A Definitive Ranking of Religions’ Responses to Covid-19: From Least to Most Terrible

Ok, so we are still dealing with this bug, and likely will be for quite some time. BUT, we are also incredibly impatient and quite done with all this nonsense, thank you very much, and would very much like to bring some closure to it. At least before the Sigma strain or whatever kills us all. We figure that by now we’ve probably got enough HARD DATA to make a completely subjective ranking of how well the various world religions have managed this whole thing. Or rather, who did the LEAST BAD. This isn’t to make light of a very, very shitty situation, but to have an honest gut check of where we can all do better. So here goes… 

    1. `Muslims: Gotta tell you, y’all really knocked this one out of the park. There are many reasons this could have gone badly: the concentration of Muslims in poorer, developing countries; the large number of public rituals; and, of course, the conservative mindset of many communities. It certainly wasn’t perfect. Indonesia dealt with a bit of a flare up, as did Malaysia. And we don’t really have a super-accurate picture of the Covid situation in places like Afghanistan, which, as you know, has been going through some shit. It probably hasn’t been great, and will likely get worse, but that’s more to do with basic government dysfunction than religion. When push came to shove, folks did the right thing, keeping Eid pretty safe, and putting off the Hajj for another year. All things considered, the Ummah has done well.
    2. Buddhists: Normally we wouldn’t lump all of you together, but we are lazy and there’s really no reason to do a breakdown here. For the most part, most of y’all are in EAST ASIA, and EAST ASIA has mostly done gangbusters, despite the fact that ONE (OR SEVERAL) OF YOU unleashed this Hell upon us. Well ok, patient zero may not have been Buddhist, but whatever. Either way, the very “Buddhist” countries of China, Japan, Taiwan blah, blah, blah have done very well. Of course, that may not have as much to do with religion as with their more communitarian cultures and SARS experience. In fact, certain traditional elements may have impeded an acceptence of Western medicinal solutions. This is supported by the fact that everybody adopted masks very quickly, but were much slower to get vaxxed.
    3. Reformed Jews: By one metric, y’all could be first or second, but we gotta factor in some of the advantages: high educational background, liberalism, Jewish moms, etc. And then there is the fact that most of you’uns live in well-functioning polities, i.e. New York City and Israel. Now the latter has had a bit of a Delta spell as of late, but so has everyone, so that shouldn’t count against you.
    4. Organized Atheists/Secular Humanists/Whatever the Fuck We Are Supposed to Call You: It’s hard to measure such a small-yet-loud demographic, but most of you blowhards are pretty scientific. Then again, the WHO (full of science nerds) did massively fuck up this whole thing, so we are putting you squarely in the middle rankings. Go soak your heads.
    5. Catholicists: Decent showing, and the Pope was an early vaxx bro,  but not all of you have handled it well. But hey, that still makes you #1 among Trinitarians!
    6. Liberal-Mainline Protestants: Ya’ll are still a bit too touchy-feely and singy to be the best at warding off an airborne scourge, so that land’s you at #6 instead of #5. And as better as you think you may be than #8 on this list, you weren’t that much better. 
    7. Hasidic Jews: It has not gone well, what more can we say? Cramped conditions make any virus happy, but fears of the gentile sciences, an insistence on keeping the normal communal rituals, and general narrow-mindedness have made the ultra-Orthodox a bit susceptible to Trumpitis. Like most, y’all have improved, but those viral hotspots in Brooklyn and Bnei Brak in the early phases of the pandemic count against your overall score, sorry. 
    8. Conservative Protestants: It’s not just that you insisted on doing Jesus crap when you didn’t have to. It’s that you insisted on doing Jesus crap that many of you wouldn’t have done had you not been told not to. But let’s be honest, it’s not so much a religious thing than “owning the libs.” Then again, these things are kinda indistiguishable these days. Sure, plenty of evangelical leaders accept basic epidemiology (if not other branches of science), and have vaxxed themselves, but also helped create this monster of vicious stupidity that has ended up killing their own flock.
    9. Hindus: Yeah, it’s been an absolute clusterf–k. Plenty of you behaved, but 3 million of you did not. Sure, subcontinental politics and poverty has a lot to do with it, but sometimes you just need to skip the big festivals, especially if it is taking place on one of the most polluted sacred rivers in the world. 

Let’s try and do better people.

Nice. Now Catholics Get to Argue Over Liturgy.

The catholicity of the Catholic Church is already being tested by the usual hot-button chestnuts (sex, gender, etc.), but now there is a new, stupider controversy. Recently, Pope Francis restored the restrictions on the use of the Latin Mass, and it now requires episcopal permission. This is a reversal of Benedict XVI’s 2007 “olive branch” to traditionalists in Summorum Pontificum, which allowed priests to celebrate the 1962 Missal freely.

Some believe that the move is a defining moment in the good kind of way. From this perspective, Summorum Pontificum only heightened the polarization between progressives and traditionalists, with Tridentine masses serving as rally-points for reactionary Catholicism and Vatican II denialism. Some Bishops are definitely worried about this; Francis’ decision came as a result of their responses to a questionnaire on Pontificum’s effects.

So there is certainly a connection between the “extraordinary” Mass and hard-right shennanigans, but is this true of all parishes? Ritual traditionalism is not just a bitter, rightwing thing; it is what attracts many to Catholicism. The Church should not close off liturgical pathways to reaching today’s youth, a large number of whom are oddly fascinated with the old-timey stuff. 

Roman-stans form a small part of Global Catholicism, so this could just be a big nothing-burger. But it is worth reflecting, along with Hong Kong’s Cardinal Zen, about whether liturgical restrictions are really a solution to what is undoubtedly a deeper problem in the Church. Even though it’s likely that most Bishops will continue to allow the Latin Mass, taking away a community’s freedom to their preferred style of worship (and during a pandemic, no less) risks greater disunity.

 

 

Your Sunday Semi-Regular Spiritual Roundup

 

So what’s new this week month? Nothing good, as usual, though are working harder to more regularly get you the good content that other people have already discussed more thoroughly on legitimate websites. But hey, we can try and aggragate some of that crap here. That’s something!

British Methodists Enter 21st Century: The John Bulls beat us to the punch again! This month, the UK Methodist Conference reaffirmed their 2019 vote, and will now allow same-sex couples to be married on church premises (gasp) by Methodist clergy (double gasp). Meanwhile the Yanks are stuck in a holding pattern while they try and figure out the best way to schism themselves.

Southern Baptists Avoid Disaster: Last month, the SBC managed to forstall the complete trumpification of their leadership. That doesn’t solve their problems, Oh LAWD no, but it does mean that as an “institution” they will continue to be just regular religious bigots, rather than fascistic religious bigots. They will also likely be able to hold onto to their five remaining Black members. And there’s more good news!…

White Christian Genocide Tapers Off: Great news, assholes! It seems your share of the Hellscape has stopped shrinking for the moment. White Evangelicals are still really struggling to get young blood into their churches. ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE WHY. Will progressive churches find a way to take advantage of millenial agnosticism? Is the Pope Mormon? Speaking of whom…

Pope Not Dead: Well Franco’s intestines seem to be recovering nicely. Still wonder why they insist on electing old guys to do this job when Jude Law already convinced us that 40-somethings could be just as out-of-touch.

Other Stuff Probably Happening In Other Religions Elsewhere: We are sure other religious stuff is happening elsewhere. The Earth is a big place, with regions like the Middle East, where things happen all the time! We encourage you to go look this stuff up. 

Happy Boatless Tuen Ng!

Once again, we are left bereft of our dragon boat races. It’s not a total wash; folks over in Tai O did their usual thing, towing their deities around the waterways. I did not get out there this time because that lovely little metallic Venice is inconveniently located and I am just as lazy as everyone else who works for this website.

But I think my “explainer” from last year was pretty good, so please click here to learn about this lovely tradition that everyone claims as their own.

Noted Insurrectionist Josh Hawley Punches Down at Pelagius

Credit: Francis Chung/AP (well, half of it)

Lost amidst all the rebellion of the past few weeks was a charming theological nugget that resurfaced from well over a year ago. We almost missed it ourselves! Josh Hawley, last seen avoiding Mittens’ gaze, wrote a lovely little tome back in the good, pre-pandemic times, blaming all of America’s liberal failures on Pelagius, the mortal nemesis of none other than St. Augustine. When he got caught up in the most recent shenanigans, the NYT decided to revisit his theology in a profile linking him to Bill Barr and the other greats of Christian Nationalism.

Pelagius, for the laity, was the great patristic pitchman of human freedom. For him, free will was a gift of Grace, and human beings ought to make full use of it- with God’s help and Christ’s guidance of course! Admittedly, Augustine was a bit overzealous in the takedown of the man; his polemics are why some folks today wrongly assume Pelagius believed that human beings were capable of perfection completely on their own. Really, Pelagius’ biggest sin was underestimating sin itself, as he did not agree with Ol’ Hippo’s understanding of the Fall. But to be completely fair to the poor Irishman, Original Sin was not yet doctrine at the time.

Now we certainly know better today, but any good Catholic will tell you that the inherent sinfulness of man is no reason to poo-poo the good works of free will, even if it needs a touch o’ Grace to set in the right direction. Nor is it any reason to blame Pelagius for his wrong ideas, especially since no one friggin’ knows who he is. Well, outside patristics nerds – they certainly had a good day on Twitter:

If Hawley wants a real antagonist, he should look closer to home. The dear Senator was apparently raised Methodist, where he was undoubtedly was exposed to the *gasp* horrors of John Wesley and his Arminian notions of sanctification. Indeed, Jacobus Arminius is the greater, more relavent instigator of human freedom in faith. Perhaps that’s why poor young Joshua had to flee to the safety of the Evangelicalisms…which are premised the fundamental choice of accepting Jesus Christ as one’s personal savior or not. Whoops.

Pelagius was just a straw man for Augustine’s theology, just as he is a straw man for Hawley’s social conservatism-cum-White Christian nationalism. Hawley’s theology makes zero sense. For all their faults, neither Pelagian nor Arminian freedom necessarily led to moral relativism. Our free choices are always meant to be guided by a principle of goodness! What Hawley really has a problem with is that other people – and other Christians – have different understandings of the “good life,” and they choose to live accordingly. Hey, we totally sympathize, Joshua! We’ve been dealing with Christian pluralism since 1517.

So Who Will Be the Evangelical Messiah Now?

Guys, it’s over. None of us wanted to believe it at first. The results had come in. He was winning in Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin, in Michigan – everywhere that mattered! But then “the mail” started trickling in, and our Man’s lead eroded away like this country’s family values. And then he lost Georgia, GEORGIA! Home of Newt! Home of S. Truitt! No, our Deliverer certainly didn’t give up! His lawyers, gentile and semite alike, toiled and sweated. But despite the many good Christian judges he put into the courts, his case were unfairly thrown out by the bad Christian judges he put in the courts. 

Folks, we can laugh about it all we want, but God’s Annointed has well and truly lost. And so has America.

But press on we must! The lingering question for all Christians (except the liberal ones) is quite simple: just who will be our savior now? Let us remember that we’ve never really had one like Donald Trump. He was never who we expected, but neither was Christ. God works through who He will!

And this is a Truth that had eluded conservative-evangelicals. We thought the Spirit could only truly and fully coelesce in someone whose righteousness was outward and clear. But pastors and the other public Christians we looked up to were simply too pure in spirit to dirty their hands in politics, so we turned to the Christian-aligned political class. Yet it has become clear that this indirect approach to power and influence is too limited and our donees too spineless. That is why Donald was so impactful. While not the most…er… reverant soul, he was assertive, spoke his mind and kept his promises. Well, his promises to us, at least; we actually care very little about economic matters, but we care about conservative judges, embassies in Jerusalem, and policy-apparati that defend non-Muslim religious freedom. And these items he most deftly delivered, Hallelujah! And we’ve since come to realize that Trump represents something all of us have secretly desired: a lib-owning patriarchal worldview that returns us to the Biblical principles of masculinity our pastors have told us definitely exist.

But, that period is over now. So who can take the reigns and solidify these gains? Well, consider these options:

  1. Donald Trump Jr. Let’s just the obvious one out of the way right now. First, unlike the other heirs, he has most dominant personality akin to his father’s, and is as like to speak power-to-truth just as much as he did. Second, he’s the most popular son, and a frontrunner for 2024. One small problem is Donald ben-Donald’s quite obvious coke habit. His father’s sobriety was always a good Christian pivot away from all the sexiness, but Jr. could use some reconditioning.
  2. Congresswomen-elect Majorie Taylor-Green is one possible next evolution (in the non-Devil’s trick sense) of Trumpism. While her Christian bonifides are not that well-established, she’s already shown the evangelical skill of distinguishing good Jews from bad Jews. While I am a bit wary of this conspiracy business, at lot of people in my congregation are “down with the Q”, so whatever. On the other hand, as a brand-new Congresswoman, she still doesn’t have quite the profile.
  3. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. Noem has the personality and boldness to rebuild the Trump coalition and win the Presidency. She’s already proven her faith and dedication by killing off much of her state.
  4. A mainstream Republican politician. Haha no, just kidding. None of those quislings will do.
  5. Donald Trump. Honestly, why is this even necessary? First, no one can replace the Man. Second, he isn’t going anywhere. He’ll be the same age as our current Papist-elect in 2024, so why no run again? 

Frankly, this is all just pointless speculation when the obvious answer is #5. If anything, Trump has taught C-E’s to be more pragmatic in trying to get what they want. So let’s rejoice in the fact that DT will be our leader until the day he gets cryogenically frozen.

It’s Ultimecia’s Damn Fault

Yes, we’ve been away for a while. But we have an excuse! There is a lot going on and we have normal jobs and divorces to finalize and despite our absolute dedication to this website, there is only so much time we can devote away from Twitter. How can we peel our eyes away when some damn thing seems to happen every Friday night, when we actually have time to write when editorial signs off on our weekly content? From one of the last bastions of democracy dying, to Trump finally getting his first viral taste of cosmic comeuppance (with more karma to come, we hope), there is just no time for anything, NO TIME!

No time….hmmm. We actually have a theory about this. How can you explain the fact that so many bad (and bad-but-good) things have happened in such a short timespan? And how else can you explain why it still felt so. damn. long. More importantly, how else could you explain how so much time elapsed between our blog posts when clearly as PROFESSIONAL BLOGGERS we would never allow such a thing to happen? Obviously, there are some temporal shenanigans going on, and we think we know who to blame:  

That’s right, the Sorceress Ultimecia! The once and future Polygonal Queen of Spacetime! The screwed-up temporal relativity we’ve been living in for the past two months (or more?) is the klearest evidence we’ve had so far that she has accomplished the long-elusive TIME KOMPRESSION. Past, present and future are now becoming all present: every moment that was, is and ever will be is being kondensed into a singularity, at the certain of which stands the Sorceress of Sorceresses herself. Without a doubt, she has eliminated the kursed SeeD. It is ony a matter of time before spacetime totally kompresses, and from her singularity will come a new Big Bang, followed by a new, expanding universe shaped according to her will.

For our part, we welcome our new priestess, and hope she will deign to preserve our lives in some pocket dimension, waiting for her new universe to cool down. Or at least donate to our patreon.

Which we will set up.

When we have readers.

Trump is Not a Classical Theist

Donald Trump’s faith claims have always been dubious, leading his Christian supporters to double-down on millenarianism to justify that support. At this point I am inclined to believe that they’re right, and he will bring about some variation of apocalypse, though probably not the one from the LaHaye and Jenkins extended universe.

But while I strongly believe he’s an atheist, what Trump says reveals much about how he thinks about God, should that God exist. Recently, in Ohio, he went on one of his extended rants against Joe Biden and his “handlers” in the radical left. One of the more interesting things he said was that Biden would “hurt God:”

Now any mainstream theologian will tell you that such a statement is nonsensical, if taken literally. God cannot be harmed by any human action or natural event. A Biden victory would not in any way diminish the totality of God. Now it’s true that classical theism has come under increasing scrutiny. Certainly, the idea of a static, immovable God does not exactly cohere with the sacrificial and emotional aspects of the cross. Therefore more dynamic conceptualizations have been proposed, most prominently the “process” ones. While no less omni-potent, -present and -scient, the basic idea behind process theologies is that because God is with the world and the world with God, God must change as the world changes. However, process theologians think in terms of addition, never subtraction: God grows with the world, but never shrinks, i.e., God cannot be negatively affected in any substantive way. Joe Biden can become President and declare God dead and God would not even bat an eye. Likewise Trump could blow up the planet and God would still be there. Might Trump believe his policies, whatever they are, better actualize God’s growth potential?

Or maybe Trump meant that God would be emotionally hurt — angered or saddened — by the papist Biden’s Presidency and Marxist agenda. There’s nothing inherently unorthodox about thinking that way, as God certainly feels. Of course, that then moves us from a primarily philosophical argument to a more practical, moral dispute over Scripture and whether or not certain interpretations of it displease God. But this is actually the better debate, and one that still reveals a lot about how Trump and his evangelical rabble understand divinity. Put simply, their God is a God who prioritizes not getting His feelings hurt. Now, God is indeed a jealous God (Ex. 34:14), but there’s a difference between jealousy for the sake of one’s own gain and a selfless, sacrificial “jealousy” for the sake of others. In the latter sense, Christians worship the crucified God because that God wants love, justice and peace for all creation.

But Trumpists are clearly not really interested in all that sjw propaganda, instead favoring the former divine characterization. Like themselves, their God is basically a mean-spirited, envious, self-centered and fundamentally insecure entity. Look no further than Trump himself, who clearly doesn’t believe in God (or anything else that could possibly transcend him), but whose imagined God is basically a projection of himself: a narcissistic man-child that demands loyalty through material sacrifice. So no, Trump is not a classical theist — more ancient, tribal deities more greatly appeal to him.

Dragon-Boating Explained

Thursday, June 25th, is the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, when much of East Asia celebrates the Dragon Boat Festival. Dragon-boating has become popular across much of the world, with competitions taking place year-round. Hong Kong alone has hundreds of teams, including collegiate squads, hobbyists and company-sponsored platoons. The biggest fish mongers or seafood restaurants tend to dominate, possibly thanks to their sly recruitment of steroidal Mainland jocks. Naturally the main event is on “Double 5th,” when every district in the city will normally host at least one waterfront competition. For obvious reasons this year’s races have been canceled, but some are still doing “virtual” races (however that is supposed to work).

Poor Confucian bastard.

Despite its commercialization and appropriation by white devils, Tuen Ng (Duanwujie for you Northerners) has Chinese religious roots. There are several competing origin stories based on semi-historical figures, but the most popular myth is about an unlucky poet and official of the ancient State of Chu (ca. a very long time ago) named Qu Yuan. Qu had the misfortune of being opposed to Qin, the ascendant power in pre-imperial China. He was banished from his post when Chu allied itself with Qin, but eventually Qin simply conquered Chu (and the rest of China by 221 BCE). Legend has it that a despairing Qu drowned himself in a river, but despite falling out of favor Qu was still loved and respected by many, and so the locals raced out in their boats to try and save him. Unfortunately they were too late, so instead they dropped balls of rice that the fish would eat instead of his body. Today’s races memorialize the desperate attempt to save Qu, and the balls of rice are said to be the origin of the famous Chinese rice dumplings called zongzi.

As with much of Chinese religious tradition, it’s likely that these legends have been superimposed onto earlier beliefs and practices. The fifth month of the year has always been a rather inauspicious time spiritually-speaking, and since ancient times certain rituals have been used to ward off bad luck and mischievous spirits. Tuen Ng is also possibly related to dragon worship, hence the boats’ dragon-headed bows and colorful livery. Buddhas excepting, in Chinese religion there is no more auspicious or powerful an animate force than a dragon.

However, the most interesting part of the festival’s history is actually quite recent, as we Chinese very nearly lost this part of our cultural heritage to our duplicitous Korean cousins! The controversy began when South Korea considered internationally registering the holiday as part of their cultural heritage in the mid-aughts. Now it is certainly true that the festival has been a cherished part of Korean culture since it spread from China centuries ago. However, the problem was that much of the Chinese-speaking world had forgotten about it; the PRC – our esteemed representative on the world stage – had basically ignored the tradition. About to be preempted, the Party panicked and rushed to revive the holiday so that China, not Korea or (worse) CHINESE TAIPEI, could claim the festival with UNESCO. We mustn’t blame the Koreans for our own neglect, but they could certainly be less annoying about it. The controversy even led to one of the first great online inter-Asian conflicts with  “Zongzi Gate,” when a Korean social media hussy had the gall to educate us on the rules of consuming glutinous rice. No way in dei juk could we let that slide. 

Pictured: A hussy (Credited to chinahush.com)

Covid-19 Can Spread through Singing, Is Clearly Catholic

A recent (ok, relatively recent) CDC report  on a Presbyterian choir practice outbreak in March suggests that their might, just might, be a connection between singing and Covid-19. We know, we know – it’s crazy to think that a respiratory infection can be spread by an activity that involves the manipulation of air from the lungs through the mouth. But while evidence is still somewhat anecdotal, similar cases in Germany and Amsterdam seem to suggest that church choirs are hazardous for more than just your eardrums. Even before the CDC made its own (short-lived) recommendation against it, a panel of scientists and choral bigwigs gave a sobering webinar on the future of group singing.

This is a problem for many Christians, particularly Protestants. If Methodist, you like to belt out off-key notes to embarrass your kids. If African Methodist, you like to put that whitey’s butt to shame with your Gospel rhythms. Either way, singing is a Protestant’s most beautifully obnoxious and individualistic expression of love for Jesus Christ. Without it, we lose about 25%-30% of worship content. God forbid our sermons get LONGER.

But likely due to Great American Evangelical Episcopalian Donald Trump’s intervention, the CDC has since dropped their recommendation against group singing, but scientists are still wary, and many churches will likely keep things as sotto voce as possible for a while. I’m as militant low-liturgist as they come, but Catholicism’s relative quietude is starting to seem a little more reassuring than spittle-filled Baptist churches.