Submit to this question!

How can you submit to an authority before you evaluate that authority?

If a religious authority claims to be flawed and broken and sinful, evaluate the extent and nature of his influence and control.

If an academic authority claims to have the best answer on an issue, ask him about the best points his opponents make.

South Park Eric Cartman

‘Dear Lord, the psalmist says You make the rain fall on the righteous & the unrighteous…’

“…which is really just another way of saying, ‘check your local forecast’.”

Allusions and delusions

Poems, songs, and sermons often allude to things the writer believes to be already known by the audience.

Allusions are simply indirect references. In its oldest sense, an allusion was an indirect reference to classical or biblical literature.

So, at the beginning of Hamlet, the prince compares his dead father to Hyperion and his uncle to a satyr. These are allusions to Greek mythology.

And, toward the end of Hamlet, the prince says, “There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.” There, Hamlet is alluding to Jesus’s words in The Gospel of Matthew 10:29-30.

Shakespeare wrote in a time when, as he assumed, most of his audience would have some familiarity with both ancient pagan mythology and the Bible.

But, a writer can’t always control the makeup of the audience.

A quick example: While I’m a fan of T.S. Eliot for particular reasons, he wrote some poems that cannot be understood without a classical education and a broad reading experience. Sometimes, Eliot is just “over my head.”

His Anglo-Catholic point of view might have made some of his Christian poems just as opaque as some of his other works.

Eliot’s work was full of literary allusions, and I’m sure those references have made for some wild interpretations that would amuse Eliot and horrify him.

Those allusions could lead to nearly delusional interpretations in the minds of those who are not prepared to read them.

While a writer might have a specific audience in mind, she is probably not worried about keeping people out of the audience.

So when someone “sneaks in,” so to speak, the reader might find himself confused, insulted, exasperated, baffled, or mortified by what has been written, sung, or spoken, because the allusions don’t make sense.

The difficulty for the individual reader is to know when she has really misunderstood something.

For example, the first time I read them, I did not understand William Carlos Williams’ poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” or, in a different stream, Russell Edson’s prose poems.

But now that I’ve learned a bit more and spent a bit more time with those literary works, I at least can say I’ve started to understand what these writers were trying to accomplish.

I would not ask you to like those poems, and I would only discuss them with you if you had already expressed an interest in the writers, the works, or related matters. They’re quite different within the body of available poems. “The Red Wheelbarrow” and Edson’s prose poems aren’t for everyone — and few writers should even try to be for everyone.

If someone else “sneaks in” and noisily announces his confusion, insulted-ness, exasperation, bafflement, or mortification, well, that’s the risk the writer takes. The writer just hopes he can reach his intended audience.

‘Dear Lord, I really want to love people…’

“…they just need to get their positions right first.”

Zombies take over philosophy departments!

Based on a survey of approximately 1,000 professional philosophers in 99 philosophy departments of North America, Europe, and Australasia:


Conceivable but not metaphysically possible: 36 percent

Metaphysically possible: 23 percent

Inconceivable: 16 percent

Other: 25 percent

The “other” is taxing my imagination.

Source: David Chalmers and David Bourget, “What Do Philosophers Believe?,” Philosophical Studies, quoted in The Philosophers’ Magazine, 1st Quarter 2014

Donald Sutherland compares Jennifer Lawrence to Jesus

Colin Foote Burch:

Two critiques of Mr. Tharpe’s post.

First, Mr. Tharpe seems dismayed by Donald Sutherland’s call for a youth rebellion.

If you click on the linked text in the post, you’ll find an article from the Guardian in which Sutherland expresses concern about, “Drone strikes. Corporate tax dodging. Racism. The Keystone oil pipeline. Denying food stamps to ‘starving Americans’.” Sutherland wants youth to rebel against those things. And what’s wrong with youth rebelling against those things? I’m glad Sutherland wants youth to dislike those things, even if I’m not afraid of the (now probably dead) Keystone Pipeline.

In fact, Mr. Tharpe ought to consider Sutherland’s stance quite moral. Is Jesus sitting there thinking, “Man! I wish we had more drone strikes, more corporate tax dodging, and more racism! How devilish for that actor to suggest people should oppose those things…”?

Second, consider exactly what Sutherland says about Jennifer Lawrence and about Jesus Christ.

Sutherland says Lawrence is “the right person at the right time in the sense of Joan of Arc or Jesus Christ, any genius, in that sense.”

So, Jesus Christ was the right person at the right time, according to Sutherland. For most of Hollywood, that’s crazy talk!

Consider his comparisons of Lawrence to Joan of Arc and Jesus Christ as hyperbole, not as a suggestion for redemption.

After all, as Sutherland continues, he says, “[Lawrence] has the ability as an actor to tell the truth out of the material….” The material he’s referring to is simply the script of the movie. She finds and expresses what’s true within the script.

Sutherland goes on to say, “…and that truth is immediately recognisable with everybody because it hits you in your heart, your solar plexus and your mind.”

If that wasn’t the case for Lawrence, it also wouldn’t be the case for any storyteller of any story that has stuck around for more than a few years. And over the centuries, Christians have found good reasons to read all kinds of stories from their surrounding cultures.

For that matter, Christianity frequently has appropriated pagan texts and stories: The Apostle Paul’s quotation of pagan philosophers in Acts 17:28; Augustine’s use of Platonism and neo-Platonism; Thomas Aquinas’s use of Aristotelianism; George MacDonald’s use of German Romanticism; J.R.R. Tolkien’s use of Norse mythology; and C.S. Lewis’s use of several mythological stories.

I think Mr. Tharpe has lassoed Sutherland and dragged the actor into a controversy he didn’t have in mind.

Originally posted on Roger Tharpe:


At 24, she already has an Oscar and two Golden Globes to her name, but Jennifer Lawrence has been elevated to even higher levels of approbation after being compared to Jesus and Joan of Arc by her Hunger Games co-star Donald Sutherland.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 10.29.38 AMSutherland, who has already said he hopes to see the blockbuster science fiction saga spark a new epoch of rebellious youth in America, Donald Sutherland wants to stir revolt. A real revolt

“When I worked with her, I realised the child was a genius,” said Sutherland. “She’s the right person at the right time in the sense of Joan of Arc or Jesus Christ, any genius, in that sense.

“She has the ability as an actor to tell the truth out of the material, and that truth is immediately recognisable with everybody because it hits you in your heart, your solar plexus and your mind.” Links above.

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‘Dear Lord, help me become a minister and a psychiatrist…’

“…so I can always fall back on my prescription pad.”

‘Postmodernism’ has jumped the shark: We are now post-postmodern

Click on the image for a better view:
Google Books NGram Postmodern Modernism Modernity

‘Dear Lord, I know the right positions, and I don’t listen to the wrong ones…’

“…so why won’t You let me pass these classes?”

Fears of Religious Conflict After Synagogue Killings

Colin Foote Burch:

“The dead include three American citizens and one British citizen.”

Originally posted on TIME:

Two Palestinians from East Jerusalem burst into a West Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday morning, killing four Israelis and wounding eight others with knives and axes in an attack that is being viewed by both sides as a potential turning point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That conflict, simmering since the end of a seven-week long war this summer between Israel and Islamist militants in Gaza, has reached boiling point in recent weeks. There have been a string of Palestinian stabbing attacks targeting Israelis so far this month, resulting in the deaths of four Israelis. Palestinians accuse Israel of ratcheting up tensions around Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, or Noble Sanctuary, an area sacred to both Jews and Muslims, and say the building of Israeli homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has provoked Palestinian ire.

But Tuesday’s attack in a crowded synagogue where worshippers has just begun their morning prayers is the…

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‘Desks as Bumper Cars’

“Desks as Bumper Cars: An Inquiry into the Phenomenology of Shifting Locales in Student Learning,” Journal of Bewildered Lecturers, November 2014

Desks on wheels in the university classroom

This is how I found one of my classrooms this semester.

‘Dear Lord, I passed my theology test, and I hate everyone…’

“…so may I please take Mark Driscoll‘s place and become an evangelical best-selling author? I’ll promise to give some of the money to my ministry. Please? Amen.”

Is Television Sacrificing Its Golden Age to the Closed Loop of Pop Culture?

Colin Foote Burch:

This is an excellent analysis of the state of pop culture, especially television and movies.

Originally posted on Flavorwire:

Let us begin with three seemingly unrelated entertainment news items.

1. Starz Television has announced a new, ten-episode series titled Ash vs. Evil Dead. Director/producer Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell will reunite for the series, which is a spin-off/continuation of their long-dormant original iteration of the Evil Dead movie series.

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Tolkien on Anarchism

JRR Tolkien on Anarchism

Israeli woman killed in West Bank stabbing spree, Palestinian suspect shot and wounded

Colin Foote Burch:

While debates about guns continue, violence branches out to axes, hatchets, and knives.

Originally posted on National Post | News:


JERUSALEM — Assailants stabbed several Israelis on Monday, killing a young woman at a bus stop in the West Bank and gravely wounding an Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv, the latest in an ongoing wave of Arab violence that has put the country on edge.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a harsh response to the violence, saying he will use all means available — and consider taking even tougher steps, to stop the unrest. And in a veiled threat toward Arab demonstrators in Israel and east Jerusalem, he said attackers should consider moving to the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

“Believe me, we will put no difficulties in your path,” he said.

Netanyahu spoke after the soldier was stabbed at a crowded train station by a suspected Palestinian assailant in Tel Aviv, but before the deadly attack outside the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut.

[kaltura-widget uiconfid=”23273481″…

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Protests Over Disappeared Mexican Students Intensify

Originally posted on TIME:

Masked demonstrators set fire to the door of Mexico City’s ceremonial presidential palace while protesting the Mexican government’s announcement that the 43 college students missing since September were killed by a drug gang and burned in a pyre of branches and tires.

The demonstrations were largely peaceful until the end, when a number of protestors broke away and tore down the fences around the palace and set its door on fire, The Guardian reports. Riot police clashed with demonstrators before clearing the scene.

Anger over the disappearance of the students, who are believed to have been turned over to the drug gang Guerreros Unidos following an attack by corrupt police offers, has been directed toward the government and its handling of the case since it took over the investigation from state officials after 10 days.

Attendees chanted “It was the state” to protest the apparent internal corruption within the government…

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Arendt, Heidegger, and Eichmann

Hannah Arendt (2012)

The movie poster for Hannah Arendt (2012)

This outstanding 2012 film tells the story behind Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase “the banality of evil” while explaining the horrific ability of the modern bureaucratic state’s potential to convert human beings into abstractions and parts of a process.

The film also offers a glimpse, if to me a somewhat inconclusive one, into Arendt’s professional and personal relationship with Martin Heidegger, a still-influential, profound, puzzling philosopher who at least briefly affiliated himself with the Nazis.

Already an acclaimed political philosopher for her book The Origins of Totalitarianism (waiting on my shelf), Arendt secured a deal with the New Yorker to cover the trial of Nazi Lt. Col. Adolf Eichmann, considered a “one of the major organisers of the Holocaust.”

Part of Arendt’s series in the New Yorker suggests Eichmann believed he was merely playing a role in a process and merely following orders, so he did not believe he had a direct role in the killings of millions of Jews. This perspective strains friendships while setting Arendt on a quest to understand the nature of evil. (She did, however, believe a court in Jerusalem did the right thing by ordering Eichmann’s execution.)

But these historical and biographical details don’t carry the film. Barbara Sukowa‘s portrayal of Arendt lured me in and carried me through. Perhaps Sukowa’s most compelling moment is her portrayal of Arendt’s defense of her perspective in a packed college lecture hall. Here we find the phrase “crimes against humanity.”

The film is available for streaming on Netflix. If you don’t demand explosions, gun fights, bikinis, or slapstick in every movie you watch, play this film tonight.

Auctions, Museums and Fossils

Colin Foote Burch:

Excellent piece in which Errol Fuller deals with ethics, academics, and dinosaurs, originally from the Huffington Post:

Originally posted on Emilio Cogliani:


On November 26 an auction house operating from a small village named Billingshurst in southern England will try to sell the entire fossilized skeleton of a Mammoth. Last year the same auction house — an enterprise called Summers Place — successfully sold a fossil Dinosaur — (a Diplodocus) that had been found in Wyoming and somehow made its way to the same sleepy English village. How do I know this? Because on both occasions I was asked to help mount (if that is the correct word) these fossils — to change them from being piles of disconnected bones into imposing structures conforming to their original gigantic shapes. Similar sales of prehistoric creatures happen from time to time at other auction premises, although usually in large cities like New York, London, Paris or Los Angeles rather than out-of-the-way villages in the heart of the English countryside.

And always such sales bring…

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