“I Wish You To Despair”: Burrows on Gerson’s Vision Of Theology As Paideia

De consolatione theologiae represents no dramatic shift of theme regarding the high purpose of mystical theology, but this treatise does reflect Gerson’s altered strategy in conceptualizing the audience for this knowledge. Here his overriding concern is to present theology as a useful vehicle for assisting every viator on the journey toward God, as as such theologia already anticipates in functional terms what theologia msytica manifests: namely, a concern for the upbuilding of the entire church as it sojourns toward its identity as the heavenly city, the “new Jerusalem.” The treatise functions, to return to a theme explored in an earlier chapter, as an enchiridion for all wayfarers, such that its very comprehensiveness requires Gerson to introduce theologia and theologia mystica not in contrast in in continuity with one another, as steps on an ascending ladder in Deum. In so doing Gerson consolidates the diverse spectrum of themes and problems which had earlier engaged his thought in a single treatise, introducing theology in a “de-professionliaized” form accessible to all seekers of God. Mark Burrows, Jean Gerson and De consolatione theologia: The Consolation Of A Biblical And Reforming Theology For A Disordered Age. p. 148.

University of Paris classroom, mid-15th century. Courtesy of Manchester University

University of Paris classroom, mid-15th century. Courtesy of Manchester University

In his enormous, exhaustive, focused study of late-medieval sermons, confessional guides, and occasional writings Sin and Fear: The Emergence Of The Western Guilt Culture, 13th-18th Century, historian Jean Delumeau traces the path various ideas meant originally for a restricted and often rarefied and particular audience (usually monks in cloister) expanded beyond their original bounds without changing their often harsh – even violent – tone. Thus it was that by the time of the emergence of nominalism, a theological method that should certainly have tempered some of the harshness of much of High Medieval theology and pastoral practice, there was nevertheless the growth and expansion of all sorts of guides, usually for the lower clergy, to be used to remonstrate those who come to confession; as guides for sermons on particular texts and subjects; and on what is entailed in the personal journey that later generations would call “holiness”.

A good nominalist himself, although a peculiar one as Burrows points out, Gerson was a critic of the widespread use of these texts, particularly in regard to the matter of scruples, i.e. a spiritual inventory that led to a kind of spiral of despair in which the one searching his or her heart and mind finds a never-ending fountain of sin and evil within oneself. In De consolatione theologiae, however, Gerson offers no solace to a believer seeking rescue from the bottomless depths of his or her depravity. Thus the quote that serves as the title for this post: it is only when one truly despairs of one’s sufficiency in attaining salvation that the true viator is reborn as the follower of Lady Theology on the journey toward the final beatific vision. Until and unless one is convinced of one’s worthlessness, there is no chance for Divine Grace to rescue such a one from the pit of despair and give birth to the theological virtues: faith, hope, and (works of) charity.

In this post we shall be looking at what Burrows calls “the paideutic” function of theology, i.e., theology as the teacher and guide for Christians on their journey to God. In the previous post I looked at Burrows understanding of Gerson’s vision of theology. Now it is possible to look at how this theology functions for Gerson in this particular text. Already mentioned was Gerson’s “democratization” of “theology” as such; here we shall look at how such view of theology works for all Christians, lay and clergy. Of particular interest is Gerson’s eschatological (but anti-apocalyptic) and mystical understanding of the telos of such a journey.

In the first instance, however, it is important to note again that Gerson’s insistence that this journey of the Christian life is open to all is surprising coming from a scholar and administrator of Gerson’s standing. Yet, Burrows points out, already prior to the Council of Constance, in the first decade of the 15th century, Gerson had written polemically and fiercely as Rector of The University of Paris against what he viewed as idle theological speculation, insisting that scholars and students alike limit themselves to issues of practical importance to the clergy. As such, the pastoral nature of De consolatione theologiae is in keeping with a long history of Gerson’s primary concern that theological education, and theology itself, be the servant of the Church’s ministry.

An aside is in order, one Burrows notes as both odd and, coming from a late-medieval church theologian, surprising. Nowhere in the treatise does Gerson write of the role the sacramental system does or should play in the life of the venturing Christian.

Gerson was aware of but at at the same time sought to transcend what Huizinga has identified as the melancholy and despair of this period. And, more importantly perhaps, Gerson’s theological strategy in this treatise stands as a critical voice over against Tentler’s controversial interpretation of the church’s sacramental system as the basis for a “culture of guilt”. It appears that Gerson’s pastoral convictions after Constance prompt him to articulate a soteriological view of theologia which bears no reference to the sacramental system. Theology itself stands as the interior guide to leading vioatores on their pilgrimage toward God, and this is a path which offers consolation in the midst of desperatio facing all viatores. (p.64)

At this juncture it is also important to note the various ways “experience” enters as a central category for Gerson. First, Burrows writes of the role of temptation in the life of the Christian on pp. 65-66:

Gerson . . . grounds his discussion of consolatio not with a theoretical analysis of the human predicament, nor with a scholastic definition of the Fall or of original sin; rather, he identifies the experience common to all viatores, the sense of human abandonment in the tentationes of life and the utter despair to which this leads, not as the problem confronting theologians but as what he terms the very mouds and ars of theology. Viatores, according to Gerson, are to expect nothing more nor less than that life itself will become a “spiral” of despair, “warfare” (militia) leading them into an ever greater desolation. And here already we find the basis for his caution against an overly ambitious quest for mystical experience: he warns against presuming that one might escape from “the struggles of human being” or “the scourge of tribulation”, deciding not to live in hope but “in beatitude itself.” But this is only Gerson’s first word on the subject of tentationes, since these experiences which indeed lead viatores to a sense of desolation become at the same time the matrix in which we are to seek consolation. And, as he goes on to argue, these are the experiences through which theology is to lead us, guiding us beyond the limits of our innate knowledge, abilities, or experiences toward a “firmer” consolation.

It is only through the experience of temptation and the practice of a severe scrupulosity that the Christian can hear the consoling word of Theology that faith and hope and works of love that are the fruits of the journey to God.

There is also the matter of the shape of theology as Gerson here presents it. Using a phrase that many evangelicals will recognize, Burrows writes on p. 78, speaking of the intersection of theology and its formative impact upon the viator:

In the case of the theologian, this [the need for theology to be conducted by “good persons”] requires viatores to integrate theology in life, to “form” theology through exercising the theological virtues. This is, of course, a characteristic Gersonian claim by which he often insisted theologia is a matter one must grasp not only per intellectum, but much more in affectrum cordis. This theme appears at first glance strangely out of character since with it Gerson seems to embrace the “neo-Donatist” position as expressed in the Hussite critique of the “unworthy” priest. Upon closer scrutiny of the context, however, one detects that Gerson’s intention steers in another direction altogether: he intends to draw out in didactic rather than polemical terms the integrated nature of theology in human life, and the implications this carried for the tasks confronting not only professional theologians (magistri, theologi) bu the common people (idiotae) as well. All peregrini are to have a “formed” faith, though the “simple” will necessarily have a fides simplex alongside suavis charitas; at issue in not the quantity of knowledge, since this varies according to the person, but its quality. Gerson demands of clergy and laity an erudition of the “heart” by which faith was formed in the virtues.

Theology leads the wayfarer through the experience of despair resulting from the constant assaults of temptations outside and the understanding of sin within, both forming and reforming the person not just through an intellectual grasp of various doctrines, but in a changed “heart”, such internal change resulting in a change in the life of viator on his or her way. This is a chicken-and-egg matter, with the formation and reformation occurring along with a growing understanding of one’s dependence upon theology as the guide through life’s vicissitudes.

Emphasizing the role of experience, Burrows writes on p.91:

Just as the proper function of the biblical text depends upon the manner of approach, such that the way of living informs the prospect of a faithful reading which in turn reforms the way of living, so also Gerson assumes that human experience and the scriptural texts for a cohesive whole. This is not simply to repeat what we have already observed about the prescriptive role of the biblical text as paideutic, as shaping life through instruction and counsel, but rather to suggest that Gerson also presupposes a reciprocity between scripture and experience in this paideutic dimension. This conviction allows him to identify the language of experience and that of scripture from another vantage point within the hermeneutical circle, in this case by informing how the text is to be read through experience – scriptura cum experientia – by moving between biblical and experiential narratives.

For students of a particularly Wesleyan grasp of the theological task, all this should sound familiar. Yet in just the past year or so, there has been a growing attempt to remove “experience” as a legitimate theological category. The reasons vary, usually relying upon a kind of “Wesleyan fundamentalism” in which specific texts from Wesley (rather than his theological output in sermons, pamphlets, and other occasional writings) are cited to demonstrate that our contemporary understanding of “experience” has veered from Wesley’s “original intent” (as if this is some kind of shock were it true at all), thus delegitimizing “experience” as a proper locus of theological reflection. Thus it is odd indeed to find a 15th century Conciliar Theologian insisting upon the necessary relationship between theology and experience in the life of the believer, a view far more in keeping with the spirit of the vast bulk of Wesley’s actual theological output than the often ridiculous and ahistorical insistence that because the contemporary view of “experience” isn’t what Wesley intended (it isn’t; even if it were, that would matter not a whit).

The goal of this journey upon which theology guides the believer is identified, again and again, as God. Gerson, however, is not at all arguing for a kind of mystical union with or in God. Thus it is that Gerson avoids the twin pitfalls of an enthusiastic mysticism on the one hand or an apocalyptic eschatology (prevalent at the time) on the other. While this view is certainly eschatological in the traditional sense, it is one vouchsafed for the next life. In this life, Gerson is at pains to explain again and again using St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 as his source, we always and only see through a glass darkly. It is only “later” (in what Moltmann might perhaps call the eschatological time of God) that we shall see “face to face”.

On mysticism in particular and its place within this journey upon which theology guides us, Burrows writes on p. 146:

The point Gerson’s democratization of theology accentuates is that this journey is itself the matrix of theology, and theology is consequently to be understood as consolatory for all persons by leading them beyond despair toward the “highest hope” in God. Theology leads not toward the academy but toward God. And, although Gerson does not project the goal of the human pilgrimage ad Deum as a present reality, nor does he conclude that viatores are all to attain the summit of mystical experience, he insist that theology is to persuade all viatore to “aspire” to this state. . . . As a “democratized” instrument for the edification of the entire church, theology has a broader pastoral mission than the goal attained or even sought by the mystics, one which is comprehensive and useful in terms of its scope: it is present as “companion” to assist in the formation of each viator en route ad Deum, the refugium humanae peregrinationis. But it does not lead viatores beyond the life of this human journey.

This is a hearty antidote to so much that ails the church should we but be wise enough to hear what Gerson has to say: Theology as a guide for the Christian life, a guide that leads the believer through despair brought about by the experience of life as well as the heart upon a journey that leads to God. Yet it is God not yet fully before us, because that is only to come. We are not rescued from this life by immersion in the Divine Life this side of the parousia.

Gerson insists . . . that theology may lead to mystical knowledge and the experience of “the sweetness of God”, but never in a manner which obliterates its social responsibilities, a requirement which sustains Gerson’s conviction that the vita ambidextra itself and not the mystical experience is the means by which viatores finally attain perfection in this life. In this sense if theologia leads mystical theologians to God and “persuades” others that they ought to aspire to the vita contemplativa, it never eclipses its “useful” character which required assisting others on that journey. (p.147)

A balanced life, lived in the light of the Divine Countenance while still engaged faithfully, hopefully, and lovingly with the world – what Burrows has called “the matrix” of theology, viz., the journey of the believer toward this goal – is, again, an oddly Wesleyan notion indeed. For Wesley, it was about “perfection in love in this life”, an understanding that, in the end, is indistinguishable from Gerson’s understanding of the paideutic function of theology as a whole. Both the means and ends are the same: We are guided, formed, and reformed by a Biblical theology that leads us to aspire not to a life marked only by contemplation, but rather one in which such contemplation leads us back to the world to serve others “on the way”.

It pains me that there are currently those who seem far too willing to write out of Wesleyan fellowship those who would disagree with their far too narrow understanding of Wesley’s thought. One of the reasons tradition is a necessary theological category is it guides the viator precisely to those such as Gerson in whom one can find so much resonance. Despite time and physical distance, theology exposes inspired kinship across centuries, languages, and even confessional boundaries. This is just one of the many blessings of theology as paideia: within the text of De consolatione theologiae we can hear a distant echo of the ever-present need for theology to be an active part of the life of the believer, a guide not only through the thickets of life, but toward that love that becomes the sole source of all our actions.

The Three Horizons: Burrows on Gerson’s View Of Theology As Biblical, Ecclesial, And Traditional

Scripture stands as a text written ad nostram doctrinam and thus teaches the way in which we should proceed through life. It is meant to educate and guide all vioatores, effecting an erudition not merely of the “intellect” but “much more of the heart”, an allusion to Gerson’s portrayal of faith “formed” through the virtues (fides formata) and hence integrated into the texture of human life. And, in a surprising affirmation which moves beyond the medieval teaching regarding the heirarchy of faith which existed in the church, Gerson extends in this treatise the responsibility which the laity assumed toward scripture: here he demands of all viatores, the laity (idiotae) along with the higher clergy, a “certitude” and “explicit faith” (fides explicita) not only of the creed’s twelve articles bu of “the whole of sacred scripture”. – Mark Burrows, Jean Gerson and De Consolatione Theologiae: The Consolation Of A Biblical And Reforming Theology For A Deformed Age, p.81

A page from the Lindisfarne Gospels. Courtesy of The British Museum Online

A page from the Lindisfarne Gospels. Courtesy of The British Museum Online

Chapters III and IV form a cohesive unit, interweaving methodological and theological and programmatic discussions of Gerson’s text outlined in Chapter II. In this post I’ll be taking a look at what I’m calling “the three horizons” of theology about which Gerson is explicit: Scripture in its entirety; Scripture as the sacred deposit of the Church; and the role of the teaching office of the Church (what the much later Council of Trent would refer to as the dual authority of scripture and tradition in determining doctrinal correctness). In a later piece I’ll talk about what Burrows calls “the paideutic” role of this theology, specifically how theology, understood in the way Gerson defines it, serves as the guide for all Christians in their journey toward God.

For now, we are concerning ourselves with the source of the believer’s guide through the travails of life to that very Augustinian idea of the beatific vision. Burrows points out that, for Gerson, “theology” is and ought to be considered little more than the sacred Scriptures with a minimal gloss. Indeed, it is the literal understanding of any Scriptural text that is sufficient, except, as Burrows notes, for instances where the Scriptures are either vague or contradictory. In such instances – Burrows uses a discussion of simony as an example – people are left to the scholastic method to figure out the truth. All the same, in what should be understood as a surprising move for the former Rector of the University of Paris and a professor of theology, Gerson is very clear that “theology”, properly understood, is the property of the whole Church, not just a particular learned guild. What Burrows calls this “democritization” of theology, serving not only the monastic orders and secular clergy but also the laity, is part of the larger project of understanding theology as “consolation”: While it is the duty of Christians, regardless of station, to be what Burrows repeatedly refers to as viatores, it is important to recognize that this journey happens with a guide, personified later in Gerson’s dialogue as “Lady Theology”.

Previous to the above-quoted passage, Burrows writes the following:

Gerson accomplishes this identity most clearly is in his persistent fusion of theological argument and biblical text, creating in the process a literary treatise saturated with scriptural citation and allusions – at times a key phrase, but more often whole sentences culled from the scriptures, and above all from the Psalms and Pauline literature. . . . In this project what remains undetected is the breadth fo such references as well as the flavor these bring to the paideutic function of theology; scripture itself provides the theological substance of the consolatory argument found in this treatis. One notices this functional character of scriptura in Gerson’s use of a subtle literary technique throughout the treatise: he personifies theologia by giving her a voice, and she uses this voice in an insistent manner to “reveal” scripture: “Among those truths [revealed by God], though by no means against the dictates of reason [non irrationabiliter], theologia offers this one: that God “rewards those who seek him. . . .” The truth, of course, which theologia announces bears no original thought, nor does it offer arguments from the arsenal of scholastic disputation. Rather, theology – or perhaps we should read “Lady Theology – articulates the plain scriptural text (Hebrews 11.6) in the logic of its literal sense. (pp. 80-81)

This conflation of theology and the Scriptural text, however, is not the possession either of the learned or the faithful lay person seeking to journey toward being before God.

[A]s we have earlier pointed out the scriptural text for Gerson, though sufficient in itself, never functions by itself: he insists that the perspective of the reader plays a critical role in determining the functional utility of the biblical text, a theme we have earlier characterized under the rubric of the “correlation” of text and reader. And yet precisely on this point Gerson insists that the reader is not sufficient as biblical interpreter, or to put this in a positive form, the reader must interpret scripture within the context of the church. This insistence, accentuated apparently by the sharp conflict met with the Hussite faction at the Council of Constance, prompts Gerson to qualify his view of scripture’s sufficiency, and here we find ourselves in the midst of a complex late-medieval debate regarding theological authority: namely, the relation of scripture to another source of authority, usually referred to under the ambiguous term “tradition. . . . Gerson set the hermeneutical question within an ecclesiological framework, the church is finally the arbiter of exegetical disputes, functioning as the tradition within which scripture is to be interpreted. . . . Gerson distanced himself from the Hussite position by . . . invoking the church as the formal medium of interpretation, not because the church added anything to scripture in this process but because the church as the historical community of biblical interpretation (i.e., tradition) held a position of singular authority vis-a-vis scripture. . . . Gerson insisted that the church the normative interpreting community; hermeneutics becomes a function of the church, since scripture as a sufficient authority is neither self-authenticating nor self-interpreting, particularly in disputed passage, as we have seen. (pp. 115-116)

As Protestants, a bit too impressed with our abilities as readers to understand the biblical text as it was intended, we are far too quick to set aside the last two horizons – the church and its peculiar authority as well as the history within which Biblical interpretation (i.e., theology in the Gersonian sense) – and rest just a bit too easily on the sufficiency of Scripture. Gerson’s wisdom, however, is recognizing the necessity of context – textual, historical, and historical – in understanding the “plain meaning” of the Bible. While the Bible certainly works as a literary text abstracted from its theological function, such a reading far too easily misses the main point of the texts so studied.

Theology is, in the end, more than just “the science of the church”, although it most certainly is that. It is, for Gerson, the guide both for individuals and the church as a whole on its journey toward God. As such, while the scriptures are sufficient, they can only ever be sufficient within the Church as the particular body formed by and informing Scriptural interpretation; and only be properly interpreted by taking into account the traditions in which the Biblical text is interpreted.

Particularly in America, we have pushed the “democratization” of theology and Scriptural understanding far beyond the realms of authority not only Gerson insisted were necessary; we are now at the point where anyone and everyone, whether a part of the Body of Christ (understood broadly, perhaps in a way Gerson would have found heretical) or not, insists upon his or her unique authority as an interpreter of the Bible. We are long past due for a kind of conservative reformation, one that returns to the Church (again, understood more broadly) as the place within which Biblical understanding is taught and learned, and the authoritative tradition which limits just what and how “theology” ends up being a science of the Church.

As a Seminarian, I heard a visiting Biblical scholar insist that interpreting Biblical texts needed to take account of the whole history of the Church’s teaching, both those from which we continue to find solace and guidance as well as those we fund repugnant. Thus it is I find myself wondering at all those Scripture scholars – again in a uniquely modernist love of primitivism as an arbiter of truth – who continue to insist it is not only necessary to leap over two millennia of Scriptural interpretation, but that we must ever and always continue to dig deeper and deeper into the unknowable history of specific texts themselves (relying whether they know it or not upon a kind of Bultmannian confidence in the historical transparency of particular texts). Whether they are The Jesus Seminar or those who spend their time arguing against the Jesus Seminar; whether they are a kind of modified fundamentalist or a more progressive reader, the goal continues to be finding the original meaning of the text as the goal for a true and therefore authoritative understanding of Scripture.

Burrows notes that Scripture is neither self-interpreting nor self-authoritative. As such, “the literal meaning” of texts is neither a kind of fundamentalism nor a facile proof-texting. Rather, theology is our guide on our Christian journey only through the power of the Scriptural sufficiency, as interpreted within and through the teaching office of the Church. Truly to be a viator in Gerson’s understanding of the Christian life is to understand oneself living and journeying within the Church, and with the teaching office of the Church as guiding our reading and understanding of theology. We cannot, nor should we wish to, escape the three horizons that provide Lady Theology with the tools to guide us on our way.

Jean Gerson And De Consolatione Theologiae: The Consolation Of A Biblical And Reforming Theology For A Disordered Age by Mark Burrows, Preface and Introduction

Jean Gerson, 1363-1429, Rector of the University of Paris, leading theologian of the Council of Constance (1414-1418), and Doctor Christianissimus and Doctor Consolatorius

Jean Gerson, 1363-1429, Rector of the University of Paris, leading theologian of the Council of Constance (1414-1418), and Doctor Christianissimus and Doctor Consolatorius

In all that time (from the fall of Rome to the Renaissance) nothing of real consequence had either improved or declined. Except for the invention of waterwheels in the 800s and windmills in the late 1100s, there had been no inventions of significance. No startling new ideas had appeared, no new territories outside Europe had been explored. Everything was it had been for as long as the oldest European could remember. The center of the Ptolemaic universe was the known world – Europe, with the Holy Land and North Africa on its fringes. The sun moved round it every day. Heaven was above the immovable earth, somewhere in the overarching sky; hell seethed far beneath their feet. Kings ruld at the pleasure of the Almighty; all others did what they were told to do. Jesus, the son of God, had been crucified and resurrected, and his reappearance was imminent, or at any rate inevitable. Every human being adored him (the Jews and the Muslims being invisible). During the 1,436 years since the death of Saint Peter the Apostle, 211 popes had succeeded him, all chosen by God and all infallible. The Church was indivisible, the afterlife a certainty; all knowledge was already known. And nothing would ever change. – William Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire: The Medieval Mind And The Renaissance, Portrait Of An Age, pp. 26-27

Our question (The Shape Of Late Medieval Thought) assumes that it is possible to trace the shape of late medieval thought. One should be skeptical vis-a-vis such a claim. If we have learned one thing in the last twenty years of research, then it is to enlarge our awareness of geographical and sociological as well as religious diversification. This lesson is clearly reflected in the trend away from pan-European and national to regional and local history. Granted that the shape of late medieval thought is an abstraction for the purpose of communication, with this expression we have, nevertheless, a very concrete goal in main: namely, to present it as the common field of all those are involved in the pursuit of the late medieval history of ideas, be it through medieval scholastic, Renaissance, or Reformation research. . . . [T]he establishment of such a tripartite approach allows for – and de facto encourages – a priori assumptions of differences which obscure and preclude a wholesome vision of the whole period in its common features, . . . – Heiko Oberman, “The Shape of Late Medieval Thought”, in The Dawn Of The Reformation, p. 20.

The focus of this study, however, is on the treatise De consolatione theologia as a watershed marking a new departure from [Jean Gerson’s] earlier, and a decisive pointer toward his later, writings. By focusing upon this text in particular and subjecting this treatise to a detailed, critical reading, we begin to perceive a quite difference Gerson than previous studies have disclosed: doctor consolatorius, as he came to be called later in his century, offers a view of consolation and a revised model of the covenant which become the very foundation of his larger program of reform, ecclesiastical and theological, a “patient” reform as we shall suggest which Gerson roots within the Dionysian structure and dynamics of his ecclesiology. . . . Mark Burrows, Jean Gerson and De consolatione theologiae: The Consolation of a Biblical and Reforming Theology For A Disordered Age, pp. 27-28.

Most people, asked their thoughts on that period known as “the later middle ages” would, had they opinion at all, would most likely venture something along the lines of William Manchester’s description quoted above. What’s interesting about that description, coming as it does from a popular historian and biographer, is not only how cartoonish it is, but how wrong. Like all times in human history, the period from the mid-14th to mid-16th centuries was not an intellectual or political or historical desert, filled by nameless, egoless (one of Manchester’s earlier claims, that people had no concept of “the individual”, thus no sense of themselves, their worth, their place in society, or any of the other things the contemporary word “ego” designates, is as ahistorical as it is nonsensical) persons going about their round of days as had their ancestors. Kings and queens and popes and teachers of theology and explorers and geographers and astronomers were ciphers, adding nothing to the common human stock of understanding our world or ruling it – justly or not – with either cruelty or gentleness, wisdom or folly, as leaders had always done. The specifics of any particular time matter far less than the contours of “an age”, a term favored by biased, lazy researchers and proponents of the superiority of our later, allegedly more enlightened, “age”.

To focus upon a singular work of a figure like Jean Gerson, whose literary output was immense, varied, yet always focused upon the pastoral and ecclesiastical demands of his time, brings to light the hollowness of such a view. To take just one example, the waning of the 100 Years War brought along in its train not only the rise of France as a more unified nation, but created the first truly powerful kingdom in what was then “Christendom” (not “Europe”, yet another ahistorical word offered by Manchester). France’s power became the bane of the Church of Rome, much to the chagrin of France’s most brilliant, prolific, and embattled teacher, writer, and defender of the faith. Following the Council of Constance Gerson found himself on the wrong side of a political battle between the Houses of Orleans and Burgundy, contending for the rule of the Kingdom. Yet he did so less out of loyalty to either House than what he viewed as the heretical defense of the murder of the Duke of Orleans by Jean Petit. His failure to secure a condemnation of Petit’s writings at the Council of Constance resulted in Gerson abdicating his chair as Rector of the University of Paris, remaining in exile in Constance until late in his life.

It is the mixed success and failure Gerson experienced in the midst of and immediately following the Council of Constance that prompted him to write De consolatione theologiae. Part of Burrows’ thesis, that both the form and content of Gerson’s work demonstrate a major shift within Gerson’s own thought, come back to what Burrows himself, earlier in the Introduction, refers to as Gerson’s “depressed” state of mind. Burrows also offers the tantalizing thesis that, like Boethius, whose Consolatione philosophia Gerson follows in spirit, was the result of what the author clearly believed would be his final writing.

It is more, however, than the pivotal place this work has within Gerson’s large and well-thumbed library. Burrows’ main thesis regarding major shifts not only in emphasis but philosophical and theological method and outlook undergirds a literature review that lays heavy emphasis upon those who study Gerson’s early and mid-career, both as theologian and later as Rector of the University of Paris. While these earlier studies looked principally either at Gerson The Mystic or Gerson The Nominalist, Burrows cautions against relying on too-simplistic understandings of either word to describe what Burrows understands to be Gerson’s emphasis upon the pastoral nature of theology. That is to say neither mysticism nor what Burrows calls “Ockhamism” rather than “nominalism” are important for Gerson in and for themselves. Rather, whether as teacher, administrator, controversialist, conciliar theologian, or after,  theology of any and all sorts should be subject to the demands of the pastoral role of theology.

All the same, the most decisive shift for Burrows is one away from the regnant Ockhamist nominalism for one that is similar to Ockham’s earlier confrere, John Duns Scotus. While both men emphasized both God’s freedom vis-a-vis creation, leading Oberman in his essay quoted above, to offer “contingency” as one of the main themes of late-medieval thought, a theme bringing in its train insecurity about the nature and place of the human being and Church within the created order. Unlike Ockham, however, Scotus placed far greater emphasis upon the convenantal nature of the Divine-Human relationship, said covenant offering a far firmer foundation than what had become the absolute freedom of the divine, rooted in a relentless defense of God’s power. This later development removed any sense of necessity from either the incarnation or the later birth and growth of the Church. In Scotus, at least, the Divine prerogative includes the freedom precisely to join with humanity for the sake of the latter’s salvation to the greater glory of God.

The author, Mark Burrows, was my professor of Church History I and leader of a seminar on Pauline Exegesis in Crisis: Reading Romans from St. John Chrysostom and Augustine to the Reformers. Brilliant, kind, gentle, funny, and encouraging as a teacher, in this a modification of his doctoral dissertation at Princeton University I hope to learn much not only about Gerson and his times. I also hope to come to understand a way of finding hope in times that, while less disordered than Gerson’s, certainly do not lack in the need for a sense of consolation in the midst of controversy.

Our own historical moment is a time of unrest as we watch the waning of an overarching Christian culture even as the tattered remnants battle for some kind of intellectual dominance in the face of its own increasing irrelevance. My own beloved United Methodist Church, rending itself asunder due to too-simplistic and often ahistorical and wrong-headed notions of the nature of theology and doctrine, is in dire need of words of comfort, words that demonstrate the ongoing power for peace and solace inherent in a theology oriented as it always should be to the pastoral office of the Church. Spawning our own schismatic “movement”, the Wesleyan Covenant Association, we are desperate for someone firm and thorough and unceasing who offers a view of the necessary unity of the Church and its mission and ministry that is rooted in the wandering nature toward God that is the Christian life, individual and corporate. One could do worse than spend some time considering Gerson’s own sense of “consolatione theologiae” precisely at a time when the latter word has become increasingly meaningless.

Death Metal And Music Criticism: Analysis At The Limits By Michelle Phillpot – A Review

The listening pleasures of death metal are multiple and complex, and are not well accounted for by an approach which sees pleasure as a diversion from music’s “real work” of political engagement. In assuming that clear lines can be drawn between the “politically god” and “politically bad” text (see Hills 2007, 39), popular music studies has tended to subordinate pleasure to political concerns in ways that evaluate, rather than explain, the meaning and significance of popular music forms. The political implications of music are obviously important, but what else music might be about is equally important. A productive way forward, then, may be one that acknowledges and explores the specificities of musical genres and their listening pleasures, rather than one that evaluates musical genres according to “how political” they are. – Michelle Phillipov, Death Metal And Music Criticism: Analysis At The Limits, p. 133


Oral eruption, rectal extroversion
Your vagus implodes as nausea strikes
Savaging your body in terminal retch
Violent spasms and decaying enzymes

Engulf your throat as you belch
Intestinal disturbance, your ileum turns inside-out
Your duodenum is thrust up towards your mouth
Your pancreas excretes stale septic pus

Your whole digestive system is now a sticky mush
Rectal vomit in your thorax wretch your anal tract
Liquidized esophagus mixes with bloodied excretion
As you pathetically gasp for breath

The stench of hot feces scorch your nose
As you violently vomit to death
Your intestines are rising up towards your throat
Stale bile escaping through your bloodied nose – Carcass, “Vomited Anal Tract”


Cannibal Corpse in concert

Cannibal Corpse in concert

All art offers itself to the world on its own terms. Once free of its creator’s grasp, however, we are free to interrogate it on any number of levels: the aesthetic question is usually, although not necessarily primary; in the west, very often matters of a religious nature rush to the foreground; in recent decades, the “political” – never clearly defined, yet ever-present – has become the favorite entry-point for understanding American pop culture, popular music in particular. It is therefore, perhaps, understandable that a genre of music that seems at odds with traditional notions of beauty; antithetical to the western Christian religious tradition; and in a phrase oft-repeated in Michelle Phillipov’s Death Metal and Music Criticism, “reflexively anti-reflexive” when it comes to political and social questions would therefore be looked at askance by music analysts. Reveling in moral iconoclasm, death metal might well seem the perfect locus for a radical political hermeneutic of pop culture. Precisely because it eschews any of our traditional categories for analyzing and interrogating art, however, most critics dismiss it as either banally or perhaps dangerously apolitical.

Spending the first half of her book on the political hermeneutics of punk, hip-hop, and electronic dance music, Phillipov both correctly questions the primacy of these questions  by critics as well as leave unasked the question that becomes the centerpiece of her analysis of death metal: why are these musics not taken on their own terms, but rather become vehicles for one or another political agenda? Which is not to say that political interrogations of art are irrelevant; on the contrary, they are part of and parcel of how we understand art. Doesn’t a political analysis, say, of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony enhance our listening pleasure? What about the detailed political exegesis done to many of Shastakovich’s works composed under Stalinism? Quite apart from the allegedly simple pleasures of listening to music, political criticism keeps us from being complacent in our listening habits. We become engaged listeners.

All the same, why prioritize a political analysis? Certainly punk and hip-hop invite both listeners and critics to bring up questions of power, race relations, and capitalist and racist exploitation without too much effort. In regards electronic dance music (EDM), it is the communities created by the shared experiences of rave culture and house music and their alternative politics that become the focal point of (largely positive) analysis. Questions of the aesthetics of these musical styles, however, often sit unanswered, however. Why is The Clash far more satisfying to listen to than Green Day? What are the differences and similarities between A Tribe Called Quest and NWA? Are the London underground and Goa beach scene socially effective because the DJs offer socially affective compositions (often enhanced by psychedelics)?

There seems to be a breath of fresh air released when, without ever saying so explicitly, Phillipov places the aesthetic question as the forefront of any analysis of death metal:

[T]he focus on the political implications and effects of metal music and culture has circumscribed opportunities for a more nuanced understanding of the music’s pleasures. What might these pleasures look like, when they are considered outside of the currently dominant frameworks of political criticism? What might metal look like when political questions are no longer foregrounded? . . .

Death metal offers a productive starting point for such analysis, because an approach better attuned to the specificity of death metal will help to expand the critical vocabulary through which musical pleasure is talked about and understood. (p. 73)

The very nature of the style forces matters of aesthetics to the foreground, because before any other questions can be asked, the music calls to be interrogated on its own terms. Loud, abrasive, often disharmonic or using alternate harmonic structures, with a vocal style that denies the normal pleasures of listening to the human voice, and a rhythmic structure that is usually described as “brutal”, death metal invites analysts to come to terms with the musical sounds on their own terms qua possibly pleasurable musical sounds before any other matters can be addressed. It is here that Phillipov answers the challenge by using two among the most extreme bands as the loci of her analysis. Both bands revel in gore, violence, and – in the case of Cannibal Corpse – a complete rejection of the recognizable human voice. Both bands also feature complex musical structures, structures that Phillipov analyzes in detail (including a few transcriptions as aides) toward the end of offering the possibility of a technical enjoyment as part of the pleasure of listening to Death Metal.

Phillipov is cognizant this is an oft-cited element for the style’s popularity among particular groups; critics also note this is also a target of specifically political questions, precisely because reveling in technical mastery foregrounds particular forms of masculine hegemony. That Cannibal Corpse in particular revels in scenes of misogynistic violence (“Entrails Ripped From A Virgin’s Cunt” is an oft-cited song title of theirs), is another important question that is and should be front and center of any analysis of death metal’s extremes. While it certainly helps to consider the human enjoyment of horror and grotesquerie as part of the appeal of Carcass and Cannibal Corpse, I think setting the political questions aside to focus solely on the aesthetic matters of playfulness, the dissolution of the self, and technical proficiency does her larger thesis an injustice, especially since Cannibal Corpse in particular is both relentless in its scenes of misogynist violence and unapologetic about it as well.

Which does not mean her overall thesis, i.e., the need to move beyond political analyses of popular musical styles in order to understand them, is wrong. On the contrary; by offering detailed looks at two extreme examples from death metal and showing how their appeal to particular audiences might be understood apart from political questions, Phillipov offers a much-needed corrective to the now far-too-facile political hermeneutics that too often leaves questions of aesthetic enjoyment secondary, or even tertiary. All the same, while she notes in an addendum at the end of the conclusion of her book the politically volatile nature of support for Cannibal Corpse by female fans during a 2004 tour of Australia, I think it is long past time for fans of various forms of extreme metal, including death metal and black metal, to admit the politically questionable nature of the music itself; the prevalence of rightist and even fascist elements in black metal; the reactionary nature of a music whose primary attraction is its use as a protest among disaffected white youth in the US and in northern Europe; despite the spread of metal beyond the bounds of North America and northern Europe to non-white populations in Africa, the Middle East, and Japan, the nature of the attraction of the music, i.e., as a protest among disaffected youth; all these lend credence to critics who hear in metal (and in death metal in particular) a dangerous form of apolitical reflexive anti-reflection that can lend itself to manipulation by non-progressive political forces.

This is an excellent study overall, and Phillipov is to be commended for forcing critics, again, to face music on its own terms rather than a set of terms that render little if anything of value in understanding the attraction of death metal. It might well perhaps offer new ways to understand punk, hip-hop, and EDM, as well, by asking critics to take the music on its own terms first, i.e., as forms of art prior to any question of the music being a vehicle for political organization or agitation.

An Open Letter To Charlie Daniels

A note to our enemies:

You think you know America, but you only see the tiny, inept, incompetent, cowering political tip of a very big, very capable iceberg.

You don’t know the Heartland where the people are fiercely independent and willing to defend this nation with their bare hands if that’s what it takes.

You don’t know the steel workers in Pittsburgh with muscles that could break a man’s neck like a twig.

You don’t know the swamp folks in Cajun country that can wrestle a full-grown alligator out of the water.

You don’t know the mountain folks in Appalachia who can knock a squirrel’s eye out from a hundred yards away with a small caliber rifle.

You don’t know the farmers, the cowboys, the loggers and the seagoing folks. You don’t know the truck drivers, the carpenters, the mountain men who live off the land, the hard rock miners or the small town cops who keep the peace in the rowdy border towns.

No, you don’t know America. You’ve only seen America through the eyes of an Ivy League ideologue. There are no calluses on his hands, no notches on his gun. He is naive enough to believe that people who only understand power can be swayed by political correctness, kindness and acquiescence.

Soon America will have a new leader, and I pray to Almighty God every day that we will choose the right one. – “Charlie Daniels’ Open Letter to America’s Enemies: You See Obama, But You Don’t Know America”, CNS News, February 15, 2016

Apparently, Charlie Daniels thinks the world cares about the opinions of a washed-up country musician

Apparently, Charlie Daniels thinks the world cares about the opinions of a washed-up country musician

Dear Charlie Daniels –

I honestly don’t believe anyone outside your ever-shrinking fan base cares all that much about your opinions. Certainly, America’s “enemies” don’t care. And since I’m someone whose opinions matter as little as yours, I thought I’d write you an open letter to address your . . . odd . . . “Open Letter to America’s Enemies”.

Let’s start, rather arbitrarily, with the incident in which two small American naval vessels wandered in to Iranian territorial waters, one experienced mechanical failure, and the 10 crew members were first detained, then released after a couple days negotiations. This all happened around the time of the Constitutionally required State of the Union. Many of Pres. Obama’s opponents insisted at the time he should cancel his speech and work to bring home the sailors. What these people didn’t know was that Sec. of State John Kerry had already completed negotiations with the Iranians and the captured sailors were already in the process of returning to the American fleet.

Now some people, including you, have protested the fact that Sec. of State Kerry “apologized”. I’m wondering what, exactly, you would have done. Sent in the 5th Fleet that’s already in the area? Threatened to bomb Iran while it holds American service personnel, which gives them no incentive to keep the Americans safe? Sent in the Navy Seals? What do you think someone demonstrating “strength” would have done that would have achieved the same results, results every American wants anyway, getting those folks home safe? A simple apology for violating Iranian territorial waters – something the Iranians seem touchy about anyway, particularly when it comes to the American military – seems a very small price to pay to get back our ship and our people.

So let’s talk about military recruitment. In 2014, facing serious fiscal and budgetary issues; understanding the changing face of modern warfare that, in all likelihood, won’t have even one front let alone two; and with the Pentagon budget top-heavy with weapon systems that, occasionally, they don’t even want; over a decade of war slowly – too slowly – coming to an end; all these considerations led Pres. Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to propose serious reductions in troop-size, including reducing recruitment targets. While the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps reached their recruitment targets in FY 2015, the Army projected falling almost 15% short of its goal. The reasons?

The Army’s top officer for recruiting, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, acknowledged in an interview with USA TODAY on Thursday the difficulties in attracting young men and women to the active-duty Army in an improving economy and the greater effort his recruiters are taking to find new soldiers.


During the height of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the services struggled to make their annual goals. Standards for recruits were lowered, and greater signing bonuses were handed out. In 2006, for example, it spent $1 billion on bonuses to recruit and retain soldiers.

Bonuses and educational incentives, however, have decreased in recent years, Snow said. The Army paid out $117 million in 2014 compared with $235 million in 2013.


In 2005, the Pentagon relaxed standards for recruits who fared poorly on standard military exams. Those who scored in the lower third of the test, so-called Category Four recruits — had been limited to 2% of recruits. The relaxed standard allowed 4% of those recruits, and even that was exceeded at times. Less than 1% of recruits this year belong in Category Four, Snow said.

“On quality we’re doing very well this year,” he said.

An improving economy, higher recruiting standards (or a return to high standards), and war-exhaustion are all really good reasons not to volunteer for the Army right now. Particularly since the bribes the military was handing out – singing bonuses for the military? Really? – to try and lure people to join an all-volunteer military in a time of war that was, by and large, invisible to the American people (by design) are far better explanations than some mythical distaste for the Commander-in-Chief (particularly since the other branches of the military reached their recruitment goals last year).

And finally, your really strange description of “the American people” “from the Heartland”. First you said they’d defend this country bare-handed if necessary. Because we obviously are in imminent threat of invasion and there’s a shortage of weapons in this country. Since these same people from the heartland piss their pants in fear at the notion an Islamic person might move in to their neighborhood, it seems to me you’re overestimating the courage of the American people.

Let’s consider your claim that steel workers in Pittsburgh are so powerful they can snap a person’s neck with their bare hands. Survey, however, says not really.

Note that in Real Life, it takes a considerable amount of strength and/or training to snap a person’s necknote , especially if the character getting it snapped is considerably big and strong. It’s possible if you know where to grab and twist, and can pin your opponent to get leverage. In real life, spinal/neck manipulation is allowed in certain martial arts competitions such as the UFC and other MMA events. However, it looks very different than in the movies, and there is almost always time to “tap out” before injury, much less permanent or lethal injury. To preform the “neck snap” like in the page’s image you would have to be extraordinarily stronger, to a point that is nearly superhuman.


First, with regards to actually breaking the neck itself, it depends on exactly what type of fracture is involved, but cadaver studies have shown a range of 840 to 1500 N to cause the C2 vertebrae to be fractured [1]. A C2 fracture is highly correlated with high mortality but said injury is also most commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents [2] which gives you an idea as to the force involved with the injury. Given that amateur boxers have been shown to generate up to 8000 N of force with a hook punch [3] it is within the realm of possibility to fracture the vertebrae under the right conditions.

So breaking the vertebra is possible; however, the issue the video and those like it is that you need to apply the pressure the right way and the neck itself is built with a fair degree of flexibility [4] so it’s not just a matter of twisting the neck a given way.

So those steelworkers both need superhuman strength and special training. Instead of being, you know, steel workers who spend their days making steel and their nights with their families.

As for all those “real” Americans, according to the 2010 Census, urban dwellers comprise just over 80% of the American population. all those lumberjacks and sharpshooting West Virginians, Kentuckians, and folks from the middle of Pennsylvania; the cajuns from Louisiana and the farmers from the breadbasket while certainly brave and patriotic, just are as numerous and therefore not as much of a threat to some prospective enemy.  In 2010, New York’s population was 8.19 million people. The populations of South and North Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, and Iowa are 7.7 million. No matter how much you might think of those mythical “real Americans”, Charlie, there are just more of all those coastal elites of whom you think very little.

As for Vladimir Putin being an “enemy”, sure Russia is a rival. They’ve sent planes over the pole to test our northern border at Alaska, and that is certainly something folks in charge are keeping an eye on. On the other hand, I’m just not all that frightened of a supposed superpower who can’t even defeat a fractured and far weaker neighbor (Ukraine), using proxies instead because the Russian army just can’t seem to get the job done. As for China, well, they’ve spent most of their thousands of years of recorded history laughing at foreign powers, whoever they might be. Mongols, Russians, Japanese, Open Door Policies, foreign missionaries have all come and gone, and China remains. Why shouldn’t they laugh at us? And so what? Are you seriously so fragile the thought of a foreign power not fearing American power somehow just gets you so mad you have to write a letter to show them who’s boss?

And, really, the rest of the world knows what America is really like. Our music is the world’s music. Our movies are the world’s movies. Ours is the only military with a global presence. And satellite television beams our current farcical Presidential primary season all over the world, so people can watch buffoons, liars, and borderline psychopaths carry on for their entertainment. Should one of those people be elected President, however, I guarantee you pretty much the whole world – including many in the United States – will, indeed, be terrified of what the United States might do.


Geoffrey Kruse-Safford

Creepy And Toxic Pseudo-Christian Ideas

A "Quiverfull" meme that should make it difficult to eat lunch after reading.

A “Quiverfull” meme that should make it difficult to eat lunch after reading.

On the fringes of American Christianity there are many small groups that do very strange things. Some, however, rush past “strange” and wind up in places that are not only psychologically toxic, but just downright creepy. Nine years ago, I noted the existence of something called “purity balls”. I wrote:

Like a cross between a cotillion, a wedding, and a prom, fathers and daughters dress to the nines, get together, and the daughters (I can hardly keep my gorge down as I type this) pledge their virginity to their fathers. They promise to remain abstinent until marriage, making the vow public.

Later on, I found an example of the kind of thing a father “pledged”:

I, (daughter’s name)’s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.

Really just profoundly wrong, on so many levels, right? What could be worse than this?

I’m sure you’ve probably, at the very least, heard of the so-called “Quiverfull” movement. The Duggars are an extreme example: Having many babies, as close together as possible, home-schooling them, and restricting their access both to peers and the media. As a parent, I tend to get itchy when people start going after how others raise their children. I’ve never appreciated criticisms of our parenting; I’m sure there are many who probably figure we’re too lenient, allowing our girls to have as much freedom to grow and become who they are. So these folks home-school their kids and are strict disciplinarians; I have nothing against either, up to a point.

Today I discovered that this movement is rooted in what I can only call pseudo-Christian nonsense, incorporating physical and psychological abuse both of women and children, and as the above meme from one of the “leaders” shows, borders on endorsing both child marriage and pedophilia:

Vaughn Ohlman is a sick man with a twisted sense of fatherly love.

Suzanne Titkemeyer, administrator of the No Longer Quivering blog, frequently features the bizarre rantings of “Let Them Marry” in the “Quoting Quiverfull” section and has had numerous interactions with Vaughn, whom she describes as, “a nonsensical pain in the ass who refuses to accept logic, facts and legitimate figures,” reports that Ohlman was interested in a girl at his church and her daddy judged him not good enough and rejected him.

(That story is all kinds of messed up, but the good news is … whew, she dodged a bullet!)

While there is some standard right-wing rhetoric tossed around on these websites, there are also far more disturbing topics discussed in all seriousness. For example, the whole issue of women submitting to their husbands.

Submitting is not difficult, we do it all the time; we just have a hard time submitting to our husbands, and in this case they are unbelievers. 

God has placed your husband to be the head of the home, the Commander. Submission is a “voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden” (Greek/ Hebrew Lexicon)

It means that no matter where our husbands are at spiritually we have a responsibility to them and to God to submit to their authority.

Submission is not a giving in and bending over to let him walk all over you.

Jesus was in submission to the Father, but He was considered equal with God the Father. We are to be in submission to our husbands, but God sees us as equals as well.

When we truly grasp the meaning of submission we will begin to see ourselves as no longer singular, but as a part of a unit, a part of a team.

Our motives for submitting to our husbands is not because “God said” so much as it is, “God said and I love God, so I am going to submit to this man God has placed over me, because I seek to please God above all else.”

Now you see your choice for submitting, in this case, to an unbelieving husband means that we seek his good above our own. Our motives for submitting are not for our good and our benefit, but for his good and his benefit.

This is a recipe for disaster. Weak and abusive men will see such behaviors as invitations to do even more harm.

There there is “disciplining” children, or as one writer puts it, “training” them.

I have observed and engaged a sufficient number of parents, both in action and in conversation, to have made a very good guess about what this frustrated father was thinking. I’m certain he was proud of his patience and tenderness, knowing that he was not being overbearing or insensitive toward this child. His philosophy clearly is, “She’s a handful, but kids will be kids! Just love them, and in time they will turn out all right.” No doubt, he was solaced by the fact that in the best of times she responds to his commands. He has “faith” that such a sweet child will survive and eventually “grow into” obedience.

I cautiously mentioned to him that he could actually train her to stop upon command, pointing out how much safer it would be if she obeyed instantly. He brushed it off with, “Oh, she is not being disobedient; we play games like that.” And then he made some comment about how he didn’t like to spank his children except in extreme situations. He didn’t really consider it to be disobedience in a child so young. He was a foolish young father, not yet having seen the final end of the seeds of self-will and rebellion he was sowing.

Nothing says someone has a twisted view of children when they talk about “training” them to “stop upon command”. Nothing says someone has a twisted view of children when they believe an 11-month-old being an 11-month-old – playing a game with Daddy – is actually an example of “self-will and rebellion”. How, precisely, are such children trained?

The methods used to create children who are always smiling, who always obey instantly, who never go through individuation, who never talk back– they should horrify us because they are nightmarish. In order to achieve this, you have to beat infants. You have to strike your children multiple times a day with a switch or a board or a belt. Age-appropriate exploration must be prevented at all costs– either through things like blanket training or slapping a baby every time they reach for a necklace or your hair. You must subject your infant or toddler to brutal physical punishmentevery single time they show a disavowed form of curiosity about their environment.

For older children and teenagers, you have to completely disallow any form of individuality. They must agree with everything you teach them. Doubts and questions are forbidden. If they attempt to express their own identity, they must be bullied by other members of the fundamentalist community to immediately stamp it out.

Being socialized as a fundamentalist child means being horribly abused.

I followed the link above about blanket training because I had never heard of such a thing.

In its simplest form, blanket training consists of 3 actions: (1) place a young child (usually an infant or toddler) on a small blanket, (2) tell that child not to move off the blanket, and (3) strike that child if they move off the blanket. Rinse, repeat.

That sounds like a healthy way to discipline a child . . .

There’s always a fine line between proper discipline at the extremes and what constitutes abuse. Certainly parents who engage in these practices wouldn’t consider themselves abusive. The ideology behind all this, however, a steaming pile of Bible verses, extreme patriarchy, and the dehumanization of women and children, is something that deserves far more attention that it currently enjoys.

Looking For Some Honesty

It’s all over the news!

The Sheriffs weren’t the only ones who objected to the performance, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared on Monday’s Fox and Friends to trash the singer and the show.

“At the end, we find out Beyonce dressed up in a tribute to the Black Panthers, went to a Malcolm X formation. And the song, the lyrics, which I couldn’t make out a syllable, were basically telling cops to stop shooting blacks!” Fox News host Brian Kilmeade said.

I’ve seen memes like the one below cropping up on my social media feeds:

Concern Trolls are my favorite!

Concern Trolls are my favorite!

Everyone is up in arms! Black Panthers! Black Lives Matter! They all hate cops!

The video for Beyonce’s song “Formation” includes a shot of a wall with the words “Stop Shooting Us”. I can’t imagine why a woman of color might offer such a thought?

Civil rights groups sued Minnesota state agencies on Tuesday to force them to release video footage of the fatal police shooting of a young black man in Minneapolis in November.

But that’s an isolated incident!

Police in Austin, Texas have declined to say whether a naked black teen who was fatally shot by officers on Monday had been armed at the time.

The Austin Police Department confirmed on Monday that an 18-year-old man who was not wearing clothes was shot by officers, and then later died in a local hospital, theAustin Statesman reported.

Austin police Chief of Staff Brian Manley told reporters at a press conference that the incident occurred when officers were responding to reports of a suspicious black man. Manley said that an officer opened fire after the man disobeyed commands and then charged at him.

Why would an African-American organization, Black Lives Matter, believe that police violence against their communities is a problem?

Since [August 1, 2014], the rallies for justice have not abated, and neither have the number of deaths at the hands of police. At least 1,083 Americans have been killed by cop since August 9, 2014, according to comprehensive research and data collected by VICE News — an average of nearly three people a day. . . .


While the bulk of those killed from August 2014 to August 2015 were white, black people per population were more than twice as likely to be killed by cops than any other race, the data showed. African Americans are also more than three times as likely to be killed by police than white people, according to the statistics.

But . . . but . . . Black Panthers! Racists! Cop killers!

At its inception on October 15,[4] 1966, the Black Panther Party’s core practice was its armed citizens’ patrols to monitor the behavior of police officers and challenge police brutality in Oakland, California. In 1969, community social programs became a core activity of party members.[5] The Black Panther Party instituted a variety of community social programs, most extensively the Free Breakfast for Children Programs, and community health clinics.


Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover called the party “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country”,[9] and he supervised an extensive program (COINTELPRO) of surveillance, infiltration, perjury, police harassment, and many other tactics designed to undermine Panther leadership, incriminate party members, discredit and criminalize the Party, and drain the organization of resources and manpower. The program was also accused of using assassination against Black Panther members.

As for some of those other images from Beyonce’s video, like the kid in the hoodie with his arms up facing a line of police aiming their guns at him, I can’t imagine where she thought that was ever a thing.

Move along folks. Nothing to see here.

Move along folks. Nothing to see here.

Here’s where the honesty thing comes in: How many of you out there who are suddenly verklempt that a well-known African-American performing artist might well offer a view of race relations that makes white folks uncomfortable knew while watching the halftime show all the nuances and symbolism of Beyonce’s performance? How many of you saw those dancers in berets and screamed, “Black Panthers! She hates cops!”? How many of you didn’t wait until a bunch of folks on social media who don’t know history, who don’t understand contemporary music or Beyonce’s history of standing for both feminism and solidarity with African-American communities, who believe that each and every incident of police violence against African-Americans is justified, who believe that protesting such violence is ipso facto proof that such people “hate” police, how many of you snapped off your television there and then? How many of you don’t care about evidence, or history, or black lives, but just want to “take a stand” without even knowing that against which you’re taking a stand?

Be honest. Tell the truth. Did you know, during the halftime show, all or even some of the things her performance hinted at or pointed toward? Were you outraged even then? Were you previously a fan of Beyonce but have suddenly decided not to be because of this performance? Answer me honestly.

As for injecting race in to popular music performance, I’ll just leave you with this: