Welcome Daniel Schultz, Street Profits, and Host Peterr.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Changing the Script: An Authentically Faithful and Authentically Progressive Political Theology for the 21st Century

Peterr, Host:

Dan Schultz, known online to many as “pastordan” at Daily Kos and Streetprophets, has put together a challenging book: Changing the Script: An Authentically Faithful and Authentically Progressive Political Theology for the 21 Century.

It is a book long on theological discussion, but the topics he digs into to illustrate this “authentic progressive political theology” are things that are of huge importance around FDL: abortion, the Big Shitpile, and torture. He takes on false negotiations and triangulations, and pushes folks to look and work for real solutions. He goes after not only the TheoCon Right, but also the Religious Progressives that buy into the “script” posited by the Right for what solutions might look like.

Schultz writes, he says in the introduction, in order to deal with one simple thing: “what the Religious Left is doing is not working.” One problem, he says, is that many do not wish to speak words of judgment in the political realm, as religious progressives “have been schooled too well in reconciliation and engagement with leaders.” The other problem is “an inability or unwillingness to think imaginatively about faith in the public square.”

Enter Walter Brueggemann.

Brueggemann, a professor of Hebrew Scripture, has been a favorite of mine since my seminary days some 20+ years ago. Brueggemann is constantly demanding that his readers look at the broader context of scripture — the setting of the stories, the overarching themes of the poetry, the political circumstances of the cries of the prophets — in order to discern God at work in the world. Against those who would slice and dice scripture, looking for the right verse to quote or fall back on for a particular situation, Brueggemann consistently pushed his readers to see more than the simple words on a page.

Schultz takes a 2005 journal article by Brueggemann as the jumping off point for the book.

[Brueggemann] discerned the presence of “scripts” in our lives: dynamic, normative stories that actualize our values in patterns of behavior, often below the threshold of consciousness. . .

The primary script in control of our lives, according to Brueggemann, is “the script of the therapeutic, technological, consumerist materialism that permeates every dimension of our common life.”

Alongside the therapeutic idea that there’s always a product or cure to deal with anything that might be painful or inconvenient, the technological idea that with just a little more effort, anything can be made right, and the consumerist notion that we can have whatever we want, whenever we want it, with little or no regard for neighbors comes the militaristic script that allows us to protect and maintain the system of therapeutic, technological consumerism. “This script, says Brueggemann, promises to make us ‘safe and happy,’ and yet has failed to do either. For our health and the health of the world, we must let go and grasp a new one.”

From there, Schultz dives into three specific, concrete issues: abortion, the Big Shitpile, and torture. He explores — often in painful detail — what the dominant script looks like, exposing its weaknesses by naming them for the idols that they are. Those who labor for the goal of abortion reduction, for instance, often do so with a paternalistic attitude that merely trades one form of second-class treatment of women, like laws that rule how women’s bodies are to be treated, for unwritten but no less rigid attitudes that say precisely the same thing. “This is where the middle ground approaches to abortion ultimately founder: they desperately seek to provide any kind of alternative to women seeking an abortion except empowering them.”

Schultz pushes for a return of progressive prophets. Prophets are not some kind of spiritual fortunetellers, gazing into a crystal ball to see whether a tall dark stranger will enter your life and sweep you away in love, or deciphering a sometimes obscure ancient text to predict the future. Biblically speaking, prophets are truth-tellers, who boldly criticize the dominant powers that seek to supplant God and God’s loving will for the world. But more than simply criticize and hector those in power, prophets also offer hope — real, concrete hope, over against the false promises of unfaithful scripts.

Schultz grounds his writing in his faith, but does not do so in a way that demands that all progressives must have similar beliefs in order to “change the script.” Indeed, such a demand must be ruled out (emphasis added):

While this is framed in the suppositions of Christian theology, there is an insight that is available beyond those borders. I firmly believe that one of the crucial tasks of building a sustainable progressive movement will be to name the ambiguities and crises our society is already in, and create the venue for real change. That this insight is grounded in religious thought suits this work to faithful progressives, but all liberals — believers or not — can participate in the work of transformational politics.

I insist on that point first as a reminder in the middle of this hip-deep theologizing that the religious left operates as part of a larger movement that includes diverse opinions on the subject of God. Unlike conservatives, who are dominated by evangelicals and Catholics, progressives are made up of all beliefs and no beliefs. While religious progressives need not surrender their faith to enter the public square, they must remain engaged constantly in the work of translating their insights into forms useful to those who do not share their religious commitments. The goal is to share the resources of faith, not impose religion on all people.

For religious progressives, Changing the Script is a marvelous illustration of this kind of “constant translation” of insights born out of religious faith into something useful to all. For readers who do not share these religious beliefs, Changing the Script offers insights into how religious progressive think and act — or could think and act, if we set ourselves to it — so that common cause can be made in the political realm.

The footnotes in the book are perhaps the best proof of the dual nature of what Schultz has attempted. For each reference to scholars and theologians like Brueggemann, there are scores of references to online, non-religious sources like RhRealityCheck, Glenn Greenwald, and Media Matters. (As a personal note, for the first time, I found myself wishing I had an electronic text rather than a book on paper, so that I could more easily chase down the links in the notes!)

To kick off the discussion, a demonstration of script changing from outside the book might be in order.

At the mammoth Macy’s department store in downtown Philadelphia, they have a gloriously enormous organ — the Wanamaker organ — right in the middle of their seven-story atrium. The organ was originally built with more than 10,000 pipes for the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, and later sold and transported to Philadelphia. Once in the store, it was judged “too small” to fill the space adequately, and so another 18,000 or so pipes were added. It has six manuals, and more than 700 stops. In a store devoted to The God of The Market, that offers for sale of the largest, the most stunning, the most amazing one-of-a-kind consumer items, it seems fitting to find the largest, most stunning, one-of-a-kind organ.

On October 30th, thousands of shoppers were gathered as usual at Macy’s. Cosmetics salespeople were trying out their products on potential customers as usual, purveyors of various tasty treats were encouraging passers-by to sample their wares as usual, and people strolled through the displays fingering the clothing and other products on display as usual. The organ was playing a recital, as usual, and when one piece ended, the organist moved into another: the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. But then, in a most unusual manner, and to the amazement of the shoppers, the music of the organ was joined by 650 voices brought together by the Opera Company of Philadelphia in a “random act of culture.”

Shoppers were stunned, and by the end they were caught up in the music. They gave the singers a sustained round of applause. The video cuts off there, but I had to wonder: what did the shoppers do next? Did they smile and go about spending extravagantly, or did they put away their credit cards and say to themselves “who do I honor with my spending here?”

Viewing this YouTube while reading Changing the Script, with all its critique of consumerism and The God of The Market, was a mind-boggling experience.

Please join me in welcoming Dan Schultz to the FDL Book Salon.

102 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Daniel Schultz, Changing the Script: An Authentically Faithful and Authentically Progressive Political Theology for the 21st Century”

dakine01 December 5th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Good afternoon Dan and welcome to FDL and good afternoon to you Peterr

Dan I have not had an opportunity to read your book but do have a question so forgive me if you address this in it.

How do progressives get around the noise level that seems to pump up the “prosperity gospel” preachers and the thinly veiled hate on the side? It seems the bulk of the TV services are all those who preach the prosperity and such and progressive religion gets very short shrift

Note: while not particularly religious, I was raised in the Christian, Disciples of Christ denomination which thankfully was and presumably is still one of the more liberal denominations going

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Welcome, Dan — good to have you at FDL!

egregious December 5th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Pastor Dan – great to have you here at Firedoglake!

BevW December 5th, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Daniel, Welcome to the Lake.

Peterr, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:08 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 1

@dakine – that’s one of the most common questions I get asked. The issue, I think, is not being heard, but having something worthwhile to say. The reason the Prosperity Gospel is so popular is that it offers a quick fix to people’s financial problems. It’s a bunch of bullshit, of course, but it appears to solve the problem.

What progressives need to do is to offer a real alternative that actually does solve the problem. In this case, that means actually lifting people out of poverty in a just way. We should stop tap-dancing around the issue and just say: an awful lot of people get screwed over in this country of ours, and that’s not okay. Not in our eyes, not in God’s eyes.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:09 pm
In response to egregious @ 3

It’s good to be here.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 2:11 pm
In response to pastordan @ 5

The prosperity gospel is designed by baptizing the consumerist script, which tells you a lot about its weaknesses. Unmask the false hope of consumerism, and Prosperity preachers are left with *crickets*.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Dan, your twin prophetic tasks of offering (a) criticism of those in power who defend this destructive script and (b) authentic hope to those without power, who have often been deceived into placing their trust in this hollow script is a helpful insight to many (especially clergy), I think.

The task of criticism, however, brings up fear from many. “We can’t criticize the Dems/liberals/Obama/etc., because that will weaken them.” I know how I respond to this, but was wondering how you would answer this.

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 2:19 pm
In response to Peterr @ 8

I am so looking forward to this…Bruegg. is one of my favorites; he has enriched my life and work. Thanks to you and Dan.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:20 pm
In response to Peterr @ 8

Criticism has to be understood in a particular way. It’s not just pointing out fault after fault, but identifying first the failed promise each of these scripts make, releasing the pain and ambiguity they provoke, and then imagining a way to move forward together. That last part is very important. Saying the GOP is a bunch of nincompoops who have wrecked our economy and our civic institutions is all very well and good, but if you haven’t identified how consumerism or militarism have undermined our community, then you haven’t drilled down deep enough, and you haven’t really critiqued the situation properly.

This is why I go into “painful detail” on each of these scripts: so that we understand the fullness of the problem, and what it will take to move outside the constraints of the script.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:21 pm
In response to RevBev @ 9

Don’t get too excited, Bev. I’m just an ordinary pinhead. I can’t promise that I got it right!

NCGal December 5th, 2010 at 2:23 pm
In response to pastordan @ 10

Do you believe that given the dramatic shifts in this country since the economic collapse in ’08 that Americans are shifting (not all but many) the value they placed on consumerism and militarism? Or do you think the changes are temporary?

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 2:24 pm
In response to pastordan @ 10

Progressives generally have little problem offering criticism of the GOP. But all too often, the kind of criticism you describe — when directed at democrats and their policies that prop up these scripts — engenders anger, dismissal, and charges of political heresy.

juslin December 5th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

if i could only find a church that ACTUALLY preached Jesus’ message i’d join that flock.. i left church b/c of greed and preaching intolerance.. progressive christians haven’t taken the opportunity to widen their message beyond their church doors – but the rightwing pastors are all over all media!! its why americans are so receptive to rightwing ideas i think… rightwing pastors preach to their base instincts and there’s no room in that ideology for any true christian love.. very disheartening..

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 2:25 pm
In response to pastordan @ 11

I’ll take a chance ;) Thanks

Twain December 5th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Pastordan, thanks for being here. I just ordered your book and look forward to reading it.
Peterr, thanks for the “flash mob” Hallelujah Chorus.
Beautiful and what a treat!

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:29 pm
In response to NCGal @ 12

Historically, what we’ve seen is a shift in attitudes when a war or financial collapse comes along. These tend to last longer or shorter periods, depending on the severity of the crisis and the mood of the nation when it comes along. I’m afraid that militarism will always be with us (though it wasn’t a part of our national DNA until World War I), but I do think it’s interesting how much talk there is these days about cutting the military budget. It used to be that only the DFH’s would think of such a thing, but I heard Erskine Bowles, of all people, advocate for it as part of the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction plan. That shows you how fast things can move. But will they last, or grow deeper? I don’t know, unless this economic stagnation goes on.

The short answer is that the longer the economy sucks, the more likely real changes will sink in and stick around.

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Does the book describe how we (church or individuals) get to the more authentic script(s)?

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

To me, the place of Roman Catholics in the political discussions is quite interesting. The Roman Catholic hierarchy is in one place, but a sizable chunk of the RC laity are elsewhere, and another non-trivial number of RCs have left their church entirely. Thus, Catholics in the US span the political spectrum in ways unlike members of most denominations.

Any observations you’d like to offer, Dan, on how you see Catholics interact with the scripts Brueggemann identifies?

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 2:32 pm
In response to pastordan @ 17

I’m afraid that militarism will always be with us (though it wasn’t a part of our national DNA until World War I)

The Native Americans might disagree with your dating of this to WWI.

kindGSL December 5th, 2010 at 2:32 pm

What should the progressive religious leaders be doing that they are not doing now?

It seemed to me they were active, is the problem a lack of focus and coordination or messaging?

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:33 pm
In response to Peterr @ 13

That’s very true, and to that I offer a very succinct, not Christian, response of the four-letter variety. Which is to say, fuck that.

Seriously, the point of the book, such as it is, is that religious progressives are in my estimation called to “gadflies in the service of the Lord.” Meaning, we’re the ones who are called to point out the way things work doesn’t, really, and could be better. That may not earn us a place at the table with the rich and powerful, but what of it? Should we say the politic thing, or tell the truth?

Lorraine Watkins December 5th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Just one person’s view but I think liberals generally and the more liberal religions fail to realize that serious matters can and are best presented with entertainment… and really good music. I am by birth a Congregationalist. We had one church that did especially well in our region. It was my home church for a while. It is set in wooded area with expanses of glass revealing the woods and a great choir. I am convinced that many mornings the message came by gray squirrel accompanied by the choir.

Love them as I do, Liberals can be so “intellectual” obsessive and dour.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:36 pm
In response to Peterr @ 20

Oh, that’s not militarism, it’s just genocide. Seriously, with the exception of the Civil War, World War I was the first time that Americans experienced anything like a mass mobilization for the purpose of war. It was also the first time the nation was involved in a strategic war overseas, not one fought in immediate defense of the nation. Americans were very reluctant to enter into the war – it was only Wilson’s leadership that got us there.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:36 pm
In response to RevBev @ 18

Yep, it does.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 2:37 pm
In response to pastordan @ 22

Preach it, my brother.

Seriously, the biggest obstacle I have found to the rise of progressive prophets is the willingness of too many progressive Christians to bite their own tongues.

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
In response to pastordan @ 25

Is that a tease or does it say “Buy the book”?

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
In response to Peterr @ 19

Generally, I don’t see the Catholic laity as interacting any differently than the rest of us. The bishops are of course the essence of the patriarchy when it comes to abortion, but they are quite progressive when it comes to the militarism, and can be when it comes to consumerism.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Dan, your comparison of the MOTUs and the Big Shitpile to Pharaoh and the Egyptians is right on target, as far as I’m concerned, and yet there’s far too much silence from preachers when it comes to criticizing consumerism and money.

The only thing I’ve seen that has forced mainline clergy to address this is the growing foreclosure mess and the continuing unemployment picture. Nationally, unemployment may sit at almost 10%, but pastors in many communities see much, much higher rates.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:39 pm
In response to RevBev @ 27

Buy the book! Buy the book! Buy my next book too!!

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 2:40 pm
In response to pastordan @ 30

LOL..OK, OK. What is it?

NCGal December 5th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

It seems that “conservative” preachers, esp the ones on TV, appeal to people’s struggles. When people can’t pay their bills, have serious family troubles, and illnesses, they want someone to tell them everything’s going to be okay. They don’t want a religious figure who questions. They want one who answers.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:40 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 23

Lordy Lou, can we ever be dour. Wifty too, on the other end of the scale. We’re getting better, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

You wouldn’t have happened to be involved with Central Congregational in Atlanta, would you?

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:41 pm
In response to RevBev @ 31

Well, first I’ll have to write it. But it’s going to be on hope, and I’m hoping (cringe) that it’ll be an easier read than this one. I’ll keep you posted.

Lorraine Watkins December 5th, 2010 at 2:42 pm
In response to pastordan @ 33

Oh My! You nailed it. Yes Central in Atlanta. Now I am affiliated with the UUs, but that’s another story.

Dearie December 5th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Thanks for including the Hallelujah Chorus orchestrated by the Opera Co of Philadelphia….random act of culture. Brought tears to my eyes. What a joy.

And, yes, religious people with clear thinking need to be speaking out. I’m always stunned that the right-winger fundamentalists get to pervert Christ’s messages with impugnity….just makes me wonder at the rest of us.

Oh, well, maybe I’m not one to talk since I left the RC church over the rampant hypocrisy…..I just couldn’t stomach it. They threw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:43 pm
In response to Peterr @ 29

I did a sermon series on Exodus this summer that raised some of those questions in a very neutral way. It was sort of, hmm, what does Exodus say about economics? How is our economy running these days? Hmmm….It worked like a charm.

Honestly, I have no idea why more pastors don’t preach on economics. It’s not like it’s not on people’s minds, and as it happens, the Bible has a lot to say on the subject.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:44 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 35

I went to seminary at Candler. I still remember those windows – and the absolute flatness of the service.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 2:45 pm
In response to pastordan @ 28

The difference that I see with Catholic (and former Catholic) laity is the discontent among a sizable group with the authoritarianism of the hierarchy. The laity are much more pro-LGBT than the bishops, for instance. What makes RCs different, I think, than “the rest of us” is that they are laboring under the hierarchy of the bishops and know firsthand what it means to be dealing with a script that needs changing.

As for the progressiveness of bishops, I haven’t heard a single one say “Antonin Scalia approves of the death penalty — he better not present himself for communion in my diocese until he repents.” The USCCB didn’t wind up the force of their DC office to shut down Gitmo, get out of Iraq, or end drone bombings of civilian areas. But they sure know how to turn the screws in DC when the issue is abortion.

See Stupak, Bart and Health Reform.

Twain December 5th, 2010 at 2:46 pm
In response to Peterr @ 39

That ought to leave a mark. Well said.

kindGSL December 5th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I consider myself a progressive religious leader. My pulpit is online.

It kind of bothers me that I’m being complained about here in the abstract and I yet don’t even have a clue as to the specific complaint. I think if you can’t tell me in a few sentences what you think I’m doing wrong and how you want me to improve on it, then I don’t see it as a very good advertisement for your book.

But that is just me.

Reverend Unruh
THC Ministry
Pleasant Hill, Ca
A Native American Church

Lorraine Watkins December 5th, 2010 at 2:47 pm
In response to pastordan @ 38

We are on the same wave length on that.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 2:48 pm
In response to pastordan @ 37

As a pastor with an undergrad degree of economics, I think it’s because most clergy are scared of numbers. I’ve heard more than one colleague say something like “If economists argue so much about what caused the economy to tank and how to fix it, how can a poor pastor understand it?”

Beyond being scared of numbers, I think there’s also a certain amount of fear of offending parishioners right before passing the offering plate. Sad, but true.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
In response to kindGSL @ 21

As much as I love and appreciate the religious left leadership, they have a tendency to get lost in the weeds a bit. They need to start speaking up for principles, not this tiny little issue and that tiny little issue.

Frankly, they also need to start playing identity politics: any Senator who can’t find it in his or her heart to cut taxes for 98% of taxpayers so that the top 2% can keep pillaging the nation is opposed to Christian values, and we’ll remember that in the next election.

But also, as I say in the book, we need to ask a whole lot more questions. Why is it that we’re still in Afghanistan? Why does the latest round of financial reform seem to benefit Wall Street more than the average person? When are we going to get real help with mortgages? When are we going to get real growth in jobs? When is the income inequality slope going to even out? And so on and so forth, until nobody can stand the sight of us anymore.

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
In response to Peterr @ 39

But then do the laity find some place else or just fall away? Some would say that it is that hypocrisy that is killing the church. I wish I knew more numbers on how many congregations are actively outspoken on social issues. I know alot of silence.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:53 pm
In response to Peterr @ 39

The bishops absolutely screwed over Stupak. That was amazing, given that he is a Catholic, and worked hand-in-hand with them to push that “compromise.” Then they turn around and knife him in the back. Wow.

A parishioner of mine came to us from the Catholic church. He put it really well, I think: he didn’t mind that the bishops and clergy had conservative positions, even really intolerant ones (he could let it roll off his back). But, he said, did they have to lead that crap in the community? That was what really drove him away in the end.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 2:55 pm
In response to pastordan @ 44

This gets at something that itched at me all through the book, with regard to the interaction of religious and secular progressives.

It’s a lot easier for progressive religious people to criticize the scripts with questions that resonate across the spectrum of religious beliefs (including atheism) than it is to advocate an authentic hope that arises out of religious motives and beliefs that would be embraced (or at least accepted) by the less-religious and non-religious portions of the progressive community.

What kind of reaction has your book gotten from the secular progressive voices?

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:55 pm
In response to RevBev @ 45

The data shows that a sizeable chunk move to other churches. But an equally large group simply stops going to church altogether. At this point, 1-in-4 Americans are former Catholics. I want to say that of that, it’s about 50-50 converting vs. dropping out, but Peterr can correct me if I’m wrong.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 2:57 pm
In response to pastordan @ 46

I know what you’re talking about. In my first parish, I had a stream of new members that came from various neighboring Catholic parishes, who were turned off and turned away by very hardline stances on divorce and remarriage, LBGTs, and other issues.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:57 pm
In response to Peterr @ 47

A great big collective yawn, I’m afraid. The religious left is just not a hot topic these days. Most of the secular/atheist folks I’ve talked to about it appreciate the effort, but don’t want to invest the time to understand the theology. That gives me a sad, but it’s the unfortunate reality.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 2:59 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 42

I moved down to First Congregational, which had its own, uh, issues. But I was never bored in one of their worship services.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 3:00 pm
In response to pastordan @ 50

Any reactions from the TheoCons?

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 3:00 pm
In response to pastordan @ 48

Sounds about right from what I recall seeing.

spocko December 5th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

As for the progressiveness of bishops, I haven’t heard a single one say “Antonin Scalia approves of the death penalty — he better not present himself for communion in my diocese until he repents.” The USCCB didn’t wind up the force of their DC office to shut down Gitmo, get out of Iraq, or end drone bombings of civilian areas. But they sure know how to turn the screws in DC when the issue is abortion.

This is very interesting. I had a very similar question to the President of the Jesuit high school as he traveled the country in his “quest for Alumni cash”. “What did you tell your students in the run up to the Iraq war? Did you point out things like this was no “just war”? Did you actively attack the President for his desire to preemptively strike?”
He admitted he did not. (This high school is in a red state.)

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 3:01 pm
In response to pastordan @ 50

I was with a group who said their pastor does not preach on stewardship/tithing because they use the denomination’s lectionary year. Is it possible that the lectionary readings are that silent on use of money? I was dubious.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Friends, I have to run to the pharmacy before it closes (consumerism in action). But I enjoyed the chat, and if people want to leave more questions for me, I’ll be happy to answer them tonight!

Oh, and as a thank-you of sorts for putting up with me tonight, here’s some video of me getting smashed in the face with whipped cream pies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-CrbOWZSJI

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Thank you Peterr and Pastordan.

masaccio December 5th, 2010 at 3:07 pm
In response to pastordan @ 48

The Catholic Church threw a lot of us away when it turned on John XXIII. The first time I went to St. Peter’s his tomb was in a cellar, and I only saw it by accident. Eventually it was moved upstairs, and was the only tomb with any people praying the last time I was there. It’s as if the Church just doesn’t care about the ideals many of us were taught.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 3:07 pm

In the book, you talk a lot about power. The abortion debate, you contend, is not about women and sexuality as much as it is about power.

Another piece of evidence to back up that discussion is the Manhattan Declaration — an anti-LGBT, anti-abortion statement put out by a number of evangelical fundamentalists, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic leaders back in November 2009. I wrote about the oddness of this coalition, given the many things that divide them (often with vitriolic and abusive statements). What unites them, though, is power.

As I wrote at the time:

So why unite on these issues?

Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin has an idea about that:

While on the face of it, this manifesto purports to be a rededication to fight two specific political issues, I think that this is but surface dressing for a deeper meaning.

This is not a war over civil marriage definition – nor, indeed, has that ever been the real motivation behind anti-gay marriage drives. Rather, this is a war over religious domination, a fight over who is “really a Christian” and an effort on the part of a long-suffering religious subset to spite those who have long had what they coveted.

And what they have coveted is power — inside the church and out in the political world. As the Washington Post notes today, “Some political activists said the declaration was evidence of evangelical leaders trying to lure back Catholics who voted Democratic in 2006 and last year.”

(Click through for internal links, if anyone is interested)

BevW December 5th, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Dan, Thanks for stopping by and discussing your new book.

Peterr, Thank you very much of Hosting this Book Salon.

Thanks all,
Have a great week.

masaccio December 5th, 2010 at 3:09 pm
In response to pastordan @ 44

It’s a good thing you aren’t a Catholic; that kind of talk gets people barred from teaching or preaching in that church.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 3:09 pm
In response to pastordan @ 56

Thanks for coming by, and we’ll look forward to your return later.

(Assuming the pharmacy visit is for medication, I put that in a whole different category from consumerism. You could have added yet another chapter on Health Care Reform that would have rivaled the Big Shitpile chapter! Whoever the drugs are for, I hope you feel better.)

I’ll stick around, though, if folks still want to chat.

spocko December 5th, 2010 at 3:10 pm

I think I’ve told this story before. I attempted to get a condemnation of Catholic right wing radio and TV hosts who supported torture.

I wanted to work from the local priest who was the Pastor of this host on up to the state and national hierarchy.

I wanted to answer the question. “How could Sean Hannity sit in church every Sunday for twenty years listening to his Pastor preach peace and love and come out and support the death and torture of others?” I would include a video of the Priest preaching the Sermon on the mount and Hannity sitting their nodding his head and going to Communion.

(I would flip the Obama William Ayers model on its head and use it against Hannity)

I took a lot of steps to make it happen, because I figured I could reach Hannity’s audience to show that his views on Torture are not sanctioned by the Church. But I was thwarted every step of the way at the local, national and international level. NOBODY wanted to call him out on this issue.

Dearie December 5th, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Thanks, pastordan, for coming to chat with us. I’d certainly like to hear more about changing the script, and I will read the book. My experience with church was that Jesus had little role in any of it….and that was a number of churches as my family moved around. I once tried to have a ‘hunger dinner’ where people would get a meal based on where they randomly sat…..to share the idea that most people get what they are born into. The older whitey-whites were not interested! I tried to have an exchange with our nearby African/Methodist/Episcopal Church Children’s Choir (where some of my Girl Scouts were participants.) That was a non-starter for reasons that I would call obvious and very, very sad. I finally realized that my own children could learn more about goodness at home and in the community without the nonsense of organized religion which had little to do with godliness.

masaccio December 5th, 2010 at 3:12 pm
In response to Peterr @ 62

Peterr, do you have any idea why the Catholics rejected Pope John? I can’t think of a reason why that kind of theology wouldn’t work around the world

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 3:13 pm
In response to RevBev @ 55

No, it’s not possible.

The parables of Jesus that address issues of stewardship and money are well-represented in the Revised Common Lectionary in use in many places — and many of the texts for the end of the church year (October and November) when many parishes are trying to address stewardship deal with money and stewardship.

eCAHNomics December 5th, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Late in joining discussion, haven’t read comments, so ignore my Q if it’s been covered.


Has anyone ever calculated how many real alive people who have been killed by not having abortions vs. the # of fetuses expelled by abortions? That would include not only the pregnant women’s lives, but also murders, suicides, other tragedies of family/friends who find they can’t cope with the additional child? It would also include the opportunity cost of caring for that child, that might have been spent on food, shelter, medical care, for already born people.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 3:25 pm
In response to masaccio @ 65


When John called the Second Vatican Council and got it rolling with things like using the vernacular in the mass, inviting ecumenical involvement, increasing lay involvement, and other such things, it quite frankly scared a decent chunk of the Curia in Rome. Pope Paul was elected as a Vatican insider, not particularly to slow it all down but at the very least to make sure than a good solid Italian insider was in control of things. When a panel of scholars recommended openness with regard to the church’s position on the birth control pill, fearful hardliners in Rome got Paul to go against their recommendations in Humanae Vitae.

And the fear continues. Pope John Paul I offered congratulations to the first test tube baby — born right before the conclave began that saw him elected as pope — and offered a cautious blessing to her parents. Today, that would get him censured. At least.

It boils down to fear.

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 3:27 pm
In response to Peterr @ 66

Thanks for that clarification. Made no sense to me as a justification.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 3:27 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 67

I haven’t seen any comparisons of those kinds of numbers.

(And God knows that the abortion debates have generated enormous quantities of numbers. As with everything else in the abortion battles, “my” numbers are the right ones, you know . . . )

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 3:28 pm
In response to RevBev @ 69

If you want to dig into the specifics, here’s a link to the RCL.

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 3:31 pm
In response to Peterr @ 71

Thank you….A law School Prof I know at a Catholic Law School said it was the image of back street abortions that persuaded the Sup. Court in Roe. That is what the anti group are envisioning in their opposition. Where’s the fear from that one?

eCAHNomics December 5th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Again, without having read comments (atheist doing her Xmas baking, LOL), I’ll throw out my general observation that bad whatever drives out good whatever. I started out thinking of that meme wrt religion, but it applies to a lot of other aspects of life, like politics, too.

What I mean is that the mainstream religions, political parties, whatever, become mainstream by nature of becoming larger. The extreme finds that increasingly unacceptable, so they split off & form their own groups. That may or may not include charismatic leaders. Often not. Since the extremes feel more strongly, they gather much more support & power thru their activities than their #s would suggest. If you don’t accept that hypothesis, just ask Karl Rove.

Since there is no longer any leftie extreme in the U.S., all that activity is on the right.

Anyone care to comment, disagree?

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 3:44 pm
In response to RevBev @ 72

Not sure what your question is asking. What’s “that one”?

But your question points directly to the discussion of the abortion debates in Dan’s book. It sounds from your comment as if the discussion at this law school is hung up on defending the theraputic script, with the pro- and anti- voices each saying “ours is more theraputic than yours” while ignoring the script-changing issue underlying the abortion battles: how to actually empower women more broadly, rather than discussing which manner to use to disempower them.

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 3:46 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 73

I would want to ponder also something about age…in the 60s it was the young/boomers that drove the excitement. I wonder how that factors in…..

dakine01 December 5th, 2010 at 3:49 pm
In response to Peterr @ 74

Peterr I would also think that the abortion issue is driven subtly in some respects in that the same people who are most anti abortion are also those most opposed to birth control in any way shape or form.

which puts it in the realm of controlling women as much or more than anything else

My 2¢

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 3:50 pm
In response to Peterr @ 74

Yes, I was not clear….I was wondering if we have lost the fear of the back street image. He was just explaining how Roe got decided.

But you are certainly correct that all the unwanted, unplanned pregnancy has been a huge factor is driving women’s lives/ why the pill really was so liberating. In the conversation even the left does not emphasize that part of choice very much…more just the control of our own bodies. But the ramifications of that choice are enormous.

Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 3:54 pm
In response to RevBev @ 77

Dan really gets into this in detail, and when he gets back tonight, I hope he’ll chime in with his take on it. By empowering women, Dan speaks of more than just whether to let women make their own decisions about abortion, but about poverty, education, employment, and other issues that empower or disempower women as well. Abortion debates, therefore, are but one aspect of the larger issue of control.

eCAHNomics December 5th, 2010 at 3:56 pm
In response to RevBev @ 75

In the 60s there was still a bit of leftie excitement in the country. DFHs thought they were doing good. I was there, though not a DFH by any means. Anti-VN war, Nixon impeachment threat, created a sense of excitement. But even by then, the real left, communism (which I by no means agree with) had been drummed out of existence in the U.S., though some rump commie parties hang onto life in some developed European countries. But there is very little left left by now. Without an extreme left to balance out the extreme right, you get what you see.

And the boomer leaders, like the Clintons, got coopted by $$$$$$.

eCAHNomics December 5th, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Also, having scanned the comments, I must repeat my son’s iconic comment at roughly age 20 (now 29): What does Christianity have to do with Christ anyhow.

spocko December 5th, 2010 at 4:18 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 80

Exactly. “Put the X back in X-mas!”

TarheelDem December 5th, 2010 at 4:22 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 73

We need a unified, public, lefty “extreme”. Walter Rauschenbusch and Eugene Debs and others did it at that beginning of the twentieth century. Labor unions were organizing against great threats of violence, and yet they continued. Daniel Berrigan, a whole lot of white preachers during the Civil Rights and Vietnam era, radical ideas like negative income tax, and the New Left movement (principally SDS) did it in the 1960s.

In this context, the Obama administration is Hoover, or is Eisenhower (up until the Farewell Address)–not FDR, JFK, or LBJ. There is an eruption that is going to happen domestically, driven by the continuing unemployment. There need to be folks working directly with those who are unemployed, providing aid, and organizing–that’s how it was done in the 1920s and 1930s. And that requires energetic new blood and resourcefulness that a lot of 1960s warhorses like myself no longer can muster.

When it gets big enough and threatening enough, it will get attention and growth. In spite of attempts to repress it.

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 4:24 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 80

Im not yet that jaded. But I also wonder about the age component in the abortion discussion. I often hear that young women today cannot image a world where abortions are not legal….Older women certainly remember, but are now less effected.

PeasantParty December 5th, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Just finished reading the post and comments.

I get it! Force the change without actual Force, but with what is good in man. I can walk the street with a poster that says, “feed the poor” and include scripture references!

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 4:27 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 82

I hope you are right…sometimes I think lots of us must have PTSD…post-VietNam, assassinations, 2 Iraqs, W, the stolen election…and whatever happened to O? What litany of disruptions….

marchan1940 December 5th, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Bless you Peterr and RevBev for bringing PastorDan to FDL’s book salon.

As I don’t have a credit card, I can’t order the book from Amazon, but thanks be to God for their look inside feature as I got to scan a bit of the last chapter, with great fascination and excitement. I really want to get the book to read, mark and inwardly digest, because he is addressing issues, from a theological standpoint, that I care about and within which I feel utterly paralyzed.

Saying the truth to some folks in both the secular and religious worlds of power has been pretty easy for me in the past, but now my tongue is tied, my head is fuzzy, and beyond that, I have no transformation hope vision for any, much less all that I hate in this present nation and world. So I am yearning for guidance on how I can once again be in the world and not of it, and do so as an empowered believer. I look to FDL to play Aaron’s role before the tongue tied Moses, and most of the time I find not much more new/broader clarity than I have received from FDL in the past. However large the summary statement realities represent in and of themselves, they remain rather small visions for what needs to become within a much broader and systemic vision.

More often than not I cling to and worship the God who calls him/herself, “I will be what I will be…. rather than “I am who I am”…. as in the burning bush story. For while the past/present tense story is engaging and even inspiring, my soul and world needs the God of the future, after Moltman’s theology as I vaguely remember it that goes even beyond Revelations vision of no more tears.

Anyway, what I was initially seeing in PastorDan’s last chapter(tho this might not be sustained in the rest of the last chapter) was his kind of still wandering in the desert, searching for answers, like the Hebrews before they could enter the promise land. I also checked out some of his blogs, searching for crisp clear enunciations of empowered statements of hope. They were not there in the small sample I saw. Tho, I salute his plan to write a book of hope in and for the future. Nevertheless, even if that (the sense of wandering) were his current final bottom line, I could already tell that his struggles were and might be for me truly life and hope-giving, so I plan to get the book.

I’ve recently left the Episcopal Church (after 50 years) to join an ELCA church(St. John’s Lutheran Church) in downtown Sacramento that is relatively near my home. SJ’s has been for at least 25 years, much involved with social justice ministries, particularly for the homeless. However, I’m not at all aware of their ever speaking truth to power or preaching about faith based-economics or politics, etc. But their positive programs that have modeled hope here and in Rwanda are truly impressive.

The title of today’s sermon was

New Shoots, New Promises,New Kingdom

based on the Isaiah 11:1-10 text from the lectionary. Part of what he was “saying” was that WE could be/do the new kingdom, no matter how “shitty” (my word), the world is. So he retold part of St. John’s story of having dreamed/seen new shoots before they created their programmatic responses that gave hope to hundreds, perhaps thousands of people over the years.

I am used to the script that says see and care about the unjust travesty definitions behind the sources/causes and push through systemic changes to eliminate the tragedies. I suspect that St. John’s has never bought into that model, but they certainly have spent their time, talents and treasure to create “new kingdom” programs that are broadly recognized and supported institutions in our world.

I’ve been involved with both in the past, tho not very successfully. In my aging and infirmed reality, I seek a way to be engaged with faith and action in the world I choose to say God loved/s enough to……, whatever formula works for you/us.

I desperately need some models, theological preferred, to give me a way of seeing the world in a new and empowered and transforming light. Exodus, as far as I know, is the basis for liberation theology and we’re currently studying it in the adult Bible study program at St. John’s. I don’t want to destroy Pharoah’s/America’s land via quasi- or real revolution, for I assume I’ll continue to live in it. So if I set that boundary, am I precluding faith-filled/driven/sustained genuine, authentic “progressive” thinking and acting? But I am more and more convinced that the only answer is revolution, for I see absolutely no hope in “progressive” or any other reforms, for they will, I am convinced, continue to be broken, unjust, leaving the oppressed, still oppressed.

I’m uncomfortable with the term “progressive” tho I can imagine it was chosen while seeking a politically safer alternative to “liberal”. But for me it has to do with Christian, thank you very much, and even more Christian liberation theology, as opposed to other possible theologies.

So, I have begun to read Bonhoeffer again, only this time seriously, desperately hoping for a model with which to live in faith and action.
I can now add Daniel’s book, and Brueggeman’s Journey to the Common Good which will be a three week study course in January to my journey companions this year of seeking spiritual and existential answers for myself.

So, I say, thanks be to God for these gifts of grace and hope (i.e. the neumerated books) for this hungry soul seeking a way to welcome again the Christ child and the Christ man and the Christ who is to return. I’d like for there to be no more tears, etc.

And no more elderly, vulnerable women, like the one with whom I worshipped today, “living” in a tent (or not) on the river along with other homeless. But thanks be to God, she can come back to St. John’s Tuesday night for a hot meal and warm place to sleep safely as we once again do our bit for the “Safe Ground” movement that is being partly sustained by some of the “liberal” churches, of which St. John’s is one.

Once again, blessings to Peterr, RevBev, PastorDan, and all other FDL folks of faith backgrounds and present realities whom I’ve come to “know” here at FDL.

eCAHNomics December 5th, 2010 at 4:39 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 82

What’s so particularly ironic in my situation is that it was my contractor (2 years younger than me), a pink diaper baby, who pointed out to me that there is no left left. Yet wrt to O, esp wrt the warz, he is much more forgiving than I am. I suspect it is because he is of Jewish heritage & I’m not. I wouldn’t have said that before TG, when a random, Jewish, dinner guest who I hadn’t met before came out with the most bizarre comment against Muslims. Coulda come straight out of Beck’s mouth. It made me suspect that many Jews who would otherwise be critical, are forgiving because they have a deep-seated, sometimes subconscious, fear of all Muslims.

marchan1940 December 5th, 2010 at 4:39 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 67

Thanks for that marvelous data request. Excellent points needing answers.
It seems to me that we as a nation are rarely inclined to address opportunity costs for any issues, no matter how serious our “cost/benefit analyses” might be.


RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 4:46 pm
In response to marchan1940 @ 86

Thank you for your reflection and outlook of hope. Christmas is the season we say of hope and justice and peace. I can truly recall when there was that love of emphasis on peace and care for one’s neighbor during the holiday season. Let us hold on to all that. Like you I love the Exodus story. Glad you showed up. Thanks. And Peace.

eCAHNomics December 5th, 2010 at 4:46 pm
In response to RevBev @ 83

I was never personally affected by abortion, as by the time I became sexually active, the pill was available. It was not until I learned personal stories of women who couldn’t take it, were brainwashed into not taking it, or who for other personal reasons, did not avail themselves of it, that I finally began to understand why there were still any abortions in the U.S. I think that the brainwashing part, esp the cultural situations where women are purposely still kept in an inferior position, and poverty/lack of education/inaccessible routine medical services still account for so many unwanted pregnancies.

eCAHNomics December 5th, 2010 at 4:49 pm
In response to marchan1940 @ 88

Opportunity costs? WTF is that? It’s my first thought when I see millions of $$ being spent on medical care for an individual who is hopelessly ill. Almost nobody ever thinks that because of those millions spent on that one individual, scores of other are dying.

The U.S. has NO rational forum for discussing opportunity costs.

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I’ll check back later to see if Dan caught up….thanks for thoughtful conversation. Peace to us all. B.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 5:30 pm
In response to Peterr @ 52

Even less than the secularists. I think they all think that if they just ignore me, I’ll go away.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 5:35 pm
In response to Peterr @ 62

Meds for my daughter. I have no idea if that counts as breaking Sabbath or not.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 5:39 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 67

I’ll echo what Peterr said – I haven’t seen any such numbers. But I’m wary of engaging “consequentialist” arguments about abortion. Either it’s ethical or it ain’t. It’s not something that should be encouraged or discouraged for the greater good.

pastordan December 5th, 2010 at 5:42 pm
In response to RevBev @ 77

Peter is correctamundo. My argument in a nutshell is: talk to me about “abortion reduction” when we’ve passed the ERA. Anything less is just another con job.

RevBev December 5th, 2010 at 5:46 pm
In response to pastordan @ 96

Interesting….the ERA does not even get air time. But esp. do not talk to me about being “pro” abortion….silliest phrase Ive ever heard. O yeah….we really, really want an abortion. Amazing what language can do.

I’m very interested in your book. Thanks for being here…

marchan1940 December 5th, 2010 at 6:34 pm
In response to pastordan @ 94

As I remember it, Jesus had no problem healing the sick on the sabbath. Seems to me your following his walk of righteousness and I praise God for you. Thanks so much for your book and for being here today and may the Lord continue to bless you with your blog and congregation.

marchan1940 December 5th, 2010 at 6:51 pm

The more I think about Assange, the threats against him and the insane responses of the powers that be, I am struck by how God, if you will, has changed the technology of speaking truth to power. Assange’s internet powers are way beyond Moses’ miracle working walking stick. But Assange is the only hero of radical faith that I see on the horizon, regardless of his “faith” status. Don’t know if Bonhoeffer is a hero of his, but I am in awe of Assange’s absolute commitment to mission, regardless of the cost. He is prepared to bear his cross, even unto death, in and walk the path of costly grace. I salute his mobilizing and equipping 1000 “followers/colleagues” to dump all manner of plagues upon us if and when he is captured/killed, etc. What a man of authentic calling and integirty.

What say you of Assange, PastorDan?


Peterr December 5th, 2010 at 6:53 pm
In response to marchan1940 @ 86

Check out Brueggemann’s “Finally Comes the Poet.” I love B’s writing in general, but this is probably my favorite. The title comes from a poem by Walt Whitman, which Brueggemann expands upon for his own purposes:

After the engineers, inventors, and scientists, after all such control through knowledge, “finally comes the poet.” The poet does not come to have a say until the human community has engaged in its best management. Then perchance comes the power of poetry – shattering, evocative speech that breaks fixed conclusions and presses us always toward new, dangerous, imaginative possibilities

Beware of the poets.

And peace to you at St. John’s.

pastordan December 6th, 2010 at 6:41 am
In response to marchan1940 @ 99

I think Assange is a deeply flawed individual who manages to do some good.

Kathryn in MA December 6th, 2010 at 6:55 am

By coincidence, I just picked up a classic which also challenges the accepted narratives of society;
Zen and the Art of Making A Living.

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