Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pissing Against the Wall

If you know your history of Western Civilization, you know that Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German was a watershed moment. Not only did it make the so-called Holy Scriptures accessible for the first time to the ordinary Joe – OK, not the ordinary Joe, but any Joe who could read – thus challenging the power of the church leaders who, up till that time, could tell you anything they wanted to about what the Bible said, and you just had to believe them. But Luther created virtually single-handedly a composite version of German out of many dialects, which eventually morphed into a single standard language. No mean feat.

I was raised a Lutheran, so I learned to respect the fellow early on. Not idolize. Just respect. He was always talked about as an imperfect human being. The Lutherans I knew were literate people and everybody knew about his anti-semitic ravings and was embarrassed by them. At some point I remember being told that Luther was "kind of earthy". I knew that adults used "earthy" to mean vulgar, and when I came across a certain line in the Book of Kings one day, I found what they were talking about.

In the Luther translation of 1 Kings, Chapter 16, Verse 11, one reads:
Und da er König war und auf seinem Stuhl saß, schlug er das gantze Haus Baesas und ließ nicht uber auch der an die Wand pisset, dazu seine Erben und seine Freunde.
In English (my translation), that is:
And when he became king and sat on his seat (throne), he struck down the entire house of Baesas and didn’t leave alive even him who pisses against the wall, including his heirs and his friends.
When you're a kid and are taught that the Bible is "the living word of God," it kind of blows you away to find an image of somebody pissing against the wall.

I read the Bible in German because there wasn't a whole lot in German around to read in those days at my house, and when I found that passage I immediately had to check it out in English.

But in English what I found was:
And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he smote all the house of Baasha: he left him not a single man-child, neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends.
I remembered that when I was reading something today about Luther's "plastic" use of German. Curious choice of words, I thought. Plastic? Does plastic mean vulgar? Or does it mean that he takes liberties?

I decided to look at a more modern German version, and checked out the “Neue Evangelistische” version. It reads:
Als er die Macht in den Händen hatte, erschlug er die ganze Familie Baschas. Weder von seinen Verwandten noch von seinen Freunden ließ er einen Wandpisser übrig.
My English of that:
And when he had power in his hands, he struck down Basha’s entire family. Neither of his relatives nor of his friends did he leave a single wall pisser standing.
That's curious. So it's not just Luther's choice of imagery?

I checked out the King James English translation from the Hebrew. To my surprise, I found it says:
And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall, neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends.
It would appear the “piss-quote” is not a function of Luther’s “earthiness” at all, but of time.

Look what happens when you open two other modern German translations of that same verse – the Luther Bible translations of 1912 (somewhat analogous to the American Standard Version) and the most recent translation, in 1984, and set them against Luther’s last translation in 1534.
1534 Und da er König war und auf seinem Stuhl saß, schlug er das gantze Haus Baesas und
1912 Und da er König war und auf seinem Stuhl saß, schlug er das ganze Haus Baesas, und
1984 Und als er König war und auf seinem Thron saß, erschlug er das ganze Haus Bascha und
1534 ließ nicht uber auch der an die Wand pisset, dazu seine Erben und seine Freunde
1912 ließ nichts übrig, was männlich war, dazu seine Erben und seine Freunde
1984 ließ nichts übrig, was männlich war, dazu seine Verwandten und seine Freunde.
You see that the only thing they changed in 378 years was to take the wall pisser out in 1912 (and keep him out in 1984) and to update “when” from da to the modern als, and change heirs (Erben) to relatives (Verwandten) in 1984. (Where Luther translated pisser, the two modern versions read “nothing remaining that was male.”)

And if you turn to a modern English translation, you see the same thing.
There is nobody pissing on the wall in the English New International Version of 2010, for example:
As soon as he began to reign and was seated on the throne, he killed off Baasha’s whole family. He did not spare a single male, whether relative or friend.
Since I can’t read the original Hebrew, I am limited to secondary sources. To wit:

The Westminster Leningrad Codex version of Hebrew that is available online, which renders verse 11 thus:
וַיְהִ֨י בְמָלְכֹ֜ו כְּשִׁבְתֹּ֣ו עַל־כִּסְאֹ֗ו הִכָּה֙ אֶת־כָּל־בֵּ֣ית בַּעְשָׁ֔א לֹֽא־הִשְׁאִ֥יר לֹ֖ו מַשְׁתִּ֣ין בְּקִ֑יר וְגֹאֲלָ֖יו וְרֵעֵֽהוּ׃
And the Google translator gives the English of that line as:
And the reigning his daughter about - his chair hit the - all - house of Baasha not - left him urinating against the wall another Gaelic;
OK, so there’s a ways to go yet in machine translation, but the pissing is definitely there, right? And it’s against the wall, apparently, and not just any old where.

So what you’ve got here is a fussiness that has crept into modern translations of the Bible in both German and English.

I decided to see what I could find about other languages.

Here is the Louis Segond translation into French, from around 1880:
Lorsqu'il fut roi et qu'il fut assis sur son trône, il frappa toute la maison de Baescha, il ne laissa échapper personne qui lui appartînt, ni parent ni ami.
where the phrase in question comes out as “he did not let escape anyone who belonged to him, neither relative nor friend.”

And the “Bible du Semeur” version, the most modern one done in 2000:
A peine était-il devenu roi, qu'il fit périr toute la famille de Baécha, sans épargner un seul homme, enfant ou adulte, dans sa parenté ou parmi ses partisans.
where it is “without sparing a single man, child or adult, of his relatives or among his followers.”

And then I turned to a Jewish translation of the Bible into French, which I assumed, for some reason, might be a tad less prissy - the “Bible du Rabbinat Français.” But no, there the phrase in question is translated:
Devenu roi et en possession du trône, il fit périr toute la maison de Baasa, ses parents et ses amis, sans en épargner la plus infime créature
(i.e., he didn’t spare “even the most insignificant creature”) All three French versions were done in relatively modern times, and all three avoid the wall pisser image.

I decided to keep going. The “Spanish Modern” translation reads as follows:
mató a todos los de la casa de Baasa, sin dejar de ella un solo varón
(killed everybody of the house of Baasa, leaving not a man behind)

But then, when we look at the older version, the “Sagradas Escrituras” version, done in 1569, between the times of Luther and King James, it reads:
Y luego que llegó a reinar y estuvo sentado en su trono, hirió toda la casa de Baasa, sin dejar en ella meante a la pared, ni sus parientes ni amigos.
Which, lo and behold, has the phrase, as you can see, “meante a la pared” - which in the King’s English, of course, is “pissing against the wall.”

Can’t stop now…

The Italian bible, in modern translation, the “Nuova Riveduta” of 1994, reads:
E quando fu re, non appena si fu assiso sul trono, distrusse tutta la casa di Baasa; non gli lasciò neppure un bimbo: né parenti, né amici.
where that last bit,
non gli lasciò neppure un bimbo: né parenti, né amici,
is, of course, “didn’t leave even a child, nor relatives, nor friends.”

Then there is the Russian bible, the Russian Synodal Version, begun in 1813 and finished in 1876…
Когда он воцарился и сел на престоле его, то истребил весь дом Ваасы, не оставив ему мочащегося к стене, ни родственников его, ни друзей его.
where мочащегося к стене, (mochashchegosya k stenye) is, yes, ma’am,

“pissing against the wall.”

OK. One last go. What’s in the Vulgate, I wondered. Probably should have checked that out sooner. I assumed the wall pisser would be there, since the evidence collected thus far is it is only in the 20th century that translators chose to leave it out. Except for the French, who pulled it in around 1880. The Russians still had it in 1876, but that could be explained by the fact they started so much earlier. There's the hypothesis, at least - that bible translator folks started losing their earthiness around 1880, and that this phenomenon is universal.

Anyway, here is the Vulgate:
cumque regnasset et sedisset super solium eius percussit omnem domum Baasa et non dereliquit ex eo mingentem ad parietem et propinquos et amicos eius
My Latin never won any awards, but
mingentem ad parietem
looks an awful lot like the Spanish
meante a la pared
wouldn’t you say? And just to be sure, that Vulgate Version is presented alongside an older English-language version which reads:
And when he was king, and sat upon his throne, he slew all the house of Baasa, and he left not one thereof to piss against a wall and all his kinsfolks and friends.
So there you have it. It turns out it wasn’t that Luther was earthy. It was that he was good at literal translation. It is modern folk who are prissy. All this time I assumed it was because Luther was crude that his bible translation included earthy language. Turns out, he’s not the language twister. The line seems to be not between languages but between the cultures of older religious folk and more recent religious folk, between modern-day religious folk who control translations into modern speech and those of an earlier time.

Nothing new there. If you've got power, you get to determine knowledge, and that includes the power to editorialize and censor.

Nothing is lost in terms of denotation by this prissiness, of course. But some of the Bible's vivid imagery definitely went by the wayside. All because a bunch of prudes decided they didn't like what they found in the original.

So they cleaned it up.

Left the part about God flying into a rage and killing all the women and children, unfortunately.

Can't clean up everything.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Sand in my Giny

Valentine’s Day is coming up and that means it’s time to talk about vaginas again.

OK, so maybe this doesn’t apply to everybody, but it does to the world of aging California hippies that I kind of belong to – indirectly, anyway.

Every year about this time, millions of dollars are raised by students who perform the play, the Vagina Monologues, and donate the take to the cause of fighting violence against women. If you haven’t seen it, have a go. It’s probably playing somewhere near you.

More on that in a minute. I feel a memory tugging at me.

When I was a kid, we learned, of course, that sex is naughty. So was nudity and anything to do with the body parts that had to do with sex. Even before I knew that they had to do with sex, actually. (That’s before I learned that all the body parts can have to do with sex, if you’ve got a healthy imagination.)

A baby sitter insisted I wash my hands first thing in the morning “because you never know where your hands go at night.”

And then there was this wonderful expression – “down there.”

Down there was a magical place. We couldn’t talk about it, but we knew there was something terribly special about it because the very thought that others might actually see it drove the adult world into a tizzy. Little Georgie next door kept getting scolded because he wouldn’t tell his mother he had to pee. He just grabbed himself “down there” and embarrassed the hell out of his mother.

Between the 1940s and 1950s, when I was learning about the connection between magic and body parts, and the 1960s, when hot tubs were the norm, the world seemed to have turned completely upside down. My first night in San Francisco I spent in the Haight-Ashbury, and I watched the area grow as people would put flowers in their hair and walk the streets sometimes with no clothes on at all. The magic was all gone. Down there was now just another place between hither and yon.

Not that I lost my shyness about the naughty parts. I could bathe in the nude, and nobody wore clothes in hots tubs. Gone was the sense of shame. But there was still a sense of decorum, and there was something tacky about calling attention to yourself by walking around bare-assed in public.

But we lost all fear of talking about the naughty parts. We began using words like penis and vagina, previously used only in the doctor’s office. And, of course, to take some of the self-consciousness out of it, we then created new words for children to use. In my house “ass” was the German word “Po,” short for “Popo” usually (to make it cute for kids) in the diminutive, “Popöchen.” And I learned early on that the same word could be both a noun and a verb – like pipi. Or was that peepee? (Spoken language, you see, not written, so we never worried about spelling.) Others had hinie (hiney? heinie?), which we avoided because it was also a bad word for Germans.

When my niece, Amy, was about three or four years old, she was playing in a sandbox in the backyard. This is Berkeley, so naturally her mother saw no reason to object when she took all her clothes off, much to the chagrin of Amy’s grandmother, who was visiting from South Carolina. But then Amy suddenly rushes in the house and says to her mother, “Mommy, mommy, I got sand in my giny.”

Grandma about fainted. “Harriet,” she says to her daughter, “Where on EARTH did she learn a word like that?”

“A word like what?”

“You know – that word for “down there.”



“What should I have taught her to say, “I’ve got sand in my c**t?”

I loved the way Harriet and Craig raised their daughter. I think Amy does too, several decades now since this event. We lived our lives as members of this liberal American bi-coastal culture, and as members of a generation with an enormous gap between us and people who would go around saying things like “down there” when talking about one’s giny. Vagina.

For me “down there” belongs with 23 skidoo. Our generation taught their children words like giny. And what do they do? They then go and write an absolutely must-see theater experience called the Vagina Monologues. Imagine what this all would have done to Rip Van Winkle.

Out of curiosity, I just went to Google News and typed in Vagina Monologues just now and discovered, to my delight, that it’s playing at the moment

• at the Ridgway University Center in Evansville, Indiana, for the fifth year in a row, “open to people of all ages”;
• at the Smith Theatre at Oakland Community College Orchard Ridge Campus, 27055 Orchard Lake, Farmington Hills, Michigan;
• at Wartburg College, a Lutheran school in Waverly, Iowa;
• at a school called Creative 360, 1517 Bayliss, Midland, Michigan;
• at Smith College;
• at USC;
• at Bates;
• and at the Women’s Resource Center at Southern Oregon, for the 10th year in a row.

And that’s only the first page. Pages and pages of schools show up on Google News around the country putting on the Vagina Monologues this week.

If you’re not familiar with the play, it’s basically a series of monologues written by Eve Ensler in 1996, regularly revised and added to, following interviews she conducted with 200 women about their views on sex, relationships, and violence against women. Two years later, the play had evolved from a celebration of women’s freedom into a way of raising consciousness about violence against women. You can’t sit through the play without squirming. (I’ve seen it a couple times, including a great performance directed by another niece, Paz, at Stanford.) Not because the naughty words are made plain, and naughty behavior is taken for granted. But because you are forced to see how making those words naughty has been part of the struggle for power. If I can force you to be ashamed, I’ve got you where I want you as surely as if I can cause you to be afraid.

The Vagina Monologues has made its way around the world, including, believe it or not, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Since 2004, monologues have been added documenting the experiences of transgender women. This year, it’s premiering in Armenia.

The play bothers lots of people. Many object to its strong lesbian orientation. Others say it generates hatred of men. Camille Paglia doesn’t like it because its frank use of naughty words strikes her as too obviously just another self-conscious bourgeois exercise. Every nut’s got an opinion on this piece which, if you just sit back and let it wash over you, is likely to strike most people as simply a terribly effective piece of social commentary and appeal to decency.

Except, of course, if you believe way down in your heart that sex really is dirty and there is simply no way for nice people to talk about “down there,” because it just isn’t done, and there’s no way around it, and that’s that.

Look how this plays out in the two catholic churches, for example. I’ve been focusing on the two catholic churches for the past several blogs now, but in case you haven’t been poring breathlessly over every word, what I mean by two churches is the one with the focus on generosity, compassion and love, and the one with the focus on sin and guilt and obedience to authority. Call them the Vatican II Church and the Vatican I Church, respectively.

Nothing illustrates the gap between them like the Vagina Monologues. At Georgetown, for example, women argue that it’s entirely within the Jesuit tradition to use the theater to address pressing social issues. They’re simply being Jesuitical. On the other hand, Catholic Campus Watch insists St. Ignatius is rolling over in his grave. To them, it’s an “anti-Catholic message of indecency.”

Georgetown is hardly the only Catholic college to put on the Vagina Monologues with regularity. This year it’s being done at the University of Detroit-Mercy, Notre Dame, and Boston College, as well.

And in California, at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, where they are up against that venerable institution known as TFP.

Don’t know if you know the TFP folks, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property. It is an organization of lay catholics who say they are concerned about “the moral crisis shaking the remnants of Christian civilization.”

You gotta love that remnants bit. They tell us the TFP have over 120,000 active members, volunteers and donors, all “peacefully defending the values of tradition, family and private ownership.”

TFP’s website tells you what they say is the story from the students’ perspective:
Catholic students are hoping the notoriously lewd play by feminist activist Eve Ensler, The V-Monologues, does not disgrace the campus of Saint Mary’s College of California.
Aside from the fact that it’s catholic students putting on the play and there’s something wrong with that assumption of who is catholic and who is not, there’s that terribly interesting inability to say “the V word” again. Just like Amy’s grandmother.

I suppose they should get some credit for not saying “The Down There Monologues.”

You’ve got to feel sorry for them. There was a time when men ran pretty much everything, when children were seen and not heard (even when they were being abused), and when if anybody was going to do something about violence against women, it was going to be men. Since women didn’t put on plays where they talked about their ginies and made millions of dollars, they were pretty much dependent on men to take care of the problem. Problem was, you couldn’t really talk about sexual violence any more than you could talk about vaginas. Nice people simply turned away.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Go see Vagina Monologues if it’s playing near you – and it probably is. And give those Vatican II Catholics a round of applause for not being afraid to speak out against violence against women.

And maybe check out, while you’re at it, the TFP website where they deal with the “Lewd V Monologues” at St. Mary’s. You’ll see the quotation from Matthew 18:6:
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.


You can’t cast the first stone, so now you want to drown those young girls?

With millstones?

Tradition? Family? Property???


Joy in Egypt Land

I'm with Angela Merkel.

"Today is a day of great joy!" she said just now.
She's a politician, so she doesn't tell you whether it's a day of joy for her personally or whether she's just stating an objective fact, that in Cairo and around the world the joy is unrestrained.

"The greatest day of my life," says Mohamed ElBaradei. And you know he's speaking for millions.

Well, joy unrestrained around the world is clearly rhetorical excess. Israel is worried as hell. Lots of people are reminding us there is no history of democracy in Egypt, and after 7000 years of tyranny the framework on which to build one appears extremely flimsy. Lots of people worry about the Muslim Brotherhood. Others tell us Egypt is more likely to go the way of Turkey, with a secular government.

The days to come might bring a sober reassessment. This revolution is taking place on the precise anniversary of the Iranian revolution. Iranians walked out of a frying pan into a fire, and there is fear this could happen to Egypt, as well.

But for those who take things one day at a time, this is a thrilling moment. You can focus on the 7000 years of tyranny and its supposed consequences. But you can also focus on the fact that we're watching a revolution succeed. Home grown. From the bottom up. Mubarak is off at some sea resort. The Swiss have frozen his funds.

No thanks to American influence, sadly. The world knows the United States as all talk about democracy and little evidence of putting their money where their mouth is.

Speaking of money, people are watching what happens now to the 1.3 billion dollars the U.S. gives every year to the Egyptian military, and what its number one man, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who has taken over from Mubarak, is going to do. Good news is he's old and tired, has fought three wars with Israel and is apparently committed to not fighting another. Bad news is he's awfully like part of the power structure he is replacing, and apparently favors strong central power over political and economic reform.

But those are concerns for another time.

Today it's dancing in the streets. Fire eaters. That kind of thing.

Today the word is joy. Tune in to Al Jazeera and feel the joy.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

143 Theologians of Conscience

I came across a fascinating article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Friday. A bunch of German catholic theologians have sent a memo to the Vatican, telling them to straighten up and fly right. It’s world news, and you can find the memo in English translation on a blog called Pray Tell.
Specifically, they are asking the Vatican to:

1. allow religious to marry, and allow married clergy to participate as equals in the church hierarchy;
2. allow for much more local governance, determination of appointments and policy, and a broad democratization of the church in general;
3. overhaul the church’s legal structure;
4. respect all persons living in committed relationships, including same-sex couples and divorced persons;
5. move away from an attitude of self-righteousness;
6. encourage diversity in forms of worship.

Anybody familiar with the split in the church between what some call its right and left wings will see this as nothing new or particularly surprising. This is what the “left” has been asking for ever since before such views were given traction when John XXIII called the church together for the Second Vatican Council in 1962.

John didn’t live to see his ideas of modernization carried through. He died only a year later, and the curia went to work to make sure the church returned to its old ways, with the pope and the hierarchy in charge and his infallible authority intact.

Today, there are effectively two catholic churches. One focuses on the Christian virtues of compassion and pastoral care. It is open minded and ecumenical, which means it is constantly seeking common ground with other Christian groups and pushing for the church to stress universal decency as something which demonstrates the whole world, including even nonbelievers, can come together to good purpose. The other insists the pope, as the representative of Christ on earth is in possession of ultimate truth and without the church there is no salvation. Not so much "left" and "right," perhaps, as Vatican II vs. Vatican I oriented.

When former San Francisco Mayor (now California Lieutenant Governor) Gavin Newsom defied law and custom and started marrying same-sex couples, the issue went all the way to the California Supreme Court, which determined same-sex couples’ right to marry could be found in the state constitution. For a brief period, thousands of gay couples, including several friends of mine, took advantage of that period of fresh air and light. Then San Francisco’s Roman Catholic Bishop, George Niederauer, called up friends he had made when he was Bishop in Salt Lake, and joined forces with the Mormons, and ultimately with fundamentalist Protestants as well, to put aside their differences long enough to run a campaign to convince California voters that society was being threatened by sin and debauchery and that the American family would be destroyed if perverted love were sanctioned by the state. They were successful. The right gays and lesbians once had to marry in California was taken back, and gays were once again made to feel they were strangers in their own land.

It is no secret where homophobia comes from in American culture. It falls like acid rain from the pulpits of catholic, Mormon and fundamentalist churches. Remove religion from the scene and gay rights fall into place like the last few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Outside of religion, homophobia has largely dried up and blown away.

And, it should be obvious, when people talk as I have just done, they are actually misusing the word religion. It’s not religion that’s the source of homophobia, actually. It’s not even a particular religious denomination. It’s closed-mindedness. That aspect of religion which makes people want to use the Bible or church tradition as a hammer, an absolute assurance that one has access to the mind of God and he wants them to impose their world view on non-believers.

We need to be reminded with regularity that sometimes the categories we use to divide up the world mislead us more often than they help us. We know how to distinguish believer from non-believer, catholic from protestant, Christian from Muslim, Jew and Hindu. What we need to know is how to distinguish people with a psychological penchant for surrendering to authority from people with a dedication to personal responsibility for making meaning in life. The former become ideologues and members of religious groups with absolutist truth claims; the latter embrace an evolution in culture and understanding. The former associate striving for personal responsibility with social breakdown; the latter take courage in discovery. The former see the world in terms of black and white, God and the devil, heaven and hell. The latter open themselves to poetry, including the poetry of speculation over the nature of God.

The 143 German-speaking Roman Catholic theologians who just sent that memo to the Vatican are the Catholic Church as John XXIII saw it in Vatican II, the “ecclesia” defined not by the pope and the hierarchy, but by the whole body of believers. 143 may not sound like a lot, but it’s about a third of all the theologians in Germany. Some on the other side are crying heresy. My guess is that the old boys in the Vatican with the keys to power will simply conclude the church cannot accept these recommendations, and the church will continue to come apart at the seams.

I would have called that good news once. Seeing the catholic church as a monstrous homophobic monolith, the church could not fall apart fast enough for my taste.

But in recent years I have come to know a great many men and women inside the church who are working just as hard – harder even – to hold the church together as I might have been to knock it down. I see them these days in the same light as I see men working for the feminist cause, what Robin Morgan refers to as “men of conscience.” The institution they serve is the institution as it should be, not the institution that is. I feel common cause with these people. I am not a believer, I don’t have a dog in this race, and frankly ecumenism strikes me as personally irrelevant. But I know good will when I see it and I have no desire to bring believers away from their faith. I want to work with religionists to keep their co-religionists who make my life miserable in check. There is genuine communication possible, common ground accessible between believers and non-believers who remain open to one another and share the value of universal human equality.

I came across a blog published yesterday, written by a priest about an experience he had marching with a Vietnamese group in an LGBTQ parade, which illustrates my point and embodies the kind of ecumenical church outreach that may just keep the church alive. Check out his story if you have the time. He reminds us of the danger of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor, who would "lift from (our) shoulders the unbearable weight of freedom." And this priest, Father Geoff Farrow, is hardly an outlier. In fact, there is a reference to an article in a Jesuit publication twenty years ago already which made the point I brought up here - that the fault line between religions is of less significance than the fault line between literalist fundamentalist protestants, traditionalist fundamentalist Catholics, and hardline Orthodox Jews on the one hand, and those of all religions and no religion, on the other, with the courage to face their own doubts and take responsibility for the consequences.

Two churches. One which refuses to allow abortions in its hospitals even to save the life of a mother, disparages and on occasion demonizes gays and lesbians, maintains the illusion its priests have surrendered their sexuality, works to prevent condoms in AIDS-riddled Africa, and prays for the conversion of Jews – and one which focuses on its origins in the man who preached the Sermon on the Mount. You know. The guy who gave his attention to peacemakers, the meek, the persecuted, the hungry.

I have nothing to fear from a church that tells you to give away your coat when somebody asks for your jacket, or to walk two miles with him when he wants you for only one mile, even if they never quite get around to doing these things.

But that church the theologians were addressing, the one that got its Knights of Columbus to come up with a million dollars to keep gays from marrying in California, just one of the fifty states, that church, well…

The church in Germany (and Austria and Switzerland) is supported by the state, and those 143 theologians have their jobs in state universities only with Vatican approval. Keep your eye out and see if they hold on to those jobs.

It will tell you a whole lot about which side of the church is winning the tug of war.

Update, Feb. 9: The number of signers has now risen to 224.
Update, Feb. 13: The number of signers has now risen to 247.