A [Unpardonable?] Crime Against History

While much of the nation’s attention (though not the attention of the ITA writer Zach Wendling) turns to the vague Constitutional directive for our Chief Executive to, from time to time, give to Congress information of the State of the Union (be it in the form of a letter, as Presidents in the 19th century did, or in the form of a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, as suggested by fictional White House staffer Toby Ziegler in the TV series The West Wing) the much more important Constitutional clause concerning Presidential “reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States” is the subject of a sensational announcement from the National Archives today (and let’s face it: the National Archives rarely gets to make sensational announcements.)

Have you heard the story about how Abraham Lincoln’s last official act as President before his assassination was to pardon a Union soldier? Not true! Turns out the date on document in the National Archives supporting this claim was changed by a scholar to give the pardon the historically significant date of April 14, 1865. More from the New York Times here.

Readers’ Advisory III

The weather in Indiana right now is good for only two things – sledding or curling up with your dog, a cup of hot tea and a good book. If you haven’t got a sled, dog, or tea, you have my sympathies. Here are some good books though, likely available at your public library.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

If I were making a list of great books of 2010, this gem would be at the top. Fantastically conceived, masterfully written, exotic in every way, The Windup Girl is further proof that those looking for good, serious fiction need not limit themselves to the Booker Prize snoozefest shortlist. The novel follows the intersecting lives of a prostitute, a bureaucrat, and a corporate spy as they navigate Thailand following years of worldwide political and economic turmoil, warfare and religious fanaticism. Genetically modified foods are both the scourge and savior of humanity. Populations starve as food sources wither under attack from genetically modified diseases. Only communities with strict trade and travel barriers or whose scientists can stay one step ahead of the plant-blight with genetically modified resistance, survive. Highly recommended.

The Witch of Hebron by James Howard Kunstler

If you want a slightly less dystopian vision that sticks closer to home,  try The Witch of Hebron by James Howard Kunster. Witch is the sequel to World Made By Hand, Kunstler’s 2007 novel set in post-oil, post-automobile, post-suburbia America. If you haven’t read World Made By Hand, go read it first, because it’s a wonderful book and The Witch of Hebron picks up immediately where the earlier novel leaves off. You’ll want the continuity. Also, you should probably eventually read some of Kunster’s non-fiction, especially The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere, which are fantastic works about the importance of our common built environment.  In this second novel, Kunstler ups the supernatural elements which only emerged as oblique references at the end of World Made By Hand. I’m not sure how I feel about this added supernatural dimension. I think, on balance, I would prefer the stories without it.

Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture by Vincent Miller

This is not a simple rant against consumerism but  a challenging and thoughtful examination on the relationship between modern religion and Western consumer culture. Miller also examines the commodifcation of religion and effect of market ideas on religious practice and belief.

Breaking News: Ass-saddling is not worship

Apologies in advance, but I could not resist.

For reasons that I cannot adequately explain, I still subscribe to a number of CoC listservs and church bulletins. Daily, weekly and monthly, as the case may be, I receive generous servings of the various peculiar CoC doctrines.   Most of the time these publications just raise my blood pressure; occasionally I get a chuckle. I suppose, if I am honest, I also find myself occasionally challenged or enlightened. (It’s not all bad.) However, one recent article from the monthly bulletin of the Ellettsville (Indiana) Church of Christ (whose building cornerstone reads, I kid you not, “Established AD 33”)  sent me laughing out loud while rolling on the floor.

Just have a look at the September Issue.

Apparently, Ellettsville’s preacher – don’t you dare call him pastor – John Issac Edwards is upset that some people view one’s whole life as an act of worship. To prove that worship is limited to only a few choice actions (which he would probably define as praying, hymn-singing and listening to his mindless sermons) John Issac turns to the extremely creepy and more-than-a-bit disconcerting story of Abraham’s God-ordered attempted murder of Issac. Edwards writes:

When Abraham was called upon to offer Isaac, he “rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you” (Gen. 22:3-5). If everything is worship, early-rising, ass-saddling, taking, wood-cleaving, rising up, lifting up eyes, seeing, and saying was worship. These were not worship, since worship was “yonder.”

Aside from the shallow logic of this article, I think we can all agree that if you find yourself using the phrase ‘ass-saddling’ in your church bulletin, it is time to shelve the KJV and use, oh say, any other translation!