Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Winston Churchill's easy mother

Dear Hannah,

Whether or not Winston Churchill's mother had more than 200 lovers as reputed by George Moore, she had enough lovers to find him favor wherever he went and whatever he wanted to do.  It appears almost as if he owed his career to it.  To those of us familiar with the English from shows like Downton Abbey or the Hornblower series, a sex life as promiscuous as hers seems almost anathema to the stiffness of their manners and the rigidity of their morals. And yet that is the sex life she had.  And if it had only been her we could leave the matter and go on to other issues; but as any act of sex takes at least two, it is only safe to say she wasn't alone.  She was with the king -- and many other prominent men in England, Germany, France, America, and apparently the English colonies.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Never trust a "non-judgmental" person

Dear Hannah,

When atheists first began to undermine the power of religion, I think they meant to keep us from arguing about all kinds of silly things.  As it turns out, we're still arguing about silly things; the difference being that now we are responsible for being silly.  Before the advent of modernism, you could blame your arguing about any number of ridiculous things on the fact that you were convinced that God had said it.  Now if we're caught in the clutches of any trendy and backward philosophy, we say it's because a man had said it.  We've gone from being idiots on accident to being idiots on purpose; and with everything bad we've lost by dethroning the Pope, we have added a hundred more by enthroning our professors.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why we still go to church

Dear Hannah,

An honest inquirer asked me this week why I plan to raise you in church when I have very publicly left the Christian religion.  And since it might seem insincere for me to leave a religion while being a part of it, even telling the pastor and others that I'm an apostate, I suppose somebody deserves some kind of an explanation.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A defense of my almost indefensible language

Dear Hannah,

A very kind gentleman has written me this week and asked me why I used the term "blow-job" in a letter to a three-year-old girl.  One of the reasons I can think of is that these letters aren't actually written to a three-year-old girl.  They're written to you, of course; but which version of you is a matter of utmost importance.

Friday, April 8, 2016

A waste of Cicero

Dear Hannah,

One time, when Cicero was in the middle of an argument with Metellus Nepos, Nepos attempted to bring Cicero's nobility into question by repeatedly asking who Cicero's father was.  Cicero, knowing that Nepos's mother was easy, replied that I would ask you the same question, but your mother has made it very difficult to answer.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

An objection to my latest essay on Spike Lee

Dear Hannah,

My editor (God bless him) has rejected the last essay on the grounds that I was unfair to Spike Lee.  The fact that Spike Lee is unfair to everyone else is absolutely beside the point if my editor was right; and since I believe a sense of fairness is what separates men like me from Mr. Lee, I'm going to give him something of an apology.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Concerning the first 30 minutes of Spike Lee's Chiraq

Dear Hannah,

I just finished the first 30 minutes of Spike Lee's Chiraq, which I had expected to be a very good movie with a very bad message, and was surprised to find that it was a very bad movie with a partially good message.  For years we've been hearing Spike Lee's name in association with cinema, and had every reason to believe it was because he was a good filmmaker.  Now that I've seen part of his film, I realize that I had only heard about him because he's a loud filmmaker.  Like the Black Lives Matter movement, he's someone to be watched not because you want to watch him, but because he wants you to watch him.  It's notorious in the world of entertainment that any publicity is good publicity.  Spike Lee is well aware of this truth, and as he lacks the talent to make us love him, has had the prudence to have us hate him.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Some obscure sayings of Solomon and Franklin

Dear Hannah,

Many of the wisest sayings may be unclear to any but the wise. Reading Ecclesiastes, you might be tempted to take in much wisdom is much grief, and assume that wise people grieve because they know the way things might have been.  Knowing the way things ought to be done, of course, leaves plenty of room for grieving about things going unnecessarily wrong; but no more room than the average fool has when he considers the way he thinks things could have gone right. The nature of ignorance is not to know little or nothing, but to believe we know rightly when we actually know wrongly.  The idiot faces exactly the same emotional problem as the genius.  He says the world is a mess because nobody listens to him, and feels powerless to fix it.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Jesus texting

Dear Hannah,

I'm finally working on my first book, the unofficial sequel to Sarah Young's Jesus Calling.  It's going to be called Jesus Texting, and instead of pretending to speak for Him in the voice of a warm (but ultimately weak) white woman, I'm going text for Him in the style of a sarcastic teenager.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Paul the Apostle

Dear Hannah,

HG Wells once wrote in his Outline of History that Paul was responsible for refashioning the Christian religion.  From what I can tell this seems to be unfair.  Not only because there were twelve actual Apostles to keep him from doing it, but because Paul had a very different mission from Jesus Himself.  The whole purpose of Jesus was to start the Christian religion.  The job of Paul and the Apostles was to figure out how to organize it.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A note on the generosity of Myanmar

Dear Hannah,

I refuse to accept that Americans can be second-place in anything -- even in obesity.  It just means we haven't given it our best.  We've all seen our southerners, and if the Mexicans can beat us in gluttony they can beat us in anything.  There is however one trophy I'll accept in silver, and it happens to be the one we got for philanthropy.  The Charities Aid Foundation reports that we've been beaten by Myanmar, and nothing makes me happier than concession.  The only reason Myanmar ranked higher is because the people of Myanmar are dumber.  The only way we could be better at philanthropy is if the CAF ranked us worse.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Against an excess of positivity

Dear Hannah,

There's nothing more obvious than that Westerners are obsessed with serial killers, but there are many things more disturbing.  We all know why people watch deranged people doing deranged things, and it has something to do with our being a little deranged ourselves.  It also has lots to do with our being very safe.  Few of us can be terrified by aliens and ghosts after childhood, and wars and riots are beyond the general experience; but serial killers are real, and they strike unsuspecting people in unsuspected places.  An obsession with serial killers flows from public innocence; not our licentiousness.  The stories about the kidnapped middle-class bombshell reflect our fear of everything going wrong in the middle of its rightness.  The stories may pollute our souls, but only because the most of us are busy doing every thing but raping people and killing serially.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Thoughts on the Academy Awards

Dear Hannah,

Anyone tolerant enough to have seen the first 20 minutes of Birdman knows that the Academy Awards are a matter of opinion -- and that the opinion is oftentimes a bad one.  And this is because (whatever the people at the Academy Awards would have us believe) there is no other way to judge a film than by the way it makes you personally feel.  There is no science of film criticism, and (whatever Jeremy Bentham said) there will never be an accurate mathematical formula for measuring happiness.  The question on America's mind should never be whether the Academy gave an award to the right movie or people.  It should be whether they gave the award to the right feeling.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A timely rediscovery of Aaron Burr

Dear Hannah,

Nearly everyone knows that Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton, but almost nobody knows that Burr was wanted for murder while he was the vice president.  Few people are aware that Aaron Burr was even the vice president at all; and fewer would expect, given the historically serene nature of contemporary politics, that an American vice president has ever been wanted for murder while in office.  Nixon nearly went to prison for eavesdropping.  Bill Clinton was impeached over a series of consensual blow-jobs.  Because of the Hamilton affair, Burr was wanted by two states on charges of homicide.  He essentially spent part of his vice-presidency in hiding.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Joe Rogan vs the Book of Genesis

Dear Hannah,

People love to talk about Mother Nature, but they rarely capitalize on our being Her children.  They never consider that maybe like everything else in the universe we're doing what She intended -- even in doing the things She never would have done without us; even in destroying what we perceive to be natural.  They call it the state of nature when we haven't done anything to change nature itself; they say that things are natural before we touch them, and unnatural after we do.  The birds can make their nests out of twigs, and the twigs are considered natural whenever they're made into nests -- and only because the birds never think of doing anything else.  A government, unlike an anthill, is considered an alien intrusion; almost as if it was made out of spirits and miracles -- or mutants and toxins.  A condo is considered a blemish, and a hornet's nest a necessity.  We recognize everything as natural except everything we do.  We recognize everything as necessary except what we need.  We secretly believe in the divinity of man because we consider him the only foreigner in the universe.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Well-behaved women

Dear Hannah,

Of all the feminist slogans I've ever heard, one of my favorites has got to be well-behaved women seldom make history, and mostly because they've forgotten to mention that almost nobody makes history.  Amongst women, the number of people who make history is even fewer; and amongst their poorly-behaved, the number is significantly less.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Concerning "Dear White America" in the New York Times

Dear Hannah,

The great irony of a hunger strike is that it does nothing to prove the morality of the hunger striker.  It does everything to prove the morality of the man he's striking against.  Millions of horrible people have been willing to die for horrible causes, and we have only been the worse for it.  Far fewer have been willing to save the life of a suicidal enemy.  And if you do happen to go on a hunger strike and win, the only thing you've done is proved your enemy cares more about you than his cause.  You can only win a hunger strike against a person who cares about people.  You can only defeat your enemy if your enemy is actually a saint.  Gandhi may have saved the Indians from the English.  We can only wonder how successful he would have been against Al Qaeda.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The skeptic's prayer

Dear Hannah,

I don't remember whether it was Chesterton or Macaulay, but somebody is responsible for telling me about the hilarious English skeptic who was about to go into battle and was overheard praying
Dear God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have a soul.
Nothing more accurately sums up skepticism than this -- not even our modern skeptics.  Our modern skeptics are actually fundamentalists in disguise.  They have very real beliefs about controversial things, and they call themselves skeptics because it gives everyone the impression that they're still thinking hard about them.  In reality they've mostly made their minds up, and so have joined the ranks of the conservatives who want to change everything, the liberals who don't like liberty, the socialists who who prefer a mixed economy, and the Christians who ignore everything Jesus commanded.  The skeptic's name means something, exactly like everyone else's.  It means something it isn't supposed to mean.  It most usually is code for atheist.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Never bring a Christian leftist to the zoo

Dear Hannah,

It's the uncontested opinion of a very small circle of my friends that we will never take a Christian leftist to the zoo.  Aside from the fact that Christians have had a historical tendency to be thrown to the lions, there have been a few cases in which Christians have thrown themselves into the lion's den.  But this grisly reason aside, the reason we never take a Christian leftist to the zoo is purely selfish.  It's because he's more likely to throw you to the lions, and then praise the Lord for making him better than everyone else.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Why we love our guns

Dear Hannah,

Black people are almost the only people in the United States with any history of being enslaved, and almost all of them belong to the party working desperately hard to rush us back into slavery.  It's a masterstroke of irony fit only for fiction  The one thing every free man's got to have is the one thing they openly wish they hadn't got.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Concerning nude photos of Amy Schumer

Dear Hannah,

The important fact to begin with is that I'd never heard of the Pirelli calendar until it became too terrible to ignore.  Now all of a sudden Pirelli is the only calendar -- because until now I've never known anybody who was interested in talking about calendars.  Yesterday calendars were for little kids and the elderly; today they're the talk of the town, like every other thing we took for granted that's suddenly gone horribly wrong (I refer especially to our bathrooms). What Pirelli is -- who Pirelli is -- why Pirelli is, is not the question.  What's wrong with Pirelli is the question.  Feminism is the answer.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mad Men: musings on character and capitalism

Dear Hannah,

I've heard many people say that with great power comes great responsibility; but I've never heard anyone say that with great responsibility comes great power.  If you want the most obvious example of the former, I recommend watching Spider Man and paying attention to Peter Parker.  If you want an example of the latter, I recommend watching Mad Men and paying attention to Donald Draper.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to horrify your children

Dear Hannah,

When Time Magazine asked Americans which of our practices would horrify our children, I don't think Cindy Crawford (and possibly even Time Magazine) understood the question.  Her answer was that our children would be horrified by our "otherness" -- or our inability to recognize that we're all exactly the same.  Our children's answer will much more likely be that we failed to recognize which portions of humanity are incompatibly different.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"All life is precious" and other idiotic ideas

Dear Hannah,

There are only a couple of people I know who have taken a stand against the slogan all life is precious, and one of them is me.  The good news for me is that the other one appears to be God.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

On the greatness of Rome: a review of a review

Dear Hannah,

Anyone with any brains knows that in order for you to be successful in any endeavor, you have to have two things.  The first are circumstances favorable enough to make your endeavor possible; and the second is a personal ability to take advantage of the circumstances.

Friday, November 6, 2015

In defense of nativism

Dear Hannah,

In the world of demographics, there are very few kinds of people who can fairly be excused of nativism, and one of them is a person who is about to move somewhere else.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sounders 'til I die

Dear Hannah,

Political bumperstickers may be more annoying than bumperstickers about sports, but in terms of insanity they lag very far behind them.  I've never understood what it is that could lead anyone to place a bumpersticker for or against gay marriage on the back of his car, because it implies it was the only opinion he thought worth me knowing.  You would think that maybe it might be better to shout religious slogans if anything at all.  You'd think that if you had only a single chance to deliver a message to the person behind you, it might be preferable to choose something aimed at the realization of mortality -- or maybe about the possibility of entering into eternal damnation (which many people claim to believe, but are too polite to consider warning us about).

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Concerning the use of human shields

Dear Hannah,

Nearly every conflict in the world is morally complex -- nearly every conflict except the one between the Israelis and the PLO.  With many conflicts you're forced to dig through decades (and if you're unwise, centuries) of sins and blunders, trying to see who's responsible for starting it.  The PLO makes our decision easy, because they almost remove history from the equation entirely.  They provoke Israelis with violence, and then shield themselves from damage with little children.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Jesus is Lord -- but only of the rich

Dear Hannah,

If I could change one thing about Christianity today, I would make Jesus the God of the poor.  If this sounds like I've forgotten all the passages about the meek inheriting the earth and camels going through the eye of a needle, some explanation may be necessary.  Whatever the Bible says about the poor being blessed, their blessing may rest entirely on the fact that Christians today aren't placing them under any obligations.  They're blessed because they do inherit the earth; but only in the sense that they don't have any rules to follow, and only because they don't have a God to give them any rules.  The earth is theirs because it's theirs to squander: the Western middle classes are only here to build it.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Two terrible parents

 Dear Hannah,

Marcus Aurelius is known for being one of the wisest and justest emperors of imperial Rome.  The other thing he's known for is being one of the worst parents.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why women love fall

Dear Hannah,

I apologize that I keep talking about Solomon: it's completely unintentional.  I'm starting to feel like he's the only person I talk about.  And since I've mentioned several times that Benjamin Franklin is my personal hero and several others that Solomon is a screwup, it must seem like I don't understand myself very well at all.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Obama the Christian radical

Dear Hannah,

One of the most frustrating characters in all of Christian history is Jesus, and mostly because you're never really sure whether to take His statements practically.  It might be fairly argued that He was never meant to be taken practically, and that an uncomfortable portion of His sermons were meant to make us humble.  It could be that after all the talk about poking your own eyes out, what He was really trying to prove is that perfection (for you and I) is impossible, and that Christian living is entirely beyond us -- that it might even be suicidal, if we were to take it seriously.  Taken in this sense, the Sermon on the Mount may not be a sermon about behavior.  It may be an attempt to get us to cry "uncle" and ask for forgiveness.

Monday, September 21, 2015

How to change with the times like Sarah Silverman

Dear Hannah,

I wouldn't call myself a fan of Sarah Silverman's, but I'm definitely a fan of some of the things she says.  And when she said a short while ago that comedians have to change with the times and accept political correctness, I don't think it's possible for me to agree with her more.  In fact, when I woke up this morning to check my Facebook I asked myself what day it was, and when I figured it out, I told myself I would have what everyone else was having.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Why Republicans deserve Obamacare

Dear Hannah,

I was delighted to find in the New York Times this week that our hospital capitalists are beginning to wonder what their expenses are.  It's nice to finally have some company.  I've been wondering what my expenses are ever since I moved out of my parents' house; and I've been keeping records of it in red and black ink because I don't want to live in the streets.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

You cannot be a Christian and be a Christian

Dear Hannah,

Spend any significant time reading the Bible, and you're sure to have encountered a certain saying that not many wise were called to be Christians.

We have reason to believe that Paul was being serious when he said it.  Not only because the majority of the Christian epistles were written to people who apparently misunderstood everything about Christianity (I refer the reader to the Book of 1 Corinthians); but because even after two-thousand years of reading the epistles, many Christians have difficulty understanding that Christianity and killing children are mutually incompatible.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Miley Cyrus and the post-gender generation

Dear Hannah,

Solomon was never meant to be taken literally, but generally.  And when he says there is nothing new under the sun, we are almost led to believe him entirely -- if it hadn't been for automobiles and the internet and America.  About the rest of it he was right.  You can always expect the best and worst out of humanity, because the loves and hates of human nature have always remained the same, which leads us to do the same kinds of things we've always been doing.  And if he was right about anything in particular, it was about the recurring existence of Miley Cyrus.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A retraction concerning the Mexican work ethic

Dear Hannah,

This week I remembered that St. Augustine used to publish a series of yearly retractions.  I think it would be wise for me to do the same.  If anyone's going to be a man of learning, he must also be a man of unlearning; or to put it another way, if he's going to learn better ways to think of things, he has to get rid of the worse.  And if he's got any humility at all, which is one of the marks of a true scholar, he has to admit it when his positions have changed.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A home for Black Lives Matter activists

Dear Hannah,

If I had to pick a single statement out of the Black Lives Matter campaign as a testament to their asininity, I would pick the moment they stormed Bernie Sanders' stage and told the audience they were standing on stolen Duwamish land.

Monday, August 17, 2015

"Black lives matter" and other horrible slogans

Dear Hannah,

A short while ago President Obama made a deal with Iran -- a deal in which they got nearly everything they ever wanted out of us, and we got almost nothing we wanted out of them.  But what was most interesting about the agreement was that after we'd capitulated and relations should have been smoothed (at least, that's what you expect when you make a generous deal with a respectable person), the supreme leader of the Iranian people was caught shouting "death to America" with a substantial portion of his political allies.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Don't tell me to smile (and other feminist complaints)

Dear Hannah,

I've never really had trouble smiling, but I imagine that if the situation between the genders were reversed, and men were suddenly being asked by women to smile, that men would think of something much more interesting to say than that it was because of the matriarchy.  I imagine, being a man (and thus drawn far more frequently to practical solutions), that many of us might answer that we would already be smiling -- if only the woman who was asking was more attractive.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to ruin your homeschooled child

Dear Hannah,

Something that's given me an almost endless source of amusement is the public's response to an essay I wrote about homeschoolers, mostly because they said I have no idea what I'm talking about.  Of course, anyone who knows me knows I do know what I'm talking about, and I know what I'm talking about because I was schooled at home -- all the way through tenth grade, when my parents realized that homeschooling wasn't good for me anymore.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

How to tell if God is trying to kill you

Dear Hannah,

It should seem strange to anyone who reads the Bible that after all the talk about God judging the nations, Evangelicals think they know how He's going to do it.  The truth is that they don't; and I know this because I've tried to get judgment down to a science, and the only thing I've ever been able to conclude is that, if we're going by Biblical standards, God should have drowned all the Evangelicals in a very strange series of very localized floods*.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

"If necessary, use words" and other nonsense

Dear Hannah,

You may have heard people say by this point "preach the Gospel.  If necessary, use words."  It may be safely translated, stop preaching.  I've never heard it used in any other context than to get people to stop preaching, and it is used because people believe preaching is less important than doing things.  But if you've been paying any attention, you'll notice that the person who quotes this happens to be speaking, and he happens to be speaking a Christian lesson for the purpose of influencing your thoughts and behavior.  In other words, what you're hearing is a sermon.  I believe it may be fairly asked, at this point, why the person who's speaking instead of keeping his mouth shut isn't keeping his own advice.  It may be because speaking is a better vehicle for ideas than silence.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The most difficult thing about being a Catholic

Dear Hannah,

Throughout my life I've heard many people say I don't know what it feels like to be black in America.  Aside from the fact that nobody has ever proposed the opposite, that black people have no idea how it feels to be white in America, what I have never heard anyone say is that I don't know how it feels to be Catholic.  I admit I don't know how it feels to be Catholic because I am not a Catholic; but I imagine that if I was, right now would be a difficult time to be one.  And this is because you never really can be too sure what Papa Francesco is going to say next.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Speak now, or forever hold your peace

Dear Hannah,

Although I've witnessed several horrible marriages in my lifetime, there was really only one time I ever felt forced to attend a wedding, and it involved a woman I very much adore marrying a man I never fully trusted.  I spoke at the wedding, and did a damn good job at it.  I even bought a gift for this couple despite the fact that I knew he'd ruin everything and I'd be out a good chunk of money.  At the very best the wedding cost me my dignity and my money; at the very worst it caused the poor bride a broken heart and a divorce.  And there was nothing any of us could do, shy of shoving her fiancĂ©e off a cliff, to stop it.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A defense of police brutality in general

Dear Hannah,

If you ever happen to watch Game of Thrones, you'll get to know a character named Stannis Baratheon. What's most interesting about Stannis is that he's been burning innocents to death since his appearance in the first season; but if you hadn't seen the show, the popular media might have convinced you that he burnt his first victim in season five. And the reason nobody has said anything about it is because until this point, with the exception of Mance Rayder, he had only burnt people nobody had really been too acquainted with. Which is interesting because the outcry nearly exactly parallels the Democratic Party's position on killing children.

Friday, June 19, 2015

If God is dead, then God's Not Dead killed Him: a very late film review

Dear Hannah,

Imagine, for a moment, that a society of Elvis fans pooled together a bunch of money and decided to prove that Elvis was alive.  And so they got a lot of marketers and Kevin Sorbo and all their finest arguments for Elvis's current existence, and put them all together for a film imaginatively called Elvis is not Dead.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Thoughts on Gay Pride Month

Dear Hannah,

This morning I was informed that we've stumbled into a month of gay pride, which led me to ask a lot of uncomfortable questions about the sanity of the American public.  I asked -- for instance -- whether there might be any really good reason why Memorial Day was a memorial for only a day, and whether there might be any really good reason why men having sex with men is more important than my great uncle Bob*, who was killed fighting the Japanese in the Pacific.  And the answer, so far as I can tell, is that my great uncle Bob only died trying to protect us from invasion.   Or in other words, he was only in the Army.  He did not sing In The Navy.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Amy Schumer, champion of feminine jealousy

Dear Hannah,

One of the great tragedies of the modern era is that the people who are supposed to be championing the advancement of women know the least about the possibilities of womankind.  It doesn't help that the champions are women; and it doesn't help because if there is anything degrading to the intelligence of women, it is bands of women demanding ridiculous things of men.  In marriage, we call this sort of thing nagging.  In the world of socio-political philosophy, we call it feminism.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How to fake the presence of God

Dear Hannah,

I should probably preface this letter by admitting I'm not one of those people who says that all religions are saying the same thing.  I'm also not one of those people who says that all religions have nothing in common.  To say that Judaism and Christianity and Islam and Buddhism all teach similar messages is fair; almost as fair as saying that their messages are just different enough to cause serious problems between them.  A Catholic might say the Devil isn't only in the details, but that he's purposely muddled them.  A Calvinist might say God willed the Devil to muddle them.  A Muslim might feel theologically comfortable agreeing with the Calvinist (which is why he says things like en'shallah); culturally, many of them might feel more comfortable blaming a Jew (which is why Jews don't want Arabs to get nukes).