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Friday, July 26, 2002

 
THE LEDE THAT WASN'T ORIGINAL.

A quick search on Google showed it wasn't just my imagination. The phrase "the dog that didn't bark" results in 1,070 hits -- many of which turn up the title or lede of articles written during the last six months. I'm calling it: the reference is now a cliche.

Yes, Arthur Conan Doyle's "Silver Blaze" is a fine story, and the clue of "the dog that didn't bark" lends itself to use in popular argument. But I think we're done now.

In a June 24, 2002, Fortune article, Carl Cannon uses the phrase as an adjective -- "there was an unsettling, dog-that-didn't-bark air in Washington" -- and it still seems useful as such. But let's declare a moratorium (is one year long enough?) on using it for a title or lede, please.

-s-s-s-S-s-s-s-

LONGSHOT.

As the item below discusses, the evangelical media conglomerate Focus on the Family often serves as little more than a platform for the rabid homophobia of its founder, spanking-advocate James Dobson. The term "homophobia" is sometimes misapplied to condemn any religious group that expresses any qualms about any behavior by any homosexual person or group, but in the case of Dobson, the term is accurate and unavoidable. The man seems deeply afraid.

However, in the interest of fairness and balance and strengthening those things which remain, I should mention that there are a few things that Dobson and Focus on the Family get right, one of which is their opposition to state lotteries and other forms of gambling. Focus' lead-researcher on gambling issues, the felicitously named Ron Reno, has even argued that gambling is immoral because it hurts the poor. Now if only someone at Focus would take a serious look at, say, the affect of Bush's tax cuts on families and the poor ...

(And while I mostly disagree with Focus on the UN's population fund, under-reported stories like this show that their position isn't wholly off-base.)

-s-s-s-S-s-s-s-


This is very cool. Who knew that some of Superman's first foes were wife-beaters and corrupt lobbyists?


-s-s-s-S-s-s-s-

THANKS, MR. C.

A big thank you to James Capozzola of the required-reading Rittenhouse Review for including Slacktivist in his distinguished "Better Blogs" links list. (I really do need to learn how to set that up ...) If somehow you've missed it until now, please click on over for a look at what top-tier blogging looks like.

TRR is also notable for being the only site I've seen so far that includes a link to the first state's paper of record, and my part-time employer, The News Journal of Wilmington, Del.


posted by Fred Clark 4:32 PM

 
BIG GAY AL MAKES AN APPEARANCE.

It seems from this Arizona Republic article that pro-spanking demagogue James Dobson has found a new angle in his ongoing battle with the fabulous fifth column of gay activists allegedly set on undermining all that is good, pure, pro-family and abstinent here in one nation under God.

"Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has had an anti-discrimination policy for years ... But a new push this month to make sure all affiliates have such policies is drawing attention to the fact the organization matches some gay volunteers with children. Colorado-based Focus on the Family ... [is] denouncing the non-profit organization."

So from high in his Colorado Springs aerie, the devout Mr. Dobson looks down on a world full of pain and suffering. He sees the many tragic ways in which this world falls short of the biblical vision of the peaceable community. He sees the ravages of disease and war and poverty. He sees that more than half the world's population is struggling to survive on less than $2 a day. He sees that 30,000-some children die every day from hunger, malnutrition and preventable diseases. He decides something must be done. He decides that what this world really needs is more discrimination against homosexuals.

So the saintly Mr. Dobson begins denouncing Big Brothers/Big Sisters, an organization that has been spreading hope and improving the lives of disadvantaged youth for nearly a century.

To understand why a "pro-family" organization would think it good for families to attack the nation's foremost mentoring agency you would need to understand why men like James Dobson are so disproportionately focused on, angered and repulsed by, homosexuality -- and that is something I doubt even Dobson himself understands.

Anyway, wandering about the Focus on the Family Web site in search of the group's comments on BB/BS (see this for a sample), I stumbled across something much more fun (and more appropriate for a boss-is-in-Pittsburgh Friday):

"Plugged In" the Focus on the Family site "Helping parents and youth leaders guide teens through the world of popular youth culture."

As a service to those parents and youth leaders (unlike BB/BS mentors, church youth leaders are 100 percent heterosexual) "Plugged" offers reviews of movies, TV shows and music, tallying all the obscenities, sexual references, violent incidents and occasions of tobacco or alcohol use. A sampling, from a review of the latest Austin Powers' movie, Goldmember, after noting, on the positive side, that "the pursuit of family unity and love is central to the plot," the review examines the film's sexual content:

"Where does one begin? I suppose 'shag' is as good a place as any. It’s a slang term for sex -- as in, 'to have sex with' someone. And Goldmember utilizes the word in every way imaginable. The movie also serves up every euphemism I’ve ever heard for male and female genitalia -- and dozens more. Austin prepares to bed a set of twins. Nigel takes on four women at once. Both attempts are interrupted before the men can fully act on their impulses -- but not before they unleash dozens of sexually charged jokes.

"One extended scene involves Austin and Mini-Me cavorting behind a back-lit screen. Their shadows make it appear as if Austin is, among other things, fondling his penis and bending down to kiss himself. Mini-Me makes a vulgar proposition to Foxxy. Several scenes later, he latches onto Foxxy’s leg and makes dog-like sexual motions against it. Verbal and visual gags dig into topics such as masturbation, oral sex, group sex, bestiality, homosexual attraction, cross-dressing, premature ejaculation and extraordinarily large sexual organs (male and female).

"Goldmember and Nigel slap women on their backsides. Fat Bastard remarks that the sagging skin under his chin looks like a vagina. Foxxy spends all of her screen time baring the majority of her body (high slits and tiny tops). Britney Spears makes a cameo appearance in which she asks Mini-Me for his cell phone number because she’s heard about his 'kickstand.' "

This extended condemnation actually did more to make me want to see the movie than did Roger Ebert's tepid, guilty praise. "Plugged" is nothing if not thorough, as in this summation of the violence in About a Boy, a charming picture about a young boy and his heterosexual mentor:

"Marcus chucks a massive loaf of his mother’s 'health bread' at a duck in a pond, instantly killing the creature. Bullies smack Marcus in the head with a football and pelt him with hard candy."

You owe it to yourself to read the site's exhaustive chronicling of the offensive material in the classic musical South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Trey Parker and Matt Stone would be proud to learn that even the review of their film merits a parental warning: "The foul content of South Park far exceeds even what most secular critics would deem appropriate. Offensive subjects are raised with alarming frequency. Naturally, Plugged In must address these serious lapses in social responsibility. Parental caution is urged even in the reading of this review. If you are a teenager or a younger child, please let your parents read this review before you proceed."






posted by Fred Clark 1:36 PM

 
GOOD DEEDS. BAD WORDS.

Did you ever have to read something like this?

We have been committed through the strategies of our initiatives to the utilization of funding to assist persons and entities providing linkages and other services dedicated to improving systems whereby tools and best practices will when applied comprehensively to the sites we are funding empower the community and yield valuable learnings.

Fortunately, that’s satire, but like the best satire, it’s not radically different from the reality it’s chiding.

That sentence is from In Other Words, one of two delightful booklets written by Tony Proscio for The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. Both it and it’s sequel, Bad Words for Good, are available online (as .pdfs), as part of the foundation's efforts to fight jargon.

Proscio presents a bestiary of tired, bloated words whose meanings – or even ability to mean – have been blurred beyond recognition through indiscriminate use.

His is not a unique effort, of course – this is territory well-explored by folks like William Safire (reg/req), Richard Lederer, George Orwell and Edwin Newman.

(Quick: Edwin Newman. Living or dead? I don’t know either, but Strictly Speaking really needs to be updated and republished online. The closest I could find was this SNL transcript of that great “My Fair Lady” spoof.)

Proscio’s niche is to disect the particular buzzwords of social scientists, philanthropists and do-gooder activist types. He takes precise aim at words like these: at-risk, capacity, empowerment, learnings, proactive, site, supports, targeting, technical assistance, best practices, community, initiative, -based, convener, entrepreneur, incentivize, infrastructure, metrics, paradigm, to partner, sustainable, synergy, venture and stakeholders.

I’m guilty of using many of these terms, and I can't promise I'll be perfect in the future. But for what it's worth: I apologize.

Proscio allows that these phrases can be meaningful, even necessary, within the narrow context of the guild. But they can also be lethally off-putting to anyone outside the guild, and pose a danger for insiders:

“But those expressions, precisely because they are so enthusiastically received among the faithful in the pews, quickly become habit-forming. In time, through overuse, the popular words come not to express serious thinking, but to replace it. Using the terms becomes an acceptable substitute for thinking the thoughts …”

That “the faithful in the pews” may strike church-goers as doubly accurate. In my own evangelical tradition, “thinking the thoughts” long ago substituted for doing the deeds or living the faith, and the thoughts were ultimately replaced by the hollow terms. The word become flesh is turned back into words, and those words are turned into cliches.

Anyway, the important point here is not for foundations or social scientists or Christians, but for job-seekers.

Tony Proscio may be absolutely right about the deadening, thought-preventing, muddling, Orwellian effect of jargon and buzzwords, but if you’re preparing to post your resume on Monster or Flipdog, don't pay attention to anything he says. Refusal to use the proper “action terms” and buzzwords on your resume could leave you, like the Slacktivist, trapped in a corporate cubicle, unable to escape.

(Sadly, those buzzwords are just as necessary if you’re job-hunting via Opportunity NOCs or Idealist.)




posted by Fred Clark 11:41 AM


Thursday, July 25, 2002

 
CODED MESSAGES.

According to this CNN report:

"Authorities also are investigating information from detainees that suggests al Qaeda members -- and possibly even bin Laden -- are hiding messages inside photographic files on pornographic Web sites."

This may be true, or it may just be that some lonely CIA agent's cover story for his boss is now running amok: "Um, actually sir, this isn't what it looks like, I ... I was doing research! I was researching for hidden messages in these pictures!"

-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-

WHY I'M GLAD I'M A BAPTIST.

By all accounts, Dr. Rowan Williams is a brilliant and fair-minded theologian and is an excellent choice to be the 104th archbishop of Canterbury. But the way the Church of England chooses its leader is troublesome.

"Ultimately the choice is made by a politician who may not be a church member, or even a Christian."

Tony Blair is a Christian and a member of the C of E, but that has nothing to do with his role in this choice. Mr. Blair gets to handpick the archbishop who will lead the world's 70,000,000 Anglicans because he is the prime minister. The PM picks a primate, the Queen has to approve the choice. Apparently the "of" in "Church of England" denotes possession, not just location.

This is the kind of constantinian sell-out that makes me glad, despite everything, that I'm a Baptist.

-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-

THANKS, ERIC.

Thanks to Altercation for the link and the kind words. Eric Alterman's fine blog is on the shortlist of permanent links I intend to add to this site as soon as I learn how to set that kind of thing up.

For now, just pretend the following is neatly formatted in a column down the side of the page with neat little bullets and a distinctive type-face in a different, eye-catching color:

The Usual Suspects

* Altercation
* Evangeliblog
* Kausfiles
* The Rittenhouse Review
* Talking Points Memo
* Tapped

(It was through Tapped that I came across this atrocious Ben Shapiro rant. Young Ben should be made to stay after school, writing on the blackboard 100 times: You're not allowed to kill civilians.)

posted by Fred Clark 5:04 PM

 
WE'RE NUMBER 6! WE'RE NUMBER SIX!

The BBC had a nice piece on the annual "Human Development Index" (.pdf file here) from the United Nations. They include comments from journalists in Norway (ranked #1 for quality of life) and Sierra Leone (ranked 173rd, or dead last).

1. Hello, it's July! The people of Sierra Leone should issue a formal complaint. Of course those smug Scandinavians are going to look good in the middle of July. But let's try the survey again in January and see how they look mid-winter. Where would you rather be in January? In Oslo, with two hours of daylight and minus-20 temperatures? Or in sunny Freetown, sitting by the pool [in a bullet-proof, colonial compound protected by mercenary thugs] sipping a cool drink [made with imported, bottled water]?

2. If you're in Burundi or Niger (Nos. 171 and 172, respectively), you have to be pretty glad that Sierra Leone is in such poor shape.

3. If Celine Dion moved to California permanently, Canada could probably move up from No. 3 to No. 2 at least.

4. Will Rogers had a simpler formula for the quality of life in a country: "Are they trying to get in, or are they trying to get out?" That makes America look pretty good, since a whole lot of people are trying to get in and only a few corporate bastards are trying to get out (to reincorporate tax-free in some sluttish sovereignty in the Caribbean). But I'm not sure what Will Rogers would've made of the current situation, in which people are trying to get in, but only because they want to kill us.

5. (This probably won't be a really persuasive argument, but it's worth a shot.) American conservatives tend to sneer at reports like this. The U.N. seems generally to irritate them nearly as much as any favorable mention of Canada or Scandinavia. For your Rush-Limbaugh-types, the fact that the United States is only ranked No. 6 is seen as intolerable. (This is also why they hate the World Cup.) Here's a suggestion: let's institute universal health care and child care, and make sure poor, black kids get the same quality American education we provide for rich, white kids. Then the U.N. will have to rank us No. 1, like we know we deserve!

6. Seriously though, at the risk of sounding like Bono, take a look at the report. Deficit or no, the U.S. could triple our nonmilitary international aid without feeling the pinch. The people of Sierra Leone, Burundi, Niger and the other bottom-of-the-standings countries have no power, no voice. These folks speak for them. You can too.

posted by Fred Clark 4:04 PM


Wednesday, July 24, 2002

 
YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO KILL CIVILIANS, III.

The Israeli airstrike on Gaza that killed mass-murderer Sheikh Salah Shahada provides another example of the two-pronged nature of a just-war. The cause must be just. The conduct must be just.

In other words: you're not allowed to kill civilians.

We've been over this.

Today it was Shimon Peres' turn to apologize:

-----
"What happened is really regrettable. It wasn't done intentionally," said Israel's foreign minister.

"I think all of us feel sorry for the loss of life of innocent people, particularly children," Mr Peres said.

Those who decided to go ahead with the operation were "apparently not aware" that they were releasing a bomb onto a densely-populated area, otherwise they would not have done it, he said.
-----

Even Ariel Sharon, according to the BBC, "was quoted by the Israeli press as saying that if Israel had known there were so many civilians in the building, another way would have been found to kill the man who headed their country's wanted list."

The article also noted that "Previous assassination attempts on Mr Shahada had been called off because of the risk to 'innocent bystanders.'"

That's about right. In going after the criminal murderer, Israel had a just cause, but that just cause must be pursued with justice. If you can't kill the enemy without also killing "so many civilians," then you must find another way. Why? Because ...

You aren't allowed to kill civilians.

(Sentences you will never read: "Previous Hamas attacks had been called off because of the risk to 'innocent bystanders.'")

"War is hell," General Sherman said. Yes, but we needn't fight demonically. Even in war, there are rules. We've decided here to emphasize just this one: you aren't allowed to kill civilians.

Eric Alterman's off-the-cuff, visceral remarks yesterday still managed to evaluate the attack from a more-or-less principled just-war perspective. He contrasted prudence vs. morality, and the moral weight of prudential effects. He argued that the cause was just, and the conduct justified (roughly) by the principle of double-effect (also, roughly).

Most interestingly, Alterman places much of the responsibility for those civilian deaths back on Shahada, arguing that by choosing to live as a combatant and military leader among civilians, he was willfully putting those civilians in peril.

I think that's right, but it's also charitable. Shahada in particular and Hamas in general may be guilty of something even more reprehensible: using the poor people of Gaza as human shields. You're not allowed to do that, because it means you will very likely get them killed, and you're not allowed to kill civilians.

Having said that, Sharon's comment that "another way [should] have been found" is a more responsible understanding of double-effect than Alterman's attempt to stretch it past the breaking point. Double-effect never let's you say, "tough luck, fella."

Today a (somewhat) chastened Altercation offers this:

"Everyone seems to forget that the history of warfare in the past century is the history of the slaughter of innocent civilians. Look at Dresden, Tokyo, the Russians in Afghanistan, the Syrians in Lebanon, Iraq vs. Iran, the Christmas bombing of Cambodia."

Alterman's litany (which could, of course, go on much, much longer) is I guess supposed to come across as gritty realism. But what really comes across is the confusion of categories: descriptive is seen as normative, "is" morphs into "ought." (Or perhaps "ought" is abandoned altogether because "is" is all there is.)

Alterman's description of the history of war is wholly accurate as history and as description. We have killed millions and millions and millions of innocent bystanders, noncombatants, children and other civilians. This is accurate, but this is wrong. Horribly wrong.

You aren't allowed to kill civilians. You aren't allowed to kill civilians. You aren't allowed ...



posted by Fred Clark 5:17 PM

 
YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO KILL CIVILIANS (cont’d.)

Despite his selective adherence to Catholic social teaching, Andrew Sullivan fails to understand this most basic of rules: You’re not allowed to kill civilians.

The New York Times recently ran a series of photos of civilian victims of U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan.

“I keep thinking it can’t get any worse, and then it does,” Sullivan writes after viewing these photos.

But he is not lamenting the suffering of innocents in wartime. As usual, he is lamenting his own suffering. You see, the New York Times doesn't publish his commentary anymore. And the current Times editor is a liberal. Surely, Andy thinks, that's far, far more upsetting than the accidental killing of a few dozen people at a wedding.

(Sullivan’s disturbing, compulsive fascination with New York Times editor Howell Raines may be the most obsessive relationship between a writer and editor since Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson.)

Pathetically, Andrew Sullivan fails Tom Tomorrow's Rorschach test.

But there’s more going on here than the hissy bitterness of a former employee. Andy’s fallacious thinking is common, and therefore instructive:

Sullivan, like many critics and defenders of the war in Afghanistan, is confusing jus ad bello principles with jus in bello principles. That is to say, he confuses the legitimacy of the war with the legitimacy of the way in which it has been conducted.

The U.S.-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan is, I believe, a slam-dunk example of what St. Thomas Aquinas allowed us Christians to call a “just war.” Andrew Sullivan rightly sees that this war meets the classic jus ad bello “criteria”:

* declared by a legitimate authority
* in a just cause
* with good intention
* with a credible chance to succeed
* a last resort
* likely to produce more good than evil.

The conduct of a war is another matter, and the two must not be confused. Some critics of the war in Afghanistan point to the death of civilians there as though it were evidence the war is illegitimate. Others, like Sullivan, point to the legitimacy of the war as though it justified the killing of civilians. Both are wrong. The cause is just. The war is legitimate. But you’re not allowed to kill civilians.

The U.S. military, guided ultimately by its commander in chief, has decided that the principle of protecting its own (our own) soldiers from potential risk is more important than protecting innocent non-combatants from probably harm. This is immoral and precisely backwards.

I’m willing to entertain the possibility of some moral calculus that could justify America’s low-risk-to-combatants, high-risk-to-civilians high-altitude bombing approach to warfare, but no one has made this case yet. Until I hear such an argument, I’ll take this approach at face value as morally reprehensible. Combatants, by definition, must accept the risks of warfare. Noncombatants, by definition, should be spared such risks whenever possible. You’re not allowed to kill civilians.

You’re allowed to fire shrill columnists. And you’re allowed to set the tone for the newspaper you edit. But (say it with me, people) ...

You’re not allowed to kill civilians.


posted by Fred Clark 12:09 PM


Tuesday, July 23, 2002

 
Mickey Kaus is excited that fewer teens are having sex. Mickey sees this the same way he sees everything – as evidence for the triumph of the 1996 welfare reform act.

But as Rudy Carrasco points out, it’s tough to know how the teens surveyed were, um, keeping score.

Thanks in part to Southern Baptist role models like Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, millions of American teens – even those who didn’t grow up evangelical or Catholic -- have been introduced to the concept of “technical virginity.”

TV involves complex, detailed, unwritten rules, but the basic idea is pretty simple. It creates a wide range of sexual activities that come up short of (or wide of) actual, conventional intercourse. Anything else “doesn’t count.” It’s quite possible that this survey – like Kenneth Starr – was unable to grasp this broader sense of “sexual activity" and may therefore misrepresent what teens are up to.

-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-

What’s weird about Mickey’s obsessive defense of welfare reform is that many of my reasons for criticizing it are communicated forcefully in his thoughtful book The End of Equality. Like William Julius Wilson, I took Mickey’s idea of a neo-WPA and ran with it. I joined the call for the “end of welfare as we know it,” to be replaced by a guaranteed jobs program, a new New Deal. (And since welfare involved single mothers, that guaranteed job would have to be matched with guaranteed child care.)

I liked the idea of reforming the system to make “work more valuable than welfare.”

I was a sucker for Clinton’s rhetoric that “All those who can work must go to work to support their families. ... [But] no one who works full time should have to raise a child in poverty.”

I did not think Clinton would – or should – sign a bill to guarantee the first part of that statement without guaranteeing the second. I did not think it was fair to insist that “if a man will not work, he will not eat” without also insisting that “if a man will work, he will eat.”

I argued, and still argue, that the 1996 welfare reform act is oppressive because it insists on responsibilities without insisting on their corresponding rights.

Mickey Kaus’ book agrees with me.

Mickey Kaus himself does not.

Still waiting to see what he does with this.


posted by Fred Clark 2:09 PM

 
PHILLY TO GREENS: DON'T MESS WITH ED.


The Green Party held a four-day conference here in Philadelphia, or so I'm told. Like most people here, I barely noticed.

I haven't fully forgiven the Greens for handing the White House to George W. Bush, and thus handing over a chunk of my paycheck for redistribution to the super-rich. Whatever ideals they may espouse, the Green Party has become a tactical pawn of the GOP, whose next major accomplishment may be to replace progressive Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Nader's truest legacy is probably this sort of thing. It's hard to see how exactly this kind of political duplicity -- or a Bush presidency -- helps promote Green values like economic justice, ecology, feminism or global responsibility.

But costing Al Gore an election is one thing. Hurting Ed Rendell is something else entirely. Ed was simply one of the best mayors any big city has ever had. He is also an indomitable booster of the City of Brotherly Love -- a metropolis with a self-defeating lack of self esteem. Put simply: We love Ed!

I was recently at a neighborhood world-music/arts/peace-and-love-type festival in University City's Clark Park. The crowd seemed like a hand-picked demographic for a Green Party recruiting drive: a diverse cornucopia of academics, working class residents, neo-hippies and assorted white people with dreadlocks. They were crowded around tables featuring local artists and artisans, organic foods and the local animal shelter. And there in the middle, looking lonely and forlorn, stood a representative for the Green's candidate for PA governor. (For all I know, he could've been the Green's candidate for governor.) Nobody seemed interested.

Philly Democrats won't let the Greens nader Ed. But it's more than that. It's not just that wasting votes on a third-party nobody would help Mike Fisher and the GOP, it's that Ed Rendell would make a better governor than whoever the Green's are running.

That's a case Al Gore never seemed to make in the 2000 race, and it's part of why he lost.

The Green spin was that progressive voters had to choose between their highest ideals -- a vote for Ralph Nader -- or a compromised, hold-your-nose, pragmatic vote for Gore. That spin was premised on the claim that Ralph Nader would have made a more effective president than Al Gore.

Just think about that for a moment. What, after all, could we really have hoped for from a Nader presidency? My guess is a whinier, vastly less-entertaining and less-effective version of Jesse Ventura. (Ralph seems like a nice guy and all, but Dick Armey would've eaten him for breakfast.) And what could we expect from a Gore presidency? A whinier, less-entertaining but probably equally effective version of Bill Clinton.

What was saddest about the Nader/Gore dynamic was that Gore sometimes seemed himself to accept the Green Party's spin -- he seemed to accept that idealists would prefer the Greens, but that they should hold their noses and vote for him anyway because at least he was better than a Republican. Gore should've stood his ground and asserted the simple fact that -- no disrespect meant to Mr. Nader -- he was far, far more qualified to serve as president. The more Nader tried to disagree with that, the more irrelevant he would have looked.


posted by Fred Clark 9:26 AM

 
LET'S REVIEW.

Okay, to repeat:

You are not allowed to kill civilians.

You are not allowed to kill civilians.

You are not allowed to kill civilians.



posted by Fred Clark 8:09 AM


Sunday, July 21, 2002

 
WHEN EVANGELICALS ATTACK.
or
SEX-HATING HERETICS.

Prayers and sympathy for "Husband at a Crossroads in Southern California" whose letter to Dear Abby last week demonstrated some of the painful, heretical absurdity that passes for Christianity in America's mutant evangelical subculture. The letter, in full:


DEAR ABBY: I am a 52-year-old man married to "Sarah," the most wonderful woman I have ever met. She is intelligent, ethical, witty, pretty, healthy -- a great mother and grandmother. She means the world to me.

About 10 years ago, Sarah "rededicated herself to God" and lost all interest in sharing an emotional, romantic and physical connection with me. She immersed herself in her church, Bible studies, our children, cats and pottery-making.

She seems happy with this life. I am not. I want more than a brother/sister relationship with my wife. I want to travel, go dancing, hold her hand at the movies -- and to make love together.

Our marriage counselor says we may never meet each other's needs and should consider going our separate ways. However, I do not believe a man should leave his wife and family, and Sarah feels the same. Everyone would hate me if I left her -- the community, our children and Sarah herself.

I cannot imagine living 30 more years without the love I need in my life, yet I don't like the choices of divorce or loneliness. Abby, is there a third choice I'm not seeing? (An affair is out of the question.)
Husband at a Crossroads in Southern California



Dear Abby's response was typical advice-columnist fluff. She should've told poor HC that his wife already hates him (and is also almost certainly schtupping the pastor of the Orange County nondenominational cult center she attends).

This ghastly pottery-maker "Sarah" is like a female Charles Boyer in an evangelical version of "Gaslight" (perhaps as co-written by Bev and Tim LaHaye). She is also unmistakably an evangelical. The signs:

1. She "rededicated herself to God." Only evangelicals talk like this. And only evangelicals use this phrase in such an off-putting way: You can picture her calmly approaching her poor husband 10 years ago: "Honey, I have some bad news for you -- I have rededicated myself to God."

2. The Christian life is redefined to exclude the emotional, romantic and physical. And what is this replaced with? Ascetic devotion to mystic purity? A sacrificial, Christlike offering of self for the poor? No, no, no, of course not. She's an evangelical -- discipleship consists of pottery classes, Bible classes and cute widdle pets. It is extremely likely that she owns several Precious Moments figurines.

3. The Christian life is redefined in individualistic, atomistic, ego-centric terms. This is almost as big a tip-off to the woman's evangelicalism as the fact that:

4. She won't go dancing.

(More fun evangelical follies here.)
posted by Fred Clark 10:57 PM


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