Non-news Open Thread for Thursday, May 26, 2022

Too awesome to watch?

Some things that aren’t actually in the news right now, or at least not on the front page, although some are admittedly related:

  1. ‘Ted Lasso’ and ‘Fleabag’ and all the shows that are too awesome to watch (so I won’t) — Since this was in America, the Jesuit magazine, I thought maybe it would have a moral. Like, I don’t know, why I should watch these shows, or why I shouldn’t watch these shows. But it didn’t. It was just kind of a fun read about an aspect of what it’s like living in the Golden Age of Television. And I identified with part of it, which was the idea that this Jesuit brother can’t let himself watch these shows because they’re too good. He ends up caring about the characters to the point he can’t stand to watch bad things happen to them. I can identify with that.
  2. Charles Whitman had a tumor; is that what did it? — The Buffalo shooting, of course, was about racism, which made sense in that context. The Texas school shooting didn’t appear to be about racism, so it became about how pathetic America can’t bring itself to deal with the 400 million guns out there. Also painfully true. But I saw the Texas guy also shot his grandmother, which made me think of Charles Whitman, who killed his wife and mother before he climbed that tower in 1966. And I thought I remembered the autopsy showed he had a brain tumor. And yes, Wikipedia mentioned that, but also said no one knows whether that made him do what he did. But what if it did, and we knew it? What if that was the explanation for all these mass shootings? Because, you know, racism exists, and too many guns exist, but somehow most of us don’t want to go out and kill a bunch of people. If we found out they did it because of tumors, we could just screen everybody for the tumors, and maybe cure them. Wouldn’t that be great?
  3. When Preachers Are Predators — OK, this one is sort of about something in the news, even more so than the one before, but it’s not from the news pages; it’s opinion. Anyway, I’m just passing it on because Frank Bruni was onto something right here: “Men of God behave in ungodly ways. That’s not because they’re uniquely or especially evil. It’s because they’re men. Religious institutions countenance — and cover up — sin and even crime. That doesn’t mean they have any monopoly on hypocrisy. It means they’re institutions.” Yep. It’s not that there’s something inherently horrible about being Baptist, as opposed to being something else.
  4. Don’t know much about history — Yeah, I majored in history — my second major, anyway. And I still enjoy reading about it. But the main thing it keeps teaching me is that I don’t know squat about history. Even the bits I’ve studied to death — say, the Second World War, which ended only eight years before I was born — constantly shock me with the things I don’t know about them, things I should have known. And then if I move away from those bits, I swim in an ocean of things I didn’t know. Recently, I started watching a documentary series on Prime about The First World War. I’m on the fourth episode, and I just had no idea. None at all. For instance, about the extent to which it really was a world war, and not just a bunch of white guys in trenches in France. (I’d seen “The African Queen,” but that was about it.) For instance, you know about the Siege of Tsingtao — you know, where the Japanese went up against the Germans, and beat them? In China? Huge deal. I had never heard of it. I don’t think I’d even heard of Tsingtao (where about 10 million people live), but you know how they’re always changing the names of Chinese places. Anyway… is history like that for you?
  5. Did you know they wouldn’t let Nicholas Kristof run for governor? — Another thing I didn’t know, and should have. I saw a piece by him today and the explanatory blurb said, “Mr. Kristof is a former Times Opinion columnist. He was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor of Oregon this year.” And I thought, “was?” Turns out they disqualified him because of something about residency. Too bad. He’d have been a good governor, I think. Just as he was a very, very good columnist. So it was good to see a piece by him in the NYT.
  6. Plants grow in lunar soil brought to Earth by Apollo astronauts — OK, this was, like, 12 days ago, and at the time tweeted it out with the message, “How I use my various newspaper apps: I plow doggedly through the tangled forest of shrieking madness and malevolent stupidity, and occasionally I find something interesting — such as this item….” But I include it here, because it sort of fits the theme of this post… It also could have been headlined, “World’s Smallest Farm…”

I’ll stop now. I just thought I should post something, and these are things I’d been thinking about…

Charles Whitman on his front porch, sometime before he climbed the tower.

12 thoughts on “Non-news Open Thread for Thursday, May 26, 2022

  1. Bill

    Nature’s first green is gold,
    Her hardest hue to hold.
    Her early leaf’s a flower;
    But only so an hour.
    Then leaf subsides to leaf.
    So Eden sank to grief,
    So dawn goes down to day,
    Nothing gold can stay

  2. Doug Ross

    Preachers as predators misses the bigger picture. It’s the cover-up in addition to the crimes that demonstrate institutional problems that should make people very wary of associating with the churches/ religions that continue to have predator issues. It’s not just bad men, it’s hierarchical hypocrisy by men as well.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Following up on the Frank Bruni piece about the Baptists… David Brooks had a column on it today, headlined, “The Southern Baptist Moral Meltdown.”

    And it made some good points as usual, such as:

    The fact is, moral behavior doesn’t start with having the right beliefs. Moral behavior starts with an act — the act of seeing the full humanity of other people. Moral behavior is not about having the right intellectual concepts in your head. It’s about seeing other people with the eyes of the heart, seeing them in their full experience, suffering with their full suffering, walking with them on their path. Morality starts with the quality of attention we cast upon another.

    If you look at people with a detached, emotionless gaze, it doesn’t really matter what your beliefs are, because you have morally disengaged. You have perceived a person not as a full human but as a thing, as a vague entity toward which the rules of morality do not apply….

    But there was also a significant, repeated error in the piece, which surprised me. He kept referring to the SBC as a “church.” For instance:

    …More than 400 people believed to be affiliated with the church, including some church leaders, have been accused of committing abuse.

    One woman, Jennifer Lyell, said she’d been sexually abused while a student at a Southern Baptist seminary. In an article, the church’s communications arm made it sound as if she were confessing to a consensual affair….

    It’s the Southern Baptist Convention, not “church.”

    With Baptists, Southern or otherwise, a “church” is more or less what we Catholics would call a “parish.” It’s a local entity that is completely autonomous and independent from all other Baptist churches. Shandon Baptist Church is a “church.” First Baptist Church is another “church.” If a member of Shandon Baptist attends a service at First Baptist, he or she is a visitor, not a member. (By contrast, if I attend Mass in any Roman Catholic church in the world, I’m a member. It’s one of the reasons I’m Catholic, although of course there are others.)

    The SBC is more like an association of churches. There are no bishops, no cardinals and no pope. Essentially, there are no church “leaders” above the pastors of the individual congregations. You don’t have bishops appointing local pastors — individual Baptist churches hire their pastors. So you can’t really speak of a failure of church leadership at the SBC quite the way you can blame bishops and the Vatican for Catholic failure to deal with abuse.

    That’s my understanding, anyway, from my comparative study of American religious traditions way back when I was in college. I had trouble confirming it all just now, beyond the simple fact that Baptist churches are, as I say, congregationalist. If I didn’t explain it correctly, I hope someone will set me straight…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Of course, what with my being all pedantic and everything, I skirt the main moral lesson for myself: That being a good person is about empathy; it’s about our connection to others. And there, Brooks is on solid ground.

      This is a problem for me. I’m not much of a people person. It’s not just that I’m such an extreme introvert that I’m practically off the scale. It’s also about all those years of embracing the idea of being a detached observer, because that’s what I believed a journalist should be.

      Anyway, that’s definitely something I still need to work on. And while it’s not quite the same point, it reminds me of that Bishop Barron homily I shared with y’all awhile back. It was the second of the two discussed in that post. It was the one in which he contrasted the “ego-drama” with the “theo-drama,” with the latter being the thing we should be focused upon.

      Of course, that was about contrasting self-absorption with focus on what God wants. But it’s sort of the same as Brooks’ point because one of the main things God wants is for us to focus on the needs of other people rather than our own.

      Either way you look at it, it’s something I need to work on. A lot…

      1. Bill

        God is real but I’ve never believed in CHURCH:
        I might catch some perch… yeah…
        Ah… keep it rollin’ here…
        Take you on a lurch
        On a little date to church
        Take you and her
        On a, a little date to church
        La, la-la-la-la-la
        Gimme one more
        La, la-la-la-la-la
        Take your honor fast
        I’m going to a little bit of mass
        Come along, it can’t hurt
        We’re on a, a little date to church
        C’mon sing!
        La, la-la-la-la-la
        One more
        La, la-la-la-la-la
        Let me tell you now…
        Old Satan’s looking out for you
        He’ll get you by the night’s through
        Oh, we haven’t much time alive
        Take me down the hall…
        Sitting in a pew
        Well ain’t we the chosen few
        Might not help, but it can’t hurt
        On a, a little date to church
        La, la-la-la-la-la
        La, la-la-la-la-la
        Deliver us, Reverend
        What’s that?
        On a little date to church…

    2. Barry

      As a longtime member of an SBC affiliated church, you are correct. I will point out a minor clarification.

      “Shandon Baptist Church is a “church.” First Baptist Church is another “church.” If a member of Shandon Baptist attends a service at First Baptist, he or she is a visitor, not a member. ”

      This is 100% true. However, for a Baptist attending another Baptist church, we are indeed not a member of the church we are visiting. In fact, it’s a non-issue. Some Baptists will “visit” another church for years without becoming a member. Some just don’t want to “move their membership” and prefer to leave it at their home church. This doesn’t prevent them from doing activities at the new church. In fact, at my church, we have a handful of folks in our choir that aren’t actually members of our church but they attend our church all the time. They’ve just never moved their membership or joined our church.

      The only time this would be an issue if the visitor wanted to join the new church as a formal member (making them possibly eligible to be a teacher or group leader in the church, or just wanted to be a member of the church). However, if they are a member of another Baptist church, they could “join” the new church by “transfer of letter.”

      That means if the visitor wants to transfer their membership, the new church will request the former church send a statement (a letter) stating that the member was in fact a member of that particular church (which for Baptists means they accepted Christ and had made a public profession of their faith and had been baptized by immersion). The new church doesn’t just take the member’s word for it (well, they do actually take their word for it- but behind the scenes they also want to have a statement from the former church for their records).

      Some pastors are sensitive to this and do not want to “steal” members away from another church in the same town. So when a new member joins and they were a member of another local church, the pastor will often say something like “This new member is transferring from another church “in our area” – without mentioning the name of the church. If the member wants to publicize the name of their former church, they can. But many pastors don’t like to name the former church because they do not want to make it sound like a competition between two churches.

      But most Baptist pastors are quick to point out that any professed Christian visiting our church is a member of the body of Christ. It'[s not as if they are treated differently. When we have Communion, any Christian is free to participate. But at our church, we don’t have Communion every week. We have several occasions during the year where we have it.


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