Thursday, March 21

Rex Reed's account of Liza Minelli's wedding will have you spellbound in a combination of awe, disbelief and even twinges of horror:

11:20 p.m. Clearly, the evening should be called “When Worlds Collide.” Mickey Rooney was seated with Anthony Hopkins. Broadway producers bellied up to the bar with set designers. Reggae kings in dreadlocks boogied with the amazing Joan Collins and her 22-inch waist. Andy Williams sang “Our Love Is Here to Stay” while the newlyweds danced, stuck in each other’s arms like Cling Wrap. Phoebe Snow was up next, then Queen, Pablo Cruise, Freda Payne knocking out “Band of Gold,” Billy Paul rocking “Me and Mrs. Jones” as Liza hopped across the stage, slinging her feathers.

Would you believe Topol singing “If I Were a Rich Man”? Deborah Cox, Snazzy, Michael McDonald, people I had never heard of. Ray Conniff, looking like Moe Howard, conducted his corny choir in “Lara’s Theme” from Doctor Zhivago while globe lights filled the ballroom in a Russian storm of swirling snowflakes.

Luke Timothy Johnson is a bright light in the current crop of Catholic intellectuals. He's the author of a couple of good, brief useful books that function as helpful answers to the highly self-impressed and risible Jesus Seminar: The Real Jesus and Living Jesus: Learning the Heart of the Gospel.(As well as many other works on the New Testament).

In the current issue of Commonweal, Johnson offers some thoughts on the current state of Catholicism and the Holocaust discussions, prompted, of course, by Goldhagen's screed in The New Republic. He calls for calm, honest scholarship, and whatever degree of objectivity that can be achieved in regard to such a painful era of history. And he calls for this with some rather direct words to all the most recent participants in the discussions, from Goldhagen to Andrew Sullivan, James Carroll and Leon Wieseltier. And the Pope. And Cardinal Ratzinger:

Letter to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: Be quiet for a while. Your recent statements (Dominus Iesus, for example) have only made things worse, as Wieseltier's response makes clear. Don't make any more proclamations...Certainly Jews don't need a Vatican functionary explaining their place in God's plan...

Letter to James Carroll and Andrew Sullivan and Leon Wieseltier: Gentlemen, get over yourselves. James, get over your mother, get over your father, get over Vietnam, get over the way everyone kept the truth from you for so long. This is not about you. Andrew and Leon, get over the bad things people said to you when you were kids. This is not about you, either....

Letter to Daniel Jonah Goldhagen: Try to tone it down. Making yourself responsible for a "historical moral reckoning" leads to shrillness. You've taken on too big a task for an ordinary mortal, or any collection of mortals. As I remember, both our traditions insist that God is judge....
Another thing: don't lean too heavily on James Carroll. He's not much of a historian, and he is even less of a theologian.


Commonweal trucks in that wicked thing called "frames", so it's a trick to get to this piece. Go to the Commonweal site and click on the cover of the current issue. You'll see it.

Correction: Thanks to Eve Tushnet for giving me (and you) a more direct link: here.

Well,that was exciting.

With neither Tennessee nor Florida in the NCAA tournament, I haven't been able to rouse up much interest in the thing - until tonight when I watched the last seven minutes of the Indiana-Duke game. Yay. The Duke coach (dare me to spell his last name without checking? Sorry.) is creepy - he belongs on Six Feet Under as an evil undertaker. Besides, we live in Indiana, and what's more - ta-da! I was actually born in Bloomington, during the short time my father was teaching at IU.

Some Protestants digging confession.
Ah. Cultural diversity.

Christians in India fight female feticide and illegal prenatal testing

The advent of high-tech ultrasound equipment in India has encouraged a boom in female feticide, despite a 1994 law that bans using the technology to determine the sex of unborn children. Many Indians see girls as an excessive financial burden because of the dowry system. Although the system has been illegal for 40 years, many families of girls must still pay dowries ranging from $500 to $50,000, depending on social status, to marry into good families.

The statistics tell a grim story. Among children up to 6 years old, there were only 945 girls for every 1,000 boys in 1991. Last year, the ratio slipped to 933 per 1,000. Many physicians provide the illegal tests and abort female babies for hefty bribes.

Louder Fenn has a blog. Louder Fenn has kindly linked to my posts here a couple of times. For the life of me, I can't find an email address on Louder Fenn's page. So I guess I'll just have to say thanks for the links right out here in public.


Read a pretty good book yesterday: American Exorcism:Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty by Michael Cuneo, a sociologist from Fordham, who also wrote an excellent book about the Traditionalist end of American Catholicism in Smoke of Satan : Conservative and Traditionalist Dissent in Contemporary American Catholicism .

Both books are objectively written, very balanced, which makes any nuttiness he reports stand out all the more clearly.

Peer Pressure

Everyone else is linking to it, so I guess I will, too:

James Lilek's takedown of Michael Moore. There's nothing more delightful than the sight of a cretinous hypocrite's pretentions being dismembered, bit by self-important bit.

Oh,it's the now-daily Andrew Sullivan Blog:

Most of what he has to say today is of the let's-not-be-so-obssessed-about-sex variety (which leads one to conclude at the end of his entry on he saying we should just get over this supposed "scandal?" I don't think that's what he means, but it's the clear impression he leaves), which certainly has something to say for it - I've written about this before myself, and the need for us to see sexual sin as an equivalent of all other types of sin. But where he goes wrong is in embracing that old mantra concerning what Jesus did or didn't say about sex:

And the striking thing is how, when you read the Gospels, you hear so little about this subject. Jesus seems utterly uninterested in it.

The argument from silence can go both ways, though. Sullivan interprets Jesus' silence to mean that Jesus was "neutral" on sexual sins. One could also infer, probably more legitimately, that Jesus' silence indicated a fundamental agreement with Jewish teaching on the issue. Jesus spoke about matters that need reformation and clarification.

Given what Jesus said about divorce, I think it's highly unlikely that he wasn't concerned about sex. More likely was that his silence (in the Gospels, at least...) indicates an essential agreement with the Jewish traditional morality on the matter. The words we hear Jesus speak in the gospels are words that clarify what's been misunderstood and clearly state what's been hidden and point out what's been ignored. I've always assumed that Jesus' silence on sex was an indication he (therefore..uh..God) believed that Jewish thinking was fine on this. After all, Jewish sexual morality was fairly strict - certainly not tainted with the ascetic ideal that came to infect later Christianity, but it was strict, nonetheless. Jesus was never hesitant about telling those bound by useless accretions of the Law not to worry about certain things - perhaps sex was not mentioned because the Jewish teaching on it was just fine, with the exception of the need for a greater respect for the personhood of women (which was the specific twist of his words on divorce).

Given the deep and lasting pain that results from the misuse of sexuality, I sincerely hope Jesus wasn't neutral on sexual morality. Don't you?


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