Friday, November 01, 2002


Let me get his straight, according to the AP report, Darrell Lambert has been with the Boy Scouts of America long enough to earn 37 merit badges and become an eagle scout and is only just now noticing that the organization's pervasive, cultish civil religion?

The scouts are all about godandcountry. The vague "one god under nation" civil religion of the group is its primary characteristic.

They repeat the oath pretty regularly:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

(n.b. "Morally straight"???)

Here's their "scout law":

A scout is: trustworthy; loyal; helpful; friendly; courteous; kind; obedient; cheerful; thrifty; brave; clean; and reverent.

(Note those last two: godliness is next to cleanliness.)

Eagle Scout Lambert says he supports the Boy Scouts, except for their civil religion. That's like supporting Playboy -- except for its portrayal of women ("I only read it for the articles"). Their red, white and blue god shapes the entire organization, making it "pervasively sectarian."

This civil religion at the heart of the Boy Scouts of America demands two things:

1. An unquestioning, patriotic loyalty to the United States of America.

2. Belief in god -- any god, it doesn't matter which one, as long as this religiosity reinforces #1 above and never, ever, ever calls it into question.

The supposed pluralism of the scouts is a sham. One can join the scouts if one is a Catholic, or a Baptist, or a Muslim or even a Pagan. But one cannot join if one is a devout Catholic, Baptist, Muslim or Pagan -- or even a devout atheist.

Religious believers -- those whose faith (or absence of faith) shapes their identity -- cannot make their faith secondary to the godandcountry of the scout's oath.

Mr. Lambert has 37 merit badges and has become an eagle scout and a local troop leader. He is on his way to becoming a bishop in the church of godandcountry. Darrell Lambert is not an atheist.

posted by Fred Clark 3:28 PM

Thursday, October 31, 2002


I want to tell you another Tony Campolo story. Reading the story off the page or off the screen doesn't really do it justice -- you have to hear Tony tell it in person.

This story made the news a few years back, or at least its affect on the president at the time, Bill Clinton, made the news. It's the story Tony told the president on their walk back to the White House after the funeral for Clinton's friend Ron Brown. The ever-present news crews filmed that walk, and their footage of Clinton laughing and crying after his friend's service provided fodder for the Fat Man on the radio to spread his lies.

Clinton was being disingenuous that day, the Fat Man said, because one minute the cameras showed him laughing, the next he appeared sad. Having apparently never been to a funeral himself, the Fat Man attributed this to Clinton's suddenly deciding to pretend to be sad for the cameras. As though Clinton had been unaware of the throng of film crews following his steps. As though Clinton had been unaware of the thousands of people like the Fat Man who nurtured a pathological hatred for the entire Clinton family, and who would always, always, always be ready to twist anything he said or did, portraying him in the worst possible light.

By sheer force of repetition, the Fat Man's lies became the conventional wisdom. Even mainstream pundits began reading the president's mind in order to explain his laughter and tears at his friends funeral. (Here's Deanna Troi from CNN.)

Clinton attended another memorial service recently, where he was again seen laughing. This has caused some people to resurrect the Fat Man's innuendo.

Human beings laugh at funerals. It's part of the process, folks.

Anyway, for the record, here's Tony's story:

= = = = = = = = = = = =

When Tony Campolo was 16 years old, he attended his first funeral at a black Baptist church.

"I was there," Tony said, "because my good friend Clarence had died. He wasn't young, but he wasn't old, and my heart was broken that my friend had died so suddenly.

The pastor began the service by talking about the resurrection and the glory of that day. He left the pulpit and spoke directly to Clarence's family. He talked to them about the 14th chapter of John, where Jesus said, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions. I wouldn't have told you this if it weren't so. And I'm going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go there and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself."

Then the pastor did something strange. He turned from the family and approached the casket and began addressing the dead man. "Clarence!" the pastor said. "Clarence!"

He said it with such authority, Tony says, "We expected Clarence to sit up and say, 'Yes, what do you want?'"

"Clarence," the pastor said, "you left us too fast. You left us too soon." And he recalled the story of Clarence's life. He told Clarence of the ways in which his life had blessed the church, blessed his family, blessed strangers and people in his neighborhood.

"Now, Clarence," the pastor concluded. "We have said it all, and there's only one thing left to say."And with that the pastor grabbed the lid of the casket and slammed it shut with a resounding BANG! "Good night, Clarence!"

The pastor turned toward the stunned congregation and said again, "Good night, Clarence!" And then, with a sly smile, "We'll see you in the morning."

"Good night, Clarence," the pastor said. "Because God is going to give you a good morning up there. Good night, Clarence, because God is giving you a good, good morning. I know, I know," he said, "I know there's a good morning up there."

And the organ began to play and the choir began to sing, "On that great gettin' up morning, we're going to rise, we're going to rise. On that great gettin' up morning, we're going to rise." And the pastor and the congregation began to sing with them and the people moved into the aisles hugging and crying and laughing and crying some more, clapping and singing and dancing with the choir and with Clarence and with the great cloud of witnesses who have gone on before.

= = = = = = = = = = =

A version of this story is included in Campolo's book The Kingdom of God Is a Party.

If you're still not convinced that laughter at funerals is a fundamentally human experience, go see The Moonlight Mile. (Susan Sarandon is radiant.)

posted by Fred Clark 2:51 PM

Wednesday, October 30, 2002


The EPA has released it's list of the 10 best cars in terms of fuel economy. Here they are (city/highway/combined m.p.g):

1. Honda Insight (hybrid, manual) 61/68/64

2. Honda Insight (hybrid, automatic) 57/56/56

3. Toyota Prius (hybrid, automatic) 52/45/48

4. Honda Civic (hybrid, automatic) 48/47/48

5. Honda Civic (hybrid, manual) 46/51/48

6. VW Jetta Wagon (diesel, manual) 42/50/45

7. (tie) VW New Beetle, VW Golf, VW Jetta (all diesel, manual) 42/49/45

8. Toyota Echo (manual) 35/43/38

9. (tie) VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Jetta Wagon (all diesel, automatic) 34/45/38

10. VW New Beetle (diesel, automatic) 34/44/38

Overall, John Heilprin reports for the AP: "The 2003 model cars and trucks now reaching showrooms get poorer gas mileage on average than last year's models."

Average fuel economy is going down? What happened to patriotism? What happened to the "War on Terror"? Have we all forgotten Sept. 11?

Should brave men die so that we can drive?

Heilprin reports that Congress made extra sure not to provide any leadership on this issue:

During the past year, Congress rejected by a wide margin any substantial legislated increase in fuel economy improvements. Industry officials long have argued that automakers give buyers what they want.

Sheesh. Makes ya' proud to be an American, don't it? The government does have some good resources on fuel economy, though, including this very helpful Web site. It includes information on how you can qualify for President Gore's tax incentives for the purchase of alternative-fuel hybrids.

posted by Fred Clark 1:19 PM


"Every registered voter deserves to have confidence that the system is fair and elections are honest, that every vote is recorded, and that the rules are consistently applied."
-- President George W. Bush

No, really, cross-my-heart. George W. Bush said this. The same one, yes.

"That every vote is recorded" -- yes, he actually said that. More here.

posted by Fred Clark 12:54 PM


"A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on."
-- Charles Spurgeon

I've been, admittedly, a bit obsessive in this space about the Weekly Standard's reporting of an urban legend as though it were fact in a succession of refined-but-never-substantiated columns by Larry Miller. Like a pitbull with a postman's calf, I seem to have latched onto this story and can't seem to let go.

Why? Partly because the falsehoods in Miller's story were so blatant and so easy to refute. Here's the Buzzcocks again, the first and most authoritative witnesses to this entire deal:

Although Blink-182 did say something on stage, there are still inaccuracies -- such as, there was no large crowd reaction, booing or otherwise.

Partly, my obsession comes from the way Miller takes one true detail (a punk rocker curses out a president!) and writes an elaborate imaginary story around it, pretending the veracity of the first detail will sanctify all the hogwash he spins out of it.

In the parody below, we repeat Miller's method, taking one true detail -- Bob Dylan's pithy tribute to Paul Wellstone, a dedication of "The Times Are a Changin'" -- and perverting it into a lengthy partisan polemic. All the words in bold type in the three posts preceding this are verbatim from Miller's account of the Buzzcocks/Blink 182 concert.

It also sticks in my craw that dozens of bloggers linked to the original lie and to Miller's facile incorrection, accepting both at face value. With the exception of Ted Barlow, it seemed like everybody's BS-detector was down for scheduled maintenance.

But what was most offensive about the original Miller piece was it's conflation of patriotism with support for the particular policies of this particular president. Miller's snide implication was that criticism of George W. Bush is inherently unpatriotic. That Republicans are patriots and Democrats are not.

And to support this insult, Miller fabricated his little morality play which, like my parody of it below, is largely based on a scene from Bob Fosse's movie version of Cabaret. Fosse meant the "Tommorow Belongs to Me" scene to be a cautionary tale. Miller sees it as an inspiration.

Miller cites as his source the band's manager. He does not name this person, and this person mischaracterizes and botches the name of a Rolling Stone article about the concert, which seems unlikely behavior for the manager of a top-selling band.

Since the original publication of Miller's story, I have read many reviews of the concert in question (see here).

I have spoken with several people who were at the show, including people from Rolling Stone magazine, KROQ, EMI and Clear Channel Entertainment (a.k.a. "the evil empire").

No one so far shares or will confirm Miller's version of events.

Okay, I'm done with this. Thanks for your time.

posted by Fred Clark 12:37 PM

An update on the rock [concert] that spawned the story that spawned the denial that spawned the correction.

A GREAT GUY and publicist I work with, Michael Hansen, tracked down the manager of an obscure folk singer named Bob Dylan. He was the musician who said all those things about President Bush and his Iraqi policies. [His] manager confirmed that [he] said them and, also, that this was followed by huge boos, which didn't upset [Dylan] at all. I was thrilled to hear that. I mean, I don't make anything up for these columns. (Who would ever have to, for God's sake, with the daily pageant of life in our country?) And I knew my friend, Jack, who told me the story initially, wouldn't make it up, either.

Hansen mentioned that there was also another tiny, little bit of confirmation on the question: IT'S IN
THE NEXT DAY'S PIONEER PRESS NEWSPAPER. No kidding. The [Tuesday] issue has a big piece, "Backstage with Bobby Zee." Their reporter was even at the concert with [him], the one I wrote about, and it's in the piece, "great man and a great senator," and all sorts of predictably cheerful epithets. Isn't that weird? Here I am trying to track down every popcorn vendor and security guard in Minnesota who might've been at the concert that night, and the whole thing is in print on newsstands.

Anyway, it's still in order for me to say, again, to Buzzcocks, I'm sorry I said it was you. I'm just glad to know, again, that punk rockers like yourselves are offended at the idea that you might question authority.

Remember, everyone, even though I got the name of the band wrong, every other seemingly outrageously fictional detail of the story is perfectly, totally 100 percent true. So all you bloggers who picked up the original story about the Buzzcocks, just post a quick correction -- it wasn't them, it was Bob Dylan -- and you've helped promote truth and prove that comedians and bloggers are just as good at this as dead-tree journalists are.
posted by Fred Clark 12:02 PM


Yesterday, I wrote a column where I recounted a story my friend Jack Burditt told me. He had been to a rock concert where a band had said some nasty things about President Bush and his Iraq policy. The lead singer called the late Sen. Paul Wellstone -- a vehement dissenter on the righteous war with Iraq -- "a great man and a great senator," which implies that Bush's patriotic policy is somehow misguided.

The crowd, Jack told me, promptly booed them. Jack said that the band in question was the Buzzcocks.

The Buzzcocks now deny having said anything. I'm happy to take them at their word. I spoke to Jack and he
says it may have been another band (I'm not going to tell you who he thinks it was, not until we know for sure). We've called radio, TV stations, and newspapers that covered the concert, but right now no one has an answer to the question of which band it was. As for my friend Jack--he's a sensible adult and he took notes at the concert. If he got the band wrong, well, once you're over a certain age I suppose, they all start to sound alike.

My apologies to the Buzzcocks for what was an honest mistake. We can all count it as more good news that they took offense at having anti-Bush sentiments ascribed to them. Bully for the Buzzcocks

So: Who was the band that
praised the peacemonger Wellstone as "a great man and a great senator" and started the astonishing reaction of boos from the audience? I don't know for sure right now, but I promise to get to the bottom of it.

posted by Fred Clark 11:03 AM


Just weeks after being resoundingly criticized in a respected national magazine, aging punkers the Buzzcocks were again resoundingly criticized by music fans for implicitly criticizing George W. Bush and the patriotic war against Iraq.

Just before launching into their hit song, "Changing Times," the band's lead singer shouted "This is for a great man and a great senator from Minnesota."

The reference, not lost on the crowd of pierced and tattooed youngsters, was to the late Senator Paul Wellstone -- who famously voted against the Senate resolution empowering President Bush to declare war against evildoers. The crowd quickly realized that if Mr. Buzzcocks up there was for Sen. Wellstone, that meant he was against President Bush and, therefore, against America! against the security of the Homeland!

There was a long pause, complete silence. And then they started. The boos. One here, one there. Then everyone. Everyone. Louder and louder.

(This is verbatim from Jack Burditt -- my Emmy-winning friend who was there -- he wrote it down.) Jack told me how the puzzled singer blinked in surprise, looked at the rest of his band, and then stepped forward again to try to save the moment.

"No, no, you don't understand. I said this is for Wellstone. For Wellstone!" he cried. The boos grew even louder, and then people began shouting back up to the stage, "NO MAN, F--- YOU!" "YEAH, F--- YOU, A-----E!" More and more, ceaselessly rising, until the shaken bandretreated.

Then an eerie hush fell over the crowd as a voice began singing -- not from the stage, but from somewhere in the audience:

The sun on the meadow is summery warm.
The stag in the forest runs free.
But gather together to greet the storm.
Tomorrow belongs to me.

A spotlight was redirected to a young lad in the audience, casting a halo about his blonde head. He sang on in a clear, angelic tenor:

The babe in his cradle is closing his eyes
The blossom embraces the bee.
But soon, says a whisper;
"Arise, arise,
Tomorrow belongs to me"

The singer was joined by other voices, one by one, until the entire arena was united in praise of Homeland Security:

Oh Fatherland, Fatherland,
Show us the sign
Your children have waited to see.
The morning will come
When the world is mine.
Tomorrow belongs
Tomorrow belongs
Tomorrow belongs to me!

Not bad, eh? That was a heck of a nice surprise from these kids, wasn't it? Black boots and nose rings and tattoos, but they knew, to a person, what was right. ...

By the way, the concert was reviewed by
John Nemo in the Pioneer Press, Tuesday, October 29. I'm looking at it now. No mention of any of this. Of course not. Not newsworthy. Not interesting. Not anything.

posted by Fred Clark 1:47 AM

Monday, October 28, 2002


Some nice photos over at Blah3 (scroll down) of the throngs at several of this weekends anti-war rallies, contrasted with maybe two dozen at the freepers' "Rally in Support of War with Iraq."

And we still have the better songs.
posted by Fred Clark 9:51 AM

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