The War on Halloween

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It has long been the position of this blog that Halloween gets a bad rap, especially from the Christian Right. The holiday’s association with deviltry, witchcraft, and the occult is, of course, difficult to deny, but the holiday’s name is an abbreviation of “All Hallow’s Eve”; that is, the evening before All Saints’ Day on 1 November.

Granted, the Internet atheists will claim the roots of Halloween in Samhain, the Gaelic festival of the harvest. They are not wrong, per se—the influx of Irish immigrants into the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries brought a peculiarly Celtic flavor to the holiday. But the holiday is a Christian, specifically a Catholic, one—the Irishmen bringing tales of Jack O’Lantern and his carved turnip (it would only later become a pumpkin) were not ancient pagans, but among the most devout believers in Europe.

Certainly the medieval Catholic Church had a habit of taking pagan holidays and replacing them with Christian observances. For some reason, Internet atheists always use these replacements as examples of Christianity’s secretly pagan roots. The argument is ludicrous.

When Hernan Cortez destroyed the Aztec temple at Tenochtitlan and built a cathedral in its place, was he honoring the bloodthirsty Aztec gods? Or was he symbolically noting that The Holy Trinity had displaced the false gods and idols of the Aztecs? It is almost certainly the latter. Similarly, when Christians took existing pagan observances and replaced them with Christian ones, they were symbolically and practically demonstrating the victory of Christ and His Church over pagan gods.

Indeed, much of the American Protestant objection to Halloween must have been due to its associations with the Papists, rather than the Devil. The mischievousness of the holiday in the twentieth century, especially the concept of trick-or-treating, probably has more to do with its more sinister modern associations.

But the latest assault on Halloween is coming from a different quarter.  No longer are conservative Christians alone in hedging their bets on the holiday.

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The Joy of Renaissance Music: Palestrina’s “Pope Marcellus” Mass

It’s another school year, which means another year going through the history of Western music in Pre-AP Music Appreciation.  This week we’re diving into Renaissance music, after spending last week covering the music of the Middle Ages.

Contrary to popular belief, the Middle Ages were not a period of depressing darkness, but rather a lively age.  I certainly wouldn’t want to be a peasant pushing an ox cart full of dung, but that peasant knew his place in the universe, in the sense that he knew he was part of an ordered cosmos with God at both its head and its center.

More on that another time, but I mention it to note that the Renaissance would not have been possible without that long age of faith in the Middle Ages.  Still, the Renaissance Period—variably dated, but starting roughly sometime in the fifteenth century, and extending to the seventeenth century—was a period of increased interest in the art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, especially the human realism depicted in the art of those great civilizations, both a continuation of and a departure from the Middle Ages.

It also saw the declining influence of the Catholic Church in Europe, especially in the wake of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.  As Protestantism and other social forces broke the Church’s monopoly on education and its dominance over art and music, Catholicism mounted a Counter-Reformation, aimed at both reducing the influence of Protestantism and reforming real abuses within the Roman Church.

That effort, naturally, involved revisions to music.  Catholic priests denounced the increasingly theatrical nature of church music, decrying it as distracting from the simple message of the Gospel and the sacred Latin text, instead serving as gaudy entertainment for Mass goers.  Much like the megachurch arena rock concerts of today, services had become garish and maudlin, a reflection of the corruption within the Church.

It was in this context that Giovanni Pieluigi da Palestrina composed his greatest works.  According to Roger Kamien in Music: An Appreciation (the eighth brief edition, which I use with my students), Palestrina composed some 104 masses and 450 other sacred works, and his music became, essentially, the gold standard of church music until modern times (“masses” in the musical context are works built around five sung prayers, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, not to be confused with the Catholic service).

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TBT: Things That Go Bump in the Night

Despite my griping about South Carolina weather in yesterday’s post, the first day of September was surprisingly cool and overcast, giving the slightest taste of the crisp autumnality to come.  This time of year always gets me thinking about Halloween and spooky stuff, especially as everything feels more magical.

Our modern minds have diminished and dismissed the supernatural as mere superstition, often accompanied with attempts to explain away supernatural phenomena with explanations that themselves require faith to believe.  That “faith” is in scientism, a counterfeit “religion” built purely on a material understanding of the world.

We see but through a glass darkly.  There is more to our world than meets the eye—more to it than what we can observe.  God tells us much of what is there—at least, what we need to know—and Scripture seems to suggest we shouldn’t go looking for things beyond Him and His Son.

Seems prudent to me.  With that, here is 2 September 2021’s “Things That Go Bump in the Night“:

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Supporting Friends Friday: Audre Myers

I’ve been on a roll featuring blogger buddies on Supporting Friends Friday as of late, notably with my feature of photog last week.  If photog is my avuncular ally in the world of under-the-radar right-wing blogging, then today’s featured friend, Audre Myers of Nebraska Energy Observer, is probably the doting aunt who “likes” every post and almost always leaves some kind of feedback and encouragement on the blog.

She’s also brought new readers to my blog, such as 39 Pontiac Dreamer, whose comments this past week have really enlivened the blog (and inspired Wednesday’s post).  I’ve also noticed that since bringing 39PD to the blog’s comment sections, my page views have skyrocketed, thanks to the raucous back-and-forth between Audre, 39PD, Neo, and myself (feel free to join in, dear readers, and enjoy the fun!).

Audre’s encouragement and recommendations have shaped my own blog profoundly.  Many of the film reviews on the site over the past two months have been from Shudder, and Audre is to thank—she and a colleague both recommended the service heartily, and it’s become pretty much the only streaming content I consume besides YouTube videos.  Indeed, my review of The Man Who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot (2018) is a direct consequence of Audre mentioning the film!

More importantly, Audre is a skilled writer and thinker in her own right, though, not just a cheerleader and booster of my rambling scribblings.  She brings a warm, almost motherly perspective to the issues of the day, without descending into hyper-feminized sentimentality (something I am probably more likely to do than her, truth be told).  She employs literary and filmic allusions to highlight her points, making them easier to understand, without falling into the trap of the Harry Potter kids who use the popular book series as their entire frame of reference for understanding the world.

In short, Audre’s writing is fun, entertaining, and lively, while still retaining a sense of seriousness about the issues facing the world today.

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Lazy Sunday CXXVII: Joy, Part II: Music

The first short week of the new school year is in the books, and assuming I’m still alive when this post pops this morning, I survived!

That’s reason enough to be joyful, but in case my survival of a three-day workweek doesn’t inspire you, here are some more “the joy of” posts of a decidedly musical extraction that might:

That’s it for this weekend’s joyful musings.  Here’s to a musically fulfilling Sunday!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Let’s Get Biblical: Elijah and the 7000

It’s easy to get discouraged in the face of all the insanity and absurdity of the wokesters, who aren’t just unwashed Antifa thugs picking fights in the streets.  Woke-ism, Cultural Marxism, CRT, progressivism, etc.—whatever name we give it, the ideology dominates our institutions, our ruling class, and our popular culture.

In the face of such totality, it’s little wonder that conservatives and traditionalists grow pessimistic about the future.  Despair is seductive, and misery loves company.

As Christians, however, despair is profoundly sinful.  When we give into despair—into hopelessness—we are denying God’s Sovereignty, His Power and His Plan to guide us through the present storm.

During my pastor’s sermon this past Sunday, he mentioned in passing the passages from 1 Kings 19 in which Elijah curls up under a broom tree and prays for death.  Despite defeating the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel in the previous chapter, Elijah despairs, for he knows that Jezebel has put a price on his head—and he feels utterly alone.

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TBT: Baby Sea Turtle

It’s the last quiet week of summer vacation before returning to school.  It’s been a good summer, with a trip to Universal Studios; a grueling but successful move; and getting a dog.  The one thing I didn’t do this summer is see a baby sea turtle take its first, adorable steps into the sea.

But I did get to see that last summer!

There’s something magical and miraculous about witnessing a baby sea turtle leave his little egg and waddle into the ocean.  I thought I’d never see it in my lifetime unless I was specifically trying to see it.

Adding to the magic was that it was totally unplanned—wonderful happenstance.

With that, enjoy this treacly little post, 3 August 2020’s “Baby Sea Turtle“:

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Supporting Friends Friday: The Music of John Pickett

The local music scene in the Pee Region of South Carolina is surprisingly robust, with some truly stellar musicians.  The creative heart of this scene rests in several open mic nights at local coffee shops.  Currently, the two big open mics to have resumed are at The Purple Fish Coffee Company in Darlington, South Carolina, and at Crema Coffee Bar in Hartsville, South Carolina.  The Fish hosts its open mic on Friday evenings, and Crema hosts its on Tuesday nights.

The other major open mic—probably the most enduring of the current Big Three—was at Lula’s Coffee Company in Florence, South Carolina.  Lula’s, however, has not resumed its legendary Thursday night open mic night—an open mic so artistically fervent, it inspired an entire book of poetry—much to the chagrin and bafflement of its most devoted performers, yours portly included.

But before there were any of these establishments, there was Bean Groovy, a now-defunct coffee shop that used to occupy a magical little bit of strip mall in Florence.  I know the former owner of Bean Groovy—himself a studio engineer in the distant past—and despite some attempts to reopen the establishment at other locations, it’s never made a return.

Nevertheless, Bean Groovy was where I got my start in local music in the Pee Dee, way back in the hazy, halcyon days of circa 2012-2013.  It, along with The Midnight Rooster in Hartsville (still in business, but it’s shifted from being a quirky coffee house into a frou-frou upscale dining establishment) were my old stomping grounds as I broke my way into the region’s open mic scene.

It was at Bean Groovy sometime in probably 2012 or 2013 that I met one of my best friends, John Pickett.  John is an excellent guitarist and singer, and he possesses one of the best ears for music I’ve ever encountered.

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Let’s Get Biblical: The Wisdom of Exodus 22

This past Sunday we had a guest speaker at church, a pastor with a children’s home ministry.  The ministry began with a home in southwestern Virginia, and has expanded to an orphanage in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca, Mexico.  Both children’s homes are in poor, mountainous communities—the former the region where my late great-grandmother lived.  Both orphanages do amazing work with the kids, combining work (like gardening, feeding donkeys, and the like) with play—even a band!

In giving his talk about the ministry, the guest pastor referenced a few passages of Scripture.  Aside from the famous passage from Matthew 19:14 in which Jesus told the disciples to “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven,” the pastor also referenced Exodus 22:22-24, which deals with how widows and orphans are to be treated:

22You must not mistreat any widow or orphan. 23If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to Me in distress, I will surely hear their cry. 24My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; then your wives will become widows and your children will be fatherless.

It’s a pretty powerful passage, and a reminder that God doesn’t mess around with sin, especially against the weakest and most defenseless.  We like to think that God has “mellowed out” since sending Jesus to die for our sins, but that’s dangerously wishful thinking.  God doesn’t change, and His Wrath is still mighty.

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