“Justified”, “Peace of Mind”, and Jesus

After writing my Castalia article on “Justified”, it got me to thinking about it again. Since it can only be streamed through Amazon – which I’m not paying for – I went out and bought  few of the better episodes (there is a large choice!).

While the critical consensus tends to disagree, real fans know what the high point of the show is, was, and always will be: Season 4’s antepenultimate episode, “Decoy”.

I went back to “Decoy”, and to complete the mini-collection I picked up the last two episodes of the season as well, “Peace of Mind” and “Ghosts”. I remembered “Ghosts” as a classic, but had more or less forgotten about “Peace of Mind”, and rewatched it again for the first time today. And MAN, am I glad I did. The more I think about it the more convinced I am that the last three episodes of season 4 represent a high water mark for the series, as superb as season 6 is.

“Justified’s” handling of religion has always been kind of interesting. The first season handled it by having Boyd turn into a wacko fundamentalist preacher who loses his faith when his father murders his flock. Season 4 circles back around to religion, and treats it a bit more kindly. It seems early on in the season that Boyd is going to have an enemy in Preacher Billy, who handles snakes. Boyd realizes his sister milks the rattlers and manages to get Billy killed (or rather, gets Billy to get himself killed).

At this point religion in the South is still looked at as a sort of crazy curiosity. But this all changes in “Peace of Mind”. I’m surprised I didn’t remember how remarkable this episode really was.

The story of the episode revolves around the finding of a whore, Ellen Mae. Ellen Mae has learned a lot of secrets about Boyd Crowder’s outfit and has inadvertently hurt some people in the Detroit mafia. Because of this, she’s been in hiding. Ellen Mae is a sweetheart, but “dumb as a box of rocks”, as Raylan later puts it. At the start of the episode she’s holing up with Limehouse, the head of a black community called Noble’s Holler. Both the Crowder outfit and the Detroit mafia – who team up in pursuit of this mutual goal – are fairly certain she’s with Limehouse, but don’t know where he’s holding her, and are prepared to offer him $300,000.00 for her.

On her side is the U.S. Marshal service. Earlier in the season Ellen Mae had been aided by a man named Shelby, AKA Drew Thompson, a notorious criminal on the run from a murder rap for decades before finally being caught by Raylan. Drew took a great liking to Ellen Mae, and offers an ultimatum: He spills no secrets about the Detroit Mafia – who he was involved with in the past – until Ellen Mae is found safe. The Marshals agree to help find her.

This all sounds complex but you can summarize it pretty simply: Ellen Mae is being searched for by the Detroit Mafia+the Crowder gang, who want her dead, and by the U.S. Marshals, who want to deliver her safe to Thompson.

Okay. Here’s the remarkable part.

After some maneuvering, Ava Crowder – a bad guy, if you’ll note the last name – manages to get $300,000.00 to Limehouse in exchange for Ellen Mae. But Limehouse, to Ava’s shock, turns the deal down and reveals he’s already let Ellen Mae go. He explains to Ava that he’s been wondering about the effects their actions are having on other people. He tells Ava that they can no longer ignore the consequences of their decisions, and so he has chosen in this case to help an innocent person survive. Ava doesn’t understand this: Who, after all, would turn down $300,000.00 in exchange for the life of a person they barely know?

Let’s fast forward through the episode. Some interesting stuff occurs that pays dividends thematically in the final episode, but that’s not what we’re focusing on right now. We’re here for Ellen Mae.

Ellen Mae has sought refuge with a young woman named Cassie, the sister of the preacher who was killed by Boyd Crowder. Ellen Mae tearfully tells Cassie that she was praying to Jesus for help the entire time, and that she knew God had worked a miracle in Limehouse’s heart so she could escape. She comes to tell Cassie that she left something out of an earlier confession: Her participation in the burying of the body of a man murdered by the Crowder gang. She says she’s ready to have her sins washed away by the blood of Jesus.

At this point, we’re still not taking Ellen Mae totally seriously. This whole thing is sweet, but preacher Billy’s church was more than a little out there, and Ellen Mae is more than a little dim. But it gets better.

Ava shows up to the church with a gun, ready to kill Ellen Mae herself. Ellen Mae tells Ava that there is forgiveness in repentance, which Ava denies viciously. Ellen Mae continues to hold to her faith and steps forward, ready for Ava to make her decision…and Ava can’t pull the trigger.

Fast forward again. The marshals arrive just in time to rescue Ellen Mae from the other members of the Crowder gang. As Raylan brings Ellen Mae into the squad car, he casually tells her that the only reason they were there is that Drew got them searching for her; that it seemed like “Someone was looking out for you all along”.

And just like that – because it comes out of the mouth of Raylan, even if he didn’t mean it quite that way – we’re given permission to see what happened the way Ellen Mae sees it: A series of small miracles that resulted in the rescue of an innocent woman because she repented of her sin and gave herself to Christ.

If this doesn’t seem that amazing to you…really think about this. Where else is this story played out in popular media? Where else can we find a story mass marketed to the general viewing population about salvation through the blood of Christ?

This wasn’t a Christian show. It never had that reputation and never tried for that reputation. It was a neo-western cop drama. And this storyline was just…there. A part of the show. Right in front of you.

That’s incredible.

“Justified” was doing something remarkable, and nobody remarked upon it.

One of the most underappreciated shows ever.

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No, Really, It’s Funny!

A service announcement:

It has recently been suggested to me that I have no sense of humor. This is, in fact, entirely false. I find a great many things funny, and I hope that I sometimes am funny myself. The reason some people think I’m humorless is simply that my humor is very dry.

Take “The Great Divorce”, possibly my favorite book. TGD is brilliant, and very frightening, and very, very funny. Like the opening, when he talks to the communist on the bus, who only becomes a communist when he loses his job and mooches off his parents. That’s hilarious!

Or the lady who dissolves into a sour smell because she refuses to let go of a petty slight and won’t…stop…talking. Like a woman, natch. Also hilarious! Or the guy attempting to drag an apple from the bright land with him back into Hell! Funny stuff!

I told a friend how funny it was. He read it, liked it…and then said. “But where is the humor?”

I pointed him to the communist scene. He didn’t get it.

You either see that or you don’t.

Lewis’s funniest scene, of course, is the climax of “Out of the Silent Planet” where Ransom “translates” Winston’s high-minded rhetoric and exposes it for the near-nonsensical babble it is. That whole scene is hysterical! But any time I get someone to read it, they give me a blank look and say “What’s funny about it?”

And, you know…he’s making fun of him! It’s funny!

And, of course, there’s Chesterton. “The Man Who Was Thursday” is one of the funniest books ever written. If you don’t get why a Council of Anarchists is funny, I submit that you live in a duller world than I. Or if you don’t find the scene of Gabriel convincing the anarchists to elect him Thursday funny. It’s hysterical! I was cracking up the entire time. But there are people who don’t see it, and I think that’s sad.

More examples. Flannery O’Connor. If you read O’Connor, you either find her hilarious or you just don’t like her writing. I find her hilarious. “Good Country People” is as far as I’m concerned a humor story. But some people just…don’t…get it.

“A Series of Unfortunate Events” is yet another example. Look, if you don’t understand why Patrick Warburton saying in a total deadpan that he weeps uncontrollably at night whenever he thinks about Count Olaf is funny, then maybe you and I have different senses of humor. You either think that’s hilarious or you don’t. I think that’s hilarious.

Or why this scene is funny:

I mean, come on. The hook-handed man is playing the piano! It’s hilarious!

I dunno. Some people just don’t get it. Oh well, I guess.

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A Few Suggestions

Ohio woman set for deportation after traffic violation

Wow! That’s some headline! Really terrible stuff! But I have some friendly suggestions for other possible headlines:

Woman living double life for two decades brought to justice after breaking law

Woman exploiting citizenship loophole reaps the consequences of her actions

Woman is finally sent back to her home country after two decades of criminal activity

Woman’s failure to obey citizenship laws leads to heartbreak for her children

Try it! It’s fun!

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My Version of the Parable

Three men prayed in an otherwise empty Chuch. One, sitting in a pew, went down onto his knees, quiet, head bowed. He spoke to Christ, but with his voice low. God commended this man as good. This was the kneeling man

One man went and knelt at the very foot of the Cross, in the front of the Church. He raised his hands out in supplication to God, and sang a hymn, low at first, then louder as he got caught up in his prayer. He cried out to God in thanks, and asked God for his mercy. And God commended this man as good. This was the singing man.

The third man sat in the back of the Church, and had been on his knees praying quietly like the kneeling man. When the second man started singing, he appeared to the first man to grow more and more agitated. Finally, to the kneeling man’s mild horror, he walked over to the singing man and whispered something in his ear, and the kneeling man was sure the singing man would stop singing. But he just smiled wider and sang louder while the third man stood awkwardly for a moment before sitting back down.

The kneeling man shook his head and thought to himself “I shall call that third man the Pharisee; for look at how he tried to interrupt the joy of a child of God singing his praises and calling his name! What a terrible thing that is!”

And God responded, Oh foolish man, that third man is not the Pharisee, but a true Christian. For he did not ask for him to stop singing, but to add him to his prayers.

The only Pharisee here, kneeling one, is you.

My attempt to translate Steve Gershom’s parable post into an actual parable.

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In Other News…

Just auditioned for Hamlet and utterly bombed. Blanked on my monologue, sputtered and had to look at my phone. Just terrible.

Got a callback.

Cool!

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Hmmmmmm

I will say that this is probably the best and more careful argument I’ve seen Mr. Wright write about his point of view on authority. And some of it seems to be a fair attempt to argue the superiority of a republic over a monarchy – whether it is successful or not this is a perfectly fine and reasonable debate to have.

But I still have some issues with it.

Note: Spacing is going to be weird because I copied much of this from somewhere else and I don’t find it important enough to bother to fix things.

EDIT: Fixed!

The submission to an elected representative, or winning an election, is not the same as being born in service or born into leadership. One is by birth, hence unrelated to merit; the other is based on the ability to persuade voters to vote for you.

This is quite simply untrue. Let us say I vote for a different representative, or did not vote at all, as a form of protest. I am not thus exempt from submitting to the elected representative, nor was I allowed to pick the government I was born under; I was simply born there.

Mr. Wright seems to think that everyone who disagrees with him is actually a monarchist. I am not a monarchist. Even if I did think monarchy was probably the best form of government – I don’t know this is the case – I still would not have any particular desire to be above or below Mr. Wright.

Another form of the argument is to point out that it is self evident that all men are created equal, and therefore the form of government rests on their consent, or else it is unjust. Where men are equal, the process of changing the form of government can be accomplished peacefully; whereas those who profit from an unequal form rarely if ever surrender power peacefully.

This argument is pertinent only when dealing with brave, free and honest men, who are too proud to bow to any mere mortal as king. The studied policy of the Left for several generations has been to eliminate as far as possible those things which encourage bravery, freedom, and honesty from our lives.

The public school system teaches conformity, non-competition and girlishness to drive out bravery; the popular entertainments preach and the welfare state pays money to encourage selfishness and self-indulgence to drive out freedom; and the news preaches political correctness to drive out honesty.

A people who are craven, slavish, and dishonest not only yearn for superiors to rule them, they require it.

Both of these arguments are conditional, and depend on the habits and the character of the people, to make the correct assessment as to where the greater danger rests.

Likewise, most nations for most of history consist of a ruling class peopled with the descendants of conquerors. Maintaining their hold over the conquered requires a class division. The abolition of civil rights among the conquered, in order to prevent their arming themselves, speaking of uprising, or gathering in assemblies, is needed to police their discontent and prevent mutiny. Such states, however, do prevent anarchy. The overthrow of such states is not a matter to be undertaken for light or transient reasons.

Hence, even when among a slavish and undisciplined people whose disorders demand a despot’s iron scepter to crush their excesses, the natural rights of one and all are equal, and the legal inequalities are still a moral evil, excused by the necessity of keeping the public order.

So all men are created equal…but not Americans. Americans, you see, are good and noble enough to shun kings. It’s only the inferior folk – one might, in fact, say those who are unequal to us – who need a boot on their throat.

And I guess he is a utilitarian, since he says point blank that moral evil can be “excused” for a greater good. Since he has been very clear this whole time that moral evil is directly related to political authority, I guess he believes the ends justify the means.

…Or he doesn’t mean that. In which case, what exactly is he saying? Is monarchy ever a good idea? Or is it is never a good idea? And if it is a good idea, what on earth would make you think that a country that within a mere 200 years legally sanctioned by the sword the murder of the unborn in numbers that make a mockery of the Holocaust is in any way fit to be kings of themselves?

In the final desperation of a man whose arguments are not being heard, I resort to a simple and clear challenge:

Do those who yearn for inequality wish to be placed in the political order above me, to give me orders from an unearned position of authority; or do they wish to be placed below me, to take orders in an undeserved posture of submission?

Certainly I do not think any man is under me or over me in terms of human dignity. In terms of political authority? I’d imagine we should probably be on the same plane…though if he WERE my king, unlike him, I would indeed tip my cap.

If you’re wondering why I’m saying this here and not there, I did try and discuss it with him, several months ago. He insulted me viciously, cruelly, and repeatedly while I tried to be as polite as possible. He then apologized. I accepted. But I’ve learned that I simply cannot discuss the subject with him, in any case.

I say that if it is the second, claiming to be below me, then as the superior, I here and now order and command silence on this point. As an inferior in political rank, political matters are beyond your ken. Without any showing of merit on my part, or any reason given, I am allowed to silence all further argument: you are by birth born obligated to obey me. So shut up.

I believe one respondent argued that this proposal was unfair, because a highborn man should be highminded enough to listen to wisdom from any source, even from a slave.

My answer is that this is quite the democratic sentiment coming from a monarchist: but the judgment as to when and where to listen rests with he who has the right to speak, and not with he who lacks that right.

A general can debate a private if he wishes, but the private cannot debate a general without his superior’s leave. (And even so, the general is not allowed to hold such a debate if and when it risks detracting from unit discipline, by encouraging familiarity, fraternization, or insolence.)

And finally – what makes him think that our country’s political leaders in any way need to listen to the writings of anybody they consider “beneath” them? Last I checked the President picked a personal council of advisers to carefully filter what advice they did or did not get. How is that different than any king deciding which advice he does or does not hear? Even Alexander the Great respected Diogenes.

A large portion of this is a very well-argued and rational argument for the superiority of republics over monarchies. Okay. I have no problem with that. And then he veers off into stuff that I find completely bizarre.

Hmph.

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No, There’s No Equality Before God Either

Get ready, kids. This one is gonna be fun.

Let us consider me: I am a middle class white suburbanite. I had an excellent childhood with a loving family, was raised in a Catholic home, and went to a Catholic high school and college, where I took orthodox theology classes with brilliant teachers. I considered very briefly the Priesthood at one point, but not seriously enough to pursue the matter. If I commit to any vocation, it will almost certainly be marriage. My “reach”, to coin a phrase, will ultimately end up being rather modest (the reason we see more unmarried than married Saints is actually quite simple – those who are married need to be concerned with their own families, but the clergy have much broader responsibilities).

Let us consider an African orphan child. He has only the vaguest concept of Christianity and knows very little about it. Frankly, his future vocation doesn’t really concern him so much as not starving to death. His “reach” is going to be small as is, and in regards to inspiring people to follow Christ, almost non-existent.

Let’s consider Pope Francis, the head of the universal Church, vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, Monarch of the Vatican. To this day the preeminent world religious leader. Millions, perhaps billions, look to him daily for spiritual guidance. His reach is enormous, his responsibility tremendous.

All three of us die on the same day, struck by lightning. Does God cast down the exact same judgment on all three of us, accounting for all of our sins in exactly the same way?

I certainly hope not. I hope God judges all three of us *very* unequally.

The Indian caste system is the example I see most often for a society that does not believe all men are equal before God, because of the “Untouchable” caste and the historically horrible treatment they have been confronted with throughout history. But this actually has nothing to do with equality before God. It has to do with two things:

  1. Bad logic. There is of course no good reason for us to believe that the untouchables deserve their terrible lot. To think they do is sheer ignorance (which nowadays is often confused with “bigotry” and “racism”. They’re not the same thing, though ignorance in some ways is the most harmful). It’s simply wrong.
  2. Not giving them the dignity due to all men. As human beings, they are indeed created in the image of God, and thus deserve to be treated as such. We shall call this the standard baseline for treatment of human beings – a level of respect and care due to all mankind, no matter what.

The problem with the Untouchables, then, has nothing to do with them not being equal, either before the throne of God or politically. It has to do with the much more fundamental issue of them not being treated like humans at all, but like animals.

There is a lot more to say – indeed, I started to say it, then started backspacing – but I’ll leave this here to chew on for now.

Related Reading: How the “good kind” of equality leads to mass murder.

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