Free Tea

I first became aware of The Town Hall, I have to admit, through the Christopher Guest mockumentary A Mighty Wind. In the movie, three aging folk groups are brought together for a concert in Town Hall to honor the memory of one of their early promoters. When I began to walk past Town Hall on my way to work, I grew curious about its history. This curiosity was piqued by the scriptural quotation engraved on the façade: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” New York City is an architect’s smorgasbord and I am often intrigued by the little gems I spy here and there. I discovered that The Town Hall was originally a political venue built by The League for Political Education, an organization sorely needed now. Built because of the need for a public space to discuss the Nineteenth Amendment (which the League supported), Town Hall was originally a venue to keep the public informed.

The Nineteenth Amendment—which the Tea Party seems to have overlooked, along with much of what we recognize as democracy—was drafted by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It took congress only four decades to ratify it. Women were finally given the right to vote. Stanton was noted for her suffrage activities, including the production of The Woman’s Bible. The idea that an entire half of the human race should share the rights of the other half seems to have required a building erected to educate the public. Of course, there were moments when even The Town Hall couldn’t bear the words spoken on stage, as when Margaret Sanger was arrested for speaking about contraception there in 1921. I suspect there were Tea Partiers in the audience.

The same stage also provided a venue for Edna St. Vincent Millay to have her poetry reading breakthrough. Richard Strauss and Sergei Rachmaninoff performed there, as did any number of other greats. Truth may take many forms. Certainly human equality is as basic a truth as can be found. Art and poetry are equally as parsimonious, in the formal sense of the word. These things that we value are the very aspects of culture that the Tea Party would like to curtail. Thankfully there have been believers in the truth in the past who have been willing to construct monuments to sanity. And I can’t help but think that there would be even more of them if we still had a League for Political Education to help promote the truth. Without it, as it says in stone, we can never be truly free.

Seneca Falls

Located in central New York, along the northern end of Cayuga Lake, is the village of Seneca Falls. Based on a vote by residents last year, the village is being dissolved today. With a population of almost 7,000 people Seneca Falls is the largest village in New York ever to be dissolved. The move brings me a personal sadness. Not because I have ever been to Seneca Falls (I haven’t), but because it is a historically significant location.

On July 19–20, 1848, The Seneca Falls Convention met. It was one of the earliest gatherings of women’s rights proponents held in the United States. Led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and local Quaker women, the Convention met to provide a platform for Lucretia Mott, a Quaker leader known for her public speaking on women’s issues. The Quakers, in a rare historical twist, generally acknowledged the validity of female religious participation equal to that of men. The Convention produced the Declaration of Sentiments and its resolutions, which argued for women’s right to vote. Even Frederick Douglass gave a favorable assessment of women’s suffrage at the conference.

One of the long-term results of these early steps became the nineteenth amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment was passed only in 1920. The state of affairs for women still has far to go before it can be called true equality. Certainly some aspects of society have improved, but women still fall under the pay scales of men and are often barred from leadership roles they have every right to hold. Finland, India, Liberia, and Sri Lanka have all had women presidents. In the United States, Seneca Falls is dissolving.

The reason that women have been relegated to secondary status is generally because of religion. The gods seem to favor one set of genitalia above another. Most pantheons operate under the control of a masculine god. Of course, the rationale given is often based on scriptures written by men but passed along to the divine male for proxy authorship. We need more Seneca Falls Conventions, only they should be held in a higher court, not one inch shy of heaven itself. One of our national resolutions, as this year ends, ought to be finally to take seriously the spirit of our founders and bring equality for all to life.

O little town

In Our Own Image

Word is out that Andrew Schlafly, spawn of Phyllis, is working on a new Bible. In a stunning move that will amaze even many conservative Christians, Schlafly has decided that the Bible itself is too liberal. On his alternative to “liberal” Wikipedia, Conservapedia, he cites the ten principles for translating the Bible in a conservative-acceptable way. Unable to attain the lofty heights of rhetoric on Conservapedia’s Conservative Bible Project page, I need to quote verbatim the 10 Commandments of Schlafly’s ideal Bible:

1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level
4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms to capture better the original intent; Defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words that have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.
5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”; using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census
6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
8. Exclude Later-Inserted Inauthentic Passages: excluding the interpolated passages that liberals commonly put their own spin on, such as the adulteress story
9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”

Am I the only one to sniff a strong scent of Orwell here? Principle 1 stipulates that the translation, by converse logic (the kind apparently in favor) should be biased, as long as the bias is neo-con. In principle number 4 we are told that the word “word” has changed in meaning. Suddenly I’m reaching out for the railing – steady, steady! Principle 7: “free market parables”? Here is Jesus made-over in the image of Rush (I Can’t Have the Rams) Limbaugh; remove the kindness and compassion please. Jesus’ only goal is to be the CEO, or at least his only son. The translators reserve the right to remove objectionable material traditionally attributed to Jesus. Even Mr. Rogers could spell Revisionist!

Sure, Bible translators need to give the readership what they want. Thomas Jefferson removed the miracles and divinity claims for Jesus before publishing “the Jefferson Bible.” And he was a president! Suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton led efforts to produce the Woman’s Bible, removing masculine bias from the text. Bible scholars, however, do not accept their efforts as original biblical manuscripts. Even the general public knows better. What Mr. Schlafly is proposing is giving a gullible readership a Bible that contains what God meant to say; i.e., if God were me. What is disturbing about this is not that one person is offering his or her own version of the Bible – that’s been done before – but that it is intended to lead the unwary to a vision of Christianity that is new but claiming to be apostolic.

I think I feel a podcast coming on.

Woman's Bible

Woman's Bible

Jefferson Bible

Jefferson Bible