Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Non-fiction essays and articles.

Ty cobb and baseball’s new gentleman’s agreement.

(Editor’s note: Greetings and thank you from the BOOM. One of our readers asked for the following article to be retracted or the section on Ty Cobb removed because it perpetuates an unproven mythology of Ty as a person and player. They refer to the book written by Charles Leehrsen, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, in which he argues that the stories of Ty as a violent racist are largely, if not entirely, untrue, and that there is even evidence that Ty could have been opposed to racial injustice, like the segregation of Baseball.

And while Mr. Leehsen’s thesis may in fact be true, we, like him, do our research and we respectfully disagree with his argument. Ty was a racist and violent, some could argue, murderously violent. Unfortunately, all we have is circumstantial evidence to demonstrate the character truths of the man. Nonetheless, we are glad to have an opposing viewpoint that is so well researched and chooses a challenging position to a very complicated subject.

Finally, Ty Cobb, is not the only one. There was a system of racism that was perpetuated within the MLB for nearly sixty years. The kind of system that can only be maintained if those in power are 1) aware of it 2) support its purpose. There is no doubt many more than the four men that are mentioned in the following are guilty of being white supremacists. The four in question were just more obvious about their views. We hope, as always, that you enjoy the following. BOOM)

Watching Major League Baseball’s World Series, it’s difficult not to get drawn into the mystique, or maybe more accurately, the mythology of the so-called, “national pastime.” Since its inception in the middle of the 19th century, baseball has been about one thing, inclusion. All you need is a stick and a rock and a small piece of space, and you have the makings of a baseball game. Anyone, regardless of gender or race, or economic circumstances, can play baseball.

It is truly one of the greatest inventions of humankind.

In America, it is the superlative American Sport.

A container and curator of the American experience, it holds a very privileged place as a reflection of our culture and society. In this way, baseball acts like a mirror, reflecting those issues that are foremost in the American mind. Take for example the most recent world series between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros. Is it surprising that the Atlanta Brave “tomahawk chop” has attracted so much controversy? Not when one considers how systemic racism has become one of the defining issues for America in the 21st century.

In the past decade, American’s have demanded that dozens of pieces of historical materiality, such as statues and paintings, be removed from publicly accessible areas, including parks, government buildings, publicly funded institutions, because they reflect problematic themes that have been deemed insensitive to under-represented populations. 

For example, on September 8, 2021, a “12-ton…statue”[1] honoring the former head of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, General Robert E. Lee, was removed from Richmond, Virginia’s so-called Monument Avenue, where it had stood for over one-hundred and thirty years. Despite General Lee’s significance as one of the most important military figures in American history, the monument had long been viewed as a “symbol of racism and oppression…[an] idol of white supremacy.”[2]

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – SEPTEMBER 08: Crews remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue, September 8, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. The Commonwealth of Virginia is removing the largest Confederate statue remaining in the U.S. following authorization by all three branches of state government, including a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court of Virginia. (Photo by Steve Helber – Pool/Getty Images)

But it wasn’t until the murder of George Floyd, and the re-emergence of the movement known as Black Lives Matter in 2020, that talk of its removal became an American, socio-cultural cause cé·lè·bre. The removal of General Lee’s controversial sculpture and pedestal seemed to be the pinnacle of a nationwide effort to eradicate all vestiges of racist symbolism. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “168 Confederate symbols [have been] renamed or removed from public spaces…”[3]

With all the scrutiny on American institutions, it seems reasonable to expect that Major League Baseball (MLB), and its famous museum, the Hall of Fame (HOF), would be subject to the same kind of racial-scrubbing that has occurred throughout the country. Sadly, the opposite is true, instead of ridding itself of the remnants of its racist past, the MLB and its HOF seem content to simply ignore the issue and pretend that they are exempt from such criticism.

For almost fifty years, the Hall of Fame has endeavored to “honor…and immortalize (italics mine)” its inductees as representative “of the highest mark of achievement in the game”[4] that, for over a century, has been widely recognized as America’s, “national pastime”.[5] As “keeper of the game”[6] the Hall of Fame’s self-proclaimed, three-fold mission has been “preserving [baseball’s] history…honoring excellence [amongst the baseball community]…[and] connecting generations [of its fans].”[7] It is for these reasons, the HOF holds a unique and some would say “hallowed” place within American society and culture.[8]

And yet, it continues to honor people everyone (by everyone I mean baseball historians, players of the game, coaches, GMs, etc.) know were violent and hate-filled white supremacists, who openly mistreated Black Americans because of the color of their skin.[9]

Perhaps the most egregious example is Ty Cobb.

tyrus cobb

To call Ty a ‘racist’ would only have pissed him off. He was a full-fledged member of the white-supremacy movement that established itself during Reconstruction and led to the formation of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

In his book, Baseball as I have Known It, renowned baseball journalist and historian Fred Lieb wrote, “Ty had a contempt for Black people and in his own language, ‘he would never take their Iip’… I don’t know if [he] was a Klansman but I suspect he was.”[10]

Ty was also violent.

 

Of course, it was downplayed and marginalized in the media because, just like now, NO ONE really wanted to talk about racism and baseball, the gentleman’s agreement[11] made sure of that. But just as Ken Burns’ asserts,[12] and I agree, Ty Cobb is a stain upon the MLB as the American, national pastime.

In an era in which America is demanding its institutions rid themselves of any racist iconography, how is it possible that a man like this could still be in the Hall of Fame?

The answer is simple. No one wants to talk about it. Not the team owners, not the players, not the media, not the fans, not the NAACP, not BLM; nobody wants to talk about Ty Cobb or the others.

It reminds me of Baseball’s first gentleman’s agreement[13] when, back in the late-19th century, white baseball owners in both the major and minor leagues, struck a deal to prohibit the hiring of black players. Even though everyone knew of the arrangement including the owners, the players, the commissioner, and the media, few ever complained. In fact, some in the media became apologists for segregation, more or less parroting[14] what the owners argued was the real reason for why Black players didn’t play in professional baseball, because they weren’t good enough.[15]

The leagues would remain racially segregated for nearly 60 years until Jackie Robinson played his first major league game for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946.[16]

And yet, even though it has been integrated for over 80 years, Major League Baseball stubbornly refuses to free itself of the memories of its racist origins by continuing to honor individuals who represent the worst of America’s racist past.

Why? Because the Gentleman’s agreement of the 19th century continues to exist in the silence of those who cannot or will not hold baseball up to the same standards as other American institutions.[17] This includes the ownership, management, player personnel, and the media. By refusing to hold Baseball accountable, leaders of sports media like ESPN and Sports Illustrated have made themselves complicit to Major League Baseball’s gross racial insensitivity.

They’re tearing down statues in Virginia, they’re pulling down paintings at the Capitol, but no one wants to remove Ty Cobb from the Hall of Fame.

Removing the racist residue from the US Capitol.

For six decades, the MLB excluded thousands of American citizens from participating in the national pastime because of the color of their skin.[18] For it to continue as America’s socio-cultural analogue, it must now finish the work of history and remove the shadows of hate that continue to darken its halls.

[1] https://abcnews.go.com/US/virginia-remove-12-ton-robert-lee-statue-state/story?id=79862294

[2] See note 1.

[3] https://www.splcenter.org/presscenter/splc-reports-over-160-confederate-symbols-removed-2020

[4] https://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers

[5] https://baseballhall.org/about-the-hall

[6] See note 4.

[7] https://baseballhall.org/

[8] See note 4.

[9] Famed baseball journalist, Fred Lieb claimed both Tris Speaker (HOF, 1937) and Roger Hornsby (HOF, 1942) were members of the KKK (Lieb, 54). It was once said of Cap Anson (HOF, 1939), “…[he] was one of the prime architects of Baseball’s Jim Crow policies…” and had, “an intense hostility toward blacks” (Tygiel, 14). This means that of the first 27 inductees into the Hall of Fame, between 1936-42, four were hostile white supremacists. Given Baseball’s early history, there are more than likely others that should be added to this list. Kenesaw Landis, was another major figure in the fight to keep baseball white; (https://www.witf.org/2020/06/30/a-dark-past-mvps-say-time-to-pull-kenesaw-mountain-landis-name-off-plaques/). In a recent article for the BOOM, I discussed the segregationist period just prior to Jackie Robinson and the ugly history of the MacPhail Report, a terrible reminder of Baseball’s institutionalized racism (https://www.boomsalad.com/english/nonfiction/fordfrickaward).

[10] Fred Lieb, Baseball as I have Known It, (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1977), 54.

[11] Jules Tygiel, Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 13. This subject will discussed in detail later on in this essay.

[12] Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns, Season 1, Ep. 3, The Faith of Fifty Million People: 1910-1920, Directed by Ken Burns, 1994, DVD. 15:46.

[13] Tygiel, 13.

[14] The Sporting News, August 6, 1942 edition, in an OP-Ed entitled, “No Good From Raising Race Issue”, gave a lengthy rebuttal to those calling for the integration of baseball. Not coincidentally, their arguments would closely resemble those of the owners and league presidents who favored segregation, as detailed in the MacPhail Report of 1946. (Tygiel: 38, 39).

[15] See the BOOM’s discussion of the MacPhail report (https://www.boomsalad.com/english/nonfiction/fordfrickaward/)

[16] https://www.boomsalad.com/english/nonfiction/fordfrickaward

[17] Speaker Pelosi orders the removal of paintings from the U.S. Capitol building. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/18/us/politics/pelosi-confederate-portraits-house.html

[18] Tygiel, 30.

The Ford C. Frick Award: A disgraceful and unnecessary reminder of major league baseball’s racist past.

Ford C. Frick

Since 1978, Major League Baseball (MLB) has sought to recognize the careers of sports broadcasters and journalists who it claims have made “major contributions to baseball”[1] by honoring them with what is known as the Ford C. Frick Award. Named after the former MLB Commissioner, National League President, and Hall of Fame inductee. The award’s recipients include many of baseball’s most influential and well-known broadcasters, such as Mel Allen (1978), Red Barber (1978), Vin Scully (1982), Jack Buck (1987), Dick Enberg (2015), Bob Costas (2018), and just recently, Al Michaels (2021).[2] Understandably, it is considered one of the MLB’s most prestigious awards conferred upon any non-player. And yet, for many, it represents an unfortunate, and unsightly reminder of Baseball’s racist history.

How so?

Simply put, in honoring the memory of Mr. Frick in this way, the MLB is, in effect, celebrating a well-known segregationist and white supremacist. And while many in the baseball community may object to this characterization, they cannot argue with the historical record detailing Mr. Frick’s important role in upholding the League’s policies regarding segregation during the middle of the twentieth century. Perhaps the most infamous example is his involvement in the creation of the so-called “MacPhail Report” of 1946.[3]

Jackie Robinson

According to the late, baseball historian Jules Tygiel, “On July 8, 1946…the National and American Leagues established a joint steering committee ‘to consider and test all matters of Major League interest and report its conclusions and recommendations.’”[4] Amongst the numerous issues under consideration was the widespread practice of racial segregation, what the committee later referred to as the “Race Question.”[5] The year prior to the committee’s creation, Branch Rickey had famously broken MLB’s so-called “gentleman’s agreement”[6] by signing the now legendary, Jackie Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

According to Branch Rickey biographer, Murray Polner, the formation of the committee was, in many ways, a response to Rickey’s actions and an effort by the other owners and Baseball’s leadership “to keep [Major League Baseball] lily-white.”[7] Thus, the league appointed owners Larry MacPhail (Yankees), Thomas Yawkey (Red Sox), Sam Breadon (Cardinals), and Philip Wrigley (Cubs), along with both the President of the National League, Ford Frick, and American League, William Harridge, as members of the committee, with MacPhail“ elected [as] chairman.”[8]

The MacPhail Report, August 27, 1946.

Over the next six weeks, the committee met on several occasions and then presented their findings in the form of a 25-page report at an owner’s meeting held in Chicago on August 27, 1946. In the Forward of that report, the committee acknowledged that “Baseball…[was] under attack…” and that “Its right to survive as it ha[d] always existed [was] being challenged by rapidly changing conditions and new economic and political forces.”[9] Amongst these various challenges was the threat of integration, for which the committee sought to provide, “Methods to protect Baseball from charges that it [was] fostering unfair discrimination against the negro by reason of his race and color.”[10]

In subsection “E”, under the heading “Race Question”, the committee outlined the primary reasons, they believed, justified the continuation of the Major League’s informal policy of segregation. The first involved the fans. According to the report:

A situation might be presented, if Negroes participate in Major League games in which the preponderance of Negro attendance in parks such as the Yankee Stadium, the Polo Grounds and Comiskey Park could…threaten the value of the Major League franchises [with regards to white fans].

In other words, since the majority of those who attended the games were white, the committee feared that integrating the teams would lead to more Black fans attending. The result of which might prevent white fans from attending games all together. This, they argued, would no doubt have a deleterious effect on a team’s ticket sales and revenues.

The second reason given by the committee emphasized the “qualifications [or, lack thereof] of Negro players.” It stated:

The young Negro player never has had a good chance in baseball. Comparatively few good young Negro players are being developed. This is the reason there are not more players who meet major league standards in Negro leagues.[11]

Negro players, the report contended, lacked “the technique, the coordination, the competitive aptitude, and the discipline” necessary to play in the Major Leagues. One of the reasons cited was the Negro player’s lack of “minor league experience”. Of course, the committee failed to mention that the reason the Negro player had no experience in minor league baseball was because it, like the MLB, was also segregated.

Thus, the primary reasons proffered by the committee for why Black players couldn’t and shouldn’t play in the Major Leagues were, in the first instance, clearly racist, and in the second, promoted an overtly white-supremacist ideology. Despite these facts, at the end of the meeting, all the attendees were asked to sign the report as evidence of their agreement with its contents. Everyone (except for Branch Rickey), signed, including Ford Frick.[12]

Since then, many have attempted to defend Mr. Frick’s complicity by pointing to his actions after that infamous meeting in Chicago. For instance, some refer to a situation that occurred less than a year later when it was rumored that players on the St. Louis Cardinals were contemplating a strike if they were forced to play against Jackie Robinson. As National League President, Mr. Frick is reported to have instructed Cardinals’ owner Sam Breadon (another co-signor of the MacPhail report) to “Tell [the mutinous players] that if they go on strike, for racial reasons, or refuse to play in a scheduled game, they will be barred from baseball even though it means the disruption of a club or a whole league.” Murray Polner called it “Frick’s finest moment.”[13] And yet, while Mr. Frick’s words may seem to disprove any racist inclinations, one must ask, what choice did he have?

With Robinson now a fully-fledged MLB player it’s not as if Mr. Frick could have ignored the threat that a player walkout would have meant to the National League as a whole. The horse was already out of the barn. Moreover, it’s not as if his threat could be interpreted as some anti-racist polemic. Essentially, he was reminding the players that they were contractually obligated to play “scheduled games” regardless of who was playing on the other team. A more telling example of Mr. Frick’s views on race occurred years earlier, in 1943. According to Murray Polner, Bill Veeck Jr. sought to purchase the pitiful Philadelphia Phillies with the intent of “stock[ing] it with Negro players.”[14] When Frick learned of the plan, he, along with Commissioner Kenesaw Landis, blocked the sale to Veeck so as to prevent him from “contaminating the league [with Negro players].”[15]

Commissioner Landis and Ford C. Frick (on left)

The point is, regardless of Frick’s stand after the admittance of Jackie Robinson, his involvement in the formulation of the so-called MacPhail Report cannot, and should not, be ignored or excused. He helped to write it and then signed it, and in so doing, became an accomplice to one of the most disgraceful attempts to prolong a form of systemic racism that to this day is rightly viewed with disdain and disgust.

How then can the MLB defend itself for allowing something like the Ford C. Frick Award to continue to exist? It has been 75 years since that infamous day in Chicago, and yet, in honoring Frick with his own award, the MLB willfully ignores the man’s history as a racist. Perhaps even more shameful than the award itself is the fact that not a single Black journalist has ever received it. Thus, the Ford C. Frick Award has become nothing less than a pantheon of celebrated white men. Even if all the recipients are men worthy of recognition, the optics are very troubling. 

Bob Costas

Which begs the question, how do historians of the game, people who know Frick’s history, like Bob Costas allow themselves to be associated with it? It’s a shame and an embarrassment to baseball and an affront to all minority journalists who cover the game. Simply put, the Ford C. Frick Award is an unsightly and unfortunate reminder of Major League Baseball’s racist history, one that needs to be done away with. 

Major League Baseball Logo

 

_________________________________________________

Footnotes

[1] Major League Baseball, “Ford C. Frick Award”,  https://baseballhall.org/discover-more/awards/887

[2] Major League Baseball, “1978-1979”,  https://baseballhall.org/discover-more/awards/887#1978—79

[3] MacPhail Report. August 27, 2021 marks the 75th anniversary of the MacPhail Report.

[4] Jules Tygiel, Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 82.

[5] Tygiel, Baseball’s Great Experiment, 83.

[6] Doug Pappas, “The MacPhail Report”, Outside the Lines (SABR, Summer 1996), (http://roadsidephotos.sabr.org/baseball/MACPHAILREPT.htm

[7] Murray Polner, Branch Rickey: A Biography (New York: Signet, 1983), 187.

[8] Tygiel, 82-83.

[9] MacPhail Rpt. Pg.2

[10] MacPhail, 3.

[11] MacPhail, 19.

[12] Polner, Branch Rickey, 187.

[13] Polner, 198.

[14] Polner, 152.

[15] Tygiel, 41.

Ricky Bobby and Hollywood’s ugly history of othering.

As a film historian I am intensely aware of the inherent flaws of the cinematic narrative. The fact that it deals mostly in hyperbolic stereotype has been the Achilles heel of all popular film since the earliest iterations of the modern film paradigm. The classic example is of course D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. From a 21st century perspective, the use of so many disturbing and exaggerated racial stereotypes is offensive to the postmodern sensibility. And yet not much has changed when it comes to Hollywood’s reliance on and perpetuation of ugly and inaccurate stereotypes. A prime example is the film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

I remember the first time I watched the tale of Ricky Bobby, like many around the world, I found the comedy to be both outrageously funny and socio-culturally accurate. It was one of my all-time favorite comedies and I owned the regular and widescreen DVD versions, which I watched on a regular basis. Though I have family that lives in the Southeastern United States and are fervent NASCAR fans, I accepted Adam McKay and Will Ferrell’s vision of Southern culture without question. In other words, I allowed myself to believe that their version of the South, though a parody, was largely anchored in socio-cultural truth.

Thus, when we first encounter Ricky’s transient and criminal father, Reese Bobby, at his son’s school, or later, when we see Ricky Bobby’s first race, I laughed, just like everyone else, because I believed that no matter how outrageous their behavior, it was all based on a socio-cultural reality as to how Southerners are supposed to act. But that was fifteen years ago, and a lot has changed since then.

For instance, cultural movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo have brought increased scrutiny on media productions like feature films and how they portray individuals representing minority and formerly marginalized communities like LGBTQ. More and more, the viewing audience and critics have become highly aware of the damage that ugly stereotypes cause to the individuals and communities they claim to depict. The argument from producers of film and video, that they were just having fun is no longer satisfying when one realizes the degree of harm that denigrating another culture, race, or community through the cinematic arts can do. Again, I refer to the ultimate example, Griffith’s disgraceful masterpiece The Birth of a Nation. Productions like Talladega Nights are only a more recent version of that terrible and divisive paradigm.

Movie poster advertises ‘The Birth of a Nation,’ directed by D.W. Griffith and illustrating a Ku Klux Klan member on horseback, 1915. Based on the novel ‘The Clansman’ by Thomas Dixon. (Photo by John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images)

Recently, many have argued that comedy should be immune from socio-cultural critique and condemnation. Pundits of culturally problematic productions have sought to protect comedy as the great equalizer: comedy laughs at everybody, they insist. And yet, when one considers the trajectory of modern comedies, it becomes clear that they are not laughing at everybody. Comedians have long been under the delusion that they are the guardians and purveyors of the Freudian wit: a higher consciousness of the true, ironic nature of life and society. Thus, they have promoted themselves as better than the rest of us because of their unvarnished insights into the foibles of the human experience. Nothing could be more disingenuous.

Society and culture are finally coming to the realization that modern comedy is primarily about othering. Which is to say, that it is about making fun of someone else because of who they are, the culture they belong to, or their physical appearance and mannerisms. Comedy uses these distinctions as a means of differentiating between hero and villain, between who is admired and who is laughed at. Talladega Nights is an important example of this dichotomy and the socio-cultural deception that it perpetuates.

The only thing southern about Will Ferrell is his birthplace in Southern California. Likewise, Adam McKay is an old-school northerner from Philadelphia. Neither of these men could be, or would be considered, in any professional context, experts of the South. Their portrayals of the Southerner, therefore, are largely based on antiquated stereotypes that originate in the Civil War. Southerners are thus depicted as stupid buffoons who are socially backwards, naïve, and dangerous. All Southerners, including the women and children, are portrayed with this lens. Even Ricky’s mother, a kind of heroic outlier to the Southern reality cannot help but slap her grandsons in the face when disciplining them for their misbehavior. Ironically, it’s intended as a moment of high comedy and yet, comes off as disturbing and unnecessary.

From his name, a combination of two first names, to his upbringing: a single white trash mom in a poor town, to his homophobic hatred of so-called evolved culture (think of the bar scene when Ricky meets Jean Girard for the first time and his reaction to jazz music), Ferrell and McKay have made it clear that they believe the South is against everything progressive. The Southerner is, according to Ferrell and McKay, hopelessly locked in a time of good ol’ boys, fast cars, and loose women. In other words, a time of homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, self-delusion, and a reckless disregard for the law.

“What about the protagonist/antagonist of the film, the French F1 driver, Jean Girard played by Sacha Baron Cohen? Isn’t he also depicted as a stereotype?” The easy answer is “yes” but in acknowledging that fact we risk overlooking how the stereotype is ennobled through its hyperbole. Girard has culturally iconic friends like Elvis Costello and MOS DEF. His marriage partner raises and trains world-class German Shepherds. They are open and unapologetic about their homosexuality. They do not watch low-brow films like Highlander. They like Jazz, macchiatos, and Perrier mineral water. More importantly, Jean is a champion F1 driver, widely considered the most technologically advanced motorsport in the world. He isn’t so much a character as a reflection of everything that Ricky Bobby, and thus, the South, according to McKay and Ferrell, is not but should be. In this way, Jean is representative of how McKay and Ferrell see themselves: enlightened, unapologetic, elitist neo-Northerners mocking the American South.

When I watch Talladega Nights now, I feel ashamed by the knee-jerk laughter that comes so easily at the expense of Southern culture. I feel exploited by McKay and Ferrell’s obvious efforts to denigrate one of the oldest examples of American culture and society. Moreover, I am saddened by the fact that American comedies continue to rely on a type of hurtful and ugly othering to manufacture laughs. It reminds me of when I was a middle-schooler watching the Bad News Bears, starring Walter Matthau, with a friend of mine that was obese. When the comedy shifted to making fun of the fat kid on the team, we both laughed and yet, I couldn’t help feeling bad for laughing. Moreover, I couldn’t help but wonder if my friend was laughing because he really thought it was funny or because he didn’t have a choice. Back then, as now, everyone laughed at the fat kid.

Jesus IS ‘genderless’. interrogating the relationship between gender and the divine

(Editors note. The following essay is not intended as a debate as to the veracity of Jesus as a real, historical figure. Nor is it an affirmation of the Bible as the so-called ‘word of God.’ It is simply an effort to interrogate the relationship between gender and divinity in a Biblical context. Enjoy.)

When one considers the historical account of Jesus the Nazarene, from the Bible[1], regardless of whether you approach it from the point of view of a protestant or Catholic, and the many variations that comprise the so-called, ‘Christian’ population in the world, two things are absolutely true about the Christ, the Christ was a biological male and spiritually divine. He had two natures, one based on his existence as a man, and the other as a divine being.

Some Christians argue, that Jesus’ divine identity was God himself, others contend that it was a creation of god, but like an angel, divine. Another nexus between the Catholic and protestant faiths is they both recognize that divine beings are neither male or female, biologically or otherwise. They are, for all practical terms, genderless. Why they always seem to take the male identity seems to me to be more male projection of the ancient culture in which Judaism is based (more on this later). But, angels do not procreate and hence have no need for genitalia. If we approach the Bible as a piece of fictional, historical materiality, the only conclusion is that this is a plot-hole in the narrative. In other words, there should have been angels that, like God, frequently demonstrated genderless-ness, and thus, could emphasize their feminine persona openly.

One famous example of this is from Jesus own words as he looks upon a faithless Jerusalem and realizes, or allows himself to become aware of[2], the fact that it will soon be destroyed and its people murdered, taken into exile, as punishment for their complicity in his execution. He says,

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and those God sent to her! How often I have wanted to gather your children, as a mother hen does, under her wings, but you did not want it! Look, your house has been desolated-(Matthew 23: 37-38).

It is a powerful sequence by any standard, religious or otherwise, but it also reveals the way in which Jesus, and thus God-himself understand and practice their genderless-ness.[3]

Of course, in 95% of the Bible, God refers to himself in the masculine gender. Again, the question of whether God and Jesus and the angels are genderless spiritually is a mute-point. The question then is whether or not they identified as one gender or another, or were simply satisfied with their non-gendered existence?

The question itself is a bit of an oxymoron. Of course they were satisfied with their spiritual reality. As spiritual beings, they don’t have material bodies, like earth-bound humans. They only take human form when on earth. So, to suggest that they felt compelled towards one gender or another because of some biological need, is preposterous. What’s left then is, did they do it because they were psychologically compelled? Once again, it would demonstrate an uneasy favoritism that is just not supported by the text. The fact that God and the angels refer to themselves in the male-gender can be easily explained away as a product of the culture in which the Bible was composed.

The world in which the Bible was written was patriarchal. Man was the LORD of his home. How could God ever be respected in such a culture if it referred to itself as a woman 95% of the time? Once, again, preposterous.

We must remember that the Bible is the ideological fulcrum for three of the world’s major religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. If we extend a broader net to include the patriarchal themes that exist in the ideologies embedded in the first two, it becomes even more evident why it was necessary to emphasize God’s masculine persona in recording the Biblical narrative. And yet, it is still impressive that there are as many references to GOD, as female-gendered, as there appear to be (again, the Bible’s written record, though unique as to proportion, is still fragmented).

Of course, just like it’s impossible to know if Jesus is a real, historical figure, or some mass delusion, it is impossible to fathom how he would have viewed himself or his genderless-ness with any certainty. Still, the text suggests that, fictional or not, he self-identified as genderless but, so as to accommodate the human culture in which he was raised and lived[4], emphasized his masculine persona more often.

Ironically, this seems to be the same narrative for many who claim to be non-binary. They have had to accommodate those who are unable to recognize an existence which does not depend on an ancient ideological viewpoint of gender difference. And yet, as I have just argued, genderless-ness, of mind and body, is as ancient as gendered, maybe older, the only difference is that in the spiritual world of the Bible, genderless-ness is divine, and thus, perfect.

This essay is dedicated to the memory of Father John Murphy.

 

[1] This essay begins with the presumption that the so-called “Bible” is an historical text on par with other ancient religious and semi-religious texts such as the Gathas of Zoroaster or, even the often, fantastical journey of Siddhattha (aka, the ‘Buddha’). If these are not true as to their claims as being accurate descriptions of divinity, they most certainly are historical material, and thus, have historical import. The length of time they have been in circulation, saying nothing as to the extent of their distribution, is sufficient for them to be qualified as of significant historical value.

In what way(s) significant. Archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians all agree that the written record for all ancient writings, and by ancient I am referring to the humanistic period preceding the so-called ‘middle ages’, is scant at best. Most of it, recorded on fragile or media highly susceptible to degradation, has been lost to time. What is left can hardly be called contiguous testimonies of their veracity, let alone accuracy as to translation. I recall reading a marvelous, old book about the writings of Chuang-tzu, the author wrote, ‘(I am paraphrasing), ‘there is no way to tell whether or not Chuang-tzu, or even Confucius, were real, or that they even wrote these seminal essays by which they have become reified,’ because the written record for ancient texts, though continuing to grow, is finite and perhaps the scarcest of all things valuable.

Given that the Bible has a fairly substantial, written record dating all the way back before 1 C.E., it is able to demonstrate a continuity as to the contextual fidelity of our modern copies. Few ancient books can claim the same abundance of ancient extants and yet are without argument added to the intellectual canon, (I mentioned a few examples previously), as historically important to answering the question, what was on the ancient mind? In other words, if we are going to evaluate Gilgamesh as historically significant, the Bible deserves to be viewed with the same lens.

[2] This is another tricky spot for the Bible but we will not address it in this writing.

[3] In my experience, most, if not all, Christian religions use this scripture as evidence of the divine’s tenderness and love as well as, its sexless nature. Moreover, the fact that it is attributed to Jesus obviates the question as to whether Jesus is speaking as the Deity or a deity. If you believe the former, then it applies to both as being aspects of the same godhead. If you believe the latter, you also accept that Jesus is the perfect representation of God. In other words, anything Jesus says or believes, God would agree with.

Some may argue that it’s not incongruous for a masculine gendered male to also show motherly affection, ‘just look at the Apostle Paul’s words at 1 Thessalonians 2:7. Does that not prove that the scripture at Matthew could easily have been written by a male-gendered individual?’And I would agree, but this essay is not about Paul, who may have been married for all we know. Paul is not identified as being genderless, but God and Jesus are. Thus, the scripture at 1 Thessalonians is more than likely an example of Paul reflecting his Judaic roots, where we find plenty of instances in which God refers to itself in a female-gendered context. One of my favorites is found at Isaiah 66:1,13

This is what GOD says!…As a mother comforts its child, so l will comfort you, you will be comforted…

Again, the Bible poetically provides us with a rare glimpse into the mind of its central figure as a gender-free individual. A simple Google search around the words “god as mother” will provide numerous other examples of this man-mother motif.

[4] Of course, this is speculative but it’s reasonable. The idea of genderless-ness was not uncommon for the Gods of ancient Rome or Greece but was not something that would have been well understood if expressed and practiced as a human condition. One could argue that ‘children and certain sculpture of the ancient period were often perceived as genderless.’ And again, I would agree that it might have been a practice for children to be viewed as sexually amorphous in some regions discussed in the Ancient Mediterranean, it was not a practice everywhere. The Spartans, for instance, are famed for having a very rigid gendered viewpoint beginning from birth. Boys and girls were gendered early to assume more adult like roles later in life.

The Return of the BOOM.

Over the past two-years, I and my colleagues have tried, again and again, to re-open the BOOM, and begin a new-era of perspective, viewpoint, humor/wit, in other words, the ethnography of BOOM. We believe the time is ripe for us to check-in, as it were, with our audience (including all of the site suggestions from China, Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, very useful.)

This process is more or less ad hoc. Not that we do not have material produced and ready. More that we haven’t spent enough time deciding what goes first. So, in the interest of relevance, we offer this first article (only 500+ words) on what we believe will be remembered as the day Apple returned to the throne as the leader of the technological revolution.

-BOOM.