Lord of Spirits podcast

Why isn't the Disney version of Hercules the actual version?

It's axiomatic that when Disney would do an animated adaption of a fairy tale for folk legend that it would be simplified and softened.  In a word:  "Disneyfied."

When Disney decided to tackle the story of Hercules in 1997, this posed a serious problem, because like all Greek heroes, he's got some serious flaws.

The reinvention of him as the beloved son of Zeus and Hera (hah!) who was tragically stolen and condemned to mortality by Hades (wonderfully voiced by James Woods) was about as far as one could get from the source material and still have a link to it.  The film works because it's in part a send-up of Disney itself, mocking toys, tie-ins and theme parks as Hercules becomes successful and famous.

But this does raise and interesting question, which is why Hercules (and the Greek gods in general) were so nasty.  The conventional (secular academic) view is that they represented the extremes of human behavior, outsized versions of our vices and virtues.  Thus, they regularly intrigued with one another, committed rape, incest and murder, yet also rewarded virtue and conveyed wisdom.

In short, the gods were fickle and it was best to take nothing for granted.

That being the case, if the gods were supposed to provide moral lessons, why weren't they more moral themselves?  Surely they could have been 'written' as exemplars of honor, dignity and restraint - which were virtues the pagans understood, though they did not always follow them.  Chastity was valued in pagan societies, as was marital fidelity, yet the gods honored these more in the breach, which encouraged those human who had the ability to do so to emulate them.

After exploring the Lord of Spirits podcast (which I had to quit, alas), it occurs to me that another explanation was that the Greek gods were in fact fallen angels, just as the Bible says, and that having rebelled against God, they were incapable of showing self-restraint.  They understood the divine virtues, but being in a state of rebellion, had little incentive (or will) to follow them.

This is a common human behavior, and the "downward spiral" is a real thing, one that I think everyone has seen happen.   Bad choice piles upon bad choice, countless opportunities to turn things around are wasted and eventually immersion in sin locks the unfortunate soul into a collision course with damnation.

Happily, there are also redemption stories, where people recognize where they are headed and make a needed course correction.  I'm an example of that. 

There is a key difference between humans and angels, however.  Having rebelled in the actual presence of God and knowing Him fully, the fallen angels cannot repent while humans still can.  There is no halting their spiral to the abyss.

All of which is to say that the Greek gods were who they were because they could be no other after their rebellion.  One can fault Disney for self-pedaling their depravity, but in fact anyone who was moved by the film to convert to Greek paganism would quickly learn how savage that faith really was.



When Calvinists go bad: Karl Barth

While I had to stop listening to the Lord of Spirits podcast, one of the many positive things I took away from it was understanding just how jacked-up Calvinism truly is.

I don't think about it much, but First Things recently had an article on a controversy that continues to roil the Calvinist faithful.

The short version is that the leading theologian of the 20th Century, a Swiss German by the name of Karl Barth, was not as clean and pure as the wind-driven snow. He was hugely influential in Protestant circles, helped rally the Confessional Church against the Nazis, preached against Communism and wrote a massive multi-volume work called Church Dogmatics that attempted to adapt Calvinist (or Reform) theology to the modern world. He was a fierce opponent of the liberal theology (not to be confused with liberal politics) which was all the rage in German circles and posited using reason and "deconstructing" the Bible to find truth.

All well and good and Church Dogmatics and his other works are required reading in most Protestant seminaries. Or at least it used to be.

You see, Herr Barth had a secret that his family managed to preserve for three decades after his death in 1968: he was an adulterer. I don't mean he had a passing affair as a young man or maybe a series of dalliances, the guy kept a mistress in his home with his wife and children.

Way back in the 20s, when he started his magnum opus, he fell passionately love with his secretary and could not quit her. His wife threatened to divorce him, but they had five children, and the scandal would have been epic. After years of back-and-forth debates, the solution was to give "Aunt Lollo" her own room in the family home, which was conveniently located adjacent to his study. There the happy lovers spent decades writing Church Dogmatics and trashing his marriage covenant, traumatizing his wife and children in the process. He was fully aware that if his sinful living arrangement were known, no one would give damn what his theology was, so it was carefully shrouded in secrecy.

Thus, he went to his grave a revered and admired religious figure.

In 2000, his surviving kids decided that whatever his will said, the truth was more important, and they started releasing his private correspondence. It continues to trickle out and there's been some delay in it reaching the US because it's all in German and some of the formulations are esoteric. (In German, one can make up words by ramming concepts together, even creating oxymorons, and Barth did a lot of this.)

All of which is to say that the Protestants apparently got to experience the scandal twice: first the revelation of adultery, later the sordid truth of how blatant and selfish it was. This is why a story from 1933 (or 1968 when he died) or 2000, when the first letters came out, is still churning away. The latest revelation is troubling because it shows that Mr. Theology's inner circle knew what was going on and when they rebuked him, he conjured up a religious justification for what he was doing, arguing that God had made him fall in love, and his work was super-important, therefore it was okay.

That latter big is particularly jarring to his fans because it calls all of his work into question.  It's pretty much a given that almost all top-end athletes are womanizing egomaniacs but no one cares because we're paying to watch them play, not serve as life coaches.

In Barth's case, we have letters in his own hand declaring that God has sanctioned his sin, and therefore it's okay.  He actually makes the claim that love can never be wrong.  Yet at the same time, he carefully hid this arrangement from the public so he wouldn't have to acknowledge his hypocrisy.

I think this highlights the core failing of Calvinism, which created the concept of The Elect who where chosen by God before time began. This toxic sense of divine sanction has poisoned the American body politic since its foundation and right now it's worse than ever because the current elites no longer even bother with considering the will of God and just assume that whatever they do is perfect.

At its core, predestination posits a very cruel God who created people just to condemn them, denying them any chance of salvation. Calvin justified this by saying that God was purely good and his intellect surpasses human comprehension, so who are we to judge? This of course flies in the face of the fact that nowhere in scripture does God tell people to go ahead and sin, it's cool, he's got their back.

Barth's logic prefigures the argument that so many contemporary Protestant churches use to legitimize sin, whether or not they formally embrace Calvinist doctrine.

The allure of paganism

Over the past week, commenter CN has deftly woven together two of the themes of this site - the corruption of Christianity and the complex personality of Ford Madox Ford.

The discussion of Jewish women indulging in neo-paganism reminded me of a consideration of paganism from a few years ago.

As I said then, paganism offers much that appeals to our contemporary culture.  It's bold, transgressive, and  it eliminates bothersome boundaries. 

The primary weakness is that once one casts aside restraint, why bother with religious ritual at all?  I think for the Boomer generation, there was something of a thrill in going to church in a bathrobe and slippers and the Gen X crowd went even farther by getting all tatt'd up and "blessing" same-sex relationships.

But why bother with all that?  Why not sleep in on Sunday?  The truth is that classical paganism actually had lots of rules and required frequent acts of devotion.  All those marble temples were used; they weren't just empty monuments to be admired.

This is why I think it is no accident that much of paganism is concentrated within the global church rather than rising outside of it.  This would of course fit in with the Enemy's designs of outright blocking the path to salvation by corrupting Christ's message and misleading His servants.

But even that thrill seems to be fading.  In places where Woke Christianity reigns triumphant, church attendance is almost undetectable.  It's interesting that the Anglican population of Wales (which needs six bishops (most of them female, of course), could fit into a mid-sized sporting area. 

Whether "observant" or not, a frequent recourse is to the display of virtue.  The old amulets and shrines have now given way to a bumper sticker or yard sign, hence closing the ring between neo-paganism and Yard Sign Calvinism.

For students of history, there is a dreary familiarity to all of this.  Just as the same worn-out heresies keep cropping up in new wrappings by people who think they've just invented the wheel, so the same old sins get repackaged as virtues.  Waugh, Chesterton and of course Tolkien all saw it, and it's still going on today.

Something to keep in mind as the latest "new neo-pagan" thing emerges.

One of the hardest Gospel readings: Matthew 10:37-42

Some years ago, I heard a homily that has stuck with me ever since.  It was in Easter, and the priest noted that while we try to approach Easter each year with a sense of newness and wonder, for most of us, it's quite familiar.  We've celebrated Easter before, so what else is new?

He answered his own question by pointing out that every year is different.  We are older, we may have kids now, or our kids may be moving out, etc.  Life brings constant changes, even if they are incremental.

He was right, of course.  The Easter I celebrated this spring was vastly different from the one I celebrated in 2019, when lockdowns were unheard of, or in 2020, when we were unable to attend Mass in person.

So it was with this week's Gospel readings, which is the famous passage where Jesus creates a string of paradoxes surrounding faith, but also says that those who cannot leave their parents and children for him, are not worthy of him.  That passage always rankled with me, because how could a loving God demand that I put aside those people?  We are commanded to honor our parents, and what parent would cast aside a child?

This year I see it differently.  I realize that this life is not all that there is.  If God calls, we must answer, and He will see to it that my parents and children are taken care of. 

That is probably the biggest difference between believers and those without faith in God.  If this life is all there is, then death is a nightmare, the worst thing ever.  Pleasure must be taken as often as possible, because its joys will fade.

It is clear to me that the top rungs of the social ladder have lost faith in God, and believe that nothing else matters besides their time on earth.  Cheating is something they admire, and cleverness is superior to courage.  A person willing to die for faith or conviction is a sap and fool.

All of that is predicated on there being nothing else; on the Unseen being non-existent.  At this late date, I don't that that view is logically sustainable.  I have experienced too much of the spirit realm to believe otherwise.

I'm also starting to wonder if the "evangelical atheists" aren't trying to convince others to abandon faith so much as reassure themselves. 

This is also why one gets Yard Sign Calvinists, who - unable to reach God - seek social salvation through virtue-signalling. 

J.R.R. Tolkien had an interesting take on the "end game" of a society that turns to darkness.  His description of the fall of Numenor is very much reminiscent of where we are - people becoming status-obsessed, proud, willful, and above all hardening their hearts against God, doubling down on their rebellion.

There's a lot of that going on, too.

The Lord of Spirits podcast jumps the shark

I suppose it was inevitable.  Even the most engaging concepts eventually run out of steam.  Some last longer than others, of course, but that depends upon the subject matter and the genre.

It also depends upon fidelity to the subject matter.  For example, Magnum p.i. had four solid seasons before it started to flag.

Miami Vice got into season three before it was mostly played out, and I'm sure the fathers on the Lord of Spirits podcast will appreciate the symmetry of their show topping out after about the same amount of time.

As with both of the detective shows, the initial concept of the Lord of Spirits was interesting and provided excellent opportunities to engage and entertain.  The first year or so of episodes really did blow my mind.

However, one can only go over the core concepts of the spirit world for so long.  Once angels, demons, giants, vampires, etc. had been explained, the show had to ranger father and farther afield. and in the process, the focus of the show changed, just as it did with Miami Vice.

Whereas Miami Vice went from a slick, cool blend of music, actions and aesthetics to a gritty cop drama, Lord of Spirits went from an offbeat but informative discussion of the spirit realm to a blatant recruiting pitch for the Eastern Orthodox Church with strong anti-Catholic overtones.

That's just not as interesting.  It's one thing to sit through nearly three hours of explaining Giants, Behemoth and Leviathan and quite another to get a long lecture on why Catholics Do All The Sacraments Wrong.

Throughout the show there has been an anti-Catholic bias, particularly on the part of Father Stephen.  Both he and Father Andrew are former Protestants who converted to the Orthodox faith.  For a certain type of Protestant, the Orthodox Church has a lot going for it: you get the apostolic succession, the writings of the Church fathers, the sacraments and you don't have to give up hating on Catholics.  That's particularly important to Father Stephen, who never passes up an opportunity to take a cheap shot - even if he's wrong.

During the first few years, this was not that important because the Catholic and Orthodox views on the spirit world are functionally identical.  One can tease out some cultural differences in terms of vampires and werewolves, but both follow the same system of looking at angels, demons and read the Bible in the same way.  Every now and again Father Stephen would say something snotty, and it was sad because it was often out of place and a little embarrassing that he had this compulsive hatred of people who don't hate him back (the Catholic Church considers all Orthodox clergy to be part of the apostolic succession and all of their sacraments are valid).

However, the farther one gets from spirits, the more room there is to cast those different historic and cultural practices in a negative light. And that more that happened, the more strident and petty these attacks became.

For the last six months the shows had been getting tedious, and  the last episode I listened to was the May 11 live Q&A.  This was really dull because most of the questioners were known to the hosts, either repeat callers or their friends and family. 

Near the end an authentic caller brought up the seeming abundance of Eucharistic miracles in the Catholic Church and the response - which I could not believe I was hearing - was that miracles really don't mean all that much, certainly shouldn't be cited to show God's favor or that one is becoming holy.  I guess the Orthodox Church will be shutting down Mount Athos and destroying its relics, then.

Father Stephen went farther and suggested that because so many Eucharistic miracles were reported during the tumult of the Reformation, that suggested that they were inauthentic because it was a bit too convenient.  Maybe they came from demons.

I'm used to hot takes, but that one's a real scorcher.  I'm still not sure what he was driving at.  If the Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ, one might well expect miracles demonstrating that and calling people to repent and return to the true faith.  Was he implying that the miracles were sent by the devil to keep people away from the true faith of Calvinism, or was he going full Mormon and insisting the Catholic Church was built by the devil to keep people from God?

Now I'm sure there are people into hating on Catholicism, I'm just not one of them, and I can't continue to recommend a show that I no longer enjoy.

It's sad, because I really enjoyed the it and I would still recommend the first two years of podcasts to people who want to learn more about the spirit world.

Ironically, on June 7, the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church issued their first statement in seven years.

If the work of the commission bears fruit, I can't help but wonder if it will lead to a crisis of faith for the more extreme Orthodox clergy.

At any rate, I remain grateful for those first two years and how they opened my mind to the spirit world.  That is why I'm walking away, because I sense that if I stick around or try to engage the hosts, the whole experience could be tainted.  Instead, I will simply take the good things with me.




That time when the Patriarch of Constantinople became a Calvinist

After listening to recent episode of the Lord of Spirits podcast, I figured I'd do a bit of a deep dive on Father Stephen's least favorite theology, Calvinism.

Yeah, I know, a guy who is promoting the term Yard Sign Calvinism should already have done that, but I wanted to refresh my thoughts a bit.

What I found was a rather obscure episode where the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyril Lucaris, decided to publish a confession in Switzerland declaring the teachings of John Calvin to be in accord with those of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  This actually happened.

You can read about it more detail at the link, and because I was now fascinated, I found and downloaded the proceedings of the various Eastern Church councils that dealt with this matter.  There were three in total, with the first two mostly focusing on anathematizing Cyril while the final one, the Synod of Jerusalem in 1672, was a full-frontal assault on Calvinism.

The edition I found (which seems to be an 1899 imprint), helpfully includes Cyril's original claims as an appendix, so it presents a unique opportunity to see a challenge and response.

It also presents an example that many Catholics might find interesting since the Patriarch of Constantinople has precedence in the Eastern Church.  While this does not convey the same kind of power or authority as the Papacy, it is an interesting example of what happens when a church leader decides to make a radical break with doctrine.  (Spoiler alert: it didn't end well for him.)

Reading about the affair gave me a much better understanding of the experience of the Orthodox Church, particularly the intrigues and instability that followed the Turkish conquest of the Byzantine Empire.  Cyril was deposed four times, reinstated, and was finally murdered by the Turks after his enemies said he would incite rebellion.  The fact that Orthodox religious leaders were for centuries dependent on the goodwill of the Sultan does much to explain both their practices and theology.

The episode also served to remind me that as much as religion has faded from the public square in America, there is still a profound Calvinist influence out there.  The notion that people are judged instantly upon death and go straight to heaven or hell is nowhere in the scriptures, but is a key point in Calvinism.  Without a final judgement, there's no reason to pray for the dead - they've already gone where they are going.

The doctrine of predestination combined with the fact that marriage is not a sacrament also finds echoes in the modern notion that serial marriage can be acceptable and even moral because people are simply trying to find their "soul mate," the one they were "meant to be with."

As I enter Holy Week, I feel much more empathy for my Orthodox brothers in Christ - and even less charity towards the Calvinists.


Body and soul

The other day one of my daughters asked me at what point God puts a soul in a body.  The clear assumption was that there could be space of time between when a body is created and "ensouled."

I had to point out to her that this is a Neoplatonic/gnostic idea completely without Christian provenance.  I reminded her that the Apostles' Creed refers to "resurrection of the body," not being turned into Force ghosts.

Right on cue the Scandinavian bishops issued a letter regarding body/soul mis-matching. 

This is of course related to the ongoing "trans" phenomenon, which is philosophically (and logically) impossible because it's based on the notion that our personalities and bodies are only tenuously connected.  Indeed, the "born in the wrong body" implies that God is a rather inattentive assembly-line worker who pulls body bits, slaps them together and then haphazardly chooses from the "male" or "female" bins, often getting the body-soul combination mixed up.

Setting aside the laughably bad theology, it's logically untenable because of course the only experience we have of the world is in the body into which we are born.  A man can no more "know" what it is to be a woman than he can "know" what it is to be a bald eagle. 

The guys at the Lord of Spirits podcast like to use as their example of this the question "what is it like to be a bat?"  The answer is that we can't know, because we aren't bats.  We can imagine what it is like to be human in a bat's body, but we lack any understanding of their senses, perception, and indeed mentality.

Yet in our gnostic age, the best and brightest want to reduce the human brain to a motherboard, swapped out between desktop and laptop platforms as desired.  This is done in the name of "freedom," which is always the siren song of temptation offered by evil.  Not long ago the phrase was "Do what thou wilt," but the effect is the same - open and self-destructive defiance to God.

The sad truth is that we are imperfect in mind, body and soul.  Many of these feelings are not organic to us, rather the result of society declaring that we've failed to measure up, so we'd be better off undergoing mutilation, chemical treatment and - increasingly - just killing ourselves.

How that can be regarded as compassionate is beyond me.  People in pain need compassion and love - the kind that lets them know that they don't need radical changes, merely to understand the beauty of who they already are. 

No news is good news

The other day I decided to visit what had formerly been a mainstay of my daily web surfing.  I scrolled through the headlines, scanned the posts and realized that even though I had been away for three months, nothing substantive had changed.

Oh, the names were a little difference, but mostly it was full of outrage about this thing or that, and in the comment section the same voices said the same old things. 

I think a lot of people are stuck in that cycle of being perpetually angry or worried.  As far as I can tell, breaking away from that hasn't left me any less informed on practical matters, but it has freed up a huge amount of time and energy for more productive (and enjoyable) activities.

Another problem with news immersion is that it blinds us to the importance of the spirit world.  As Trotsky never said: "you may not be interested in spirits, but spirits are interested in you!"

One of the ways that the secular materialist worldview has taken over society is that it has become the only "respectable" way to see things.  All analysis, all reporting, all documentation is doing using that lens.  Yet there is quite clearly a spiritual side to what is going on today.  How else to explain the frantically anti-Christian fervor sweeping the popular culture?  Even within the Catholic Church we find clergy and even archbishops demanding fundamental changes to Church teachings to facilitate sexual license and depravity.

In almost any other epoch, such outbursts would be unimaginable, and yet here we are.

Sometimes, the best move in a game is simply not to play.  Over the last few years I have intermittently tried to make sense of things using the secular materialist worldview I developed over decades.  For a long time, it was adequate and indeed predictive.  That is no longer the case.  My predictive record using it is abysmal.

So why use a frame of analysis that makes one anxious, angry and depressed if it's not even accurate?

I think for a lot of people, it's just a habit, but it is one worth breaking.


The Problem of Evil revisited

Not quite two years ago I addressed what some people call the Problem of Evil and used the example of how children will defy even the most loving and caring parents.

For those not up to speed on Christian apologetics, the Problem of Evil is also phrased as "why does God allow bad things to happen?"

I stand by my earlier answer, but in the time since I gave it, I've come to see things differently.  To me the question is rather "How do good things happen at all?"

I mean, the notion that life should be free of harm, danger or sorrow is completely divorced from reality.  Looking at the world around us and informed by history, the most logical expectation of life is that it should be (to quote Hobbes) "nasty, brutish and short."

And it often is.  Interestingly, in such societies expectations of comfort and leisure are few and fleeting.  I think our current notions of "evil" are largely informed by the unprecedented peace and prosperity Westerners have lived in for the past few generations.

Where I live, there is an assumption in the wider community that these things are the default setting for humanity, that they will happen organically, naturally, like flowers blooming in the spring.  When something disturbs their tranquility, they are indignant and demand that changes be made to ensure it never happens again.  I have a mental image of Karen demanding to speak with God's manager.

One of the keys to happiness (and avoiding disappointment) is aligning expectations with realistic outcomes.  In truth, there is no bottom, no guaranteed level of comfort for any of us.  The only guarantee in life is that it ends in death.  People who have endured great hardship over a space of years get this. 

Every Vietnam POW I've talked to (and I've talked to quite a few as guest speakers during my military career) has an incredible grateful and optimistic demeanor.  They cherish every sunrise and sunset.  No sensation is wasted, from a warm shower to clean sheets on their feet.  After each presentation I have remarked that while I envy their joy, I'm not sure I want to spend years at the Hanoi Hilton to get it.

That's because it's hard to not to take nice things for granted when it is all you have known.  While I am thankful for nice things, I have come to also be thankful for hardships that make me appreciate them more. 

All of which is to say that one of the proofs of God is the presence of goodness and joy in the world.  Logically, it serves no purpose.  Fear and oppression are far more efficient and frankly pleasing to most people.  Absent some sort of moral scruple, most people won't think twice about stealing or hurting someone.  It is only through religion (specifically, Christianity) that we develop a sense that this is wrong.

Much of Western society still has a residual sense of Christian morality, but that is now fading, and we're seeing the results.  Appeals to decency are now pointless, and it has even gone so far that some people respond to expressions of sympathy and offers of prayer with rage and profanity.

These are people who are perilously close to the "I would lie, cheat, steal or kill if only I could get away with it" threshold, but that can't see it.

Indeed, here I must once again mention the Yard Sign Calvinists, who often play a leading role in both disparaging Christianity and wishing harm on those they deem outside of the Elect.

Evil can manifest in many ways, and J.R.R. Tolkien's work illustrates how the more pure of motives can lead one down a dark path.  G.K. Chesterton likewise gives countless illustrations of how the well-meaning and self-righteous become the devil's tools.  Much of Evelyn Waugh's satire focuses on this as well (particularly in Black Mischief).

Thus, I'm not saying anything particularly new or unique, and I freely admit that the Lord of Spirits podcast has contributed to my understanding of evil.

When bad things happen, it is important that we retain this perspective.  God knows our suffering, and we should always strive to learn from it.  It is possible to make something good out of a terrible event - as the Vietnam POWs I mentioned above have done.

Indeed, I think that is something most pleasing to God and perhaps why people who have achieved it seem so content.


The National Forgiveness Deficit

Today is the commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr., and while I'm not watching the news, I'm pretty sure that instead of highlighting his message of compassion and forgiveness, people will be using it to further stir up anger and resentment.

Four years ago I wrote about this, and how "cancel culture" is the natural result of a society that no longer believes in mercy or forgiveness.

I think part of that comes from a belief on the part of the elites that they personally are justified in whatever they do.   Society is awash in yard sign Calvinism these days, and it's never been a better time to be one of the Elect.  Some obscure teenager makes a joke?  Crush them utterly.  They must have their entire life ruined.

But if you, say, kill someone out of gross negligence, well that's different.  I don't know how much longer this sort of thing can go on and a big part of why I'm cut myself off from as much of the outside world as possible is that I'm tired of watching it play out.  If we're going to do Spain 2.0, I'd just as soon skip the long, boring backstory.

A little pessimistic for a Monday?  Perhaps, but there is something deeply wrong on a spiritual level right now, and I'm not sure how that changes.  The United States of the 1960s was also wracked with turmoil, but there was a universal agreement by the people in charge that open warfare was a terrible idea and they did what they could to lower the temperature.  I wasn't around back then, but I'm getting a very different vibe.

For example, where did the peace movement go?  Anyone who suggests that maybe negotiation is better than mass killing is now denounced as a traitor to the nation - and many of the people doing this were carrying signs that read "Give Peace a Chance" only a few years ago.

It's all very strange.  In a recent Lord of Spirits podcast, the hosts discussed that there are collective spirits - spirits of the age, spirits that rule mobs and crowds.  I think we are very much being ruled by spirits who feed on hate, who seek to fuel death and rage.  Mercy and forgiveness are intolerable to them.

This is all the more reason to practice it, especially towards people we know personally.  In the current environment, forgiving certain things may be folly (and even immoral), but that does not mean we should abandon it altogether.  As I said four years ago, now is a great time to let someone you know off the hook.