“My name is Obama, orator of orators:
Look on my historical presidency, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Check out; good stuff.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Five Ways the Church Fails Homosexuals


I’m sure I can think of more.

1. By participating in (or tacitly agreeing to) hate speech that’s aimed at them.

2. By treating them as if their sins were worse than our own.  We admit that we’re all sinners, but somehow we think WE’RE cute, cuddly sinners, and other people are slimy rat sinners.  The truth of the gospel is that Jesus came to save slimy rat sinners.  Which is good news, because sin isn’t cute or cuddly.  EVER.

3. By accepting the elevation of sexual identity to the center of self.  Richard B Hays describes this idea beautifully: his Christian homosexual friend, dying of AIDS, “worried that the gay subculture encouraged homosexual believers to ‘draw their identity from their sexuality’ and thus to shift the ground of their identity subtly and idolatrously away from God.”

Whereas Hays is speaking of homosexuals making this shift, the church makes the same shift (albeit in an opposite direction) by treating the issue of sexual orientation as the determining factor in what’s “normal” or “acceptable.”

4. By not honoring their struggle & supporting them in it.

5. By not loving and accepting them without reservation.  I’ve recently discovered that it’s not my job to confront sin.  As a sinner loved by God, it’s my job to love sinners.

Transcendent Rock & Roll Moment #9: “Over the Hills and Far Away”


Of all the entries on the considerable list of Jimmy Page’s contributions to rock music (acoustic songs that build to electric fury; how to rock Eastern-style; guitar as orchestra), the one that’s most overlooked is his influence on how drums were recorded.  Listen to recordings of the great rock drummers of the 1960’s: Ginger Baker, Charlie Watts, Ringo Starr.  They sound like they’re playing cardboard boxes and trash can lids; flat and dead.

Then listen to Zeppelin on “Stairway” or “When the Levee Breaks.”  John Bonham’s drums sound so DYNAMIC, so ALIVE. Part of the equation was Bonham himself.  He was an amazing, powerful, fluid drummer.  (Listen to him pounce like a panther in the opening of “How Many More Times,” Zeppelin’s best recorded performance AFAIC.)  The other part of the equation is Page’s approach to recording drums.  On most pop recordings of the era, drums were muffled with tape and other batting and recorded up close, with microphones directly above (or under) the drum heads.  Page had Bonham remove most of the muffling from his drums.  He placed the drum set in large rooms with stone floors and walls, and set up microphones in distant corners  or aimed away from the drums themselves, and then mixed the distant mikes with close-up microphones.  The combination: Bonham’s touch + wide open drums + a blend of close and ambient microphones = the quintessential hard rock drum sound.  As early as 1968 (“How Many More Times,” “Good Times, Bad Times”), Page was producing drum sounds that people are still trying to capture today.

“Over the Hills and Far Away” is a classic rock staple, perhaps the closest thing Zep ever had to a hit single.  Listen to it build in intensity, until (at 1.26) it explodes, as Bonham kicks the thing into flight.

Transcendent Rock & Roll Moment #10: “Mountain Jam”


This is the first of a series of posts that I originally wrote for  As I started writing, I realized that the individual entries were almost as long as most of Listverse’s articles, so I never posted it there.

I’m an amateur rock music historian, musician, and lover of all things jam.  What are the greatest moments in rock music history, IMNSHO?  Number 10 …

10. “Mountain Jam,” The Allman Brothers Band, Eat A Peach. The Allman Bros Band formed in 1969.  The members were all veteran performers who had paid their dues in one dead end band after another.  When they joined forces, coalescing around the ferocious slide guitar of Duane Allman and the eerie, haunted vocals of his younger brother Greg, their collective career took off like a rocket.

Equally at home with soulful pop (before guesting on Clapton’s “Layla,” Duane established himself as a session guitarist at Muscle Shoals, recording with Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Laura Nyro, etc.), straight blues, and Eastern-tinged jazzy improvisations, the ABB cracked and rumbled like a lightning storm in an earthquake.

The apex of their recorded career is a series of live recordings from the Fillmore East in New York City, taped in March 1971.  The Rolling Stone Record Guide, not noted for praising extended psychedelic improvisations, noted that on this album of extended tunes there were “no pointless jams, no wasted notes”: this about an album with two songs clocking in at over 19 minutes.  But as great as At the Fillmore East is, the ABB’s greatest moment came on a leftover track from these concerts, “Mountain Jam,” which was featured on their follow-up, the mostly studio LP Eat a Peach.

Built around a piece of psychedelic fluff from the British singer, Donovan, “Mountain Jam” is 34 minutes of percolating jams.  Duane solos like a man possessed, improvising gorgeous motifs and then turning them inside out with altered passing tones.  Berry Oakley’s bass solo and the drum duel (the ABB, like their contemporaries the Grateful Dead, had two drummers) that follow are also monumental.  Then Duane takes the wheel again, calming the band, floating through space in a Dead-ish freeform sequence, and then …

… then (at 27.20) Duane drops the band into a perfect, gently grooving instrumental rendition of the Southern Gospel standard, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”  It’s a moment of electric, hair-raising beauty and perfection.  Two choruses later, the opening theme returns and the song (and the concert) comes to a thunderous conclusion.

“Mountain Jam” is essentially the epitaph for both Duane Allman and Berry Oakley.  Seven months after the Fillmore concerts, on 29 October 1971–before Eat a Peach was released–Duane was back in his hometown of Macon, Georgia, on a break from recording.  He was driving his motorcycle and collided with a flatbed truck, loaded with lumber.  He died of his injuries at a local hospital.  Thirteen months later, Berry Oakley drove his motorcycle into a Macon city bus; this collision took place less than a quarter mile from the scene of Duane’s fatal collision.  Oakley died of severe head trauma later that day.

How the Ancient Church Interpreted Scripture


One of the things that often gets lost in the discussion of inerrancy & how modern Christians should interpret scripture is the question of how the Bible writers themselves interpreted scripture.

I have many problems with the very term inerrancy:

  • It’s more a political term than a theological one.  Seriously: “inerrancy” is mostly used as a club for beating up people one disagrees with, declaring who the truly saved are and aren’t.
  • It’s based on several a priori assumptions about what God MUST have done, rather than any biblical evidence about what God HAS done (i.e., how God MUST HAVE communicated himself, not anything the Bible says about how God HAS communicated himself.)
  • It’s a post-enlightenment concept, which would have been unintelligible to anyone living in pre-modern times.
  • It completely ignores the ways the Bible writers interpreted the Scriptures as they had them.

Which is why I love Ken Schenk’s post at Common Denominator, linked above.  It’s the distillation of a paper he presented at SBL, in which he explores one facet of how the Bible interprets the Bible: similarities between Philo’s use of the OT and the use of the OT in Hebrews.  I did some similar things with Josephus / LXX / Pseudo-Philo / etc. in my dissertation.

Quintessential Guy Movies


These are the essential movies in my 40-something white guy world.  I will watch these movies, at least for a few minutes, every time they’re on.

  1. The Godfather I & II. “Michael Rizzi, do you renounce Satan?”  Of course.
  2. The Matrix.  “You hear that, Mr Anderson?  It is the sound of inevitability.  It is the sound of your death.”  That was a great movie.  I wonder why they didn’t make any sequels?
  3. Pulp Fiction.  “If I am curt with you it is because time is of the essence.”  And: “If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions.”  Samuel L Jackson has enough great lines in that single movie to make an entire career.  “I’m tryin’, Ringo; I’m trying’ REAL HARD to be the shepherd.”
  4. Gladiator.  Maximus’s line when he reveals himself to Commodius: “… Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife – and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”
  5. Animal House.  “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.”
  6. The Princess Bride.  “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” And: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”