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.

Introducing Slightly Arbitrary World Religious Leader RANKINGS

Hello again. It’s been a long month, hasn’t it? That’s what we tell ourselves to assuage the guilt of not having posted in several weeks. Our contributors have been busy worshiping their g-ds, while we’ve been trying to figure out this WordPress thing. But your patience has been rewarded with a new ongoing feature: Stats and Rankings of World Religious Figures!

You already know we like to keep you informed of the current state of the leadership (see right sidebar), but now you get to see how holy VIPs stack up against each other. Now it’s not entirely arbitrary – and these rankings will change – but it’s admittedly difficult to order them without causing some hurt feelings. And not all religions are equal when it comes to producing rankable peeps. Obviously Christendom has the advantage when it comes to the production of leadership positions, while Buddhism has tons of self-help-publishing folks you can’t help but love. In contrast, Islam and Judaism lack the hierarchical or celebrity structure to really give us an obvious choices (and the representatives of the former often carry certain…uh…hard edges).

So for now you are left with a whopping SIX leaders, teachers and masters. We will tweak and expand this list as time goes on, including lesser-known celebrity clerics. In the interfaith spirit, it’s our hope to include every major religion, denomination, school and lineage.

Wash Your Buddha Thoroughly!

Credit: Hong Kong Traveler, but you know they just swiped it from somewhere else.

Happy Birthday Blessed One! On this date (in the Chinese lunar reckoning) about two and a half-thousand years ago, li’l baby Sakyamuni was born. For those of us in Hong Kong, today has an extra special meaning, as the Buddha’s Birthday was the first real “Chinese” holiday made public following the Handover. Many of us are certainly nostalgic for those strapping British minders, but we have to chide them for never much caring about for our little traditions. Of course, this being Hong Kong, we had to give up one holiday for another. We working women would have been quite happy having a day off for both the Buddha’s and the Queen Mum’s birthdays, but the lou baan wouldn’t have liked that, no sirs!

Besides the usual prayers and incense, we like to bathe the Thus Come One on this day. Some of us will go to temples to help the monk lads pour sacred water over a statue of infant Siddhartha. This is to remember how he came out sideways from his dear mother’s womb not just walking and talking, but giving us the good Dharma to boot! Then he was washed by the sacred waters of the gods (or dragons, as some of us like to think).

While normally a temple soiree, I frankly see no reason to go out (especially these days) if you already have an statue of Mr. Fat gracing your shelf, mantel, dedicated altar space. While it may not be the wee little Prince, there is something undoubtedly meritorious about washing an Amitabha, Guanyin, or even your little laughing Maitreya. Frankly I think it’s a good idea to wash these pint-sized ascetics on other auspicious days too. Can’t be too careful with all the novel viruses going around!

But don’t just pour water over the little guy’s head. Use a cloth and take care to get every nook and cranny! Dirt, grime, and grease has a habit of building up where the nappies can’t reach. For most materials, I’d recommend using a high-quality chamois and water mixed with a teensy bit of dish soap. Bleach has its uses but we really don’t recommend it in this case.

Time to Zoom Into Ramadan

This picture is pretty so we appropriated it (Gulfnews.com/Pexels)

Ramadan, the annual month-long experiment in delayed hunger gratification, is the next religious holiday to adjust to the ‘Rona. We are not Muslim (we needs, join!) but have have tried the fasting and failed miserably, so we have some idea of how difficult it is to go from sunrise to sunset without eating or drinking a damn thing. 

A familiar pattern of webchat-focused events seem to be taking shape. Calls to prayer should be easy enough though it remains to be seen how chowing down on Iftar goes in isolation (we tend to get fat when we eat alone). Unfortunately, nothing virtual can replace the glory of Eid feasting, which is already being downsized in the world’s most populous Muslim country, not to mention the shortages of victuals.

One glaring difference is the extra stress that is going to be placed the very large number of Muslim healthcare workers that are at the frontlines. They are already putting themselves at high risk caring for the infected, but fasting makes that more physically taxing and could even weaken immune systems. Frankly we think all Muslims should get a mulligan this year if they want it, but that’s the impious and lazy Protestant in us. While some jurisdictions are making exceptions for frontliners, such judgments are not universal and, as this nice Vice article points out, many practitioners will refuse the binary choice of fasting/not working or not fasting/working. And of course, in our crappy capitalist society many don’t even have choice at all.

Well, at least this time Muslims won’t be alone in not having decent sex for the next 30 days.

That Was Probably the Best Holy Week/Passover Ever

Despite all the complaints, we suspect there are many of you who secretly love the fact that you didn’t have to go to church on Sunday (and Friday, and Saturday…). Let’s just admit it: few of us actually like church, or at least the “church” part of church. There are many other reasons to go of course, from lookin’ fine to potlucks to subjecting children to rudimentary game theory for our own amusement. But church itself? Blarg. Most pastors will tell you that it is hardest week of the year, which means it is the worst. The combination of Lent + Holy Week is an absolute Hell that lack’s the greed and alcohol that make Christmas tolerable. Ordinary Time is the best time.

And Pesach? Well we haven’t found a Jewish contributor for this site yet (we are looking, we promise!), but we will assume that, as it is also a form of ritual human socialization, Seder is normally terrible as well. But now with “Zoom-Seders,” you can drastically reduce the time, effort and care that goes into reenacting the Great Egyptian Culling. Technical and logistical issues aside, it probably made it more convenient for families to connect this time around, letting numerous prodigals return without putting on pants. Of course, if you are orthodox then you had to get that Zoom up and running well in advance, but electricity was permitted for Bubbe’s sake.