I was quoted in the Washington Post yesterday as observing that “theological disputation [on the presidential campaign trail] is a loser.” I was referring to the rhetoric of candidate Rick Santorum, whose surge among GOP voters has been accompanied by a surge in vinegary faith-based oratory.
A comment Santorum made this weekend has made the rounds, and if you are addicted to Sunday morning news shows or CNN you now know it by heart. In a discussion about Obama’s environmentalist policies, Santorum lamented: “It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.”
Santorum spent Sunday walking that one back, sort of. Yet as the Washington Post article mentioned above demonstrated, the former senator is not unacquainted with the dark arts of faith-based disparagement.
Anathematizing is how I refer to this type of negative…
Those were impressive accomplishments, for sure. But let me say that no one, but no one, can demonize, Talibanize, or Stalinize Secularism like Rick Santorum. On occasion he has done so, I would admit, with a fair degree of intellectual seriousness, as in this 2010 speech. Though for the most part his pronouncements on the subject amount to rank and preposterous name-calling.
Back in 2003 he lamented: “I want to remind people of the societies that have been secular in nature. Starting with the French Revolution, moving onto the fascists, and the Nazis and the communists and…
As I watched the outstretched arms of “the Gronker” (née Rob Gronkowski, the Goliath-sized New England tight end with hands the size of flat-screen TV’s) poised to haul in Tom Brady’s desperation Hail Mary pass at the end time of Super Bowl XLVI, I heard myself–I admit–pronounce the name of God. (Modified by an adjective that I cannot bring myself to admit.)
My hunch is that 120 million or so Americans–believers and nonbelievers alike– were invoking sacred and/or profane words right along with me as time ran down. Why is it that the experience of football is so bound up with religion?
“I mean the Super Bowl,” mused half-time performer Madonna, “is kind of like the holy of holies in America right?” I do think Madonna was on to something. Though perhaps the insight was …
Remember that young phenom who rocked the 2004 Democratic National Convention with the refrain “we worship an awesome God in the blue states!”? Well, in style, at least, he was nowhere to be found at yesterday’s National Prayer Breakfast. Indeed, listening to President Obama deliver his remarks I was struck by the dirge-like joylessness of his oration.
In substance, however, his speech quietly drove home many of the core-beliefs of the ever-mobilizing, ever-regrouping, ever-coming-in-second-place American Religious Left. Listening carefully to Obama’s sedate address, one could detect a rather tenacious, albeit sometimes disheveled, defense of the principles that Progressives of Faith live by:
We are not separationist secularists: The president has been distancing himself from separationist secularism since as far back as The Audacity of Hope. And he did so again…
We humanists these days are afflicted by so many calamities (downsizing, disrespect, directionlessness) that it is easy to lapse into a state of complete demoralysis (= demoralization + moral paralysis).
Understandable as such a lapse might be, it is less depressing more productive to envision how we might assure the future of our guild. One possible solution to the crisis–and this is a long-term solution, I confess–centers around getting faculty to commit to mentoring students. It’s an unusually difficult concept to grasp for my academic generation. As such, I provide you with some helpful FAQ’s.
As per my syllabus, I hold office hours 90 minutes a week (!), and I’m pretty much always in there. Is that mentoring? No. Conducting OH is decidedly not mentoring. Far from it (and would it kill you to put in an extra half hour a week?). It’s necessary, don’t get me wrong. But that’s…
Most of the sparks were generated by a few solid Romney v. Gingrich scrums. The former, reeling from recent lackluster debate performances, came out kickboxing and tarred the latter as a Freddie Mac lobbyist, an “influence peddler,” a Washington Insider and a pretty damn embarrassing failure as Speaker of the House.
Gingrich, for his part, repulsed the assaults, never losing his cool. Though at one point, he did something unusual and expounded on Romney’s debate strategy: “I understand your technique, which you used on McCain, you used on Huckabee . . . ” I can’t recall the last time I saw a candidate engage in an analysis of another’s rhetorical craft. Odd. But effective. Gingrich is becoming formidable-r with each passing debate.
I don’t know if the situation is comparable with gentile fathers, but this is how it works with elderly Jewish dads. They never voluntarily retire. Under any circumstances. Ever.
If you ask them why, they will riposte with characteristic Hebraic forthrightness: “Because if I stop working I’ll die, that’s why. Schmuck.” To which the Jewish Children of America—and I literally mean every single Member of the Tribe in the United States—will curse the intransigence of that generation and its illogical Old World ways.
The passing of Penn State coach Joe Paterno, however, forces us to reevaluate the entire Florida/Arizona/Golden Years paradigm. If there is a labor studies professor or gerontologist reading this that has the relevant statistics, could he or she please answer this question: Is there a correlation between retiring and dying?
Mitt Romney was thumped in the South Carolina primary tonight. This capped off a week of jittery debate performances, PR disasters (how many scholars reading this column are taxed at a rate of 15%?), and the puzzling inability to share his thoughts on Newt Gingrich’s desire to be shared by the women in his life.
Throughout this campaign I keep returning to (and abusing) the term “double down” and after tonight I understand why. As the South Carolina tally indicates, a significant portion of the GOP base is in full-fledged double-down mode.
They don’t want a boxer, they want a brawler–a wish predicated on a seething hatred of the policies of Barack Obama (and Barack Obama himself) that verges on the absurd.
I noticed, incidentally, a very similar animus on campuses emanating from the radical Left during the George W. Bush years. Yet it was a decidedly fringe phenomenon–sorry…
Tonight’s South Carolina presidential debate was a pretty rowdy affair. The crackle in the air was provided by: 1) Fox and Wall Street Journal moderators (Bret Baier, Kelly Evans, Juan Williams, and Gerald Seib) who asked intelligent, tough questions, 2) candidates who sought to ignore those questions and strafe their opponents in the process, and, 3) a boisterous crowd that seems to have time-traveled to Myrtle Beach straight from the infamous 2004 Clemson v. South Carolina football brawl (which, in order to provide CHE readers with substantive analytical resources, I have posted above).
The storylines as I see them:
Gingrich Strikes Back: Aside from an assault on Mitt Romney’s Bain record which the latter parried well, the former Speaker was beastin’ (as the football players like to say). Gingrich brought down the house by quipping that 99 weeks of unemployment benefits was “…
“So, if Tebow wins against the Pats on Saturday night, then even the Jews are going to convert to Christianity.” So opined my not-exceedingly observant (or reverent) Jewish breakfast partner yesterday. “What about the Reform Jews?” I asked.
“Absolutely and they’ll be holding tambourines.” he responded.
“Reconstructionist and Secular Humanistic Jews, too?”
“Faster than you can say ‘egalitarian congregation.’”
“What about Jews in like Belgium or Israel?”
“Can’t be sure about Belgium, but if Israeli Jews come to Christ it could refresh certain synergies on the foreign policy level.”
The combination of improbable football success and unabashed faith in the form of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is now triggering conversations like this across the country (Surely, the essay “Tim Tebow (and the Secular Sikhs)” is going up over at HuffPo as we speak).
ABC NEWS hosted a halting debate last night at St. Anselm College. It was followed by a far better Meet The Press event this morning at 10:30. Neither gathering, however, provided much to roil the normally tranquil weekend news cycle.
Still there were a few noteworthy developments and one likely scenario is coming into focus for those who follow religious politicking:
Romney, Hard to Floor: In this campaign the former governor of Massachusetts has shown himself to be a superb defensive debater, a virtuoso of the rope-a-dope technique.
Consider the counterattack he executed this morning. In the late rounds, he found himself isolated, one-on-one, with the former Speaker of the House. This encounter with Newt Gingrich was frightening and this is because Newt Gingrich is frightening. And he is furious.
The former Speaker had just been asked to reflect on Romney’s negative…
Courtesy of Mrs. Berlinerblau, I was afflicted on Tuesday night–the night of the GOP Iowa Caucus–by the most debilitating, vomit-positive, 36-hour stomach virus known to medical science.
The illness rendered me not merely nauseous, but delusional. One of my delusions was of a boxer speedbag-punching my stomach as his trainer (named “Mack” in my reverie) exhorted him with the words: “F&^& him up, Jake. F%^% him up good.”
Assaulted as such, I was not able to post about the spectacular goings-on in Iowa. I console myself with the hope that my hyper-contagious virus has made its way to the Hawkeye state by now (and, in defiance of basic principles of immunology, right back to Mrs. Berlinerblau as well). The niceness of Iowans notwithstanding, I am quite frankly tired of hearing about them: their county fairs, their beef jerky prowess, their godforsaken food-on-a-stick culinary hoe do…
We were assessing presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s many references to youthful Bible study and Sunday School taught by her mom. As for that junior senator, Barack Obama, we marveled at the newcomer’s God-talk skills. He was too green, obviously; maybe 2016 would be his time.
Nor were we really focused on those who would soon become faith-and-values Persons of Interest in 2008. Mike Huckabee only flitted across the radar late in 2007. Outside of the initiated, no one knew who the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was. And few, if any, on the religion beat had ever heard of Sarah Palin.
The theoconservative magazine First Things has taken an interest, shall we say, in some of my blogs about secularism. They have stuck it to Berlinerblau here and here. And, once again, here, where a frustrated Oglethorpe University professor lamented, “Why do I read this stuff?” (to which I can only respond, “Duder, why do you write this stuff?“).
A scholar peacefully presenting research at the Association for Jewish Studies (left), and, in contrast, the same scholar being restrained during Q&A after a particularly blistering panel at the Society of Biblical Literature. There's just something inexplicably calming about the AJS.
The Association for Jewish Studies will convene in Washington D.C. for its 43rd annual conference over the next few days and I will be there taking in the serenity of it all.
Serenity? In the company of so many Jews. In the company of that “hyperactive beanpole” Berlinerblau? How is that even possible?
Recall that my point of comparison is the raucous, mammoth AAR/SBL gathering which takes place a few weeks earlier and is, I am guessing, 10 to 20 times larger. I have heard reports—troubling, albeit…
Tonight’s at-points-intriguing Fox GOP debate featured a few exchanges of interest to those of us who study Faith and Values politicking.
Rick Perry Tebows Himself: The Governor of Texas paralleled himself to the Denver Broncos’ Conservative Christian quarterback and fourth-quarter messiah, Tim Tebow: “There were a lot of folks who said Tim Tebow wasn’t going to be a very good NFL quarterback . . I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa Caucus.”
Perry, who looked positively ebullient all night long–he kept reminding me of beloved Hollywood Square Paul Lynde for some reason–was so pleased with the comparison that he seemed ready to ask Michele Bachmann to strap on a helmet and go run an out pattern.
Depicting himself as the Evangelical Comeback Kid–a pretty canny bit of re-branding that was.
Gingrich Assails the Judiciary: Radical Atheists Help Him Make That Point: Many of…
After reading Jacques Berlinerblau¹s "An Afternoon with the Society
for Pentecostal Studies," I have only one question: where has
professor Berlinerblau been for the last twenty years? Berlinerblau
critiques the Pentecostal scholars of the Society of Biblical
Literature with all the righteous indignation of a Victorian
rationalist who has discovered lingering faith commitments
compromising the purity...
If I were in charge of American Atheism—which I am not, but then again who is?—I would ask myself the following questions: Why does poll after poll indicate that we are one of the most disliked groups in the United States? Why are there so few self-professed atheists among 535 congresspersons and senators? Why have all three branches of the federal government turned their backs on the vaunted mid-century policy of Church/State separation? Why has atheism—a once formidable intellectual tradition—become such a “little idea” as R. Joseph Hoffmann memorably put it in an important recent essay.
As Head Atheist in Charge I would first get my priorities straight: The intellectual crisis of atheism is actually far less severe than the political crisis. Pop Atheists…
Professor Bruce Hoffman, one of the nation’s most well-respected terrorism experts (and our esteemed colleague at the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University) sat down a little why back to discuss the implications of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination in both the Islamic world and the United States. Dr. Sarah Fainberg–another esteemed colleague–conducts this discussion, which touches on everything from Pakistani complicity, to the significance–or lack thereof–of Bin Laden’s porn stash, to President Obama’s image in the global Islamic world.
Please Enjoy this episode of Faith Complex and feel free to peruse the growing archive at pjcmedia.org.
In my heart there is a chamber larger than a stadium that scarcely contains my overflow admiration and affection for jazz singers. From Ella Fitzgerald to Betty Carter, Johnny Hartman to Jon Hendricks, Sarah, Frank, and Abbey and Carmen (oh what we lost when we lost Ms. McRae): I love and worship them all.
So, naturally, when I heard Tony Bennett’s sweet-as-frosting voice on Thanksgiving night I immediately put down my pie and ran to the television. And there, on prime time network TV, was the man who once accompanied pianist Bill Evans on that incomparable version of “When in Rome”! But what, sweet Jesus, was Lady Gaga doing there with him?
Pop singers—she’s a pop singer right?—don’t do jazz standards. They can’t do jazz standards—they lack the technical skills to make it past the chorus. Too, they usually lack the curiosity and sophistication to venture into the…