have to drive somewhere, it is Godly not to mince around in a Prius, but rather one should eschew daintiness and make sure you have a vehicle that can go off-road, like a Hummer that has been upgraded to 1000 HP.
The 2006 Cavendish Encyclical Contra Gluttony: Remember that associating with gluttons disgraces your family. This is the message of the Book of Proverbs 28:7: “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.” The 2007 “Secret Opinion” on the Encyclical: For this reason, if your friends run the risk of consuming too much, like at a keg party or an auction for lucrative government contracts, it is important to drain the keg yourself or arrange to be awarded a no-bid contract prior to the auction, thus keeping yourself from becoming a “companion of gluttons.”
Some critics have written that “Reverend Cavendish’s ‘Secret Opinion’ on gluttony proves him a modern-day Augustus Gloop, straining to justify in private the very behaviours he rails against in public,” (Mincing Minister’s Monthly). I can only remind you that gluttony is a characteristic of Beelzebub, of whom in the past I have warned you against (and here I note that Mrs. Carrington Bertram is again not present in our Holy Precincts, only confirming my suspicions that she is and always has been on the brimstone end of the mineral-theological spectrum). If I am against Beelzebub, how could anything I write be for Gluttony?
Others have claimed to see contradictions between the two documents, but I remind them that that the Encyclical and the “Secret Opinion” were intended for different audiences. Of course, the theologically literate are better able to understand the nuances of my “Secret Opinion” than the hoi polloi. To say that the two documents contradict each other is to miss the point. I am not arguing that "swallowing is not bad," I am just saying that in many cases, gulping things down is not swallowing. And we do not swallow.