Thursday, August 25, 2011

If You're Preaching Sunday ...

... well, we'd still go with Moses the Black. But it might also be helpful to remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. … we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death —- we give over our lives to death. …

When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. ... because only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ. In fact, every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts. But we do not want to die…

The call to discipleship… means both death and life… [It] sets the Christian in the middle of the daily arena against sin and the devil. Every day he encounters new temptations, and every day he must suffer anew for Jesus Christ’s sake. The wounds and scars he receives in the fray are living tokens of this participation in the cross of his Lord.

The Cost of Discipleship, quoted here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Best Saint's Life Ever

Come Sunday, we remember two African saints. Egg readers are surely familiar with Augustine of Hippo: a pear orchard; a stewpot of unholy loves; the Manichaeans and Neo-Platonists; Monica's patience; Ambrose's reading skills. Above all, we enjoy his decades-long battle against Pelagianism, both semi- and otherwise. From there, straight on to the Reformation.

But Moses the Black is not quite such a household name. To refresh our memory, we googled him today, and came across what must surely be the most snappily-written vita of a saint we have ever encountered. (It comes from a site called Badass of the Week, which advertises "an unnecessarily copious amount of profanity." Just so's ya know.) Here's the lede:

When most people think, "Orthodox Christian Saint", the first phrase that pops into their heads generally isn't "skull-crushing badass". Saints are supposed to be skinny bearded dudes in ratty burlap robes who sit around in caves surrounded by lepers. These poor hermits generally earn the right to carry the mantle of Sainthood for accomplishing some crazy abstract nonsense like philosophizing about the nature of the Trinity, writing a bunch of incomprehensible dogmatic theses about God-knows-what, and/or generally just talking about how awesome the Church is. That's just the nature of Christianity; you don't get served Holy Bacon Strips at Jesus' breakfast table when you spend your life face-punching jerks unconscious, setting farmhouses on fire, and threatening people with knives. That is, unless you're Saint Moses the Black.


Well I guess adopting the holy orders and devoting your life to God is great and all, but when you've spent your entire natural life chokeslamming dillholes spine-first onto the Great Pyramid of Cheops, some times old habits are a little hard to break. Not long after Moses joined the monastic community, a group of four cutthroat thieves broke into the church and started looting holy artifacts and stealing money from the collection plate. Well, as we have noted previously, Moses fully dedicated himself to whatever it was he was doing all of the goddamned time. He may have become a monk to escape prosecution, but he was devoted to his calling - and a dude like Moses sure as shit wasn't going to sit around and let some punk hoodlums disrespect his new home. He stood up, cracked his knucles, spit, and took two steps towards the assembled, dagger-wielding cabal of robbers and murderers.
So how did it turn out? Click the link, for pete's sake.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Against the Potato

Our great-grandfather, a missionary in Mexico, once preached a long sermon in which he meant to criticize the Roman church and its leadership. He couldn't figure out why the people in the room were smiling, snickering, and finally laughing. After the service, somebody took him aside and explained, we hope gently, that El Papa is the Pope. Great-grandpa, unfortunately, had preached a blistering sermon against La Papa, which means the Potato.

Which brings us to Madrid's World Youth Day, and the people who took to the street in protest. Is it possible that they, like an old-timey Protestant missionary, didn't really know what they were talking about?

Out of the gate, let us say that the protests have an ugly anti-Catholic tone to them, and that while in theory they may be directed against the Pope, in practice they are directed against young Christians. Here's a first-hand account.

But at the level of theory, so far as we can tell, the protests have had two distinct hypotheses: (1) that Pope Benedict XVI is personally evil (a Nazi, a pederast, that sort of thing), and (2) that, in the midst of an economic crisis, the government had shelled out a vast amount of money to pay for his presence. Neither contention is especially original; one recalls that angry Britons said almost the same thing a few months ago.

As for the first point, we can only throw up our hands in despair. Yes, he's an elderly German, and from the age of 14 was pressured into association with the Bad Guys. On the other hand, he refused to attend Hitler Youth rallies, and when they drafted him into the Army, he deserted. For that matter, one of his cousins -- with Down Syndrome -- was murdered by the Nazis in the name of their eugenics program.

As for pederasty, or rather making life easy on sexually abusive priests, well -- it has certainly been a problem throughout the Roman Catholic Church, and we don't doubt that as a diocesan bishop Ratzinger may have been been part of the problem. But he is also the one who convinced John Paul II to put the CDF in charge of discipline, rather than leaving it to the whim of individual bishops, and the one who went after some of the seemingly untouchable malefactors, like Legionaries founder Marcial Maciel Degollado.

Yes, we wish that he had spent as much of his life fighting criminal priests as heterodox ones. But he has put more energy into discipline and justice for victims than most Vatican figures, and certainly more than his predecessor. On balance, Benedict looks pretty good here.

So what about the second point? Is economically-challenged Spain wasting money on the visit of a foreign religious leader that might better have been spent caring for poor people? It's not impossible -- Spain is still among the most faithfully Catholic nations in the world, and a politician might do worse than offering circuses to people who have no bread. On the other hand, PM Zapatero is a Socialist and prominent supporter of gay marriage. His education reforms have offended religious groups, notably the Roman Catholic Church. And Spain is a far more secular today than it was a generation ago. So if this is pandering, it seems neither characteristic nor likely to succeed.

The Christian Science Monitor provides some interesting ideas:
The pope's visit will cost an estimated 50 million euros ($72 million), according to organizers, and involves closing off much of downtown Madrid. Private companies will contribute a large portion of the money for the event, but Spain will also have to cover many of the expenses. An exact breakdown of the overall economic effect is still unknown. ...

Officials in Madrid say the pope's visit, which was planned long before the current economic crisis, could generate as much as 150 million euros ($215 million) in revenues from tourists.
Ah! So it is pandering, but of a different sort -- pandering to the business community. This is the same sort of logic that drives cities to bankrupt themselves pursuing the Olympic Games, or to spend public money on a stadium in which wealthy owners can pay wealthy athletes to chase balls like school children.

Mind you, we have grave doubts about this strategy. Why? Because it doesn't work:

Owners of teams in the "big four" sports leagues — the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL — have reaped nearly $20 billion in taxpayer subsidies for new homes since 1990. And for just as long, fans, urban planners and economists have argued that building facilities for private sports teams is a massive waste of public money. As University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson memorably put it, "If you want to inject money into the local economy, it would be better to drop it from a helicopter than invest it in a new ballpark."

Of particular interest to Madrilenos may be this part:
In one study of six Super Bowls, University of South Florida economist Phil Porter found "no measurable impact on spending," which he attributed to the "crowding out" effect of nonfootball tourists steering clear of town during game week.
Perhaps they shouldn't have invited him during tourist season.

On the other hand, WYD is reported to have drawn something like 1.5 million people, most of whom must have stayed in hotels, eaten in restaurants, shopped in stores. That is vastly more than the number of people who attend most sporting events. So maybe, this once, the theory will work.

In any case, it isn't the Pope's fault if it doesn't. He is just doing his job, and it is a job which we are ever-more convinced he does quite well. Despite our confessional position that the claims of the papacy to ius divino are inherently opposed to the Gospel -- ahem, the Pope is Antichrist -- we have to say that the protesters are giving the poor guy a an unnecessarily hard time. Worse, they are giving a hard time to the million-plus young people who turned out to sing, pray and look for meaning in their lives.

L'Affaire DSK Se Conclut

The New York DA's office has moved to drop criminal charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, because it does not believe that it could win the case in court. Very few people are likely to see this as a victory for justice: DSK's defenders will no doubt claim that he has been personally humiliated and politically destroyed, in a case that proves to have no merit; those who side with the hotel maid will claim that evidence of a grave crime is being set aside, as the victim, having already been abused in private, is now abused further in the court of public opinion. Meanwhile, other legal matters -- a civil case in New York, and a separate rape case in France -- are still pending.

As we've said before, we don't think that the DA's office has behaved badly here. They had allegations of a serious crime, supported by forensic evidence. The man accused of committing the crime was a wealthy foreigner sitting on an airplane; they moved quickly to arrest him. Everything else followed as one would expect. And when, upon further investigation, the DA concluded that the witness making the allegations was unreliable, they abandoned the case. What else should they have done?

Please don't turn DSK into some sort of innocent martyr. As the AP reminds us:
Strauss-Kahn's semen was found on her uniform dress, his DNA was identified on pantyhose and underwear she was wearing, and a gynecological exam found an area of "redness," according to prosecutors. But they said none of that was incontrovertible proof of a sexual assault. ... Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have said anything that happened wasn't forced.
There was some sort of sexual encounter in that hotel room. Whether it was assault -- or, for that matter, whether it was even with the maid -- we will probably never know. It could have been seduction, or prostitution, or some other form of adulterous liaison. Beyond that, your personal convictions depend very largely on whether you are the sort of person who reflexively trusts rich white men or poor black women. In other words, absent any proof, we are left with our prejudices.

And then there is the money.

Seems that somebody dropped $60,000 into the maid's bank account. She claims it was her jailed boyfriend, and such things are certainly not impossible. On the other hand, we have always held open -- and still do -- the possibility that somewhere in this case there is a French secret agent holding a suitcase full of cash. It's a long shot, for certain. But stranger things have surely happened.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Our Must-Have New Bible is Very Old

As readers surely know, 2011 is the quatercentenary of the Bible translation variously known as King James or Authorized. We have been quite worked up about this, and continue to be. The KJV, as an English teacher assured us many years ago, is not merely one of the masterpieces of the English language, it is one of the two sources of modern English, giving us not only words and cadences, but figures of speech which we use each day without even thinking of them. (Our teacher identified the other source as Shakespeare, and she was right; upon mature reflection, we would add the Book of Common Prayer).

So, how does one celebrate this auspicious anniversary? Were our parish made up largely of native speakers, we might have arranged to read the book in public, as a sort of festival. But since, to be frank, many of the people with whom we work have to mull over each word of the CEV, we did not see how a public event might work. Instead, our observance has been largely private, and has consisted of spending money.

Publishers, you see, are not fools. They know that there is milk yet to be had from this most productive of all cows -- and this despite the KJV's surely disturbing lack of copyright. Our own purchases have included two Bibles so far, and may well extend to a third.

1) Our first purchase was Oxford's Quatercentenary Edition. This is a strange book, but one we quite like. It reproduces the text of the first printing, including errors, but keeping the spelling, pagination and even line numbering. It is not, mind you, a facsimile; the thing has been entirely re-typeset, in a Roman font. This is a good thing.

Why? Because the first printings of the KJV were marked by some typographical oddities: errors, naturally; but also the deliberate decision to print in black-letter type (think of the New York Times banner, but far more condensed). Black-letter fonts were meant to emulate the tight scribal hand in which late-medieval religious books were commonly written, but they were challenging to the eye even in their own time, and today have become slow going even for those of us who use them often.

Oxford's QE is a large book, although not nearly as large as the original. Despite being a modern artifact, it has been made to look old -- the type may be Roman, but it is still dowdy. It is bound in some nasty artificial material, which keeps the price down, and comes in a cloth-covered slipcase to keep it from slouching on the shelf. There is a useful essay by Gordon Campbell, whose book-length treatment of the KJV we would also like to read. The whole package is useful for scholars, attractive to look at, and fun without breaking the bank.

2) Our second purchase was from the Trinitarian Bible Society. We were alerted to the existence of these people by J. Mark Bertrand's brilliant Bible Design Blogg. Since 1831, the TBS has devoted its energy to printing and distributing the KJV, sans Apocrypha, as well as to defending and even publishing the so-called Textus Receptus. From a scholarly perspective, we think they're a bit cracked; the TR is an okay text, but we don't for a moment doubt that the KJV translation team, were they alive today, would avail themselves of the greater manuscript variety now available. And don't get us started on why the Apocrypha matter.

So the TBS is a bit ... quixotic. We still admire the seriousness with which they approach their work. A few years back, J. Mark raved about one particular TBS publication: the Windsor Text KJV. After lusting in our hearts for a while, we got on the phone and called a nice lady in England, who sent us one. It arrived soon after, and immediately became our everyday, sit-on-the-desk-by-the computer Bible.

Here's why: it's easy to read. The font is clear enough, and the paper white enough, for even Fr. A.'s aging eyes to read unaided. It is a bright, modern look, with nothing antiquarian about it -- not attractive, by any means, but easy to read. It is enclosed in a trim package, bound in leather, which slips easily into a bag and opens flat on the table.

Furthermore, the page is not cluttered by the things that annoy us in so many Bibles: pronunciation helps, cross-references, footnotes. Technically, a few references and notes -- along with chapter summaries -- might arguably be considered integral parts of the KJV text. (Thanks, QE, for making that point!) They're certainly useful, at least sometimes and to some people. But that doesn't keep them from slowing the reader down, every bit as much as archaic spelling.

On top of all this, our Windsor Edition has another feature which has already given us hours of delight: the Metrical Psalms, as authorized by the Kirk of Scotland in 1650. We knew they existed -- Old Hundredth, after all! -- but we had never really come across them before, all in one place. We had imagined that they would be tacky, sing-song schlock -- and some are. But not many.

3) So much for the Year of King James, right? Wrong. The other day, J. Mark's blog alerted us to something even more exciting: Cambridge's Clarion edition. It hasn't been published yet, but Bertrand has seen an advance copy, and is suitably impressed. This is something he (and we, and apparently many other people) have long hankered for: a single-column KJV, laid out like ordinary prose and poetry. (He also goes on and on about the binding, which is good, but as he says: I'd buy the thing if it were bound in cardboard.) Notes and references are on the outer margin.

There have been a few of these over the years. We even owned one, once, and bitterly regret giving it away. But they're hard to come by. And this one, as J. Mark sees it, is a new frontier in readability.

The double-column layout used in most Bibles is a practical way to save space, made necessary by the small type size a publisher needs to use if a Bible is to fit into one manageable volume. Most eyes just can't read five inches of 6-point type, over and over, without getting lost and tired.

But the fact is that double-column layouts are the domain of reference books. The books we read for pleasure are almost always laid out in a single column. What does it say about the way Christians think of the Bible that it is typically treated like a reference book instead of pleasure reading? That's not a rhetorical question, by the way.

You can't buy the Clarion edition yet, although Amazon is taking pre-orders. Costs an arm and a leg, and then another arm, but we fully intend to own one, sooner or later. We may even squeeze it in during the last days of the anniversary year. After all, Christmas is coming.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Mystery of the Missing Mysteries

Like many Nordic Americans, especially of the high-church persuasion, we have an abiding affection for Nicolai F.S. Grundtvig. While by no means our ideal churchman or theologian, his story speaks to our heart, certainly more than that of his overrated and inscrutable compatriot, Soren Kierkegaard.

So we were quite pleased when Mother A. chose Grundtvig's Built on a Rock as the hymn for Sunday next. Its chilling opening verses -- crumbled have spires in ev'ry land -- never fail to stun us with their prescience. Grundtvig was thinking, no doubt, of the depredations of Rationalism up through the late 18th century; he had no idea what further depredations were yet in store.

But while performing our due diligence, we were surprised to discover that the LBW translation, credited to the prolific Carl Doving, is incomplete. It is missing two stanzas, one of them about the central rites of the Christian church.

Some details: Grundtvig wrote the hymn in 1837 and revised it in 1854. Cyberhymnal offers one Danish version here, and an English translation here. The translation is credited to the prolific American translator Carl Doving, with emendations by Fred C.M. Hansen (could the initials really stand for Common Meter?). The text printed in the Service Book and Hymnal, Lutheran Book of Worship and Evangelical Lutheran Worship is very close to the Cyberymnal version, but somewhat improved as poetry. The SBH credits Doving and Hansen, although the others omit Hansen. The JPEG above, which you can enlarge by clicking, compares the two Cyberhymnal versions and the [copyrighted] version from the ELW (not, as it says, the LBW).

There are quite a few minor variations among the English texts. The SBH, for example, changed "rest everlasting" to "life everlasting." Playing its usual games with gendered language, the ELW changed
We are God's house of living stones
Built for his own habitation
Christ builds a house of living stones
We are his own habitation.
Both of these changes distort Grundtvig's intent, but so slightly that we can't really get excited about them. The stanza about earthly temples is more serious, as the praise of God's glory is exchanged for a confession of faith. Still, we're Lutheran enough to see the two things as basically similar.

What bugs us is the decision, made at least as early as the SBH and continued ever since, to omit stanzas 4 and 6.

The first omission is easier to forgive. The English translation of stanza 6 isn't very good. So far as we can tell, the original starts out closer to this:
Now we can gather with our Lord
Even in the lowliest hut
And say with Peter: This place is good!
This ties the hymn back to its opening verse, making explicit the idea that the "rock" upon which the Church is built is the faith of St. Peter. This only makes sense, since the hymn spins off of Biblical incidents in which Peter plays a key role (get it?), as well as images from the Petrine epistles. Our best guess is that Doving weakened these references a little, hoping to head off any Romanizing interpretations. The result, though, is that omitting Peter's name, along with his exclamation on the mountaintop, is a needless bit of anti-Catholicism which weakens the narrative and deprives pastors of what might be a useful hymn for the Transfiguration.

Nonetheless, Doving renders stanza 6 quite beautifully. The original may be more admirably blunt: The font reminds us of our baptism / the altar of Eucharistic grace.) And Doving omits the idea of God's mystery -- Guds kærligheds gåde. But we'd still be happy to sing it. And that's what confuses us about the hymnals.

Frankly, it is difficult to imagine why -- in a hymn about church buildings -- the steeple and bells should be retained, when the font and altar are omitted. (Not to mention the pulpit, which is present by implication). It is all the more shocking since this hymn, in its mutilated version, was sung through the long and difficult effort to restore a proper respect for and use of the sacraments among Lutherans in America. It is as though pastors committed to liturgical renewal were purposefully deprived of a useful tool for their work.

Here is the missing stanza, in an easily cut-and-pasted form. We believe that it is free of copyright, and encourage our readers to add it to bulletins from time to time:

Here stands the font before our eyes
Telling how God did receive us;

The altar recalls Christ’s sacrifice

And what His table doth give us;

Here sounds the Word that doth proclaim
Christ yesterday, today, the same,

Yea, and for aye our Redeemer.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hardest Working Muscle

Scientists have now grown a working anal sphincter in a petri dish. (Thanks, i09!). This is big medical news. And -- strangely enough -- it reminds us of a story.

One of our colleagues is a retired Army chaplain, with the aggressive style and blunt manners that you might expect from a soldier-priest. He also has a mouth so filthy that it even makes Father Anonymous blush from time to time. Another pastor once sat at a table during a clergy Bible study and quietly made a hash-mark each time Fr. Falmouth dropped the F-bomb. He eventually lost count, but assures us that the number was very high. At a Bible study.

Anyway, Fr. F. himself likes to tell a story about his years on active duty. His superior officer, in the course of chewing him out, called him -- well, that thing that just got grown in a petri dish, but using the more conventional Army term. So Chaplain F. pulled himself up to attention and said, "Thank you sir. I consider that a great compliment."

"A ... compliment?"

"Yessir. The anal sphincter is the hardest-working muscle in the body."

The story has been told and retold around many a clerical campfire in our synod. By now, its punchline has a life of its own. And so, in honor both of our friend Fr. Falmouth and of the crack research team at Wake Forest, Emory and U. Mich., we are introducing a new hash tag for the blog: the Hardest Working Muscle.

We have needed a term like this for some time. After all, many of the people about whom we find ourselves writing -- ministers who steal Christmas presents, biologists who mock women as severely as they mock religion, members of Congress and terrorists (if indeed the two can still be classified separately) deserve to be called ... well, that thing. And so they are, in our private conversation. But a few readers have suggested that more decorum is called for in public, and they are surely right -- so we shall euphemize.

Still, we think this expression will get a lot of use.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

St. Elmo's Fire

An ugly scene from New Welcome Baptist Church in St. Elmo, Alabama: the minister fired the director of music. The director of music asked for his back pay. A deacon attacked the director of music (and the director of music's mother, and some other people) with a knife. The director of music attacked the pastor with a taser.

Just -- sigh -- another day in the life of God's people.

The news reports are sketchy, and it may well be that the tasing began before the stabbing. We don't know and we don't care. Here's the best writeup we've seen so far, if you want details.

Sadly, all this takes Father Anonymous back to his own first call, at a profoundly disordered church in the South Bronx. Meetings, even of the most innocuous committee, were laced with rage. Several members -- "deacons," appointed for life by a previous pastor whose strategy seems to have been "keep your enemies closer" -- were prone to screaming fits. On one memorable occasion, an usher managed to so offend a communicant that they left the nave, and went down to the kitchen where the communicant pulled a knife and attempted to stab the usher. Bad enough on its own, but when poor foolish Fr. A. brought the subject up with his church council, their collective response was not to propose loving discipline or thoughtful care, but to take sides. As if either of those guys could have been, in any meaningful way, "right."

And yet there are some people who do not believe that human nature is utterly depraved. We're looking at you, Jacobus Arminius!

As a St. Emo sheriff's office spokeswoman says, "I'm sure, now, there are all hopefully looking back on it, saying, 'Hmm… We could have done something a little different there.' " We only wish we could be so sure.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Atheists Say the Nastiest Things"

This is the contention of one Gary Hardaway, author of a book by that title. In this self-advertisement, he wrings his hands a little over the question of why a Christian would write such a book, and thereby "alienate atheists instead of showing love and kindness." He tries to explain, but I think he misses two simple points which could serve as his defense: (a) true skeptics, if there are any, surely want to know when their arguments fall short; and (b) good manners can be a useful tool to reasoned conversation. So few feelings are likely to be hurt by a book which, as Hardaway claims his does, tries to show up some bad logic and some coarse manners.

On the other hand, we aren't sure that much good is likely to come from marshaling a list of things that the other team -- defined however you please -- had said or done to hurt you. Atheists, needless to say, have their own list of things that Christians oughtn't have said but did; so do Muslims. And don't get the Jews started. These lists are long and often humiliatingly on-target. In controversy, it is often more useful simply to be your own best self, and hope that your antagonists will be theirs.

Hardaway mentions the nasty tone in which, say, Sigmund Freud and Christopher Hitchens write of religious believers, and he is quite correct. Both men sometimes seem less interested in defending their own position than in disparaging those who disagree. But he follows with this misleading example:
British Mathematician and philospher Alfred North Whitehead writes, "As for the Christian theology, can you imagine anything more appallingly idiotic than the Christian idea of heaven? What kind of deity . . . would be capable of creating angels and men to sing his praises day and night to all eternity? [What] inane and barbaric vanity."
Well, no, it is certainly not polite. Whitehead is clearly bashing those crusty old Biblical conservatives, like us at the Egg, who prefer to imagine a Heaven as filled with trumpet-blowing angels and crown-casting-down saints as any Counter-Reformation altar painting. Our feelings would be hurt, except that they're not. This is clearly just a little rhetorical name-calling among friends.

And Whitehead is, notably, a friend to the world of Christian belief. Although himself ultimately an agnostic, he came from a family of Anglican clergymen, and well into his thirties flirted with Roman Catholicism. His affection for Christianity was reciprocated by Christians; Whitehead's later work is the intellectual starting place of "process theology," a curious invention still dear to a handful of pastors. He is the secular philosopher most beloved of many mid-century clergymen, including our own grandfather.

So Hardaway is barking up the wrong tree here, and readers ought to beware. He has mistaken an agnostic for an atheist, and friendly joshing for genuine disdain.

Not, mind you, that we are put off by atheists who occasionally, if paradoxically, offer their opinions on what God would do if only God were more like themselves. On the contrary, we have long cherished the idea expressed by George Bernard Shaw, in a letter to Tolstoy. We forget the precise words, but he says something to the effect that "if I were God, I would strive to create a being greater than myself." Obviously, no sentence beginning "if I were God" can be taken seriously, and Shaw's idea of the evolving Superman combines the lamest bits of Nietzsche, Mormonism and, yes, process theology. We think that Tolstoy said something to that effect. Still, however wrong Shaw's effort, we love it that he bothered to play.

If we were an unbeliever (see what we did there?), we would hope to express our convictions with clarity and generosity, and to show as much interest in the convictions of believers as Whitehead and Shaw did. And sitting as we do on the other side of the fence, we still hope for those things.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Gingrich Is a Twit, Uses Twitter

It will come as no surprise to either of his ex-wives that Newt Gingrich is a liar-liar whose pants are habitually on fire. Nor will Egg readers be surprised by that oft-cited datum. Still, the man is so creative about his prevarication that we can't help but note the new iterations as they appear.

Consider the claim, made by several sites lately (Gawker, PeekYou, some academics, and summarized here by Cnet) that Newt may have created an army of followers on Twitter -- not recruited, mind you, but created, as in ex nihilo. PeekYou's analysis proposes that more than 90% of his followers are bogus.

Now, we're not well-informed about this social networking business. Frankly, we don't use Twitter ourselves, haven't checked in on Facebook for two weeks, and don't know what Google+ actually is. But we expect that, if Newt has indeed been cooking the numbers, he has some obvious motive -- perhaps followers are like mass, and large numbers of them create their own gravity, attracting still larger numbers. It would not surprise us if Gingrich, an egomaniac even by DC standards, hoped to end his career as a metaphorical black hole, the center of all human attention on the planet earth.