Reader Mail

Fairytale Season

Songs of Christmas. The politics of morality and religion. Designs on intelligence. Plus much more.

12.27.05

Send to Kindle

SHAWN IN IRAQ
Re: Shawn Macomber's Forget What You Heard, Election Day in a Sunni Stronghold, Assistingi and Enabling, and Riding the Rhino:

I have certainly enjoyed Shawn Macomber's articles from Iraq. He has been able and willing to show the tragedy as well as the triumphs from a place most Americans will only ever know of by someone else's impressions. Therefore we must rely on the reporter's determination to be fair and accurate. Through his words I feel as though I have a bird's eye view -- from the pausing in darkness on the highway of death to the dog running away with its tail between its legs.

I look forward to reading about the remainder of his time there.
-- K. Paluch
Alton, New Hampshire

SANTA BEN
Re: Ben Stein's A Patriot Acts:

Thank you from my cheap seat roots and media/pc ravaged soul, for Ben Stein. His concise, clear opinions ring true with traditional wisdom that comes from hard learned common sense... the only antidote to spin and foolhardy, temporary political hay.

Merry Christmas,
-- John Curtis

A 4:31 MASTERPIECE
Re: Patrick Hynes's A Christmas Song for Tormented Souls:

Patrick Hynes' lovely elegy to the Pogues' "A Fairytale of New York" reminded me all over again what a cinematic experience that song really was. Anyone who believes it impossible for a brief piece of music to encapsulate a century and a half's worth of ethnic experience, with a full panoply of emotions, hasn't listened to this masterpiece. If you've taped the video (like me), prepare to be reminded all over again, in 4 minutes and 31 seconds, why tears aren't just for kids. And I don't have any Irish blood in me.

A small factual correction is in order. Kirsty MacColl left this world a week before Christmas in 2000, not 1994. She was on vacation, swimming off Cozumel Island, Mexico, near the Yucatan Peninsula. Out of seemingly nowhere, a boat in a clearly-marked swimmers-only area, virtually decapitated her right in front of her own two sons -- the offspring of her marriage to the great Steve Lillywhite, not coincidentally, the producer of "A Fairytale of New York." (Try living with that trauma for the rest of your life.) The driver of the boat, as it turns out, was not only reckless, but also rich and well connected. Lucky for him. Vicente Fox's Mexican government continuously has stonewalled pleas for justice from MacColl's family members in the half-decade since. Even the most diehard immigration/amnesty enthusiast might smell a rat here.

I know. It's the music that ultimately matters. And every time I replay the video or listen to the CD with that song, I think of the Irish, Shane and all the other Pogues. But most of all, I think of Kirsty, and how much we miss her.
-- Carl F. Horowitz
Ashburn, Virginia

In general I agree with Patrick Hynes; no endurable Christmas songs have been written since the early 1960s, if then. I make an exception, though, for Emerson Lake and Palmer's "I Believe in Father Christmas." I suppose it is open to interpretation, but my reading of the lyrics is "WE are Father Christmas, so if you want a Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth, get off your fat rear, stop whining, and do something about it." The last couplet sums it up nicely; "Be it Heaven or Hell, the Christmas we get we deserve."

Exactly!
-- Charles Schofield

I've always loved " Fairytale of New York" -- powerful because it speaks of hope recaptured in the teeth of despair. All the more glorious because the hopers are not in some fluffy wonderland, but the hard-case, crash-and-burn walking wounded from the tail end of the Irish diaspora. Long may those bells ring out!

Merry Christmas to the whole right-wing conspiracy at TAS.
-- Martin Owens
Sacramento, California

I agree with Patrick Hynes that there have been no new Christmas songs of a perennial nature.

Mr. Hynes talks about the offbeat songs, Fairytale in New York by the Pogues. For other offbeat Christmas songs, he should listen to the songs on the Ray Stevens recording, Christmas Through a Different Window. This CD has several songs that are not exactly "standards"; however, they are somewhat entertaining. (I would say they are good for one or two listens each Christmas season.)
-- Bill Reynolds

I have to agree with you that "Fairytale in New York" is a great Irish/Christmas song. It will go down in history as one of the great traditional songs. I live in a very Irish neighborhood in the Bronx surrounded by many great Irish pubs that we can hear that song all year round. All of our local pub bands and jukeboxes play that tune every night. I guess we are lucky that way.

I know that you really enjoy Christmas music and I am not trying to promote any band or have any band affiliation, but I do have to mention a great Christmas song written by a local band called "Christmas in New York" by Shilelagh Law. This song was written right after 9/11 and is really starting to get radio play. I think you would love it.
-- Laura

I enjoyed Mr. Hynes's article on the Pogues' Fairytale of New York. I'm not familiar with either the group or the song but I will make an effort to acquaint myself with both.

Allow me to add another tormented tale of Christmas for those who are interested. Find Dancing with Strangers by Chris Rea and listen to Joys of Christmas, soaked in cheap whiskey and reeking of stale cigarette smoke:

I see all the tough guys still not 25
Dying on their feet
Coughing, honking, cadging cigarettes
And still out on the street

Well, they got no money, nowhere to go
Fathers of 2, 3 maybe 4, what are they gonna do
Jimmy got a busted mouth in a fight last night
He says he's ok
Going down to the workies club (that's a laugh)
To buy something strong and take the pain away

Joys of Christmas
Joys of Christmas
Northern style

Flashing Christmas light of police blue
Go spinning down the street
Women try to drag the men from pubs
Into the stores

And work hands in empty pockets deep
We stand outside the neon ice and wish ourselves the best
He says he's ok, out of work and fighting
Is all he's ever known
And laughs and says I worry too much anyway

Joys of Christmas
Joys of Christmas
Northern style

Let's drink to the likes of Jim
Before we all go insane
And please don't ask me why
It'll take too long to explain

Joys of Christmas


Merry Christmas to all .
-- Rick Venema
Colonial Heights, Virginia

MORAL DISGUST
Re: Mark Tooley's 'Tis the Season:

Our great Protestant church officials can't even fill a pew or preach a sermon that is theologically sound, yet they venture into economics. They judge the rest of us evil if we dare to prefer private charity to morally corrosive government charity, complaining that "Congress continues to make decisions which benefit the rich but are paid for by the poor."

The proof of their absolute hypocritical dishonesty is simple: Social Security. Here is a program that shovels tens of billions of dollars out of the pockets of the young working poor to subsidize the retired and comfortable who are politically powerful. Using political coercion and force to coddle the comfortable powerful -- by exploiting the poor and weak -- is morally disgusting. This Ponzi scheme is guaranteed over time to utterly destroy the ability of the government to do anything for the truly needy, as screaming, enraged cohorts of new retirees open the piggy bank and find their lifetime's proceeds have been looted. The poor will suffer most in our future Darwinian survival politics, brought to us by the moral exemplars at the National Council of Churches.

The real problem with our fake-liberal partisan church officials (real liberals would support, not oppose limited means testing and other reforms of entitlement programs) is that they don't believe any more in grace. They have left the Christian religion and joined the secular partisan left religion, wherein adherents are granted status not as a free gift of God to poor sinners, but rather as a moral superiority earned by holding correct opinions. This ideology joins the sad long list of humanity's religions and philosophies (with one exception) that thus creates an "us-versus-them" mentality. It begins with "I'm morally superior to you because of my correct beliefs" and ends with "you're not as human as me; I can dispose of you." Plus it corrupts thinking scientifically about policy, because such inquiry is no longer a disinterested, objective exercise but rather an intense, emotional potential threat to a belief system (hence we are not even allowed to discuss whether an unborn child is conscious or measure the benefit to the poor of low capital gains tax rates, because they're matters of belief, not science).

Such fake Christians and their secular friends find it difficult to make good public policy, because it's really all about them and their moral virtuosity, not about the needy. Because they are unforgiven without grace, they must always strive like a jihadist to earn spiritual brownie points, which requires redoubled fanatical self-conscious posturing (which is why that tedious, frownie-faced, scolding "progressive" at your local township meeting bears a striking resemblance to a Puritan caricature (actually the real Puritans were not nearly as joyless as the modern frownies who accuse them of being so)) .

The real Christians I know can think clearly about helping others, because God has taken care of them, and now they can forget about themselves. Merry Christmas, and may God grant you real, joyful, self-forgetting grace.
-- Eric Richter
Wyoming, Michigan

Every time the leadership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) opens it's leftist mouth, I want to bolt for the Missouri or Wisconsin Synod.

One half-measure from which I get some satisfaction: I designate ALL contributions that I make to my own local congregation, so 100% of the funds are spent on OUR budget. In this way I can avoid ANY support for the national office (nor for THEIR contribution, in turn, to the ever-more-openly anti-Christian National and World Council of Churches). Commonly, at least within the ELCA, local congregations only forward "benevolences" (a percentage of local contributions received) to the national church structure based on a percentage of UNdesignated contributions.

I recommend ALL conservatives in so-called "mainline" (*) Protestant churches to determine whether this technique to at least silently protest unbiblical leadership/blatantly leftist political activism (**), is available to you.

(*) As with the "mainstream" press, read: leftist
(**) ELCA's "Leader" (Hanson's) shameful and repeated support of partial-birth abortion comes to mind.

Yes, perhaps the national body does SOME good e.g. with World Hunger and Lutheran World Relief, support for new congregations and the dwindling number of missionaries, and at least a few of our increasingly-lefty seminaries are probably, on balance, still "a good thing." But if you want to support those (or the equivalent in your own church body), you can also designate to a SPECIFIC national program. (Warning: Giving in ANY way to the national body has the inherent weakness in that once they have their fingers on the cash, they can quite easily shift "budgeted" general funds AWAY from the "good" programs which received designated support, into their favored leftist political activism. As a form of protest, better to cut off ALL their cash, i.e. keep your "church" contributions 100% local and support OUTside charities for world-relief/world-mission kinds of programs.)

Anyway, it's one small way to "De-Fund the Left," as we used to say in the 90s. Something to think about for those year-end-catch-up contributions, and thereafter!
-- Kevin Amaro
Hayward, California

I am a 50- plus year member of the United Methodist Church, and, at least for the time being, will remain so. However, Rev. Edgar and the National Council of Churches do not speak for me, or for most Methodists I know.

One wonders when the last time the Rev. led someone to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I would guess it has been a while.
-- Ralph Tuggle
Independence, Virginia

Ever notice how the liberal churches (an oxymoron if there ever was one) are for the separation of church and state until there's money involved?
-- Cookie Sewell
Aberdeen, Maryland

Bob Edgar should take a gander at the Tenth Commandment.
-- Mark Stewart
Jacksonville, Florida

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THIS
Re: Lawrence Henry's Christmas Letters

Lawrence Henry's nostalgic look at the annual torture known as the Christmas Letter, a step above the Republican fundraising survey on the list of what makes letter receivers roll their eyes, brings back memories of the long, single-spaced epistles I received from a practicing Catholic cousin, now on her third marriage. Dubbing these tomes the we-went-here-we-went-there letters, I perused them for a few consecutive years as I learned about her ski trips, foreign travel and other minutiae that she finally could pursue after dumping husbands one and two. The letters usually had the unpleasant inclusion of how one of her kids threw up. Having an active imagination, I could only imagine the mess. I could not fathom how to respond to those letters, lacking a husband or travel funds of my own, except to say I am fortunate enough at the Christmas season to have found peace within from God and the good friends with which he has blessed me. Somehow, I feel a simple message like that would create a cognitive dissonance not easily resolved.
-- Caroline Miranda
North Hollywood, California

I may be the only one who does, but I love to receive Christmas newsletters from friends. I delight in their achievements and the progress of their children. I have so many friends who are now far away and seldom see. The letter is a nice bit of friendship.
-- Mike Bergsma

MUNICH AND STEVE
Re: Yale Kramer's Indiana Spielberg and His Jewish Problem and R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s The Camera Lies:

I have not seen Munich, but I have seen Indiana Jones -- and enough contemporary fare fitting Mr. Kramer's characterization of Munich -- to know that his review unfairly disparages the earlier films by comparison. Jones and a whole host of Eighties films that will never be called "Secret Masterpieces" -- to include the Charles Bronson movies Spielberg disparages -- resonated with audiences of all ages, real Americans who recognize the existence of genuine "bad guys" like Raiders of the Lost Ark's Nazis, and share the "good guy's" unnuanced view of such evil. Mr. Kramer attributes to Spielberg a genius for boyish, morally-unambiguous adventures, a description that aptly characterizes his earlier work -- after all, what subtlety is there in a movie that ends with the villains literally melting away before the power of God?--but hardly seems applicable to a film aiming "to prove that everybody is the same morally."

No, if Munich fails to inspire, it is precisely because Spielberg did not turn it into another Indiana Jones. Granted a sort of tenure by his billions, the entertainer-turned-Serious Artist now comfortably ignores his own "winning recipe," insisting instead on projecting Hollywood moral equivalence -- or, in Mr. Kramer's words, "complex motivation" and "ambivalence" -- into what Mr. Kramer himself describes as a story of the Israeli government's "patience, forbearance, and cooperativeness" before sending patriotic young professionals to "surgically target" the cold, calculating murderers of helpless innocents. I am no more interested in seeing a righteous avenger of the Munich massacre in "a moral funk from which he cannot escape" than in seeing Indy agonizing over the stormtroopers' families and pianos, Bronson's Paul Kersey pursuing group therapy with his wife's murderers, or Rambo debating the finer points of Indochinese politics with Hanoi Jane.

Merry Christmas,
-- Mike Wohnhaas

Please thank R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. for his piece on Spielberg's movie "Munich". It helped reinforce a resolution I made after seeing War of the Worlds earlier this year: to never again spend money on Mr. Spielberg's films -- not for entertainment anyway.

The one benefit to seeing Spielberg's work is that they provide (now that Woody Allen is in decline) a cinematic insight into the minds of those who are in advanced stages of the "value-deaf" (vis-vis: tone-deaf) existence:

A kind of audio-visual "expression" reminiscent of J.P. Sartre's "Being and Nothingness." These works (Spielberg/Sartre) also seem to adequately define the moral/intellectual core of our country's political left wing.
-- Richard Staples

RELIGIOUS WAR
Re: Paul Chesser's Cowering Christians:

It is my considered opinion as a confirmed agnostic and cryonic's member that an approach such as that demanded by the author is the direct spiritual cause of much of the current conflict. Not on a national venue has "direct" approach by Christians caused such hatred, but family and personal, regional contact -- attack over the last 40 years seems to have caused the majority of the current culture war. Those less likely to sign onto jihad of any sort have become; pick your humanist utopian vision, or lawyers of the ACLU out of fear and now loathing. I don't believe this schism can be healed by less than the eventual death of the generations involved.

Mores the pity, if religious factionalism had been strangled at birth by Plato's Republic and the Greek stirrings of the scientific method we might even now be returning from the stars. But a vast majority of Homo sapiens seem hard wired to this conflict and in a nuclear age the outcome seems to me very much in doubt. Or at best if it follows the predicable human pattern very bloody before it gets much better. Perhaps something like "Homo drakensis" may be the only answer...
-- Craig Sarver
Seattle Washington

Excellent piece on cowering Christians; I have often wondered why we would (dare I say deceive) others and push for ID not admitting we actually meant God and Christ as designers operating through the Holy Spirit. It reminds me of when Christian outfits sell something, but because of their "non-profit" status they call it a love offering or a gift. Let's call things as they are, and your piece is exactly what we should be saying, if in fact we believe the Genesis account…and I do.

I am the executive director of the North Carolina Fisheries association in New Bern, representing the commercial fishing folks along the coast, and it's hard not to see God's creation in our field.

God bless.
-- Sean McKeon

I am an intelligent design advocate who has given lectures on this subject since 1995. I am also a non-believer in Christianity or the Bible. There is no established religion that has any lock on the concept of intelligent design. It is a scientific concept. It is based on evidence from the natural world. If Darwin first proposed his theory today, with all the evidence that exists, no one would take him seriously. Only because Darwinism itself, has become a faith based religion does it persist. The evidence for a designer is powerful and is not based on any existing religion. It is based on logic and facts. One example among hundreds is found in the Burgess Shales. There, fossils appear of complex life with no antecedents. No chain of evolving life forms precede them, only very simple life. Dated 530 million years ago, an explosion of life appears. All the types found today and most significantly, many types no longer found. This is not evolution, it is devolution. Such finds as these shales beg for a creator. These shales silently declare "Darwin got it wrong".

The debate between intelligent design and Darwinism should stick to science.
-- David Moshinsky

Let us not forget that the writer of Hebrews identifies Christ not only as the Creator of the universe but also as the sustainer of it: "sustaining all things by his powerful word." (Heb. 1:3 NIV) The Logos of John 1 keeps the planets on their courses. etc., etc.
-- A. Robinson
Lowell, Michigan

CLASS CLONE
Re: Tom Bethell's reply to Russell Seitz (under "Clone Ranger") in Reader Mail's Mormonism Spelled Out:

Tom Bethell quite understandably pleads mistaken identity when confronted with his past enthusiasm for "the Face on Mars" as a possible product of "Intelligent Design" rather that a collection of shadows cast by a nondescript hillock on the Red planet's plains. Together with his doubts about AIDS being caused by the HIV virus, and Einstein's Theory of General relativity, his increasingly eccentric views have attracted increasingly acute examination.

My apologies if an anti-Tom Bethell, or one of the innumerable clones of the Earl of Oxford, writing for a journal coincidentally named "The American Spectator" in some parallel universe, provoked the chapter of Neil DeRosa's recent book, Apocryphal Science, chronicling some Tom Bethell or others' belief both in the above hypotheses, and that the shadowy Martian profile may reflect teleology rather than manifest limited scientific literacy.

Those wishing to escape that syndrome, and the alternative scientific universe your Tom Bethell prefers can always fall back on the peer-reviewed scientific literature, which, like Tom's past writings, has a permanence that defies relativism.
-- Russell Seitz

THE NEW CREDENTIALISM
Re: Kenneth Wagner's letter (under "Flimsy Theory") in Reader Mail's 'Twas the Night Before:

Professor Kenneth Wagner writes, presumably sarcastically, that your author Dan Peterson "reaches out with the vast biological knowledge his law degree surely gave him." Great point, Professor. As every liberal knows, and was confirmed by the recent Pennsylvania intelligent design decision, a lawyer does not become an expert on science (and everything else) until he is appointed to the bench.
-- Glen Hoffing
Shamong, New Jersey

BROKEN GLASS
Re: Lisa Fabrizio's A Visit From Old St. Hillary:

Thanks to Lisa Fabrizio for lightening our spirits this Yuletide Season. If "The Night Before Christmas" had to be lampooned, I cannot think of a better subject than the Banshee from Chicago via Arkansas and the White House, representing New York, and aspiring to rule us all in the not too distant future.

I have a suggestion for the Republican running against her. Put together a montage of "Shrillary" in campaign mode, followed by the quiet question, "Can you stand to listen to this for four years?" If the sound of exploding eardrums could be simulated, it would be better than the mushroom cloud of campaigns past.

That woman has a voice that could shatter the windshield on a Greyhound Bus six blocks away.
-- Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article