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What will they think of next?

“When an AI-bot and a failed human love each other very much…” (Courtesy C-Span, public domain)

Back in my old Bronx neighborhood, we kids were taught by Catholic sisters whose lessons I found deeply persuasive. I loved religion class because I believed what they told us: that God was everywhere, protecting us, guiding us, and, at times — with wisdom and infinite love — disciplining us. I could feel his presence during Mass, of course, and sometimes in the playground, but never more vividly than in my room, alone, when I would finish my bedtime prayers by pillow-screaming “F****CK!” with such force that my voice would crack into a dry shriek like a sax blown so…

‘Spare the job creators; take us instead’

Blessed are the CEOs (courtesy Elvert Barnes via Wikimedia)

Alarmed by signs that the Biden Administration might begin clawing back a trivial fraction the Trump-era’s corporate tax cuts, or might symbolically soften a few inconsequential austerity measures, poor and working-class Republicans have begun supporting a new political action committee (PAC) created to ensure that corporate welfare is sustained, even at their expense. The PAC, called Showers of Gold, was formed by Steve Bannon and Steve Mnuchin and has raised an estimated $78 million in its first month. …

Son of Billy

Let us pray (courtesy C-Span)

Chapter One: A Kremlin miracle
Chapter Two: The louche messiah
Chapter Three: Hoping for the best

America’s religious leaders were bewildered and discouraged. God had clearly chosen Donald Trump to become the US president, yet folly and failure clung to him. The Coronavirus pandemic should have been his moment to rise up and emerge as possibly the greatest American president of the 21st Century, but he instead shrank from the challenge of guiding the nation to victory over its enemy, offering fatuous platitudes in place of leadership.

Would God finally animate Donald with his Holy Spirit at this…

Hoping for the best

Girding for battle, 27 February 2020 (courtesy C-Span)

Chapter One: A Kremlin miracle
Chapter Two: The louche messiah

Members of America’s Religious Right prayed strenuously for guidance, insight, and understanding, but God remained silent. He spoke to no one. He explained nothing. “Lord, we beseech you in the name of the United States, your most holy and most beloved nation. Will you abandon your children in our time of need?” they cried, but in reply they heard only the echoes of their own words.

American religious leaders believed that God had positioned Donald Trump to launch a spectacular federal response against the plague — a challenge…

The louche messiah

A spiritual calling, no doubt (Courtesy U.S. National Archives)

Chapter One: A Kremlin miracle

As the Spring of 2016 approached, it became clear that the New Yorker Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee. Many struggled to explain this stunning development in rational terms. Only the most pious Americans realized that the will of the Lord was involved.

The people were much amused. Donald’s ideas and manner of speech were offensive, but the public found him unpredictable and entertaining. They were eager to hear what he might say next, so the news and social media overflowed with Donald. He offended entire groups with puerile insults: women, ethnic…

A Kremlin miracle

Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

In the primary season of the 58th quadrennial US election, the Lord summoned Vladimir Putin to the Cathedral of the Dormition, to a secret chamber known but to a handful of holy men, and spoke to him, saying: Address the people of the United States and say to them, truly you are among the world’s great tribes, but you are threatened by Enemies both without and within.

And Putin spoke to God, saying: Lord, will they listen to one such as myself?

And the Lord replied: They will indeed. For you shall conduct a vast disinformation campaign with my help…

A different kind of thinking

They lied to us (Fortepan via Wikimedia Commons)

Sister Miriam’s habit was a discrete presence with enough mass to stir up a breeze when she passed. It made a sound that you could almost hear, but never quite. The tunic was ankle length and she liked to clasp her hands behind the scapular, even as she walked, which lent her the illusion of treading on air. Despite the layers of heavy fabric, she appeared comfortable in every season, as if the habit generated a microclimate. She was my twelfth-grade English teacher, and she gave me a priceless insight into thinking differently through writing.

She liked to say, “I…

The genius of Christian humanism

A baby, not an angel. Raphael, Madonna with the Blue Diadem, ca 1510 (courtesy Musée du Louvre)

Augustine and Origen and Thomas were extraordinary Christian scholars, but I’m convinced that Renaissance artists possessed a more truthful understanding of the faith. I would locate the pinnacle of Christian philosophy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, when the most important theologians were painters, sculptors, and authors, not academicians.

What did humanists see that the scholars overlooked? First, Renaissance art exhibits confidence that God and humankind are united, that we are the same stuff. We are understood as God’s agents, his stewards. We make him complete: we are his eyes, and his ears, and his hands. We confront evil, alleviate…

Maybe it was Barack Obama

We had such hope (courtesy the White House)

In 2008, the candidate Barack Obama spoke to blue-collar America. He seemed to recognize the social damage caused by sixteen years of neoliberal economics that demoted the working class to a permanent underclass. He campaigned on change that would rejuvenate careers and restore dignity. Working Americans in the swing states saw him as a last hope and supported him enthusiastically in the primaries and later in the general election. He had real momentum.

His timidity, when he assumed office with a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate, cannot be explained rationally. He could have accomplished a lot…

Perhaps it was Bill Clinton

Tomorrow’s Republican agenda today (courtesy the White House)

In 1993, the U.S. economy was a wreck and the crime rate, while falling, was nothing to boast about. Candidate Bill Clinton promised to be “tough on crime and good for civil rights.” That was risky language because “tough on crime” is code for putting black men behind bars. Just imagine Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan or some generic Arkansas cracker saying it, and you know exactly what it means — unless, apparently, that Arkansas cracker is a prominent Democrat, in which case it must surely be an innocent figure of speech. And yet, what Clinton delivered as president was…

Thomas Greene

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