Last night we saw the touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I have never seen this rock opera (although I'm a big fan of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.) What fascinated me was that no one was protesting this production. JCS is at least as anti-Semitic as The Passion of Christ, and almost as suggestive of a romantic relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus as The Da Vinci Code. However, no one mentioned any of these things and we were able to enjoy it or not as mere rock opera fantasy, without a whiff of politics or posturing. The Wikipedia entry for JCS mentions that the Broadway opening received some outcry, but that it died down quickly. I don't remember the early 70s that well, but maybe some of our readers do. Perhaps time has made JCS innocuous, or perhaps just the catchy music keeps us from taking it's theological underpinnings too seriously. It's really just Hair without the nudity.
What was disappointing was the actor in the role of Jesus. The actor was Ted Neeley, who played Jesus in the film version in 1973. Wednesday was his 63rd birthday. (Jesus was not 63.) Directorial discretion had Neeley play Jesus as very detached and slightly bitter, so Jesus came across as fairly grumpy and not quite as good a singer as he might have been in 1973. No one wants to be critical of Jesus, so this flaw made me quite uncomfortable. I felt bad about myself for not really liking Jesus, and for wanting him to stop singing. One recurring line that Jesus sings is "Feels like thirty years," which is supposed to refer to his weariness after his three-year teaching journey. Unfortunately, the weary line seemed to refer to the actor's weariness of playing Jesus for thirty years.
Last week Dave's Mormon Inquiry offered a definition and thick description of the "Bloggernacle":
Blog•er•nac•le \'blä-gər-na-kəl\ n. [shortened from Bloggernacle Choir] (2004) 1:The set of all personal weblogs that host discussions of Mormon-related topics from a relatively faithful perspective. See Wikipedia entry "Bloggernacle" for etymology. See Origins of T&S for historical background.
For the uninitiated, "T&S" stands for Times & Seasons, the most popular Mormon group blog where I am one of a bevy of bloggers. If you follow the origins link in Dave's definition, you will find another link on the word "bloggernacle" that takes you to this post by my co-blogger, Matt Evans. That post, in turn, links to another post, this time by Concurring Opinions mainstay Kaimi Wenger entitled, "The Nameless Mormon Blogosphere," where Kaimi wrote:
The Revealer, a religion blog affiliated with NYU and the Pew Trusts, notes that while the Jewish and Catholic blogospheres have their own names (jBlog and St. Blog’s Parish, respectively) the Mormon blogosphere lacks any sort of nifty moniker. Such a deplorable situation clearly cannot be allowed to continue!
So, what exactly should we call the LDS blogosphere, which is getting rather large, interesting, and multifacted?
I am grateful that Kaimi's nominations failed. They included such offerings as "Blogham Young University" and "Salt Blog City." Nevertheless, Kaimi gets credit for raising the issue, and the winning name first saw light 26 minutes after Kaimi posted, when a commenter who uses the moniker "Grasshopper" suggested "Bloggernacle Choir." Nice work!
So, you ask, how does Brayden figure in this story? I will let you hear it from the horse's mouth, so to speak:
I hate to toot my own horn here, but I pointed out the existence of the Bloggernacle (before it was thus named) to Jeff Sharlett of The Revealer, who then wrote about it in his daily post -- the post that drew Kaimi’s attention to Mormon bloggers’ namelessness. Sharlett later discussed the impact of religious blogging at the Bloggercon conference, which served as the inspiration for the post [by David Winer, then of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, who referenced the "Bloggernacle" on his blog]. Sorry for the shameful self-reference, but I didn’t want to be written out of this history so soon.
And now you know the rest of the story.
This evening I attended a performance of "Joseph and the Amazing Techincolor Dreamcoat" with my daughter at Madison's stunning Overture Center for the Arts. As we exited the center, we felt small drops of rain, but just as we reached the parking garage -- less than one block from the center -- large balls of hail poured from the sky. I have seen a lot of hailstorms, but nothing quite like this. Much of the hail was about the size of golf balls, and the sound was like automatic gunfire, particularly since it was hitting cars parked along the street. People who were driving past the parking garage swerved in as quickly as they could, and the rest of us just stared in wonder.
Having just watched a show about Joseph in Egypt, my mind turned to the scriptures:
And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt. So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.
I realize it's not a perfect fit. God would never target Madison, right?
Today in my mailbox was a magazine sent to all staff at Jesuit universities: Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education. This issue is dedicated to the issue of women in Jesuit institutions. Two of the articles focus on Marquette University. A history professor, Thomas Jablonsky chronicles the entrance of female students at the university. According to Professor Jablonsky, the transition to a co-ed university happened a bit by chance and necessity.
In 1907-08, the university acquired a medical college and a law school, adopting six female medical students and one female law student. These women became the first female graduates of Marquette University. A year later, the president allowed females to enroll in the new summer session due to the exigency of Catholic nuns in Wisconsin not being able to finish their education because Wisconsin had no Catholic women's college at the time. In order for Wisconsin parochial elementary and secondary education to continue, nuns would have to be trained somewhere as teachers. Following that controversial decision, women were allowed to enroll in new programs, business administration and journalism in 1910, and then in the College of Arts and Sciences in 1926.
In our holiday jaunt across Texas, we passed through Jack County twice (between Seymour and Dallas). Both times I was astonished by the sign on the courthouse lawn. On the Jack County Courthouse lawn, the sign read "Put Christ Back in Christmas." I'm not an expert on the Lemon Test, but I'm not sure that passes muster. I found this picture of the courthouse on the web, but I can't zoom in close enough to see if the sign has the same saying on it that was displayed this year. Interestingly, the sign holder has a Lion's Club logo; so if a private entity pays for the sign on the courthouse lawn, can it say anything?
Note that the Lion's Club sign holder is on the left. The tall, permanent sign on the right boasts of the 2A football team winning the state championship some 10 or so years in a row.
Gerald Levin was interviewed on Nightline last night. You may remember Levin as one of the architects of the train wreck that is Time Warner. After 9/11 and the murder of his son, Levin left Time Warner and invested in Moonview, a new age mental health "sanctuary" for the wealthy. (The cost is $175,000 for one year of treatment.) Actually, he invested more than money in Moonview. He currently serves as a "spiritual adviser" to Moonview's clients, and he is romantically involved with Moonview's founder, Laurie Perlman.
Levin comes off as a scarred man, regretful of his years climbing and sitting atop the corporate ladder. Life is now about "love." And yet ...
Moonview declined to say how many patients have enrolled, although Levin says “enough to validate the concept and to get us thinking about expansion. The idea is to go to other locations and have the same concept, but it might trend more toward end of life”. Plans are under way for future centers in New York and Miami.
Have you read the books?
Of course Aslan represents Jesus, and there's not much subtlety in the portrayal. Here's C.S. Lewis:
I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past certain inhibitions which had paralyzed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ?
I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings. And reverence itself did harm. The whole subject was associated with lowered voices, almost as if it were something medical.
But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could.
The Narnia books are filled with all sorts of mythological creatures, and the stories are engaging, even without reference to religious metaphor. But I understand why Christians would seize on the film as an outreach opportunity. I also understand why non-Christians might be less enthusiastic about the movie.
Stephen Bainbridge has a thoughtful post about Catholic teachings on usury. He's responding to recent pronouncements by the Pope against usury, and Andrew Sullivan's critiques of those pronouncements. The good Professor then provides a very nuanced and detailed discussion of what is actually meant by "usury," reaching the conclusion that "Benedict likely was not condemning all lending of money at interest, but rather simply unjust or inequitable interest charges."
I guess my follow-up would be: doesn't that beg the question to some extent? After all, what makes certain interest charges "unjust or inequitable"? Yes, it certainly makes life a lot easier for the Catholic investor to know that not all interest-bearing transactions are prohibited. But where does the Church draw the line?
As has been noted in some recent blog posts, we like to think that the capitalist system allocates wealth based in part on what people "deserve." But economists have emphasized that the market allocates rationally, and it is enough to leave it at that. If someone is willing to charge a high interest rate, and someone else is willing to agree to it, both parties must be better off, so we should enforce the contract. If we start making distinctions -- such as prohibitions again "unjust" usury rates -- how do we operationalize those distinctions?
This comes from Fishbowl NY via Howard Kurtz:
"Does 'no work on Yom Kippur' include blogging?
"A learned Talmudic scholar says yes, but carves out an exception if that is the only way to keep from eating."
I see the seeds of a big idea here: The Blogger's Diet.
Let's see, if we ditch the fasting angle, there's cheese ...
Among the many questions asked of John Roberts, "is the Pope immune to lawsuits" was not one of them. If I were a judge, this would be a question I would prefer not to have in front of me, but it is currently in front of a former fellow BakerBottsian and federal district judge Lee Rosenthal. Houston Chronicle article here. Pope Benedict XVI has been named in a lawsuit alleging conspiracy to cover up sexual molestation. The act in question is a 2001 letter referencing a 1962 policy guideline for addressing sexual molestation complaints. Judge Rosenthal will have to determine whether the Pope is a head of a church or the head of a state for immunity purposes. Vatican City was officially recognized by the U.S. in 1984 and the U.S. has an ambassador to the Vatican. I predict "head of state."
Growing up, I always heard West Texas referred to as the "buckle of the Bible belt," but as an adult I heard the same name given to other Southern regions. However, the NYT is reporting on an elective Bible course curricula for public schools (created by Yankees, actually) that is being adopted by a school district in Odessa, Texas. The supporters of the course claim that it is a nonsectarian history and literature course, but that claim is mitigated somewhat when the supporters drop to their knees in prayer during the school board meeting when the course is approved. I'm suspicious after reading one sentence that appears in the curriculum:
"Throughout most of the last 2,000 years, the majority of men living in the Western world have accepted the statements of the Scriptures as genuine."
I wonder what the women thought?
I like Ann Althouse's answer to what Jesus would put on his t-shirt.
Steve Bainbridge has some early reactions to the election of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pope. He would love the coverage at CNN. The "reaction" story from New York was hilariously negative. According to CNN's reporter on the scene, almost no one is happy about the selection. The reporter spoke with a Jewish woman who was concerned about Ratzinger's youthful ties to the Nazis, and Catholics who are worried about being further marginalized for their liberal views. The coverage from Los Angeles was slightly more positive, with the reporter characterizing the mood as "cautiously optimistic," but noting some disappointment that Benedict will not be a "more liberal" Pope. The CNN reporting from the Vatican has a much different flavor. Euphoria reigns and God's hands are said to be manifest in the selection.
I just heard the news of his death. Although I am not a Catholic, Karol Wojtyla touched my life in important ways. He was elevated to the papacy in 1978 (the "year of three popes"), during my junior year in high school. Although I was preoccupied with many of the distractions of high school, I still remember him as a man of amazing energy, courage, and vision. Of course, I remember the pictures of him kissing the ground whenever he deplaned. I remember him reaching out to the poor in Latin America and Africa. And I remember his emotional visit to Poland.
In the fall of 1983, I was in Vienna, serving as a Mormon missionary. On my "preparation day" (a "free" day for doing errands and sightseeing), I went with three other missionaries to Heldenplatz, where Hitler gave his famous Anschuss address, and awaited the Pope. For me this was mainly about the Pope's celebrity -- I wanted to see the famous man. But shortly after the Popemobile entered the Heldenplatz, I glanced to my left and noticed a Catholic nun with tears streaming down her cheeks. I was impressed by the sincerity of her devotion and embarrassed at the shallowness of my own motives for being there.
John Paul II is said to leave a complex legacy. Perhaps that is true, but I will remember him in rather simple terms, for his important role in the vanquishment of communism in Eastern Europe and as a man who was unfaltering in proclaiming the truth, as he understood it. May he rest in peace.
UPDATE: Steve Bainbridge has a tribute and collected posts.
For Christians -- broadly defined -- Easter should be the most significant holiday of the year. That is, it commemorates the most significant event in Christian belief: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For non-believers, the empty tomb is as difficult to comprehend as Balaam's talking ass. It is simply beyond the ordinary human experience and comprehension. Indeed, even his closest followers did not believe the first report:
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
I cannot pinpoint the day on which I came to believe in the resurrection, but I didn't come to that point through reason. It was -- and it remains -- a leap of faith.