The Reformation Polka

lukas-cranach-martin-lutherI’ve posted before about the sense of ‘play’ that characterised the various reformations of the sixteenth century. I have been reminded of this twice recently; first, while preparing lectures on various kirk session books from Scotland during the 1570s onwards (it really is much more fun than it sounds!), and then again when I came across Robert Gebel’s song  ‘The Reformation Polka’ (sung to the tune of ‘Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious’) while clearing out my desk in anticipation of my move to Australia next month. I thought the latter worth sharing here:

When I was just ein junger Mann I studied canon law;
While Erfurt was a challenge, it was just to please my Pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck, I called upon Saint Anne,
I shaved my head, I took my vows, an Augustinian! Oh …

Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation
Speak your mind against them and face excommunication!
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a Reformation!
Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!

When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St. Peter’s profits soared,
I wrote a little notice for the All Saints’ Bull’tin board:
‘You cannot purchase merits, for we’re justified by grace!
Here’s 95 more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!’ Oh …

Papal bulls, indulgences …

They loved my tracts, adored my wit, all were exempleror;
The Pope, however, hauled me up before the Emperor.
‘Are these your books? Do you recant?’ King Charles did demand,
‘I will not change my Diet, Sir, God help me here I stand!’ Oh …

Papal bulls, indulgences …

Duke Frederick took the Wise approach, responding to my words,
By knighting ‘George’ as hostage in the Kingdom of the Birds.
Use Brother Martin’s model if the languages you seek,
Stay locked inside a castle with your Hebrew and your Greek! Oh …

Papal bulls, indulgences …

Let’s raise our steins and Concord Books while gathered in this place,
And spread the word that ‘catholic’ is spelled with lower case;
The Word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets his chance,
So come on, Katy, drop your lute, and join us in our dance! Oh …

Papal bulls, indulgences …


On the twelve days of curry

Tonight, when I was supposed to be reading William Stringfellow’s Conscience and Obedience, I found myself somewhat distracted by the thought of two other great passions of mine – Indian cuisine and my wonderful partner Judy. The result was this little song:

Now, with that out of my system, I can return to Stringfellow, and to ‘the impending devastation of political authority’.

On Handles Messiah

Mr Richard Starnes’ intelligent and delightful piece, which appeared in the Friday Morning edition of The Spartanburg Herald on 13 December 1963, is without doubt the very best article that I’ve ever ever ever ever read, or am likely to read, on Handles Messiah. And it was too good not to share, particularly at this time of year:

Handles Messiah

Stages of procrastination

This cartoon, sent to me by a dear friend who gives every appearance of knowing a great deal about the topic in question, gave rise to a chuckle … and I like to share my chuckles:

Stages of Procrastination

It reminded me of Updike’s assertion that ‘vagueness and procrastination are ever a comfort to the frail in spirit’.

An aid for teaching

‘No matter how often it happens in my courses, I never cease to be infuriated with plagiarism’. So tweeted a friend of mine earlier this week. And every teacher worth his or her salt knows the feeling. His comment coincided nicely with a very practical gift that my thoughtful partner purchased for me just a day or two earlier – a ‘GOOD JOB’ stamp that I’m really looking forward to using the next time I engage in that wonderful form of lovemaking called ‘grading papers’:


Of course, when I think about my current crop of students, I anticipate that mainly only one box will be required. However, the Augustinian in me can certainly imagine occasions when all three boxes will need to be ticked, and sometimes all at once.

Jesus found!

Thanks to the help of Google Maps, I just discovered Jesus! Apparently, he lives in a wee creek that runs between Porters Lodge and Jesus Green in Cambridge, UK. (So he may, after all, be a Baptist but at least he’s not American.) He even has a lane and a college named after him.


Felicem diem natalem, Martin

Today is Martin Stewart’s birthday. Martin is a wise friend of mine, a respected leader and compassionate soul who, despite every effort to stem the tide of inevitability, is ageing more rapidly than most. To celebrate, I decided to share a poem with Martin by one of my favourite poets, R.S. Thomas. The poem is titled ‘Ninetieth Birthday’:

You go up the long track
That will take a car, but is best walked
On slow foot, noting the lichen
That writes history on the page
Of the grey rock. Trees are about you
At first, but yield to the green bracken,
The nightjars house: you can hear it spin
On warm evenings; it is still now
In the noonday heat, only the lesser
Voices sound, blue-fly and gnat
And the stream’s whisper. As the road climbs,
You will pause for breath and the far sea’s
Signal will flash, till you turn again
To the steep track, buttressed with cloud.

And there at the top that old woman,
Born almost a century back
In that stone farm, awaits your coming;
Waits for the news of the lost village
She thinks she knows, a place that exists
In her memory only.
You bring her greeting
And praise for having lasted so long
With time’s knife shaving the bone.
Yet no bridge joins her own
World with yours, all you can do
Is lean kindly across the abyss
To hear words that were once wise.

By way of response, Martin, upon finding his reliable plastic turtle ink and quill set stashed away in the bottom of the bedside table and buried behind a half-finished bottle of whisky, a small tin of Revatio capsules (that he keeps forgetting to take), a well-worn copy of Robert Farrar Capon’s Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace, a set of broken headphones, and a half-eaten packet of plain crisps, set about scribbling his own poem this afternoon. To be sure, when it comes to poetry Martin’s no Thomas, though he’s a tryer, so cudos to him for that:

There is a bad boy in the church – Goroncy,
a theologian, in his prime.
Should we be asking Mr Baker* to send in a Commission,
or do we leave it alone this time?

If I wasn’t so old, doddery and frail
I’d give Goroncy a little piece of my mind.
But alas ‘little’ is all I have left, and what’s there I’m fast loosing,
(along with my money, my hair, and my time).

So I will suffer in near silence
at the passing of my years
And while envying him that wee dram, (of which I’d like to share!)
I’ll humbly give God thanks, for this life,
and Goroncy’s good cheers.

Then, some hours later, and while innocently enjoying a few moments at the botanical gardens near home here in Dunedin, I was struck by this sign –

– upon which I turned to the kids saying, ‘OK, let’s go feed the ducks’.

A wee dram will be enjoyed tonight in honour of the birthday boy!

Gulls of a feather

I’ve just returned from a few days away with the family on the lovely Banks Peninsula, where two days of snow and blizzards were promptly followed by much-welcomed sun and blindingly-clear light. (Unfortunately, there has not been enough of the latter to make our driveway at home accessible yet.) Having survived the former, these gulls were well and truly enjoying the latter. I initially thought that a caption contest might be a fun thing, but I now think that their joy is simply worth sharing as is.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ducked and Covered: A Survival Guide to the Post Apocalypse

Most of us, by now, have read Nathan Kerr’s book Christ History and Apocalyptic: The Politics of Christian Mission. Now it’s time for the movie. This short public-information film (made during the early 80s – the Men at Work and Wham! years – by the Australian Board of Civil Defence) was recently discovered in an old university archive and nicely anticipates Kerr’s best insights and presses his cautiously-anti-Yoderianism just a tad further.

Warning: Some viewers made be offended. It has some ‘adult’ themes and ‘language’.

The Novel-Reading Disease

Every historian can testify that one of the real stimulants in their field of study is happening quite unexpectedly upon amusing choice morsels, even if they come via the help of Google Books. Here’s one that I happened across today on the dangers of engaging in that most womanly of contemporary vices – reading novels!

‘The Novel-Reading Disease’ and ‘Novel-Reading and Insanity’ both appeared in The Sabbath School Magazine, designed for the use of teachers, adult scholars, and parents (ed. William Keddie; Glasgow: John M’Callum, 1872), 34.

A dog is not just for Christmas …

Since being accused of promoting ‘sick’ and ‘just plain wrong’ culinary suggestions, of championing a dodgy theology, of not understanding much about life, of demonstrating ‘the reality of total depravity’ and of promoting ‘that knotty variety of Hard Knox Calvinism that flourishes in the chilly sub-Antarctic climes of Dunedin’, I am delighted to advertise my equilibrious nature via the promotion of this video on ‘After The Rapture Pet Care’:

[H/T: Robin Parry]

Judgement Day: the date is set

While some real skeptics abound, notable biblical scholar Harold Camping has determined after a close study of  Scripture that Jesus will be using his return ticket on May 21, 2011. [That’s a Saturday; so much for resting on the Sabbath!]. Camping, who sounds like he’d be good mate of Chris Tilling‘s, has reached this conclusion by juggling the date of Jesus’ crucifixion (previously unknown, but praise be! revealed to Mr Camping as precisely April 1, AD33) with the numbers 5, 10 and 17, which are apparently linked with atonement, completeness and heaven.

The details of the calculation are too wonderful and mysterious to go into here, but the glorious news is that, after 2,000 years of delays and rescheduling, a date has finally been set for the rapture and last judgement. So now is the time to plan your holidays around the event, to empty out your bank account on my Wishlist, and to reach out to the wicked heathen with this sexy bumper sticker.

You can learn more – and pick up your free stickers, postcards, business cards and pocket calendars, and more – here and here.

The only question that remains is: which kind of virgin will you be?

[HT: Ship of Fools]

Bearing the candle of truth …

Moving to a new country means finding a new doctor. We moved to New Zealand about 18 months ago, and I’ve just finally found a decent quack: Dr Wong. In fact, I’ve found his advice so wonderfully helpful and wise that I’ve become one of his disciples, bearing the candle of truth into a world blinded by the lies of the World Health Organisation. Here’s just a snippert from the good doctor:

Q: Doctor, I’ve heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?
A: Your heart only good for so many beats, and that’s it … don’t waste on exercise. Everything wear out eventually. Speeding up heart not make you live longer; it like saying you extend life of car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp logistical efficiency. What does cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So steak is nothing more than efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef also good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And pork chop can give you 100% of recommended daily allowance of vegetable product.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A: No, not at all. Wine made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that mean they take water out of fruity bit so you get even more of goodness that way. Beer also made of grain. Bottom up!

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have body and you have fat, your ratio one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Can’t think of single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No pain…good!

Q: Aren’t fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU NOT LISTENING! Food are fried these day in vegetable oil. In fact, they permeated by it. How could getting more vegetable be bad for you?!?

: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise muscle, it get bigger. You should only be doing sit-up if you want bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy?!? HEL-LO-O!! Cocoa bean! Another vegetable! It best feel-good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming good for your figure, explain whale to me.

Q: Is getting in shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! ‘Round’ a shape!

Dr Wong has done more than anyone else to speak truth into my life; part of which is to dispel all the misconceptions and guilt I’ve harboured over many years about my diet and exercise routine. I’m now on a path to freedom. So I’m burning my gym membership and taking new steps to living life the Wong way:

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways – Chardonnay in one hand – chocolate in the other – body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO-HOO, what a ride!!”

And for those of you who watch what you eat, here’s the final word on nutrition and health. It’s a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies.

1. The Japanese eat very little fat
And suffer fewer heart attacks than us.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat
And suffer fewer heart attacks than us.

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine
And suffer fewer heart attacks than us.

4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine
And suffer fewer heart attacks than us.

5. The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats
And suffer fewer heart attacks than us.

Conclusion: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

Who said it?

It’s time again for another ‘Who said it?’ competition. From whose mouth/pen did the following words come:

‘Aristotle claimed superiority for the poet over against the historian on the ground that the latter was only concerned with the detail of what Alcibiades did and suffered; while the former probed the universal import of Oedipus’ suffering. The Gospel writers (Mark and Luke as well as John) are in this respect nearer to Aristotle’s poets than to his historians; they guess and hint a universal import in those events whose detail they chronicle, constrained to this effort by the mystery of the resurrection to which their often stumbling and contradictory conclusions bear witness. The authentic Anselmian theology of the atonement is ultimately continuous with the Evangelists’ interpretation of the details they record … This interpretation of Christ’s passion is grounded in the manner of its presentation in the Gospels, where … the universal is manifested through the particular – the judgement of God through the particularities of human envy, and cruelty, through the grim actualities of Judas’ greed, of Caiaphas’ cold raison d’état, of Pilate’s self-regarding capitulation. It is Jesus who tears away the masks from their faces, his witness to the truth the ordeal imposed upon him by his fidelity. Even the women of Jerusalem who lament his fate, are warned in almost harsh tones, of the disaster that awaits their city, oblivious of the summons to a new way offered them by Jesus. Human pretension is stripped bare, and the judgement of God accepted in an action profoundly tragic in its cost’.

Closing on Friday. No cheating.