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Making Dallas Even Better

A Dispatch From the D Magazine Sweat Lodge

When we got to work this morning at D Magazine world headquarters, in beautiful downtown Dallas, we learned the AC is out in our building, St. Paul Place. The editorial crew all sits on the east side of the office. That would be the side of the building that is currently under assault from the sun. I’m guessing, but it’s probably 87 degrees at my desk, which sits right by a window.

To survive, many of us have moved our computers into our lobby, which is on the west side of the building. We are sitting at the table you see here, elbow to elbow. We aren’t exactly sweating. But we are all sticky. At least I am sticky. I haven’t taken a survey. Zac (far left in the pic) is on edge. I made an innocuous comment earlier about the movie London Has Fallen, and he threw a coffee mug at me. Then the Spirit Father came to see me, and I sprouted wings, and I flew with him high above our hunting grounds, admiring the herds of buffalo that have sustained our people for generations. Do you hear that noise, my brother?

I am now naked save for my loincloth. I am lashing myself with the sage branch. An intern is pouring water on the stones that still glow red from the fire, and the steam is cleansing my MacBook Air. We are working on the August issue. It will be an inspired document, if not error free.

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‘Incorruptible’ Orthodox Bishop Interred at St. Seraphim Cathedral

Over the weekend the remains of Eastern Orthodox Archbishop Dmitri, who died in 2011, were moved from a cemetery to be interred in a crypt at St. Seraphim Cathedral in Oak Lawn. Rod Dreher of the American Conservative — a former editorial writer for for the Dallas Morning News — wrote of how Dmitri inspired him as he and his family converted to Orthodoxy from Catholicism in 2005:

When the cemetery personnel opened his coffin, they found Vladyka Dmitri incorrupt.

That is to say, his body had not decayed. He has been buried for four and a half years under the Texas ground, and his body looks like it did the day he died.

This is a miracle. In Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity, it is seen as a sign that the deceased was, and is, a saint. If you read The Brothers Karamazov, you may remember that whether or not the deceased Elder Zosima was incorruptible was a feature of the narrative.

In Dallas today, they found their incorruptible. I don’t suppose a soul who knew Vladyka Dmitri is surprised. I knew him in the last five years of his life. What a dear and holy man he was.

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Donald Trump Promises First Baptist Dallas Pastor He Will Legalize ‘Strong Christian Lobby’

Speaking at a rally in Fort Worth today, presidential candidate Donald Trump said he hopes to remove the federal restriction against tax-exempt organizations endorsing politicians, in order to create “the strongest Christian lobby.” But the fact that churches remain forbidden from endorsing political candidates didn’t stop First Baptist Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress from offering what sounded about as close to an endorsement as he could have been made without speaking the words “I endorse Donald Trump.”

Jeffress appeared on stage at the Fort Worth Convention Center as Trump’s wandering, hour-long stream-of-consciousness stump speech wound towards its conclusion. Trump had been listing his supporters, mentioning Jeffress and former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin by name, and then he spoke about his desire to create a powerful Christian lobby.

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Dallas City Council Bans Exxxotica From Using Convention Center, Ctd.

Jason, that was an excellent recap of the City Council meeting today. This reminds me of the city’s erstwhile war on topless clubs under Mayor Laura Miller. Read this great essay titled “The New Puritanism,” by Joe Bob Briggs, that D Magazine published in 2004. (It entered our archives via OCR scanning, so be patient with the many typos. It’s worth it.)

St. Rita Catholic Priest Responds to Anti-Islamic Hate With Love

Thanks to Jacquielynn Floyd for publicizing this beautiful sermon by the Rev. Joshua Whitfield of St. Rita Catholic Church in North Dallas, who was deeply disturbed after a parishioner taking communion told him, “Father, you forgot to say, ‘Kill all the Muslims!’”:

Hatred is born of a small, distorted, bitter view of the world. If, whenever I visit an old person in his or her home, they have the television turned on to cable news, I know that I will find an old man or old woman bitter and depressed because they’re watching spiritual poison. And what is more they get fooled into thinking that what they see is actually what is; they think they see the world, but they don’t. They see only that part of the world that sells advertising, and that’s a violent, depressing world. Social media isn’t helpful either. It seems a lot of Christians have become Islamic scholars lately—they’ve read a Facebook post, watched a video on YouTube, maybe read a book about it. They barely know Christianity, but they know what Islam is—it’s evil, it’s hateful, they tell me …

let me be very clear: I’m a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ—not a liberal, not a conservative, not a Republican, not a Democrat. I am a Christian. And this will be a Christian place. Love, not hate. St. Rita will be a place of love—always. I’ll give my life for it.

It serves, indirectly, as a fitting response to the sort of vitriol being spewed in some corners of North Texas this year, including from the pulpit across the street from D Magazine’s offices.

2015 Has Been ‘Banner Year For Hatred’ in Dallas-Fort Worth

I’d like to complain that this National Public Radio story — headlined “Deepening Anti-Islamic Mood In Texas Rivals Post-Sept. 11 Climate” — paints an unfair portrait of North Texas. But seeing its cataloging of incidents and public statements by local leaders, that’s hard to argue.

They trot out all the greatest hits of local Islamophobia:

Last month a group of protesters showed up on the sidewalk in front of the mosque, shouldering loaded rifles and holding a sign that said “Stop the Islamization of America.” Their spokesman is a man who identifies himself as David Wright and carries a tactical 12-guage shotgun to demonstrations.

“I can show up and protest unarmed and be a sitting duck for the next pair of ISIS members that decide to come along and blow our heads off like they did in California — or I can show up there prepared to defend myself,” Wright says in a telephone interview.

Then Ahmed Mohamed’s clock , the Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, and the Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas:

“Make no mistake about it,” he said from the pulpit in downtown Dallas, “Islam is just not another way to approach God. Islam is a false religion and it is inspired by Satan himself.”

At the end of the sermon, Jeffress received a standing ovation.

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Leading Off (10/16/15)

Dallas City Hall Soap Opera. The city attorney pushes for the felony prosecution of a city council member for yelling at a city employee, even going so far as to gather evidence for the case himself, despite the police chief telling him to stop and the alleged victim saying she didn’t want to press charges.

Prestonwood Baptist to Host Presidential Candidates. Sen. Ted Cruz, former senator Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, former governors Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush and Dr. Ben Carson are all confirmed to speak Sunday afternoon at the Plano megachurch.

North Texas Is Ablaze. Our recent unusually hot, dry weather has contributed to grass fires in Denton County, Navarro County, and Hunt County.

Albino Deer Haunts Denton. Turns out the mysterious creature sighted over the last few years isn’t a ghost. Or is it? (It isn’t.)

Cold Front Is Coming. After a record high of 95 yesterday, today’s weather is expected to top out at 87, with even cooler temperatures this weekend and next week.

MegaFest Kicks Off in Klyde Warren Park

MegaFest 2015 officially kicked off today in Klyde Warren Park. Half family atmosphere — kids splashing and playing in the kids’ park, people getting food from the Thursday food trucks, and an Elsa impersonator wandering around — and half official, the kickoff served to welcome those who had traveled to Dallas for the event. The morning felt not so much like an event itself, as hype for the weekend ahead. And hype there was.

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Dallas Has the Most Christians

A Pew Research study of America’s religious landscape shows that of the country’s largest metropolitan areas by population, Dallas-Fort Worth has the largest percentage of people (78 percent) who identify as Christian and the fewest people who claim no religious affiliation (18 percent). Also we’ve got the most evangelical Christians (38 percent), plus the least Catholics (15 percent) anywhere other than Atlanta.

Of course, it’s another matter all together asking how many of those folks you’re actually going to see at church this Sunday.

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Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Garland Attack

So reports the BBC about the Islamic terrorist organization that controls parts of Syria and Iraq:

It said that “two soldiers of the caliphate” carried out the attack at a conference centre near Dallas.

IS’s al-Bayan Radio news bulletin said the exhibition “was portraying negative pictures of the Prophet Muhammad”.

Both suspects were shot dead after opening fire at the contest on Sunday.

Correspondents say that it is believed to be the first time that IS has claimed to have carried out an attack in the US.

Of course, ISIS (or ISIL, or IS, or whatever you want to call them) might just be opportunistically taking credit for an operation it had nothing to do with. Does this news change how safe you feel from terrorist attacks?

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Anti-Muslim Sentiment in Irving (And the Imam Who Has To Tolerate It)

In the paper today, Avi Selk has a lengthy story about some anti-Muslim foolishness going on in Irving. It centers on a religious tribunal that is supposedly going to usurp the U.S. Constitution and ruin America. (I’m exaggerating only a little bit.) Last night, the City Council voted 5-4 to support a bill authored by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) that would forbid such tribunals from using foreign law in their rulings (which is already illegal).

I wrote about all this for the April issue of D Magazine, which won’t mail to subscribers for another three days. So I’m posting the article here. Before I wrote my story, I spent some time with Imam Zia ul-Haque Sheikh, the head of the Islamic Center of Irving and a man who has far more patience and compassion than I do. For your edification:

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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: The Devil, Doyle Davidson, and Dena Schlosser

It’s hard not to have a visceral reaction to reading about what Dena Schlosser did to her own child one morning in 2004. While the sound of hymns filled her Plano apartment, she went to the kitchen, got out a 9-inch knife, walked to baby Maggie’s crib, and cut off her daughter’s arms.

She believed that God wanted her and Maggie to go to heaven.

In his June 2006 article, one of the 40 greatest stories ever published in D Magazine, Paul Kix wrote about the church at which Schlosser worshipped — Water of Life in Plano — and of the domineering pastor whose influence, particularly in pushing for prayer rather than medication and blaming mental illness on demonic possession, may have contributed to a worsening of the postpartum psychosis Schlosser was suffering at the time of her crime.

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