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September 24, 2008


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Christian anti-Semitism...

Ten years ago, I got into a bit of a clash with the husband of my baby sister-in-law. He refused to consider my assertion that anti-semitism is very much a part of Catholicism. Sure, he was a Catholic, but he grew up in the Bay Area, and younger than me by close to a decade, and he wouldn't admit as valid my own experience as a once-Catholic in a mostly Catholic part of North-America. Strangely enough, he saw no contradiction between his position and his parents's background: they were Catholic Jews who left Austria in the 1930s, for the reasons you can imagine, and in fact were on Hitler's enemy list for their also being communists who did plays that Adolf's ideology didn't approve of. Then again, my brother-in-law is something of a know-it-all.

Magdalene-Mary is a cynic who declares a good book more enjoyable than twenty beddings

Books are friends, and friends are the best thing a person can have. More durable than beddings too, even quilted ones. Heheheh...

I was thinking at the beginning of your review that I would want to see it again. It sounds like there's lots of symbols and relationships that would take second looks.

I'm not fond of Passion Plays either, it's almost impossible to do them without making the Jews evil.

The Catholic hierarchy has been attempting to reduce official and unofficial Catholic anti-Semitism since Vatican II, sometimes in ways that strike me as rather patronizing, though that's certainly a major improvement on persecution. Some of it can be annoyingly disingenuous, too. The current Pope, then Cardinal Ratzinger, speaking in 1980 of the Oberammergau Passion play: "I beg of everybody, particularly our Jewish friends, to stop reproaching us with an anti-Semitism totally alien to the historic roots and content of this play."

Yeah, right.

But a large part of the problem (for all forms of Christianity, not just Catholicism) is that Christian theology considers Christianity a fulfillment of and replacement for Judaism. Binary problem: Christ was or was not the Messiah. There's no middle ground, no Schrodinger's Christ. I don't think any organized Christian sect can logically acknowledge as legitimate the viewpoint that Christ might not have been the Messiah after all and the whole son of God thing was imaginary and therefore their entire theological basis of existence might be incorrect. (Though it's certainly possible for an individual to follow Christ as an entirely human moral philosopher rather than a demi-deity, I don't know of any sect that organizes on that basis.) And if Christianity is correct, then Judaism is incorrect in refusing to accept it. And there's no easy way to get around this little theological problem, though of course people of good will can and do agree to politely ignore it socially and at least in the West we currently have a general consensus that believing people are in error about religion is not a good or sufficient reason to kill them or start a war. (And it took us quite a few centuries to get there, didn't it?)

But Passion plays are dramatized theology, and not terribly sophisticated drama at that. (There's an interesting challenge for a playwright: a sophisticated Passion play.) So that whole uncompromising element is going to pop out pretty easily, and it's not a big step from "the Jews are wrong" to "the Jews are evil." Is it impossible to do a Passion play and not make that step? I don't know. They do keep trying to clean up the Oberammergau production, with some success. It next goes up in 2010; it will be interesting to see the reactions then.

I've never asked my friends who are believers how they see Jesus. For one thing, it'd probably come off as offensive even though that's not my intention. I think Jewish beliefs are that Jesus was a Prophet, but I'm probably wrong.

About the Messiah... One of the weirdest biblical movies I'e ever seen is The Silver Chalice, not exactly one of Paul Newman's best. Still, it dealt with a subject that few such movies ever dealt with - that there were quite a few people who claimed to be the Messiah. This film was like Monty Python's Life of Brian, but without the laughs. Let me correct that. There were laughs, but they were unintended. Still, how else to react to the sight of Jack Palance wearing tights and jumping off a tower because he's convinced that he is the Son of God?

Serge: Coincidentally, just a few minutes ago I was reading Roger Ebert's blog, where he's posted a remembrance of Paul Newman.

The first time Ebert met Newman, apparently, was in 1968 when Newman was touring in support of a political candidate:
I remember him starting every speech the same way: "I'm Paul Newman, and first off I want to apologize for making 'The Silver Chalice'."

Paul A... Maybe it's The Silver Chalice, and not his campaigning for Eugene McCarthy, that put Newman on Nixon's enemy list.

I just want to note that people are still claiming to be the Messiah, or in some cases having it claimed for them after death. I believe the Lubavitchers still have dissenting factions over the status of their late rabbi (article here from a few years ago), though I don't think he claimed any such thing during his lifetime. And David Koresh (of the Branch Davidian cult) claimed to be the Messiah. It seems to be a significant subgenre of the whole "delusions of grandeur" psychosis.

True, Susan, but, when I think back to my youth as a good Catholic boy, there never was a mention of another Messiah way back then. None that I could remember anyway.

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I for one would like to agree with every word of Neutleissure's comment, although some punctuation might make his or her point clearer. Sadly I don't have the time to follow the link.

Well, I live in Northern Virginia, my first Layman ancestor in the US was from Prussia, fighting for the Brits, and I live on Civil War battlefield. I don't believe Einstein's beliefs but the League of Nations was pretty good.

Marilee... I live on Civil War battlefield

Isn't that kind of draftee... er... drafty?

As far as I know, there was exactly one Civil War battle in AZ, it was very small and it took place at Picacho Peak, which I drive by every week on my way to Tempe for dance classes. It's a very cool, distinctive rock formation/small mountain. Nearby is the most awful-looking little town ever, called Picacho. There's a state prison further in from the highway, but right along the highway there's a very run-down mini-mart, gas station and hotel. It looks like the sort of place where if you pulled in because your car acted up, you'd become the next victim of the local psycho killer. I dread the day my car breaks down in Picacho.

"...I dread the day my car breaks down in Picacho..."

That sounds like a good opening line for a story, AJ.

As for the Civil War, I thought the furthest west it had gone was Glorietta Pass, which is north of Santa Fe, but I'm not sure.

It's spam, but it's amusing enough that I've simply disabled its gnu-for-sale link and left it in place for us to mock.

My ancestors seem to have been a fairly dubious bunch during the American Civil War, getting captured and promptly switching sides. I do a ball in Gettysburg every fall and am always slightly mystified at the passion people put into ACW reenacting.

I agree about that being a good opening line for a story.

I guess people are quite passionate about Civil War reenactments because some of them are still fighting that damned war in the real world.

On the subject, I'd like to recommend Gardner Dozois's alternate-History short story "Counterfactual", in which young journalist Clifford Simak contemplates what would have happened if Robert E Lee had surrendered to Ulysses S Grant.

I'll counter-recommend Harry Turtledove's How Few Remain, which is an excellent alternate-history novel about the aftermath of a Civil War in which the south fought the north to a standstill. I remember reading it at a Balticon and liking it so much that I was reading it in the elevator when the doors opened and who should get on by Turtledove himself. I blurted out that I loved his book and couldn't put it down, waving it in his face (still held open by my thumb to the correct page) by way of illustration. He thanked me, after which brief exchange I promptly put my nose back in the book -- I think I was on my way to judge the masquerade and wanted to get to the end of the chapter. I heard him mutter "this is so flattering!" as I kept reading.

I later gave a copy to my history-buff and very...southern uncle, who also liked it a lot.

Yes, we have many Civil War museums and re-enactments. Just a few blocks from me is our Confederate Cemetary and people are still being buried there.

Marilee... people are still being buried there

For a moment I had this image of Civil War soldiers who keep rising from underground and they have to be reburied again and again. It has been a long day, yes.

Serge, this is what Wikipedia had to say about the matter:

"Efforts by the Confederacy to secure control of the region led to the New Mexico Campaign. In 1862, Baylor was ousted as governor of the territory by Davis, and the Confederate loss at the Battle of Glorieta Pass forced their retreat from the territory. The following month, a small Confederate picket troop north of Tucson fought to with an equally small Union cavalry patrol from California in the so-called Battle of Picacho Pass."

Since it says "so-called battle" I'm not surprised that you've never heard of it. I don't even know where I heard that random bit of trivia. Probably from my Dad.

I don't have much interest in alternate histories, unless they are steampunk and not particularly focused on specific wars. I find wars to be the least appealing part about history.

I've thought about writing a story about breaking down in Picacho, but I don't really have a knack for horror, so I don't know what I'd do with it.

AJ... You could look at old episodes of "Wild Wild West" for inspiration.

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