Friday 13 July 2012

Yankee doodlings

by Kim Fabricius

I see it became fashionable this July 4th to debunk the fashionable debunkers of American exceptionalism (oops – I mean patriotism).  I hope that there was a copious distribution of long plastic spoons at the barbecues.  And that that discordant sound – Bill Stringfellow turning in his grave – didn’t disturb the celebrations too much.

Ad rem I: The US was founded on a bloodbath; sustained by the cruellest chattel slavery; expanded by genocidal slaughter and dislocations; interrupted and consolidated by a massive fratricidal conflict; extended overseas with imperial swagger and colonial exploitation, maintained with the help of criminal puppet regimes; and culminating (to date) in the monstrosities of Iraq and Afghanistan, wars inaugurated with the ethically sophisticated argument of “payback” and vindicated by the political lie of “spreading democracy”.  July 4th as a National Day of Mourning and Repentance – that is the only act of Christian witness to which the Church can give its Amen with any theological integrity. 

Ad rem II: “One nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance has morphed into “the only nation under God” – or even into “one God under nation”.  I accept the good faith of those who argue for a theologically vigilant account of patriotism as a penultimate loyalty.  Their good faith – but not their good sense.  In the phrase “God and country”, the conjunction functions as a hyphen, even an equal sign; the depth syntax of absolute subordination is semantically irretrievable.  I’m afraid that contemporary American patriotism is simply too idolatrously compromised for anything but an uncompromising Christian Nein!

Is it okay to display a flag in church?  Sure – as long as no one is there.  If someone is there, it’s still okay – as long as you take out the cross.  Then at least the object of worship is unequivocal.  God Hates Flags.  So a liturgical suggestion for that National Day of Mourning and Repentance: the burning of the flag and the marking of each congregant with its ash, with – to counter America as the “political Messiah” (Melville) – words adapted from Psalm 2: “The One who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds the nation in derision.  I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill, not Capitol Hill.”

Some say God also hates fags, but British Barthians will be relieved to know that he’s okay with pipes.

There are rumours of funding cuts at Princeton’s Center for Barth Studies: George Hunsinger and Bruce McCormack have been seen wearing “Save the Whale” tee shirts around campus.

Gay marriage will not undermine traditional marriage, but, God willing, it will subvert “family values”.  Otherwise, the hell with it.

Speaking of hell – the heated discussion seems to have gone off the boil lately.  I put it down to evangelical burnout.  Oops!  I spoke too soon.  I just read in the Church Times (6 July) of a new study suggesting that “belief in hell means less crime”.  Ah, the utilitarian argument from deterrence – desperation or what?  Meanwhile, recidivism in the church remains steady at 100%. 

WWJD?  Ask his mum, surely.  That’s the best reason I know for becoming a Catholic.

If Jesus got married to Mary Magdalene, he was (if you know your boy-meets-girl biblical conventions – e.g., Genesis 29:1ff., Exodus 2:15ff.) two-timing the woman at the well.  Three-timing, if you count the beloved disciple.

The war on drugs is an idiocy.  It’s time for peace talks.  Mind, the heroin delegation will keep nodding off, and it will be hard to get a word in edgewise with the speed freaks, but the cannabis contingent is bound to agree to any terms for a Taco Bell takeout.

Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God is a Pauline game-changer.  There are only three excuses for not reading it: (1) you have underdeveloped biceps (as you will be unable to elevate the book to make ocular contact); (2) you have manual osteoarthritis (as you will be unable to flip from the text to the endnotes without risk of irreversible damage to the articular cartilage); (3) you have less than six months to live.

Mysterium tremendum et fascinans:  Rudolf Otto’s famous phrase, coined for the numinous – given the ubiquity and omnipotence of the market, it now does double-duty for the numismatic.

Bonhoeffer’s “world come of age” is now looking rather adolescent.  We need to take it etsi Dawkins non daretur.

The palaeogenetic fallacy: the mistake of young people who assume that just because a grumpy old fart is sounding off again, what he says has got to be wrong.  Even a broken grandfather clock is right twice a day.

Liberalism and evangelicalism are both right about one thing: the other is wrong.

Sign on the gate of the manse of a dyslexic minister, known for his sermons on God’s “dark and disruptive grace” (Flannery O’Connor): “Beware of Dog”.

Some very short books on Bible-linked themes: The Geneva Convention and the Conquest of Canaan; Mechanisms of Denial in the Psalms; Ecclesiastes: The Universe Explained; My Country Right or Wrong: The Patriotism of Jeremiah; The Trickle-Down Economics of Amos; Mariology and the Gospel of Mark; The Beatitudes in the Theology of Joel Osteen; Let’s Make a Deal: Salvation in Paul; Inerrency and the Bible.

The exposures in the UK of the criminal culture, first of the Murdoch media, and now of investment banking, though a breaking-news “Duh!”, are making me feel a visceral Žižekian sympathy for the Reign of Terror.  I’m thinking: erect a guillotine in Trafalgar Square and I’m your man to dispatch the political and financial ruling elite, enthusiastically waving their heads before the hordes of the fucking-pissed-off.  Madam Fabricius has agreed to do the knitting.

Paedophile priests, venal journalists, greedy bankers, shameless tax-dodgers, complacent politicians – jeez, arms dealers are beginning to look ethical. 

Some churches use wafers at Communion, others bread.  My proposal is toast – from the quirky autobiography of that title by the British chef Nigel Slater, which begins: “It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you.”  At the Sunday morning service, and with biblical warrant from John 21:1-14, the church would invite people to the Lord’s Breakfast.  And because, following Slater, it would be a converting as well as a nurturing ordinance, the table would be completely open – though Marmite would be a mandatory penitential spread for egregious sinners.

“Bishops”: mutton dressed up as the Lamb.

I see that there was a Blah Labour Seminar Event at the University of Nottingham in early July.

Former director of Fermilab and Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, who coined the term “God particle”, originally wanted to call it “that goddamn particle”, but his publisher wouldn’t let him.  Lederman should have gone to Business Plus – it published Robert Sutton’s The No Asshole Rule (2007).  Then – who knows? – with an editorial flash of brilliance, we might now be referring to the “Asshole particle” (not to be confused with a Black Hole) – and no longer thinking of physicists as a bunch of remote geeks. 

I support Obama because he smoked pot.  I thought of switching to Romney when I read that he was a member of the LSD Church.  Then I realised it was a misprint.

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