Thursday, December 04, 2014


Finding the printing press -- "The Wipers Times"

Aha!  Netflix has got a bead on me now!  Last night’s movie was “The Wipers Times”  (less amusingly but more intelligibly “The Ypres Times” )  about trench warfare in WWI and how two of the officers -- in those days officers were from the upper classes and rather well educated as well as having razor-sharp wits -- find a printing press in the rubble and use it to publish a newspaper that is sort of like a burlesque show on paper.  Two dramatic gizmos tighten it up -- the disdain of a serious-minded officer who wants to censor them because he can’t tolerate mockery, and an occasional fantasy interlude of staged versions of the lampooning, complete with song and dance.  Of course, there are bombs dropping all the time.  But this is the antidote to the pustulent “The Act of Killing.”  Intelligence, irony, and valuing the truth.


Maybe Netflix thinks I’m old enough to remember WWI, but I only remember WWII.  However, I did need a refresher course on the Sixties since I was here in Browning and completely out of touch with the rest of the world because we were re-enacting the 1860’s.  Not that the rest of the world was very much informed.  When I listen to the Nixon tapes, it is horrifying that we elected this morally stunted and filth-mouth man to be president.  I also note that Native Americans were completely outside the national consciousness until AIM.  AIM ended the 19th century on reservations and converted those places into emotional Vietnams.  We were all very confused.  It had begun so idealistically.

This film may be more powerful and lasting than if George had won.

I don’t know what it was about the 1960-70’s, or for that matter the 1760’s and ’70’s, that fueled desperate domestic terrorisms and rebellions, but they seem similar to now.  Of course, so far in this century we have not been shooting our best leaders.  Instead we kill young black men with the media watching, and young red men and women without anyone noticing.  Only in Montana have tribes become politically powerful enough to make a difference in elections but luckily for our political parties, most of those ready and able to take it on are fairly assimilated to white standards.  That is, they know how to make a profit for themselves.  But Netflix does include the Wounded Knee movies.

Another of my groupings has no category in recent movies, though it used to.  I’m talking about liberal religious congregations like the UUA.  It’s about time for a satirical “Times” version.  The previous president, a man of color, becomes the senior minister of the Portland, OR, First Church just as the media announces that most of the black community in the city has left.  One of the two denominational seminaries survives by getting rid of their campus and their U of Chicago standards and leasing a glass tower, directing students via "distance learning."  The other one survives by hiring a woman of color who is immediately challenged by defiant members of the student body, who -- in this famously tolerant bastion of nonconformity -- find that their diplomas have been confiscated.

The pinkifying of the UUA Seven Principles means that only females and old guys are harmless enough to be trusted with congregations.  Besides, you don’t have to pay them as much.  The old dangerously educated iconoclast model is “out,” because he is very likely to go too far, even onto criminal territory.  
First Unitarian Church of Rockford, IL

My first Unitarian minister was The Rev. Alan G. Deale in Portland, OR.  Quoting the description from his just previous church, Rockford, IL, where I did my Clinical Pastoral Education:  “He was a young, energetic, and feisty New Englander, possessed of a keen intellect which challenged his listeners. Forthright, he had a pithy, lively sense of humor which raised a few hackles - qualities which were balanced by a capacity for compassion for the human condition.”  He was a “double-PK” -- both his parents were preachers -- which gave him a strong sense of institutions.  His love affairs were not with women, but with building.  Construction, not deconstruction.

“Alan was a builder of churches with a genuine understanding of architecture and a probing curiosity about the processes of building, which were to serve this congregation well. The congregation purchased 10.5 acres east of Alpine Road in 1960, and in 1965 Pietro Belluschi, Dean of Architecture at MIT, agreed to accept the commission to design a new church in co-operation with local architect C. Edward Ware. Alan Deale was present to supervise the pouring of each cubic foot of concrete.”  In Portland he consolidated the downtown block of the church, knowing that congregations need location, shelter, place.  The spirit must dwell in a body.

The next Rockford minister was The Rev. Anthony Freiss Perrino.  The history continues:  “He served as a well-known advocate of liberal causes in the area, communicating through his frequent newspaper columns and his moderating of a TV panel show, Probe. Upon his departure from Rockford in June of 1977, newspaper columnist Stan Buckles wrote:

"Tony Perrino was a hair shirt for many. He meant to be. He was constantly at war with the status quo. He perceived in Rockford those qualities that tend to lull a community to sleep - smugness, hypocrisy, self-satisfaction - and he declared war on them."  He also lost his boundaries as a minister accountable to the institution of congregations, and stepped over to sexual behavior many people consider reprehensible.  Wrong kind of body.

Here’s a pretty good sermon about the situation.  Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Charlotte County  “Setting the Boundaries.”  November 7th, 1993, by The Rev. Sam Trumbore.  The thing is, congregations are about families of one sort or another, and therefore the family and the child are the icons.  It’s one thing to raise bloody hell with a corrupt society and entirely another to drive a new wedge into the lives of people in trouble who have come for help.  The offense was not being immoral, the offense was the painful consequences to the very people who had elected and supported him so he would protect them.  He had mistaken his base of operation.  Whether he was right or wrong in his private life is a separate issue.

Rev. Forrester Church

A slightly different situation was that of The Rev. Forrester Church, who was a big shot -- or at least the son of a big shot -- and therefore assumed to be brilliant, worthy and reliable.   (Did I say the UUA is open to the larger culture to the point of falling out of their own context?)  He was also handsome and, as the sons of politicians tend to be, needy.  The inevitable followed.  There are a LOT of books about ministers -- The Rev. Peter Raible in Seattle had to convert his garage into stacks to hold his collection -- and even some books about UU churches and ministers, though few people realize they exist, much less read them.  A low-risk version of Forrester Church’s rise and fall is an ebook “Being Alive and Having to Die” by Dan Cryer.   Cryer, the son of a Methodist minister, is a high-level respected biographer of problematic people. 

The link below is the only account of rape and/or pedophilia perpetrated by UU ministers that I found on Google.  A very Woody Allen sort of tale.  Three teen girls from Tibet, one of whom the culprit married.  They are common and banal, in some countries not even shocking.  The Emerson Avenger does not find it amusing.  I myself eschew Woody Allen.

 Cyril Smith Liberal MP for Rochdale Lancs, easily blackmailed into political obedience

In England and some of its former Empire right now the sheets are being pulled off the beds and party rooms of many major politicians and public figures.  In past decades certain men had used the small boys of “care homes” as sexual toys, in the most extreme cases “snuffing” them.  (I'm talking pre-teens.) Those who survived have now begun to speak out.  The “ministers,” as English governmental representatives are called, are mostly dead, old, ill.  Vulnerable.  Hugely fat, their ears disappearing into their necks.  Hard to feel sorry.  We can only hope it's stopped.

Once everyone has struggled past their emotional revulsion and titillation, maybe some useful measures can be drawn from the atrocities.    But I hope it won’t be excluding all powerful people with teeth from government or from religious ministry.  Those who want “spirituality” to be about bunny rabbits don’t know much about rabbits, whose lives revolve around sex and war among themselves.  But rabbits don't take on wolves.  They have no printing press or Internet.

Does Netflix have any movies about these matters, excluding liberal clergy?  Oh, yes.  These are basic issues.  Of course, you could always watch National Geographic.

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