Dr. Seuss, quotes: Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss …
ISIS, Islamic “Reformation”, Religion Dispatches: Very interesting in light of the recent Atlantic which it references …
But while reformation may signal modernity – and this is important in the context of any discussion about the Islamic State – it doesn’t always signal progress, liberalism, or democracy. It’s often presented as a given that the existence of modern democracy, capitalism, and science grow purely out of the reformation, but John Calvin was not Thomas Jefferson (arguably Thomas Jefferson wasn’t even Thomas Jefferson). It’s a reductionist understanding of history, and it becomes dangerous when misapplied to current events.
Our educations have tended to gloss over the brutal violence of the sixteenth and seventeenth-centuries that was perpetrated by both Catholics and Protestants. Millions of Europeans were killed on a scale unimaginable during the medieval era (even though our common parlance has us believe that that the Middle Ages were a particularly brutal period). From the French wars of religion, to the English civil wars, to the Thirty Years’ War (where possibly 30% of German civilians perished) the arrival of modernity signaled terror and horror in many corners.
How we use words like “medieval,” “reformation,” and “modern” must be exact if we’re to make any sense out of what the Islamic State is, and how we are to defeat it. Graeme Wood’s controversial Atlantic cover essay “What ISIS Really Wants” has opened discussion in the press about what language we use to describe the Islamic State. It may be politically expedient to deny that the Islamic State is Islamic (and of course the majority of the world’s Muslims find it reprehensible) but it’s also to commit the “No True Scotsmen Fallacy.”
Where Wood’s analysis falters is when he claims that there is a “dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature.” The fact is that when other pundits declare a need for an Islamic reformation that is exactly what the Islamic State is delivering. Far from medieval they’re eminently modern, they are simply an example of the worst grotesqueries that modernity has to offer.
And they’re not early modern as my previous historical examples have it, they’re as modern as we are. They may wish to return to their own fantasy version of an ancient past (and Wood even notes that ISIS recruitment videos utilize scenes of medieval warfare skillfully edited from contemporary movies) but no group, liberal or reactionary, can escape their own time period. To designate them as “medieval” is to merely engage in an outmoded school of historical critique that has more to do with our own constructed pasts and our own prejudices than it does reality.
The modern world has never been devoid of religion and the presence of religion does not mean we are in the medieval. We are not fighting a medieval army for the simple reason that it is not the middle ages. It is to buy into that old “war of civilizations” idea that eliminates complex historical contingencies in favor of a narrative every bit as mythic as what the Islamic State believes about itself. Indeed it is a formidable and evil army, but it is a modern army. The Islamic State, as Haroon Moghul notes in Salon, was born out of the catastrophic US invasion of Iraq. From the debris of that incredible mistake they have taken the technology of modernity and the rhetoric of the Hollywood action film to claim they’re building a caliphate.
$2 dollar bill: I love the idea of getting a stash of $2 bills for tips.
Legends, Myths and Factoids
Several legends have arisen around the $2 dollar bill over time:
The scene of the Declaration of Independence that appears on the bill’s reverse is not a perfect duplicate of the John Trumbull painting. Five figures were removed to make the image fit the bill
In 2004, President Jefferson’s estate and home Monticello had an admission price of $13. As a results most people required $2 dollars in change. The staff at Monticello would hand out $2 dollar bills featuring President Jefferson’s portrait as change for admission to his estate.
A two-dollar bill is often used as a tracer by small stores to track robberies. A store clerk can keep a two-dollar bill at the bottom of their one-dollar bill slot in the cash drawer with its serial number recorded in case of robbery.
In 2005 Stuart Woods wrote a novel called “Two Dollar Bill.” One of the major characters made it a point to always tip with two-dollar bills.
The two-dollar bill has a long association with horseracing and was popular at racetracks for placing a two-dollar bet.
Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computing, buys two dollars by the sheet from the Treasury Department. He then has them bound into a booklet and the bills act as “tear off” pages.
Significance of Red Doors in a Church: I commented in a labyrinth about the red doors, “As for the red doors … I see them usually at Episcopal and Lutheran churches.” One friend, an Episcopalian did not know the symbolism. I found this:
According to Dr. Richard C Hoefler, dean of Christ Chapel at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, “Christians have entered into worship, into the presence of God, through the blood of Christ.” It is also said that a red door in the Lutheran Church harkens back to the time of Martin Luther, who posted his 95 Theses on the red doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany—the crimson color symbolizes the church as part of the Reformation. (Pastor Kuhlman, can you confirm?)
On the website St. David’s Episcopal Church in Laurinburg, NC it explains: “Red Front Doors. The red doors symbolize the blood of Christ, which is our entry into salvation. They also remind us of the blood of the martyrs, the seeds of the church.”
Historically a church has been a place of sanctuary, a place where a soldier could not pursue an enemy, much like when one takes refuge in Christ the enemy, the devil and evil, cannot pursue and destroy you. Thank you Bonnie for bringing this little known history to my attention.
By the way, this door is at St. Francis Assisi in South Windsor Connecticut.
I am now on a quest for other Red Doors around the country, here is one in Nebraska City at an Episcopal Church
The Tree of Contemplative Practices | On Being, labyrinth walks: