Saturday, July 29, 2006

Evangelicals and the Religious Right

Anyone who knows about the work of Jim Wallace and Sojourner magazine, or reflects on the Reverend Martin Luther King's work, knows that Evangelicalism has never been as attached to the Right in politics as it is today.

This New York Times story Disowning Conservative Politics Is Costly for Evangelical Pastor, 7/29/2006, is very interesting indeed.
“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”

Friday, July 28, 2006

Gay Existence

Of interest in this context is Professor Oliver O'Donovan's essay on the crisis facing liberalism, posted on the Fulcrum website. Prof O'Donovan is about to leave Oxford and go to Edinburgh. His essay includes this passage: "Gays also pose existential questions. They interest themselves in the riddle of gay existence. Anexetastos bios abiƓtos, said Socrates; the life that is unexamined is intolerable to live. And much of the gay Angst is to do with the difficulty of raising questions in public that seem overwhelmingly pressing when they directly concern oneself. The pastoral challenge that the gay phenomenon presents to the church, then, is not primarily emancipatory, but hermeneutic. And that is the supreme justification for a conciliar process that will take up the experience of homosexual Christians as its leading question. How is this form of feeling to be understood? What are the patterns of life with which it may appropriately clothe itself? As far as I can tell, it is deeply in the interest of gay Christians, men and women, that their experience - by which is meant not merely sexual experience, not merely emotional experience, and not merely the narrative of experience, but the whole storehouse of what they have felt and thought about their lives, should become a matter of wider reflection, reflected on by those who are called to live this experience, by those who are called to accompany them in their living, by all who share their understanding of living as something they owe an account of to God."

Apologies for pushing The Times, here 7/27/2006 but Ruth Gledhill's blog there, Articles of Faith, is outstanding. [She is The Times religion reporter.]

YouTuber Defends Atheists

I'm a Catholic but

Post-Christian Britain

There are now more black churchgoers in London than white and the black-led churches such as KICC are bursting at the seams.

Ruth Gledhill, The Times, 7/27/2006

What Are Academics For?

An article by Mary Beard, of Cambridge University, in the Times Online 7/18/2006

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Byzantine Document in the News

The manuscript in question is a 13th century prayerbook that is also, as a palimpsest, the oldest surviving manuscript of Archimedes.

I have to say that, as a Byzantinist, I find the dismissal of the Byzantine context of the manuscript somewhat annoying.

The manuscript is in the Walter's Art Museum in Baltimore (a truly wonderful place). It has its own website at

Trey in China

One of the links on the right of this page is to Treyopia. Trey is a former student of mine who is teaching in China. The blog is really an account of his experiences there. It's really good, and should inspire those who have not yet traveled to "get on yer bike."

After you get back, you forget all the diarrhea, people spitting on trains, fear of being so afr from home. After you get back, you look at the people around you and wonder how they get get by without knowing there is a world to see.

The Last Ottoman

Ertugrul Osman is the current head of the Ottoman dynasty. The Ottomans ruled much of the middle east from c.1299 until 1922. They were regarded with horror by muhc of Europe, but to an increasing number of people, the Ottoman period in the middle east looks increasingly benign. Compared to the disaster of ethnic and religious conflict it seems positively benificient.

It turns out the current heir lives in New York City (New York Times, 3/26/2006) in a Lexington Avenue apartment. And he has a Jewish landlord.

The world is an interesting place indeed.

The Israel-Hezbollah War: Who is to Blame?

In The Guardian 7/27/2006, Timothy Garton Ash argues that Europe created the mess.

In Slate 7/26/2006 Daniel Benjamin argues America is at fault.

I suppose it is just possible that both/or Israel and Hezbollah have some responsibility.

And Some People Think Jacksonville is a Small Town

"When Applebee's opened here, people really thought Jamestown was finally on the map," says Robert Carlson, president of the Farmers Union and a Jamestown resident.

Time 7/27/2006

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

History Questions 7/26/2006

This blog is linked to from the Internet History Sourcebooks Project. If you have come here with some question, ask it as a "reply to the this post (which will be reposted every few days).

Wikipedia on the 750th Anniversary of the US

..according to the The Onion

The entry also addresses several traditionally taboo subjects, such as the influence of LSD on the drafting of the Constitution and the role of funk-slaves in painting the White House black.

The Onion 7/26/2006

I love Wikipedia, but a friend tipped me off on this.

Gay Marriage today

There was a second consecutive state supreme court decision against same-sex marriage today (in Washington state), but this is a less a disaster than it might seem. Many years ago Andrew Sullivan argued that this policy would advance through a mix of methods, and in a patchwork pattern. He is turning out to be right. Court decisions certainly paved the way in both Canada and the US. Those court decisions have undercut any argument that gay marriage is destroying society: no such thing has happened as gay couples have proved to be just as boring (or exciting) as straight couples.

Legislatures now have some room to work - hence Connecticut created Civil Union laws, and California has come down in favor of equality for gay marriage. Now individual politicians running for state wide office are using the issue as an argument to vote for them.

"I think same sex marriage should be legal. I will propose a bill to permit that to be the case in the state of New York."

Elliott Spitzer, almost certainly next governor of New York State's_cou.html

Spitzer, almost certainly, will run for president at some date, but he is not hedging his bets in any way.

As long as it exists in only one state, gay marriage remains in some danger. Once you get eight or more states where it is recognized, then the game is over. My guess for the first eight states: Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, California, Rhode Island, Oregon and, perhaps, Illinois. Wht Illinois, even though half the state is in the South? Because that state was the first to legalize homosexual behaviour (in 1961), and because it contains a world city.

World cities have been at the forefront of celebrating gay people. And world cities enjoy being world cities. The more anti-gay legislation is seen as unclassy and small minded, the more it will be disputed.

[In the UK, all the rights of marriage have been extended to gay people via "civil partnerships." I guess Britain will probably continue to use this old fashioned language for longer than necessary, even as the population just uses "wed/married/hitched", and then all of a sudden in a burst of modernization will adopt the term "marriage" as a form of tidying up.

It is hard to express why this issue is so important. It is not really about hospital visits or social acceptance (many/most hospitals have accepted same-sex partners of patients for quite some time now), but of the impact of the creation of a widely know legal formualary for gay relationships on younger people who are just recognizing themselves. When you know that there is a state performed gay union rite, you will not ever feel as you grow up that you are alone. It is due to an obligation to those who will come after us that gay people, and not just activists, have come to see this issue as crucial.]

The Queen has to look like the Queen.

"There are all sorts of considerations about what she wears that the rest of us don't have to worry about," says Penny Junor, the royal biographer. "She can't wear skirts that are going to fly over her head if there is a gust of wind, or hats that are going to shield her face, because she has to be visible. Decorum is a big consideration, she could never have low-fronts, she always has to be model perfect."

Her choice of bright, pastel colours might not always be of the moment, but they enable fans and press cameras to pick her out in the midst of large crowds. Because the Queen has to look like the Queen.

A defense of Her Majesty's fashion sense in a very unlikely place, Scotland's newspaper The Scotsman, 7/26/2006

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Shakespeare does the G8

Giorgio: But good Antonio, take we counsel now concerning the Levant.
My lord Annan, charged by the nations in their assembly to calm the noise of war,
Seeks only to separate the arms, thinking thereby to fulfil the task.
But the enmerded Moor, taking this peace for respite and repose,
By my vision, readies his galleys for renewed assault on the enrag’d Jew.

The Times, July 25th

"Enmerded Moor"?

Gay People to Blame for Hezbollah Attacks

As I've mentioned before, the business of opposing a planned Gay Pride march in Jerusalem is one of the few topics which generate widespread agreement between religious groups in that city, groups which are otherwise generally at each others' throats. The imams never wanted the march; both the Orthodox and the Catholic clergy didn't either; nor most of the rabbis. Indeed one rabbi saw the Hezbollah attacks on Israel as a direct consequence of the planned parade.

James Collard, The Times July 24

The "World Pride" festival was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem in August. All the religious groups opposed it.

Brits in America

To be honest, I think my whole mood, even my view of life struck the wrong note here. Americans cherish a self-image of themselves as casual, lively and free and the English as reserved, even stuck-up. But sometimes the opposite is true and I'd get in to trouble for swearing, for example, or making a frivolous remark about the task in hand ("well, it's only words and pictures!") to lighten the mood, none of which tends to go down well here. To use broad brush-strokes, I'd say that Americans are more serious, less flip; then again, they can seem more determined than Brits, less cynical. These are our different national virtues.

And with gay culture here, very often the mood of seriousness - and a readiness for anger which I found truly shocking - comes from entirely understandable sources. Gay America was hit harder by AIDS, for example, while the Religious Right is a serious opponent. In Britain, one senses that despite setbacks, gay people pushing for equality are pushing against a door which opens ever wider with every year. In America, there is an equally energetic, often more powerful lobby pushing back from the other side. So ever apparent step forward - like a State moving to endorse gay marriage (and gay marriage is a particularly sore subject in this city right now) results in a backlash, with a highly motivated, politically organised Christian right lobbying for constitutional changes or redress through higher courts.

James Collard, The Times, Jul 14 2006

I largely agree with his comments. British people think America is like Britain (and vice-versa). But it's not. America is a very foreign country. This is good in some ways (the relative lack of class consciousness, the divideness of government), but severely awful in others (the lack of vacation time, the avoidance of real class conflict, the willingness to deny government interference in life combined with allowing massive private enterprise control and intrusion).

Monday, July 24, 2006

It's getting hotter

The question of why there aren't viable alternative energy options (particularly when the electric car was not only more popular than the gasoline engine once upon a time but was also shown as recently as ten years ago to be a working technology) is raised subtly by An Inconvenient Truth. The rest of it--the pictures of glaciers shrinking into nothing, the graphs demonstrating the massive increase in greenhouse gasses in the last few decades--ties in cozily with the sudden hurricane-destruction of New Orleans and the evacuation of a lot of Pennsylvania due to fears of flooding. You're alarmed by it only if you don't think that, to crib from "The Daily Show", Adam and Eve rode a brontosaurus to church and, perhaps more divisively and to the point, that evolution is a theory and that two men who want to get married spells moral and spiritual Armageddon more neatly than does invading a Muslim country for their oil.

Film Freak: Review of An Inconvenient Truth.

Do it like Zidane

ZIDANE a new way to solve problems.. do it like zidane...

OK,I wrote during the World Cup, so I can cite this clip.

YouTube is about to jump the shark.

Dance - Going Viral?

I love this. Evolution of Dance

Takes me right back to Studio 54.

The War in the Levant

In my opinion, this is becoming PR disaster for Israel.

The Lebanese do not look like raving maniacs, and I don't think Israel has had a war before where the opposing country comes over so well. Lebanon is not like other Arab countries. The Lebanese do not look like women-oppressing Saudis, or enraged barbaric Palestinians, or a raving Shi'te mob. They look like us: they look like people in Miami living under shelling. Hell, many of them are Christian, perhaps 40%.

Some IM correspondents have asked me about my opinion. Here it is.

I support Israel. I think both the West and the Islamic World owe Jews an immense apology for the way (worse in the West) both civilizations treated Jews. I think anti-Semitism in the Arab world is disgusting. And I think, as a gay man, Israel is the only country in the Middle East (outside Turkey) I could live in. And if it comes down to it, I am on the Israeli side.

But, I will not count an Arab life (Chistian or Muslim) as less than a Jewish or "American" life.

I have indeed noticed that there is a helluva lot of PR going around me. [We have 350+ dead on both sides after 12 days. Damned, more people have died from driving accidents in Israel in this period. More people died in the first 30 seconds of the Somme in 1916.]

This is a skirmish in the wider scheme of things. I think people suggesting the thesis that were are beginning WWIII have jumped the shark. I could be wrong, but...(See if I am wrong).

  • As of 7/24/2006 WWIII is not on the the radar. Israel has had an effect on Hezbollah, and will exercise a suppressive effect via land forces in the next 4 days. It has perhaps fivemore days to do this.

  • Condeleeza Rice's presence from Sunday in the he middle east will mean a smaller war and growing pressure because the western media are refusing to reduce the Lebanese people to the animality. [I could be very wrong here.] Many of us have, as well as Jewish, Lebanese friends and colleagues.

  • Both sides seem to have miscalculated to a massive extent. Hezbollah did not expect Israel to fight back (as it has a right to do); but Israel did not realize the impact it is making in the US with continual raids on a modern city.

    [And, since we are all racist, the world has just ignored Darfur, AND the coming Somali-Ethiopian War, AND the Tsunami in Java.]
  • Conservatives and Me

    It's odd but true that, since I moved to the US South, most of my best friends, and in recent years, greatest supporters, are self-labeled "conservatives."

    I find many of the people who position themselves on the "left" to be either rabid or incoherent. Indeed for a British Democratic Socialist, modern US progressives are hard to deal with: we often share political positions, but a "left" without the working class is very odd.

    The problem is, as was shown when I made an overly emotional post on gay marriage, is that in a real way there are some basic issues where it's hard for me to comprehend how someone can be friendly with me, but still see me as some kind of inferior being, and where the only kind of relationships I could form that would bring happiness, are seen as evil.

    On the other hand, I suppose that with those conservatives who befriend me (suddenly I sound like a wet puppy), homosexuality is not a primary issue. They are pissed off at what they see as a nanny state, and, in economic terms, focus on the virtues of self-reliance and oppose a dependency culture. (I have met very few people, of any group, who think the War on Drugs makes any sense. Even as they [and I] acknowledge what ruin drugs can bring on individuals.)

    I suppose that this will remain a conundrum.

    WKCR in New York : Homosexuality in History

    I was interviewed today by Shoshana Schwartz of WKCR (Columbia University Radio) in New York. The subject was attituded to homosexuality in Ancient Greece, in comparison with other ancient cultures and modern culture.

    The interview will air as a segment of a program called Late City Edition, and will first air on Tuesday 25th July between 9 and 9:30pm.

    On the air, if you are in the New York area, the frequency is 89.9 FM. You can listen on the internet at

    UPDATE: the interview air on July 25th for around 15 minutes. The interviewer had somewhat odd voice (a bit like Diane Rehm on NPR). The interview should be archived at under archives>news>Late City Edition 7/25/2006, but it's not there yet.

    God, guns, and gays

    See also Rudy Giuliani in Drag Smooching Donald Trump at YouTube.

    Newsweek'’s Eleanor Clift had plenty of company when she contemplated Hurricane Katrina'’s devastation and asked, "“Where is Rudy Giuliani when we need him?" In the political-leadership sweepstakes, Giuliani is A-number-one, top of the list, king of the hill. But Sinatra'’s catchy claim is turned on its head in the presidential sweepstakes: When it comes to winning over GOP primary voters, if you can make it in New York, you can't make it anywhere else.

    God, guns, and gays. An interesting article by Kate O'Beirne in the National Review on why Rudy Giuliani cannot get the Republican nomination for President.

    It does soometimes look as if political conservatism (as opposed to ideological conservatism) has come down to these issues among many American men. I think Giuliani would be an awful president, and articles written at the time of his New York mayoral runs in the New Yorker about his past would almost certainly sink him.

    The National Review highlights the article on its cover with a picture of Rudy Giuliani dressed up as Marilyn Monroe. This image was quite well known in New York. It was from a fundraising party in which Giuliani ordered all his top staff to cross dress, and then himself dressed as Marilyn, and sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. President." At the time, Drag bars in New York put "Thank You Mr Mayor" posters in their windows.

    But O'Beirne is an old bird. I wonder if all this will make any difference. The "god, guns, and gays" issue seem to me to be as much about male self image than anything else. Many men simply use these issues as markers for the WIMP (Woefully I Inadequate Male Person) issue. But, whatever his faults, and no matter how much you dislike him, noone could regard Giliani as a WIMP.

    After all, it takes a strong man to wear a dress.

    {update: Andrew Sullivan discusses the New Republics covere here

    Sunday, July 23, 2006

    Looks Like a New Saint's Cult to Me

    My dissertation was, in part, an exploration of the "contestation" that took place during the creation of new saints.

    Follow this report on "Fr. Mark" of the Punjab: BBC, 23 July 2006.

    That he "fought" Church leaders is a trope of sanctity.