A new post on Arminianism and Calvinism (challenging Weber’s dodgy thesis) is up at the Political Theology blog. If you accept Weber’s premises (which I do not), then it was Arminianism, not Calvinism, that provided the enabling ethic of capitalism. Already a debate is on, with none less than the manager of the blog, Brad Littlejohn.

A few weeks ago I wrote of the bully as a type of scholar, but I have been reflecting on another fairly common type: the blog or internet bully. A reasonable commentary exists on this, going all the way back to ‘flaming’ when the internet began. But the way it is manifested is through an obsessive process of bombarding other blog posts with comments, usually with a pointed, nasty and dismissive ad hominem flavour. It’s a fine line, since I enjoy a spirited exchange, never taking things too seriously. But when the comments consistently attack, dismiss and denigrate, not just occasionally but all the time, then they become bullying. A feature of bullies is that they seek to chase away anyone who does not agree and does not become an attack dog; bullies tolerate only themselves or those of their pack. One blogger, Berlusconi Youth, whose identity is known to some readers, used to do so here. It took me quite some time to do so, but a couple of weeks ago I decided, instead of ignoring or replying, to delete any further comments that appeared. The results were immediate: the comments stopped coming after a couple of days, the readership went up noticeably and other people found space to make an occasional comment. Much preferred.

Something to read at 3am on that third bottle of vodka – Berlusconi Youth (aka VM).

At long last, my mother is a regular reader of my blog (and not an occasional reader, as before, even with Jim West’s open letter). You see, one of my nephews thought it was high time she had proper internet access. So what did she do? She went and spent an hour or so tracking back through my blog. And what did she read? ‘Too Many Dicks at the Writing Desk, or, How to Organise a Prophetic Sausage Fest’. Of course, I was visiting her today too, so you can imagine how our discussion went. But I am not one to back down, and sought to explain why it is not purely 14-year old porn. Or, if it is, then so is Ezekiel … Which she seemed to accept, reluctantly. All the same, as I left, she said, ‘don’t post smut on your blog, Roland, and keep your language clean’.

Welcome mum.

New link on my blogroll: ЧТО ДЕЛАТЬ / What Is To Be Done? – a radical group of artists, critics, philosophers, and writers from Petersburg, Moscow, and Nizhny Novgorod. Worth a look (via Sergey).

As Brisbane goes under water (almost) and as people forget the far more devastating Columbia floods, WordPress sent me a little New Year gift (I’m a bit late with New Year this time – something to do with a book that has absorbed me).

Apparently, over the last year the top search hits for this upright, family blog were:

john travolta, tom of finland (the ‘is that a cannon in your pocket?’ post), burqa (here, here and here too), fart, and leper.

Obviously hitting the high notes on those, giving me deep inspiration to keep up the in-depth blogging.

Actually, one other post keeps getting a heap of hits (all time #4):

Sea Shepherd, rammings, sunken ships on the high seas.

OK, that was pure fucking self-indulgence, so tomorrow: the run down on my completed book, Cave Droppings: Nick Cave and Religion.

(But I am pleased that all my family and friends in Brisvegas are safe if a little soggy).

Here it is, just mailed:

Dear Charlie,

I have given your rather extraordinary letter much thought, although it did cross my mind at first that it was hoax, a prank pulled by a friend or colleague. But then I realised you were in earnest.

Initially I pondered a few other sub-titles, such as:

‘The Prophets and the Bald-Headed Jesus’

‘The Case of Curious George and the Prophets’

‘How to Analyse the Prophetic Dangling Participle’

‘How to Deal with the Executive Staff Member of the Prophetic Guild’

‘How to Blow a Prophetic Trombone’

However, I prefer to stay with the original title for the following reasons. First, I do not think it is appropriate for the SBL to censor titles or papers of scholarly work, especially when such a paper has already been accepted and is part of the program. As John Lyons already pointed out to you in an email message, this is the first step down a long and slippery slope. Second, the paper asks us to think earthily and concretely about the Bible, which is indeed a very earthy and at times crude collection of texts – as I will argue in more details in a book of mine, now complete, called Fleshly Readings. The title of the paper reflects this element and it would be misleading to change the title with a view to softening its impact. Third, I do find it strange that the effort to censor the title of the paper should come from the United States, a country that stands up and champions freedom of speech, and in our case, freedom of research. Without blowing my own trumpet, I would remind you that original ideas arise in this fashion. Fourth, as you are no doubt aware, there has been considerable debate in the blogosphere – here, herehere, here and here – as well as on my own blog – here and here. It would be unnacceptable for me to accept such a change in light of that support. Finally, on a matter directly related to the paper’s argument, I wonder whether the nervousness about the paper from those who have mentioned it to you comes from the anticipation that the paper objectifies male bodies, especially genitals. When it comes to biblical words describing women’s bodies and genitals, as in Ezekiel 16 and 23 for instance, commentators are all too happy, gleeful even, to objectify, analyse and disempower. But to do the same to male biblical bodies is a no-no.

For these reasons, then, I must remain firm and insist that the title stays as it is.


And thanks to Deane Galbraith in a piece over at Religion Bulletin for a new logo, or perhaps T-shirt design:

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