Weekend Edition: 4-17

Nonbookish Linkage

  • Woogans: vegans who believe in “woo-woo” ideas

Bookish Linkage

I know that I am what I am. But I am not sure what I am.

Mason Cooley, City Aphorisms (Tenth Selection)

Weekend Edition: 4-10

Nonbookish Linkage

Bookish Linkage

Libraries should be open to all—except the censor.

John F. Kennedy, Saturday Review, October 29, 1960

Loco Lawsuits: Untrustworthy Hostages

Audaciousness can occasionally be part of a criminal’s arsenal. Yet Jesse Dimmick’s brassiest act may have come while already serving a sentence for kidnapping.

Dimmick, a Denver area native, was one of two men sought in connection with a September 7, 2009, homicide in Aurora, Colo. Authorities arrested the other man but Dimmick remained at large. On September 12, Kansas police spotted Dimmick driving a stolen van and gave chase. The pursuit ended some 50 miles away in Dover, Kan., when tire spikes punctured the van’s tires. The van came to rest in the front yard of the home of newlyweds Jared and Lindsay Rowley.

Further evidencing his lack of judgment, Dimmick forced his way into the house and held the Rowleys captive at knifepoint for around two hours. Reflecting their acumen, the Rowleys calmed Dimmick and gained his trust by offering him a drink, snacks, pillows, and a blanket and reportedly telling him they wouldn’t call the police when he left. At some point Dimmick fell asleep while watching a movie (reportedly Patch Adams). The Rowleys immediately escaped and police surrounding the house stormed in. Dimmick suffered a bullet wound to this back while being subdued. In May 2010, a jury found Dimmick guilty of two counts of kidnapping and he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

With Dimmick behind bars, the Rowleys turned to the courts. In October 2011, they sued Dimmick for $76,000 for trespass, intrusion, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. This is where Dimmick’s gall came to the forefront. He countersued. In a handwritten claim submitted a month later, Dimmick wanted the Rowleys to pay him $160,000 for medical bills relating to being shot by police and another $75,000 for pain and suffering. His theory?

I, the defendant, asked the Rowleys to hide me because I feared for my life. I offered the Rowleys an unspecified amount of money which they agreed upon, therefore forging a legally binding oral contract.

Since no binding legal contract can be obtained at knifepoint, it’s not surprising a judge dismissed Dimmick’s claim in January 2012. Nor did Dimmick’s court experiences improve. In September 2012, a Kansas appeals court upheld his kidnapping convictions. Then in June 2013, he was sentenced to 37 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the Aurora homicide.

It isn’t against the law to be an idiot.

Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel

An atheist’s Easter confession

I’ve been an avowed atheist for decades. I’ve always found the Bible and the story of Jesus incredible in the true sense of the word — not credible. Perhaps that accounts for some of the “D” grades I got in “Conduct” in Catholic school. But I have a confession to make, pun intended. Every year around Easter, I listen to Jesus Christ Superstar and relish it.

Although, or perhaps because, I’m an atheist, I’ve long been fascinated with Christianity’s history. How could the world’s largest religion and so much of our history arise from the story of a man who may not have existed? What explains so many intelligent people accepting a narrative so full of inaccuracy and contradiction? Still, Jesus Christ Superstar gave me a perspective my Catholic education lacked or ignored, lending some actual realism to the origin story.

If there’s any truth to that story, the musical established the political undertones from the outset. In the first song, “Heaven on Their Minds,” Judas is worried that Jesus is losing control of his followers and things are getting out of hand. He’s concerned that “all the good you’ve done will soon get swept away. You’ve begun to matter more than the things you say.” He reiterates that theme in “Everything’s Alright.” When Mary Magdalene anoints Christ’s head and feet, Judas says the oil could have been sold and used for the poor, who “matter more than your feet and hair!”

While Judas feared what the Jewish and Roman authorities might do, Simon the Zealot espoused a diametrical view. As they enter Jerusalem, he sees Christ’s popularity as an opportunity to foment rebellion. “Keep them yelling their devotion, but add a touch of hate at Rome,” he tells Jesus. My experience was that Catholicism simply focused on the religious import of these events. There was little or no discussion of the political crosscurrents, a societal element to which we all remain subject.

What I enjoy more is that Judas and Jesus are actually humanized, not die-cast.

Standard religious education seems to treat Judas as an evil traitor undoubtedly condemned to hell. Jesus Christ Superstar upends that characterization. When Judas meets with the Jewish high priests, he tells them three times, “I really didn’t come here of my own accord.” Why, then, was he there? Well, if this is all God’s plan, weren’t Judas’s actions preordained? Didn’t God assign him the role of betrayer? Reinforcement of this idea comes in an exchange between Judas and Jesus at the Last Supper. Judas tells Jesus, “You want me to do it! What if I just stayed here and ruined your ambition?”

Judas truly isn’t a traitor of his own accord. He’s playing a predetermined role from which there is no escape. As he tells God In his last moments, “I’ve been used, and you knew all the time. … I’ll never ever know why you chose me for your crime.” (Emphasis added.) To me, this wasn’t a miscreant shifting blame but a man ultimately realizing and lamenting his appointed fate.

The humanization of Jesus is as striking. Tim Rice’s lyrics often emphasize the latter aspect of being both God and man. That idea is most explicit in “Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say),” where Jesus is praying in the garden before his arrest. Like any man, he’s scared and doesn’t want to die. He appeals to God, “Show me there’s a reason for your wanting me to die. You’re far too keen and where and how, but not so hot on why.” Most astonishing to me is when Jesus observes, “Why then am I scared to finish what I started? What you started – I didn’t start it.”

What a revelation! Like Judas, Jesus feels trapped in a preordained role, one doctrine says he planned. Yet now he feels trapped because God “hold[s] every card.” He ultimately concludes: “Take me, now! Before I change my mind.” Certainly, no one I knew in the Catholic Church, whether teacher, nun, or priest, ever suggested that Jesus was afraid, let alone that he might question how his story ends. Perhaps this wasn’t a divine automaton.

I still don’t buy religion. I still doubt that Jesus existed. Yet I still remind myself every year this can be considered a story of a man caught in political winds and struggling with inner turmoil and doubt.

I look for truth and find that I get damned.

“Trial Before Pilate,” Jesus Christ Superstar

Weekend Edition: 4-3

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubez

Nonbookish Linkage

  • The antiscience crusade is lethal

Bookish Linkage

  • World Literature Today announced the longlist for its “21 Books for the 21st Century”
  • Writers seem to have no problem insulting other writers

There are far too many commandments and you really only need one: Do not hurt anybody.

Carl Reiner, JWeekly, Nov. 12, 2009