“Some there are”: Antonin Scalia, rock music, and high school graduation in churches

June 17, 2014

Some there are—many, perhaps—who are offended by public displays of religion. Religion, they believe, is a personal matter; if it must be given external manifestation, that should not occur in public places where others may be offended. I can understand that attitude: It parallels my own toward the playing in public of rock music or Stravinsky. And I too am especially annoyed when the intrusion upon my inner peace occurs while I am part of a captive audience, as on a municipal bus or in the waiting room of a public agency.

Justice Antonin Scalia, dissenting to the Supreme Court’s denying to hear a case about high school graduations held in religious facilities, the denial of the writ of certiorari to Elmbrook vs. John Doe et al., 573 U.S. ______.

Justice Clarence Thomas joined Scalia in the dissent.

But, he argues, religion is protected by the First Amendment, our music choices are not.

Read the dissent (way down at the bottom).

Easter services at Elmbrook Church, in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Easter services at Elmbrook Church, in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

I suppose to some, high school graduation ceremonies are a lot like being forced to listen to rap music at intersections.  To others, high school graduations may seem akin to religious experience.  Not sure either view means the ceremonies should be held in churches.

This case is 14 years in the justice system.

More:


A sermon remembering Millard Fillmore’s second wife

March 18, 2014

This was delivered in January.  My search engines found it just a couple days ago, a story about a sermon featuring Millard Fillmore and his second wife, Caroline.

Interesting.  From the Newnan Times-Herald in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia:

Almost forgotten president focus at service

Millard Fillmore's second wife, Caroline, and Fillmore's official White House portrait.


Millard Fillmore was president for a few difficult years a decade before the Civil War split the nation into.

He is almost forgotten by most Americans today. When remembered, Fillmore is often the punchline of a joke — he is often erroneously remembered as the first president to have a bathtub in the White House.

Fillmore and his wife, Caroline, however, were points of beginning for a recent sermon at Allen-Lee Memorial United Methodist Church in Lone Oak. Winston Skinner, a member of the church and a staff member at The Newnan Times-Herald who has a great love for history, brought the message.

Skinner was a pastor for more than 24 years and often used events from history as touchstones for sermons and special services. Chad Hill, Allen-Lee’s pastor, asked Skinner to preach on Jan. 12.

“This sermon idea had been rolling around in my head,” Skinner said.

Skinner, who lives in Newnan, has been interested in presidents and first ladies since he was in elementary school. “I had been reading about Caroline Fillmore, who married the former president in 1858. Upon reflection, I saw several points that ‘will preach’ in her life story,” he said.

“The Fillmores were a religious couple. Their home was known as one of clean language and living. She was Baptist. He Unitarian. When the former president had died in 1874, ministers from three different faiths preached at his funeral,” Skinner noted in his sermon.

Caroline McIntosh “was the wife of a former president, but she had never lived in the White House, never experienced the power and burden of the presidency,” Skinner preached.

“In Caroline Fillmore’s story, we find glimpses of our own. We were not there to see Jesus speak to a multitude on the hillside. We did not taste the fish and bread multiplied from a little boy’s lunch. We did not hear the noises as Lazarus, dead three days, rose from his tomb in Bethany and walked into the sunlight,” Skinner said.

“We did not experience any of that, but we who believe know the one who worked those great miracles. We know Jesus intimately. He lives in our hearts. He accompanies us each moment of our lives,” he added.

The hymns used for the service were from Ira Sankey’s Gospel Hymns, published in the 1870s. A copy of the popular hymnal was among Caroline Fillmore’s belongings offered at auction last year.

Shelia Simpson sang “Sweet Hour of Prayer” during the service.

Church members invited visitors on Jan. 12, days after Millard Fillmore’s 214th birthday. A special effort was made to contact members descendants of Coweta County’s pioneer Carmichael family who may be distantly related to Caroline Fillmore.

After the service, a display of some of Skinner’s presidential memorabilia was displayed in the church fellowship hall. There were miniature figures of presidents, coins, stamps and items autographed by four presidents’ wives — Frances Cleveland, Mary Harrison, Rosalynn Carter and Barbara Bush.

I hope there’s an electronic copy of that sermon, and I hope I can get one.


A sign of some apocalypse in Dinosaur, Colorado?

December 28, 2013

It’s an interesting town, Dinosaur, Colorado 81610.  It’s on the south side of US Highway 40, a very short distance east of the Utah border.

And it touches on the Colorado part of Dinosaur National Monument.  The Wikipedia entry gives specifics:

The Town of Dinosaur is a Statutory Town located in Moffat County, Colorado, United States. The town population was 339 at the 2010 census.[5]

The town of Dinosaur was originally named Artesia; the current name was adopted in 1966, to capitalize on the town’s proximity to Dinosaur National Monument.[6] The monument headquarters is located just east of the town on U.S. Highway 40.

And:

Many streets in the town are named after dinosaurs, including Cletisaurus Circle, Tyrannosaurus Trail, and Antrodemus Alley.[8]

It’s a setup, a straight line waiting for a good comedian.

Brian Switek, the science writer now based in Salt Lake City, suggests one area ripe for comedy:

Wait. What?  Dinosaur Baptist Church?

Brian Tweeted that he wasn’t looking to ridicule, but: “I just imagined thyreophorans, maniraptorans, sauropodomorphs, and their ilk in the congregation.”

That might produce even more comedic situations.

It’s a Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated congregation.  Aren’t you curious how Sunday school goes for dinosaur-crazy kids in such a church, in such a town?

Signs of life, signs of the times, signs of something!

Another shot of the directional sign for Dinosaur Baptist Church, from earlier in 2011, I think.  From Text of the Day.

Another shot of the directional sign for Dinosaur Baptist Church, from earlier in 2011, I think. From Text of the Day.

From a different angle, one can see that the church is just a couple of blocks off of Stegosaurus Freeway.  Wow.

2007 photo of the sign showing street signs at the intersection of 6th Street and Stegosaurus Freeway.  Photo by Will Gelnaw, who has copyright to it.

2007 photo of the sign showing street signs at the intersection of 6th Street and Stegosaurus Freeway. Photo by Will Gelnaw, who has copyright to it.

Still, it’s fun to imagine a nice, small town church, with dinosaurs in the back pews singing along.  (Instead, Chris Clarke suggested, they are hiding in the Rocks of Ages . . .)

More:    

Welcome to Dinosaur, Colorado

Welcome to Dinosaur, Colorado (Photo credit: J. Stephen Conn)


Christmas 2013: Do we know who invented Santa Claus? Who really wrote the “Night Before Christmas?”

December 10, 2013

An encore post and Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub tradition from 2007

Thomas Nast invented Santa Claus? Clement C. Moore didn’t write the famous poem that starts out, “‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house . . . ?”

The murky waters of history from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub soak even our most cherished ideas and traditions.

But isn’t that part of the fun of history?

Santa Claus delivers to Union soldiers, "Santa Claus in Camp" - Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, Jan 3, 1863

In Janaury 1863, Thomas Nast portraye Santa Claus delivered gifts to Union troops in Washington, D.C., wearing a blue, star-spangled coat, just a few days earlier.

Yes, Virginia (and California, too)! Thomas Nast created the image of Santa Claus most of us in the U.S. know today. Perhaps even more significant than his campaign against the graft of Boss Tweed, Nast’s popularization of a fat, jolly elf who delivers good things to people for Christmas makes one of the great stories in commercial illustration. Nast’s cartoons, mostly for the popular news publication Harper’s Weekly, created many of the conventions of modern political cartooning and modeled the way in which an illustrator could campaign for good, with his campaign against the graft of Tammany Hall and Tweed. But Nast’s popular vision of Santa Claus can be said to be the foundation for the modern mercantile flurry around Christmas.

Nast is probably ensconced in a cartoonists’ hall of fame. Perhaps he should be in a business or sales hall of fame, too.  [See also Bill Casselman's page, "The Man Who Designed Santa Claus.]

Nast’s drawings probably drew some inspiration from the poem, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” traditionally attributed to Clement C. Moore, a New York City lawyer, published in 1822. The poem is among the earliest to describe the elf dressed in fur, and magically coming down a chimney to leave toys for children; the poem invented the reindeer-pulled sleigh.

Modern analysis suggests the poem was not the work of Moore, and many critics and historians now attribute it to Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828) following sleuthing by Vassar College Prof. Don Foster in 2000. Fortunately for us, we do not need to be partisans in such a query to enjoy the poem (a complete copy of which is below the fold).

The Library of Congress still gives Moore the credit. When disputes arise over who wrote about the night before Christmas, is it any wonder more controversial topics produce bigger and louder disputes among historians?

Moore was not known for being a poet. The popular story is that he wrote it on the spur of the moment:

Moore is thought to have composed the tale, now popularly known as “The Night Before Christmas,” on December 24, 1822, while traveling home from Greenwich Village, where he had bought a turkey for his family’s Christmas dinner.

Inspired by the plump, bearded Dutchman who took him by sleigh on his errand through the snow-covered streets of New York City, Moore penned A Visit from St. Nicholas for the amusement of his six children, with whom he shared the poem that evening. His vision of St. Nicholas draws upon Dutch-American and Norwegian traditions of a magical, gift-giving figure who appears at Christmas time, as well as the German legend of a visitor who enters homes through chimneys.

Again from the Library of Congress, we get information that suggests that Moore was a minor celebrity from a well-known family with historical ties that would make a good “connections” exercise in a high school history class, perhaps (”the link from Aaron Burr’s treason to Santa Claus?”): (read more, below the fold)

Clement Moore was born in 1779 into a prominent New York family. His father, Benjamin Moore, president of Columbia University, in his role as Episcopal Bishop of New York participated in the inauguration of George Washington as the nation’s first president. The elder Moore also administered last rites to Alexander Hamilton after he was mortally wounded in a tragic duel with Aaron Burr.

A graduate of Columbia, Clement Moore was a scholar of Hebrew and a professor of Oriental and Greek literature at the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan. [See comment from Pam Bumsted below for more on Moore.] He is said to have been embarrassed by the light-hearted verse, which was made public without his knowledge in December 1823. Moore did not publish it under his name until 1844.

Tonight, American children will be tucked in under their blankets and quilts and read this beloved poem as a last “sugarplum” before slipping into dreamland. Before they drift off, treat them to a message from Santa, recorded by the Thomas Edison Company in 1922.

Santa Claus Hides in Your Phonograph
By Arthur A. Penn, Performed by Harry E. Humphrey.
Edison, 1922.
Coupling date: 6/20/1922. Cutout date: 10/31/1929.
Inventing Entertainment: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies

Listen to this recording (RealAudio Format)

Listen to this recording (wav Format, 8,471 Kb)

But Henry Livingston was no less noble or historic. He hailed from the Livingstons of the Hudson Valley (one of whose farms is now occupied by Camp Rising Sun of the Louis August Jonas Foundation, a place where I spent four amazing summers teaching swimming and lifesaving). Livingston’s biography at the University of Toronto site offers another path for a connections exercise (”What connects the Declaration of Independence, the American invasion of Canada, the famous poem about a visit from St. Nick, and George W. Bush?”):

Henry Livingston Jr. was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, on Oct. 13, 1748. The Livingston family was one of the important colonial and revolutionary families of New York. The Poughkeepsie branch, descended from Gilbert, the youngest son of Robert Livingston, 1st Lord of Livingston Manor, was not as well off as the more well-known branches, descended from sons Robert and Philip. Two other descendants of Gilbert Livingston, President George Walker Herbert Bush and his son, President-Elect George W. Bush, though, have done their share to bring attention to this line. Henry’s brother, Rev. John Henry Livingston, entered Yale at the age of 12, and was able to unite the Dutch and American branches of the Dutch Reformed Church. At the time of his death, Rev. Livingston was president of Rutgers University. Henry’s father and brother Gilbert were involved in New York politics, and Henry’s granduncle was New York’s first Lt. Governor. But the law was the natural home for many of Henry’s family. His brother-in-law, Judge Jonas Platt, was an unsuccessful candidate for governor, as was his daughter Elizabeth’s husband, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Smith Thompson. Henry’s grandson, Sidney Breese, was Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Known for his encyclopedic knowledge and his love of literature, Henry Livingston was a farmer, surveyor and Justice of the Peace, a judicial position dealing with financially limited criminal and civil cases. One of the first New Yorkers to enlist in the Revolutionary Army in 1775, Major Henry Livingston accompanied his cousin’s husband, General Montgomery, in his campaign up the Hudson River to invade Canada, leaving behind his new wife, Sarah Welles, and their week-old baby, on his Poughkeepsie property, Locust Grove. Baby Catherine was the subject of the first poem currently known by Major Livingston. Following this campaign, Livingston was involved in the War as a Commissioner of Sequestration, appropriating lands owned by British loyalists and selling them for the revolutionary cause. It was in the period following Sarah’s early death in 1783, that Major Livingston published most of his poems and prose, anonymously or under the pseudonym of R. Ten years after the death of Sarah, Henry married Jane Patterson, the daughter of a Dutchess County politician and sister of his next-door neighbor. Between both wives, Henry fathered twelve children. He published his good-natured, often occasional verse from 1787 in many journals, including Political Barometer, Poughkeepsie Journal, and New-York Magazine. His most famous poem, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” was until 2000 thought to have been the work of Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), who published it with his collected poems in 1844. Livingston died Feb. 29, 1828.

More on Henry Livingston and his authorship of the Christmas poem here.
Thomas Nast, Merry Old Santa Claus, Harper's Weekly, Jan 1, 1881

Our views of Santa Claus owe a great deal also to the Coca-Cola advertising campaign. Coca-Cola first noted Santa’s use of the drink in a 1922 campaign to suggest Coke was a year-round drink (100 years after the publication of Livingston’s poem). The company’s on-line archives gives details:

In 1930, artist Fred Mizen painted a department store Santa in a crowd drinking a bottle of Coke. The ad featured the world’s largest soda fountain, which was located in the department store of Famous Barr Co. in St. Louis, Mo. Mizen’s painting was used in print ads that Christmas season, appearing in The Saturday Evening Post in December 1930.

1936 Coca-Cola Santa cardboard store display

  • 1936 Coca-Cola Santa cardboard store display

Archie Lee, the D’Arcy Advertising Agency executive working with The Coca-Cola Company, wanted the next campaign to show a wholesome Santa as both realistic and symbolic. In 1931, The Coca-Cola Company commissioned Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images using Santa Claus — showing Santa himself, not a man dressed as Santa, as Mizen’s work had portrayed him.
1942 original oil painting - 'They Remembered Me'

  • 1942 original oil painting – ‘They Remembered Me’

For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Moore’s description of St. Nick led to an image of Santa that was warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human. For the next 33 years, Sundblom painted portraits of Santa that helped to create the modern image of Santa — an interpretation that today lives on in the minds of people of all ages, all over the world.

Santa Claus is a controversial figure. Debates still rage among parents about the wisdom of allowing the elf into the family’s home, and under what conditions. Theologians worry that the celebration of Christmas is diluted by the imagery. Other faiths worry that the secular, cultural impact of Santa Claus damages their own faiths (few other faiths have such a popular figure, and even atheists generally give gifts and participate in Christmas rituals such as putting up a decorated tree).

For over 100 years, Santa Claus has been a popular part of commercial, cultural and religious life in America. Has any other icon endured so long, or so well?

________________________
Below:
From the University of Toronto Library’s Representative Poetry Online

Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828)

Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas

1 ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house,

2 Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

3 The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

4 In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

5 The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

6 While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads,

7 And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

8 Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap –

9 When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

10 I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

11 Away to the window I flew like a flash,

12 Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.

13 The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,

14 Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;

15 When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

16 But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,

17 With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

18 I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

19 More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

20 And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:

21 “Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,

22 “On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;

23 “To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

24 “Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

25 As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,

26 When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

27 So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

28 With the sleigh full of Toys — and St. Nicholas too:

29 And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

30 The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

31 As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

32 Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:

33 He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,

34 And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;

35 A bundle of toys was flung on his back,

36 And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack:

37 His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,

38 His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

39 His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow.

40 And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

41 The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

42 And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

43 He had a broad face, and a little round belly

44 That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:

45 He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

46 And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;

47 A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

48 Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

49 He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

50 And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,

51 And laying his finger aside of his nose

52 And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

53 He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

54 And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:

55 But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight –

56 Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Online text copyright © 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto. Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries. Be sure to visit this site for more information on this poem, on Maj. Livingston, and on poetry in general.

More:

 


Open thread: Polite explanations of evolution, for anyone who cares to ask.

November 24, 2013

A friend notes that he can’t seem to get good explanations of evolution from scientists or science-knowledgeable people, not without a great deal of condescension and snark against creationists.

My experience is quite the opposite — I generally find it difficult to maintain a discussion without creationists blowing up at me, and calling names.  So this will be a great exercise in snark and manners control for me.

Rules of this thread:  Ask any question about evolution.  Avoid snark and rudeness.  Be polite.  Provide information without condescension, ridicule, and especially hoax.  Any and all questions on evolution should be fair game.

Let’s see what happens, in comments.

More – sources, resources and commentary readers may find useful:

Cartoon from Tony Auth

Cartoon from Tony Auth


October 9 – St. Denis’s Day, patron saint for those who have lost their head (Tea Party? House GOP?)

October 9, 2013

October 9 is the Feast Day of St. Denis.

Who?  He’s the patron saint of Paris (and France, by some accounts), and possessed people.   Take a look at this statue, from the “left door” of the Cathedral of Notre Dame  in Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche).  He was martyred by beheading, in about 250 C.E.

English: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: porta...

St. Denis greets vistors to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche)

Our trusty friend Wikipedia explains:

According to the Golden Legend, after his head was chopped off, Denis picked it up and walked two miles, preaching a sermon the entire way.[6] The site where he stopped preaching and actually died was made into a small shrine that developed into the Saint Denis Basilica, which became the burial place for the kings of France. Another account has his corpse being thrown in the Seine, but recovered and buried later that night by his converts.[2]

Clearly, he is the guy to pray to about Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, intelligent design, and the Texas State Board of Education, no?  In 2013, you can add Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louis Gohmert, the entire Tea Party, and the entire GOP crew of the House of Representatives.  You catch my drift.

Perhaps you can use this factoid to some advantage, enlightenment, and perhaps humor.  In Catholic lore, St. Denis is one of the “14 Holy Helpers,” and his aid is sought to help people with headaches, or who have been possessed.

Crazy GOP members who I suspect of having been possessed give me and America a headache.  St. Denis seems to be our man.

Who else do you know of in this modern, vexatious time, who keeps talking after losing his/her head?

As Rod Stewart sang, just “let your imagination run wild.”  Maybe St. Denis is listening.

More:

Statue to St. Denis, in Cluny

Another portrayal, in sculpture, of St. Denis. Notice how this one’s face doesn’t really look like the one above? Ouvre du Musée de Cluny, Wikipedia photo by Guillaume Blanchard (Aoineko), June 2001, FinePix 1400Z.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. I had hoped to have to retire this post someday.  I still hope.  Perhaps this will be the last year we’ll have so many wackaloons running loose. Pray to St. Denis.


Texas, the eyes of Darwin are upon you

September 20, 2013

Graphic from Colin Purrington, in commemoration of the kickoff of hearings at the Texas State Board of Education on science textbooks, September 18, 2013

Graphic from Colin Purrington, in commemoration of the kickoff of hearings at the Texas State Board of Education on science textbooks, September 18, 2013

Colin Purrington Tweeted, “Thanks, @ncse for helping keep Darwin in Texas science textbooks. #Whac-A-Mole #creationism #StandUp4Science pic.twitter.com/8dNYbqFELV.”

More:


Encore quote for August 17: George Washington, “to bigotry, no sanction”

August 17, 2013

Maybe we should designate August 17 as “No Bigotry Day.”

August 17, 1790, found U.S. President George Washington traveling the country, in Newport, Rhode Island.

Washington met with “the Hebrew Congregation” (Jewish group), and congregation leader (Rabbi?) Moses Seixas presented Washington with an address extolling Washington’s virtues, and the virtues of the new nation. Seixas noted past persecutions of Jews, and signalled a hopeful note:

Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free citizens, we now (with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events) behold a government erected by the Majesty of the People–a Government which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance, but generously affording to All liberty of conscience and immunities of Citizenship, deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language, equal parts of the great governmental machine.

George Washingtons reply to the Newport, RI, Hebrew congregation, August 17, 1790 - Library of Congress image

George Washingtons reply to the Newport, RI, Hebrew congregation, August 17, 1790 – Library of Congress image,

President Washington responded with what may be regarded as his most powerful statement in support of religious freedom in the U.S. — and this was prior to the ratification of the First Amendment:

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily, the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

Below the fold, more history of the events and religious freedom, from the Library of Congress.

Read the rest of this entry »


Can’t make this stuff up: Utah internet sales magnate wants Constitutional Amendment for . . . religious freedom

August 13, 2013

You know what?  The Stupid doesn’t burn, after all — if it did, this guy would have self-immolated long ago.

Utah Policy Daily is an online-newsletter of public policy stuff in the Beehive State — a very good one.  It’s done by some top Utah political consultants from both parties, and former political writers, colleauges and friends from the University of Utah and the political and culture wars in the state.

Utah Policy Daily carried this story, this morning, which I present in full only because you wouldn’t believe it otherwise:

Constitutional Amendment Would Protect ‘Religious Liberty’

By Bryan Schott

Jonathan Johnson, Executive Vice-President of Overstock.com, is leaping into the political ring with a proposed constitutional amendment to protect religious liberty.

Jonathan Johnson of OverStock.com

Jonathan Johnson of OverStock.com

The Daily Caller reports Johnson wants his proposed amendment to exempt churches from being forced to perform same-sex marriages. Johnson says the amendment wouldn’t interfere with the Supreme Court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage, but it also protects groups opposed to the practice at the same time.

Johnson and some friends hatched an idea for states to pass a constitutional amendment saying: ”A religious organization, religious association, religious society or any person acting in a role connected with such organization, association or society and shall not be required to solemnize, officiate in, or recognize any particular marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of its constitutional right of conscience or its free exercise of religion.”

(The wording is still being fleshed out, but that’s basically what it will say.)

In some ways, this shouldn’t be controversial. The proposed amendment “doesn’t get in the way of gay marriage,” Johnson notes — “but it [also] doesn’t have gay marriage encroach into areas of religious liberty.”

Read more: Utah Policy – Constitutional Amendment Would Protect Religious Liberty

As I understand it, this amendment would be aimed at preventing the government from ordering preachers to marry people they don’t want to marry.

Maybe Johnson is so much a Mormon (I do not know his faith) that he does not know that this “right” is protected by the First Amendment, and has been practiced by far too many Catholic priests, Baptists ministers, and even Mormon Bishops, over the past 225 years.  Preachers regularly refuse to allow their churches to be used by people for any fool reason whatever, and no preacher is forced to solemnize a marriage.  In short, his proposed amendment is wholly superfluous, already covered by the First Amendment.

Unless his real purpose is to create some new way of bashing homosexuals, as I suspect.  Bigot.

Here’s the scary part:  This guy has created a lobbying group to push for the amendment, and has already raised more than $100,000 to push it.  According to the RWNJournal Daily Caller:

As conservatives work to create a firewall on the issue of religious liberty, don’t be surprised if this effort catches on nationwide. Johnson already has a Utah PAC (First Freedom PAC) and a 501 (c)(4) that he says has “raised low six digits — and we’re not really trying yet,” he says.

How many stupid people, people wholly unaware of the First Amendment, are out there with the checkbooks open willing to be suckered by confidence schemes like this?  Enough to raise “low six digits.”

Hey:  For just $10,000, I’ll come to your home and explain why the First Amendment already gives us religious freedom, and tell you why it shouldn’t be mucked with.  I’ll bring PowerPoints and patriotic music, if you want, and give it all to you in less than an hour — or take a whole day if you want.  I won’t even charge expenses.

Then you can put your remaining money into a group that really works to defend the Constitution, or the First Amendment specifically — and I’ll tell you who they are.

Next thing you know, this guy will “come up” with an idea for an amendment to recognize Jesus.

History and policy ignoramii.  Santayana’s Ghost is grumbling and going back for another cup of coffee.  Has Chris Rodda heard about this yet?  Ed Brayton? (Oh, yeah, Ed’s on it already.  Good.)

One point of light:  My old colleague at the Daily Utah Chronicle, Bob Bernick, wrote a column detailing that Utah politicians generally are not so stupidly right-wing as many in the rest of the nation, “Utah, not as crazy as we could be.”  Maybe some of those not-stupid people will take Mr. Johnson aside and explain the Constitution to him.

Update:  Point of darkness:  Johnson has a law degree from BYU.  Seriously.  I thought U.S. Sen. Mike Lee was an aberration,

More:

Here in Texas, we have the First Amendment engraved in stone, at Southern Methodist University.

Here in Texas, we have the First Amendment engraved in stone, at Southern Methodist University. Photo by Ed Darrell – use encouraged.
Text of the First Amendment: Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Twitter open thread: Noah’s flood

July 30, 2013

No, the evidence doesn’t point to a Noachic flood.  Evidence contradicts the idea.

Welcome, @crazy_stairz @EdDarrell @paulmc107 @StrangerGirl2 @HomunculusLoikm @LogicBobomb, and anyone else who wants to join in.  Usual rules of civility apply.

Discussing this, and its many cousins:


Honk if you don’t get the joke

April 26, 2013

In Texas, Christian-themed bumper stickers outnumber all others by a huge number.

Some of the non-Christians have a better sense of humor, or at least a willingness to pun:

Ankh if you love Isis

“Ankh if you love Isis” bumper sticker in Texas. Photo by Ed Darrell

Of course, in order to get the homophone pun, and the joke, one needs to know a bit about world history and ancient Egyptian religions.  One faces the danger that people in the parking lot at the local Sam’s Club won’t know world history, won’t get the joke, and may take offense.

It’s a form of a test, to see who paid attention in world history and has a sense of humor, and who didn’t pay attention in world history.

I knew a librarian once, a good Christian woman, who hated those “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper stickers.  She said that she once sat on a crowded freeway and counted more than 25 of the things on cars that passed.  No one honked, however, and she feared that meant  people didn’t love Jesus.  Unintentional blasphemy by silence — only in Texas.

Honk if you don’t get the joke.  We’ll find a remedial world history class for you.

More:

Some Texans were unhappy to learn “Don’t Mess With Texas” was an anti-litter slogan; some Texans take their bumper stickers way too seriously. Texas Public Radio image


Historic images, encore: Quanah Parker, Last Chief of the Comanches

March 25, 2013

Glenn Frankel at the University of Texas wrote a book about the John Ford movie, “The Searchers.” It’s release, and stories about it, should remind us of the history of Quanah Parker, the last great, chief of the Comanches.  “The Searchers” was loosely based on a true story, the kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker, by Comanches, and her subsequent life with the tribe, and her recapture by white relatives.  She had married in the tribe — Quanah Parker was her son.

Back in June 2008 I posted this:

Quanah Parker, photo by Lanney

Quanah Parker, a Kwahadi Comanche chief; full-length, standing in front of tent.
Photographed by Lanney. Public Domain photo.
National Archives, “Pictures of Indians in the United States”

Photographs of Native Americans reside among the publicly and internet available materials of the National Archives. Images can be ordered in sets of slides, or as individual prints, though many are available in quality high enough for PowerPoint works and use on classroom materials. Many of the photos are 19th century.

Quanah Parker stands as one of the larger Native Americans in Texas history. This photo puts a face to a reputation in Texas history textbooks. Texas teachers may want to be certain to get a copy of the photo. His life story includes so many episodes that seem to come out of a Native American version of Idylls of the King that a fiction writer could not include them all, were they not real.

  • Quanah’s mother was part of the famous Parker family that helped settle West Texas in the 1830s. Cynthia Ann Parker was captured in 1836 when Comanches attacked Fort Parker, near present-day Groesbeck, Texas, in Limestone County. (See Fort Parker State Park.) Given a new name, Nadua (found one), she assimilated completely with the Nocona band of Comanches, and eventually married the Comanche warrior Noconie (also known as Peta Nocona). Quanah was their first child, born in 1852.
  • Nadua was captured by a Texas party led by Lawrence Sullivan “Sul” Ross in 1860, in the Battle of Pease River. Noconie, Quanah, and most of the Nocona men were off hunting at the time, and the fact of Nadua’s capture was not realized for some time. Nadua asked to return to the Comanches and her husband, but she was not allowed to do so. When her youngest daughter, who had been captured with her, died of an infection, Nadua stopped eating, and died a few weeks later.
  • Sul Ross was a character in his own right. At the time he participated in the raid that recaptured Cynthia Parker, he was a student at Baylor University (“What do I do on summer breaks? I fight Indians.”) At the outbreak of the Civil War, Ross enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private. Over 135 battles and skirmishes he rose to the rank of Brigadier General, the ninth youngest in the Confederate Army. A successful rancher and businessman back in Texas after the war, he won election as governor in 1887, served two very successful terms (he resolved the Jaybird-Woodpecker War in Fort Bend County, and had to call a special session of the legislature to deal with a budget surplus), refused to run for a third term, and was named president of Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College (Texas A&M) within a few days of stepping down as governor. Ross’s leadership of the college is legendary — students put pennies near a statue of Ross in a traditional plea to pass final exams, among many other traditions. After his death, Texas created Sul Ross State University, in Alpine, Texas, in his honor.
  • Quanah Parker’s father, Noconie, died a short time after his mother’s capture. He left the Nocona band, joined the Destanyuka band under Chief Wild Horse, but eventually founded his own band with warriors from other groups, the Quahadi (“antelope eaters”) (also known as Kwahadi). The Quahadi band grew to be one of the largest and most notorious, always with Quanah leading them. The Quahadis refused to sign the 1867 Medicine Lodge Treaties, and so avoided immediate internment to a reservation. However, dwindling food supplies and increasing opposition forced Quanah to retire to a reservation in 1875, in what is now southwestern Oklahoma. This was the last Comanche band to come to the reservation.
  • Quanah was appointed Chief of all the Comanches.
  • Through investments, Quanah became rich — probably the richest Native American of his time.
  • Quanah hunted with President Theodore Roosevelt.

    Quanah in European-American business attire.

    Quanah in European-American business attire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Rejecting monogamy and Christianity, Quanah founded the Native American Church movement, which regards the use of peyote as a sacrament. Quanah had been given peyote by a Ute medicine man while recovering from wounds he’d suffered in battle with U.S. troops. Among his famous teachings: The White Man goes into his church and talks about Jesus. The Indian goes into his Tipi and talks with Jesus.
  • Photo at right: Quanah Parker in his later life, in his business attire. Photo thought to be in public domain.
  • Bill Neeley wrote of Quanah Parker: “Not only did Quanah pass within the span of a single lifetime from a Stone Age warrior to a statesman in the age of the Industrial Revolution, but he never lost a battle to the white man and he also accepted the challenge and responsibility of leading the whole Comanche tribe on the difficult road toward their new existence.”
  • Quanah Parker died on February 23, 1911. He is buried at Fort Sill Cemetery, Oklahoma, next to his mother and sister.

Quanah Parker’s epitaph reads:

Resting Here Until Day Breaks
And Shadows Fall and Darkness Disappears is
Quanah Parker Last Chief of the Comanches
Born 1852
Died Feb. 23, 1911

Other Resources:

Resources new in 2013:


Renaissance shadow over contemporary art: Penultimate suppers (an encore)

March 24, 2013

It’s that Easter season among western Christian sects; this is Holy Week, which commemorates Jesus’s final entry into Jerusalem and the events leading Jesus’s crucifixion.

Our congregation will stage a “living” Last Supper a la da Vinci, which got me to thinking about the painting, which reminded me of this post from years ago; some minor updating, and I’ve added a new version I found from ABC’s series, “Lost,” which was in the middle of its run when I posted this originally in 2008:

Jeremy Barker at Popped Culture assembled more than 30 versions of contemporary recastings of DaVinci’s painting of “The Last Supper.” There’s the Simpsons version, the cartoon version with Disney and Warner Bros. characters. There’s the Sopranos version, and the Battlestar Galactica version.

For example, the Robert Altman version, from M*A*S*H:

Last Supper, M*A*S*H style

Last Supper, M*A*S*H style

If you need a 20 minute lesson on the influence of Renaissance art on contemporary art, this is one many high school kids may find interesting, if not amazingly historically informative. I suspect there is a great lesson plan hiding in there about 20th century history as reflected in parody art.

It’s a brilliant and subtle demonstration of the power of DaVinci’s art that there are so many copy cat pictures, don’t you think?

I did notice, however, that Barker left out the Mel Brooks version, from “History of the World, Part I.” It may not fit the meme.

Mel Brooks'

“Last Supper” as portrayed in Mel Brooks’s “History of the World, Part I”

Finally, looking today I found this “Lost” version of the Last Supper at Art is Everywhere, showing the meme is live and well.

“Lost” Last Supper; probably a publicity still, found at Art is Everywhere.

Do you have favorite parodies or homages of the Last Supper left off of these lists of 31 different versions?  By all means, list them in comments, with links if you have them.

Resources:

Resources added in 2013:


Video profile in courage: Gay Mormon comes out

March 3, 2013

Jimmy Lee Hales had news for his family, friends, mission companions, and a few others:

He seems to be handling things rather well, considering.  Surprisingly, so are others around him handling it well.

Jimmy Hales's self portrait, as he noted,

Jimmy Hales’s self portrait, as he noted, “Taken at location 40°28’44.16″N 111°35’2.45″W.” Gay Mormons may find it helpful to be extroverted.

Credits and more information from Hales:

Published on Feb 19, 2013

Studying at BYU as a closet gay Mormon has been quite an experience. I finally decided to come out and stop living a lie. I’m still, and will forever be, a faithful Mormon. While some gay Mormons still marry someone of the opposite sex, I do not see myself doing this. I will remain celibate and do not plan to marry.

Read more about my experience of coming out at my personal blog:
http://jimmyleehales.blogspot.com/201…

Link to my sister’s channel:
http://www.youtube.com/user/MormonsBe…

Mormon Church’s official site:
http://www.mormonsandgays.com

● Twitter: https://twitter.com/JimmyHales
● Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FacetiousFac…

Featuring
Jimmy Hales ————- Myself (Gay Mormon)
Ian Collins —————- Roommate #1
Buddy Lindsey ———- Life Long Best Friend
Christy Buhr ————- Sister
Chloe Ith ——————- BFF
Khanh Le —————— Roommate #2
Tracy Cope ————— My Mom
Kei Ikeda —————— College Best Bud
Janelle Jiang ————– College Friend
Richard McDonald ——- High School Bro
Jonny Liu —————— Mission Companion
Dallin Hales ————— Brother
Lucy Lu ——————– College Friend

–Tech Info–
Shot with a Canon T2i 550D
Audio captured with a Zoom H4n
Visual effects done in Adobe After Effects
Edited in Adobe Premiere
Audio edited in Avid Pro Tools
Green screen & lights purchased at ePhotoInc
Music done by Jimmy Hales
All editing done by Jimmy Hales
————-

My G-day has arrived.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Upworthy.

More:


Especially on his birthday, don’t call Darwin racist — he wasn’t

February 12, 2013

Creationists, Intelligent Design proponents, and several other anti-science and historical revisionist groups come unglued every February about this time — February 12 is Charles Darwin’s birthday.  He was born in 1809, on the exact same day as Abraham Lincoln.

Part of creationists’ coming unglued revolves around that fact that the science behind evolution grows stronger year by year, and at this point no argument exists that creationists can make against evolution that has not been soundly, roundly and thoroughly.  This makes creationists nervous in a discussion, because even they recognize when they lose arguments.   Creationists don’t like to lose arguments about how well Darwin’s theories work, because they erroneously believe that if Darwin is right, God and Jesus are wrong.

God and Jesus cannot be wrong, in their view, but intellectually they see they are losing the argument, and they grow desperate.  In their desperation they grasp for claims that shock uneducated or unfamiliar viewers.  Since about 1970, among the more shocking arguments one can make is to claim one’s opponent is racist.

Claiming Darwin, and hence evolution, boost racism, slaps history with irony.  Creationism’s roots were in denying that Europeans and Africans are evolutionarily equal, a claim necessary to allow slave holders to enslave Africans and go to church on Sundays.  The Civil War is 150 years away, the Emancipation Proclamation 148 years old, and even die-hard creationists generally have forgotten their own history.

Creationists accuse Darwin of being a racist, they claim evolution theory is racist, and they claim, therefore, it cannot be scientifically accurate.  There are a lot of holes in that chain of logic.

This is Darwin’s birthday.  Let me deal with major wrong premise, and give creationists room to correct their views with accurate history, so we don’t have a shouting match.

Way back in 2008, nominally-liberal evangelical preacher Tony Campolo got suckered in by a conservative evangelicals claim to him that evolution and Darwin are racist.  Below is my answer to him then — I think Campolo learned his lesson — but this builds on the claims Campolo made which are really copied from creationists.

In short, Darwin is not racist, and here are some explanations why, with a few updated links and minor edits for Darwin’s birthday, and Lincoln’s birthday, in 2013:

Tony Campolo is an evangelical Christian, a sociology professor and preacher who for the past 15 years or so has been a thorn in the side of political conservatives and other evangelicals, for taking generally more liberal stands, against poverty, for tolerance in culture and politics, and so on. His trademark sermon is an upbeat call to action and one of the more plagiarized works in Christendom, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming” (listen to it here).

Tony Campolo, from his website

Tony Campolo, in a publicity still from his website. He should be more gray by now (this photo is no later than 2008, and probably earlier).

Since he’s so close to the mainstream of American political thought, Campolo is marginalized by many of the more conservative evangelists in the U.S. Campolo is not a frequent guest on the Trinity Broadcast Network, on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club,” nor on the white, nominally-Christian, low-budget knock-off of “Sabado Gigante!,” “Praise the Lord” (with purple hair and everything).

Campolo came closest to real national fame when he counseled President Bill Clinton on moral and spiritual issues during the Lewinsky scandal.

His opposite-editorial piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer back in 2008, “The real danger in Darwin is not evolution, but racism,” is out of character for Campolo as a non-conservative evangelistic thinker — far from what most Christians expect from Campolo either from the pulpit or in the college classroom. The piece looks as though it was lifted wholesale from Jerry Falwell or D. James Kennedy, showing little familiarity with the science or history of evolution, and repeating canards that careful Christians shouldn’t repeat.

Campolo’s piece is inaccurate in several places, and grossly misleading where it’s not just wrong. He pulls out several old creationist hoaxes, cites junk science as if it were golden, and generally gets the issue exactly wrong.

Evolution science is a block to racism. It has always stood against racism, in the science that undergirds the theory and in its applications by those scientists and policy makers who were not racists prior to their discovery of evolution theory. Darwin himself was anti-racist. One of the chief reasons the theory has been so despised throughout the American south is its scientific basis for saying whites and blacks are so closely related. This history should not be ignored, or distorted.

Shame on you, Tony Campolo.

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