Friday, January 02, 2009
By God, Wal-Mart's done gone to meddlin'!
By STEVE SZKOTAK
LOCUST GROVE, Va. (AP) — Wal-Mart wants to build a Supercenter within a cannonshot of where Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant first fought, a proposal that has preservationists rallying to protect the key Civil War site.
A who's who of historians including filmmaker Ken Burns and Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough sent a letter last month to H. Lee Scott, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., urging the company to build somewhere farther from the Wilderness Battlefield.
To arms! To arms!
^&*(%!!!! -- and that's the historian talkin' not the supposed partisan.
Read all about it.
The counter-argument - the site was a staging area for Union troops - is a "so what?" moment. Not every scrap of land where the troops walked, marched, cooked, ate, defecated, vomited, bled, and died is sacred. The Battlefield itself is preserved for all times. The company wants to build on land that is zoned for it, and has every right to do so. This isn't about preserving national sacred space; this is about screwing a company that has a bad reputation, pure and simple.
What's next? Lee's horse may have pooped there, and the preserved horse-apples make it untouchable?
Sweat shops, racist hiring practices, diminishing and suppressing quality of life in poor communities.
I find it hard to locate Great Knapping Soul's spiraling moral compass.
Why say that? I mean, you got some real ammo. Why stoop?
Call me crazy.
I've bought Minnie balls from yard sales in of Manassas Va. that were dug up in that very yard. Some purist would see that as a heresy, but hell doesn't a guy have a right to dig up his own flower beds?
Run an archaeological search on the site and then let them build on it.
Why don't you argue points, instead of immediatey trying to cut down someone who just sees things differently from you?
It's not differences of perspective and opinion that staet wars: It's just such throwing down of gauntlets and slapping of people with fine gloves!
Maybe they will. This is just the earliest bubbles of discussion, it looks like. I mean, discussion beyond the county itself.
That is my point.
He takes the whoop ass to Rick Warren for his objectionable positions but licenses Wal-Mart regardless of objectionable practices.
How we would evaluate the moral distinction of the effects of Warren's theology and preaching and the practices of Wal-Mart would make a fascinating and difficult discussion.
But only if we look at each with the same lens. GKS keeps changing his glasses and so a dialogue between perspectives is impossible.
He did no such thing. He questioned the idea of these historians and others opposing this damn store in this place at this time.
And you jump to all sorts of conclusions. Just like you did with me over that effing SCV throw.
It's bullshit to take one sliver and paint with such a broad brush.
That has to be an actual fallacy. I'll look it up.
"Starting something rigorous" doesn't proceed by side stepping each other.
Ad hoc followed by ad hoc is the Bush Administration.
I didn't jump to conclusions. We had a long, long chat where conclusions were open-ended. Still are, don't you think?
(Yeah, I had to look 'em up. Been 20 years since I sat and formally studied logic.)
Re, "You yourself seem to think him ad hoc here."
What I meant by "most people's morality is ad hoc" was most people's molorality is ad hoc. All the time.
GKS ON WAL-MART: This isn't about preserving national sacred space; this is about screwing a company that has a bad reputation, pure and simple.
From a theologically trained person. I just don't get that.
Well, I don't see the connection. So, why don't you draw it? And, rather than spit on his shoes, why don't you ask him to fricking explain it? You think because you connections are so obvious to you that they're clear to everyone. They're not. Not at all.
Aside from Mr. Warren's own moral positions, the point for GKS here, it seems to me, is his influence in the public square on conversations and conceptions of homosexuality, civil rights of the LGBT community, among other more diffuse issues belonging to theology per se.
But Wal-Mart is not considered in the same way. Here, He notes both that he is aware of the moral questions about Wal-Mart but that he also wants to downplay the significance of it because some times the law is twisted by people attacking Wal-Mart's "bad reputation."
The moral questions regarding Wal-Mart are muted. The moral questions regarding Warren are high-lighted with commitment.
This moral ad hoc life is what is what is always examined in seminary and students are trained to be stringent about this than "most people." It is supposed to be avocation, if not profession.
I'm just not sure what your constant quip about my theological education has to do with anything. If you must know, and it seems you must because you keep bugging me about it, I was educated enough to be able to think for myself, and figure out what I believe is important to get hot under the collar about. Wal-Mart building a store on property it either rents or owns, and has every legal right to do, is not something to get upset about. Sure, some of its corporate practices are awful; name a for-profit corporation in the United States that isn't compromised in some way. We all exist in a compromised atmosphere, unless we live in a cabin in Wyoming, or a beach hut in Fiji somewhere. That's just the way it is.
I have enough moral outrage at all sorts of things to last me several lifetimes. This, however, just doesn't cut it for me. To repeat myself - the entire Commonwealth of Virginia is potentially a Battleground Monument. You can't start getting your knickers in a twist every time someone wants to build somewhere, because the reality is there are artifacts quite literally everywhere; the Cracker Barrel in Petersburg, VA used to keep a little dish with corroded musket balls and bullets local farmers would plow up when they turned their fields. And uniform buttons, the occasional piece of shoe leather would crop up, too. You can't escape it.
Please save your lectures on a stunted moral sense for someone who needs it, because I really have no use of your lectures, thank you very much.
What we get is "people screwing with it because of a bad reputation." This bothers me because the lazyness - made so by the capacity for thoughtfulness displayed elsewhere - seems so cavalier.
I for one am very wary of faceless powers that are destructive. There is no moral agent to confront if one finds Wal-Mart lacking. This is a slippery moral defense hard to push back on. Warren is all out there with recorded presentations. We can oppose his stances, his opinions directly, or, at least, virtually directly in person. It is easier to oppose a face, easier to dismiss the faceless. That is lazy ad hoc moral consideration.
Not that Wal-Mart is all bad. Not that building where they want to build is an affront to God. Not that it is illegal. Not that we are talking fully about the circumstances of the case.
But I cannot swallow one camel with ease and strain at another, or pick the juiciest gnats as if there is reason to distinguish.
One can be for or against anything. What I find missing in GKS is consistent thoughtfulness in going about it. Righteousness goes down a few narrow, idiosyncratically selected lanes. His right hand is devastating. His left is atrophied.
Theological studies should fortify one with a more coherent, consistent quiver than most people. Even in a blog - unless one refuses to get serious at anytime.
"Theological studies should fortify one with a more coherent, consistent quiver than most people. Even in a blog - unless one refuses to get serious at anytime."
I don't believe the word "should" applies to anyone, least of all me. Apparently you didn't read the part of my comment where I said that I was educated enough to think for myself and reach my own conclusions about things.
Since you grant every point I happen to make about this particular situation - Wal-Mart is doing nothing wrong, nothing illegal, nothing immoral, nothing as an affront to God - I just wonder why you are questioning my nonchalance towards this fake controversy. I called it as I see it - a bunch of academics and Ken Burns and David McCullough figuring they can make headlines by bringing up Wal-Mart's name and make them look bad when they, in fact, are not. That's what I see. I read the article, the petition, and I just don't see anything to set one's pulse racing.
I also am not sure how I am inconsistent. I'm not sure what "consistency" would mean. I am consistent to the extent that I think about things, take in as much info as I can, and reach my own conclusions about them. Just because I don't reach the same conclusion you do, or you think I should, doesn't mean I'm neither serious nor thoughtful. It just means we happen to arrive at different conclusions, that's all. Stop trying to figure me out, because you overthink it every time. You have your thoughts and ideas and principles, I have mine, and neither one of us is either the font of moral wisdom nor a moral monster. We're just different, dude. That's all.
If you keep lecturing me of the way a person with a theological education "should" behave, I will simply ignore you, because I stopped needing to be lectured when I was seventeen or so.
I found the entire position silly.
There was not a single thing I learned in seminary, or have learned since in my various readings, that any even semi-literate Christian should be wary of. Indeed, some of the most profound theological insights have come from lay persons who wouldn't recognize the name Karl Barth or Reinhold Niebuhr. At the same time, when discussing issues - without quote from Church Dogmatics directly - in terms learned from various theologians, one discovers a hearty gratefulness on the part of those who suddenly realize their questions, doubts, thoughts, and faith journeys are part of a whole varied history of faith and living; that there have been those who have thought about things they way they do, have reflected on a life of faith in similar ways. I do not hide my light under a bushel, nor do I flaunt my education for all to see.
One final note on the whole Wal-Mart thing, versus Rick Warren. These are completely different situations, involving completely different actors, involved in completely different controversies. Of what would "consistency" consist, considering the differences? Should I mention that Wal-Mart is anti-union, even though the story is not about their anti-union activities? Should I mention that Wal-Mart buys from Chinese manufacturers, using near-slave labor from Chinese prisons, even though the story is about Wal-Mart building a store? Should I run down the list of things Wal-Mart has done wrong, simply because its name is mentioned?
Rick Warren, who believes there is no moral difference between a gay man and pedophilia, is being given the stamp of approval by the next President of the United States by being invited to pray at his inauguration. Furthermore, President-elect Obama is OK with Warren's bigotry being just a matter of a difference of opinion. This reflects a certain moral myopia on the part of Obama, as well as out-and-out bigotry on the part of Warren.
Wal-Mart is a company in the business of making money by selling stuff. It is planning on building a store to sell stuff. In the process, it will employ people, generate tax revenue (including VA's egregious gross receipts tax), provide a center around which other businesses can build, and do all sorts of other things. The entire point of the story is not that Wal-Mart is doing anything illegal, which you acknowledge. Wal-Mart is not being underhanded, which you also acknowledge. Wal-Mart is not doing anything at all but what businesses do, which you also acknowledge.
Please explain to me why I should get upset about this. Please explain to me how I am inconsistent here. You should note that, even though I work for Wal-Mart, that doesn't mean I am either blind to its many faults, or mute about them; you should listen in on some of the conversations we have at work about the company! Seriously, I am not defending Wal-Mart because they employ me. I am not defending Wal-Mart at all. I am simply refusing to allow myself to get upset over something that isn't worth getting upset over.
You can reach whatever conclusions about me and my moral sense that you like, because I really don't care. I think I have been quite clear. I think I have been consistent to the extent that the conclusions I have reached are my own, and based on actual thought, rather than simple reaction. ER has his conclusion on this matter, you have yours, I have mine. I think we are all comfortable enough to sleep at night with these conclusions, without insisting that some among us are either clueless or morally obtuse because our reactions to this particular tempest in a teapot differ.
The first is typical of anyone with an opinion. The latter is just ... weird.
Are you isolated or insulated from others of intellectual ability and communication skill who actually use those skills in different ways that you *must* think more highly of your own skill set to deal with it?
I don't know. It just reminds me of every professor, and every editor, I ever had who insisted that his or her students, or reporters, think exactly as he did, write the same way, etc.
GKS says, "Should I mention that Wal-Mart is anti-union, even though the story is not about their anti-union activities? Should I mention that Wal-Mart buys from Chinese manufacturers, using near-slave labor from Chinese prisons, even though the story is about Wal-Mart building a store? Should I run down the list of things Wal-Mart has done wrong, simply because its name is mentioned?"
To which the counter would be: The President-elect has chosen a pastor to pray. It is part of the business Warren is in; he is "not doing anything at all but what businesses [read 'pastors'] do."
And your own moral contours could be framed thus:
"So what if he is anti-gay? He is not there to pray against gays, he is there to pray for the president. So what if he associates homosexuality with pedophilia? He is not there to give us his theology, he is there to pray for the nation. Do I have to run down list of my oppositions just because his name is on the Inaugural Swearing In participants?"
So, on the basis of what (consistent, please) moral lineaments with which you trace the outline of allowance for Wal-Mart do you sweat Warren so much?
Or, alternatively, on the basis of what (consistent, please) moral license do you free Wal-Mart from the judgment of the moral whole? Warren is judged as a whole, with all his past and current public comments held as evidence. Yet, Wal-Mart gets the benefit of bracketing out behavior not yet present in Locust Grove, VA, but presumably sure to come along when it opens for business.
It looks to me like logic for one excuses the other but the logic for the other condemns the first as well.
What is the explanation that applies consistent moral reasoning but lets one agent off by ignoring other behavior histories and condemns the other agent precisely because of other behavior histories?
What does consistent moral reasoning which reaches different judgments in these cases look like?
Surely a seminary grad can do this in the open, without reference to dialectical theology.
And you aren't there yet, GKS.
You took the trouble to post a commentm, then delete it, then repost it with this dig at the end:
"And you aren't there yet, GKS."
Sure a seminary grad can have a discussion without being a chickenshit.
And you aren't there yet, Feodor.
Yellow flag: You occasionally remind me of the only blogger, in four years of this, I've ever bounced. You should know that he's a fundamentalist asshole and one of those who blog at American Descent.
Stop it. Stop being a smug asshole. Stop with the personal digs. Yellow flag warning.
GKS: I encourage you to ignore this sh-t. We'll see if he can learn some manners.
He's small taters, man.
It's like Marshall Art with a better vocabulary and typing skills. He no longer gets under my skin. He just makes me chuckle.
I changed quote marks and forms of words and added a paragraph to make the sense clearer.
The chickenshit part was an unthought add on, but I hardly expected anyone to need protection from chickenshit in this barnyard.
I'll keep Miss Manners closer by.
Yellow flag? And after all your name calling? Sounds like Tom Ridge at Homeland Security.
My first comment about the matter was made as a product of my own pro-preservation leanings. I think it's more appropriate to go slow on development in touchy areas until the true historic significance of a property can be determined. On the other hand, I am pro-development when it's done appropriately and responsible.
But damn, man, I don't drag the issue through your distorted prism on either side!
Weak Christian liberal sauce is worth fighting when one is a Christian.
Jesus encouraged debate and not laziness.
Jesus would not have us deny our best thinking and pitting them against each other.
Jesus would have no problem with adults battling it out on blogs.
Just who, exactly, is taking this too seriously? Those who argue their points or those who, instead of arguing back, make silly statements that the other must be assuming they think they are cosmically right and absolutely on God's side and therefore arrogant as all shit?
Just where do you put the overreaction, Trixie? Those who keep talking or those who quit the game with name calling?
Trixie, he doesn't listen, so don't try.
"Weak sauce"? Oh, c'mon. You think after having some fundie call me a fake Christian and a false teacher, "weak liberal Christian sauce" is gonna mean something to me?
Since this is ER's blog, not mine, I am leaving it here for now. Since you've done me the courtesy of posting a comment over at my blog, I've done the courtesy of responding by further laughing at you. Not because I'm not serious, but because I am.
All my name-calling? Please to forgive. Stroke anything approximating "you're a chickenshit," Feodor. Replace with: You're being chickenshittish in your smugness."
However Jesus in the Temple and the money changers has come to be much better understood now that the translated Dead Sea Scrolls included much of the Temple protocols from that specific period and weren't too tampered with.
The Temple Tax had to be paid in Jewish coin. Thus money changers.
The Temple Tax had been expanded by the Herod family to be basically a dispensations payment to the Temple for the remission of sins especially by those Jews of the Diaspora who could not nor ever would come to the Temple. Herod sent Temple Tax collectors out to the Diaspora to collect the taxes from the "congregations" of Jews who wanted their sins cleansed. It was a very lucrative business, and of course kickbacks and taxes on taxes went to the Roman govenors all along the way.
So Jesus was doing a very direct thing by overturning the tables of the Temple money changers. He was doing a Revolutionary thing. He was committing Treason. He was attacking the very King of the Jews who was offering salvation by dispensation.
Sound like Luther, heh?
Now that's one hell of a better story isn't it.
The second issue was whether a consistent practice of moral judgment is a good thing, a better thing than popular ad hoc habits, and whether any seminary grad should be able to demonstrate the same in regard to the first issue above.
None of these issues was taken up.
You weren't the only one who missed it.
Considering the issue of Rick Warren, it is important to remember that, in and of itself, asking him to give the benediction means little more than offering a certain honorific to an individual. As a political gesture, I believe Obama is playing divide and conquer with the Religious Right, and doing it well. As you said, it is highly unlikely that Warren will say anything inappropriate about sexual minorities at the inauguration, although I wouldn't put money on it. Even with all that, this deep game that Obama is playing, or might be playing, also angers members of his political base, including myself, who believe that, at this point in time, this individual has no place on a national rostrum, invoking God's presence, considering the bigoted views he holds. Another gesture on Obama's part might have worked as effectively without raising the ire of those of us who had hoped for better.
The issue with the Wal-Mart expansion near the Battle of the Wilderness is far more straightforward. A group of academics and others concerned with preserving parts of our national heritage are angered that the retailer is planning to build on a parcel of land near the memorial park. It isn't in the park; it isn't on any land that anyone could argue should be protected (the whole "staging ground" bit is humorous, for reasons I outlined). While it might reasonably be argued that any expansion of a retailer with a record like Wal-Mart has deleterious effects on all sorts of things, from the standard of living to general wage structures to the relative power and influence of the company vis-a-vis all other retailers, this isn't the question at hand. Indeed, those who are protesting are only asking Wal-Mart to consider building elsewhere, not to cease and desist building. After reading the story, and after reading the petition, I came to the not unwarranted conclusion that the entire thing was a bit of political theater, with some academics and others using Wal-Mart as a foil to attract attention to themselves, at no cost to themselves, and hoping to put another black mark against the chain. Of course, this isn't true, because Wal-Mart is doing nothing untoward, and you yourself have noted you have no problem with them building where they are.
Have I given Wal-Mart a pass by agreeing with your position here? Have I offered a moral calculus that is somehow different than yours, considering the fact that we both agree this is much ado about nothing? I fail to see, at this repetitious point, what your beef with me is, in all seriousness.
Tht's what it looks like to yet another seminarian friend of mine, who has been lurking. Looks that way to me, too. Is it just garden-variety Yale snobbery? Just asking! Not name-calling!
Heh. I thought so too, in fact I actually chuckled out loud at the comment (COL?), but then I figured I must be mistaken because, well ... it's only a seminary degree, for pity's sake. I mean, can't you just order those online?
(But then, if one were to take the comment seriously, crowing about moral superiority because one is the owner/operator of a seminary degree seems like a questionable proposition anyway, eh? A significant portion of the available evidence seems to demonstrate a negative correlation.)
Being trained in moral reasoning, philosophically and theologically, does not make one morally superior.
That would be a common assumption by those not so trained. Like journalists and chemists.
But surely, if ones goes to a reputable seminary and not a biblicist college like those in Ft. Worth, one so trained ought to be able to deal in moral reasoning in a more consistent and persuasive manner than the general public.
I think even those who didn't go to Yale can recognize the common sense.
I hear penis envy in the anxiety.
I still don't know what you mean by consistent. Please explain.
Heh. Ironical much? ;)
So, yes, actually, he was serious about his previous degree waving. Yeah, there's lots of anxiety all right. But you smelt it, you dealt it, kiddo. LOL
He writes, "While it might reasonably be argued that any expansion of a retailer with a record like Wal-Mart has deleterious effects on all sorts of things, from the standard of living to general wage structures to the relative power and influence of the company vis-a-vis all other retailers, this isn't the question at hand.
It is the question at hand if one asks the question.
You have been persuasively asking the question of whether what Rick Warren's ministry heretofore represents pollutes his giving the invocation.
One could choose to say that your question is not an appropriate one for the inauguration's social function of bringing the nation together. Perhaps like you, I find such a position rather weak.
Even as I find your position on Wal-Mart rather weak in the beginning when you referenced only "a bad reputation."
To me - and I find it sort of underground in what you have said since - is that in evaluating the case of Warren, we are dealing with choices from faith. Warren has made ideological decisions, undoubtedly backed by arguments from his understanding of biology, psychology, sociology, and theology.
His views are consciously taken positions and he does not come innocent of them when appearing to carry out pastoral functions. How can one pray and bracket out theology? This is not to deny that we all call upon God while being far from perfect. But how can we corporately call upon the deity (this is social custom by majority) via one who so publicly calls for the denial of rights?
We are dealing with the influence of ideas in the public square and those who represent sharp ideological divides cannot serve national religion functions.
Wal-Mart, on the other hand, is partly engaging in morally questionable business practices some of the time. The effects of those undesirable practices may be tabulated - with great effort - at the VA site when it gets going. But the tabulation at that site will be a very small part, a remainder, of the scope of bad practice.
The target of moral conversation would be executive leadership and the board in AR. Media messaging and demonstrations and lobbying the leadership are all part of the effort to impact their decision-making and profit. This strategy is based on history that businesses, if the bottom line is affected, will change business practices.
Wal-Mart is not engaged in ideology. Changing their behavior is a larger scope effort regarding practice and the VA site is only marginally involved. Also, as you point out, Locus Grove has parochial and material benefits to balance.
To change Warren would take a conversion of heart, and the benefits he brings is more in the way of political calculation on Obama's part than a material good.
This would be my suggestion as to how we can consistently apply a moral framework to the two cases and come up with different judgments.
The moral agency of each is of a differently committed (conscious commitment vs. pragmatic practice), differently open to change (ideological debate vs. profit line), and are differently representative (fully representative vs. locally and marginally representative).
IMHO IMHO IMHO IMHO IMHO IMHO IMHO IMHO
Brite Divinity School:
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:
When I thought I was going to move to Denver-Boulder, I was thinking about Iliff School of Theology:
And, I still wonder if I could find a way to go to Phillips Theological Seminary, in Tulsa:
Difference, my friend, is not deficiency.
I chauffeured two Biblical studies professors from Brite around New Haven during a conference. It used to be a conservative atmosphere, biblical studies dominated.
I worked with a priest who is now an adjunct at Iliff and I know it is very ecumenical, serves different kinds of needs and takes theology seriously.
I don't know anything about Philips, but the faculty look very interesting, more diverse and a little more fresh than Brite.
Posted to By God, Wal-Mart's done gone to meddlin'!
You already know how to think theologically and are far beyond the shock that biblical and theological truth is not scientific, historic, or even spiritually true in all aspects. This shock is often the early and difficult work for seminary students.
What you may miss from professors and writing papers you are already making up for in being thoughtfully engaged at church, with your wife, family and friends, in your blog, and as you read the papers.
So, what is left? Reading and working with your reading in a reflective way - again, a thing you already do. It would be like weight loss: sacrifices of time preferred to use on other, more self-indulgent things. It would be a discipline.
But between myself, GKS, and your pastor and others, you could come up with a lean list of 25 books or so that could cover biblical, historical, and theological ground to which seminary would introduce you.
Your mind at work on a systematized lineup of material is all you really need to get up to speed. I would be happy to initiate a list and you can send it around for criticism and editing, updating with alternate selections, and proposing opposing perspectives.
I really think that what you may lose in the early years from participating in a graduate program, you could crisply make up with participation in the different venues you have available. Adult ed. in seminars, conferences, and a class or two of upper level seminars at Phillips or elsewhere would round off excellently, and far cheaper.
But I like to have them there letters behind my name! LOL.
It already goes: Erudite Redneck, B.S., B.S., M.A. I'd love it to say etc., M.Div. Or Ph.D. ... See I married a dang Ph.D. and I will be jealous until I catch up some more!
Plus, they're necessary for any kind of minister-type occupation. ...
Now, I would love to work up a list of 25 such books. I truly appreciate the offer. Please start one! I'll blog it up. :-)