January 31, 2005

Take the Pledge! Oops.

ABC13.com: Study finds abstinence programs haven't influenced TX teens: "Abstinence-only programs like those promoted by the Bush administration don't seem to be working on teenagers in the president's home state, according to a state-sponsored study by Texas A&M University researchers.

The ongoing study, the first evaluation of the abstinence programs across the state, found that students in almost all high school grades were more sexually active after undergoing abstinence education."

Further proof that pushing abstinence-only is fool hardy. These kids often, when they have sex--and it is 'when' not 'if'--have not been encouraged to use any protection. So, this program--thanks to the right wing--makes these kids more vulnerable to unwanted pregnancy or disease. That's right. The Family Values crowd is endangering our kids!

Church, but not church

Last night, I attended church met with some friends. We shared a meal, some great humor and stories, and had a nice discussion. We expressed our concern and caring for each other. There was no Bible study or praise and worship music. And so it was good.

I think that many people who are happy with church have no idea that this group exists. Each of the people in this group shared a background in church. They knew the Sunday School lessons, had the VBS songs down pat, and all were just sick of church. Not sick of God. Not sick of the message. But sick of church. Mention bible study or "quiet time" and you got a few winces.

There are good churches out there, I have no doubt. But many of the churches are becoming more about Joel Osteen and James Dobson than something that I want to attend or be a part of.

Olbermann takes on Dobson and his fans

One of Dobson's shills took offense at Keith Olbermann's criticism of the Spongebob controversy. As I have written here, Dobson and his people have demonstrated the kind of arrogance that, well, the President seems to employ. It is the "I am right because God speaks to me and you have no right to even question me." That isn't Godly, and it isn't Christian, and it isn't admirable.

Anyway, Keith Olbermann (who has proven that he is a journalist of some substance, in my opinion) responds. And I think he nails it.

MSNBC - : "More importantly, at some point, some of these people are going to wake up to find that the great secular assault they see on their children was, in fact, a bogeyman created to hide their own bad parenting. If they can’t convince their own kids of the appropriateness of their religion and values, then the religion, the values, or the convincing, must not have been very good. Ask my folks if I was an easy sell - yet most of my tenets turn out to have been their tenets - not my teachers’, not television’s, not the secular world’s.

It goes back to the core of the Dobsonian point of view here: the fear of the “pro-Homosexual” agenda. That may be the way he delicately phrases it, but it is not shared by most of his followers who emailed me. They were clearly angry that there was no anti-homosexual agenda. And one of the most fascinating things about the studies of homosexuality in this country is that while there is still debate between the creationists and the environmentalists, I’ve never heard anything suggesting that a child is more or less likely to be gay, depending on whether he’s taught not to hate nor be intolerant, of gays.

Schneeberger finishes his piece with the hope that I’ll experience the same kind of epiphany he claims to have in 1997. “Let’s pray, if he ever does, that he comes up with the right answer - and not because it may lead to fairer reporting. But because it may lead to a redeemed life.”

Hey, guys, worry about yourselves. You’re spewing hate, while assuming that for some reason, God has chosen you and you alone in all of history to understand the mysteries of existence, when mankind’s existence is filled with ample evidence that nobody yet has been smart enough to discern an answer.

You might try keeping it simpler: did you help others, or hurt them?"

January 30, 2005

Joel Osteen the "new face of Christianity!"

Yikes! Well, this isn't new here at Streak's Blog, but it is still disturbing. If this guy is the new face, I will pass. With him and Bush, Christianity doesn't need external enemies.

'The Smiling Preacher' Builds on Large Following (washingtonpost.com): "Osteen is called 'the Smiling Preacher,' and he is perhaps the hottest commodity in the world of multimedia religion these days. His is the new face of Christianity, upbeat and contemporary, media-smart with a heightened sense of entertainment and general appeal.

The charismatic, nondenominational church he inherited from his late father six years ago has quadrupled in size, and today is the largest and fastest-growing in the country, welcoming upward of 30,000 visitors a week, according to Church Growth Today, a research center that follows church trends. Osteen's television broadcast is shown in every U.S. market, reaching 95 percent of the nation's households, and in 150 countries.

See? Bigger is better. If you have more people there, that means you are better and right. Of course, Britney Spears sells out concerts and people would probably still pay big money to see Michael Jackson.

This summer, he will move his church into Houston's 16,000-seat Compaq Center, former home of pro basketball's Houston Rockets. The $92 million renovation is, Osteen says, 'a leap of faith' that if he builds it, they will come.

Also incredibly fitting. Moving into a huge place of entertainment (if you count the Rockets as entertaining, that is) is fitting. Kind of like when Journey Church moved into an old Wallmart. From one house of consumption to another!

All this from a man who dropped out of Oral Roberts University after one year and never received formal theological training -- although he does note that religion is the family business and he benefited greatly from on-the-job training. (He was ordained through his father's church in 1983.)"

Oh, my very favorite graph. A) I love the assumption that had he completed his degree at Oral Roberts, he would have received a "formal theological training." Hah. That makes me laugh. B) I love that theology is so very shallow that he can just pick it up from his late father--who hardly probed the depths of theology. And C) I can't get over the fact that he dropped out of Oral Roberts. How hard can it be to go to school there? It obviously isn't that he was looking for intellectual depth, after all!

Personal capital

This is one of those blog entries that is about a specific person, and one that is VERY unlikely to ever read it. But it helps me.

I was in grad school in Houston and this smart guy named Tom was talking to my other friend Cath and I over beers at the hotel on campus. He noted how few grad students and profs understood the concept of personal capital, especially when they were dealing with the underpaid and overworked office staff. Those women put up with all sorts of egos and idiots, and the smart people were those who recognized their work and treated them with respect and care. They may not be able to pass your thesis, or get you published, but they could certainly make your life miserable. Most of the grad students and profs, concluded Tom, were deficit spenders.

Tom was right and continues to be right. Some people continue to act as if they have a lot of capital when they are in deep deficit. That may be the real definition of jackass.

January 28, 2005

My grandmother

My grandmother died last spring. She was an amazing woman who lived a pretty amazing life. I remember her inquisitiveness when my cousin traveled around Asia. She read books about India to better understand her granddaughter's interest. I remember her coming to my graduation at age 90, and how proud she was of all her grandchildren. I will miss her.

She left me some money as well, and I have been trying to find something suitable. Something that would last and allow me to remember her when I looked at or used it. I think she would enjoy this and be glad that I was learning something new:

Thanks, Grandma.

January 27, 2005

Old President Jesus bits

For those who liked the last installment of President Jesus, I give you the previous iterations: Part 1, Part 2, and part 3. And while we are at it, here is a blog that does a nice job of contrasting Bush with the Bible.

January 26, 2005

President Jesus is back, yet again.

For the uninitiated, "President Jesus" is the character I created to poke fun at the President; who famously declared Jesus as his favorite political philosopher. Remember, this is poking fun at George Bush, not Jesus. Jesus, as Woody Guthrie suggested, would make a great president. Less war, better healthcare--what's not to like?

For this episode of President Jesus, we look on the President as he responds to a personal interview (as we know that he hates press conferences where his lack of knowledge makes him look stupid).

Reporter: President Jesus, let me ask you about accountability.

President Jesus: Accountability is for the losers. They lost the election, and as it is written, the winners get to gloat and ignore their failures.

Reporter: If I was a real reporter, I would respond to that. Let me ask instead about torture. Your AG nominee, Alberto Gonzales, has been accused of writing a pro-torture memo.

President Jesus: Al is a great guy. Hell, he single handedly allowed me to execute numerous nefariousness criminals in Tejas. His confirmatoriation should be immediate. I can tell you honestly, that President Jesus will not torture anyone. And if people make a big enough stink about it, President Jesus will suggest that people not torture.

Reporter: Now, to gay marriage. President Jesus, your critics on the right say that you used gay marriage to get elected and now are turning to social security reform and tax breaks rather than tackle the challenge of protecting marriage.

President Jesus: Let me jump in there, fake reporter. I love marriage. I was married just in time for my first political run. Laura is my "soul-mate." I only hope that all the other white, straight, Christian couples can copify our success. I also love my gay voters. Especially those dumb-asses who voted for me. I will work hard to take away their civil rights.

As for marriage, to save it, I have to save social security. For if people rely on "security," they will surely not marrify. I hate that, and will use my SS reform to help people marry in the way God intended. And black men. Who die prematurely. Rather than address the causes of premature death, or address health care that deals with all Americans, I am focusing on Social Security, which is prejudicificated against black Americans. And I hate that.

Reporter: And the tax cuts?

President Jesus: Taxes are clearly the devil's workshop.

Reporter: I know I am a fake reporter and supposed to simply applaud, but didn't you once say something about "giving to Caesar?"

President Jesus: I am glad you asked. No. Taxes are Lucifer's revenge, and as my father wrote: "Blessed are the Rich, for they are my friends and I likify them." In my father's mansion are many rooms, and the poor clean them all. Verily.

End of interview

Repeat: Saddam tortured, we tortured, now they torture

This question is mostly for the conservative Christians who occasionally pop in here. We know that we tortured and we certainly know what Saddam did. Now we find that the new Iraq government tortures. At what point does American Christianity stand up and ask President Bush to explain how his deeply felt Christian faith has allowed him to look the other way while kids have been tortured?

DG Hart asks a good questions about evangelicals

From Natalie's blog:"

"We are thus left with the question that Prof. Noll’s book originally raised and that remains unanswered today: Will evangelicals who become intellectually serious remain evangelical once they awaken from their pietistic slumbers? If not, is the “evangelical mind” really a possibility—or is it, instead, an oxymoron?"

Hart also notes (and Natalie affirms) that many evangelicals interested in intellectual pursuits are turning to either the Catholic or Anglican traditions where they are more welcome. What does that say about the evangelical community?

Perjury over sex? Impeachment. Perjury for Bush? Confirmation

Life and Deatherage:

"Yes, that's right: George W. Bush's candidate for Attorney General, the top law enforcement officer in the United States, apparently committed perjury in testifying before Congress about his own confirmation."

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas requesting an investigation into misrepresentations White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made in a written response to a question posed to him by the Senate Judiciary Committee which is considering Gonzales’s nomination for Attorney General.

The complaint alleges that Gonzales inaccurately portrayed his role in appearing before a Texas court when President Bush, then Governor of Texas, was summoned for jury duty. Gonzales has claimed that although he appeared in court with the Governor, he merely observed the defense counsel make a motion to strike the Governor from the jury panel and then when asked by the Judge whether the Governor had any views on this, replied that he did not.

In marked contrast, Michael Isikoff, reporting for Newseek, has written that the defense lawyer, prosecutor and judge involved in the case all recall the incident differently. In their version, Gonzales asked to have an off-the-record conference in the judge’s chambers where Gonzales then asked the judge, David Crain, to strike Mr. Bush from the jury, arguing that the Governor might one day be asked to pardon the defendant. Isikoff writes that Judge Crain found Gonzales’s argument “extremely unlikely” but out of deference, agreed to allow the motion to strike, which the defense lawyer then made.

CREW’s complaint alleges that by misstating the facts surrounding the conversation in the judge’s chambers Gonzales may have violated 18 U.S.C. §1001, which makes it a federal crime to make false statements to a congressional committee.

January 25, 2005

Some people don't like non-M.D. Doctors

That is probably an exaggeration. It isn't like lawyers--there are no joke books about Ph.D's (at least that I know of), and I know many people who don't dislike me.

But people seem oddly conflicted about academic doctors. I say this out of experience. Hell, I was even mocked on this blog in my own comments! People are often impressed that I spent that much time of my life in school and often are shocked when they see how many words I wrote. Some have been brought up to respect people with authority or expertise. Others really want to, but they find my take on American history unacceptable (More on that later). So it becomes easier to dismiss me as an egghead academic--an ivory tower theoretician--a person trained only with book smarts.

So, why is this?

As any pseudo-academic should, I have multiple and even contradictory answers. I think that many of the critics of academic doctors are right on. Let's call it the "jackass factor." If the average number of jackasses per 10 people is 3 (that is way low, btw) then the average academic jackass factor is, what, 7, 8? If you don't know a jackass with a Ph.D., you probably don't know enough academics to have a suitable sample. Academics are "lone wolves, iconoclasts, eccentrics," or simply people who don't play well with others.

Why is that, you ask? Some of them are just asses pure and simple. I can rattle off names and email addresses of several. But I have a few other explanations for the rest. Some of those explanations are the fault of the academics, and some are the fault of the "others."

The first one is really a combination. Ph.D.'s are notorious for giving their opinion when it isn't asked. On any subject. On ANY subject. They often feel that they should know everything and be ready to defend it. While this really isn't the general public's fault, you need to be compassionate. Remember, these poor saps just endured several years of grad school (and I am just talking about the dissertation process here) and had their ego pounded to shit on a regular basis.

"Did a monkey write this chapter?
Do you know anything about this topic?
Have you done any primary research at all?
Can you run a spell-check?

All of this during that gut-wrenching and vulnerable period when you turn out a 300 page tome that NO ONE WILL EVER READ! But still, your advisor suggests that this is "marginal at best," that three or four other grad students (all working with other people) have "produced better work," that "hell, you have put in 3 or 4 years writing, we might as well PASS YOU!"

So, you can see how a newly minted Ph.D. might be just a little bit aggressive. Now with that title next to his/her name, any poor sap who asks about historical context or "who won the Civil War?" or god forbid ask if "anyone in the room can explain the FUCKING HISTORIOGRAPHY OF THE FIRST GREAT AWAKENING" might get more than you ask for? Huh? Huh?

Ok, calming down. Night-sweats receding. Petting the imaginary kitty.

That is probably enough for now. More later on this.

Bush and Empire cont.

Thanks to Carlos over at Jesus Politics. This is a chilling assessment of the crusading vision of our President. Truly, truly chilling.

The Revealer: Just Another Word For Everything
Left to Lose

"Indeed, scholar R. Scott Appleby in 2003 declared that the administration’s omnipresent emphasis on freedom and liberty functions as the centerpiece for “a theological version of Manifest Destiny.” Unfortunately, this twenty-first century adaptation of Manifest Destiny differs little from earlier American versions: The goal remains to vanquish any who do not willingly adopt the supposedly universal norms and values of Protestant conservatives. The result, by implication in the president’s rhetoric, is that the administration has transformed Bush’s “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” policy into “Either you are with us, or you are against God.”
To the great misfortune of American democracy and the global public, such a view is indistinguishable from that of the terrorists it is fighting. One is hard pressed to see how the perspective of Osama bin Laden, that he and his followers are delivering God’s wishes for the United States, is much different from Bush’s perspective that the United States is delivering God’s wishes to the Taliban or Iraq."

Bush, Abortion and Hilary

This Yahoo story calls Hilary the front runner for 2008, which fills a lot of Democratic activists with dread. I don't know what to think about her. I know that she attracts more hatred than any other person on the left, even more than her husband. So, the right uses her to raise money and quite effectively.

Anyway, she spoke on this occasion regarding abortion. The headline is a bit misleading, but I have read elsewhere that abortion rates fell under Clinton and have risen again under Bush. Lots of reasons for that--some of them perhaps related to Bush--but it is interesting.

But at the end of the story was this report about Bush speaking by telephone to an anti-abortion rally. He said: "'You know, we come from many different backgrounds, but what unites us is our understanding that the essence of civilization is this: The strong have a duty to protect the weak,' Bush said."

Question: what has Bush done to help protect the weak? I have seen a lot to help the rich, the powerful, those who have already accomplished the American dream. Besides lip service to "a culture of life," what has he done for the weak?

Torture and Morality

Heard this on NPR this morning. But hey, Mr. President, I thought it was just a few "bad apples." Well, fellow moral-type-people, we have an administration that has never clearly identified its role in or its response to torture. Torture! Remember? The kind of stuff we chastized the former despotic leader of Iraq of?

Sigh. Sometimes it is just too depressing. The most immoral administration in years (yes, more than Clinton) and the people keeping them there? The people who believe in, yes, morality. Yikes.

It Never Ends - The Latest on Torture from the ACLU Files

Looks like the documents obtained by the ACLU under the freedom of information act continue to provide new insight into detainee abuse. I'm not going to summarize the latest reports - it's too depressing and I just don't have the heart. Read this article for the highlights. What popped out for me, beyond the obvious reinforcement that abuse was not limited to Abu Ghraib, was the allegation that the Army doles out much harsher punishments to soldiers for stealing from detainees than they hand out for abusing detainees. That tells us something about the Army's view of the seriousness of detainee abuse.

Ok, this makes me mad. Bush is the worst president ever.

I remember all the lectures about the state being too invasive. I remember all the chiding about government being too strong and that states and local governments needed to make those decisions.

Yet here we are with this President who said all that overriding the interests of the state to help enrich his buddies. This makes me really mad, and is really the heart of my dislike of this guy. It would be one thing if his actions matched his political (or theological) philosophy, but they don't. He says he is a Christian, but doesn't act it. He says he believes in state's rights, yet will sue a state if they don't do what he wants. And here, he ignores the Governor and barges in. Who will profit? I am sure his energy buddies.

When will the grown up conservatives recognize that this guy isn't a real conservative?

Treehugger: Feds OK Drilling in NM Grasslands Despite Governor's Pleas: "Here is the :( story of the day, from the department of “Mr. President, leave my goddamned planet alone,” George W. has given the go-ahead to drill for oil in a rare desert grassland in New Mexico, overriding the desire of the state’s governor, who, by the way, used to be the Secretary of Energy during the Clinton administration. The new plan will allow 141 exploratory wells to be dug on 2 million acres of land. And get this: Of the 100 wells in New Mexico that have been drilled in the last CENTURY, ONLY TWO have produced oil or gas...

(Yes, our voices are raised!) Plus, the state Bureau of Land Management rates the mesa’s oil production potential as low to moderate, or, as one official put it, “We’re talking about destroying the largest remaining desert grasslands in America for at best a few days worth of oil and gas. That is shortsighted.” Word, brother.

Groundwater, the preservation of grazing land, and wildlife are all at risk, including the habitat of the endangered Aplomado falcon (36,000 acres will be set aside for the bird), herds of pronghorn antelope, migratory songbirds and loads of Indian petroglyphs. Otero Mesa, the place to be drilled, has been found to be the largest source of untapped groundwater in New Mexico, so it’s no wonder that opponents are up in arms about the quantity to be used for oil and gas production, not to mention the poor quality of water returned after it is used, which can be contaminated with saline or petroleum byproducts.

We at TreeHugger understand that we still need oil for a variety of reasons, but all we’re saying is that there’s gotta be a better way kids. Let’s invest some of that time, energy, and money into new, clean sources of energy. Via"

Stop Ashlee Simpson from "Singing" Petition

This is funny and makes me laugh. I feel kind of bad about this young girl's psyche, in that it must be tough to be booed as much as she is. But she does suck and more importantly, her father/pimp sucks.

McLaren and empire

One of those web pages I had open but hadn't read. Matches very well with the previous post on the perils of missions piggybacking military efforts.

ICTHUS: Brian McLaren responds to CT article: "In the last few years, I’ve become more convinced that “postmodern” is actually a small slice of a larger movement in social history that could be called “postcolonialism.” True, these days U.S. foreign policy threatens to return us to an ugly era that might be labeled “the return of colonialism,” but hoping against hope that it will fail, I am deeply committed to finding Christian leaders in the global south who, formerly colonized, now seek a more just and peaceful postcolonial future."

I have read most of McLaren'ts New Kind of Christian and found it intriguing. I then recognized that many of the bloggers I frequent had been talking about this book and the "emergent" church movement for sometime. I am still unsure what to think of all of that, but must say that my favorite part of McLaren's book was his challenge to the cultural assumptions of Christianity, and the inability for most American Christians to see the difference.

I welcome any comments on McLaren.

Missionaries and Culture

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition, Sojourners Magazine/February 2005: "If American Christians wear the politics of war on their sleeves as they simultaneously support worldwide evangelism, they will be sharing a 'watered-down at best, poisoned at worst, version of the gospel of Jesus Christ,' says Eastern University professor Meneses. 'Whenever the church allows itself to be co-opted by the political powers of the day,' she continues, 'it commits the sin of syncretism,' or 'blending the sacred Christian faith with profane elements of the culture.'"

Many who read this blog also read Sojourners, so you probably received your copy this week as well. But this article is well worth the read. It raises some very important issues about the perils of interconnecting politics and faith.

It also raises very challenging questions regarding missionary activity. I am cautious about missions, simply because I know the very checkered history of American mission activity. In the 19th century, American Christians bought many of the broader cultural assumptions. They accepted Manifest Destiny and white supremacy. Many supported slavery and helped fight women's suffrage. They approached Native Americans with an eye only on Americanizing and removing the "native." The approached foreign missions with the "white man's burden" and unwittingly helped American business expand their markets.

American Christianity has always struggled to tell the difference between faith and country. We certainly see that now with the American flag draped churches and pro-war stances of most conservative evangelicals. History is a warning here. That blurring of faith with political/cultural mission was incredibly harmful to native cultures and American race relations--to say nothing of supporting the growth of American imperialism. Now is a time for American Christians to reflect on those lessons and look at this new period with some nuance and dissernment. That means first and most importantly, they have to look at Bush outside his Christian-speak.

One other note on syncretism. I would love to hear Caleb's take on this, but think that syncretism has been a part of Christianity for a long time. One of the issues raised in McLaren's book was the fear among conservatives of syncretism. That actually surprised me, simply because I had never heard it from that source. Syncretism has occurred in all of the mission areas (as far as I know) when one culture has adopted Christianity. That adoption was never clearly distinct and so, for example, Native Americans in New Mexico were fond of simply changing native deities into Catholic saints.

Down today

Not sure why. Maybe because I just read Caleb's blog and was further reminded of the grim job market for historians. Maybe because my job just changed again and I will soon report to my 6th supervisor in 4 years. Maybe because in the last year people I thought were friends turned out not. (Starting to feel paranoid. I thought I was a good friend, now starting to doubt that.)

I will be ok. My former advisor used to accuse me of brooding. That kind of annoyed me because it seemed hypercritical of my particular personality. But it is partially true. When I get down, I get tunnel vision and my perspective shrinks. I have become more aware of that as I have aged and now recognize it. I will work on that today.

There are many good things too. I just can't see them right now.

January 23, 2005

Salaam asks a good question

Salaam: How would you meet God?

The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

I haven't even had time to read it all, but Greg mentioned this article this morning and Salaam found the online cite. Great title that obviously references Noll's book.

The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience - Books & Culture

Great quote at a glance:

"Today's evangelicalism, Wolfe says, exhibits "so strong a desire to copy the culture of hotel chains and popular music that it loses what religious distinctiveness it once had." Wolfe argues, "The truth is there is increasingly little difference between an essentially secular activity like the popular entertainment industry and the bring-'em-in-at-any-cost efforts of evangelical megachurches.""

More on Dobson

panta ta ethne: James Dobson does not represent me

Well, said.

Upper Left

Shaun at Upper Left points to more hypocrisy from this administration.

Upper Left: "...it's all about freedom. We're for it. They're against it.


Well, George, if you want to free some people, maybe you could start with your pals in the Coalition of the Coerc...err...'Willing.'"

Another blog

Reading through some other blogs and wanted to call attention to another good one. Kathy over at RANDOM THOUGHTS on Politics has several posts on Gonzales and torture. It is good to remember that this administration has the stink of torture on it. WWJD? I don't think it takes a Biblical scholar to assume that Jesus would never torture someone. Never.

Another plug: Body and Soul

Another post that highlights the hypocrisy of the Bush administration.

Body and Soul: Freedom: "President Bush's soaring rhetoric yesterday that the United States will promote the growth of democratic movements and institutions worldwide is at odds with the administration's increasingly close relations with repressive governments in every corner of the world."

To be fair, we have a long history of coddling despots while trumpeting our support for freedom, but this administration has taken that to an all time high. Our Saudi friends support radical clerics, suicide bombers and even filled the role of 9-11 bombers, yet they are our friends and we invade Iraq. This reminds me all to much of our Latin American policy during the last ultra-right president. We supported regimes that made a policy of "disappearing" people. We should be trying to stop that, not continue it, yet despite his fondness of quoting the Bible, Bush is making it worse, not better.

Great post over at Slacktivist on Leviticus

The Pres quoted Leviticus. Maybe should have read further.

slacktivist: Jubilee: "There's a good bit more to Leviticus 25 that's worth remembering:

'If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit.'"

Southern Baptists and Race

Greg has a pretty scathing post on this subject. I have been hammering on this for sometime, pointing that many of the same people now absolutely certain that homosexuality is wrong, were just as adamant in the 1960s that segregation was fine, or that inter-racial relationships were wrong. Richard Land is quick to take credit for the 1990s SBC apology on slavery and segregation, and it seems that most want to see racism as simply a historical issue. I was mad about that when it happened because it took the guts of a titmouse to admit that racism was wrong in 1996 or whenever it happened. Like now saying the Church was wrong about the flat earth.

the parish: Southern Racists...I Mean Baptists: "n 1989 George Gallup, Jr. and James Castelli published the results of a survey to determine which groups in the U.S. were least and most likely to object to having black neighbors...20 percent of Southern Baptists objected to black neighbors."

Unfortunately, it isn't past. Bruce's important post on redlining reminded us all of the ever presence of racism in our society, and how that has tangible costs to minorities in the land of opportunity.

Thinking again about Dobson, Falwell, and Robertson, not to mention Hagee and D. James Kennedy--I would have some respect had I ever heard them start a letter writing campaign to protest poverty, racism, or environmental destruction. No, there have been many about sexuality or nudity, but none that I can remember on social justice.

January 22, 2005

Things I like

I know I have been a bit on the negative side lately. There are many things I don't like, and readers of this blog probably know most of them. :) The McCarty's often do a list of their favorite things. I like that and am now committing blog theft with that idea.

1) Arrested Development. No, it isn't a personal description of my emotional state, but the best, smartest and funniest show on TV right now. Here is a great fan site. Come on!

2) Movies on DVD. Theater's annoy me--technically the people in the theater annoy me. (During a viewing of Return of the King, I listened to some goober behind me state several times "that isn't in the book.") We just watched Napoleon Dynamite and enjoyed the hell out of it. But in my own viewing room, I don't have to deal with annoying people. Except myself.

3) Music. Oh, man, without the tunes, no one could stand me. Kasey Chambers, most things from Wilco and Ryan Adams, and Steve Earle's Transcendental Blues when I am feeling out of control.

4) Blogging. This has been fun and therapeutic for me. Some of these angry rants have really allowed me to put something aside and calm myself down. I have also met a lot of cool people through blogging. Some, virtually, and others in person. Thanks to everyone who comes by and reads my stuff.

5)My Dogs and Cats. The dogs have kept us sane this year with the semi-daily walks and cheerful greeting.

6) My partner in crime. Streak's other friend is my best friend in the world and I don't know what I would do without her. She is the best and I am lucky to have her in my life. She puts up with all of this! And, she has become a first rate King of the Hill and Arrested Development fan!

Dobson and Bob Jones

Thinking more about Kristen's post. Dobson's assertion that the Sponge Bob is helping out the homosexual agenda just annoys me. Wallis is right, even if you think that my gay friends are wrong, how do you prioritize attacking them over an immoral death penalty system? Or a war justified on false premises? Maybe taking the Lord's name in Vain isn't me and my friends swearing, but Dobson and Falwell and Jones claiming to speak for God.

Oh, that Bob Jones! What a jerk. "You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ." Really? Let's count what is wrong with that. Again, say you think that Jones and Bush are right. Do they really owe the rest of the country nothing? Has our country been so Balkanized that the elected President only represents those who vote for him? I would suggest that you Bush supporters read some history and think about the implications of that. The second sentence is even worse. Not only are Liberals supposedly not Christian in this equation, they hate Christ. The more I read it, the more I think Jones might have a point, though. Bush's Christ isn't loving--he isn't tolerant--he doesn't seek peace--he doesn't oppose slaughter and death. Bush's Christ supports killing, wealth, war, and control. Maybe Jones is right on that. But not the way he thinks.

Capital Punishment and Jesus

One of the great questions that so many Christian supporters of the death penalty avoid is what Jesus, who was a victim of state-sponsored execution, would think about capital punishment? After all, he knows first hand how easy the state can become corrupt when dealing with life and death--and push for executions for public approval or political points. But he also seemeed to subvert other so-called capital crimes.

The writer below articulates this very well in a 1998 article on the subject. I urge you to read it in its entirety, as I have cut and edited to make it a bit more readable in this blog. He restates what we already know--that the death penalty is racist, classist and bloodthirsty. But he also points to something that a colleague mentioned to me. He is a conservative who actually supports the death penalty in some cases, but believes that we should ban the death penalty because of the "brutality effect." This holds that the death penalty actually encourages more brutality than it stops. More brutal crimes occur in states that execute and around execution dates, etc. More! Not less. Anyway, read this.

Thanks to Salaam for this article by a christian lawyer who founded Habitat for Humanity:
There are many reasons for my position, First, I don’t believe in revenge. “‘Vengeance is mine,’ saith the Lord. ‘I will repay.

The Bible, it seems to me, is clear on the subject of revenge. Probably the most powerful voice to speak on this matter is Coretta Scott King, the widow of murdered civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “As one whose husband and mother-in-law have both died the victims of murder assassinations, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the Death Penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not redeemed by another evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of human life. Morality is never upheld by legalized murder.”


Our accepted solution has put us in bed with some unsavory bedfellows, nations like China, Iraq, and Iran. China alone executes 4,000 people a year! Would we aspire, as a nation, to be more like China? Or, Iraq or Iran? We stand alone today among industrial nations in our use of the death penalty.

I oppose the death penalty because it is being employed in a racially discriminatory manner.

A very significant study was done by a University of Iowa professor named David C. Baldus. He analyzed 2,500 murder cases in the state of Georgia between 1973 and 1978. He discovered that if a defendant is black and charged with killing a white, he is 4.3 times as likely to receive the death sentence as a defendant who kills another black. In other words, if you are black and you kill a white, the statistical study shows that you are 4.3 times more likely to get the death penalty than if you kill another black person. That means what? That an African-American life is less than one-fourth as valuable as a white life.

How should a Christian think about such blatant unfairness? Is not all life equal and precious to the Lord? Isn’t that the message of scripture?


“It is tempting to pretend that minorities on death row share a fate in no way connected to our own, that our treatment of them sounds no echoes beyond the chambers in which they die. Such an illusion is ultimately corrosive, for the reverberations of injustice are not so easily confined. ‘The destinies of the two races in this country are indissolubly linked together,’ and the way in which we choose those who will die reveals the depth of moral commitment among the living.”

The death penalty is a cancer on our society. It will continue to eat away at our souls until we send it to the junk heap of history.

But how will we do that? How do we send the death penalty to the junk heap of history? First of all, we need to read up on the subject. We need to educate ourselves. We need to understand really what is going on. We need to realize that in the death penalty we are attacking the result and not the cause of the problem. Psychologist Dane Archer believes that human violence is a product of social forces rather than the result of biological drive. And he cites some compelling evidence. For example, he did a study comparing violence rates in this country and other countries and found that in New Zealand, which is an industrialized nation very much like our own, multi-racial although not the same composition that we have, violence and murder are minuscule.
Archer’s study, Violence and Crime in Cross-National Perspective, was published as a book by Yale University Press. The study which has won four major awards in psychology and sociology, explores such illusive or critical social questions as, “Does the death penalty deter potential killers? Does violence increase in a nation that has just concluded a war? Do large cities have higher homicide rates than small cities in the same nation?” Drawing off statistics from 110 nations and 44 of their most cosmopolitan cities, Archer provides the following answers. No, the death penalty does not deter homicidal criminals. Yes, violence does increase in a nation that has just finished a war. And, yes, large cities do have higher homicide rates than small cities in the same nation. To explain most of his seemingly unrelated findings, Archer proposed a single hypothesis. When a nation does violence to human beings by conducting wars or executing criminals, it incites its citizens to more criminal violence than they would otherwise commit. Some people might reason, for example, that if the president was commanding the military to kill enemy soldiers and if judges were ordering prison authorities to execute convicted murderers, why shouldn’t the private citizen follow suit and use deadly force on personal enemies? In other words, in Archer’s hypothesis, the state can make violence the coin of its realm.”

For all of the above reasons, I oppose the death penalty. Revenge belongs to God and not to individuals and not to the state. I am not comfortable being in the company of China, Iraq and Iran in the death penalty business. I am revulsed by the racial discrimination in administering the death penalty laws. I am appalled by the unfairness of who gets the death penalty, the poor and minorities, and the arbitrariness in determining who may live and who must die. And, I am convinced that the death penalty is not a deterrent to violence. Indeed, I believe that the death penalty causes more murders.

But, for me as a Christian, the final and most compelling reason to oppose the death penalty is because Jesus was against it. Once a woman was caught in adultery. A crowd was about to carry out the death sentence by stoning her. Jesus appeared. He stooped down and wrote in the sand. He then stood and said that the person without sin could throw the first stone. They all walked away. What about you? Are you without sin? Maybe you haven’t committed adultery. You haven’t killed anybody. But have you never sinned? By what authority are you casting stones to kill all these people on death row?

At the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, he was given a death sentence. The method of state execution in his day was death on a cross. As he hung there, he looked down on his executioners and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”[Emphasis mine]

How then do we continue to perpetuate this indignity? Isn't the church simply exising a particularly wrathful god from the OT to justify this?

January 21, 2005

Dobson and his "Chapel-teria"

Great post from Kristen.

McCarty Musings: Chapel-teria- Kristen: "Listening to NPR on my way home from work the other day, I heard a little bit of a feature they were doing on the Religious Right's effect on (and ambitions in) politics.  Talking about James Dobson and his 80-acre 'Focus on the Family' Compound...excuse me...Headquarters in Colorado Springs, we got to hear a soundbite of a young woman giving a 'tour' of the facilities.  You hear her say, 'And this is our Chapel-teria.  It combines the function of both a Cafeteria and a Chapel.'  There is a cheery pride in her voice that activates my gag reflex.  There is no trace of irony, no sense of the ridiculous. "

What does this mean?

Guardian Unlimited | World Latest | Bob Jones U. President to Retire: "More recently, Jones drew attention for a congratulatory letter he wrote to Bush after his re-election. In the letter, he wrote, ``You have been given a mandate. ... Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ.''"

Bush and evangelicals and poverty

Carlos over at Jesus Politics has this letter from Ron Sider and other evangelicals to President Bush.

Dear Mr. President:

We are grateful for your faith-based initiative and the way this approach is strengthening the ability of faith-based organizations to bring their unique gifts and passion to the task of overcoming social brokenness and poverty. We are also grateful for the way your administration has expanded the American contribution to economic development and the battle against AIDS in Africa and other developing countries through the Millennium Challenge Account and the AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Initiative. Thank you also for your moral leadership in the fight against human trafficking, your commitment to rebuild the U.S. refugee program, and your sustained efforts to end decades of war in Sudan.

That faith based initiative was essentially dropped, was it not? After John Dilulio quit? And the battle against AIDS in Africa? Was that ever funded or was it more talk. I also must have missed the "sustained efforts" in Sudan.

Tragically, however, both at home and abroad, the number of people in poverty remains unacceptably high.

Poverty in our own nation has increased in the last several years and millions more working poor lack health insurance.

We agree with you that there is a poverty of the soul and a poverty of the wallet and that government should not try to solve the first. We pledge to you to strengthen the armies of compassion in order to do more through our faith-based organizations to overcome the poverty of the soul.

But our faith-based social service agencies cannot by themselves solve the problem of poverty of the wallet. As you have often said, government can and should help solve this problem. Tragically, millions of Americans today work full time and still fall below the poverty level. The moral values that shape our lives tell us this is wrong. We believe our rich nation should agree that everyone who works full time responsibly will be able to earn enough to rise above the poverty level and enjoy health insurance.


This policy would strengthen the family, discourage divorce, reduce out-of-wedlock births and strengthen moral values in our nation. If the Bible teaches us anything clearly on this issue, it is, as the recent declaration of the National Association of Evangelicals said, that “God measures societies by how they treat the people at the bottom.”

A dramatic reduction in poverty, both here and abroad, would honor our Lord who called us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. It would also be a wonderful legacy for you to leave with the American people and indeed the world. Such an outcome is clearly within the reach of the richest nation in history. The moral values you share with us demand no less.

I like the sentiment in this letter though it clearly gives Bush way more credit than he deserves on this issue. I have yet to see where his faith has translated into action--action that is not political. Speaking of that, an interesting story from Kevin Drum over at Wash Monthly. Actually, it is from Lanny Davis (democrat) who was a classmate of Bush's at Yale. The story is as follows:
The Washington Monthly: "One of my most vivid memories is this: A few of us were in the common room one night. It was 1965, I believe — my junior year, his sophomore. We were making our usual sarcastic commentaries on those who walked by us. A little nasty perhaps, but always with a touch of humor. On this occasion, however, someone we all believed to be gay walked by, although the word we used in those days was 'queer.' Someone, I'm sorry to say, snidely used that word as he walked by.

George heard it and, most uncharacteristically, snapped: 'Shut up.' Then he said, in words I can remember almost verbatim: 'Why don't you try walking in his shoes for a while and see how it feels before you make a comment like that?'

Remember, this was the 1960s — pre-Stonewall, before gay rights became a cause many of us (especially male college students) had thought much about."

As Drum points out, this is certainly possible and it might explain why he has pulled back from this issue after the election. What does it say about his principles v. politics, though?

Jon Stewart

Anglican reminded me of a line from the Daily Show. ""I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear," said Bush, and at the same time, 49% of the country also solemnly swore."

BTW, what is the deal with that horrible "Let the Eagle Soar" song? It was horrible enough when John Ashcroft sang it, but they had to have someone sing it at the coronation? Yikes.

Bush administration joke

From Life and Deatherage, this:

MSNBC - Inauguration Slacker Friday : "Q: How many Bush Administration officials does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions are improving every day.  Any reports of its lack of incandescence are a delusional spin from the liberal media.  That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect.  Why do you hate freedom?"

Yahoo! News - Norwegians Confused by Bush Salute

Yahoo! News - Norwegians Confused by Bush Salute

Now this is funny. Evidently our Norwegian friends though the "hook 'em Horns" signal is satanic. All OU fans know the truth. It is satanic.

Another post on language

Damn, I really need to read my aggregator before I post. Natalie has a first rate post on the issue of language and its connection to culture. She is really focussing on how we interpret the Bible given the cultural differences, but the issue of language seems to be a theme this morning.

Our King President

I am certainly not the only one to refer to yesterday's ceremony as a coronation. Jim Wallis' point yesterday about the language of "righteous empire" has stuck with me. There is a sense of divine right and theocracy from this president, and I think that is very, very frightening. Speaking of Wallis, here is an article from Sojourners on the theology of empire. (Note, it may ask for a brief registration (name, email address and zip code) but it is worth it.)

Another oft repeated point is this administration's Orwellian language. "Clear Skies" Initiative means less pollution controls and more pollution. "Healthy Forests" means more timber cutting. Some of that is necessary, but most of the wood that needs cleared isn't the stuff that the timber companies want. This is a clear give away to timber companies and a further undermining of environmental controls.

I was thinking of that when I watched the highlights on Bush's speech. I couldn't watch the speech myself. Watching him speak with that self-righteous smirk (which I actually think is a sign that he pronounced something hard) is more than I can take. But back to the speech. The Daily Show had a counter marking the most used phrases. "Freedom" was used 27 times, and I think "liberty" came in second with 15. Those are good words, don't get me wrong. But given the administration's use of words in the past, it makes me flinch. I am thinking of a party that was following Indians off reservations to write down license plate numbers--or sending flyers to black neighborhoods warning that they couldn't vote if they had any unpaid traffic tickets--or hiring private firms to register voters and throwing away the Democrat ones--or registering newly minted citizens with forms already checked "Republican"--or badmouthing a war hero while excusing a draft dodger--all of this is incompatible with Freedom and Liberty. A friend remarked offline that we were bringing democracy to the world, "if we had to kill everyone to do it."

I would imagine that foreigners hearing his speech might also take issue with these words coming from a President who has excused or ignored or avoided the issue of torture. We are trying now to export our torture, you know. We want the right to send people that might be terrorists to countries that have no problem hooking up wires to genitals. This administration has suggested that our judicial system of over 200 years is too weak to be trusted. Just because we can't prove that someone is a terrorist, we reject our system? How is that compatible with the President's usage of Democracy, Freedom and Liberty? We believe in our system so much, that we will turn over to our king the right to incarcerate even American citizens on his say so?

That is our Achilles Heel. Our identification with key American ideals is strong--so strong that if that appeal is used correctly, we will follow bad people. All Americans like Freedom and Liberty. We all like Democracy and Equality and Opportunity. We all like these things. Watch every activist group in the country from either side. They all appeal to those ideals and accuse their opponents of undermining or opposing those ideals. No one opposes gay rights because they advocate removing rights from people--those have to be "special rights." (I really don't think insuring that gay people are not fired or denied housing is a "special right.")

So am I just doing the same thing? Perhaps. But I am very conscious of the language we use. I know that those of us on the left can use language too. The right has been very adept at accusing us of doing it the most, in fact, we are supposedly the origins of Politically Correct language. Think of that the next time the President's people punish someone for questioning the patriotism of the Patriot Act, or daring to suggest that the war in Iraq was ill-conceived. Think of that the next time a critic of capitalism is called a communist.

But back to our President (who I am confident history will rank in the worst category). Why do I flinch when he uses these good words like Liberty and Freedom and Democracy? Why do those sound like a threat in his hands? Because every other use of our good ideals has been subverted by these people. I would think that conservative Christians would be concerned as well. After all, the President never mentioned Social Security reform during the last election and talked a lot about Gay Marriage. Which is he focussing on now? As others have noted, if he is really a social conservative, why is he more concerned with tax cuts for the very wealthy than Prayer in School or banning my gay friends from marrying, or modifying the Constitution to allow idols statues of the Ten Commandments on government lands?

I have been saying for sometime that conservatives should really examine this President's actions because I don't think he shares their values. Most conservatives don't want the right to have more rights--yet this president said during the campaign that there was no point in taxing the rich because they had better lawyers and could avoid payment. What the hell is that? He doesn't share your values. He isn't genuine and he isn't good.

Update I hadn't read my blogs this morning, and just noticed that Greg beat me to it. Great post over at his blog and I include a little here:

the parish: I Think I Saw Rove's Arm Up His Ass...

Some reactions from the inaugural address:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know:  The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors.  When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

Unless you live in the Darfur region of the Sudan (or almost anywhere else in Africa), or North Korea, or Saudi Arabia, or China...

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are, the future leaders of your free country.

Unless you have Marxist leanings or refuse to submit to the economic plan U.S. corporations have for your country. Then we'll call you a communist or oppressor and have you assassinated or ousted.

Wampum: The Koufax Awards: Most Deserving of Wider Recognition

This is a very first for Streak's Blog, a nomination of some kind. Wampum: The Koufax Awards: Most Deserving of Wider Recognition


January 20, 2005

Favorite Lyrics

Streak's friend and I put on some tunes the other night and just enjoyed the music. Every once and a while I have needed to do that--to dim the lights and crank the volume. It seems to feed the soul.

I have been trying to figure out how to keep up on the new music. I bought a Paste Magazine the other day. It includes a sampler cd (and now dvd) of various new songs. (the DVD included a video of Mindy Smith's "Come to Jesus" and one from Kasey Chamber's recent album)

So, we were listening to one song we really liked. The John Butler Trio has a new song called "Something's Gotta Give." Hard to describe the tune--bluesy, rapid beat. But the lyrics caught my ear. Not sure I want more of his stuff, but this one is a good song.

SongMeanings | lyrics | John Butler Trio - Something's Gotta Give: "I was reading a newspaper just yesterday
got the headlines reading God bless the USA, and I thought, God bless everyone
God bless the people in New York when they got attacked,
God bless the children being bombed yeah in Iraq,
God bless the god damn junky with the monkey on his back,
God bless everybody under the sun"

Post your favorite lyrics.

Jim Wallis on Fresh Aire

Thanks to Jape and Anglican, I am listening to Jim on NPR. Talking about the need for justice. He made a great point about growing up in Detroit where his church told him that racism was unrelated to Christianity--that was a political question, and the issues of the faith were about personal issues. Wallis disagreed and still does. I understand that.

More from Jim.

Suggests that gay marriage is simply not the top issue in the church given what many feel is a theology of war coming out of the White House, and a theology of "righteous empire." I like that phrase and think it is well worth thinking about.


Yeah, I know what is going on today in Washington. I don't have the energy for this one. I have said what I think of this administration, and even though a little bitty part of me keeps hoping they will change, I doubt that very much.

So, I am thinking of what I want to accomplish this year. I don't really want to call them NY's resolutions, because those don't work very well. Just some goals.

1) learn how to play the mandolin

2) reread Noll's Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

3) catch up on other readings; Brueggemann's The Prophetic Imagination, de la Torre's Reading the Bible from the Margins, and about 40 more books that Micah, Kristen, Greg, Natalie, and Bruce have recommended.

4) listen to new music. I remember clearly a lecture from my doctor about stress. He told me to either play or listen to music--that there was a direct link between that and stress reduction. Of course, number one on this list relates to that, but new music is good too.

5) spend as much time with friends as I can. Having dinner or beer or coffee with friends usually ends up feeding the soul. That is a good thing.

6) work out more. This is also related to number 4 and 1. Exercise is good for stress too.

7) go skiing as much as I can

8) watch more movies. good ones.

more later.

January 19, 2005

Iran next?

I have to say this scares the shit out of me. The Bush administration's arrogance is well known, but I can't believe they would go into Iran. They have a real army, not one depleted by years of sanctions and embargoes. They have real weapons. But I was sure that Bush would never go into Iraq, and that proved false. I am hopeful that this report will spur the press to do its job this time--something they did not do during the buildup to Iraq. Ask the hard questions and do not accept the "we assure you that this time there really are wmd" approach. Bush's snide statement that the election proved that people liked his approach to the war in Iraq shows how out of touch he really is. If he goes into Iran (not just covertly) he will have to institute the draft, and that could sink the Republicans. I know a lot of Repubs who are not anxious for their sons and daughters and grandkids and nieces and nephews to be drafted for this guy's latest war.

This is the kind of stuff that I really struggled with. I hate apocalyptic types events (not sure I know anyone who likes them) and they fill me with a lot of fear. I have to battle that fear. I do it by trying to focus on the immediate and the good. I spend more time with the dogs, listening to or playing music, talking to Streak's other friend or the numerous great people that have made my life more, well, just more.

Looks like with 4 more years of Bush, I will have more time to practice these techniques.

Typepad questions

To all you Typepad users out there (and there are many who actually read this blog) I want to hear from you. I am considering making the switch. I like the look of those blogs and blogger has been very clunky lately. Anyone using Typepad on a Mac? Other comments? Pros? Cons?


January 18, 2005

More Jim Wallis

3,000 verses on poverty. Taking care of the environment--also a moral value. There are more than two moral values.

How we deal with the least of these, the ones forgotten by society. That is a big part of it. It isn't capital gains tax cuts. Reminds me of a Don Francisco song.

I like Jim Wallis. I hope people buy his book

Update Wallis will be on NPR's Fresh Aire today. Greg also liked the broadcast, and in the comments, Natalie also suggests that we buy his book. I kind of want to buy it to support this kind of Christian expression. Maybe I will order my copy this evening.

Jim Wallis on Jon Stewart: Live Blogging

Great line from Wallis: "How did Jesus become pro-war, pro-rich, and exclusively pro-American?"

Religious Studies and the First Amendment

Bruce has an interesting post on the education/religion discussion.

Mainstream Baptist: Religious Studies and the First Amendment: "My own experience tells me this excuse is simplistic. Having participated in a conference of ministers discussing teaching creation science at a small town public school in Oklahoma, I know that conservative preachers will drop their demand for public schools to teach creation science if that also means the schools will be teaching the creation accounts and religious beliefs of Native Americans and other religions. "

GOP and The Christian Right

From Carlos at Jesus Politics is this post from Bull Moose that can be summarized thusly:

The dirty little secret of the Republican Party is that behind closed doors the establishment has contempt for the religious right. And the GOP illuminati certainly do not leave their homes in the morning with a passion to prevent Jim from marrying John or to save a fetus from an abortionist. For instance, many have loved ones who are gay, or they may be gay themselves. The powers that be in the GOP are far more concerned about eliminating the estate tax for multimillionaires than halting the death of the unborn. Here is a thought experiment - if you really believe that the sacred institution of marriage is in dire jeopardy, would you make private social security accounts your top priority?

It isa great point. If you really care about marriage, why focus on social security? Why tax cuts for the rich?

Don't doubt Dogs

Great story from India about a dog who saved a boy from the tsunami.

Food and a little James Dobson

The Denver Post is reporting on the various relief efforts in the regions most affected by the tsunami. Evidently, there is quite a bit of disagreement among Christian organizations regarding how they approach this crisis. All are trying to address the relief efforts, which is very good, but some like to also include proselytizing efforts. I am glad to see that not all Christian groups want to group these two efforts.

Focus on the family, will "include excerpts from a book written by Dobson, founder of the influential media ministry, in 300,000 survival packets bound for the region."

Dobson's little excerpt is on why bad things happen to people. A) let me say that I don't like bundling something like this with food and medical supplies, and b) it is worse when it combines the arrogance of someone like Dobson. This is classic "cult of the personality." Of course, I should be clear that I have little respect for this man since he has been so clearly politicizing his faith and using his fame to act as a kingmaker in the Republican party. On a lighter note, I am reminded of an story Salon had on visiting his headquarters in Colorado Springs. The good Doctor's picture is everywhere, reminding a friend of mine of the scene in Fletch Lives when the televangelist asks Fletch if he thinks there are too many pictures of himself around his complex. Fletch responds with something like "Oh, no. It worked great for the Ayatollah."

Thanks to Bad Catholic for the link. I am also reminded of the Francis of Assisi quote: "Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words."

January 17, 2005

Not one Damn Dime Day

Some of my friends had talked about a silent protest on inauguration day. My friend in KS suggested all of us wearing blue shirts that said something simple and respectful. Maybe something like "President Bush is supposed to represent all of us, not just a slim majority." But that takes organization and I don't have the energy for that. Here is a simple way to note that we don't appreciate the right turn this country is taking. These organizers are suggesting that we all boycott consumerism for 24 hours. Just don't buy anything. No food, no gas, no nothing. Plan ahead and cook with your friends. Something like that.

I like this, because one of my biggest beefs with this president is that he has never called this country to any kind of sacrifice (unless you count sacrificing civil rights, or perhaps the future of programs to clean up the environment or to help the poor). This speaks to that runaway consumer mentality that fuels so much of our discussion and stops us from ever addressing environmental issues or global poverty.

And yes, I realize that I said I wouldn't blog about our President again today. My defense is that this isn't about him, but about us and what we can do to make a statement.

Thanks to Carlos over at Jesus Politics, btw, for the link. I don't know how he keeps up with all that stuff!

Gandhi, MLK Day, and one last Bush post

I mean for today, of course. I am sure he will do more stuff that bugs me. As a friend noted in an email, I am confident that historians will look back on this period with real puzzlement, wondering what spell this guy had over the American people. That probably qualifies me as an elitest. Whatever.

Anyway, I was walking the dogs and a thought hit me. Gandhi was evidently asked by a reporter what he thought of western civilization. Gandhi said he thought it would be a good thing. So, in honor of nonviolent resistance and thoughtful critique, I offer my paraphrase:

"What do you think of Bush as a Christian President?"

"I think it would be a good thing."

Now, I am going to go put Kasey Chambers back on the Airtunes and read my empty detective novel before the semester begins.

Peace on this MLK day

Yahoo! News - Poll: Americans Hopeful on 2nd Bush Term

Yahoo! News - Poll: Americans Hopeful on 2nd Bush Term
: "Ahead of Bush's inauguration on Thursday, six in 10 people said they felt hopeful about his second term and in response to a separate question 47 percent said they were worried. Most said they were neither angry nor excited about his final four years in office."

Sorry, I just don't get this. Everyone I know is either angry or excited about Bush--I know very few people who are ambivalent about Bush.

But broader point. How can so many people be hopeful about this guy's second term? He has made disastrous decision after disastrous decision. Why the American people continue to support him. Teflon President? Good grief, let's see:

1) outed a CIA agent who was working for us on wmd as a political dirty trick. That alone would have gotten Clinton impeached again.

2) invaded a country on made-up justification--that same justification that they recently had to admit they had stopped looking for. Oh, and when they didn't immediately find wmd, they changed the justification to some crap like, "wmd capabilities." Orwellian, to be sure, but under Clinton or Kerry, that was called, oh yeah, flip flopping.

3) invaded said country with plenty of military to win the war, but not near enough to win the peace. and it isn't like they weren't warned about it, but this administration is nothing if not arrogant. (one of those things I am waiting for Christians to denounce)

4) has run his campaigns with a Machiavellian efficiency. Excellent politician, I concede, but no concern whatsoever for the truth. the most recent on that really puzzles me when I hear people tell me how serious Bush is about his faith. The white house says no social security privatization and badmouths the Kerry camp for suggesting it. Bush makes that the cornerstone of his second term (if he not thinking of invading Iran), and no one calls him on the lie. Oh, and I am still ticked about how he ran his SC primary against John McCain. You know, the one where he allowed his minions to spread the rumor that McCain had fathered a black baby out of wedlock. Anyone who does that is not moral, and anyone who allows that isn't either.

Ok, enough monday morning anger. more later.

January 16, 2005

Boston Legal

I have a thing for David Kelly dramas. Well, that one with all the chicks was lame, and Allie McBeal started to really get on my nerves, but the Practice and Picket Fences are solid gold. Well, not solid, but good. I loved the Practice for exposing the insanities in the death penalty system and thought it addressed our society in a very interesting way.

Boston Legal has bugged me a bit. Reminds me at times a little too much of LA Law, which I really started to hate at some point in time. But James Spader is so unbelievable in this one that I keep going back to it. The addition of Candace Bergin really helped here too, and Captain Kirk is perhaps the biggest scene stealer in the cast.

Anyway, digression, digression. The last two episodes have been great. Last week, the show talked about the killings in the Sudan and why Americans seem to not care--kind of in the same way they don't care about WMD. This week, was a debate on intelligent design v. evolution. Two great points--well, actually a great point, and a really funny line.

Great point: our society has kind of lost the art of intelligent rebuttal. Led by the Fox News Network, everyone is in a hurry to say that every point has an equally valid alternative point, regardless of its stupidity. With Fox News and actually network news as a whole, the Swift Boat Veterans (proven liars in numerous cases) were put against Kerry's war record (boring guy who drones on and probably flip-flopped a few times but WAS ACTUALLY A WAR HERO) as if they were equal in merit. They weren't. In tonight's episode, the idea that you can put intelligent design (untestable and theological concept to boot) on an equal footing with evolution (testable and flawed, but still TESTABLE) is annoying. We have the same bizarre debates over America's Christian Roots, and even in the American South over the role slavery played in the Civil War (that's right, some people think the south would have seceeded over internal improvements). Those aren't equal and we should stand up and say something about that. In the case of the Intelligent design/evolution, I have no problem with talking about God's role in creation as a deeply important theological idea, but putting it in a science class bugs me. Just as I don't want to teach an American history class where I would be forced to say that God played a role in our founding. That would probably make me mad. Or something.

Ok, Really Funny Line: Candace Bergin's character, talking about evolution said, "who among us didn't believe seriously in evolution when watching the Presidential debates?" Or something like that. See, humor? And that one, I believe is a shot at Bush, but Kerry gets some of it on him too.

Music Plug, or what we are listening to right now

Kasey Chambers recently released her third album. Her first two are good, but this one, Wayward Angel, really works. If you haven't heard her, she has one of the most interesting voices in music today. Give her a listen if you are looking for something new.

More on Bush's comments

Associated Baptist Press - News: "WASHINGTON (ABP) -- President Bush said recently he doesn't understand 'how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord.' But that testament brought a protest from one of the country's top Jewish leaders.

Bush made the comment in an interview with editors and reporters from the conservative Washington Times, reported by the newspaper Jan. 12.

David Saperstein, director of the Washington-based Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, told reporters Jan. 13 he is 'deeply troubled' by Bush's remarks. 'Such an assertion violates the spirit of the Constitution’s ban on religious tests for political office and endangers the strength of the religious pluralism and tolerance that the president has so often affirmed -- and re-affirmed in the same interview,' Saperstein continued."

Interesting, and not surprising. It is a problem, because the Constitution clearly bars a religious litmus test for election. I think Bush needs to be more clear about his endorsement of religious tolerance.

Bush and accountability

Bush gave an interview to the Wash Post, and stated his position on a lot of issues. They are interesting, and in many ways, counter to what his campaign said.

Yahoo! News - Bush Says Election Ratified Iraq Policy
: "President Bush (news - web sites) said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq (news - web sites) and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

'We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections,' Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. 'The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me.'"

This is only partially correct. It is clear that he was reelected, but to state that his couple of percentage point victory means that the people endorse his Iraq policy is a stretch. Especially since many of those who voted for him expressed concern about that policy.

But the broader issue is still that he sees accountability this way. I don't understand that or the conservatives who support him accepting that. Accountability is good, and we certainly demanded it from Clinton.

One other very interesting note was that he said he would not pressure the congress on the gay marriage amendment. This seems to contradict the administration's use of that as a campaign issue, though I wonder if social conservatives will see this bait and switch. This strikes me as a further character issue with this president. His campaign also attacked the Kerry camp when the idea of privatizing social security was raised before the election. Why can Bush state that he won't privatize social security and then make that the cornerstone of his second term? Why is that not a credibility issue? He runs on gay marriage and says he won't privatize, and then switches after elected. I think that is called "flip flopping" as I recall. Why won't conservatives hold him accountable? Oh, right. He doesn't feel the need to be accountable.

January 15, 2005

Jesus and football

I am watching the Jets and Steelers playoff game and taking a break from the genocide debate. (BTW, I don't need no stinking bible verse to tell me that genocide is bad--just as I don't have to find a verse to support gender equality, racial equality, or that slavery is wrong.) I have decided to cheer against Pitt because I kind of like the Jets, and also because I find the Ben Roethlisberger "I have never lost as a rookie" annoying. I know, he is donating his playoff check to the tsunami recovery, which is great, but he still bugs me. Plus, he once wanted to play with "P-F-J -- meaning play for Jesus -- on his shoes." Seriously, what does that mean? As I watched the Jets miss two possible game winning field goals, I could hear Big Ben thanking Jesus for that. It inspired me. So here is a list of things I expect from conservative Christians if they want my respect:

1) Stand up and complain every time some NFL, MLB, or NCAA athlete suggests that his/her athletic endeavors is all about God. When Kurt Warner did it, it was annoying, and it is annoying when others do it too. If that is what God is about, let me out. You want my respect, then step up and speak out against trivializing our faith.

2) Make Bush actually act like a Christian. You could all sign a letter in the NYTimes (or some periodical that Bush actually reads, if that is possible) and say something like: "Mr. President, we appreciate that you support our faith and thank you for that. But we also think that you must also follow through on those pronouncements with fruit. It is time for you to acknowledge your mistakes and sins before the nation you lead. You may have thought you had the justification for the war in Iraq, but you were wrong, and you must take responsibility for that. It is important for the integrity of our faith."

Is that so hard?

3) Say something about the environment. You believe that God created the earth, now step up and do something to protect it. If that means you don't drive an SUV or consume unabated, that might be a sacrifice you should make. But say something. Do something to take the Jerry Falwell doofus idiot off the stand.

4) The American death penalty is horrible, and the Christian endorsement of it risks turning the faith into a laughingstock. Think about it, we know that we have had people on death row that the jury, prosecutor, and executioner were completely convinced were guilty, only to find out because of other evidence that they were about to kill the wrong man. What makes you so sure that hasn't happened already? And if you are so willing to allow possible innocent life be clinically executed by the state, then what does that say about you? Stand up, dammit.

5) Step up and show that you value depth. If you are more concerned about the f-word than you are about global warming or executing innocent people, what does that say about you? Not much, that is what.

I don't think I am expecting that much. I am asking you to actually look at what you say you believe and act on it. Write a letter to the President. Write your congressperson or senator. Do something beyond reading "The Purpose Driven Life." Please. Come on!

January 14, 2005

Bush to Liberals: I am tolerant, but you should be a Christian (paraphrase)

Oh, George, you rascal you! Thanks to both Bad Catholic and Carlos at Jesus Politics for this one. According to the paper owned by a cultist freak, Bush thinks that you really need to be a Christian to be President. He reaches out to liberals saying, "The president said there is no reason to fear his conspicuous practice of his Methodist faith or his approval of religious expression in the public square."

I am not afraid of his "conspicuous practice" of his faith, but just wonder when it will actually turn into action? Have we yet any evidence that his faith is more than a political card? Has he treated his political enemies with anything approaching Christianity? Hmm. Maybe he thinks that his faith really is just public quotes and appeals to the religious right.

Mainstream Baptist: Gays a Threat to National Security ?

Bruce points us to a story about priorities.

"The Guardian is reporting that the "Military has discharged 26 Gay Linguists" for violating the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. 13 of them were Arabic translators -- a skill-set that has been in desperately short supply since before 9/11.

Obviously, homosexuals are more threatening to our national security than all the terrorists in Al Queda, all the insurgents in Iraq, and all the weapons of mass destruction that they desire to obtain.

Hmm. It is also seems apparent that key decision-makers have determined that Jesus' command to let the tares grow together with the wheat was ill-advised."

What the hell?

January 13, 2005

American Death

Yesterday, Streak's other friend and I had a bizarre driveway moment. She drove into the driveway to find me sitting in the truck with the radio on. Both of us sat in our cars and listened to NPR's interview with Sister Helen Prejean about her new book. She was mesmerizing, and her story is one of horror. Americans pat themselves on the back about their virture and morality, yet allow a flawed system that kills people to continue.

What do we know about our Capital Punishment?

1) The states that execute the most are from the old Confederacy.

2) Those same states had the most illegal lynchings as well.

3) Our system is biased on both class and race. If you are poor and can't afford good counsel, you have a much higher possibility of being executed (especially in Texas).

3b. If the victim is white, much more likely to result in execution. Victims of color don't count as much.

4. Since the advent of DNA testing, the Innocence Project has exonerated 154 people who were on death row. Remember, DNA evidence only comes into play when there is, well, DNA to be tested. That doesn't mean those are the only wrongful convictions. Especially with what we know about eye witness testimony, it is inconcievable that we can claim that we only execute the guilty.

Most Americans know these problems but continue to allow this to continue. Why? I am tired and jaded, but allowing a system that is racist and classist and likely executing innocent people shouldn't be allowed to continue.

Is God Love? (or did he commit genocide?)

Natalie started her post about the nature of God and the tsunami. Several people jumped in with some comments and jvpastor and I got into a bit of a discussion. We disagree on the nature of god, perhaps, or maybe just the accuracy of the bible as historical record. Read the comments here. I am not dogging on jvpastor. I have no doubt that he is a decent guy. But I really don't understand this debate and hope that some of you can help me out here.

Here is my main point, and I will await some brighter people's opinion. I think anytime other humans are involved, the statement "God did...whatever" becomes suspect. Not saying God doesn't say or tell or do stuff. But when humans kill other humans, it is incredibly hard for me to accept that God was involved. If God reached down and told the Israelites (who, of course, thought they were god's chosen people) to go wipe out some badass neighbors, then what is to stop him from telling some Rwanda tribe to wipe out another, or some German guys to wipe out some other guys, or some Arab strong man to gas some Kurds. I say that has happened more times than we care to remember, and jvpastor suggests that the fact that others have misused the Bible does nothing to undermine the text. That is probably correct.

I still say that God as architect of genocide is hard to take. That isn't very good evidence, I understand, but it is the best I can do on a weary day.

Help me out here. Did/does God endorse ethnic cleansing?

January 11, 2005

When Christians do really really bad things

Just as I post a positive story, I find this one. But it is worth reading. For those who don't read Slacktivist, you should. Fred Clark has a cautionary tale on Rwanda. Some people in the comments have some more interesting things to say. Anyway, read it.

"The church leader is said to have responded, 'Your problem has already found a solution. You must die.'

Ntakirumana did talk with the mayor, and with his son, a doctor at the hospital. They worked together to coordinate the attack that slaughtered the seven pastors, their families, and nearly everyone else in the mission at Mugonero.

Elsewhere in Rwanda the victims were huddled in churches. Some were in Catholic churches, some in Protestant churches, but all in Christian churches because, you see, Rwanda is a Christian nation."

Great story

Most of you probably already read the RealLivePreacher, but here is one of his great stories. This one is about his middle daughter and her love of lemons and fake leather jackets. Anyway, it is a good one.

Another comment

Salaam posted a challenging comment to my depression post that I think deserves some response.

He said:
"While many times labeling behavior and attitudes as evil might be accurate, it is fraught with many traps. Once this type of labeling occurs, I must realize that I have, for all practical purposes, ended discussion with the other party. We are now adversaries and only one of us can move forward after the other is dominated. Your action is evil. You must repent and make it right. If I go so far as to consider the other party as being evil, then I am further justified in dealing with them violently without any remorse. In ridding the world of them I am reducing the evil in it which is a noble cause. I am free to use any methods to get rid of them just as long as my tactics stop just short of theirs. What is lost in this exchange is any opportunity for us to recapture the sense of "we"."

Great points. Let me respond. First, I agree that my use of the word "evil" was probably ill-advised. I used it, I think, for two reasons. One was simply my depression-induced frustration. The second actually relates to your other point--that I run the risk of furthering the "us v. them" mentality that I think this administration has used to govern.

You are correct. When we start to separate into us and them, we do start to disintegrate into dismissal and I am not trying to do that. I am partially frustrated by the clear sense that my opinion does not matter to the Republicans, but I am more trying to appeal to my friends and neighbors who align with Bush. I am not trying to pull away, but challenge them by holding up a mirror and saying "this is what you say you believe. Is that true?" That was the main way I used the word "evil." My friends and relatives who are conservative have been quick to use that word along with Bush, and you point out the perils of such use. I was using it to challenge that belief and suggest that we have to look inside if we are to talk about evil. Because I truly believe that we are all capable of evil and must always be aware of that potential. Evil is not just some abstract out there that we can project onto a Saddam or Osama, it also hides inside all of us. I was trying (again, probably illadvisedly and angrily) to pose the question: "you say that you believe in fighting evil, yet you tolerate this."

I really don't think that the Bush administration is evil, nor do I believe that their supporters are. I think they have done some very bad things, mostly because of this separation that you articulate so well. I am reminded of the lesson of Jimmy Swaggart--who we all remember liked to preach loudly about sexual sins while carrying on with a hooker in a hotel room. My conclusion from that was to be warned about our own weakness--that those who are convinced they are incapable of such actions are the most vulnerable. Bush and his supporters, I think, have so convinced themselves of their own purity that they cannot look inside with any integrity. That is a warning to all of us.

Again, your points are well taken. Even after I plugged your blog! :) As for the value of your points (combined with a buck getting me a cup of coffee), that does not apply to my Starbucks coffee. Hmm.... Starbucks......

January 10, 2005

Family Values question

Leighton left a question in my comments. Streak's Blog: I think I get depressed every January: "So here's a question for someone who actually studies history: at what point did an obsession with marital fidelity become part-and-parcel of the family values package? I want to say it's been around since at least the fifties, but I don't really know. One thing that makes me wonder is that quite a few of my conservative peers who are roughly as old as I am were first 'politically awake' during the Clinton administration, and their preoccupation with adultery is one very clean, convenient a posteriori way to demonize Clinton and idolize Bush. They sure as hell didn't care what married people do on their own time before the Lewinsky fiasco."

Good question and one I will continue to mull over. Family values is a touchy issue and I think you are right that this current obsession is a relative new thing. The emphasis on fidelity has a long life, however, and I don't think that many of the religious right just realized they didn't like adultery when it was Clinton. No doubt, they have been rather selective in who they demonize--even going after some people for being divorced, but loving Ronald Reagan. But they made family values a big deal well before Clinton--remember the Gary Hart fiasco?

But the broader question of family values is an interesting one. I remember one historian commenting that when students asked her about family values, she responded with "depends on which family you are talking about." Conservatives like to see family as a concrete and consistent institution that is only recently under attack, but it--like every other institution--is constantly in flux. Flash back 200 years and marriage is more an economic than emotional union. Kids are a potential work force, and are hardly doted on.

I think the modern obsession with family starts during the Progressive era. It is during this time that immigration, industrialism and the advent of some modern birth control produced a tremendous anxiety about family. It is here, I believe, that we see the disparaging of feminist womens as being gay. Normal women were not supposed to question the family. New industrial occupations and economic fluxuations push more and more women into the work force and change the way that economic unit begins to function. The 1950s increases all of this anxiety, by increasing the emphasis and obsession with children and their nurturance. Suburbs allow the facade of moral values families, but we see the tremendous upsurge of self-medication during this same decade. Alcohol and new tranquilizers become used in huge numbers by these suburban women.

The 1960s probably just exacerbates all of this. For many conservatives, the conflation of anti-war, counter-culture, racial hostility, and feminism represent all that is bad about America. Many of them have been working to reverse those changes ever since. The irony is that both Clinton and Bush represent that decade.

I am not sure this answers any of Leighton's question. As he notes, many of his contemporaries are responding to the more recent iteration of this family values crusade. I think the conservatives have triumphed in many ways, simply by repeating some things until they become accepted as truth. They repeat over and over that the American family is under attack, but rarely if ever question either their assumption or their possible contribution.