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I’ve Been Reading History Again

I’ve been thinking lately about the fall of the Roman Empire.

Let the reader understand.

I am specific when I saw Roman Empire as opposed to “Fall of Rome” because one of my historical presuppositions is Rome, as an idea, never actually fell. The empire collapsed, but not the idea. In fact, collapse is probably not the best word for it. Disintegrate would be better. Governmental structures evaporated but people still continued to think of themselves as Roman and they passed these ideals along. They were so successful at maintaining the ideals that today we celebrate the American Senate, our civic architecture is decidedly Roman, garrisons man outposts in every corner of the empire, our legal code is rife with Latinisms, and the national symbol is an eagle.

I will not bore you with my analysis of the Roman Empire’s demise. Instead, I want to share an observation I found in one of my old history texts. As you know, the Empire in the west fell in 476 A.D. but the Empire in the east, Byzantium, continued on for centuries. The discussion in the history text was of the church — a specific interest of mine, for obvious reasons — and how it viewed itself in these two very different parts of the Roman experience. In the east, the church viewed itself as intertwined with the empire itself, like the priesthood in ancient Israel’s kingdom. Byzantine faith was comfortable blending and bending the decrees of emperors with the teachings of the church.

By contrast, the church in the west learned to view secular power with suspicion. It was not the Christian empire extending ecclesiastical power at will, but rather it was Noah’s Ark, seeking to save and rescue the faithful as the world drowned in a rising flood of chaos. To be sure, this is the snapshot of the church at the end of the Roman Empire in the west. Eventually, history teaches, the church would grab at secular power with both hands, clutching and clawing for as much control and wealth as possible.

But that was not the case at the end. At the end, it was the church that held order. It was bishops who negotiated with tribal chieftains to spare cities. It was the church that gathered up orphans and raised them. It was the church that held together legal systems. It was the church that brought organization — even borrowing the terms like diocese to describe things.

Allow me, please, to philosophize a moment from the historical situation about the present. These two views are powerful in today’s American ecclesiastical landscape. Some view the church as a partner with politics, both on the left and the right, to wield power. Others, both on the right and the left, think of the church as an instrument to rescue those who are perishing, those drowning in the chaos of change and the evaporation of civilization.

The current climate we are in, perhaps, is the most Roman we have ever experienced.

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Happy 244th Birthday!

A couple of years ago I made this list of things I love about my nation — the United States of America — and it is all still true. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe celebration of Independence Day. Maybe make your own list. I’d love to see it.


  1. I love that we have three co-equal branches of government.
  2. I love that criticizing leadership, elected officials, and policies we disagree with is an act of patriotism. America was born in rebellion!
  3. I love Election Nights. I’ll take Super Tuesday results over a Super Bowl any day.
  4. I love the Bill of Rights and the fundamental freedoms–religion, speech, press, assembly, personal protection, and trial by jury.
  5. I love that we can amend our Constitution to correct wrongs, like slavery.
  6. I love all of those Lincoln/Kennedy comparisons.
  7. I love that spot in Michigan where I can look south and be looking at Canada.
  8. I love that the French helped us beat the Brits, and then we repaid the favor by kicking the Nazi’s out of France.
  9. I love the ideals of our Founding Fathers–equality, opportunity, fairness under the law, and liberty.
  10. I love that we chose English as our language, because English is so messed up and thus is more fun to play with.
  11. I love that Texas history is pretty much American history.
  12. I love the Southwest–desert, cactus, dry, and beautiful.
  13. I love Puget Sound.
  14. I love the sugar white beaches of Destin.
  15. I love the unique characteristic of each region of the nation, that New Yorkers and Idahoans share the same love of country and national destiny, but not the same culture.
  16. I love how we are an amalgamation of so many different peoples–Germans, French, Mexican, Irish, Iranian, Native American, Polynesian, and so many other rich heritages that add to this unique experience of being American.
  17. I love the classic movies of Hollywood–Casablanca, Red River, North by Northwest, Bullitt, and Mars Attacks.
  18. I love Hamburgers with mustard, onions, tomatoes and French fries doused in ketchup washed down with a cherry Coke.
  19. I love American cars and blue jeans.
  20. I love the American Flag. It has an intrinsic beauty beyond the sum of its parts.
  21. I love baseball at the diamond on a hot day.
  22. Speaking of baseball, I love that our national anthem is practically unsingable–because who wants an easy national anthem!

Super Tuesday Analysis

Last night was a pop the popcorn and make the red Kool-Aid night.

I thoroughly enjoyed Super Tuesday — that once every four years glorious exercise in democracy and chaos. The only thing that would have made last night better would have been contests in both parties like 2016. Oh man, that is so much fun. This year we only had the Democratic Party to have fun with, but that turned out to be enough. Here are my seven take-aways form the voting.

One: Sanders Caucuses better but primaries worse.

In 2016 Sanders did better in the caucuses than Hillary Clinton because caucuses support activism and energy. This year several states, like Minnesota, shifted from caucuses to primaries. I think that had a blunting effect on some of Bernie’s energy.

Two: It might really be about Hillary Clinton.

Oklahoma slipped away from Sanders. In 2016 he won it by ten percentage points. However, this year it went Biden by thirteen points. We must calculate the HC factor. Just as many people voted for President Trump in the general election because they couldn’t stomach Clinton, the same thing might have been happening in the primaries. Bernie perhaps never had as much real support as the 2016 campaign indicated.

Three: Jill Biden is the new James Bond.

Jill Biden’s literally having her husband’s back when some whack job stormed the stage to protest . . . milk, Dr. Jill Biden sprung into action, used proper footing and leverage, moved herself into a defensive posture, and handled the situation. Like. A. Pro.

Four: The Democratic Party is moderate/centrist.

In most of the states, if you total the Biden and Bloomberg vote and compare it with the totals of the Sanders and Warren vote, the Biden/Bloomberg coalition dominates. In fact, the demise of Elizabeth Warren, who came in THIRD in her home state is shocking. I always thought she missed her moment. She should have run in 2016 but she demurred to Clinton and it cost her. Sanders has a ceiling, and it is about twenty-eight. Even in very liberal Massachusetts, the Warren/Biden coalition only beat the Biden/Bloomberg group by three points.

Five: Barack Obama has long coattails.

Biden’s success is a borrowed success. People voted for him because of the Obama legacy of solid, stable, no drama-Obama governance. That is what people were voting for — rejecting the revolution and rejecting the message candidates in favor of familiar.

Six: We can do better than this.

Why on earth did anyone have to stand in line for more than fifteen minutes or so to vote? I do not understand places in Texas and California where people were lined up for more than two hours. FIX THIS!

Seven: Zingers!

I heard some great lines last night. Perhaps the best was Brian Williams: “Michael Bloomberg isn’t having the kind of night he thought he paid for.” That is just beautiful. Brit Hume had another great line — “If Biden wins and he debates Donald Trump, the loser will be the English language.” That is a special kind of snark right there which I appreciate very much. Of course, Brit Hume currently has his own bag of vinyl problems.

The Las Vegas Democratic Debate

I don’t have a lot of time for detailed analysis — but here is my hot take. Keep in mind as you read, Greenbean has no dog in this hunt, no horse in the race, no lettuce in this salad. I don’t trust any politicians but I enjoy observing the process. This makes me perfectly impartial.

Let me take them in order as they come to mind.

Exactly how many nondisclosure agreements have you signed with
former employees, Mr Weinstein, I mean, Mayor Bloomberg?

Elizabeth Warren crushed it. Desperation seems to bring out the best in her. Her performance last night made me yearn to see her and President Trump on the same stage together. We could erase the national debt selling tickets to that event. I really liked how she called out Bloomberg right out of the gate. That was priceless, and her line about ‘substituting one arrogant billionaire for another’ was brilliant. Great rhetoric.

Why is Joe Biden screaming? He seems to have no middle tone. Uncle Joe is either down home folksy or angry yelling. I don’t think that is a strategy for long term endearment. He should go eat some ice cream and chill. I know his main asset is the association with President Obama, but he needs to stop talking about that. President Obama won the last election he’ll ever have. If Biden wants to be President, he needs to tell us about him.

Bloomberg was not prepared. Surely someone on his staff briefed him on how they would come at him? Surely? If not, Mayor Bloomberg, for a couple of billion of your dollars, I’ll help you get ready for the next one. If – you – make – it – that- far.

Bernie Sanders would get crushed by Donald Trump. The class envy which fuels his platform is only working for a third of Democrats, but the United States would choose mean tweets and Apprentice: White House (who will get fired this week?) over someone coming to take their hard earned livelihood. Capitalism is not perfect, but Bernie Sanders has a real disdain for it.

Amy Klobuchar didn’t have a strong night like she did in New Hampshire, but she recovered from the cheap shot Pete Buttigieg and had the best closing statement. Klobuchar needs to smile more — Like President Obama had, her smile is a powerful tool at her disposal. It would also behoove her to get specific. When the Univision Reporter scolded her for not knowing the President of Mexico’s name, she should have turned that around and said, “You’re right. It was a bad moment, I forgot his name, but what I will never ever forget is children in cages on the border, and here is the policy I will implement immediately . . .”

Pete Buttigieg had moments where he came across as human and reasonable. He also had moments where he was petulant and, I must say, cringeworthy. His attacks on Klobuchar were forced and unnatural in the context. I also think he missed the memo that Bloomberg and Bernie were the targets. But then, he kind of likes his billionaires. Also, and this is completely aesthetic, but it looked like Buttigieg forgot to pack his razor. I mean, if he is growing a beard that would be awesome, but the day old stubble didn’t look good at all.


Two more observations real fast before I get to work. First, the moderators for this event were not very good. I don’t know what their plan was, but they kept talking over the candidates, one another, and trying to orchestrate ‘gotcha’ moments. That is not what voters want from moderators. Ask policy or issue questions and them step back, please. Second, Anyone besides me notice foreign policy and the gun debate were missing from this debate? In other words, this debate was served up perfectly for Bernie Sanders.