U.S. Religious Landscape Survey


Where Have All the Liberal Protestants Gone?
(Replaced by Neocons Every One)

by Philip Weiss (who is, for your information, a left-wing Jew)
Mondoweiss, 2008-08-02

[This is really about some religious aspects of sociology,
in particular as they relate to war and liberal causes.
Some parts about the decline of Protestantism come in paragraphs 5 thru 7.
Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

I’m still reelin and rockin from Joe Klein’s statement/confession that
Jewish neoconservatives made the Iraq war happen.
Of course the key word in it is Jewish.
That’s what’s got the Foxmans and Commentary bloggers so upset.
Because the essential understanding Klein offers is that
the neoconservative ideas for Iraq have a Jewish origin,
and are caught up with the Zionist religion
that has overtaken the American Jewish mind in the last 60 years
(including the neocons’ fellow traveler mainstream Jewish journalists
with a little Zionist fire in their bosom).
That’s starting to unravel now, imshallah. inshallah.

Walt and Mearsheimer avoided the word Jewish.
They are political scientists not sociologists,
yet one of the most important moments in their book
is when they talk about the changeover of Washington political culture
from the days when William Quandt was at Brookings
and writing important studies on the need for a two-state solution,
way back in 1975,
to 2002 when Kenneth Pollack is at Brookings,
under the wing of Haim Saban, toymaker and Zionist,
and issuing his Iraq war tract, The Threatening Storm,
in which he stated that
the Arab world doesn’t really care that much about
the “troubles” in Israel/Palestine,
and said nary a word about the occupation.

You simply can’t look at Saban and Pollack’s accession
without talking about the
Jewish rise, Jewish success, Jewish money.

A few weeks back a reporter at a local Gannett paper interviewed me
about the new Jewish establishment.
He said he was interviewing Jamie Johnson,
who has chronicled this trend somewhat at Vanity Fair,
and Nick Lemann, whose book The Big Test
described the ruling class before the meritocracy as the “Episcopacy.”
‘Cause they were all Episcopal.
I don’t know if the guy’s piece has run,
I suspect not or I would have heard about it;
but in the interview as soon as I started talking about Zionism,
he cut me off.
This is about the sociology, he said, not international relations.

So right now we have
a little reporting about the sociology,
and on the other hand
political reporting on the neocons and Iraq.
Joe Klein’s comment and the furor over it may help at last
to bring these two ideas together.

Look what’s happened to the Episcopacy, it’s vanishing from American life.
I married into an Episcopal family.
My wife doesn’t go to church, her sisters don’t go to church,
and I hear fairly violent statements about religion at the Thanksgiving table.
My mother-in-law is still a churchgoer, and for real.
She went to Palestine with a church group,
and smuggled sheets into a hospital in Bethlehem.
But another Episcopalian and Israel/Palestine activist, Nancy Horn,
tells me that in her small town in PA, she can go to one of three churches.
“One’s got 15 members, one’s got 30, one’s got 40.”
Then she adds with delicious irony: “The buildings are beautiful.”
Liberal Protestants are leaving American public life.

One reason for the departure is religious fervor.
“Liberal Protestants were crucial to abolitionism and the civil rights movement--
they were in the driver’s seat.
But now, the word Christianity has almost become a synonym for evangelical or fundamentalist or pro-life,”
says Brian Dana Akers, the son of a Methodist minister who was a big do-gooder.
Akers himself is now a leading publisher of yoga books.
“I myself have never been a churchgoer,
taking after my father’s father instead of my father,
so perhaps I’m part of the reason for the mainstream decline.
And it occurs to me--
not only was liberal religion driving events in the 60s,
many of the main actors were literally clergy members:
Martin Luther King Jr. and many of his associates,
William Sloane Coffin,
Father Drinan,
the Berrigan brothers [Daniel, Philip], et al.”

This all speaks to a fact
that an Arab friend pointed out to me a couple of weeks ago:
“in the diverse American establishment,
Zionists are the only ones with an esprit de corps.”
By esprit, he meant a religious understanding, a way of giving life meaning.
That religious understanding of course includes Israel--
in the same way that fundamentalist Christian understanding
includes pro-life and stem-cell research ideas.
Joe Klein has kick-started a really important conversation.
Can we have it?

Zionism Becomes a Social Value in the Establishment
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-08-04

My wife and I spent the weekend socializing
in our community in the Hudson Valley.
One of the things I do in this blog is
try and report on the life of an intermarriage.
We are both from privileged backgrounds but distinct tribes;
the life we’ve made together is a privileged one.
And the thing that strikes me forcefully from this weekend is that
in privileged circles,
Jewish and gentile pathways are intermingling almost seamlessly.


I am saying that there is a comfortable acceptance of Jewishness
in some high social circles in the U.S.
It used to be that WASPs tolerated Jews because they were indispensable,
as professionals, doctors and lawyers.
When I was young, I remember visiting a high-WASP’s house in the country
and looking through his father’s rolodex.
My friend said that his father was antisemitic,
but the doctors in there were Jewish.
Now WASPs embrace Jews because
we are such important players in American society.
We have money.

Consider this delicious phrase from the coverage of Congressman Eric Cantor,
whom McCain is eyeing as a possible veep:
Cantor, 45, is
a prominent Jewish Republican with a talent for fund raising,
which he has used to help
the McCain campaign in recent months.
Ah, euphemism.

One consequence of the Jewish “talent for fundraising”
is that
Cantor’s rightwing love of Israel
is sort of taken for granted in establishment circles

and not openly discussed.
[Weiss isn’t totally clear about what he is suggesting,
but it seems to be a (partial) implication:
Rich Jew implies Likud supporter.]

I think it’s impolite to address it directly or questioningly.
Israel is imbibed by all
along with the Yiddish.
So even gentiles are Zionist in a mild unthinking way
(like Walter Russell Mead, the minister’s son
who attacked Walt and Mearsheimer in CFR’s magazine).
At one party I went to,
a weedy gentile kid had just returned from a trip to Israel
that his new Jewish stepfather had compelled him to go on.
He went reluctantly, but had a great time.

Meanwhile, it’s impolite to talk about Palestinians in American society.
I noticed that last night on “60 Minutes”
Steve Kroft interviewed Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum,
the Dubai dictator who is visiting Bush right now.
Al-Maktoum said he loves everything about America, except our foreign policy.
When Kroft asked him what about our foreign policy,
Al-Maktoum said he would bite his tongue,
but Kroft pushed him to mention the Iraq war and Iran.
He did not mention Israel.
A similar self-censorship prevails in establishment circles in the U.S. today.
Do we have to bring that up?
As I say, everyone’s a little bit Zionist, because it’s easier.

Last weekend I spent with my own tribe, in Cape Cod.
My wife was back here, on deadline.
Israel came up a few times, usually because I brought it up bumptiously,
and the impression I got of American Jewish attitudes towards Israel is that
they are not well-informed.
One guy said that
Israel’s Arab neighbors have threatened it with extinction forever.
A liberal woman said she knew little about the conditions of Palestinians,
because she finds it too complex and upsetting.
This is simply denial.
Denial in one quarter, liberal Jews.
Blank passivity in another.
So no wonder the crazies rule the conversation.

Episcopal Split as Conservatives Form New Group
New York Times, 2008-12-04


Banning prayer in schools hurts public morality
By Gregory Kane
Washington Examiner, 2010-04-05

Without church and parents, kids run wild
By Gregory Kane
Washington Examiner, 2010-04-19



Religion and war


Ahmadinejad Meets Clerics, and Decibels Drop a Notch
New York Times, 2007-09-27

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

After two days of prickly confrontations
with critics at Columbia University and the United Nations,
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran
held a friendly, even warm, exchange yesterday
with Christian leaders from the United States and Canada
convinced that dialogue is the only way to prevent war.

The session,
held under tight security at a chapel across the street from the United Nations,
was a reminder that
Mr. Ahmadinejad is a religious president of a religious nation
who relishes speaking on a religious plane.
He spent his 20 allotted minutes at the start of the two-hour meeting
recounting the chain of prophets central to Judaism, Christianity and Islam,
and the commonality of their messages.

He took questions from a panel that included
a Quaker, a Catholic, an Anglican, a Baptist
and a representative of the interfaith World Council of Churches,
some of whom separately said
they had been criticized by other religious leaders
for sitting down with the Iranian president.

Given the furor over Mr. Ahmadinejad’s earlier appearances,
there was no advance publicity.

The gathering, which included an audience of about 140 other religious leaders,
was organized by the Mennonites and Quakers,
churches known for their commitment to pacifism.

The organizers said that they had pressed hard
to find a Jewish leader to join the panel of questioners,
but that those invited declined
they could not win support from Jewish organizations.

“My heart was broken that
there was so little support from other religions to be here,”

said Mary Ellen McNish,
general secretary of the American Friends Service Committee,
a Quaker group that helped sponsor the event.

“If we don’t walk down this path of dialogue,
we’re going to end up in conflagration.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s smile at times turned to a grimace
as the panelists prodded him, politely,
about his record on
the Holocaust, human rights abuses, Israel and nuclear weapons development.
Also politely, he conceded nothing, and often deflected the inquiries
by turning the spotlight on the policies of the United States and Israel.

“Who are the ones that are filling their arsenals with nuclear weapons?”
he said.
“In the United States they have tested
the fifth generation of atomic bunker bombs,
missiles that go as far as 12,000 kilometers.
Who is the real danger here?”

Though Mr. Ahmadinejad’s answers differed little,
the tone of the session was a marked contrast
to the verbal pummeling he received at Columbia University on Monday,
when the university’s president, Lee C. Bollinger,
called the Iranian president
either “brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated”
for his stance on the Holocaust.

At the clerics’ meeting, Albert Lobe,
executive director of the Mennonite Central Committee, said pointedly,
“We mean to extend to you the hospitality which a head of state deserves.”

The session was part of
a concerted push by these religious leaders
to increase political support in the United States for talks with Iran.

Some of these religious leaders also met with Mr. Ahmadinejad
last year in New York and in February on a trip to Iran.

One critic said that these religious leaders were well intentioned, but naïve.

Malcolm I. Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of
the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations,
said in a telephone interview:
“They’re not going to convince him.

Their very presence there gives him respectability.”

Ms. McNish, of the American Friends Service Committee,
said the reverse was true:
“The more we isolate him, the more support he gets at home.”

But even the Bahais,
a minority religious group that has suffered persecution in Iran,
said they supported these efforts at dialogue with the Iranian government.
They had been invited to the prior meetings,
but the Iranian side refused to come if Bahais were there,
said Kit Bigelow, director of external affairs,
National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States.

The panelists on Wednesday included
the Rev. Drew Christiansen, a Roman Catholic who is
editor in chief of America, a Jesuit weekly;
Karen A. Hamilton, a Canadian Anglican who is
general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches;
the Rev. Chris Ferguson, also a Canadian,
who represents the World Council of Churches at the United Nations; and
Glen Stassen, a professor of Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary,
an evangelical institution.

Mr. Stassen,
who has helped to prod American evangelicals to take on issues
including global warming and torture,
said he and other evangelicals would soon circulate a document
intended to broaden support for dialogue with Iran,
based on the model of dialogue with North Korea.

Mr. Stassen asked President Ahmadinejad,
if the United States could guarantee no aggression against Iran,
“could there be an Iranian guarantee of no violence against Israel?”

Mr. Ahmadinejad responded
by asking for a three-minute break “for the interpreter.”
After the break, he said that
it was the United States and “the Zionist regime” that had nuclear weapons,
while Iran was seeking to enrich uranium only for “fuel purposes.”

The impetus for these talks came not from the Americans,
but from the Iranians,
said Ed Martin, Iran consultant for the Mennonite Central Committee,
a group that has done aid work in Iran.

In Open Letter,
Muslims Seek Cooperation With Christians as a Step Toward Peace

New York Times, 2007-10-12

[An excerpt; paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

Scores of Muslim clerics, theologians and academics
issued an open letter yesterday to all Christian leaders
saying the two religions need to work more closely together,
given that they share the basic principles of
worshiping one God and loving thy neighbor.

In sweeping terms, the letter notes that
55 percent of the world’s population is either Christian or Muslim,
“making the relationship between these two religious communities
the most important factor in contributing to
meaningful peace around the world.”

The letter is being seen as an effort
to tackle the strained relations between the two faiths
as well as
to address the widespread perception in the West
that moderate Muslims are mute about violence.

The letter notably lacks signatures from key figures
in the puritanical Wahhabi sect of Islam prevalent in Saudi Arabia.
The sect’s emphasis on shunning non-Muslims
is often considered a root of violence toward the West.

But experts consider the letter an important step
toward getting moderates on both sides
to overcome a tradition of hostility.

“You have to start somewhere,
and you are not going to start with harmony on either side,”

said R. Scott Appleby, a religious historian at the University of Notre Dame
and an expert on Roman Catholic-Islamic relations.
“Among the Muslim and Christian peoples of the world,
the middle-level leaders are hungry for movement in this direction
because people are losing their lives every day in its absence.”


[P]olitics, not theology,
shape anti-Western attitudes among Muslims,

Professor [Muqtedar] Khan
[director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware]
“They have a problem
with the occupation of Iraq,
with the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians;

it’s not about Christianity.”

“A Common Word Between Us and You”
by 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals



Christians United for War
by Philip Giraldi
Antiwar.com, 2009-12-24


Onward Christian Soldiers, Again
by Philip Giraldi
Antiwar.com, 2010-02-04

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Religion and politics


The Huge Cultural Shift That’s Helping Trump Win Evangelicals
Could it be that America’s evangelicals just aren’t all that evangelical anymore?
By Stephen Prothero
Politico Magazine, 2016-03-23

Labels: ,


The war on Christianity

The NYT and the WP have been running “feel-good,” “not-to-worry”
editorials, op-ed columns, and letters to the editor
asserting that the “war on Christianity” is basically
a figment of the paranoid Christian’s imagination.
Well, call me paranoid,
but that is precisely what those waging war on Christianity
would want for Christians to believe.
For evidence that there really is a war on Christianity going on in our culture,
consider the following,
from the 2005-10-02 Washington Post, page C12
(originally in the RNS-DIGEST-SEPT20 (09/21/2005) at Religion News Service)
(emphasis is added):

Scholastic Parent & Child has refused to run a $14,000 ad
for a Jesus doll that recites popular biblical verses at the push of a button.

The national magazine is often distributed in public school classrooms,
and the ad–
which would have run in the November/ December holiday gift guide–
might have offended non-Christian families,
Scholastic official Kyle Good explained to Religion News Service.

Officials with the company that makes the new dolls, One2believe,
said Scholastic is being inconsistent.
In last year’s gift guide, they noted,
the magazine ran an editorial about a Noah’s Ark play set.

“We’re just trying to bring faith to the community that we know–
the Christian community,”
said One2believe director Joshua Livingston.
“We’re not trying to force it on anyone.”

I find this absolutely amazing.
The powers-that-be in our media world won’t even run an ad
that promotes Christianity?
The anti-Christ is here, and in control.

Here’s another column dealing with this issue:

Cal Thomas,
The Gospel of unbelief

Miscellaneous Articles


What’s Happened to Barbara Walters?
by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
An advertisement that appeared on the op-ed page
of the 2007-06-12 New York Times.

[An excerpt:]

[I]t is the business of the Catholic League to call [Barbara Walters] out
when she permits her co-hosts to relentlessly bash Catholicism.


[Barbara Walters] permits her panelists to run roughshod over Catholicism.

British High Court Wrestles With Symbol of Premarital Purity
British Teen Sues for Right to Wear Chastity Ring
New York Times, 2007-06-23

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

At a time of passionate debate over religious clothing and emblems, a 16-year-old member of an evangelical Christian movement protested in court on Friday because her school has refused to allow her to wear a so-called purity ring, symbolizing her commitment to premarital chastity.

The case offered a counterpoint to a broader discussion concerning Muslim women who wear the full-face veil known as the niqab. But it also revealed stirrings of resentment among some members of Britain’s Christian majority, who say they are the victims of discrimination over how they display their faith.

The young woman, Lydia Playfoot, said her school, at Horsham, south of London, had told her that the ring broke the school’s rules on uniforms and jewelry.

But Ms. Playfoot argued that the prohibition breached her right to express a religious belief. Not only that, she said in a statement to the court, Sikh and Muslim pupils were permitted distinctive dress to show their religious identity.

Ms. Playfoot belongs to a British branch of an American-based evangelical movement known as Silver Ring Thing. Both her parents work for the branch, according to its Web site, www.silverringthing.com.

“The real reason for the extreme hostility
to the wearing of the S.R.T. purity ring is
the dislike of the message of sexual restraint
which is ‘counter cultural’ and
contrary to societal and governmental policy,”

Ms. Playfoot said in a written statement to Britain’s High Court.

“It is this message from the Judeo-Christian position that is suppressed:
exemptions are allowed or permitted for other messages,”
she said, arguing that her school
“doesn’t offer equal rights to Christians.”


Pastor Rick's Test
The Candidates Submit, and a Principle Suffers
By Kathleen Parker
Washington Post, 2008-08-20

[An excerpt.]

This is about higher principles that are compromised
every time we pretend we’re not applying a religious test
when we’re really applying a religious test.

[Come now.
Banning the “establishment of religion” means that
the government may not tell people what church to attend or what god to worship.
It certainly does not mean that
voters must be denied information about the religious beliefs of candidates.
Is voting for Christians equivalent to
the establishment of Christianity as a religion?
(Of course, we do have a state religion,
although it is not acknowledged:
Worship of Israel, whatever it does.)]

It is true that
no one was forced to participate in the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency
and that both McCain and Obama are free agents.
[Pastor Rick] Warren has a right to invite whomever he wishes to his church
and to ask them whatever they’re willing to answer.

His format and questions were interesting
and the answers more revealing than what the usual debate menu provides.
But does it not seem just a little bit odd to have McCain and Obama
chatting individually with a preacher in a public forum
about their positions on evil and their relationship with Jesus Christ?

The past few decades of public confession and Oprah-style therapy
have prepared us perfectly for
a televangelist probing politicians about their moral failings.
Warren’s Q&A wasn’t an inquisition exactly,
but viewers would be justified in squirming.

What is the right answer, after all?
What happens to the one who gets evil wrong?
What’s a proper relationship with Jesus?
What’s next?
Interrogations by rabbis, priests and imams?
What candidate would dare decline on the basis of mere principle?

[Wait a minute.
It’s perfectly okay for Jewish leaders to interrogate candidates for office
on their positions on Israel
but it’s not okay for Christian leaders to interrogate those candidates
on their positions on religious issues?

As to retribution against those who give the “wrong” answers,
the Jewish community has an undeniable track record of
punishing any politician rash enough
to give the “wrong” answer on his unconditional support for Israel.
So far as I know,
there is absolutely no equivalent record of Christians
forcing their views on the body politic.
Any counterexample?]

Both Obama and McCain gave “good” answers, but that’s not the point.
They shouldn’t have been asked.
Is the American electorate now better prepared to cast votes
knowing that Obama believes that
“Jesus Christ died for my sins and I am redeemed through him,”
or that McCain feels that he is “saved and forgiven”?

[You bet they are.
Even someone as misguided as Ms. Parker evidently is should know that
Obama has been portrayed by some as a closet Muslim,
and that, while Ms. Parker may pretend that that does not concern her,
it surely, given history, is a matter of interest to the American electorate.
But Ms. Parker feels that the American electorate should not hear
how he answers direct questions on that subject.

What does that mean, anyway?
What does it prove?
Nothing except that these men are willing to say whatever they must --
and what most Americans personally feel is no one’s business --
to win the highest office.

[There is always that cynical way of viewing what politicians say.
Why in this one case does Ms. Parker assert that that possibility means
politicians should not even be asked questions?
In what other cases does she make the same argument?
And if this is the only one,
why does she pick on questions relating to Christianity to raise her objection?
And here is a (no doubt impertinent) question:
Just what is the religion of Kathleen Parker?
I don’t know the answer,
but perhaps the fact that she is archived at Jewish World Review provides a clue.]


Under Ban, 6 Troopers Resign as Chaplains
By Anita Kumar
Washington Post, 2008-09-25

Chief Orders Nondenominational Prayers

WASPs Are the New Secularists,
Jews the New Parochialists

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-08-31

[An excerpt; paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

Jewish intellectuals helped bring about the rise of secular culture.

I’m reading a fascinating book,
Science, Jews, and Secular Culture, by David Hollinger,
that came out 12 years ago and argues that
Jewish intellectuals sought to de-Christianize American culture.
Hey I know; I was there.
For some of these multiculturalists,
“the exposure of
the parochially Anglo-Protestant character
of earlier American intellectual life
has become an almost sacred calling,”

Hollinger writes.
This is precisely what Jacob Heilbrunn says
in his book earlier this year on the neoconservatives:
that resentment against the WASP intellectual elite
fueled Kristol and Podhoretz et al,
and that they strived to build a “parallel establishment.”
And did.

Hollinger was writing before the rise of the neocons,
certainly before their Great Works.
He doesn’t even mention them (O.K., he lives in Berkeley).
He likes secularists, and he says of the rise of the Jewish intellectuals,
“what made these intellectuals special was
their manifest failure to be Jewish parochials.
This applied to many of the Zionist as well as the non-Zionist intellectuals
in the group.”

This statement must today be regarded as inaccurate.
We cannot look at
the transformation of public intellectual life in the last 10 years
without talking about
the parochialism of many Jewish intellectuals.
I’m a secular Jewish writer myself, and I know a lot of secularist Jews.
There are still plenty of us.
But the neocons are parochialists, as I have argued time and again on this site,
an argument Joe Klein has lately and bravely joined
when he condemned the Iraq war planners
as Jewish neoconservatives with divided loyalties.
Alas, Klein is the exception.
So is Tony Judt, who has also condemned parochialism.
The pro-Israel feeling in Jewish life is so regnant that
there has been a tendency among even secular Jewish intellectuals,
for instance Glenn Greenwald and Daniel Lazare,
not to identify neocons as Jewish parochialists
(Greenwald in his book on Bush,
where he failed to name the neocons as Israel-firsters;
Lazare in his shaming review in the Nation of Walt and Mearsheimer).
I think this taboo is crumbling.
Greenwald has been plain about the Israel agenda on his blog,
and it is now becoming a little trendy
for liberal Jewish writers to dime out the Israel firsters:
Rob Eshman on Huffington Post the other day,
Connie Bruck going after Sheldon Adelson in the New Yorker.
J Street has of course made sallies against the undivided Jerusalem crowd.
But the fascination here is that almost all these folks (Greenwald excepted)
do so from a vigorously pro-Israel perspective.
They must first establish their Zionist bona fides,
then go after the neocons.
There is a religious flavor to the advocacy.

Let me be clear,
I think the de-Christianizing of American culture was a good thing
(though it caused resentment among Catholic intellectuals like Pat Buchanan
and Protestants like T.S. Eliot, whom Hollinger both cites and condemns).
There was a stuffy parochialism to that old order,
and as Hollinger says,
de-Christianizing included a lot of liberating trends in our culture,
the Enlightenment, the questioning of religious myths, the rise of Hollywood.

The naivete in Hollinger’s thesis is
his claim that the emancipated Jews were truly emancipated.
How can you talk about the Enlightenment
when a significant bloc of American Jewish life is now wrapped around
the Scriptural fairy dust that
Jews have the right to a city halfway around the world
that most of them have never been to?
The Jewish novelists whose rise Hollinger extols--Bellow, Malamud et al--
weren’t all that secular.
Bellow wrote a feverish Zionist book of his own
and adored Allan Bloom, godfather of neocons.
And speaking for the parochialist neocons,
I don’t think it’s easy to cheerlead for the Enlightenment
in the shadow of the Holocaust.
(Doug Feith lost two grandparents and seven uncles and aunts in the Holocaust,
and helped start parochialist JINSA and One Jerusalem).

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War on Christmas


“How the Left Stole Chrismas”
Merry Birth of Guru Gobind Singh Day!
By Tom Piatak
The American Conservative, 2004-01-19, pages 20-22
(as of 2006-01-15, it is also at VDARE.com, with some links added)

[Some bibliographical notes:
This article does not appear (at least as of November 2008)
in the on-line table of contents
for the issue in which it appeared in The American Conservative.
(But if you look closely you can see its title in the image of the issue’s cover.)
However a Google search, using its author and title,
turned up an HTML version of the article
with some paragraphs and sentences run together
(I have the print version of that issue for comparison).

Here is the article from the TAC archive,
but with paragraphing revised to match the print edition,
and paragraph numbers and emphasis added.
When I have time I plan on adding the VDARE links as well.]

“I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time,
when it has come round—
apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin,
if anything can be apart from that—
as a good time:
a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time:
the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year,
when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up hearts freely,
and to think of people below them
as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave,
and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

These words of Scrooge’s nephew
describe Christmas in the America of my youth.
[Piatak was born in 1964.]
America was a special and wonderful time of year,
marked by kindness and good cheer,
with its myriad celebrations all viewed as ultimately stemming from
the birth of the One who, in Dickens’ words,
“made lame beggars walk and blind men see.”

Today’s consensus is different.
In last year’s made-for-cable movie “Christmas Rush,”
one character wishes another “Merry Christmas,”
only to be told,
“Gee, that is politically incorrect.”
And so it is.

In one generation—I was born in 1964—
Christmas has gone from being
a widespread and joyous public celebration
to the holiday that dare not speak its name.
We now have
“holiday trees,” “holiday cards,”
“holiday parties,” “holiday songs,”
and even, in one particularly egregious advertisement,
a “child’s first holiday.”
Simply put, there is now raging a “War Against Christmas,”
in author Peter Brimelow’s trenchant phrase.

A hallmark of this war is an aggressive multiculturalism
that has elevated a variety of formerly obscure or even non-existent festivals
into faux-Christmases,
principally Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and now Ramadan,
but also Diwali, Bodhi Day, the Birth of Guru Gobind Singh, Donghi [?],
and Chinese New Year.
The reason for the elevation of these holidays is their proximity to Christmas,
not their cultural significance or intrinsic worth.
Indeed, Kwanzaa was invented in 1966,
Hanukkah is traditionally a minor holiday
(with no basis in the canonical Hebrew Bible), and
Ramadan was virtually unknown in America until a few short years ago.
Despite their recent provenance—at least as pseudo-Christmases—
these holidays are now treated as coequals of Christmas,
with public figures sure to pepper any of the increasingly rare mentions of Christmas
with references to at least some of these others.

The desire to efface Christmas
that lies behind the elevation of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and all the rest
is illustrated by recent developments in the New York City public schools.
The Thomas More Law Center is now suing the school system,
which bans Nativity scenes
but regularly displays menorahs and Muslim crescents.
Nor are the schools trying to rectify this
now that their hostility to Christianity has been put in the spotlight.
Instead, they are vigorously defending the ban, claiming that the
“suggestion that a crèche
is a historically accurate representation of an event with secular significance
is wholly disingenuous.”
The birth of the most important figure in history
carries no weight in New York City,
nor does the fact that the birth was first depicted in a crèche
by another seminal historical figure,
an itinerant friar from Assisi named Francis.
It does not take a belief in the divinity of Christ or the sanctity of Francis
to recognize their tremendous impact on the history and culture of the West. Apparently, though,
the multiculturalists are eager to promote every culture but our own.

That the war against Christmas is part of a broader war against Western culture
is shown by
last year’s winner of VDARE.com’s invaluable War Against Christmas competition.
The Columbus, Ohio, schools banned a performance of Handel’s Messiah,
which for the previous nine years
had been the highlight of the year at a specialized school for the arts.
The performance would have violated the district’s religious-music policy,
which came into being as the result of an ACLU lawsuit.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the policy stipulated that
the proportion of religious music performed in concert
be no more than 30 percent
and that the performance of religious music be
“based on sound curricular reasons”
and not
“manifest a preference for religion or particular religious beliefs.”
The educational bureaucrats who devised the policy, trying to be helpful,
suggested the students perform “Frosty the Snowman” or “Jingle Bells”
instead of Handel.
Their ignorance and philistinism is appalling,
though characteristic of those waging the War Against Christmas.
After hearing Messiah performed in London, Haydn was moved to exclaim,
“Handel is the master of us all!”
and to write his own great oratorio, The Creation.
But, in today’s climate of “sensitivity” and “tolerance,”
beauty and artistic merit are scarcely a sufficient warrant
for exposing delicate ears to the name of Christ.

The transformation of Christmas to “holiday”
and the attendant impoverishment of our culture
was brought about to accommodate
not the small minority of Americans who do not celebrate Christmas
but the far smaller minority—comprising those of all faiths and of none—
who resent the overwhelming majority who do celebrate Christmas.
In my experience, most non-Christians do not resent Christmas
and generally enjoy some aspects of its celebration.
This sentiment was well expressed by Philadelphia Inquirer editor Jane Eisner’s thoughtful and generous essay of December 2002,
in which she explained why, as a Jew,
she was bothered by the suppression of Christmas and
“[t]he conflation of Christmas, Hanukkah, and now Kwanzaa …
into one big, fat indistinguishable holiday.”

But the transformation of Christmas into “holiday” would not have occurred
without a dedicated, active minority who resented and despised it.
An upcoming film on the art-house circuit, called “The Hebrew Hammer,”
a spoof of blaxploitation films,
features the film’s eponymous hero
and his sidekick, the head of the Kwanzaa Liberation Front,
battling the film’s villains, the sons of Santa Claus and Tiny Tim.
Among the villains’ acts of treachery:
distributing videos of “It’s A Wonderful Life,”
one of the greatest of all American movies
and the favorite picture of both Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart.
Judging from the film’s Web site,
it appears that “The Hebrew Hammer” at least has the potential to be funny.
But the reasons for its making are not.
As the film’s director, Jonathan Kesselman, told the LA Jewish Journal,
“I asked myself, ‘What as a Jew really pisses me off?’
It hit me when I was walking around a mall in December:
I hate Christmastime.”

This Christmas, though, you won’t have to go to an art house
to see a film inspired by disdain for Christmas.
Disney is observing the holiday by releasing
(through its Miramax subsidiary [headed by Harvey and Bob Weinstein])
another alleged comedy, “Bad Santa.”
This movie’s Santa figure is shown being a drunk and having sex,
is heard by other characters having anal sex,
and repeatedly swears in front of children.
According to the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass,
Disney is promoting this charming film with advertisements on TV featuring
“a veiled reference to oral sex
and an unmistakable reference to feminine hygiene”
at times—such as during Sunday afternoon football games—
when it would be reasonable to expect children to watch them.
As Kass archly observes,
“About the only thing that Santa is forbidden to do these days
is mention the real reason that gifts are given in late December.”

The whole point of “Bad Santa” is to mock and demean Christmas.
The film’s boosters say as much.
George Thomas, of the Akron Beacon Journal, wrote in early November,
“The trailer shows this as an anti-holiday film and it could be
the much needed antidote
to that good-will-to-man feeling that permeates the season.”

It goes without saying that
the great Walt Disney would never have made such a film,
but neither would any of the other major studios in Hollywood’s golden age.
They were busy instead making such delightful films as
It’s a Wonderful Life,”
The Bells of St. Mary’s
(the film playing in Bedford Falls
as George Bailey runs down its snowy streets on Christmas Eve),
The Bishop’s Wife,” and
Miracle on 34th Street.”
The journey from “Miracle on 34th Street” to “Bad Santa”
is downhill all the way.

Kesselman has the same right to “hate Christmastime”
as the rest of us do to love it,
but it makes no sense to
transform our culture and jettison beloved and popular traditions
to appease such hatred.
The malcontents and misfits who have litigated and complained
to prevent such horrors as children learning how to sing “Silent Night”
should not be allowed to set our course.
What is needed, instead, is true tolerance,
a recognition that the point of celebrating a holiday is just that—celebration—
the intent of those doing the celebrating is not to demean those who don’t.
As Jane Eisner wrote,
“Somehow we have to learn to coexist
without calling in lawyers and initiating merger talks.
We have to recognize the strength and distinctiveness of each celebration,
and not force equality
by pretending ‘I Had a Little Dreidel’ is on par with
the heavenly melodies of Christmas carols.”

I first began thinking about this
while driving to my parents’ in Michigan several years ago
to celebrate Christmas.
Even though I was driving on Dec. 23,
I could not find Christmas music on any American radio station.
Then I came across CBC 2,
which was carrying nothing but Christmas music
and whose announcers were regularly wishing their listeners a Merry Christmas.
Their programming featured both familiar Christmas music
and some gems in the seemingly inexhaustible treasury of
beautiful Christmas music I had not heard before:
Anne Sofie von Otter singing lovely Swedish carols,
Charpentier’s beautiful Mass for Midnight,
with its generous borrowing from French carols,
and Praetorius’s stunning Mass for Christmas Morning.
The sheer beauty of the music brought home what we are in danger of losing.
And that the proudly tolerant Canadians were playing such music
led me to wonder why we are, instead,
sanitizing our culture of any reference to Christmas.

Rather than strip the altars,
we used to try to add to all the beauty surrounding Christmas,
the work done earlier by
Giotto, Bach, Dickens, Charpentier, Praetorius,
and the village priest and organist who collaborated to give us “Silent Night.”
Although not quite on this level,
Hollywood’s classic Christmas films have stood the test of time
and are still being watched and enjoyed nearly 60 years after they were made.
More recently, carols such as “The Little Drummer Boy”
and cartoons such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” have enchanted us,
and they still do, nearly 40 years later.
We no longer make such contributions,
as the focus of the Christmas season is no longer
the positive one of celebrating a shared tradition but
the negative one of pretending that tradition does not exist,
so as not to offend those who do not share it.

The result of sanitizing Christmas is now within sight:
an undistinguished, uninspiring public celebration,
devoid of religious or cultural significance or indeed of beauty,
with nothing left but multiculturalist pap and tawdry commercialism.
I do not believe that grim fate is inevitable.
But that future will indeed be ours
if we remain so unnerved
by the thought of giving offense to those looking for a reason to be offended
that we are afraid to celebrate our own culture, tradition, and religion.

Tom Piatak writes from Cleveland, Ohio.


Yes, Virginia, the Jews Stole Christmas
by Kevin MacDonald
The Occidental Observer, 2015-12-17 [Originally published in 2012]

A new book, Joshua Eli Plaut’s
A Kosher Christmas: ’Tis the Season to Be Jewish,
documents what we have known all along:
The Jews did indeed subvert Christmas.
This book deserves a full review,
but Ethan Schwartz’s summary and comment
(“Twas the night after Christmas“) deserve scrutiny.
First the summary:


“Bad Santa” and Eli Plaut’s “A Kosher Christmas”
by Kevin MacDonald
The Occidental Observer, 2015-12-23 [Originally published in 2013]

[This article was originally posted on Dec. 24, 2013; it is a comment on an article that appeared in Tablet on Dec. 17, 2013. Tablet has seen fit to repost it in 2014, on Christmas eve, so I thought I would repost my comment.]

It’s that time of year again. Time for Jewish angst about Christmas. The Tablet has a revealing article by Adam Chandler that gets at the Jewish view of the season (“All-Star Team of Jews Defiles Christmas in Billy Bob Thornton’s ‘Bad Santa’: How the Coen brothers and Terry Zwigoff helped create a holiday classic that angers gentiles“). Described as “the greatest Christmas movie of all time,”

No war on Christmas: In many communities, officials opt to surrender
By Valerie Richardson and Jessica Chasmar
Washington Times, 2015-12-22

There was no flap this year over the “Merry Christmas” sign in Bethlehem, New York, because the town never displayed it, opting to avoid the possibility of a legal fight even in a community named for the birthplace of Jesus.

That worries religious freedom advocates like Jeremy Tedesco, who fear that states, school districts and municipalities like Bethlehem are increasingly choosing pre-emptive surrender rather than defending their traditions in what has been described as the annual “war on Christmas.”

“It boggles the mind the extent to which government entities overreact,” said Mr. Tedesco, senior counsel with the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom. “The thing is, putting up a ‘Merry Christmas‘ sign is not illegal. It’s just not.”

His organization sent a letter to the Bethlehem town supervisor last week urging him to reconsider the decision to exclude the sign, citing Supreme Court case law showing that the display on public property would not violate the Constitution. Still, town officials demurred.

“It is the Town Attorney’s analysis that it is better not to include signs,” the town of Bethlehem said in a Saturday press release. “That way, we can avoid contentious litigation or having the Town thrust into controversy over whose sign shall be placed where, etc.”

The irony was not lost on Mr. Tedesco — “There’s still no room in Bethlehem for a ‘Merry Christmas‘ sign,” he quipped — who sees the same risk-averse reactions from government officials nationwide despite the assurances of groups like his.


Satan versus Christianity (who's behind this?)


There seems no end to the efforts of some to destroy all remnants of what was good about America.
Think that Satan would be considered as someone who would be welcome in America's elementary schools?
I could not imagine such a thought as being within the realm of acceptability in 1950s America.
But now the Washington Post can write about those pushing such a goal
without what would have once been obligatory, the condemnation of the thought
in both the news pages (via a raft of people who would be quoted as condemning the idea)
and on the editorial and op-ed pages, via the newspapers opinion-leaders condemning the idea.

At least the Post makes clear what the real target of this effort is:
to drive Christianity out of public schools, even in a voluntary, after-school setting.
The effort of some to reduce the role of Christianity in America knows no limits.

Here are some of the newspaper articles to which I refer:

An After School Satan Club could be coming to your kid’s elementary school
By Katherine Stewart
Washington Post, 2016-07-30

[This article is illustrated with a photo of a cartoon of a smiling Satan.
Satan with a friendly face.
Thanks a lot.]

SALEM, Mass. —It’s a hot summer night, and leaders of the Satanic Temple
have gathered in the crimson­-walled living room of a Victorian manse
in this city renowned for its witch trials in the 17th century.
They’re watching a sepia-toned video, in which children dance around a maypole,
a spider crawls across a clown’s face
and eerie, ambient chanting gives way to a backward, demonic voice-over.
The group chuckles with approval.

They’re here plotting to bring their wisdom to the nation’s public elementary school children.
They point out that Christian evangelical groups
already have infiltrated the lives of America’s children
through after-school religious programming in public schools,
and they appear determined to give young students a choice: Jesus or Satan.

[Get that: "wisdom".]


Several school districts say After School Satan clubs likely in line with policies
By Katherine Stewart and Moriah Balingit
Washington Post, 2016-08-01

Several U.S. school districts indicated Monday that they think the Satanic Temple’s plan to open “After School Satan” clubs in elementary schools probably conforms with their policies and local laws, and the Prince George’s County, Md., school system said it is reviewing a request to open such a club.

[Talk about America being on the wrong track!]

If the districts allow the clubs, it would pave the way for the Temple to create a counterpoint to evangelical Christian clubs in schools nationwide.

The Satanic Temple on Monday contacted school districts across the country to announce that it wants to open after-school clubs that focus on teaching reason and science, including at an elementary school in Prince George’s. Temple leaders in part want to make the point that religion should not be taught in public schools, and they are working to start clubs in schools or school districts that have hosted proselytizing religious clubs, such as the Good News Club, which is allowed to sponsor groups in schools.


After School Satan Club proposal spurs debate on religious activity in public schools
By Katherine Stewart
Washington Post, 2016-08-04


Morality, Values, and Priorities


The Great Seduction
New York Times Op-Ed, 2008-06-10

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

The people who created this country built a moral structure around money.
The Puritan legacy inhibited luxury and self-indulgence.
Benjamin Franklin spread a practical gospel that emphasized
hard work, temperance and frugality.
Millions of parents, preachers, newspaper editors and teachers
expounded the message.
The result was quite remarkable.

The United States has been an affluent nation since its founding.
But the country was, by and large, not corrupted by wealth.
For centuries, it remained industrious, ambitious and frugal.

Over the past 30 years, much of that has been shredded.
The social norms and institutions
that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn
have been undermined.
The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment
have been strengthened.
The country’s moral guardians are forever looking for decadence
out of Hollywood and reality TV.
But the most rampant decadence today is financial decadence,
the trampling of decent norms about how to use and harness money.

Sixty-two scholars have signed on to a report by
the Institute for American Values and other think tanks called,
For a New Thrift: Confronting the Debt Culture,”
examining the results of all this.
This may be damning with faint praise,
but it’s one of the most important think-tank reports you’ll read this year.

The deterioration of financial mores has meant two things.
First, it’s meant an explosion of debt
that inhibits social mobility and ruins lives.
Between 1989 and 2001, credit-card debt nearly tripled,
soaring from $238 billion to $692 billion.
By last year, it was up to $937 billion, the report said.

Second, the transformation has led to a stark financial polarization.
On the one hand, there is what the report calls the investor class.
It has tax-deferred savings plans,
as well as an army of financial advisers.
On the other hand, there is the lottery class,
people with little access to 401(k)’s or financial planning
but plenty of access to payday lenders, credit cards and lottery agents.

The loosening of financial inhibition has meant
more options for the well-educated
but more temptation and chaos for the most vulnerable.
Social norms, the invisible threads that guide behavior, have deteriorated.
Over the past years, Americans have been more socially conscious about
protecting the environment and inhaling tobacco.
They have become less socially conscious about money and debt.

The agents of destruction are many.
State governments have played a role.
They aggressively hawk their lottery products,
which some people call a tax on stupidity.
Twenty percent of Americans are frequent players,
spending about $60 billion a year.
The spending is starkly regressive.
A household with income under $13,000 spends, on average,
$645 a year on lottery tickets, about 9 percent of all income.
Aside from the financial toll, the moral toll is comprehensive.
Here is the government, the guardian of order,
telling people that they don’t have to work to build for the future.
They can strike it rich for nothing.

Payday lenders have also played a role.
They seductively offer fast cash — at absurd interest rates —
to 15 million people every month.

Credit card companies have played a role.
Instead of targeting the financially astute, who pay off their debts,
they’ve found that they can make money off the young and vulnerable.
Fifty-six percent of students in their final year of college
carry four or more credit cards.

Congress and the White House have played a role.
The nation’s leaders have always had an incentive
to shove costs for current promises
onto the backs of future generations.
It’s only now become respectable to do so.

Wall Street has played a role.
Bill Gates built a socially useful product to make his fortune.
what message do
the compensation packages that hedge fund managers get
send across the country?

The list could go on.
But the report,
which is nicely summarized by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead
in The American Interest (available free online),
also has some recommendations.
First, raise public consciousness about debt
the way the anti-smoking activists did with their campaign.
Second, create institutions that encourage thrift.

Foundations and churches
could issue short-term loans to cut into the payday lenders’ business.
Public and private programs
could give the poor and middle class access to financial planners.
Usury laws could be enforced and strengthened.
Colleges could reduce credit card advertising on campus.
KidSave accounts would encourage savings from a young age.
The tax code should tax consumption, not income,
and in the meantime,
it should do more to encourage savings up and down the income ladder.

There are dozens of things that could be done.
But the most important is to shift values.
Franklin made it prestigious to embrace certain bourgeois virtues.
Now it’s socially acceptable to undermine those virtues.
It’s considered normal to play the debt game
and imagine that decisions made today
will have no consequences for the future.


Stumbling on Their Sense of Entitlement
By Steven Pearlstein
Washington Post, 2009-02-04

Tom Daschle still doesn’t get it.

John Thain never did.

Barack Obama gets it sometimes,
Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner not so much.

Corporate executives think they get it but aren’t even close.

College presidents, governors and union leaders, for the most part,
don’t have a clue.

“It” is an understanding of how fundamentally the political and economic environment has been transformed with the bursting of the bubble economy and how that has jeopardized basic assumptions and expectations and the way we do what we do.

Tom Daschle’s problem wasn’t that he didn’t pay his taxes. It was that he -- along with those who vetted his nomination as health and human services secretary and many of his colleagues in the Senate -- found it perfectly ordinary and acceptable that he would be able to cash in on his time in the Senate by earning more than $5 million over two years as a law-firm rainmaker, equity fundraiser, corporate director and luncheon speaker, all the while being driven around town in a chauffeured town car. Not exactly Cincinnatus returning to the plow.

[If we’re going to talk about “cashing in,” how about Bill Clinton?
Isn’t he the gold standard for such?]

For the American public, Daschle became the latest symbol of everything that is wrong with Washington -- the influence-peddling and corner-cutting and sacrifice of the public good to private interest. Now that this system has let them down, and left them poorer and anxious about the future, people are angry about it and no longer willing to accept the corruption of the public process and the whole notion of public service.

The irony, of course, is that Barack Obama understood all this and tapped into Americans’ frustration as the central message of his “change” campaign. But even he, with only four years in Washington, failed to see the depth of the problem or anticipate the ferocity of the backlash.

Obama’s first mistake was to hand the keys of the transition office over to a crew made up almost exclusively of Washington insiders who -- surprise! -- have largely succeeded in restoring to power their friends from the Clinton administration. Worse still, he has fallen for the tired old Washington “wisdom” that the only way to get anything done is to concentrate even more power in an ever larger White House full of czars and councils and chiefs of staff who ostensibly are there to “coordinate” policy but invariably wind up making it, sapping the departments and agencies of whatever importance and energy and creativity they have left.

At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, congressional leaders, while nodding in the direction of bipartisan cooperation, have also stuck largely to business as usual. It’s hard to know who is to blame more for the party-line vote in the House on a desperately needed economic stimulus bill -- the Republicans who cling to stale ideology and spout economic nonsense or the Democrats who shut them out of the drafting process, never bothered to articulate a compelling rationale and lost a golden opportunity to reform the programs as they were expanding them.

Not that the private sector has done any better.

For most of us, it seems inexplicable that a man as smart and sophisticated as John Thain, having been recruited to Merrill Lynch to clean up tens of billions of dollars in losses, could spend $1.2 million to redecorate his office or demand that the board of directors give him a $30 million bonus at the end of the year. Nor, when escalating losses threatened to scuttle the sale of the firm to Bank of America, did it occur to Thain that he might want to set aside his plans to fly off to the annual celebrity gabfest in Davos, Switzerland, until the Bank of America chairman finally ordered him to do so.

This goes beyond mere greed. As with Daschle, it springs from a deeply felt but rarely articulated sense of entitlement that now warps the judgment not just of those on Wall Street -- from top executives to hotshots on the trading desks -- but of those throughout the upper reaches of corporate America. And over time, it has filtered out to law firms and consulting firms, where freshly minted MBAs and legal associates came to expect starting salaries of $150,000 and partners thought it their God-given right to draw $1 million a year.

All that is history. It turns out that those inflated pay stubs weren’t really a measure of genuine economic worth but manifestations of the mirage that was the bubble economy. Economically, they are no longer sustainable; socially and politically, they are no longer acceptable.

But it’s not only the rich and powerful who are still in denial and need a bit of mental retooling.

Is it too much to ask those college presidents who are about to be the beneficiaries of big increases in student aid and tuition tax credits to use this crisis to finally embrace the productivity revolution and find a way to use technology and new teaching techniques to lower the cost of education?

And if we’re going to spend billions to upgrades roads, bridges and public transit and create jobs for unemployed construction workers, what would be so terrible about temporarily suspending the rule requiring that union wages be paid? That way, more jobs would be created and taxpayers would get a better return on their infrastructure investment.

It’s also a good thing that Congress is preparing to ship billions of dollars to state and local governments to maintain vital services and forestall layoffs of teachers, police officers, firefighters and social service providers. But in return, shouldn’t the governors receiving this temporary relief be required to come up with plans to make the necessary adjustments to balance their budgets over the long term, much as we’ve already done with aid to struggling automakers? And would it be so terrible if state employees would pitch in by accepting a two-year freeze on wages and a reduction in pension contributions?

It would be lovely if we could get out of this economic mess simply by having the government bail out the banks and spend a trillion more dollars in borrowed money. Unfortunately, it won’t be that easy. As Tom Daschle and John Thain have demonstrated, it is going to require fundamental changes in what we do, how we do it, and how the costs and benefits are allocated. It will also require a commitment to shared sacrifice and mutual responsibility that we are only beginning to understand.

[For an internet discussion of this column with Mr. Pearlstein, click here.]

The Next Culture War
New York Times, 2009-09-29

Labels: ,



[On 2005-12-05 Peter Johnstone wrote:]

Peter Freyd’s recent posting of the ‘Categories Anonymous’ skit prompted me to dig out and transcribe an even older skit which originated with the Chicago Junior Math Club, and which stars Saunders Mac Lane as the evil villain Chalkfinger.
I don’t know its exact date: it should be datable by the reference at the end to Chalkfinger’s visit to Japan, but although Saunders refers to that visit in his autobiography (p. 297) he doesn’t quote the date.
The typescript copy which I have (and which I acquired from Murray Adelman in 1984) was apparently revised for performance at the Bowdoin Summer Advanced Seminar in Homological Algebra (again, I don’t know the year).



K.: Kaplansky
Chestcough: Ann Chertkoff (secretary)
Bailout: Baily
Bond: Herstein
Chalkfinger: Mac Lane
Manishevitz: Liulevicius
Filterfish: Amitsur
Oddprime: Applied Math (?)
Pedro: Calderon
Ziggy: Zygmund
Browser (Felix) Browder


Opening: [Goldfinger theme heard. Jacobson writes on blackboard]

Jacobson: Good evening, welcome to the Junior Math Club’s
presentation of Chalkfinger.

[He is dragged off. A scream is heard offstage,]

[Desk of K, chair for Miss Chestcough]

K: Miss Chestcough!

Chest: [cough] Yes?

[Bailout runs in.]

Bailout: Who coughed?

Chest: Me, Professor Bailout.

Bailout: Well, don’t let it happen again. [exit]

Chest: {aside] That was a young right idealist.

K: Miss Chestcough, see if you can get Agent 00\pi on the red

Chest: At 8.30 in the morning? Well, I’ll try K., but 00\pi is
always so irrational at this hour. [exits to call]

K: Hmmm. How does she know that?

[Chestcough returns, after a minute Bond enters]

Bond: [flirting] Hello, pigeon. Why do I chase around the world
when there are girls like you at home?

Chest: [smiles] You’d better go in to see K., but I’ll be here
when you get back.

[Bond crosses to K.’s desk, sits down. K. stares at him for *long*

K: Could you give me an epsilon of your time?

Bond: Make it epsilon over 2. What’s up, Boss?

K: Well, it’s Chalkfinger. He’s been at our chalk supply
again. Why, that man is responsible for most of the world’s
illicit traffic in colored chalk.

Bond: But what does he use it for?

K: You won’t believe this. He proves theorems about

Bond: [laughs] That’s ridiculous! [does double-take] What’s a

K: Why, don’t you know? You’re not up with the times, Bond.
As I understand it, categories arose from Pavlov’s
experiments with dogs. Pavlov trained dogs to expect meat at
the sound of a bell. Then he took the meat away, but the
dogs continued to salivate when the bell was rung. Now
Chalkfinger has taken the meat out of mathematics, but
mathematicians still salivate at the sound of the bell.

Bond: Insidious!

K: You bet. Now I want you to infiltrate their organization.

Bond: But suppose I don’t make the grade?

K: You’ll do it, Yitz. I’m putting my money on Israel Bond.

Bond: Thank you, sir. I’ll try to protect your interest. Say,
whatever happened to that last case you were working on?

K: I couldn’t get anywhere on it, so I turned it over to a
graduate student. Now, for your equipment: [they stand up]
We’ve prepared for you a white Jaguar complete with left and
right annihilators, deformation retract and portable pool
table. Here’s the key to the locked stall in the third floor
john. We’ll communicate as usual by leaving messages under
the seat. Use all the paper you want, and good luck!

[Exeunt -- Alperin and Thompson make first crossing of stage]


[Students playing chess]

Student 1: Going to the colloquium today? All the big operators from
Spectrum are going to be there: Big Ziggy, Big Pedro and
even Big Browser, their [gestures] elliptic operator.

Student 2: Nah, I’m too busy playing chess.

Student 1: Oh, Chalkfinger won’t like that.

[long pause -- Chalkfinger enters with Oddprime]

Chalk: By thunder, you know what can happen to students like
you? Oddprime! Hat!

[Oddprime throws frisbee, something breaks]

Chalk: Hah, Oddprime can divide anything. [Bond enters] Welcome
to our organization, Mr Bond. We’re looking forward to
your course in Hopf algebras. Let me show you around.
Manishevitz, here, is working on a computer program to
determine the first odd square.

Manish: My name is Manishevitz, but you can call me Manishevitz
if you want.

Bond: That looks like difficult work.

Manish: Any child in first grade could do it. It’s all a matter
of gamesmanship.

Chalk: Good man to talk to, Bond, if you can get through the
queue at his door. Over there is Filterfish, still trying
to disprove that the Arabs invented algebra.

Filter: [whispers] What is the password?

Bond: Ultra-filter.

Filter: You must be the man from K.

Bond: Your image is my kernel, Daddy-O.

Filter: Exactly.

Chalk: Mr Bond, do you subscribe to the Dieudonne doctrine or
the category of vector spaces?

Bond: Category, shmategory, I don’t go for that crap.

Chalk: Categories crap? The man’s a spy! Seize him! [all seize
him] What do we do with spies?

Manish: We could boil him to death in Eckhart 312.

Filter: Or make him teach Math 101.

Chalk: I know, we’ll put him trough the pull-back.

Oddprime: Heh, heh, heh, through the push-out and the pull-back!

All: Through the pull-back! [They drag Bond out]

Bond: You may torture my body, but you’ll never annihilate my

[Screams heard offstage, they bring back his unconscious body and
throw it on the floor. Oddprime stands guard. Pussy enters]

Pussy: Izzy dead?

Oddprime: No, Izzy just tired.

[Bond rises slowly, shakes himself]

Bond: Well, hello.

Pussy: Hi! My name is Pussy Galois.

Bond: [half-fainting again] Wow, are you ever projective!

Pussy: Not only that, I’m free.

Bond: [stands up] I’d like to prove that.

Pussy: It’s been tried before but [sitting down] maybe your
techniques are better.

Bond: [joining her] Say, Pussy, how does Chalkfinger smuggle
his chalk out of the building?

Pussy: Oh, haven’t you ever figured that out? He hides it in his
baggy pants.

Bond: Ingenious!

[Alperin and Thompson make second crossing]

Bond: What in the world?

Pussy: Oh, they always do that. Come with me: [takes his hand]
we’ll eavesdrop on Chalkfinger’s meeting with Spectrum.


[Ziggy, Pedro and Browser on stage]

Pedro: What’cha got there, Big Ziggy?

Ziggy: It’s Chalkfinger’s latest masterpiece, which I’ve
acquired at considerable expense

Pedro: Let’s see: [reads] “In the beginning Chalkfinger created
the category and the functor, but the category was void
and the functor was forgetful. And Chalkfinger said ‘Let
there be maps’, and there were maps. And Chalkfinger
called the maps morphisms, and the members of the category
he called objects, and Chalkfinger thought that was pretty
good, and so did his friend Sammy. And there was evening
and there was morning in 1945.”

Ziggy: This beats analysis.

Browser: Sounds like a very theological subject. [takes the book]
“And on the sixth day, Chalkfinger created mathematicians
and set them to work in the categories” -- oh, surely
that’s going too far!

Pedro: Shh! Here he comes.

[Chalkfinger and Lin Ton enter]

Chalk: Gentlemen, meet my Chinese assistant Lin Ton. I never
understand you analysts, so I’ve brought along Lin Ton to
interpret for me.

Lin Ton: Have you brought the shipment?

Pedro: Yes, it’s all here. [They deposit chalk in a box] We had
some trouble, though. Bailout keeps destroying the red

Ziggy: I notice you keep the colored chalk in a separate box.

Lin Ton: Separate but equal.

Browser: Maybe we can integrate it while we’re here.

Chalk: You know, I had the strangest dream last night. I dreamed
that I was surrounded by seven lean sheaves and seven
flabby sheaves, and the seven lean sheaves came and
devoured the seven flabby sheaves.

Pedro: A singular dream!

Ziggy: I think you need a different kind of analyst.

Browser: Yeah, now look, Chalkfinger. We’ve all made our
deliveries of colored chalk. You promised us that your
categories would yield us theorems. This is Ext-Tor-tion!

Chalk: Gentlemen, I wouldn’t dream of going back on a promise.
If you want, I’ll give you a theorem apiece; but first I
will demonstrate my new secret weapon.

Pedro: Is he on the level?

Ziggy: I don’t know. It’s hard to take the measure of the man.

Chalk: You are about to witness the power of the Grothendieck
ring! [Pulls out ring]

Lin Ton: That ring is nil, try this one.

Browser: With that ring, I thee dread.

Chalk: You’d better ... [pushing him away] because none of you
are getting out of here alive! [He runs offstage]

[Hissing noises heard from left and right]

Lin Ton: Oh no, it’s the thermostats!

Ziggy: Poison gas.

Browser: [on left] Ahh, I’m being annihilated on the left!

Pedro: [on right] And I on the right!

[All collapse; Chalkfinger appears in front]

Chalk: [aside] Hah, a swift death for a Swift Professor.

Bond: I saw the whole thing, Chalkfinger. Your heinous crimes
will not go unpunished.

[Chalkfinger trips Bond, they fall, the ring slides away]

Pussy: The Grothendieck ring -- it’s going to explode!

[Explosion noise, chairs overturned, everybody collapses]

[Alperin and Thompson make final crossing, oblivious to everything]

[Bond gets up, brushes himself off]

Bond: Good thing I’m immune to radical rings! And so the
tragic tale of Chalkfinger comes to its untimely end. The
explosion of the Grothendieck ring was powerful enough to
cast Chalkfinger all the way to Japan. Because of this
affair, K. had to hide out in England for a year, and I’ve
earned an extended vacation on the Mediterranean.


[On 2005-12-05 Ernie Manes wrote:]

I remember the skit well, because it named my thesis advisor-to-be after his somewhat oriental looks as Lin Ton.
That puts the skit as the year Fred spent many months at Chicago which was the year before the Bowdoin conference on homological algebra which was held in the summer of 1965 as an NSF summer Advanced Seminar.
It was at the seminar that I first met Fred and I did not meet him the previous year precisely because he was at Chicago.

[On 2005-12-07 Fred E. J. Linton wrote:]

Here's my take on this skit, as filtered through
40 years of ever-more-porous memory:

Lin Ton was Chalkfinger's "Chinese assistant."
I think the Chinese connection came about less because
I looked Chinese, as because (a) I was a somewhat
mysterious figure, doing no teaching (being a 1-year
research associate on one of Saunders' grants), and
(b) my name lent itself to Sinification.

Others spoofed here, aside from me (Lin Ton) and
Saunders (Chalkfinger) were Yitz Herstein (Israel Bond)
and Irving Kaplansky (character forgotten) -- and, I
think, Zygmund and Liulevicius.

One memorable line was Israel Bond's: furious at a magical
ring, supposedly conveying some mysterious powers, for
its uselessness to his purpose at the time, Bond dashes
it to the ground, huffing "Bah! This ring is nil!"

The skit took place towards the end of the academic year
'64-'65, all of which I spent at Chicago. Others there at
that time, surely present at -- perhaps even intimately
involved in -- the performance include Lance Small,
Kathy Edwards, Dan Fife, and my officemate Marty Moskowitz,
all of whom may well recall further details.

I once had a copy of the full script, but have no idea just
where to look to unearth it. Should it turn up, of course,
I'll try to make it available.