What's Tony Thinking

July 14, Another Week Ends


The Ultimate “Replacement Theory.” Heretofore, we have known “the replacement theory,” as the fodder of right-wing populists like Tucker Carlson and white men carrying torches in the night in Charlottesville, Virginia. The idea is that white people, maybe especially white men, are going to be “replaced” by brown people who are crossing the border in “hordes.”

Forget that. It’s AI that we should all be worrying about. Reading of David Brooks being rattled to his humanist core by the claim that AI will make us dispensable, rattled me. His recent column is headed, “Human Beings Are Soon Going to Be Eclipsed.” Brooks reports on an interview with a formerly not-worried scientist, Douglas Hofstader, who is now very worried. “It’s a very traumatic experience,” said Hofstader,  “when some of your most core beliefs about the world start collapsing. And especially when you think that human beings are soon going to be eclipsed.”

The questions of meaning and of why are we here, come anew, to the fore. The church needs to address this.

Competing To Be the Victim. At a press conference this week Screen Actors Guild President, Fran Drescher, said, “We’re the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us.”

This brought to mind a blog I did a couple months ago on the phenomenon of people inventing stories of their victimization in order to get the upper hand and gain status. In it I quoted a psychologist who is studies competition between groups, Jillian Jordan. She observed, “In cases where two groups are in conflict, you kind of want to compete to be the victim because by definition then, the other side, is bad.” Whether the Hollywood actors are victims or not, I don’t know. But clearly Drescher is onto how to establish who are the good guys and who aren’t.

GOP Lemmings? Not a day passes, or so it seems, without some new report of Republican law-makers somewhere jumping the shark. In the House the GOP added to the Defense Appropriations bill a batch of culture war issues, probably making it un-passable in the Senate. In Iowa, the Republican controlled legislature, enacted one of the six weeks “heartbeat” bills making any and all abortions illegal after six weeks of pregnancy.

But 60% of Iowa voters support some form of access to abortion, while only 35% agree with their legislators new ban. (Remember Kansas?) Maybe I’m just kidding myself, but it seems to me that a lot of Republicans are intent of going so far on complex and conflicted social issues that they may find, come next election, that they have gone off the edge of the cliff to find themselves in a heap of hot outrage at the bottom.

The Church Is Not a Building, Or Is It? Here’s a Slate story on church buildings that have become an albatross to their congregation. Many such stories these days. We all know, or at least have been told, that “the church is not a building. The church is people!” But I wonder.

We may say that the church is the people, but often behave and budget as if it were the building. Moreover, such congregations may fear that without the building there really isn’t much that defines them or holds the people together. While losing a building doesn’t necessarily mean that the church itself has to close, a fair number of congregations have gotten the two so closely tied that they aren’t capable of separating them.

Losing or leaving a building could be an opportunity to see where our trust and faith really lie. But maybe we would just as soon not know the answer to that question. Or to put it another way, a church’s mission or purpose is primary, the building (lovely though it may be) is secondary.

At Summer Fishtrap. The 36th annual gathering of Summer Fishtrap, a conference for writers is happening this week in the Wallowas and at the Wallowa Lake Lodge. In the evenings, there are sessions open to the community when writers, members of the faculty, read from their work.

Only now writers don’t just “read” from their work. They perform their work. Whether this is a good thing or not, I don’t know. It seems the majority of the audience loves it. “Performing” means that writers dramatize, gesture, weep, whoop, holler, dance and recite their work. It was not always so. Thirty years ago writers pretty much just read their stuff.

As I say, whether this change is a plus or minus, I’m unsure. Nor do I know to what to attribute the shift, although one can see something parallel in at least some preaching and preachers. The performative element has become more important, even required. Maybe it’s that we get so much via video and social media these days?

What I do know is that it is often more input or stimulation than I can digest. The words come so fast and with such emotive force that I, for one, have a hard time keeping up. Yep, getting old.



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