December 29, 2004

Sontag's lesbianism

New York Times, LA Times, London Times, BBC: Nothing

Hitchens, in Slate:
She resolutely declined to say anything about her private life or to indulge those who wanted to speculate. The nearest to an indiscretion she ever came was an allusion to Middlemarch in the opening of her 1999 novel In America, where she seems to say that her one and only marriage was a mistake because she swiftly realized "not only that I was Dorothea but that, a few months earlier, I had married Mr. Casaubon."

The Guardian:
On Style, the title essay in her first collection, plus Notes On Camp, set out an economy of culture which was moral without being moralistic, and began a radical displacement of heterosexuality.
It was a gay sensibility that she interpreted, and that shaped her response to the visual arts. It was also the central focus of her emotional life.

The Telegraph:
Susan Sontag never re-married, and her close relationships with several women provoked speculation; in 1999 she wrote an essay for Women, a compilation of portraits by her longtime friend, the photographer Annie Leibovitz.

In 1999 she wrote an essay for "Women," a compilation of portraits by her longtime companion, photographer Annie Leibovitz.

In the 1980s Sontag began a relationship with photographer Annie Leibovitz which lasted until her death.

Me? I think that Susan Sontag was an intellectual who wrote broadly and deeply on gay issues, and who pretty much everybody knew was gay. She had every right to keep her private life private while she was alive, of course. But now she's dead, I see no reason not to mention it, and in fact there is a sense in which saying nothing makes it seem shameful. We don't want to hear about Annie Leibovitz running off with the nanny, necessarily. But Sontag and Leibovitz did have a child – a girl, who I believe is now about three or four years old – and she now seems permanently airbrushed out of Sontag's life.

Posted by Felix at 06:50 PM GMT

I noticed the same thing, Felix - corresponded with a friend about it yesterday after I read the AP obit. They were together for years - at least ten.

Posted by: Sterling on December 29, 2004 07:24 PM

If Wikipedia is right, and it nearly always is, then they were together for closer to 20 years -- by far the most important relationship of Sontag's life. It's interesting that the AP obit is much more upfront about the relationship than the much longer NYT one, for instance: I think the obituarists who knew Sontag well simply felt unable to out her, while more distanced writers simply reported an objective fact.

Posted by: Felix on December 29, 2004 07:40 PM

Thanks, Felix for writing about this. I was wondering if anyone would...

I wonder if Ms. Leibovitz (and daughter) will attend the funeral.

Posted by: alizinha on December 29, 2004 08:23 PM

I assumed they were "out." Two friends of mine, a married couple, were reasonably close to the two and would discuss "Annie and Susan" freely. It was certainly common knowledge in Manhattan.

I'm sure I saw a gossip column mention when Leibovitz ran away with the nanny.

Like a lot of conservatives (and probably non-conservatives) I have very mixed feelings about Sontag. Her 9/11 outburst was infuriating and maybe even unforgivable. Though earlier, of course, she was one of the few on the intellectual left to understand and reject communism. That earned her quite a bit of respect on the right.

Posted by: Sterling on December 29, 2004 08:24 PM

What's more, the failure to acknowledge that Sontag lived with a multimillionaire photographer gives the likes of Virginia Postrel the ability to imply that the various grants Sontag received over the decades were unduly lavish and funded an extravagant lifestyle. Whatever else you might want to say about Susan Sontag, an argument for reducing grants she was not.

As for the status of being "out", it's decidedly non-binary when you're talking about public figures. There's being out in the sense that most of our gay friends are out, but then there's a much more public state of being out, where people you've never met know very little about you beyond the fact that you're gay. I think Sontag was in the former category but successfully prevented herself from landing in the latter.

Posted by: Felix on December 29, 2004 09:58 PM

You're misreading that. What she's implying is that Sontag was a generally unproductive writer who thanks to grant money was able to live very comfortably.

Postrel does seem oblivious to the fact that Sontag cohabitated with Leibovitz.

Posted by: Sterling on December 29, 2004 11:30 PM

As a related aside, did any of you understand what Leon Wieseltier was banging on about in the Times when he said: "The theme that runs through Susan's writing is this lifelong struggle to arrive at the proper balance between the moral and the aesthetic." I have to assumed he's using some lit crit shorthand; to me, it's utterly impenetrable. Even more remarkably, it was the obit's boilerplate quote.

Posted by: Matthew on December 30, 2004 02:33 AM

Maybe he said it specifically so that people would converse about it, trying to figure out what he meant and incidentally mentioning his name on blogs in the process?

Or maybe he's making a sly criticism of her for placing such emphasis on aesthetics. As an example, she famously described communism as "fascism with a human face", but that's not an argument. It's not even an accurate metaphor; it's just a visually compelling one. It's an advertising slogan, which is why everyone remembers it.

Perhaps Wieseltier believed she had difficulty reaching moral conclusions independent of style, distracted by appearances when she should have been evaluating substance. She never learned that a pretty face don't mean no pretty heart.

Posted by: Sterling on December 30, 2004 03:34 AM

Oh, I'm sorry, and 'A thousand points of light' is trenchant political rhetoric?

Posted by: Mr. 99th Percentile on December 30, 2004 02:17 PM

Sterling, that makes sense; your last point in particular, the idea that she "had difficulty reaching moral conclusions independent of style." Let's assuming that's correct; what LW should have said, in that case, was that her life was defined by a failure to reconcile the aesthetic with the moral. That's not a drastically hard idea, even for a newspaper. Why didn't he say that? Why did he fall into the overused cliche, talking about the balance between xx and yy. These ideas, if we use SS's attitude toward Communism as an example, aren't in balance, they're fundamentally at odds with each other. The balance metaphor's all wrong. He's a clever man. Why such woolly thinking?

This bothers me, and I'm guessing the reason why says an awful lot about the legacy of SS herself. None of the obits really nailed the nub of why she is seen as important, other than writing some clever things at some points in time, which now seem largely dated, and were goosed along primarily because she belonged to an influential intellectual and geographical community (Chicago and NY respectively). Perhaps it's not a surprise that her fellow critics are so tongue-tied in describing her. I heard Robert Silver (NYRB) on the radio talking about how her legacy related to her frequent visits to Queens to search out obscure Tibetan films. Genius!

Posted by: Matthew on December 30, 2004 02:40 PM

99: Is it your contention that the major utterances of heralded scholars should contain no more substance than political campaign boilerplate?

Posted by: Sterling on December 30, 2004 04:10 PM

Hmm. I thought Sontag was a "public intellectual". Honestly, I never knew she was a full time faculty anywhere.

And anyway, isn't "I think, therefore I am" just a good tagline?

Posted by: Mr. 99th Percentile on December 30, 2004 04:16 PM

99: You are a dolt. "Cogito, ergo sum" is an amazing refinement of groundbreaking philosophy. The fact that Descartes could so neatly compress an entire body of thought into three words is a staggering achievement. Although his specific ideas have been discredited, Descartes represents the break between the philosophy of antiquity and the Middle Ages, and of modernity, and that must lie in his expression of self-cognizance. His analysis, beginning with doubt, laid the groundwork for the adoption of a scientific methodology. Don't be glib, 99, you're not good at it.

Posted by: jame on January 1, 2005 07:03 AM


Posted by: Sterling on January 1, 2005 03:40 PM

But, Jame, it is a good tagline. In 300 years perhaps "Just Do It" will be heralded as the succinct and incisive agglomeration of 100 years of individualist existentialism that began with a break with God from Nietzsche and be studied as philosophy.

Posted by: Mr. 99th Percentile on January 2, 2005 05:21 PM

Gosh...this sure helps to appreciatee her work! Now let's focus upon her German background and after, her Jeiwishness.

Posted by: fred lapides on January 3, 2005 12:39 PM

Oh, Fred, you're just so much more enlightened than us. Blow it out your ass, you pompous turd.

Posted by: Sterling on January 3, 2005 02:18 PM

99, "Cogito ergo sum" is a good tagline. But you said isn't it JUST a good tagline. That's what set me off - as if it held the same properties and value as "Just do it".

So you deserved your spanking.

Posted by: Jame on January 4, 2005 02:10 AM

Finally, the LAT weighs in, with more details.

Posted by: Felix on January 5, 2005 02:37 AM

Oh, thank God. Now I can sleep easy, knowing the issue has been addressed.

Posted by: Sterling on January 5, 2005 06:38 AM

There was no 9/11 "outburst" by Sontag. I can't comprehend how that silly canard perseveres. Read her New Yorker article in question again: it is smart, moving and perfectly correct in her (entirely tangential, by the way) remark that the kamikaze terrorists weren't exactly "cowards". She didn't praise them She didn't exonerate them. She didn't "dignify" them. She noted the dangerous falseness of the overly easy, typically ignorant view which dismisses them as "crazy" and "cowards". Give it a rest already.

Posted by: Lola Walser on January 5, 2005 05:23 PM

Lola, I'm actually a fan of Sontag's and thought that article was incredibly insightful (especially after rereading it on the occasion of her death). But I do understand why some people took vigorous objection to her choice of word in that case. Sontag apparently thinks courage mostly has to do with fearlessly putting yourself in harm's way in support of your convictions. Fair enough; but others think that courage implies honor as well, standing up for your beliefs in a fair fight.

In any case, I do agree that it was absurdly inappropriate to condemn Sontag as a terrorist sympathizer for having the temerity to deviate from the accepted storyline. As a public intellectual she made it her duty not to shy away from speaking uncomfortable truths. That's a form of courage too. But joining a crowd to shout someon down is cowardly by any measure.

Posted by: neil on January 5, 2005 07:57 PM

I think the objection to Sontag's NYer article was not so much the cowards line, as much as it was the bit where she framed the attacks as "a consequence of specific American alliances and actions".

Posted by: Felix on January 6, 2005 05:04 AM

I don't begrudge the courage of those eight among the 19 who knew they were on a suicide mission, nor do I begrudge the greed and stupidity of the 11 who thought they were to be paid for their efforts in the hijacking upon their release from prison. What I begrudge is the "karma" argument - that America somehow deserved what happened on 9/11, one of the earliest expressions of which is Sontag's screed.

The blame for 9/11 rests generally with Islam - a backward, misogynist voodoo relic of a religion - and specifically those despicable few who take it so seriously that they go around committing mass-murder in its name, as instructed by the Koran. The United States is the most powerful force against Islamic militarism in the world, and OBL desires to neutralize that power. That's what motivated the 9/11 attacks. Sontag helped him out.

Posted by: Sterling on January 6, 2005 03:32 PM

Sterling, WHAT? Islam is generally to blame? Come on now, Islam had exactly S.A.N. (the last word is Nothing, so I think you can figure it out) to do with 9/11. 9/11 wasn't caused by the Koran, or Islam, instead it was caused by a few sociopath interpretation of Islam. Much the same as Jesus Christ didn't cause the Crusades, it was the wackos that misinterpreted the teachings of JC and went to war over it.

On the other hand, I agree regarding Sontag, no country deserves terrorism. Jame, just because Descartes could Cliff Note his philosophy into 3 words does not make him brilliant, unless the schmucks that do Cliff Notes presents Moby Dick are astonishing too. Not to say he wasn't brilliant, but that's not what made him brilliant.

and thus spoke Zarathustra....

Posted by: Sanford on January 6, 2005 05:56 PM

Have you read the Koran? There's no misinterpretation. Every few pages you run into some horror attributed to the will of God - some awful punishment the faithful are to visit upon some person or group of people. Burning, maiming, amputation - it's all there. Here's an excellent page about violence in the Koran. The author claims 123 calls to violence on Allah's behalf in the Koran, which seems credible to me.

Jesus, on the other hand, is described as employing or urging violence in just one incident that I can recall: when he drives the money lenders out of the temple with an improvised whip, and tells them never to return. It is implied in several places in the New Testament that violence is permitted in self-defense.

Posted by: Sterling on January 7, 2005 12:15 AM

Wow, Sterling, that link invokes Goodwin's Law after six words. I'm impressed.

Most of the Old Testament involves people killing other people because they aren't God's "chosen people." And to preempt your response that JC made the OT obsolete, he didn't make it obsolete, he was it's fulfillment, and, either way, it's still in the Bible.

Posted by: mike on January 7, 2005 12:43 AM

Yes, and because of their strict reading of the Old Testament, Jews have been slaughtering the peaceful Christians for 2000 years, haven't they? Just because there are bad things in a holy book doesn't mean people who follow that book will necessarily do bad things. Just because there are almost nothing but good things in a book doesn't mean the followers will do almost nothing but good.

In the case of the Koran, you have a book that exhorts its followers to do violence, and throughout the history of Islam we see Muslims who cite the Koran - accurately - when doing great violence. When the Jews and the Muslims fail to live up to the bloodier aspects of their holy books, they're doing a good thing. There is no blood shed in the New Testament but Christ's. Christ taught that everyone should be treated with kindness and respect - no one can say that he killed a man because the New Testament told him to.

The New Testament gave birth to the modern world, and the best values of the modern world reflect it. Christianity is primarily about Christ, the Old Testament is included because it gives the backstory to Christ - the first covenant between God and the Jews, and the second between God incarnate (Christ) and all mankind. The books could hardly be more different in tone and purpose. In all the years I had to attend Catholic Mass, I don't believe I ever once heard a reading from the Old Testament - it's nearly always from the Gospel.

And Godwin's Law only applies to message threads, not static Web content. How could it otherwise?

Posted by: Sterling on January 7, 2005 02:37 AM

Sterling: what kind of dipshit Catholic mass did you attend? Or were you too busy wanking too notice what was going on? A proper Sunday mass typically includes a reading from the OT. First reading is typically OT, second is NT, and the Gospels are, well, you figure it out.

And when you find some nutjob Baptist who is all about the word of God being literal, get back to me on their 'interpretation' of the "a rich man must stoop low to pass through the eye of the needle".

PS, John the Baptist had a little blood shed (Mt 14:1-12). Or was he a Muslim, so he don't count? Christ, I'm quoting scripture. Sterling, you are a nefarious MF.

Posted by: Mr. 99th Percentile on January 7, 2005 05:31 AM

I don另 know about Catholicism, but the Church of England - another organisation rumoured to have certain Christian characteristics - whilst by no means excluding the OT, certainly focusses heavily on the NT. There was never any confusion at my school as to what Christian values were, as far as violence went, on the personal level, although "Onward Christian Soldiers" did rather put the old cat amongst the pigeons as far as international politics went.

My dictionaries are also agreed in defining Christianity as having to do primarily with the teachings of Christ.

The trouble is of course that the Muslim extremists of today are compared not with today叫 lamb-like Christians, but with their much more sanguinary ancestors. Some folk will quibble at this, and point to President Bush (may Allah be merciful to him) 叫 wars as "Christian" wars against the Muslims. I don另 think a lot of people in the west would go along with that one, but in the Middle East it叫 obviously different.

It would be worth a lot to find out how or whether it is possible to persuade such Muslims that the efforts in Iraq, and the wider war on terror, are political efforts aimed at protecting and promoting political values of democracy and equality, rather than a Christian assault upon Islam.

The likes of Sontag - wilfully ignoring the fact that her sex and lesbianism would have made any meaningful public life in a Sharia-run country utterly inconceivable - would be contemptuous of such efforts. One has almost given up wondering why:- the posturings of left-leaning intellectuals (sorry, 99, another lazy designation, but hopefully more acceptable to you than "liberals"!) are so impenetrably self-contradictory and wrong-headed, on this as on so many other subjects, as to make one despair of a viable future for informed political debate.

Posted by: Rip van Winkle on January 7, 2005 12:43 PM

99 - Eh. You're right about the OT but it's very brief. Formally, there are THREE readings: OT, NT other than Gospel, and then the main Gospel reading. It's the third I was referring to. The first two are often less than a paragraph, whereas the third usually goes on for some time.

You are also correct that there are other bad things that happen in the New Testament besides the flaying and crucifixation of Jesus - the beheading of JtB, the slaughtering of the first-born males, the implication of the stoning of Magdalene, etc. My point is that the book discourages violence in the strongest way possible. This is in opposition to the later Mohammed, who is the agent of violence - more like Herod than Jesus.

You know, if this nitpicking is the best you can do, maybe you should be quiet for awhile.

Posted by: Sterling on January 7, 2005 03:42 PM

Rip - Not only are today's Muslim's invariably equated with Christians at their most violent - around 1000 years ago - but those Christians, the Crusaders, are invariably depicted as aggressors!

The truth is that for several hundred years prior to the Crusades, Islam swept across the Christian Middle East and North Africa and into Europe, converting people by the sword wherever it could, and tolerating those who remained Christian only in a state of dhimmitude. The Crusades were an attempt to reclaim lands that had been Christian, and often still had Christian majorities. Of course, it could have gone better.

And of course Muslims were successfully laying siege to Vienna as late as September 11, 1683, before Jan Sobieski swept in with his Polish cavalry and along with allied German and Austrian forces drove them out on the 12th. Now THAT would be a fucking movie I'd pay to see - I can imagine the trailer: After September 11th, comes September 12th! [cut to clip of Polish cav. man in funny hat at full gallop behading two Turk. jannissaries with one sword sweep. Pull back to show scope of enormous battle, with Vienna in the background.]

And don't try to spoil my fun by suggesting that it was September 12 on the Julian Calendar - it wasn't. Austria was an early adopter of the Gregorian, I checked.

Posted by: Sterling on January 7, 2005 04:05 PM

So, Sterling, you are saying that I can typically ignore all your substantiating evidence for an argument because it is flat out wrong? This is good, since I won't worry about constructing point by point refutations, since they are tedious to compose, and doubly so to read. Let's just leave at you are wrong far more than you are right. Easy enough.

Not to get all pendantic, but the readings are typically of similar length. The liturgy cycles in full about every three years (if my memory is correct), becuase, obviously, there is a finite amount of material. The 'longer' portion you refer it called the 'homily' in which the priest interprets the reading for the congregation (I believe this is called the Sermon in other religions). If a priest is a resonably good speaker (or writer -- some actually script their homilies ahead of time), the homily should sythesize all three readings into a lesson. Since a good portion of the year in gospels tracks the cycles of Jesus' life and death (the easter gospel is always the same, that is), the teachings of the OT and NT readings can add some texture to what would otherwise be pretty repretitive.

Also, you may have gone to one of those 70's suburban strip mall parishes. If you look at the missals, you will see that there is a short and long version of the OT and NT readings. To keep Mass moving at a comestible clip, many parishes skip the longer versions of the readings. The gospels will always be short (the reading portion, not the homily) since they comprise only four books.

Posted by: Mr. 99th Percentile on January 7, 2005 04:37 PM

It's hard to ignore the fact that many passages in the Koran are problematic. Some Muslim scholars have suggested that the jihads mentioned in the Koran are not meant to be taken literally, but rather refer to an inner struggle, or battle, to remain on the path. I like this interpretation, just as I like a figurative reading of the Bible. Unfortunately, many Muslims do not see it this way, just as many Christians hang on every word in the Bible literally.

As for the Iraq situation being seen as a war against Islam, I would think it would take an intellectual leap to think otherwise if you are living in Iraq. Bush wears his religion on his sleeve and while I agree he has attempted to paint this as purely political, makeing speeches saying so, meeting with Muslim leaders, etc., I think deep down he does believe this is about religion.

As always, no solution in sight.

Posted by: sac on January 7, 2005 06:28 PM

But sac, the people killing Muslims in Iraq for the last 18 months are themselves Muslims. The Iraqis want to vote, they want their country to stabilize, and they want us to leave - in that order.

99 - The argument here is that the Koran preaches violence as pleasing to God, and the New Testament preaches that God wants us to be kind not only to our families and neighbors, but also to our enemies. Do you dispute this or would you like to continue to argue liturgical minutiae? I fully admit I have a weak grasp of Catholic worship, having not set foot in a RC church separate from a funeral or wedding in about 20 years.

The other point you're trying to dodge is whether Christianity is to be judged by its inclusion of the Old Testament in its Bible. (We'll stipulate one Christian Bible for argument's sake.) Frankly I think this is a borderline idiotic objection for Mike to have raised, but I am willing to answer it: Christianity is fundamentally about the New Testament. Do you agree or disagree with my point? Or do you you want to dodge this one again?

Posted by: Sterling on January 8, 2005 01:57 AM

This is tiring because it so obvious and easy. Fine. No, Christianity is not fundamentally about the NT. An obvious example: The Ten Commandments.
Let's go down and speak to all the anti-miscegenationists in Alabama as see how they feel about the Ten Commandments.

You should also note, dipshit, that God does not speak directly in the NT, but yet much of the fundamentalist blather we hear from nutjob Christians worldwide is about the Word of God, which, inevitably is OT. Prohibition on Homosexuality? OT.

If there were no OT, Christians would be Socialists. I, for one, would be happier with that, so your dream of exercising the elements of Christian faith that lead to hatred and intolerance is perhaps a nice humanist goal, but it reflects not a whit of the dogma of those sects.

Posted by: Mr. 99th Percentile on January 8, 2005 06:28 PM

99- "If there were no OT, Christians would be Socialists."

Both strictly and loosely speaking, this is a weird and quite unacceptable statement.
Strictly speaking: nothing in the NT promotes, whilst nothing in the OT precludes, State ownership and control of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
Loosely speaking: sure, the NT may be read as advocating a communal-type of property-less life for those who would follow Christ. But in saying "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar叫" Jesus also left plenty of room for (and non-condemnation of) social organisation based on more than apolitical sharing values. To claim that Christianity leads to any particular political creed is a big canard.

Your last sentence is border-line illiterate and meaningless. Taking its essence to mean something like - "Christianity has facets within it which lead to hatred and intolerance, and these cannot be exorcised without destroying Christianity" - I would reply to the first part (ie: Xianity has bits that can be picked up on by nasty people to justify doing nasty things)- this is true of all religions but the nasty people are misreading Xianity in doing so; to the second part (ie: the nasty bits in Xianity are an integral part of Xianity叫 dogma) I would say, "no, you are wrong, my dear 99, quite wrong."
The 10 Commandments, by the bye, are quite silent as to miscegenation.

Sterling - re comment 32 - yes I too like the sound of "September 12th - The Movie". It would be an excellent expression of the West叫 commitment to its own political self-defence, in the face of militant Islamic threats to our political traditions. That is as important a message to get across as its counterweight, which is that the political traditions we fight for (and some of these traditions might be newer than others..) include freedom of worship.

Susan Sontag, from what I have read of her, would not have approached the issue in quite these terms. Her focus seems to have been more on appeasement than on bridge-building. In contrast to this, her lesbianism strikes me as a rather attractive trait.

Posted by: Rip van Winkle on January 10, 2005 09:28 AM

Actually there seem to be pretty strong biblical admonitions in favour of state rather than personal ownership. As well as the "it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than an eye of the needle to enter a camel" thing, coupled with "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's", I also remember that at some point a much-maligned tax-collector gets personally favoured by the Messiah. Charity being a jolly good thing from a biblical perspective is a pervading Leitmotif as well. If we need any further proof of Jesus' views on the price mechanism, may I point to his policy response on being confronted with markets in e.g. the Temple?

Combining all this, my reading is that excess personal property above a certain income level (Jesus does not actually state what annual income level in sestertii qualifies as "rich", nor does he add a property qualification, which is profoundly unhelpful) generally means damnation for the asset holder, wheras there is no problem with the State, in the form of Caesar, holding property.

Thus a certain level of personal property and income is fine so long as you don't want to roast eternally in the agonising flames of hellfire. Above that level, you should give it to the Poor. Once the Poor have got their minimum wealth level sorted out, the State gets it. In the absence of a clear definition (again, absolute sestertii guidance would have been a blessing here) we must take "the Poor" to consist of those people with Less. Thus Jesus clearly not only believes in a minimum wealth level, but also a maximum. Anyone straying above these levels of wealth, however inadvertently, needs for the good of their soul and to avoid having More and being "Rich", to have those assets confiscated. Without a price mechanism (remember the Temple) to determine asset values, we need a large body of bureacrats. This is where the favouring of tax collectors come in.

Personally speaking my classical liberalism and belief in public policy economics prevents me from embracing the Christian message, which if you parse it properly is much closer to the economic policy of the Khmer Rouge than that of the so-called "Christians" in the White House.

Posted by: eurof on January 10, 2005 11:27 AM

That叫 all very well, eurof, but you know you can only get away with this because you crucified sage7 with your own bare hands, so you have strangled the one Voice of Reason that might have held you to account.

Actually it strikes me that the Good Book is so full of conflicting economic Trotskyist and post-Leninist philosophy that it may be better to just give up and adopt the exciting slogan I saw in some leftleaning (sorry 99, etc) chatroom and which I absolutely love: "Books not Babies! Books not Bombs!"

Nevertheless, I feel we are shortchanging the folks who come here hoping for salacious Sontag lesbian secrets type stuff.

Eurof, as our new biblical expert: can you give us some chapter and verse on the Bible叫 position on gorgeous, pouting lesbian totty?

Posted by: Rip van Winkle on January 10, 2005 11:47 AM

Re the rendering to Caesar comment by JC:

Wasn另 he referring to a denarium? I don另 think it was a sesterce was it? Anyway, wasn另 the point that it had the emperor叫 portrait on it, rather than that JC was making an outright advocation of state ownership of the means of, etc, etc? And that bit in the Temple, wasn另 it more that those moneylenders were lending in the wrong place, ie the Temple, rather than that moneylending per se got up JC叫 nose and that therefore he recommended an immediate dictatorship of, by and for the people?

Anyway, adding all of that (and a whole lot more besides) up, I think a fellow such as yourself, eurof, should see no economic obstacles to embracing the Xian faith forthwith. An "economic policy" approach to religion might, indeed, be the very thing we have been searching for as a means of persuading recalcitrant Islamists that "the West" has no designs on their religion.

And I feel that Susan Sontag叫 soul (if any! do lesbians have souls?) would feel more comfortable with such an approach too.

Posted by: Rip van Winkle on January 10, 2005 11:58 AM

I thought "rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's" was intended not as a comment on economics, but as an acknolwedgement that people could live in the material world, with its various demands, and still devote a spiritual life to loving and obeying God. Jesus is not presenting his message to found a cult or a structure that heavily regulates people's day-to-day lives.

Jesus taught compassion and charity, but giving to poorer people is something that should come from the heart, out of love for fellow human beings, not because you must meet a quota or give up your way of life.

Of course, I think he would have frowned upon very rich people who don't give a lot back to the community, or who use philanthropy as a coldly calculated act to satisfy ego or political needs, as opposed to genuine compassion. It's not so much the deed as the opening your heart to the message of Christ that counts. Which is why I'm glad we're airlifting supplies to Aceh but wish Powell would stop banging on about what a bunch of swell guys we are.

Or so they taught me in Sunday school, many years ago.

Posted by: Jame on January 10, 2005 12:16 PM

Don't 10 denarii make a sestertium?

Look at JC's pronouncements on wealth, charity, giving etc. and his actions; interpreted literally, a clear pattern emerges, and my interpretation seems the most plausible in the absence of more information. Rip and Jame are united in WANTING the message to be different, but the facts do not support it. Face it, we have very little idea of what Jaysus actually thought. Look at the Da Vinci Code for chrissakes.

Jame, you spazzer, saying charity should come from the heart is as pukey-drippy as I have come to expect from you, but if you don't give from the heart the fact remains your soul will burn in HELL, so just give and pretend, OK? If Jesus wasn't trying to found "a cult or a structure that heavily regulates people's day-to-day lives" then he really screwed up and should return and tell everyone off.

FYI I did not crucify Sage7 and was LESS rude to him than I am to anyone on this site. He was just a bit sensitive. And verbose. I wish he would come back; he would have an interesting view, as you say.

The bible does not approve of Lezzas, as far as I know, and totty is out unless you marry it, or in the case of Lot, shag your own children.

Posted by: eurof on January 10, 2005 01:51 PM

No, Eurof, you crucified sage7 just as surely as if you卡 driven the nails through his flesh, don另 try and wriggle out of it now. I hope you enjoyed it, you sicko. But see the result now: no-one can pontificate with any authority on what the Bible has to say about lesbian love..

At bottom you seem to think JC and Cristianity stand for the same sickly soft-focus bleeding-heart leftwingery as 99 thinks. But I feel with equal, nay greater! certitude that He would be deeply impatient with all of that stuff. He was too unconventional to go along with it.

Posted by: Rip van Winkle on January 10, 2005 02:15 PM

And as to the camel and the eye of the needle and the rich man getting into heaven and all of that, my divinity master always said that it wasn另 saying it was impossible, just a bit tricky, for the rich man to get in.

Cast-iron support for JC叫 commitment to free trade and capitalism, I should have thought..

But my divinity master never let on about the slight lesbian undertones in that particular parable (or is it just a saying?).

Posted by: Rip van Winkle on January 10, 2005 02:24 PM

And charity becomes impossible/counterproductive if the State owns everything.

Posted by: Rip van Winkle on January 10, 2005 02:27 PM

van: The Bama comment is a conflation of a previous post on antiquated, racist laws in Alabama, home also to the Roy Moore. Trying to build some bureaucratic, liberal synthesis from which I can shake the coins from y'all's pockets for which to fund the Worker's Paradise.

Regards my statement on the portions which elicit hateful behavior -- well, take that up with Sterling. He's the one claiming the purity of soul and righteousness of action on the part of anyone bearing a WWJD bracelet.

The 'integral' bits are just words on a page. However, those words, in the context this discussion (is the OT essential to Christianity, as Sterling asked me directly), are integral. Their interpretation and application at times leads to rather nasty behavior. Whether or not this is not 'essential' to Christianity is something neither you nor I can answer within its self-deluding logic. All of which, if you substitute the words 'Koran' and 'Islam' for 'Bible' and 'Christian' gets to the crux of this disagreement, for, oh, the twelve-hundredth time.

Posted by: Mr. 99th Percentile on January 10, 2005 02:58 PM

I agree with you in fact. I don't think he was a bleeding heart at all -- except of course in the literal sense after the legionary kebabbed him on the cross, ha ha! No, I reckon the real JC would be a committed, subversive urban guerrilla were he around today. Most likely a Maoist. He'd fucking hate guitar-wielding Christians, I'm sure. I know if I returned in 2000 years' time and found a bunch of twats warbling reedily in my name I would want to kill them.

Posted by: eurof on January 10, 2005 03:10 PM

Yes, the God squad always were a byword for tedium combined with sanctimony and I叮 sure JC召l give them short shrift when he comes back to judge us all..

And in light of the above, I think Susan Sontag, as she peruses these musings from her heavenly perch - a sweet, pouting young angelic female nestled in the crook her arm - can only feel pride (and humility) on reading our heartfelt tributes, both to her exciting sexual preferences, regarding which an in-depth biblical perspective would have done so much to enlighten us still further, and to those gamy old political views which, even beyond the grave, have proven such a fertile ground for controversy and anti-intellectual cut-and-thrust...

God have mercy on her soul! says I. And may Allah not stint on the supply of virginal maidens either!

Posted by: Rip van Winkle on January 10, 2005 05:32 PM

Eurof - I hadn另 picked up on this yet, and I quote:

"I know if I returned in 2000 years' time and found a bunch of twats warbling reedily in my name I would want to kill them"

Is there some sort of personality cult or incipient religion associated with you? Or is the scenario you describe jocular?

God I miss sage7.

You bastard.

Posted by: Rip van Winkle on January 10, 2005 05:38 PM

yeah, when i read the crap you write i miss Sage7 too.

Posted by: Marc on January 10, 2005 07:32 PM

Eurof, since I've still got a lil' of that ole-time Christmas spirit lingering from the holidays, I forgive you for being a prat.
I love you, man.

Posted by: Jame on January 11, 2005 03:33 AM

This is a very strange discussion. Funny how twisted history and religion become when any individual takes ownership.

I claim this only - I know nothing of Sontag.

I have one other opinion, and that is in regards to 99... calm down! Speaking of people in terms of "dipshit" really wins no points in your favor. Oh, and it makes a newbie like me here turn a deaf ear to everything else of worth you might say.

And one last thing sir...

" No, Christianity is not fundamentally about the NT. "

Um, okay. Fundamentally there is one thing - ONE THING - that separates Christians from any other belief (or those who belive in nothing). That Jesus was the Son of God. I mean, we are trying to stick to the term "fundamental", roght?

Funny thing about that human named Jesus - he was not to be found in the OT. Oh, and without him, the NT wouldn't exist.

Like I said, very strange discussion here.

Posted by: Dave on February 13, 2005 11:45 PM