Imagine If Stringer Bell Had Won

The missus and I are three episodes into High Profits, a reality tv show about the legal business of producing and selling marijuana in Breckenridge, Colorado. It’s not great. But setting the drug trade — which is illegal and aggressive where illegal — on the right side of the law gives this show way more interest than most reality shows. You get to see city council members who have Chamber-of-Commerce outlooks and want to preserve a family-friendly ski resort town figure out what to do with a venture with which they have some experience in their youth. It’s like Walter and Schuyler White finding out there meth business is legit and trying to gain a business license to sell meth in one of the storefronts on Lomas Blvd. in Albuquerque. Or, it’s like Stringer Bell outwitting Avon Barksdale and eliminating the gangster element from slinging cocaine and heroin. The big question is whether drug business can be respectable. Of course, we all know it can. Can you say alcohol? But how do you take a drug that has all the not so attractive aspects of illegality and stoner culture and make it normal, even Chamber-of-Commerce promotable?

As I say we’re only three episodes in and the city council is debating the fate of the only in-town marijuana store. But in light of what I just read about David Bowie, I think I know which way the vote is going to go:

The media is portraying Bowie as a mainstream saint—one whose life and death are worthy of emulation. The Huffington Post ran articles entitled, “What Would David Bowie Do?” and “David Bowie—Our Hero.” In a piece that I first thought was a joke, Morgan Shanahan of advises parents on “16 Ways to Teach Your Kids About David Bowie (And the World).” BuzzFeed may not be a serious journalistic enterprise, but it has its finger on the pulse of society and is the primary news source of many young adults. Shanahan treats them to profundities such as, “Teach them how he was never anything less than his authentic self;” “Show them there are endless ways to reinvent yourself while staying true to who you are;” “Help them see there’s beauty in being different, the way he helped so many of us;” and “Show them the way he saw the world. Teach them to be superhuman.”

How is it that a man who was a drug addict, was extremely promiscuous, and flagrantly flouted all sexual boundaries is being held up as an example for our children to emulate?

Is Anyone Reliable?

First the light show at the Vatican.

Then the statement that evangelism of Jews is out.

Now some of the Roman Catholic intelligentsia say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God (even though they gather on different days of the week and one prays in Jesus’ name, along with Mary). Francis Beckwith, former head of the Evangelical Theological Society, squishes:

So the fact that Christians may call God “Yahweh” and Muslims call God “Allah” makes no difference if both “Gods” have identical properties. In fact, what is known as classical theism was embraced by the greatest thinkers of the Abrahamic religions: St. Thomas Aquinas (Christian), Moses Maimonides (Jewish), and Avicenna (Muslim). Because, according to the classical theist, there can only in principle be one God, Christians, Jews, and Muslims who embrace classical theism must be worshipping the same God. It simply cannot be otherwise.

But doesn’t Christianity affirm that God is a Trinity while Muslims deny it? Wouldn’t this mean that they indeed worship different “Gods”? Not necessarily. Consider this example. Imagine that Fred believes that the evidence is convincing that Thomas Jefferson (TJ) sired several children with his slave Sally Hemings (SH), and thus Fred believes that TJ has the property of “being a father to several of SHs children.” On the other hand, suppose Bob does not find the evidence convincing and thus believes that TJ does not have the property of “being a father to several of SHs children.”

Would it follow from this that Fred and Bob do not believe that the Third President of the United States was the same man? Of course not.

Paul Moses at Commonweal writes that Wheaton College, in putting on administrative leave, Dr. Larycia Hawkins, has succumbed to anti-Muslim bigotry because Miroslav Volf has written (noting looking to a Protestant for support):

Muslims and Christians who embrace the normative traditions of their faith refer to the same object, to the same Being, when they pray, when they worship, when they talk about God. The referent is the same.

But it wasn’t so long ago that some Roman Catholics were saying that Islam was not a religion of peace (which would seem to make it a different religion from Christianity even though I demurred). Wasn’t it Joseph Pearce who wrote:

The fate of the liberals in the future Eurabia does not look good. May the God in whom they do not believe help them. And may he forgive my own irresistible sense of schadenfreude at the whole pathetic scenario. As for me, I’m with Mrs. Burrows against the world and all the fallacious “peace” it has to offer. With Shakespeare’s Mercutio, I end with a note of defiance to Islam and its liberal enemy: A plague a’ both houses!

And didn’t Fr. James Schall also highlight the distance between Islam and Christianity?

What has to be faced by everyone is not the ‘violence’ of Islam, but its truth. We may not ‘like’ a jihadist view of the Quran. But we denigrate the dignity of ISIS and other violent strains in both Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam that clearly see that their interpretation of Islam has legitimate roots in the Quran, in Islamic history and in the judgment of many authoritative commentators.

So I’m left wondering. Do Roman Catholics celebrate the victory of Christendom at the Battle of Lepanto or not?

P.S. And Jerry Falwell Jr. is beyond the pale?

Italian-American Trapped in a Native American's Body

I did not know this (my weekly perusal of my old neighborhood weekly took me there). The Native American with the tear rolling down his cheek in the “Keep America Beautiful” ads of my yute, Iron Eyes Cody, was actually an Italian-American (must be a Roman Catholic connection somewhere):

Long before his fame in the 1970s, Iron Eyes Cody had carved out a niche for himself in Hollywood’s Western film community as “the noble Indian.” With his striking, “indigenous” looks, he perfectly fit the bill for what producers were looking for — and his story correlated. Until the late 1990s, Iron Eyes’ personal history (provided solely by himself) was that he’d descended from a Cherokee father and a Cree mother, and had been born under the name “Little Eagle.” An old archived article filed in the Glendale Special Collections library elaborates on his account:

“Iron Eyes learned much of his Indian lore in the days when, as a youth, he toured the country with his father, Thomas Long Plume, in a wild west show. During his travels, he taught himself the sign language of other tribes of Indians.”

From 1930 to the late 1980s, Iron Eyes starred in a variety of Western films alongside the likes of John Wayne, Steve McQueen, and Ronald Reagan. Clad in headdresses and traditional garb, he portrayed Crazy Horse in Sitting Bull (1954), galloped through the plains in The Great Sioux Massacre (1965), and appeared in over 100 television programs. When major motion picture houses needed to verify the authenticity of tribal dances and attire, Iron Eyes was brought in as a consultant. He even provided the “ancestral chanting” on Joni Mitchell’s 1988 album, Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm.

By all accounts, he was Hollywood’s — and America’s — favorite Native American.

But several (real) Native American actors soon came to doubt Iron Eyes’ authenticity. Jay Silverheels, the Indian actor who played “Tonto” in The Lone Ranger, pointed out inaccuracies in Iron Eyes’ story; Running Deer, a Native American stuntman, agreed that there was something strangely off-putting about the man’s heritage. It wasn’t until years later that these doubts were affirmed.

The Italian Cherokee

In 1996, a journalist with The New Orleans Times-Picayune ventured to Gueydan, Louisiana, the small town Iron Eyes had allegedly grown up in, and sought out his heritage. Here, it was revealed that “America’s favorite Indian” was actually a second-generation Italian.

“He just left,” recalled his sister, Mae Abshire Duhon, “and the next thing we heard was that he had turned Indian.”

At first, residents of Gueydan were reticent to reveal Iron Eyes’ true story — simply because they were proud he’d hailed from there, and didn’t want his image tarnished. Hollywood, along with the ad agencies that had profited from his image, was wary to accept the man’s tale as fabricated. The story didn’t hit the newswires and was slow to gain steam, but The Crying Indian’s cover was eventually blown.

Iron Eyes Cody, or “Espera Oscar de Corti,” was born in a rural southwestern Louisiana town on April 3, 1904, the second of four children. His parents, Antonio de Corti and Francesca Salpietra had both emigrated from Sicily, Italy just a few years prior.

Five years later, Antonio abandoned the family and left for Texas, taking with him Oscar and his two brothers. It was here, in the windswept deserts, that Oscar was exposed to Western films, and developed an affinity for Native American culture. In 1919, film producers visited the area to shoot a silent film, “Back to God’s Country;” Oscar was cast as a Native American child. The experience impacted him greatly, and, following his father’s death in 1924, he migrated to California to forge a career as an actor.

Imagine if Vanity Fair had dedicated a cover and related interview to Oscar de Corti in 1996. Imagine if transethnicity were a progressive cause.

Wait. Rachel Dolezal blocked that path to human freedom. Darn.

He Has a Point

Anthony Bradley, our favorite provocateur, mixes it up with the urban hipster transformationalists in the pages of World magazine, no less:

While urban, justice-loving evangelicals easily shame white, suburban, conservative evangelicals for their racially homogenized lives, both communities seem to share a disdain for lower-class white people. “Rednecks,” “crackers,” “hoosiers,” and “white trash” are all derogatory terms used to describe a population of lower-class whites who have suffered centuries of injustice and social marginalization in America, especially from educated Christians. . . .

Perhaps the root of the problem is that middle-class evangelicals are content maintaining the narrative that they have come to save the world’s people of color from themselves. “American society is completely dependent upon a worldview that places white Christian-Americans at the top of the hierarchy, with African-Americans falling into the lowest place” observes Kirsten Hemmy, associate professor of languages and literature at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. This view of whites at the social peak, she says, is a part of “our collective imagination—informed by art, culture, media, and history” that is “just as important as reality.” Hemmy also believes that evangelicalism’s paternalistic history and condescension with people of color fuels disinterest in helping poor whites. “Poor white people should be able to fend for themselves, so mission work and ministry is focused on the black community, as though poor black people, because they are black, cannot fend for themselves.”

“You can feel good about helping a black family in the projects, because you can easily identify a few basic problems and leave,” says Robert Fossett, pastor of First Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in America) in Greenville, Ala. “No one expects you to live there unless you are intending to gentrify the neighborhood and turn it into your own image. But when it comes to poor whites, i.e., ‘white trash,’ while there is also a deep cultural disconnect with white evangelicals—poor whites tend to be on the boundaries of towns and cities in rural populations. … The assumption is that poor whites are where they are because they are inbred, lazy, and uneducated, and they choose to live like this. And as everyone knows, you can’t fix lazy, degenerate, immoral white trash. Besides, it’s far easier to mock a trailer park than it is to plant a church there.”

But how does Anthony think he will continue to receive invitations from Bethany for Redeemer’s next soiree lecture for its Center on Faith and Work.

The Temporality of the Church

Looks like the Vatican is going green:

When a Vatican official suggested that Pope Francis was contemplating an encyclical on the environment a year ago, he signaled that climate change and environmental degradation were such pressing concerns that the pope wanted to address them in a teaching document.
No word has emerged on what the encyclical might say or when it would appear in 2015, but references by officials at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace have pointed to a document that Catholics can apply in everyday life.

Catholics working on environmental issues and climate change in the U.S. are eagerly awaiting the encyclical and have spent much of the last year preparing for it.

“There’s never been an encyclical just on the environment. It’s clear something like this is needed to move, especially policymakers, but even the church,” said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant.

“I’ve always said we need to recover ancient traditions that we’ve always had but we just forgot. About how we’re supposed to care for creation. About how St. Francis said it’s all kin, we’re all connected together somehow. ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon,'” he said.

Along with the U.S. bishops:

Joining other faith groups, the U.S. Catholic bishops are reiterating their support of federal rules limiting carbon produced by existing power plants.
In an open letter dated Wednesday to Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the heads of the domestic and international committees of the U.S. bishops’ conference said they welcomed the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

[Update: A clarification from the bishops’ conference stated the bishops have not endorsed the specific Clean Power Plan but rather support national carbon-cutting standards that EPA could create.]

“We support a national standard to reduce carbon pollution and recognize the important flexibility given to states in determining how best to meet these goals,” said Bishops Thomas Wenski and Richard Pates.

Wenski, archbishop of Miami, serves as chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Pates, bishop of Des Moines, Iowa, heads up the Committee on International Justice and Peace.

Their statement was entered as oral testimony Wednesday by Cecilia Calvo, coordinator of the bishops’ environmental justice program, during an EPA hearing in Washington. EPA scheduled public hearings throughout the week in four locations across the country, with other hearings taking place in Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh. Commenting on the proposed rules remains open through Oct. 16; the Catholic Climate Covenant, which works with the bishops’ conference, has urged Catholics to weigh in on the proposals.

At least we don’t need to worry about spiritual figures dabbling in temporal affairs:

Author Peter McDonough argues that since the Catholic community as a whole is mildly conservative and fairly complacent, the chances of an end to a moderately authoritarian and insistently hierarchical church are slim. Moreover, the fact that most contemporary Catholics vote with their feet on most if not all of the ethical teaching of the church, both sexual and political, reduces still further any righteous indignation for change.

As a teaching body, moral guardian or strong voice in the public arena, the church is largely irrelevant, but as a network of communities where people gather for worship and fellowship, it continues to be prized. The church will insist on teaching broadly conservative and patently inadequate sexual ethics while holding to the all-male makeup of the clerical leadership. Few will pay attention to the former, and not enough people really care about the latter.

One of the more original aspects of the author’s argument is that he marginalized the effectiveness of both conservative and reformist pressure groups in today’s church. While many think of the church as an intensely polarized community, McDonough’s message is that these strong feelings only influence a minority, while the majority of Catholics just go to church and then get on with their lives without paying much attention to either left or right or, for that matter, the voice of ecclesial authority itself.

Of course, none of this applies to Jason and the Callers.

Making the World Safe for Mormonism

(a line I borrow from Ken Myers)

“What we offer as Catholics is to strengthen the family as the basis of society. When there is a solid family life, there is less likelihood of crime, there is less likelihood of drug use. The children grow up with a solid foundation. And that is a foundation they can take all through their lives,” Rozanski said. “And, as a Church, what we are saying is that God made us male and female, and that the institution of marriage is so crucial. It is a sacrament of the Church, if the sacrament is well lived, then the children and future generations will benefit.”