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Articles on this Page
- 01/17/07--04:23: _Gay Lutheran pastor...
- 11/15/08--07:48: _Racism and a Teacha...
- 09/23/10--06:41: _The Divine Role Wit...
- 03/26/12--11:03: _Bless the Maybelles
- 05/02/12--07:10: _Silencing the proph...
- 05/29/12--11:22: _Historic Day at a B...
- 03/03/13--04:00: _Reflections on a Su...
- 03/27/13--07:05: _Breathe
- 09/07/15--12:35: _Petition to reduce ...
- 11/25/15--07:25: _Glad I Don't Have t...
- 08/15/16--14:49: _Missouri Begins Tri...
- 01/04/17--08:42: _American Symbols of...
- 01/08/18--06:00: _Ministry’s Psalm 69...
- 01/17/07--04:23: Gay Lutheran pastor's trial to start
- 11/15/08--07:48: Racism and a Teachable Moment
- 09/23/10--06:41: The Divine Role Within Personal Expression and Social Reform
- 03/26/12--11:03: Bless the Maybelles
- 05/02/12--07:10: Silencing the prophets?
- 05/29/12--11:22: Historic Day at a Baptist Church
- 03/03/13--04:00: Reflections on a Sunday in Lent
- 03/27/13--07:05: Breathe
- 11/25/15--07:25: Glad I Don't Have to Visit YOUR House on Thanksgiving...
- 01/08/18--06:00: Ministry’s Psalm 69 encapsulated early 90s political angst
Pastor Bradley Schmeling was completely honest from the outset about his sexual orientation when St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta called him as their pastor in 2000. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation -- all but a very few members, anyway -- fell in love with their new pastor, and attendance and membership grew in the past several years.
But then the unattached Schmeling fell in love with another male Lutheran pastor he met, and they entered into a committed relationship. Schmeling immediately informed his church and his bishop, Ronald Warren of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA, that his status had changed, and Warren, who's retiring soon, in turn filed charges against Schmeling for breaking church law, which requires gay and lesbian ministers to remain celebate, I assume because they aren't married. Meanwhile his congregation has rallied around their pastor. They don't want him removed from the church because he is gay.
Schmeling's trial starts later this week. I urge you to follow the news and offer whatever support you can. More below the fold.
It was just another rainy Saturday here in Tennessee when I opened my email. There was a note from a former student - actually about a fifth generation forwarding of one of those awful e-screeds. This one read as follows:
What follows is something that has been weighing on me heavily this morning. Discussing the act of vocal ministry, a Friend noted that, while in the act of sharing a message, we aren't just God's mouthpiece, we are God. This makes me uncomfortable to contemplate. I would never wish to even come close to hinting that my mortal self was anything near to the Divine. While I do seek that which is God in others, I am far more comfortable emphasizing my own mortal self. Due to lots of soul-searching I know where my place is in the cosmos, and I would never grasp for a mantle that is not mine to embrace. Moreover, I would not take it on if I could, because I do not possess the human strength to bear the burden.
Many of my parishioners are quite elderly. And while they span the gamut of health and activity, most of them are quite mentally sharp and not the least bit shy about sharing their opinion with “pastor.” After all, a young thing like me, only in her fourth decade, can always benefit from their accumulated wisdom. And they are quite right.
They are all exceptional folks, each in his or her way. But occasionally, I am blown away by just how exceptional they are. Follow me below the squiggle of gobsmackitude for a brief anecdote.
Once a quadrenniam, the United Methodist Church from throughout the world sends delegates to General Conference. There, 3,500 Methodists gather to pray about, discuss, and vote on potential changes to the United Methodist Discipline (our “constitution, if you will, that determines polity and doctrine), our Resolutions (the face of our denomination as it relates theologically and practically in the world), and our denominational policies and practices. Sometimes, very little is changed. Sometimes the changes are quite far reaching. At this General Conference, a change has been made that significantly alters the structure of the UMC, its relationship with its pastors, and, I fear, our prophetic voice.
Memorial Day Sunday 2012 was a historic day at our church, Highland Baptist of Louisville.
Why? We ordained someone to the ministry.
"So what?" you say. "Churches do that all the time."
True, they do. This was a little different, though. A local advocacy group (not the church) issues a press release; perhaps the headline will capture why it was historic:
"Highland Baptist Church Ordains Openly Gay Minister"
Yes we did, and gladly. Make the jump to learn more, and to celebrate with us.
Each of us is on our own spiritual journey, despite the promptings of the institutional Church; responsible for our own seeking a way down the path, with our own compass, We are always seeking new ways to bring sense to being “here”, to experience the transcendent and the Divine presence in life around us. But setting out on your own is a spiritually lonely journey. The spiritual path was meant for partners. Jesus walked with others. He joined seekers on the road to Emmaus, explained the workings of the Kingdom, then sat and broke bread. Sharing a meal brings us together, leads us to engage, to be open. Being together on that spiritual path, sharing our stories on the road, can be “Church”.
It is inevitable. It is good natured. Every time I inform my Staff Parish Committee about my vacation plans, someone will joke:
“Why do pastor needs vacation? They only work two hours on Sunday.” Haw Haw Haw. Big belly larfs. Just kidding, Pastor.
I used to laugh with them, albeit a bit strained. Then I settled for watery smile, more akin to a grimace. Now I just look at them with toleration and take a hit on my whiffer. My Albuterol inhaler. I am learning to breathe.
My son, Jeremy Stewart was wrong and deserves to do time but life for stealing is wrong! Taxpayers price tag is over Six Million Dollars to incarcerate Jeremy for life. California state law demands he serve out 100% of this time before he is can apply for parole. We have contacted Stanford Law three strikes project and filed appeals that have been denied. Prop 36 helped to change part of California's three strikes problem, passed in 2012.
Jeremy's story helped to pass this law; however, his crimes are on the so called "Serious List" because the states of California says something potentially could have happened. Talk about a disproportionate and cruel punishment.
How can the state of California, determine his incarceration time on the reasoning of something might have happened, should have happened, or could of happened? Hello no violence occurred and that is the fact. Potential scenarios do not belong in court. I agree my son deserves to do time. But does he deserve a 70 years death sentence for stealing? Let me answer that with a strong, No!
Talk about a disproportionate and cruel punishment.
On June 26th, 2015 the Federal Supreme ruled on a nonviolent three strikes case and stated this was unconstitutional, Federal ruling on Three strikes Federal and state are separate so this Federal ruling only helps three strikers sentenced under federal law. Let the time Fit the Crime. Please Stand with my family and I. Here is the link for Governor Brown's office https://govnews.ca.gov/...
I am asking everyone to sign the petition, support by sharing and passing it forward.
Thank you, Elizabeth Stewart- Just a Mom
My two favorite things in life (besides mr. luna and our furbabies) are pumpkin pie and rock-n-roll. Not that these two concepts originally went together, but they do now. One can always have pie with their rock-n-roll. And you can have rock-n-roll in your pie.
Well, this IS the Daily Kos, I know some of you wholeheartedly don’t agree with that concept being any kind of priority, but if you were looking for a brief refuge from the My Candidate is Better Than Your Candidate Because Yours Is A Big Caca Head
diaries stories blog entries, look no further than the links below. And just remember two things: 1) Rock-n-roll is STILL not dead, no matter how many old hippies try to tell you otherwise, and 2) Fuck this guy…
Special thanks to my Inner Sanctum of Old Rockers, who help me find these cool newer tunes (well, except for that Lyle Lovett song, I truly don’t know HOW that got in there, but I decided to leave it because it’s a good song). And I *like* classic rock too, I just haven’t been in that kind of mood lately. Lately, it’s “The Louder, The Better”.
And my headline? Just kidding—Happy Thanksgiving, Y’all! Try to play nicer today than yesterday :)
It’s been more than 2 years since Missouri’s clergy gathered in the senate chamber and demanded a vote on Medicaid expansion. The coverage that day quickly went viral. Unfortunately in the transition to Daily Kos 5, several older diaries lost their “share count”, but more than 40,000 people shared the story of a protest that was updated frequently through the day in May of 2014.
The message of the protesters was simple: give us a vote, a straight up or down, let us know where you stand on the issue. Now, two years later, Missouri still hasn’t had a real vote on Medicaid expansion and the protesters found themselves facing legal charges as a result of their state house action.
Rather than back down, Missouri clergy delivered a firm message: “We Intend to get in the way”.
The presidential inauguration is right around the corner. Arguably, January 20th, 2017 will be one of the worst days in presidential history for a majority of Americans–––certainly for those Americans who care about the integrity of our democratic institutions and the symbolic meaning of the American president for those institutions around the world.
But for social justice, Vatican II Catholics we share an additional concern, and that is Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s participation–––and perceived blessing–––of a Trump presidency that day too.
Of course, Dolan is a coy political agent, experienced enough to politely and swiftly dismiss such a criticism of participation as a non-partisan Christian wish of peace and hope rather than what it will be: a parochial blessing of the GOP’s state power.
Dolan, standing among President-elect Donald J. Trump’s clerics of choice on January 20th will convey two very cold facts about the reality of the Catholic world in American society today.
First, it will symbolize a high-water mark of American Catholic Contras and their embeddedness in the Republican political machine, despite that machine’s embrace of Ayn Rand’s anti-Christian theology of selfishness and greed.
Secondly, it will symbolize the Contra-Vatican II divide in the American church and the political alignments of those Contras that are responsible for Vatican II Catholics’ loss of faith in the spiritual and moral authority of their church.
Dolan’s participation in Trump’s inauguration ceremony, in whatever capacity that might be, will elicit a palpable sorrowfulness in the liberal Catholic community for the simple fact that Trump’s faith and his politics stand in sharp contrast to even the etymology of the word “catholicity,” much less the core tenants of our faith.
Catholic Contras, Not “Neoconservatives”
Many speak of a divided American Catholic church between conservative and liberal Catholics, but the reality of that divide is that a reactionary hierarchy, their theologians and intellectuals have split the church in two by marginalizing their social justice, Vatican II brothers and sisters in Christ. This exclusionary movement self-identifies as “Neoconservative.”
This label, Neoconservative Catholicism, doesn’t capture the movement’s nihilistic unity of purpose to destroy 20th century progressive gains in church and state. We must abandon the Neoconservative label in favor of a more historically accurate one.
To place Neoconservative Catholicism in historical context it need be set against the ecclesial revolution of Vatican II (1963 – 1965). Only then can it truly be understood as a reactionary movement against a model of church that puts the primacy of “the people of God” at the center.
The Second Vatican Council was an ecclesial revolution from a variety of perspectives, but there were distinct emphases that made it truly radical. First, a new ecclesiology (i.e. model of church) was put forth that emphasized the church as “the people of God.” This deemphasized a Vatican I model of church where the “Magisterium” (i.e. the hierarchy) was thought the unquestionable spiritual and moral authority of which their flock must follow.
Secondly, and in response to this new ecclesiology, a new vision of ministry emphasized the “co-responsibility” of the people of God alongside their bishop to discern the “signs of the times” as a community, albeit in different ways according to individual charisms.
Thirdly, a new theological anthropology was introduced, galvanized by modern developments in philosophy and sociology, that placed the universal worthiness and equality of the human person at the center of society.
Vatican II was revolutionary because it turned power models of the church and the state on its head. It placed the dignity of the human person, their existential needs and their economic rights at the center of both. At once, Vatican II disordered what Neoconservatives refer to as “God’s order,” i.e. the spiritual and moral authority of the Catholic Magisterium and the politico-economic authority of a global stateless elite over against the rest of us.
Neoconservative Catholicism as an ideological term fails to describe what it in fact is: a group of Catholic counterrevolutionaries (i.e. Contras) intent on reestablishing the Ancien Régime by rolling back what makes Catholicism catholic and democracy democratic in the 21st century.
American Symbols of Bad Faith
Let’s call the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ blessing of Trump at his inauguration, as an extension of Cardinal Dolan’s participation in it, what it really is too: a symbolic correspondence of American bad faith.
Bad faith is the belief that some persons are more worthy than others in society, and it’s a belief that comes in myriad forms.
It could come in the Randian worldview of the wealthy and elite, whom believe they are equal only among their peers.
It could come in the Racial Nationalist worldview of “the whites,” whom believe in privilege and power over against people of color.
And it could come in the Catholic Contra worldview of the spiritual, moral and intellectual elect, whom believe they are God’s chosen to order society according to a divine hierarchy.
Regardless of form, bad faith is a counterrevolutionary war on inclusionary, pro-democratic institutions, public policy agendas, and faith community practices that work tirelessly to pry open the last closed windows (i.e. closed systems) of church and state.
The metaphor for Vatican II is an window to the church being thrown open. When asked why the Second Vatican Council was needed, Pope Saint John XXIII responded, “I want to throw open the windows of the Church, so that we can see out, and the people can see in.”Pope Francis’ recently argued that “A church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock.”
These appeals to an open church, through metaphors of open windows and open doors, is also a condemnation of Contra ecclesial tactics of systematically shutting out the voices of social justice, Vatican II Catholics–––from the pulpit to the classroom to the pews. In doing so Contras roadblock the Gospel message of Christ, or worse, the Gospel message of Christ becomes a front for an anti-Christian ideology of the Randian and Racial Nationalist varieties.
The metaphor for Trump’s presidency is a white man punching a black man in the face at one of his rallies, and police rushing that black man and forcing him to he knees while Trump yells at the police, “get him out of here, get him out…”
Trump’s appeal to racial hatred and violence against persons of color is also a political tactic to systematically enflame racial tensions in the American electorate for the nefarious purposes of partisan and personal political gain, all of which blocks the road to a more inclusionary and egalitarian democratic society.
Both metaphors are exclusionary, anti-democratic visions of the most significant institutions in American democracy today: the church and the state. One is the exclusionary, anti-democratic visions that the USCCB has of the American Catholic church, and the other is the exclusionary, anti-democratic vision that a Trump Administration has of the state–––and their symbolic significance corresponds in bad faith.
On January 20, when we watch Trump sworn in to the EOPOTUS, a majority of Americans will fall ill from the sight of such a moral defect as a President Trump.
And when we progressive Catholics see Cardinal Timothy Dolan bless that moral defect we will cringe all the more because there is no greater sin in a democracy than the church and the state unified in overlapping forms of bad faith.
“Sixty-nine, 69, 69”
For those of you that bought Ministry’s 1992 album ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ, or better known as Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs, you probably recognized that instantly.
For the rest of you, it may be unfamiliar, so I’m going to make the case why you should go out and buy this album that was released 25 years ago.
A hungry ear
Like most of my favorite albums, I bought this one as a teenager. It was during an election year and then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton was taking on then-President George H.W. Bush. Being from Arkansas, it’s probably easy to tell who I wanted to see get in … then again, when it comes to Arkansas, maybe not.
Sure, I wasn’t old enough to vote, I was only 15 at the time of the election, but I was sure interested in it.
Apparently there was this band called Ministry was too.
Now, I had heard of Ministry. About a year before this album was released, I was a ninth grader who had just discovered heavy metal. As my interest and love for the genre grew, I got a lot of disapproval. The disapproval came from my mother, of course, because she didn’t understand the genre and was only familiar with it through what she saw on the news, which of course was mostly associated the genre sex, drugs and Satanism. I also heard the disapproval from my older and younger brothers.
I don’t think I first heard of Ministry through my younger brother, but it was something that he said that made me want to check them out.
“Don’t listen to Ministry, I think they’re ‘devil worshippers,’” he said.
When I asked why, he said it was the lead singer’s vocals that made him think that. That singer was Al Jourgensen, a man of many talents who seemed to have a different band for every different mood he was in.
So, of course, I had to check them out.
Growing up in rural Arkansas though, made that a difficult task. Luckily, the timing worked out pretty well because not too long after he said that to me, “N.W.O.” debuted on Headbangers Ball.
With its scenes of destruction, the gyrating Bush mascot and the aggressiveness of the song, I resolved to buy the album. Which, I managed to do within a couple of weeks. It’s topped off by a bystander’s filming of police beating Lady Liberty, ala Rodney King, which was still fresh on everyone’s minds.
This video summed up what politics felt like in the early 1990s. There was uncertainty. There was violence. Cities burned.
It felt like the U.S. was on the edge of chaos. Maybe more so than it does now.
But, then again, I was 15. Things always seem big at that age, particularly when you notice them for the first time.
I’m not exactly sure where I got it. It could’ve been Walmart or Hastings, possibly Colombia House or BMG. But what matters is I got my hands on it and I listened to it a lot. It was probably my most-listened to album between the time that I bought Angel Dust by Faith No More in summer of 1992 and The Ethereal Mirror by Cathedral in spring of 1993.
Anyway, I spent hours listening to this album on my cheap CD player and talking about it with my other metally-inclined friend, who happens to be a salty seaman now.
Soundtrack for a riot
The album kicked off with “N.W.O.,” an aggressive song that could be called more metal than industrial. It’s frantic guitars, distorted vocals and bludgeoning beats marked a turning point for Ministry, who until that point were more 120 Minutes than Headbangers Ball. By putting this song first, they basically said “this is Ministry and we’re here to shred.”
It’s an interesting song as it doesn’t actually have a chorus per se. Instead of a chorus, there’s a sample of Bush saying “A New World Order” several times. The guitar solo, which I’m not sure was played by Jourgensen or Mike" Scaccia, kind of acts as the glue that holds the song together at its finale.
There were two other singles off this album: “Just One Fix” and “Jesus Built My Hotrod.”
“Just One Fix” may sound kind of familiar to people, even those hearing the song for the first time. The main riff for “Just One Fix” sounds a lot like the main riff from Rammstein’s “Du Hast” which came out almost five years later.
Anyway, “Just One Fix” is in the same vein as “N.W.O.,” except it is dominated by a haunting guitar melody throughout. It’s definitely an aggressive song, but whereas N.W.O. feels angry, “Just One Fix” feels desperate. It’s lyrics are pretty self explanatory, much like the song title, and it is essentially about someone going about trying to find their “fix” which I assume is a drug of some sort.
The other single, “Jesus Built My Hotrod” is kind of out of place in a way. Whereas most of the songs are metal-industrial tunes with a serious bent, “Jesus Built My Hotrod” is essentially a hedonistic rocker. “Jesus Built My Hotrod” is not sung by Jourgensen, but Butthole Surfers vocalist Gibby Haynes instead. There are not really any lyrics aside from the occasional sentence dropped in by Haynes, instead it’s a lot vocalizations that sound like “("Ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long.” Not that it matters, the music and vocalizations work together as an awesome whole. The story behind the song, not too surprisingly, is that there was a lot of alcohol involved in its recording process.
While the singles were all strong tracks and, honestly, they alone do an excellent job of persuading you to buy the album more than any review could, I would like to mention a couple of other songs that stood out to me, personally.
My personal favorite track, and longest one on the album, is called “Scarecrow.”
I guess you can say that this big, heavy song was sort of a sign that I would be into doom metal before I knew what doom metal was.
“Scarecrow” is the slowest paced of the songs on the album. It makes excellent use of its samples, adding to the rather hopeless atmosphere of the song instead of distracting from it. The lyrics are up for interpretation, some say it’s about being a pariah and some say it’s about Christianity, but whatever you may think, the music shapes how you see it, as how things should be.
The other standout track for me was the title track “Psalm 69.” I’m not sure how to describe this song. Like “Scarecrow” it sounds huge. Parts of it are like “N.W.O.” and really aggressive. You could also say it’s somewhat like “Just One Fix” in its use of samples becoming a dominant element in the song.
But whatever, unlike the others, “Psalm 69” is schizophrenic in its tempo changes and altogether crazy, but it’s great. I’d say it’s one of those songs you’d have to hear for yourself to appreciate.
Four more tracks round out the album.
“Hero” is frenetic song which kind of makes me think of the first part of Full Metal Jacket in lyric form. It’s lyrics obviously (at least to me) refer to the military’s process of creating soldiers, by destroying a person and recreating them as killing machines.
“TV II” is frenetic as well, but is a lot more like an industrial punk song, with the drum beats blasting as fast as possible between Jourgensen’s screaming of commercial lines and accusations of lies.
The last two songs, “Corrosion” and “Grace” are probably the least accessible.
“Corrosion” is probably the closest you’ll get to a pure industrial song in the album while “Grace” takes the user into a final descent of madness through noise and samples before finishing the album.
While these four tracks may not be my favorites on the album, they can in no way be described as “filler,” or crappy songs that are just there to fill space. They’re very good song, they just didn’t speak to me like the others did.
To buy or not to buy?
So why should you buy this album 25 years later?
First, it’s an important piece of history as far as heavy music. While, it may not be the first industrial-metal album, it does represent the first of that mixed genre to breakthrough to a larger audience. It put that genre on the map and probably (I won’t say “definitely”) opened the door for bands like Godflesh and Pitchshifter to make their own marks in the U.S.
Another reason is that it is, overall, an example of a solid album. It’s lack of filler and Ministry’s willingness to experiment with their own sound should serve as an example of how to make a decent album for all aspiring metal bands. As many who are familiar with the genre know, a lot of albums are full of generic songs that sound like they were lazily written to fill out the time to make an LP.
Finally, it’s Ministry.
Ministry is one of the of the most relevant bands for people who like lyrics that make them think. Ministry makes music for people who like music that challenges them. This album represents a major turning point in the band’s now more-than three decades of existence and not checking it out is missing out on an important piece of the puzzle.
Psalm 69 wasn't only a turning point for Ministry, but it also lifted the bar for a whole industrial genre.