Sunday, March 09, 2014

A Sunday meditation on assorted babble ...

(Above: the Tower of Babel, Bruegel the elder, here)

At last it seems that the Terror, the least trusted newspaper in Australia, and so the pond, can be proclaimed Pellist free zones.

What to do?

Happily there's no end of religious eccentricity and loonery in the world.

The Graudian's religion pages are always a good starting point. Here you might discover Giles Fraser explaining what makes angry Sydney Anglicans so angry:

I am a bastard. A complete shit. And so too are you. Calvinists call it the doctrine of total depravity. And it is the existential driver of Lent. Of course, most Christians these days wouldn't use my fruity language. Though this is, generally speaking, a modern squeamishness (Luther's language, for instance, was perfectly foul). Rather, they would talk of sin – which I agree is a good and important word, but one that has come to be debased by the church's obsession with the bedroom and the secular world's appropriation of it to describe calories. (the rest here)

Of course it's just a quick hop and a jump to head off to the Catholics who loved to berate Luther for his fruity language, a Rabelaisian routine right up there with Gargantua and Pantagruel.

Of course the Catholics like to do it with much tut tutting and feigned piety and indignation:

"This is significant," the same learned writer continues, "for, as above noted, it is simply amazing how habitually Luther made use of the imagery suggested by such a place. When he wishes to vomit his wrath against the Pope or the Cardinals, his favorite word is that word which indicates the contents of a privy. I forbear from repeating it. This particular word (the common popular English word for evacuations) is constantly on his lips. Repeatedly he says that if the Pope should send him a command to appear before him: "I should ... upon his summons." The reader can find plenty of other instances of the use of this word in [Hartmann] Grisar Vol. III, 226, 232, 235, 298. Concommitant with the use of this filthy word is the use of another signifying that portion of the human body which functions the same. Those expressions I cannot repeat here. See for yourself Grisar, e.g. 111, 229, where he tells the devil to "kiss -------". 
"The vomits of the human stomach are also a frequent word wherewith to express his rage against his enemies. For instance, he says that the Pope 'vomits' the Cardinals. Again the 'monks' are the 'lice placed by the devil on God Almighty's fur coat.' 'No sooner do I pass a motion but they smell it at Rome.' Then note this specimen of stable boy's wit apropos of the 'Pope-ass' mentioned before. 'When I (the Pope-ass) bray, hee-haw, hee-haw, or relieve myself in the way of nature, they must take it all as articles of faith, i.e. Catholics.' That other filthy word common to people who suit their language to privies was also constantly on his lips, employed in endless variations." 
"The most amazing aspect of this vulgarity is that Luther brings the very name of God into conjunction with just such coarse expressions. Thus in trying to explain how far God is or is not the author of evil, he says: 'Semei wished to curse, and God immediately directed his curse against David. God says, "Curse him not and no one else." Just as if a man wishes to relieve himself I cannot prevent him, but should he wish to do so on the table here, then I should object and tell him to betake himself to the corner.'" (more here)

Actually it would make things a little more lively if the angry Anglicans took on more of a punk Luther style.

By a curious coincidence if the devoted reader heads off to the ABC's religious section, here, you can find an updated version of a tract by Scott Stephens, which is, a bit like transubstantiation, ineffably mysterious and bizarre.  Contemplating art by Thomas Hirschhorn, Stephens comes up with this sort of stuff:

I am reminded of Jean Baudrillard's critique of the pathology of modern art after Warhol: the very desire to produce art after a conspicuous transgressive fashion had effectively transposed nihilism into kitsch. According to Baudrillard, modern art consigns itself to farce in its attempt "to strive for nullity when it is already null and void." Similarly, by declaring the political import of his art - never more plaintively than in the Incommensurable Banner and his execrable Gramsci Monument - when his art already purports to give unmediated access to "the Truth," Hirschhorn reduces his own art to the status of anti-aesthetic schlock in self-righteous drag. 
 Admittedly, I am being terribly unfair to Hirschhorn.

It takes a wondrous mind to scribble drivel, and then in the very next sentence, denounce it as drivel, but hey, that's what the ABC's religious section manages on a regular basis. But then again the theme of the day is babble, so all is well ...

Who isn't looking forward to old Avengers star Joanna Lumley heading off once again on a search for Noah's Ark? Stand by, part 2 will be coming up next week ...

And for sheer eccentricity, can anyone match Rachael Kohn and her guests? Don't you worry about one guest contradicting another, or many of them sounding barking mad, provided they can work the rubric of "spiritual" into the discussion, it's game on .... secular Buddhism? Sounds spiritual. Muslim beauty queen? Now that's spiritual. The Antarctic? Definitively spiritual and don't you worry about pantheism ...

And if you ferret around, you can find exemplary examples of religion mixing with education and politics, as in Justine Toh's The elephants in the (class) room: Why faith-based religious education has a place in public schools.

The reader gets a clue about the laboured writing in this piece by the way it relentlessly belabours the old blind men and the "pachyderm" story. Toh grandly concluded:

Faith-based religious education has some place in public schools because, like it or not, matters of God and ultimate meaning are the contemporary elephants in the classroom. We can refuse to acknowledge their presence, but they simply won't go away.

It is of course just another bout of special pleading for a chance to indoctrinate the young, a routine best reserved for home and church, where the minds of innocents can be ruined for life. Funnily enough, it turns out that vigilant souls are standing by to troll the mindless. Cue the first three comments:

I found this article convinced me more that SRI does not belong in schools. The author assumes children have to have religion to be well rounded people. The author assumes the only path to a moral life is through indoctrination.

The reason religious people oppose GRE can be summed up in one saying; "teach a person one religion and they're hooked for life, teach them two and they're done in an hour". 

So which god do you want to teach? And why only one? It shows the privilege that the Christian myth has in this country that it thinks it has the truth. What Christian version should be taught, there are 3000 versions of it. You have a perfectly good myth hall waiting, it is called a church!!!

Well played. The hapless 'your ABC' has to expose the religious to a little feed back ...

But this is kindergarten stuff up against the likes of John Milbank, here: is incumbent on the Catholic Church to reject all the excessive concessions it has made to liberal democracy since 1948, after Jacques Maritain had unfortunately fallen in love with the United States and totally lost the plot of his own earlier thinking by endorsing the notion of subjective human rights.

But after a hearty dose of eccentricity, the pond was hungering for a dessert of the barking mad, and where better to look than the United States?

Any time Michele Bachmann opens her mouth you're guaranteed loonery:

The nations of the world will come against Israel and the scripture very specifically says all nations, now for the United States we don’t have that experience until recently under President Obama with the United States not standing with Israel.” (here)

Biblical prophecy as a guide to political solutions? And yet Bachmann claims her movement is at its core an intellectual movement? (here)

But in a funny way, it brings us back to Luther, because as well as Bachmann, CPAC featured a new movie, 'Persecuted', which sounds a hoot, and never mind that it also sounds totally sick. The hero is a falsely accused bible thumper:

Somehow, Luther, the most hunted man in America, is able to sneak into the launch event for Sumac, the new organization that brings together Jews, Christians, and Muslims and brings to fruition Sen. Harrison’s “dream of a tradition of faith as diverse as our skins.” If the point about the dangers of diversity and religious pluralism isn’t obvious enough, the senator says America is “no longer a Christian nation…it never has been,” echoing a statement by President Obama that caused spluttering outrage among right-wing Christian leaders. By the way, in the movie, the whole governmentally-forced-religious-merger thing is justified as a response to the threat of terrorism. (the rest, with useful spoilers for those who will never see the movie, is here).

It sounds, if we can adopt the argot of the original Luther, like a right royal dose of excrement.

Could it get any more wacky or bizarre? Or perhaps arrogant and presumptuous?

Of course it could. The angry Sydney Calvinist Anglicans are at it again, as they always are, ready to lighten the gloom of a meditative Sunday:

Mr O’Farrell read from Romans 13, in which the apostle Paul argues that human authorities have been instituted by God. 
Archbishop Davies took up this theme in his sermon, telling the assembled parliamentarians “This is a very high honour which is given to our governing authorities, to describe our parliamentarians as ministers of God.” 
 “The people of the land need to submit themselves to governing authorities. This is part of God’s order for it is good” Dr Davies said. “We separate our Parliament into ministers of the crown and those who are backbenchers. but Paul elevates all members of parliament, which even the independents might like to bear in mind, to bearing the title of ‘ministers of God’.” 
 “Therefore the responsibility that rests upon those who exercise governing powers is very great, for you are there for our good. You are there to extol the virtues of the God who created us and the God who puts you in that place of governance.” (more drivel here)

It is, of course, the oldest trick and con in the book, ever since the witch doctor got together with the chief out the back, but if Bazza thinks extolling the virtues of god rather than the virtues of a second airport for Sydney are going to get him an extended gig, then good luck with that ...

Naturally Phillip Jensen, in his usual befuddled way, was on hand to up the ante in Frozen My Way:

...without God’s authority the community’s capacity to tyrannically dominate the individual has no limits.

Uh huh. Tell that to the citizens of Vlad the impaler's Russia, working hand in glove with the Russian Orthodox church.

What's surpassing and astonishing is that the angry Anglicans could still deliver the sort of rhetoric that was quaint in the 1950s when the empire was fading and flailing. And yet they still attempt to assert sovereignty over MPs, who might believe in anything from the Dreaming to Calathumpianism ...

As Luther might have said, what a crock of shit ...

By the end of this brief tour of intertubes madness, the pond began to believe it was all a devious attempt to induce nostalgia for the faded days of the Pellists ...

But let's not get too silly ...

(Below: the good old days of climate science, found here, and below that a cartoon by Pryor in the Canberra Times)


  1. As Easter approaches the brave and godly bishop Robinson of Canberra (who honed his Christian virtues of fortitude and self-denial at the feet of Peter Jensen) will take up his cross to relive the agony of his saviour and king (Jesus) as a lesson to all us flabby secularists what great strength and courage giving your life to Jesus brings.

    You remember last year we were a little disappointed that he still had his training wheels (scroll down). But this year he has ditched the wheels. This year he is going to show what a real man of faith is capable of and bear the full weight of the cross himself… well almost.

    1. :). Please keep the pond posted Brian. Easter promises to be the season of chocolates and stout-hearted Anglicans with little helpers ...


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