Tuesday, 10/22/13

  1. Equivocation update
  2. Gospel of Ghoul
  3. The last thing I need is “anything I want”
  4. Attorney General Roper loses his license


I awoke Monday to an NPR story about same-sex couples in New Jersey starting to get married at Midnight. One newlywed man (I’m resisting scare quotes) remarked that he’d grown up when “it was illegal to be gay.”

I would be astonished if that is true, but it illustrates continued equivocation about the meaning of “gay.” “Equivocation” does not necessarily imply deception, though it is sometimes used for that purpose — including, I suspect, on the topic of gayness. But there’s a wide, wide range of “gay.” And I’m talking about the logical error of equivocation that can muddy up discussions of homosexualities.

Anyway, it’s far likelier that it was illegal in New Jersey to do certain acts with a member of the same sex. In many states, it was illegal to do those acts with a member of the opposite sex as well. It’s hard for most people today to apprehend that the alimentary canal is for food, not eroticism. It wasn’t easy for me to recover that conviction. I still can’t agree that it should be a crime for consenting adults to misuse it.

Meanwhile, one of the admirable people at the Spiritual Friendship site, writing this time for Ethika Politika, says that “For most young people, ‘gay’ is simply a word that designates attraction to the same sex. It is not per se morally evaluative of that experience.” (Whose Gayness? Which Homosexuality?)

It does turn conversation into a bit of a minefield for those who aren’t yet fully on board with the sexual revolution, or at least with the homosexual portion of it.


As awkward and tentative as those conversations might be, I’d much prefer them to spending time being “evangelized” at a Hell House Halloween show at one of my local fundy cherches:

Shake your city with the most “in-your-face, high-flyin’, no denyin’, death-defyin’, Satan-be-cryin’, keep-ya-from-fryin’, theatrical stylin’, no holds barred, cutting-edge” evangelism tool of the new millennium!

(Ad for Keenan Roberts’s Hell House Outreach Kit) Roberts apparently has never heard that the medium is the message:

The method is timely! The message is timeless! Desperate times call for drastic measures! If your church or ministry is determined to take a stand against sin and the kingdom of darkness and to reach people for Jesus like never before, then this outreach is for you! Get prayed up and powered up and be prepared for the ride of your ministry life!”

(Emphasis added) Timothy George comments on this sort of thing in The Gospel of Ghoul:

C. S. Lewis famously described two equal and opposite errors into which people fall when thinking about things infernal. The first is disbelief and denial, a familiar pattern in forms of rationalist religion. The other is to cultivate “an excessive and unhealthy interest” in Satan and his pomp. The latter is on full display in what has become a thriving phenomenon within the subculture of American fundamentalist and evangelical churches: the seasonal appearance of a Halloween alternative known as Hell House or Judgment House.

Hell Houses can be found from New England to the Northwest, though they thrive in those red states where Pentecostal and fundamentalist churches are strongest. Hundreds of thousands of teens and tweens will stand in line for hours and pay good money (about the price of a premium movie ticket) in order to be scared out of their wits by this bizarre form of entertainment evangelism.

There are many variations on this theme: a hayride through hell, a demon-guided stroll in a cemetery, a train trip of terror, and so on ….

Our local public high school had an annual “Haunted House” fundraiser for the Show Choir (an excuse for tarting up adolescent girls and putting them on display – yes, I’m ambivalent about Show Choirs and show biz generally) when my son was there. I played a role scaring people inside one year, then declared conscientious objector status and volunteered as a traffic cop outside thereafter. I didn’t like the ghoulishness, even as a secular fundraiser, and one major religious epiphany later, I like them even less.

But to use ghoul as “evangelism”!? Is escaping hell the “the chief and highest end of man?” If this be Christianity, no wonder there be atheists.


Speaking of evading hell, NPR had a recent series, What Comes Next?, where people from different traditions commented on the afterlife.

The Orthodox Rabbi, apropos of the preceding item if only in my mind, notes that the “the sort of people who have vivid depictions of hell in their minds, often ended up making life hell for people down here.” Touché!

I was favorably impressed, to my surprise, with the answers from Rev. Gabriel Salguero, a pastor of The Lamb’s Church in New York City and president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. I can’t endorse them fully, but I was ready to cringe and didn’t need to.

Philosopher Samuel Scheffler doesn’t believe in a traditional afterlife — that is, he doesn’t think that a spirit or soul survives the body’s physical death. But he does believe in another kind of afterlife: Regardless of what we think about our own life after death, Scheffler tells NPR’s Robert Siegel, we all trust that others will continue to live after us. And, much like faith in a spiritual afterlife, that belief changes what we choose to do with our days on earth.

This philosopher’s non-eternal “afterlife” was pretty stimulating listening, too. Should you do your homework if the world were ending in 20 years?

Not surprisingly, Sr. Mary Catherine Hilkert, a Catholic Theologian and nun, had some sensible things to say although she’s a bit on the wishy-washy side for my tastes. It sounds so attractive that I might want to go even if the alternative was obliteration, not the Hell House vivid depiction.

The Imam said the kinds of cringe-inducing things I feared I’d hear from Rev. Salguero — and a revealing something more:

And one of the pleasures of paradise is maidservants, and … any type of desire that one wants to fulfill in paradise, one will get to enjoy. And this is what God has mentioned in the Quran.

That includes, by the way, endless Cardinals games.

The only sin that Muslims believe is not forgivable by God,” saith the Imam opaquely, “is the sin of associating partners with him.” Huh?!

The interviewer, being less religiously literate than he should have been, didn’t follow up, but this reference is to what the Muslims contemptuously refer to as God’s “consort” – i.e., the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, the birthgiver of God:

Muslims believe in one, unique, incomparable God, Who has no son nor partner

(Islam Guide, emphasis added)

Ya’ learn something new every day, and today I learned that basic Christian belief, enshrined in the creeds and Ecumenical Councils, is not just considered error, but unforgivable sin in Islam. So we Christians, who worship one “conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary” can be damned sure that we’re not going to get to the Imam’s carnal heaven.

He can keep it. The last thing I need is anything I want. If this be Islam, no wonder there be Islamophobes.


Former Kansas Attorney General Phillip “Roper” Kline has been suspended indefinitely from practicing law in Kansas.

Kline’s ostensible objective was ferreting out cases of child sexual abuse, which he undertook by means such as opining that “As a matter of law [any pregnant child under age 16] has been the victim of rape or one of the other sexual abuse crimes and such crimes are inherently injurious.” The suspicion of pro-life people, which I share for reasons that have been fairly well documented by whats-their-names, the young guerilla film-makers, was that perverts were covering up their crimes by taking their pregnant young victims to abortuaries, which obligingly presumed a Romeo & Juliet backstory instead of “Roman Polanski and yet another Lolita.”

The Kansas Supreme Court, in a 154 page opinion, said that his over-zealous pursuit of his goal and his failure to acknowledge wrongdoing was a bit too much to take. Kline, sitting in Virginia at Jerry Falwell’s law school, responded with “Neener, neener, neener” — or something like that.

This is at least the second case I know where a putatively Christian lawyer thought the noble pro-life end justified any means necessary. In my demurral from that view, I seem to stand in a small minority, but I’m heartened to suspend disbelief, credit the movie version of his life, and count St. Thomas More among that minority.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.