I’d be betraying my childhood if I didn’t note with sadness the passing of Davy Jones. I loved The Monkees TV show as a kid–I used to watch it every day after school on WPGH-53 out of Pittsburgh, which showed it in syndication. And the first album I bought with my own money was a Monkees greatest hits collection on cassette.
The show wasn’t just a farce aimed at kids: it had an absurdist, anarchic sensibility reminiscent of the Marx Brothers. And for all the needling The Monkees received as the “Pre-Fab Four,” their music holds up well and compares favorably to a lot of other pop from the era.
And just for kicks, here’s the Frank Zappa cameo from the TV show:
Former senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon passed away this week at the age of 89. He was one of the last of the liberal Republicans–someone who bucked his party on many issues.
But Hatfield wasn’t simply a liberal Republican in the Nelson Rockefeller mold. He was a devout evangelical Christian, a virtual pacifist, and a “seamless garment” pro-lifer who opposed abortion and capital punishment.
Hatfield played an important role in the rise of the nascent evangelical Left in the ’70s. This article from Religion Dispatches describes his unique political outlook:
Hatfield did not embody the evangelical left perfectly; he was, after all, an anti-New Deal fiscal conservative in the Republican Party. But he pursued its unorthodox agenda in most respects. He was an unambiguous social conservative on abortion, but against capital punishment. He was an anti-war environmentalist. His populist call for “genuine political, economic, and ecological self-determination” meant reducing “excessive concentration of power” everywhere—not only in the executive branch of government and labor unions, but also in big corporations and the military.
At Reason magazine, Jesse Walker points out that Hatfield once expressed sympathy with the ultra-libertarianism of economist Murray Rothbard, even reading one of Rothbard’s articles into the Congressional Record. Hatfield was so admired on the Right and the Left that both George McGovern and Richard Nixon considered him as a potential running mate!
Hatfield’s outlook seemed to be equal parts evangelical Christianity and New Left counterculturalism. I’m not sure what larger lessons should be drawn from this except to note that there were times when the boundaries between Left and Right seemed much more fluid then they are now, and the role of Christianity in U.S. politics was up for grabs. An alternate history where the most influential version of Christian politics was decentralist, anti-war, environmentalist, and consistently pro-life would certainly be an interesting one.
I’ve been reading some of the remembrances of John Stott, the Church of England pastor and evangelical icon who passed away today at the age of 90. One of the most striking things is that Stott seems to be fondly remembered by nearly everyone across the spectrum of evangelicalism. He combined theological orthodoxy (even conservatism) with a passion for social justice and social action in a way that looks slightly odd from a U.S. perspective–where we tend to think that conservative evangelicalism goes hand-in-hand with right-wing politics. (He was also, by all accounts, a genuinely humble and gracious man.) R.I.P.
I’ve been reading Langdon Gilkey’s Blue Twilight, a collection of essays on religion in America (broadly speaking) that covers topics like religious pluralism, the environmental crisis, creationism and evolution, and the rise of the Religious Right. Gilkey was a student of both Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich and was in many ways trying to carry on the spirit of their work. He also includes some interesting and at times amusing anecdotes about these theological giants. For example, here’s Tillich on Karl Barth (the two were arguably rival candidates for most important Protestant theologian of the 20th century):
Tillich liked to invite a few special students to his apartment to what he called a privatissimum, a quiet theological conversation accompanied by some splendid Moselle wine. One time we asked him about Barth. He put down his glass carefully and said with immense seriousness: “Venn you fight a dictator and he has swallowed up all of culture, zenn you wish to have Barth on your side to defend you; he gives you the ground on which to stand. But I was right about theology and correlation; all theology, even Barth’s, reflects its culture, and so you had better think theologically about that. Also, I left Germany for the right reason: to protest the persecution of the Jews, and not to defend the Lutheran pulpit! Thirdly, he went home; I left home–and I left on an earlier train!” With that Tillich picked up his glass, smiled, and we resumed our conversation. (p. 100)