Althouse | category: Christianity



a blog by Ann Althouse

"Several busloads of migrants were dropped off in front of Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence in Washington, DC, on Christmas Eve in 18 degree weather...."

"A CNN team saw migrants being dropped off, with some migrants wearing only T-shirts in the freezing weather. They were given blankets and put on another bus that went to a local church.... It’s not clear who is responsible for sending the migrants to the Naval Observatory, where the vice president’s residence is located, though CNN reported earlier this year that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had sent buses of migrants north, including to a location outside Harris’ home."

CNN reports.


"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."


I wonder, if Kamala Harris wanted to seize this occasion and make an impressive showing for herself, what could she do? I understand the response that is to do nothing and to deny her adversaries the power to require that she react to a circumstance that they created. But what if she wanted to say or do something... on Christmas? Kamala Harris is a Christian — a Baptist.

The most obvious law school hypothetical when teaching the Good News Club case has come to life with the After School Satan Club.

I'm reading "Parents slam school’s ‘sick’ Satan Club for children as young as 5: ‘Disgusting’" (NY Post).

I got there via Sarah Hoyt at Instapundit:

WHOSE CHILDREN DO THOSE PARENTS THINK THOSE KIDS ARE? Parents slam school’s ‘sick’ Satan Club for children as young as 5: ‘Disgusting’.

Sorry, but this is exactly what was bargained for when by anyone who supported the after-school Christian club, approved of by the Supreme Court back in 2001.

Either you have a special rule excluding religion or you don't. In Good News Club, a Christian after-school club had been excluded and the Supreme Court saw that as discrimination against religion. Once you get that far, you can't have viewpoint discrimination. Viewpoint discrimination is worse than discrimination against religion in general. So there now you can't exclude the Satanist club.

I used to teach a Religion & the Constitution course, and I was teaching it when the Good News Club case came out. The first hypothetical that springs to mind is an After School Satan Club. Legal decisions have consequences, and sometimes they are perfectly obvious.


You think that's disgusting? Some people think all after-school religion clubs are disgusting, but they lost in the Supreme Court in 2001. And some people think government viewpoint discrimination is disgusting? Get your values in order and try to be consistent.

The Satan image is very well conceived to appeal to little kids who've been primed by children's books and cartoons. Don't you want to know what the li'l devil has to say?

Well, let's read the official web page for the group. Excerpt:

Proselytization is not our goal, and we’re not interested in converting children to Satanism. After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us.

We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors.

Well, hell!

More, from the handbook:

To call our club any alternative such as “science club” or “atheist club”, which has been suggested by many, would be disingenuous and akin to hiding. 

Satan, to us, is not a supernatural being. Instead, Satan is a literary figure that represents a metaphorical construct of rejecting tyranny over the human mind and spirit.

I know what you're thinking — That's just what the real Satan would say. He's such a clever deceiver.

But I say: If your Satan is so clever, how do you know he's not behind the Good News Club?

BONUS: My last point is reinforced by the #2 TV Devil on this list — Ned Flanders ("It's always the one you least expect"):

I've got precisely 10 TikToks for you to "labor" through today. Some people love them.

1. Everyone has 4 obsessions — here are 4 weird ones.

2. Analyzing the student-loan forgiveness program with Biblical references. (Freeze the frame at 0:42 so you can read the text. The first 2 are parables that you've probably already contemplated in this context.)

3. Is it really so bad if men these days don't live for adventure?

4. Broadway Barbara's Fosse Tutorial.

5. When the sports car pulls up to the red light and blocks the crosswalk, there's one way to win.

6. You approach a woman in the park... and she turns into a bird.

7. Inspired by found poetry.

8. Won't the dog just love the new puppy?

9. Deducing that today is the day he's going to propose.

10. Six degrees of corn.

"I waited until morning to listen to Biden's nighttime speech... I went out for my sunrise run and thought about what I'd heard. I'll tell you some more about that later."

I wrote that yesterday in a post I published at 9:58 a.m. — a post that combed through the text of the speech. It's now a day later and I haven't followed through, and I could just forget about. Would anyone remember? Is anyone thinking, yeah, what did she think about, while running and viewing the sunrise, about a speech she'd listened to but not yet read? It's highly unlikely, and "I'll tell you some more about that later" isn't even a promise.

We're having a big thunderstorm here at that moment:

I'm thinking of keeping my non-promise. I made notes to myself — audio notes — as I was watching the sunrise yesterday, and I've listened to the notes and can see there is something I wanted to say that I haven't said yet. Let me get something to eat and settle in and see if I can find a way to put it in writing without it seeming too... internal.
ADDED: This is a rewriting and an expansion of my audio notes to myself. 
What stood out to me was the religion. Standing in front of a deep red glowing background, Biden spoke of the soul — a shared soul belonging to us all but from which some of us, by our own sins are excluded. He spoke of flames, and an image of a flaming heart came into my head. That's some kind of Christian iconography I would need to look up. I come from a long line of mainstream Protestants, not Catholic, but this is the image that came into my head and lodged there:
That flaming heart is the sacred heart of Jesus.
The Sacred Heart... is one of the most widely practised and well-known Catholic devotions, wherein the heart of Jesus is viewed as a symbol of "God's boundless and passionate love for mankind"... The Sacred Heart is often depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, encircled by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross, and bleeding. Sometimes, the image is shown shining within the bosom of Christ with his wounded hands pointing at the heart. The wounds and crown of thorns allude to the manner of Christ's passion, while the flames represent a furnace of ardent love. 
Not used to the red flaming heart, I didn't experience the glowing redness and the talk of flames as anything like God's boundless,  passionate love. I thought of hell. Biden was demonizing people, but at the same time, he was calling us to the place he occupied — the political center, the mainstream — and there he was in what looked to me like metaphorical hell. Doesn't that make him the Devil, calling us to join him in Hell? Did anyone — did Catholics — experience him as a Christ figure, offering us his flaming heart, his boundless love?

I thought about how politically mainstream I am, and I wondered why I felt so disturbed by his call to everyone to join the mainstream. Do I hate myself, my own blandness, my equivocation and passivity? Why was I not... heartened by his depiction of the middle ground as the place where we can all come together and feel at peace, feel loved? My empathy went out to the extremists — the sinners — so many of them, nearly half of America, more than half if you infer that what he was saying implicated the extremists of the left. Let's not forget that Biden found his way into office because elite centrists needed to stop the extremists of the left — Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. 

"I am essence of mainstream," I said to myself in my little recording. "I want a mainstream President. I think mainstream politics is the best we're going to get." I read mainstream media. But when I hear mainstreamosity propounded as the one true religion politics, I recoil. He's drawing a line and excluding some people: Here, take my flaming heart or go to hell. It's too exclusionary! It's not democratic unless you define democracy to mean you must first enter the circle of people who believe the correct things and then you may participate. 

In a country with an established religion, you get a religion that embodies the mainstream values that merge with government interests. Religion is used to keep most of the people in a cooperative, peaceful (supine?) position. That's not America. We have, at least theoretically, a separation of religion and government. People belong to mainstream and nonmainstream religions and to no religion at all. What keeps us from going wild? Some of those nonmainstream religious are exciting and passionate, just as some nonmainstream politics are exciting and passionate. What makes you so sure people should not be extreme in their religion or politics?

Obviously, most of us like cooperation and peace, but there's no way a President can simply call us into the mainstream. And it's inherently not mainstream to force us to be mainstream. In America, we have our rights to think and speak freely — including speaking lies and believing untruths. You can't control us. You can only debate us. Those are mainstream values. But with mainstream values like that, you can get some scary results. Are you sure you love democracy and freedom, Mr. Biden, or do you just use them to quiet opposition and produce a complacent citizenry that will accept what our betters in Washington decide needs to be done?

"The Dutch like to say, 'Acting normal is crazy enough.' And we think that rich people are not acting normal."

"Here in Holland, we don’t believe that everybody can be rich the way people do in America, where the sky is the limit. We think 'Be average.' That’s good enough...”

Said Ellen Verkoelen, "a City Council member and Rotterdam leader of the 50Plus Party, which works on behalf of pensioners," quoted in "The Country That Wants to ‘Be Average’ vs. Jeff Bezos and His $500 Million Yacht/Why did Rotterdam stand between one of the world’s richest men and his boat? The furious response is rooted in Dutch values" (NYT).

“When I was about 11 years old, we had an American boy stay with us for a week, an exchange student,” she recalled. “And my mother told him, just make your own sandwich like you do in America. Instead of putting one sausage on his bread, he put on five. My mother was too polite to say anything to him, but to me she said in Dutch, ‘We will never eat like that in this house.’” 

At school, Ms. Verkoelen learned from friends that the American children in their homes all ate the same way. They were stunned and a little jealous. At the time, it was said in the Netherlands that putting both butter and cheese on your bread was “the devil’s sandwich.”...

The streak of austerity in Dutch culture can be traced to Calvinism, say residents, the most popular religious branch of Protestantism here for hundreds of years. It emphasizes virtues like self-discipline, frugality and conscientiousness.... 

An ethos endures that nobody is any better than anyone else, or deserves more, and it stems from an unignorable geographic fact. Roughly one-third of the Netherlands is below sea level and citizens for centuries have had little choice but to band together to create an infrastructure of dikes and drainage systems to remain alive. 

“The Netherlands is built on cooperation,” said Paul van de Laar, a professor of history at Erasmus University. “There were constant threats of disaster from the 15th and 16th century. Protestants and Catholics knew that to survive, they could not quarrel too much.” 

To outsiders, the Hef...

Hef is the bridge that must be temporarily dismantled to allow Bezo's boat to get out of the channel where it was built and out to the sea where it can be used. 

... looks like an ungainly industrial workhorse that no longer works. That’s not what locals see....

Nearly all of Rotterdam was destroyed by the Nazis in World War II, but the Hef, built in 1927, survived. It means something to people, and that meaning is set against the meaning of Jeff Bezo's $500 million yacht. 

"[W]hat we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here. But when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe..."

"... not that they look down on anybody or think differently – it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior.... It’s not judgmental. It’s not looking down. It’s just what we believe the lifestyle he’s encouraged us to live, for our good, not to withhold. But again, we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.”

Said Tampa Bay pitcher Jason Allen, quoted in "'We don’t want to encourage it': some Rays players refuse to wear Pride logo" (The Guardian).

"Those raised by professional-class parents... do not experience much in the way of an educational advantage from being religious. In some ways..."

"... religion even constrains teenagers’ educational opportunities (especially girls’) by shaping their academic ambitions after graduation; they are less likely to consider a selective college as they prioritize life goals such as parenthood, altruism and service to God rather than a prestigious career. However, teenage boys from working-class families, regardless of race, who were regularly involved in their church and strongly believed in God were twice as likely to earn bachelor’s degrees as moderately religious or nonreligious boys.... When [the] elites criticize religion, they often do so on the grounds that faith (in their eyes) is irrational and not evidence-based. But one can agree with the liberal critique of conservatism’s moral and political goals while still acknowledging that religion orders the lives of millions of Americans — and that it might offer social benefits...."

From "How Religious Faith Can Shape Success in School" (NYT). 

The article is by Ilana M. Horwitz, "an assistant professor of Jewish studies and sociology at Tulane University and the author of 'God, Grades, and Graduation.'" Focusing on Christian denominations , she "followed the lives of 3,290 teenagers from 2003 to 2012 using survey and interview data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, and then linking those data to the National Student Clearinghouse in 2016."

Talking to NYT readers — the highly educated, professional/managerial people — Horwitz seems to be saying: Don't be so dismissive of religion, because it may be the best substitute for the privilege that benefits you. Religion is practical. Not for you, of course, because you don't have the need. But for the others.

Doesn't that sound more elitist than looking down on religion?

Speaking of wanting to do things that work, it's not practical to disparage religious people... at least when the cameras are running.


ADDED: You may sacrifice educational and career opportunities if you prioritize parenthood, altruism, and service to God, but you may sacrifice parenthood, altruism, and service to God, if you prioritize educational and career opportunities. 

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

"By claiming that the aim of the invasion is to 'denazify' Ukraine, Putin appeals to the myths of contemporary eastern European antisemitism – that a global cabal of Jews were (and are) the real agents of violence against Russian Christians..."

"... and the real victims of the Nazis were not the Jews, but rather this group. Russian Christians are targets of a conspiracy by a global elite, who, using the vocabulary of liberal democracy and human rights, attack the Christian faith and the Russian nation. Putin’s propaganda is not aimed at an obviously skeptical west, but rather appeals domestically to this strain of Christian nationalism.... The attack on liberal democracy in the west comes from a global fascist movement, whose center is Christian nationalism. It will be hard to disentangle this movement from antisemitism (albeit a version of antisemitism that allies with forces pushing for a Jewish nationalist state in Israel). Unsurprisingly, proponents of the view that a Christian nation needs protection and defense against liberalism, 'globalism' and their supposed decadence, will be marshaled to their most violent actions when the faces of free, secular, tolerant liberal democracy prominently include Jewish ones."

From "The antisemitism animating Putin’s claim to ‘denazify’ Ukraine/The Russian leader’s pretext for invasion recasts Ukraine’s Jewish president as a Nazi and Russian Christians as true victims of the Holocaust" by Jason Stanley (The Guardian). Stanley, a Yale philosophy professor, is the author of "How Fascism Works."

ADDED: Also in The Guardian, there's "'It’s not rational': Putin’s bizarre speech wrecks his once pragmatic image/Analysis: President makes appeal to Ukraine’s military to abandon its ‘drug-addicted, neo-Nazi’ leaders," in which Andrew Roth describes the speech Putin gave on Friday:

“Once again I speak to the Ukrainian soldiers,” he said, addressing his enemy. “Do not allow neo-Nazis and Banderites to use your children, your wives and the elderly as a human shield. Take power into your own hands. It seems that it will be easier for us to come to an agreement than with this gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis.”

The speech seemed to be ripped from an alternate reality – or from the second world war, where Putin appears to be spending more of his time as he launches the kind of broad military offensive not seen in Europe for nearly 70 years.

Banderites? From Wikipedia: 

The term derives from the name of Stepan Bandera (1909-1959), head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists that formed in 1929 as an amalgamation of movements including the Union of Ukrainian Fascists. The union, known as OUN-B, had been engaged in various atrocities, including murder of civilians, most of whom were ethnic Poles. This was the result of the organization's extreme Polonophobia, but the victims also included other minorities such as the Jews and Romani people. The term "Banderites" was used by the Bandera followers themselves, by others during the Holocaust, and during the massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia by OUN-UPA from 1943–1944. These massacres resulted in the deaths of 80,000-100,000 Poles and 10,000-15,000 Ukrainians.

According to Timothy D. Snyder, the term continues to be used (often pejoratively) to describe Ukrainian nationalists who sympathize with fascist ideology and consider themselves followers of the OUN-UPA myth in modern Ukraine....

"I feel that if someone looking at Piss Christ is affected by it in a negative way, or upset by it, they should think about what the photograph symbolizes..."

"... and that the crucifixion is a really ugly way to die. And all your fluids come out, your piss, your blood, and even your excrement." 

Said Andres Serrano, recently, quoted in a New York Magazine article titled "Medieval in Manhattan Artist Andres Serrano’s ecclesiastical Greenwich Village home is not a museum." 

“I realized that the things that made the most sense here were religious in nature. They were Christian paintings, Christian statues, even furniture that looks ecclesiastical, that sometimes. actually came from a church, but it made sense because the Renaissance and the medieval period were all about Christian objects and paintings.” 

Serrano was raised Catholic in Williamsburg and became one of the most famous artists in the world during the ’80s “culture wars,” after his 1987 photograph Piss Christ enraged Senator Jesse Helms.

The most obvious law school hypothetical when teaching the Good News Club case has come to life with the After School Satan Club."I waited until morning to listen to Biden's nighttime speech... I went out for my sunrise run and thought about what I'd heard. I'll tell you some more about that later.""Those raised by professional-class parents... do not experience much in the way of an educational advantage from being religious. In some ways..."

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