Grab Bag 7/17/17

  1. W.H. Auden
  2. Trump update
  3. Even a blind pig …
  4. Another “this stuff” you “can’t make up”
  5. Their only humiliation
  6. Pseudo-scholarship showdown
  7. Nice turns of phrase


I believe it’s fair to say that W. H. Auden is my favorite poet, if only for For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio. (Go back to what I’ve blogged in recent Decembers between roughly the 20th and 24th.) So either I hadn’t yet discovered him (quite likely) or 2001 was a hiatus in my subscribing to First Things, for I don’t recall ever before seeing this Alan Jacobs article.

Some of you may not care one fig for poetry, or for Auden, or for either. So I’ll not begin to try provocative or typical quotes. I’ll just say that if you like poetry in general, or Auden’s poetry, or wonder about the vocation of an artist who feels his art as vocation, or like an implausible conversion story or a vignettes of a messy Christian life, there’s something for you in Jacobs’ article Auden and the Limits of Poetry.

Oh, what the heck! I can’t resist one:

Why are Christians so indifferent to Auden? …

The first problem is an obvious one: throughout Auden’s life he was a practicing homosexual. After his conversion to Christianity, such sexual activity became problematic for him. His good friend Christopher Isherwood wrote of Auden’s attitude toward his homosexuality that “his religion condemned it and he agreed that it was sinful, though he fully intended to go on sinning.”

This is only partly right. In a letter to Isherwood—a letter that may have been the source of Isherwood’s comment—Auden wrote, “Though I believe it sinful to be queer, it has at least saved me from becoming a pillar of the Establishment.”


After talking about two under-reported stories, the expulsion of ISIS from Mosul and the assassination of NYPD Officer Miosotis Familia:

Now to the story that did get attention. Can you hear your columnist sigh?

Donald Trump Jr. ’s adventure with sketchy characters claiming to represent Russia made me think of a quote from a deadly old 19th-century European diplomat. It’s no trick to fool a man who thinks himself clever, he said, but a plain, honest man—that can be a challenge.

One of the things campaigns always have to watch out for is bumptious oafs who think themselves sophisticated.

Was it collusion? It was worse, it was classless.

(Peggy Noonan)

America’s first Republican president reportedly said , “Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” The current Republican president and the party he controls were granted monopoly power over Washington in November and already find themselves spectacularly failing Abraham Lincoln’s character exam.

(Joe Scarborough)

Be it noted that not all Evangelicals have bent the knee to Trump:

The court evangelicals’ allegiance to Trump is taking them into a new and dangerous place. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush (who famously claimed that Jesus was his favorite philosopher) had their flaws, but they were both men of character who possessed a respect for the history and integrity of the office of the president. When they were tested — Reagan in the fight against communism, and Bush during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — they responded with moral courage and leadership for the whole country.

Trump is different.

His campaign and presidency has shed light on a troubling wing of American evangelicalism willing to embrace nationalism, populism, fear of outsiders and anger. The leaders of this wing trade their evangelical witness for a mess of political pottage and a Supreme Court nomination.

(John Fea, Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity)


If you look at America, we’re only having a 2.1 replacement of our native-born population from natural births. We can’t continue to grow this economy unless we grow more diverse and get more immigrants, so we’ve got to be comfortable about it.

(Bill Clinton, July 13, in video embedded here) I don’t believe I’ve ever quoted Clinton before, and I may never quote him again, but this folksy summary is spot on about the need either for immigration, increased fertility, or economic stagnation — and I would put it more strongly than “stagnation,” but that’s for another day.

Oh: the table of contents link to here? Deliberate provocation.


Academics and scholars must be mindful about using research done by only straight, white men, according to two scientists who argued that it oppresses diverse voices and bolsters the status of already privileged and established white male scholars.

Geographers Carrie Mott and Daniel Cockayne argued in a recent paper that doing so also perpetuates what they call “white heteromasculinism,” which they defined as a “system of oppression” that benefits only those who are “white, male, able-bodied, economically privileged, heterosexual, and cisgendered.”

Scholars should read through their work and count all the citations before submitting their work for publication, and see how many people of diverse backgrounds — women, people of color, early-career scholars, graduate students and non-academics — are cited.

“Today, the field is more diverse, but this diversity is largely represented by earlier career scholars. Citing only tenured, established scholars means that these voices are ignored, especially when it is well-known that today’s brutally competitive academic job market continues to privilege the white heteromasculinist body,” they wrote.

(Kristine Phillips) I had heard that one of the glories of science vis-à-vis religion was its freedom from bias — that you’d get the same result in the lab, no matter who you were or what religion or ideology you professed, if you were competent. I still tend to think that’s a lot truer than these, er, dissident geographers seem to think.


Dissident geographers, meet dissident cartographers:

“We get accused of being idiots, of doing it for money,” [Bob] Knodel said. “Believe me, there’s only humiliation in this. We do it because we believe it.”

(Graham Ambrose, These Coloradans say Earth is flat. And gravity’s a hoax. Now, they’re being persecuted, Denver Post — H/T The Way of Improvement)


[Eugene] Peterson’s popular paraphrase of the Bible, doesn’t use the word “homosexual” and “homosexuality” in key texts. But this wasn’t definitive proof of anything. After all, those words never appear in any English translation of the Bible until 1946.

(Jonathan Merritt via GetReligion) I’m unimpressed with that factoid. Let me counter with a few of my own.

The first known use of homosexual in English is in Charles Gilbert Chaddock‘s 1892 translation of Richard von Krafft-Ebing‘s Psychopathia Sexualis, a study on sexual practices.


So, assuming (probably incorrectly) that “homosexual” was an immediate smash hit, what English Bible translations were made between 1892 and 1946?

  1. American Standard Version – ASV – 1901, a.k.a. Standard American Edition, Revised Version, the American version of the Holy Bible, Revised Version
  2. American Translation (Smith-Goodspeed) – SGAT – 1931
  3. Bible Designed to Be Read as Literature – BDRL – 1930, stresses literary qualities of the Bible, includes the Apocrypha
  4. Centenary Translation of the New Testament – CTNT – 1924, one of the few versions translated solely by a woman
  5. Concordant Literal New Testament – CLNT – 1926
  6. Coptic Version of the New Testament – CVNT – 1898, based on translations from northern Egypt
  7. Darby Holy Bible – DHB – 1923
  8. Documents of the New Testament – DNT – 1934
  9. Douay-Rheims Bible – DRB – 1899
  10. Emphatic Diaglott – EDW – 1942
  11. Godbey Translation of the New Testament – GTNT – 1905
  12. Holy Scriptures (Leeser) – HSL – 1905
  13. Modern Reader’s Bible – MRB – 1923, stresses literary qualities, includes the Apocrypha
  14. Modern Speech New Testament – MSNT – 1902, an attempt to present the Bible in effective, intelligible English
  15. Moffatt New Translation – MNT – 1922
  16. New Translation (Jewish) – NTJ – 1917
  17. People’s New Covenant – PNC – 1925, a version translated from the meta-physical standpoint
  18. Restored New Testament – PRNT – 1914, a version giving an interpretation according to ancient philosophy and psychology
  19. Riverside New Testament – RNT – 1923, written in the living English language of the time of the translation
  20. Shorter Bible – SBK – 1925, eliminates duplications
  21. Spencer New Testament – SCM – 1941
  22. Twentieth Century New Testament – TCNT – 1904
  23. Westminster Version of the Sacred Scriptures – WVSS – 1929
  24. Williams New Testament – WNT – 1937, a translation of the thoughts of the writers with a reproduction of their diction and style
  25. Worrell New Testament – WAS – 1904
  26. Young’s Literal Translation, Revised Edition – YLR – 1898, a strictly literal translation

I recognize only two or three of those as major translations, but that could be a function of my provinciality. Notably, none is dated 1946. I have no idea why Jonathan Merritt thinks this is a big deal, or what translation he’s talking about.

Now if you really want to know what the Biblical, Christian teaching on “homosexuality” is, get to know Robert A. J. Gagnon.


As long as we’re on Bible translations, here are a few arresting verses I’ve encountered in the past few days.

  • Thou didst sell They people for naught, and there were not many at our auction. Psalm 43:13 (Septuagint numbering, 44:12 in most Bibles)
  • Thy mouth hath embroidered evil, and thy tongue hath woven lies. Psalm 49:19 (Septuagint numbering, 50:19 in most Bibles)

Both are from A Psalter for Prayer, an adaptation of the Miles Coverdale translation.

A poetic ending to a blog born in poetry.

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Fiat justitia ruat caelum

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.