Jigsaw puzzles are often found spread out in various stages of completion or disarray at our house. We clean around them, try not to knock pieces onto the floor, try to keep the grandkids from walking off with bits or disassembling what has been assembled. They sometimes serve as coasters for a cup of tea or coffee, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a piece in the dishwasher as a result of this somewhat unorthodox treatment.
When I first heard Rick Santorum's recent comments on Obama's "bad theology" I was ready to write a quite different post.
Here's what he said, on separate occasions:
President Obama believes in "some phony ideal, some phony theology...not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology."
“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit.”
As most readers of the daily mull know by now I have a doctorate in theology from an evangelical seminary, and a core topic of my dissertation was the legitimate interpretation of the Bible. Hence all the posts about the meanings of various passages, such as this and this and this.
So, as odd as it might seem coming from someone who currently bills himself as a pantheistic atheist, my first instinct was to expose Santorum's unbiblical theology.
I envisioned a comprehensive analysis of what the Bible actually does say about protecting nature—which, it so happens, is a lot closer to Obama's position than it is to Santorum's.
It would be like shooting fish in a barrel. For a start, check out Genesis 2:15, Leviticus 25:23-24, Numbers 35:33-34, Deuteronomy 20:19, and Ezekiel 34:17-18.
But then I noticed something else—something more basic, and much more important.
Something that helps explains such diverse issues as Republican positions on taxes, worker's rights, voting rights, local democracy, and even contraception.
I've been thinking about all of the uproar over Obama's recent decision, and compromise, concerning birth control and the Roman Catholic Church.
The controversy takes me back to two central issues in the culture war—the issues of freedom and power.
The two are intimately connected, of course. The more power I have, the more freedom I have. And, on the other hand, the more power you have, when it's power over me, the less freedom I have.
The conclusion of the exclusive daily mull interview with Johnson N. Masters, which began here, follows:
JNM: On the other hand, the Bible says almost nothing about a glimpse of a breast, or the use of four-letter words, or abortion, or gays, and yet those issues will mobilize the troops on a moments notice.
TDM: And this told you?
JNM: It was our first decent estimate of the epicenter. What do all of those issues have in common?
The second part of the daily mull interview with Johnson N. Masters picks up where Friday's post left off:
TDM: Doesn't that require you to be something of a fortune-teller?
JNM: It would be impossible if I hadn't developed the Heuristic for Understanding Moral Patriotism.
TDM: And that is...
JNM: It's a tool for predicting the direction the collective conservative psyche is taking. I used the Northridge earthquake as a model.
TDM: The Northridge earthquake?
This interview is a special report, only for readers of the daily mull. It ran a bit longer than I expected, so I'll be releasing it in three parts.
Johnson N. Masters is a compelling personality, in spite of his diminuative appearance. From his understated comb-over to his crisply pressed polyester sportscoat, he is the model of the insider conservative academic.
I think I have just fallen in love with apple blossoms. I have never known them so personally before. But four years ago we planted a Granny Smith tree in our yard, and after some false starts -- well, a start can be false and true -- this year we have some blossoms that have completely captivated me. The translucence of the petals and their call make me wish I were a bee.
January, for me, has always been two new beginnings. I'm not only beginning a new year, I am turning another year older. And this year it will be 70. Seventy. I am approaching with caution, and disbelief that I have only been on this planet (well, this time anyway) for 70 years.
At sixty I thought -- "ah, free at last, free at last" -- to do what I like, see what I like, eat what I like, drink what I like! I'm old enough that it doesn't matter anymore!
Even though the ornaments are still on the tree;
And even though the lighted reindeer are stll on the lawn;
The week after Christmas has a stripped down, self contained aspect.
The stuffed Santa knows he will soon be put back in the old sea chest,
And the sagging branches of the tree know they will soon be outside on the curb for recycling.
It feels like there is more air and more light (well, there IS more daylight!);
It feels like the first peeling back of a layer that will reveal a sturdy newness, something unused, fresh, and real.