Wednesday, December 10, 2014

CIA torture, St. John Coltrane, and more


  • From RR: Torture report reveals CIA’s “brutal” interrogation tactics. 1. I am a law-and-order conservative. 2. The church is clear: the end doesn't justify the means and "my country, right or wrong" is heresy. We executed Japanese officers for doing these things to American and British POWs during the war. The left and libertarians have a point here: in our Cold War sovietization to beat the Soviets, we have become the enemy.
  • St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church. Interesting in that this church has picked up on the Orthodox version of tribalism and made it their own, even though they're not really Orthodox of course. (Was Coltrane a member?) Nice iconography though. The African Orthodox Church was part of Marcus Garvey's black American nationalism in the '20s, started by a former Episcopal priest. They long imitated the traditional Roman Catholic Church in vesture and I guess liturgy; guess they went freestyle after Vatican II. Met one of their bishops once, a nice older man kitted out just like Archbishop Lefebvre in choir habit. Philly has a black vagante church right behind St. Donato's; that building was actually a chutzpah move by the Presbyterians setting up an Italian congregation there many years ago: "Innayourface!" Now, as far as I can tell, their bishop (so it's a cathedral?) looks like our bishops but the services are typically American black, not exactly liturgical.
  • Recently watched a "Ridicule Religion" movie triple feature on TV. That genre can be intelligently done. Elmer Gantry holds up; arguably a classic tale of American Protestantism (the American Religion), watchable because it doesn't gore my particular ox. Burt Lancaster as the con man, Jean Simmons as the good girl, really Aimee Semple McPherson (were Pentecostals the first to ordain women?), and Shirley Jones as the hot bad girl who takes them down. Agnes of God is much ado about nothing, a mixed bag of positive images of the church (Anne Bancroft as the smart mother superior, and essentially traditional Catholicism at a convent, long no longer true in Quebec since the Sixties' "Quiet Revolution" turned them against the church, which had been overbearing) and heavy-handed symbolic potshots at it before (spoiler) coming to the same conclusion the lawyers wanted in the beginning (which was just). I don't think an order would admit a crazy ward as a novice. Set in the golden era (in '64; based on St. Nicholas of Tolentine, New York), Doubt was a stage play like Agnes; fine characterizations and acting with a true-to-life twist (the strict conservative is the heroine, like Bancroft another streetwise orthodox nun), marred by inaccurate liturgical details, based on technical adviser the real Sister James's muddled memories. Most of Mother Seton's Sisters of Charity order was folded into the French Daughters of Charity; in the Archdiocese of New York they remained a local order so they kept the unusual Mother Seton habit (black bonnet, not the "penguin" habit) until the Sixties. Now the order is liberal and old. Did the priest do it? People I've known who grew up then say the clues say he did.

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