April 29, 2005

My quick rant

My previous post probably attracted more comments than most of my blatherings. Tickles me, especially since it struck a chord with so many people.

Salaam's comment reminded me of a story that I often tell my class when talking about feminism. I remember a cute coed (not Streak's other Friend, though for the life of me, I can't remember who it was) asking me to walk her across campus one evening. As a young man trying to cultivate the macho image and hoping to be the masculine guy this radio jerk envisioned, I lept at the possibility. It was only later that I wondered what in the hell she asked me to do that for? Don't let my insightful wit fool you, I am not exactly the bouncer type. At 5 foot, 7, 130 pounds, it was clear that she was asking me, not to beat off the potential muggers, but to serve as slower bait. :)

But in all seriousness, it was college where I started developing my feminist ideas. Part of it was the fact that I was surrounded by smart and capable women who were every bit my intellectual equal (and better). Part of it was the toll of being locked in a pseudo-macho world on my own psyche. I realized I didn't want to be the "family leader" who had to carry all of that. I found I liked the idea of partnership a hell of a lot more than I did that alternative.

My Texas friend emailed me and asked me why this guy got to me so easily, or why did I let him bug me?

That is a decent question and one that I don't think I answered to his satisfaction.

Why did that radio jerk bug me so much? Part of it is the generalizations on gender. That annoys me. I have never claimed that the gender's were identical. But some of the stuff is so clearly social based--or in the case of this guy, the way he and his wife interact. Nothing necessarily wrong with that. But no need to extrapolate out and assume that is the natural, God ordained order of things. I could do the same thing and wonder why other men were so out of line with God's creation that they didn't like to cook.

The other part is the using God to justify his own gender roles. That bothers me. Dragging God into this seems unnecessary, and quite frankly offensive. It makes me sympathetic with my gay friends who have spent their entire life trying to fit into someone else's sense of who they should be. That is heavy stuff. Bad enough that there is so much of that out there in the world--peer pressure and fitting in. Even worse when self-appointed experts decide to say that God agrees with him and you are even more wrong. I am always a little amused at how these people assume that God agrees with them.

Anyway, to all who commented, I appreciate it. Made my day. I better get cooking!

April 28, 2005

Quick rant

I am working on the house today and so went to the hardware store to get the right bit that I didn't buy the other day. So, I am in the truck on the way home and flipping stations. On Christian radio is some guy talking about men and women. Please.

He said many times that God had uttered this message in an audible voice to him, and then went on to refer to the way God had "programmed" the differences between men and women. Here were the examples that assured me that he is a moron:

"If you forget a woman's birthday, she is offended. She is made that way. But men don't care about that stuff."

Really? Really? Just a blanket statement. Men don't give a shit about their own birthday or those around them. Don't care about anniversaries, either. Bullshit. I can tell you this, if Streak's other friend forgets my birthday, I am hurt. Maybe I am not masculine enough by this jackass's definition. But there was more.

"Men, and those listening to me know this, can crawl under their car and remember everything about that car. They are programmed by God to have that ability. Women can't do that.

Now he is just being an asshole. Whenever I talk about working on the car, Streak's other Friend looks anxious and reminds me that we can take it to a garage. Innate, my ass, I have single-handedly caused more problems on my vehicles than I have ever solved.

This isn't to say that I am a blundering nincompoop. I can be handy. I am building a fence today. It will stand up and look moderately good. But so can my wife.

I am just so tired of this tired bullshit about "God's programming" differences in men and women. You want to talk about differences? Fine. I am not saying that men and women are identical by any stretch. But can we at least leave the stupid stereotypes aside and at least question what is socially taught? Can we at least question the assumption that women like to buy shoes more than men? Because I enjoy shoe shopping a hell of a lot more than she does.

Just stop it. It is bad enough that "God spoke audibly to him" but this crap about me crawling under my car and forgetting my own birthday just pisses me off.

April 27, 2005

What's On Jesus' iPod?

I found this over at Carlos's blog (where I find so much good stufff--thanks Carlos!). This one made me happy, as an avid Ipod user. After all, my Ipod is the only thing that keeps me sane! (I imagine more than a few readers are shaking their heads. "Not working!")

Anyway, this column is a tongue in cheek take on what Jesus might have on his Ipod. JoeG has challenged the Jesus Politics crowd to play along, and I listed a few in the comments.

Wilco (naturally) especially "Jesus, etc.," "Poor Places" and "Theologians."

Springsteen, "Reason to Believe" "Thunder Road" and "You're Missing."

Mindy Smith, "Come to Jesus" and "Hurricane"

Ryan Adams "Hallelujah" and "This House is for Sale"

Steve Earle, "Jerusalem" (death machines were rumbling across the land where Jesus stood) and "Copperhead Road"

Green Day, "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Holiday/Boulevard of Broken Dreams"

Anyone else?

I know, I know

We have to be very careful with the "guilt by association" stuff. But there is a trend among the hard right that has to be questioned and at least brought to light. During the Ashcroft hearings, we heard that he had done interviews for the Southern Partisan magazine.

During Ashcroft's confirmation hearing, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware raised the issue of his interview with Southern Partisan magazine. That publication is so favorable toward the days of slavery that it has sold a T-shirt bearing a picture of Abraham Lincoln accompanied by the Latin words of his assassin, "Sic Semper Tyrannis" -- "Thus Always to Tyrants."

Biden neglected to bring up the fact that Ashcroft went out of his way to praise Southern Partisan during his 1998 interview -- when he said that the magazine "helps set the record straight" and lauded it for "defending Southern patriots" such as Jefferson Davis, the vehement advocate of slavery who was president of the Confederacy.

It is bad enough to give them an interview, but to embrace their racist view of history is horrible. And unchristian. Where were the Christian voices to chastise the soon to be AG? Missing.

Maybe we know why. The religious right, in my opinion, defers to their political leaders in a way that the left has been unable to cultivate. So, Dobson, Falwell, Mohler, Land all play a huge role in speaking for people. And here we have in Dobson's own political organization, Tony Perkins, who has his own shady past.

Justice Sunday Preachers: "For years, Jenkins had been grooming Perkins as his political successor. 'To Jenkins, Perkins was like a son, and the feeling was and is mutual,' wrote former Jenkins staffer Christopher Tidmore. In 1996 Perkins cut his teeth as the manager of Jenkins's campaign for US Senate. It was during that campaign that, in an attempt to consolidate the support of Louisiana's conservative base, Perkins paid David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list. After Jenkins was defeated by his Democratic opponent, Mary Landrieu, he contested the election. But during the contest period, Perkins's surreptitious payment to Duke was exposed through an investigation conducted by the FEC, which fined the Jenkins campaign.

Six years later, in 2002, Perkins embarked on a campaign to avenge his mentor's defeat by running for the US Senate himself. But Perkins was dogged with questions about his involvement with David Duke. Perkins issued a flat denial that he had ever had anything to do with Duke, and he denounced him for good measure. Unfortunately, Perkins's signature was on the document authorizing the purchase of Duke's list. Perkins's dalliance with the racist Council of Conservative Citizens in the run-up to his campaign also illuminates the seamy underside of his political associations. Despite endorsements from James Dobson and a host of prominent CNP members, Perkins was not even the leading Republican in the senatorial race."

Is this unfair criticism? Believe you me, whenever people can associate anyone on the left with Lewis Farakhan, they call them unpatriotic. And people on the left should stay away from him. But having people of faith cozying up to racists like Duke and the Council of Conservative Citizens is horrible.

Am I off base here?

Dobson v. American history

I have written of my disdain for James Dobson here before. Growing up, I only knew of him as a kindly Christian psychologist. I remember our church screening some of his videos. They were fine, as I recall. They were about adolescence and growing up. I learned something from them--though I can't recall what right now. I certainly don't remember him being overly political.

All that has changed completely. Dobson is mad with power. I saw that last year when George Stephanopolous challenged how Dobson had spoken about his political adversaries. Dobson responded arrogantly--in fact denying that someone like George had even the right to challenge if Dobson was acting in a Christian way. That is unbelievable arrogance. No one is above reproach.

Well, now his arrogance is really showing. If you read this you will see the rantings of a powerhungry madman.

But beneath his rantings lie a serious attack on the American system of government. Dobson said last week in "Justice Sunday" (which one blogger said sounded like a Professional Wrestling promo) that the courts should not be allowed to review legislation. He says that Marbury v. Madison was a horrible mistake and should have never happened. He threatens those Senators who might not vote his way. He essentially says that God agrees with him--which I think is another note of insanity.

Two points and then I will get off this. One, it is very interesting that he quotes Jefferson to support his attack on Marbury v. Madison, yet he and David Barton completely reject Jefferson when it comes to separation of church and state. It is Jefferson's letter to the Danbury church that gives us that phrase, and they constantly dismiss that. But here, Jefferson is their guy.

Second, and I think I might have said this before, there is an inherent contradiction between the attack on judicial review and the attack on the filibuster. As the blogger Hokie noted on his blog Uncivil Discourse (and he means that, btw), the filibuster is one of those ways that the legislative branch gets to check the power of the judiciary. Not only that, but Dobson is fighting to pack the courts with hard line conservatives AND remove their right to review legislation. Does anyone reading this think that he would take that line if the legislature and executive were liberals? Hell no. He would want the conservative courts to keep an eye on the liberals.

Molly Ivins put it best (thanks to Bruce for the quote:
Last time I checked, no one had elected Dobson to decide who is a Christian and who is not. It's a joke that the right wing claims it is against "judicial activists." What they want are judicial activists who agree with them. These people don't want to govern, they want to rule.[emphasis mine]

April 26, 2005

Government handouts bad--except when you are wealthy

MSN Money - Extra: SUV owners get free gas -- courtesy of Uncle Sam: "Owners of gas-guzzling SUVs and other heavy vehicles who use them entirely for business can get Uncle Sam to pay for four or more years of fuel costs -- in the form of tax breaks. It's hard to think of a worse formula for wrecking the country. "

This one makes me feel a little queasy. Not only is it bad tax policy, but given what we know about peak oil and pollution and global warming, this is analagous to giving people tax breaks if their home business is a meth lab. Sure glad the Republicans are in charge.

Blogging around

A couple of posts that caught my eye. Both in the tradition of holding up the faith as a mirror to evangelical christians and asking: "What do you really believe? How does that match up with your voting and buying habits?"

First, a good post on something I have ranted on before. How do people who will fight their school board to insist that God created the earth in a literal 7 days spend so little effort trying to protect his creation?
Waste is a failure of design - Laryn and Janel Online: "It%u2019s Earth Day again, 35 years later, not that you can tell we've learned much in that time. (Bush%u2019s horrid environmental record was barely a blip on the campaign trail last year, especially among us evangelical Christians, who seem to be slow in clueing in to the fact that God cares about the world that God created.) Now, just in time for the Earth Day anniversary celebration, the House has voted to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, along with a lot of other dirty pork."

And then this one that holds up the early church and asks how the Dobson/Mohler/Land/Bush/Frist freakshow measures up with this:

Distance: "Act 2:45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all [men], as every man had need. Act 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, "

Thanks to Carlos at Jesus Politics for both links.

The Church of Wilco

Not really. Or certainly not church in a traditional sense. But there were some interesting elements.

But to back up. Streak's other Friend and I attended the Wilco concert last night. Doors opened at 7, the warmup band (called "Healthy White Baby," I kid you not) started playing at 8 and Wilco played from about 9:15 to about 11:35 or so. And there were no chairs. None. Little tired today.

Wilco was fantastic! What an amazing show. Good art is fun to watch and these guys are great musicians and great artists.

But during the show, I was reminded of church. And I thought, here in this concert hall, we had the best and worst elements of church (especially the modern church), with the exception of the wafting scent of marijuana and the drunk dancing guy next to me.

The Bad.

The other people. Or at least some of the other people. The aforementioned drunk guy was really annoying, but he kind of crashed early after calling his friends on his cell phone to say something like, "Man, Wilco is playing Hummingbird. HUMMINGBIRD! LISTEN!" After the fourth time, it was not funny. He also insisted on playing air-guitar (aggressively). I never realized how much that looks like someone self-pleasuring (out of the corner of your eye).

No real comparable church setting to Drunk Cell Phone Guy. But along with him were numerous people who didn't understand when to yell (or say "amen") and there was a lot of arm waving and fist pumping--the equivalent of the hand waving. (Am I the only one who thought that the first time they saw someone put their hand up in a church setting that they were asking a question? Like they wanted the singer/preacher to stop and explain why God had created bad praise music?)

There was this one big guy. Young, white, and with huge arms. He reminded me of what my friend J in high school used to mock as the "Jock Dancer." He would do this great imitation of the beefy football player "dancing." It included the mouth of great concentration, and then a series of flexing motions that were supposed to double as both dance moves and to show off the "guns."

Anyway, back to my jock. He did the serious fist pumping when Wilco opened up, then did what was an incredibly bizarre pantomime when the band did "I am trying to break your heart." He would gesture to himself on the "I" and then do stuff I couldn't see and then have his giant arms outstretched in a touchdown-like motion for the "heart." I sighed a few times.

Then there was Strange Little Monkey Guy--wearing a Doors t-shirt and insisting on waving his hand with the "horns" shape in a Beavis and Butthead kind of way. At one point, I saw him doing that and jumping up and down. I think he was very high.

All of those kind of reminded me of the people who feel the need to express themselves in, say a church, with little regard for the people around them. They have a great sense of entitlement and often justify it on the basis that they are "glorifying God," so "what is your problem?"

I was one of those who caught myself looking disapprovingly at those who "Amen-ed" at the wrong time (or too often), thinking "they don't know how to act devout." There were many of us at the concert who looked on at the jumping, fist-pumping people with a certain disdain. I had to talk my self out of that kind of self-righteousness.

The Good.

And it was very good. Wilco worked in several theologically-themed songs, including "Theologians" (dedicated to the new Pope) and a really amazing song. Left me a little teary eyed at the end.
That don't know nothing
About my soul
Oh they don't know



I'm going away
Where you will look for me
Where I'm going you cannot come

No one's ever gonna take my life from me
I lay it down

"Poor Places" reminded us all of the huge pain that exists around the world, and "Handshake Drugs" recalled the human failings of our own appetites and shortcomings. "Jesus, etc." was a painful reminder of the mixing of faith and politics in the modern era.

Music has always played a huge role in my life. I am very aware that I listen in ways that some of my friends don't. They listen for background music; for familiarity. They can either take music or leave it. I need it for sanity. It is one of my spiritual connections, and this concert touched on all of that. Those songs all touched me with great depth and feeling.

In the middle of all the jerks and obnoxious people, we found a community with people there for the same purpose. They were not there to get drunk or to be seen, but to enjoy the show. Likewise, there was an amazing shared sense when the band hit those familiar notes and we all sang out. It isn't the community that I want from a church, but it was still cool.

This post may not make as much sense to you as it does to me. Plus I am fatigued and my ears are still ringing a bit.
Maybe all I need is a shot in the arm

April 25, 2005

Is this new? Have we always blurred politics and faith?

Cold in Laramie asked a good question in the comments of my "bad days happen post. He wonders if our recent mingling of religion and politics is new, but then notes that the Manifest Destiny fervor had religious overtones of justifying American expansion as a divine, well, destiny. When gold was discovered in 1848, New England ministers speculated that God had kept the Spanish from discovering the Gold--and were waiting for good Protestant Americans to be enriched. Of course, in the gold rush, as I have mentioned here, California Indians dropped in population from 150,000 to 30,000 in 12 years. Hard to connect that to God's favor.

Politicians, as CIL notes, did not used to insert their faith so readily into the campaign and political dialogue. This manifest destiny stuff was more in the order of what historians call a "secular religion" where people confuse or conflate their political and religious institutions into one big amalgam. We see that pretty early on in the new Republic and it continues.

This most recent version, I think, is in fact the latest of that. That is the part that christian conservatives really need to examine. The problem with it is, as Kevin notes, that political patriotism is tantamount to idolotry. When people lose track of the distinction between their political and religious identity, then you get an easy move to religiously justified military aggression. After all, if God is on our side, he isn't with our enemies, right? I don't think that is compatible with the Bible, but that language is all over our recent invasion of Iraq. There are legitimate reasons to support the war (not enough, in my estimation), but us being on God's side and this being a spiritual war is not one of them. That is how crusades happen and pograms and purges and ethnic cleansing and genocide and... and.. When your enemy is evil and the enemy of God, then you have to wipe them out, right? Girl Grace just left a great comment quoting Lincoln on how both sides in the Civil War thought that God was on their side. Lincoln was smart enough to realize that neither side was divinely justified.

And even if the stakes are not a holy war, they show up in our political dialogue in the ways we have been talking about now for the last few years. The recent attack on the judiciary reminds me of this. Attacking the very framework of the independent judiciary has real consequences and has the future potential of undermining what Conservative Christians want now. But listening to Mohler, Dobson and Kennedy, one cannot avoid the sense of divine arrogance. They are right, because they are on God's side.

I am now not sure if I answered CIL's question. That won't shock him. I suspect that our religious/political merging is new and old. New in that we have politicians using faith and religious people to get elected. Old in that the blending of "patriotism" and faith is as old as our republic.

April 24, 2005

Listening to "Christian" Radio

I know, I am not really supposed to do that. But my truck has no cd player and therefore no tunes. Local radio is either "All Bad Company All the time," or "Toby Keith remembers Ass kicking." So, I turn to Christian radio to hear what is going on. I heard this from the Family Research Council:

"For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the ACLU, have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms. "

I like the imagery. "Like a thief in the night," evokes what? The Rapture? Death? Sin? The image recalls subterfuge, covert action. The Bible reference is rather weird in that it is used to refer to the return of the Lord. Here, the FRC certainly means it a different way.

Yesterday, I heard Gary Bauer talking about how conservative Christians respected the constitution, but it was the left who did not. Tom Delay referred to a "left-wing syndicate" that was out to get him.

Hmm. That last one almost made me chuckle. I remember how much conservatives mocked Hilary Clinton when she referred to the "vast right-wing conspiracy." She was wrong AND right all at the same time, much as I suspect Tom Delay is. Clinton was wrong in that her husband had, in fact, been fraternizing with an intern. She was correct (as many have documented) that there is a right wing machine in place that finances opposition to the left. Richard Mellon Scaife financed the Arkansas project intending to find any dirt on Clinton they could. And Delay is right in that there are left wing organizations that don't like him. I would suggest that those organizations are right out in the open--unlike Delay, and everyone knows who MoveOn.org and George Soros are.

But I digress. The fascinating thing is that both sides use the very same language. Both assume they are the true democratic impulse; both assume they are the ones who support the constitution; both assume that the other side cheats. The "thief in the night" statement bothers me, simply because I know that Jerry Falwell has coached pastors to act less fundamentalist to get hired at churches and then change them from the inside. I know that the right has also coached people running for school board, city councel and other elected posts to downplay or hide their religious leanings to get elected. That doesn't strike me as honest and above-board. And it doesn't strike me as Christian.

But I digress yet again. The real dilemma is how do we get both sides to see the common goals and values. We both believe in the constitution, we both believe in democracy and family. We both believe in values, moral and social. We both believe in doing good.

Yet we see each other as the enemy. There is something in what Bootleg Blogger raised about the "label" idea. If we can get beyond the label (calling certain things Christian and other things un-Christian) maybe we can get to that shared value.

Unfortunately, there are people on both sides who have a vested interest in that not happening. This isn't conspiracy talking--this is just realism. Michael Moore would hate that kind of rapprochement as would Jerry Falwell and James Dobson. Where would their jobs go? How would they get camera time if those two groups were talking?

Funny bumper sticker

Well, it wasn't actually a funny sticker, but the location was hilarious. Saw a "W" sticker on an SUV. Not that odd, you say, and you would be right. After all, seems like the bigger the gas hog, the more likely to see a W sticker. But this one was placed right over the cyclops brake light! Didn't notice until we were at a light and you could see the poor brake light trying to peek through. Tried to take a picture, but the light changed.

Doesn't say that much for Republicans, does it? :)

April 23, 2005

Bruce asks the question

This is Class Warfare: "For a while I've been trying to discover the link between right wing Christianity and Republicanism. What is the key that ties the two together? What could a religion that is centered around a humble carpenter who preached compassion, who cared for the sick, who mingled with the outcasts, and who challenged the ruling authorities have in common with a political party so intent on pandering to the powerful and turning its back on the meek and needy in society?"

Indeed. Great question and one that I am still asking as well. How does Jesus become the dominant icon of suburbia (Green Day has a song called "The Jesus of Suburbia" whic is pretty good), SUVs, gated communities, and conspicuous consumption?

April 22, 2005

More on Christianity--Saturday morning edition

My last post spurred some great comments from JoeG, Bootleg Blogger and Kevin Powell (Samuel Johnson quote, eh?).

The Bootlegger made a comment, however that speaks to much of this angst and frustration I am feeling about my faith vis a vis a Tom Delay. He wrote: "Evidently alot of people like Delay's brand of Christianity, whether that means his religion or his politics, I don't know. He's the one in power right now and that alone will attract a good number of people to him. Does his use of the Christian term bother me? Sure. Unlike him, though, I'm happy to toss the term if it doesn't mean anything anymore."

I am a bit tired this afternoon, so stay with me. BB is talking about the "labels" of Christianity (as was anonymous last week) and what they mean. Reminds me a bit of my own discussion about institutions--how as they age they become more conservative and territorial. They lose their initial drive or mission and become all about protecting the institution.

This label of Christianity reminds me of this. If I understand BB (and feel free to correct me), those who claim the label often become enamored of the label and completely forget the underlying faith, meaning, relationship, what have you.

I think this explains part of my frustration with the religious right (though BB's warning is for all of us, not just the religious right) is this superficial approach to this label. (Liberals need to take heed, because just as conservative christians have been fooled by politicians spouting the "faith" language, so can liberals be fooled by someone who talks about sustainability, environmental protection, social justice, etc., and acts opposite). Asserting that we were a Christian nation is a great example. I ask, "what does that mean?" Does it mean that the nation was "saved" and now isn't? Does it mean that God reached down and formed us out of Canada's rib?

The historian in me asks how that statement matches with the ethnic cleansing-slavery-child labor-land stealing part of the history? I get answers about "sin" and that is it. But beneath the label is nothing usable. Put the ten commandments in classrooms? And what does that do/prove? Force kids to pray? Call ourselves Christian and then what?

The problem is that the label has turned into the goal. Dig beneath it and you find... well.... Tom Delay and George Bush telling Karla Fay Tucker jokes. It isn't real faith. The fruit is plastic.

April 21, 2005


I know I have been serious lately. Here are a few assorted things that struck me positively.

*I helped a dog out yesterday--a whippet named Cash. He was so damn sweet and so scared, but I was able to get him in his yard with his partner. That felt good.

*Cold in Laramie has a great post on the draft and football.

*Alafair, Streak's other, other friend, has a Puritan streak. When I say the "f-word" in her presence, she often gets up and leaves the room. It doesn't matter if I am joking or angry. :)

Bad days happen

This has been a rough couple of months, and I am in a morose mood today. Part of it is the stress of the last few months. Part is the weather. It is beautiful here in OK today, but also heavy and humid. My allergies are angry and that doesn't help. The result of the job search coupled with my impending 40th probably makes me more moody than normal.

I got into an argument over at Catholic_girl's Bad Catholic blog with a guy named Bubba. We probably got off on the wrong track because I made a little fun of the name. It doesn't fill one with confidence, I guess.

But Bubba is articulate and conservative and Christian. And he has bugged me. He has all the talking points down--all the spin on Bush and the conservatives. I am sure he would say the same about me. I am sure he is bugged by me. Part that bugs me is the complete lack of doubt or seeming reflection on his cause. Again, I am sure he would say the same about me. I remember Sherman Alexie saying that we all needed to watch for our own fundamentalism; we all had to ask ourselves "what if I am wrong?" I think I do that. Readers of this blog may not be convinced, but I am good at self-doubt. Some would say too good.

Anyway, the part that still stings, though, and makes me wonder why I do this or even try, is the constant refrain of the challenges of a liberal to be a good Christian. Bubba, to his credit, never said that he didn't think I was, or that liberals couldn't be Christians, but he did say that it was harder. Liberal ideology, he said, made it less easily compatible with Christianity.

Why does this sting so much? It reminds me of the historical reality of the post-Cold War--where Liberals always had to justify their patriotism. We still do. Bush never has to justify or reiterate his patriotism, and he avoided service in VN! But everyone just assumes that a conservative is patriotic.

I remember going to a party with Streak's other friend where someone (who I like, btw) said loudly that she couldn't understand how anyone could actually vote for Clinton. This was in the context of a Christian party, actually, and I had just endured an hour or so of praise singing. I certainly took it that she could not imagine someone from this context--a praise-singing, Bible-waving Christian voting for Clinton.

I am just tired of being treated in certain circles like some kind of an oddity. In fact, the arrogance to assert that conservatives are either better at being good citizens or Christians is more than I am willing to take today.

April 20, 2005

Here is why I am mad at Christians in politics

The New York Times >Frank Rich nails it.
"Democratic malefactors like Jim Wright and L.B.J.'s old fixer Bobby Baker didn't wear the Bible on their sleeves.
In the DeLay story almost every player has ostentatious religious trappings, starting with the House majority leader himself. His efforts to play God with Terri Schiavo were preceded by crusades like blaming the teaching of evolution for school shootings and raising money for the Traditional Values Coalition's campaign to save America from the 'war on Christianity.' Mr. DeLay's chief of staff was his pastor, and, according to Time magazine, organized daily prayer sessions in their office. Today this holy man, Ed Buckham, is a lobbyist implicated in another DeLay junket to South Korea."

Here is the deal. I know that there are people who "claim" to be Christian and don't act it. That certainly explains people like Delay. I would contend it includes Bush as well.

Ok, that is the first issue. The second one is really the kicker. The Christian voter--the one who really cares about their faith and takes it seriously--cannot be voting for these people and telling me that God wants them elected. These Christian voters would never use their faith to make money or earn votes, right? This is heartfelt and serious stuff. Well, then you don't get to turn around and tell me that Bush is God's president for our time.

You can vote for him, understand. You can vote for these people because they represent your conservative POLITICS, but you can't have it both ways. You can't tell me that Delay is a Christian Stateman when he breaks the law and ruthlessly attacks his opponents and then compares himself to Christ. You can't excuse Bush's racist tactics in South Carolina and his inability to understand the issues of humility and "turn the other cheek" that his purported faith demands. You can't badmouth the democrats for being anti-God and send money to someone like Delay.

Well, you can. Just don't expect me to respect the faith if it is that easily sold.

April 19, 2005

More on Indian Mascots

I am glad that my friend Cold In Laramie has started blogging. He has yet another good post here on the contentious issue of Indian mascots.

CIL addresses the key issues here, and the one that people often forget is the appropriation of Indians for their purposes. As he notes, this is not a new issue, but one that goes way back. White settlers saw Indians as part of the wilderness--both things to be feared and conquered. They cheered when they found camps decimated by disease (crediting God for clearing the land--incidentally, I heard D. James Kennedy defend this position once--argh!) and fought native peoples with a vengeance. The "savage" war idea meant that Indians were irredeemable--kind of like the 18th century version of "axis of evil." It also meant that those who were captured by these ignoble savages were forever tainted. Often times, those captives were killed in order to be rescued--this even happened in Oklahoma when Custer led the attack on the Washita. In all of those cases, Indians were used to represent fears--fears of miscegenation or the deep underlying fear that European cultures weren't superior at all.

But throughout American history, Indians have played like a projection screen for white Americans--reflecting liberty or savagery or closeness to nature or the evils of drink. Rarely were native peoples taken as real people--with real issues and complex pasts and cultures. Mascots are just the most recent iteration of this problem. It is shameful and something that we should stop. "People not mascots" is a good rallying cry.

Anyway, CIL thanks for the post.


Thanks to Catholic_Girl over at Bad Catholic for this slacktivist post on prayer. I must say that I have always found the discussions about school prayer somehow incompatible with the Matthew discussion on praying in private and not to be seen. I remember well one of those shouting programs where someone raised that with Jerry Falwell who oddly enough agreed with the sentiment and then bragged about how he prayed very loudly at restaurants so everyone could hear him.

April 18, 2005

New blog plug

My friend Cold In Laramie has a blog and has posted an intriguing post already. Go check it out. I order you!

Monday, feh!

I didn't blog much over the weekend. Part of that due to the fact that Friday was a sucky day. Started out bad and only got worse. I won't go into all the details of all the suckiness, but the day ended badly when I went to get the mail.

Caleb blogged a few months ago about how tough the job market is for historians. Real historians, that is. People who are expected to do research and teach. So, anyway, the market being what it is, I apply annually for abotu 10-15 jobs nationally that fit a couple of criteria. They have to be in a location that we can stomach for living; it needs to be a full time job; and then there are the professional qualifications. If you are trained in environmental and western history, for example, applying for diplomatic history jobs or women's history is a fool's errand. These apps take time--hell everyone knows about that. That part of the application process is universal.

So, anyway, I applied last fall for several jobs. 2 months ago, I scored a phone interview. I didn't think it went that well, but a week later I got an email asking me to visit the campus. I had about three weeks to agonize over the visit--worked up both a guest lecture and research presentation. My research talk, if I do say myself, rocked. One of my colleagues here, who is known to be the department's harshest critic, praised it as one of the best talks she had ever heard. I take that as a compliment and take it to my campus visit.

The visit was weird. The first day, I had to give my guest lecture in a classroom and I watched one of the faculty members visibly reacting (negatively) to some of the factual information I presented. She not only reacted, but talked to the faculty member next to her in a way, that if this were my class, and they students, I would have stopped the class to ask them what the problem was. But I am on an interview and on my best behavior. I ignore them and proceed speaking to the sleeping students.

The rest of that day was fine--just long. Meeting all these different people, administrators, students, etc. Typical stuff. Tiring, but typical. The next morning, I give my kick ass research talk. They are polite and act interested, but it is clear that research is a real small part of their job. In other words, they don't really care that my research is interesting and provacative (and it is, I don't care what certain people say). After the job talk, I endure yet another group interview with all the faculty. They ask only about teaching and I answer the questions as best I can. The same faculty member who was rude in my lecture does the same fucking thing in my interview--responding to one of my answers visibly and audibly and digging the same other jackass faculty in the ribs as she did it. One chair away from me. Then I had to act nice while a guy 6 years younger than me with no more publications than me on his cv asks me condescending questions about my teaching style.

I left the campus pissed off and not at all sure that I would accept a job offer that I was positive they wouldn't extend. My last question to them was about the time frame for the job search. They said 2 weeks top.

Last Friday was 6 weeks to the day of my last interview with these people. In the mail, I recieved a form letter. "Thanks for your interest in our position for fall, 2005. We had many qualified applicants and the search took longer than we expected, but we have extended an offer and it has been accepted."

Lame, lame lame. Unprofessional. Horribly rude. I deserved better than to be jerked around by such assholes. I am better off not being in this department, that is clear, but the process was painful. After all that, they couldn't even muster a phone call or email OR PERSONALIZED LETTER to me!

I know, I know. It happens. I have lost jobs before. Lost one last year. But at least last year, the Dean called me personally to tell me they had gone a different direction and to tell me how much she liked me and my presentation. I can live with that sting. This one hurts in a much different way.

I will be fine. Rejection happens. It happened a few different ways on Friday alone. I am stronger than I was years ago, and will manage just fine, thank you. And I do mean, thank you. I have great friends. I have a great partner. We planted a tree on Saturday as a nice affirming "f-you" to a certain school in a certain state. We planted a little vegetable garden and shared a beer with our neighbors. We will be fine.

April 17, 2005

Responding to a comment

I had an anonymous comment the other day and I would like to respond.

Blogger: Post a Comment: "Could it be because you are so focused on the failures of men and women, especially of those who call themseves Christians, that you no longer can see or care about God’s purpose in sending Jesus Christ to redeem mankind?"

This comment bothers me on a couple of levels. First, it isn't a question, but a statement of my "seeing" or "caring." Second, it presupposes that I cannot do both--focus on the failures of Christians, AND care about God's purpose. Third, and I think, the most troubling, is the assumption that my criticisms of people like Schafly and Dobson are tantamount to opposing God.

That is the part I really don't understand. If I criticize Bill Frist and Dobson for painting liberals as anti-Christian, am I attacking God? When I question people who claim to be speaking for God, am I attacking God? I guess if you believe that Frist, Bush, Dobson, etc., really are speaking for God, then my rejection of them is a rejection of God. But I don't believe that. I don't think that just because someone claims to speak for God that I should accept that. I was taught to be reasonably skeptical. More importantly, is the commenter suggesting that the church is off-limits for criticism?

The point of my original post was not to attack the idea of Christ, but to say that the prominent figures in American Christianity scare me a lot more than the supposed athiests and non-Christians. As I noted above, Frist and Dobson are saying that the democratic use of the filibuster is "anti-people of faith." Am I really supposed to accept that? Am I really supposed to agree that all of those Christian democrats who have reasonable objections to the judges Bush sends to the hill are really anti-Christian bigots? Have we gotten to the point where if I criticize a Christian person, I am anti-Christian?

For whatever reason, I see contradictions and write about them. I don't apologize for that. Nor do I apologize for my faith. Nor do I apologize for the fact that many people who claim the mantle of Christianity scare me. I have no problem with Christ. I have a big problem with Mel Gibson. And James Dobson, and D. James Kennedy, and Roy Moore, and our President with his supposed faith. I care too much about this faith to allow these people to represent. I will continue to rail and rant. I will continue to call for something better than a Tom Delay or a George Bush. We can do better. We should do better. Our faith demands it, and our country needs it.

April 15, 2005

More "Christianity" that makes me shudder

Update: I forgot to credit Cold in Laramie for this link. Thanks.

Talking Jesus, Mary and Moses dolls due to go on sale in May - Apr. 12, 2005

That's right. Talking dolls for Jesus, Mary and Moses. Notice how white Jesus is. Gee, I wonder what demographic that doll is aimed for. In more proof of the commercialization of the church and the faith, this guy is aiming his marketing at churches and church schools. No "Toys-R-Us" just Church gift shops. I can see the marketing now: "Some parents don't really want their kids to be saved--they haven't even bought Johnny a Talking Jesus!"

Rant point number two. Thanks, Greg for this guide to godly wifedom, I guess. In the included excerpt, she talks about the three kinds of men. My favorite (besides Mr. Command--who she notes needs a wife who "becom[es] his adoring Queen; honoring and obeying his every (reasonable and unreasonable) word. She will dress, act, and speak so as to bring him honor everywhere she goes.") is Mr. Visionary, who she notes "conquered the Wild West, though they would not have been the farmers who settled it."

See, all that stuff I was talking about regarding Columbus, Native Americans, etc? Here is proof that for many white Christian Americans, history is just a throwaway line--a grand idea that ignores the reality of Native Americans or the American West. At least she recoznizes the reality of conquest, but I wonder if she knows that includes Mr. Visionary using a hatchet on Indian children?

April 14, 2005

Thinking about Christianity

I read this entry that argues that the largest growing demographic in America is the non-Christian portion, and I cheered!

That felt a little weird and still does for a kid who grew up Baptist. Cheering for the heathens (joking) to win seems to be like cheering against my home team. I also wonder am I cheering for something that in a few years I will really regret? Is the law of unintended consequences something I will recall later?

So, why would I be cheering that non-Christians are growing at a rate faster than Christians?

Could it be that the most prominent examples of my faith are so horrible? D. James Kennedy? And this ass calls Tom Delay a Christian Statesman? Or George W. Bush who says that his faith is "very important" and that Jesus is his favorite political philosopher while mocking a condemned woman and planting racist rumors about political opponents?

Those are great examples, but I had two from today alone. First was Phylis Schafly "reviewing" a book that was critical of liberal intellectuals. It has "moron" in the title--something Schafly loved--and attacked such low hanging fruit as Alfred Kinsey and Peter Singer. Schafly lumps them in with all liberals and that allows her to call all of us morons. She said that their problem was that their ideology clouded their judgement. Hmm. Wonder if she has anything like a fucking log in her eye? Hmm?

I have written about her before, but she is one of the least likable and least credible voices on the right. No wonder I prefer avowed athiests to her.

But that wasn't all. I then heard about a court case in Oregon where the state court said that counties could not issue gay marriage licenses. (See, if I was an ass like Dobson, I would be calling for their impeachment or death, but I am not). The decision was valid on the law--Oregon among numerous states passed anti-gay legislation. I can see how the court made that decision.

The problem is that real people exist in this context. Real people have real kids and have real health issues that are imperiled with such legislation. Real mothers cannot be sure that if they were to die, their partner would have legal access to their kids. Or real people know that if they are in ICU, their loved one--their most loved person--could be kept out. Say what you will about gay people, but they are people, and those who have formed lasting relationships should be respected.

But that is really not the main thrust of my anti-Christian rant. The same "family values" coalition (which reminds me of the Ladies of the Law and Order league in John Ford's Stagecoach) basked in the glory of the decision (which of course, went against the conservative love for local rule, but that is besides the point too). They then talked about their next task, to deny civil unions. Civil unions, would, with all their problems, provide some of the legal solution to the healthcare and childcare issues I talked about above. Conservative Christians talk about "hating the sin" but "loving the sinner," but these laws are going to cost real people real pain. Conservative Christians really want all gay people to be straight. They want to wave a wand and have everyone be like them.

I know too many gay people to not be chilled by this. I think conservative christians do too. They all have gay people in their family somewhere. They all have friends that they don't realize are gay, or who have gay kids. They really just wish we could go back to a time when those gay people would crawl back into a closet, marry a beard and act like all the Baptists.

Any wonder I am inclined to cheer for the "heathens?"

April 13, 2005

Christian nation, Indian Mascots, and American History

I have been musing about history and memory lately. The Christian nation stuff has been on the back burner for years (my back burner, that is) even though I have no real idea what it means. Is it God reaching down and making America? "Let there be a Continental Congress and a Separation of Powers" Or is it that the majority of Americans in the early period believe in a Judeo Christian God? Not sure how to count the Native peoples or African slaves, or even the diversity of European beliefs.

I think when D. James Kennedy uses the term, he means that God agrees with him and prefers people like Kennedy to non-Christians. The arrogance and self-serving part of that annoys the shit out of me.

But I digress and repeat. This last month, I have had the pleasure of hearing some very interesting people (not you, Prairie Dog). In Laramie, I heard Sherman Alexie and then last night, I heard Wilma Mankiller. For those who don't know, she served as the first female Principle Chief of the Western Cherokee here in Oklahoma. She was great. Brief and interesting. Speaking to a crowd of historians she spoke of how important history is to Indian peoples.

Something she said stuck. She talked about how people growing up native are taught all the dominant culture stories and histories. They all learn about Columbus and the Founding Fathers. They all learn what Americans are taught to believe about their country. They attend white schools, white churches, etc. But, she noted, Americans don't know anything about native peoples. In my tiny brain, I thought, yeah, it is as if for most Americans, Indians are fleeting images on the tv or Indian Mascots. They aren't real people who are constantly reminded of their odd status in this country.

The Columbus comment reminded me of a great anecdote from Sherman's talk. A woman told him after the session that she had read one of his stories to her child--one where Sherman told Indian kids that whenever a school teacher told them that Columbus "discovered" America, they should jump on the teachers back and shout "We discovered you!" Her son hadn't actually jumped the teacher, but he did raise his hand and object.

How to put these all together? Hell, I don't know. I have been thinking (and Cold in Laramie has contributed) about the desire to cherry pick from the past to create a Christian nation where former citizens prayed daily and worshipped the God of Abraham. That view only really makes sense if you think that Columbus did discover an empty and virgin land--one where Indians are more like nature than human. As I have noted, those who espouse that christian utopic past risk a racist nostalgia--where the best American past is one where Indians were killed for bounty, immigrant kids were chopped up in giant machines and mines, and African Americans were relegated to the worst land and back seats of the bus. The Good Ole Days look different from that perspective.

On my way to lunch, I heard a "Christian" radio show where the woman guest was talking about protecting kids from internet porn and the MTV, and I understood her situation. She then said that you had to even watch the textbooks that the kids brought home--the history books, she noted, didn't even teach their kids the truth! Can you imagine! Revisionist history was an epidemic, she said and I clicked her noise off. Maybe another blog can address what I think of the term "revisionist" history, but those who use it rarely understand that (as JoeG pointed out in a comment) David Barton constitutes the best example of what they mean by that.

But back to the "truth." Those who are trying to reimagine and rewrite the past have no claim to truth. They would be well-served to consider the different narratives represented here: Sherman's challenge to school kids and Mankiller's identification of different cultural world-views. Your simplistic past has no room for these nuances, and that is the shame of it.

More on the Supremes

From Bruce, this quote from Dobson comparing the Supreme court justices to the KKK:

I heard a minister the other day talking about the great injustice and evil of the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan, that roamed the country in the South, and they did great wrong to civil rights and to morality. And now we have black-robed men, and that's what you're talking about.

Nice isn't it. Grownups? Anyone? This attack on the judiciary is going to have unintended consequences. You people really don't understand our democracy very well, do you? Sometimes the judges are going to make decisions that we don't like. That is why we have judges and that is why they are not elected in some popularity contest. We sometimes need a judge to step up and say, "hey, you can't just discriminate against Blacks because the majority of the community wants to" or "just because it is popular, doesn't mean it is constitutional." This particular court has ruled on death penalty cases in ways that have infuriated me. Never once did I call for the impeachment of Scalia. I disagree with him on most every case, but he is there as a part of our system and he has done nothing worthy of impeachment (even duck hunting with Cheney).

But the religious right "knows" what God thinks and therefore their "opinion" is not like mine. It is truth (spelled T-R-U-T-H) and mere mortals like myself need to get out of the way. It just galls me. Our judicial system is the envy of the world. All across the world, judicial pronouncements are met with scepticism because the political arm has such power that the courts defer. Yet, our conservatives--the ones who claim to be protecting tradition and country--want to do away with that. They want Judicial rulings to be overruled by people like Tom Delay. Drop back 45 years and that body overrules the Supremes and we still have "white only" water fountains. But no need to have historical memory or humility. When God is whispering in your ear, it is your word that carries the day, right?

It isn't democratic and it isn't Christian. It sucks, pure and simple. Grownups? Still waiting for you to call on Cornyn and say there is no justification for violence against judges. Waiting for you to call Bush and say that we really do care about our veterans and disabled poor--even more than we want that tax break to spend on a new SUV. Still waiting for you to call Dobson and say that with his fame and celebrity comes great responsibility, and it is time for him to actually demonstrate the love of Christ, not merely use his bully pulpit to bash gays and undermine democracy.

Still waiting.....

April 12, 2005

Scary, scary stuff

This from Carlos, and Rolling Stone. Read it if you dare, but I am including a few key graphs below (with my own brand of commentary, of course. I apologize in advance for the length and the obscenities, but Roy Moore and Tom Delay bring that out in me. Oh, who am I kidding? Ok, not just those guys, they don't help the early mood. I have watched D. James Kennedy on television, btw, and think that of the televangelists, he always annoyed me the most. Pompous ass usually came to mind when I watched him from his gigantic throne pulpit. I think it was his arrogance about history (big David Barton fan) that got me the most. But read on and see if you really think they have the right ideas.

"Most people hear them talk about a 'Christian nation' and think, 'Well, that sounds like a good, moral thing,' says the Rev. Mel White, who ghostwrote Jerry Falwell's autobiography before breaking with the evangelical movement. "What they don't know -- what even most conservative Christians who voted for Bush don't know -- is that 'Christian nation' means something else entirely to these Dominionist leaders. This movement is no more about following the example of Christ than Bush's Clean Water Act is about clean water."

The godfather of the Dominionists is D. James Kennedy, the most influential evangelical you've never heard of. A former Arthur Murray dance instructor, he launched his Florida ministry in 1959, when most evangelicals still followed Billy Graham's gospel of nonpartisan soul-saving. Kennedy built Coral Ridge Ministries into a $37-million-a-year empire, with a TV-and-radio audience of 3 million, by preaching that it was time to save America -- not soul by soul but election by election. After helping found the Moral Majority in 1979, Kennedy became a five-star general in the Christian army. Bush sought his blessing before running for president -- and continues to consult top Dominionists on matters of federal policy.

"Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost," Kennedy says. "As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society."

Does the bold quote mean that they will kill people to get there? Ruin reputations? Trample over the rights of people who don't agree? What does that mean? Are they on a "crusade" against infidels like me? Even though I am a Christian? Does that term mean the same thing to them? Or since I don't believe a literal Bible am I not really a Christian?

Problem is that they then turn the Bible into a book of science and history, at the same time they undermine the actual study of science and history. I can certainly speak to the issue of history, and the David Barton/D. James Kennedy school is ahistorical and anti-scholarship. That means they start with the conclusion in mind and simply cherry pick the evidence they want (kind of like a Bush administration finding support for war in Iraq!). It isn't scholarship and it isn't history. It is propaganda.

At Reclaiming America, most of the conference is taken up by grassroots training sessions that supply ministers, retirees and devout churchgoers with "The Facts of Stem-Cell Research" or "Practical Steps to Impact Your Community with America's Historical Judeo-Christian Heritage." "We're going to turn you into an army of one," Gary Cass, executive director of Reclaiming America, promises activists at one workshop held in Evangalism Explosion Hall. The Dominionists also attend speeches by supporters like Rep. Katherine Harris of Florida, who urges them to "win back America for God." In their spare time, conference-goers buy books about a God-devised health program called the Maker's Diet or meet with a financial adviser who offers a "biblically sound investment plan."

Funny aside here. This strikes me as consumer driven as the rest of America and the American church. "Join the dominionist agenda, and make more money than you can dream of--you know, just like Jesus said."

To implement their sweeping agenda, the Dominionists are working to remake the federal courts in God's image. In their view, the Founding Fathers never intended to erect a barrier between politics and religion. "The First Amendment does not say there should be a separation of church and state," declares Alan Sears, president and CEO of the Alliance Defense Fund, a team of 750 attorneys trained by the Dominionists to fight abortion and gay marriage. Sears argues that the constitutional guarantee against state-sponsored religion is actually designed to "shield" the church from federal interference -- allowing Christians to take their rightful place at the head of the government. "We have a right, indeed an obligation, to govern," says David Limbaugh, brother of Rush and author of Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity. Nothing gets the Dominionists to their feet faster than ringing condemnations of judicial tyranny. "Activist judges have systematically deconstructed the Constitution," roars Rick Scarborough, author of Mixing Church and State. "A God-free society is their goal!"

I don't actually know any liberals who want to remove God from our society--hell, many of the liberals I know are Christian--but if God is like these people, I am open to the idea. :)

Activist judges, of course, are precisely what the Dominionists want. Their model is Roy Moore, the former Alabama chief justice who installed a 5,300-pound granite memorial to the Ten Commandments, complete with an open Bible carved in its top, in the state judicial building. At Reclaiming America, Roy's Rock sits out front, fresh off a tour of twenty-one states, perched on the flag-festooned flatbed of a diesel truck, a potent symbol of the "faith-based" justice the Dominionists are bent on imposing. Activists at the conference pose for photographs beside the rock and have circulated a petition urging President Bush to appoint Moore -- who once penned an opinion calling for the state to execute "practicing homosexuals" -- to the U.S. Supreme Court.

You all have read my thoughts on Moore. In another life, this guy was killing heretics or putting people on trains. The same people who pilloried Clinton (rightfully so) for lying about his sexual misdeeds now seem to have completely forgotten the phrase "rule of law." That only applies to liberals, I guess.


To pack the courts with fundamentalists like Moore, Dominionist leaders are planning a massive media blitz. They're also pressuring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist -- an ally who's courting support for his presidential bid -- to halt the long-standing use of filibusters to hold up judicial nominations. An anti-filibuster petition circulating at the conference blasts Democrats for their "outrageous stonewalling of appointments" -- even though Congress has approved more nominees of Bush than of any president since Jimmy Carter.

This actually makes me think these guys are beatable. They really don't understand politics. If you change the rules, you change them for the other guy too. I don't recall any such calls from these people when Senate Republicans were stonewalling on Clinton nominees. Well, guess what? At some point, this worm will turn and the rule changes you pushed for will allow a liberal (and it will happen sometime) to appoint people like me to the court. Does that scare you?

--snip--[took out some Richard Land blathering about John Lennon.]

The Dominionists are also stepping up efforts to turn public schools into forums for evangelism. In a landmark case, the Alliance Defense Fund is suing a California school district that threatened to dismiss a born-again teacher who was evangelizing fifth-graders. In the conference's opening ceremony, the Dominionists recite an oath they dream of hearing in every classroom: "I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands. One Savior, crucified, risen and coming again, with life and liberty for all who believe."

This just pisses me off. Talk about not understanding American history. If this ever happens, I will be immigrating to someplace with brains. This is about as Christ-like as a lynch mob.

Cass urges conference-goers to stack school boards with Dominionists. "The most humble Christian is more qualified for office than the best-educated pagan," says Cass, an anti-abortion activist who led a takeover of his school district's board in San Diego. "We built quite a little grass-roots machine out there. Now it's my burden to multiply that success all across America."

Are you fucking kidding me? I guess that explains their support for Bush. His proclaimed faith overpowers any concerns about his intelligence. I think it was Martin Luther King Jr., who suggested that he would rather have a smart athiest in office than a dumb Christian. Of course, these people think King was a commie, so quoting that is probably a fool's errand.

Cass points to the Rev. Gary Beeler, a Baptist minister from Tennessee who got permission for thousands of students to skip class and attend weeklong events that he calls "old-time revivals, with preaching and singing and soul-saving and the whole nine yards." Now, with support from Kennedy, Beeler is selling his house and buying a mobile home to spread his crusade nationwide. "It's not exactly what I planned to do with my retirement," he says. "But it's what God told me to do."

Wow, and with jerks like this, you wonder why I shudder every time someone says "God told me to....."

Cass also presents another small-town activist, Kevin McCoy, with a Salt and Light Award for leading a successful campaign to shut down an anti-bullying program in West Virginia schools. McCoy, a soft-spoken, prematurely gray postal worker, fought to end the program because it taught tolerance for gay people -- and thus, in his view, constituted a "thinly disguised effort to promote the homosexual agenda." "What America needs," Cass tells the faithful, "is more Kevin McCoys."

Right. Whatever you do, support the bullies. Christ seemed to reach out to the people who were bullied and abused by those in power. That is the problem with the overwhelming image I get from these people who flock to the D. James Kennedy stuff--no Christ. No love for people. No mercy. They are on a crusade to destroy non-Christians or liberal Christians like me, and the language they use suggests that violence could be an option. Whatever happened about reaching out to the poor and the sick? To those who are persecuted? This theology sucks.

--snip--blah blah

The one-two punch of militant activists and big money has helped make the Dominionists a force in Washington, where a growing number of congressmen owe their elections to the machine. Kennedy has also created the Center for Christian Statesmanship, which trains elected officials to "more effectively share their faith in the public arena." Speaking to the group,
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay -- a winner of Kennedy's Distinguished Christian Statesman Award -- called Bush's faith-based initiatives "a great opportunity to bring God back into the public institutions of our country."

See? Being a complete amoral asshole is somehow equivalent to being a Christian Statesman? Pass. I prefer the Christianity of Jimmy Carter, thank you very much.

--snip--[jerk congressman who wants to make it legal for churches to be politically overt and still be tax exempt. I still say, take care of what you pray for, jerk ass]

"You cannot have a strong nation that does not follow God," Jones preaches, working up to a climactic, passionate plea for a biblical republic. "God, please -- God, please -- God, please -- save America!"

Hey! On that last part we agree. I hope God will save America too, but from people like D. James Kennedy.

April 11, 2005

More on sumbitches

Leighton left a comment on the previous post and since Blogger buries comments, I thought I would respond. Plus, his comment ties into some stuff I was pondering the last half of the day. Anyway, he said:
"I don't have a good answer for why this is. maybe it's the widespread terror of dissent and disagreement, maybe it's that every native-born American Christian is conditioned to act as an autonomous PR mouthpiece for the public reputation of the Church, maybe it's that saying the right words really has become more important than understanding and abiding by what those words mean; but I wonder whether complaining about a lack of accountability is really the best angle to take. I have a feeling it might just make people try to make you more accountable."

Interesting insight. I was talking with a friend on campus who is from another faith, and who has some of the same concerns about his church organization that I have about my protestant evangelical one. One of the things that keeps coming up is the nature of institutions. Baptists are raised to see the Catholic church pretty critically, and a big part of that is the huge institution that it has become. But it isn't the "Catholic" part that is the problem, it is the institution, and it seems to me that evangelicals have the very same problem. It is harder to see, because they don't have headquarters that count as a country, but the problems are still there.

And it isn't just the buildings and framework of an institution that are at work here--especially since evangelicals are split between a bunch of denominations and non-denoms. But evangelicals have a history of being on the outside of power. Some didn't want to be in power or participate in politics anyway, and others were simply marginalized because their beliefs were pretty far outside the mainstream of America--and evangelicals often liked that. But now, with an avowed evangelical (though only lip-service) President and numerous powerful representatives in congress, Evangelicals are far from the periphery--they are at the center of power. It is their beliefs on evolution and abortion and school prayer that get first notice now in Washington.

One of the rules of politics is that it is much easier to be the underdog and outsider (look at how Bush continues to portray himself this way--ridiculous as it is) than to be the ruling party. When you are on the outside, you can throw all sorts of stupid shit on the stage and act like you are serious about it. When you get in power, those things start to cause problems. When you are an institution or in power, you lose the fervor of the revolutionary, and become the "man" who has to protect his turf. You stop trying to undermine the system and start defending it. It is the quintessential dilemma of politics, because at that point you find yourself in bed with a whole host of characters that are pretty unseemly. But since you are in power now, you can't very well be too much of a purist--because that will marginalize yourself.

That might explain at least part of what is going on. It still bugs me. Everytime I see Tom Delay on television, or see a conservative evangelical defend him. I know that there are a lot of quality conservatives and quality evangelicals out there--some of them are politicians to boot. Delay isn't one of them, and neither is Bush. Conservative Evangels should reconsider their approach here, because as it stands, they are more interested in power than they are in the very principles that brought them to power.

What do do about faith? 'Sumbitches' and politics

catholic_girl left a great comment that summed up my feelings today. " I get so depressed and angry when I see what these people are doing to Christianity. What do I do? Ignore it? Not an option. Back to the drawing board."

I was reading about Tom Delay this morning. Remember him? He has lately been accused of taking trips and money from foreign lobbyists (something other Repubs defended saying: "everyone does it"--has become the classic defense of conservative everywhere--"democrats do it too" or "the other side is even worse.") and most recently allegations that PACs under Delay's control payed his wife and daughter half a million dollar salaries. I remember when conservatives hated the government and hated how "special interests" profited from government. Evidently it is ok when they do it.

But enough snarking about Repubs. Well, kind of. Delay really gets under my skin. And I am not naive about politics. I have been studying it for sometime and understand that it is not pretty sometime. The old saying about strange bedfellows is so very true. We all find ourselves supporting people that we don't really want as neighbors or friends. I supported Clinton. As the saying goes, he is a "sumbitch, but he is OUR sumbitch." We have all sorts of unlikeable people on the left--Ted Kennedy (btw, think about how much Kennedy still pays for his youth, while all of GWB's has been washed away and then remind me about Christian charity and forgiveness, eh?) Hilary Clinton (still am unsure why she is so hated--except she is strong and smart), Michael Moore (he bugs me too), and many many others. All sumbitches and all ours. But I know they are sumbitches and I have no illusions about their faith or morality. They are politicians, and I support what they do for me and the country, period.

Back to Tom Delay. As you can see, I have no problem with voting for a sumbitch. So, I can deal with my conservative friends voting for him. But Delay presents himself as a good conservative Christian. He has said that his Christian faith is very important to him and that informs his views on evolution, school prayer, abortion, etc.

Yet he is a complete dick. I mean prehaps the worst kind of human you can find. He treats his enemies with nothing approaching Christian charity--after all he is known as the "hammer." He makes a big deal about his church attendance in Sugarland and wears his affilation on his sleeve. Yet, he is a total dick. A horrible excuse for a human being. A real sumbitch.

The problem I have is that good Christian people are not calling him to task. This is exactly what I was talking about, well, this whole last year or so. When you make overt Christianity a political commodity, you are asking for this. You are demanding to be lied to, to be conned. You are asking for sumbitches to pledge their undying devotion to Jesus for your vote!

This is not good for our democracy. It isn't good when you make excuses for a scumbag like Delay, or you elect a Bush for vague statements about his faith. But worse, as I noted around the election, you do irreparable harm to the faith. I no longer respect so many who quote the bible and talk about moral values and "right and wrong." Why should I? If Tom Delay can compare himself to Christ and you don't blink? Or if George W. Bush can mock a condemned woman or play the race card in South Carolina and you say he is "a good Christian man?" Your credibility on the big issues of the day is shot.

Our republic is harmed, for sure. But the modern Church is harmed even more. Time for the grownups to stand and be accounted.

April 10, 2005

You know those Grownup Republicans? Well, none here:

Thanks to Shaun at Upper Left for this link. Evidently the fringe of the Radical Right met in Washington to bemoan the activist judges. Read the Washington Post story and tell me that these people really believe in a loving God. Phyllis Schafly is bad enough, but Michael Farris, the guy who is the most active defender of homeschooling, has suggested that judges be impeached in huge numbers, and that congress--that's right, the congress of people like Tom Delay and Hastert--should be able to vacate judicial positions. Nothing like the "rule of law." The article also highlights a guy who hints that Delay and Cornyn are right, that somehow the people who are so badly offended by the judicial decisions should take their disagreements to the street. Kill the judges. What's a democracy for, anyway, if you don't get your way?

I keep saying that I am waiting for the grownup repubs to show up. Chris Shays has spoken out, as has Danforth, but we have yet to see if the others will show up.

I am also waiting for the grownup Christians to denounce the hatred exhibited by Schlafly and Farris. I am waiting for the people who wear their faith on their sleeve to show some humility and accountability. I would like to see any evidence that they actually believe in a loving God, the one the NT talks about with the gentle Shepard. Instead, I see hatred and ignorance masquerading as faith.

Any wonder I would rather pass on this?

April 9, 2005

Arthur Schlessinger Jr. on politics and faith

This is actually from last fall, but I just read it. This is a real historian, one who has been in the primary documents. David Barton should take notes. He won't.

Jesus Politics: The White House Wasn't Always God's House: "A fanatic, as Finley Peter Dunne's fictitious Mr. Dooley said, does what he thinks the Lord would do if he only knew the facts in the case. The most dangerous people in the world today are those who persuade themselves that they are executing the will of the Almighty.

Lincoln summed it all up in his second inaugural address. Both warring halves of the nation, he said, had read the same Bible and prayed to the same God. Each invoked God's aid against the other.

As Lincoln said, ' … let us judge not, that we be not judged…. The Almighty has his own purposes.'"

April 8, 2005

President Jesus: Pope version

President Jesus has refrained from giving press conferences lately, but decided to meet the press on the occasion of the Pope's passing.

President Jesus: "Thanks for coming everyone. Hey, where is that gay prostitute I used to call on all the time? He asked easy questions. I miss him. Anyway, today, I would like you to call me President Jesus the Pope, out of reverence for the pope, you know, that John Paul Ringo guy. I will take your questions."

Non gay prostitute reporter: "Mr. President, what do you have to say about the Pope's passing?"

President Jesus: "As I have said many times, I love the Pope. He and I both shared a great devotion to what I call, the "culture of life." Funny story really. I was talking to Dick about our torture policy--by which I mean that we are against torture--and Dick and I talked about how much the Pope agreed with us. He was a truly great man."

Other reporter: "Mr. President, what about your differences with the pontiff?"

President Jesus: "Who? What? Is that a part of the liberal media? Oh, the Pope. We didn't disagree on much. We both shared that culture of life thing I mentioned earlier. We both like life. We talked about it many times when he called me to oppose the war in Iraq or to try to get me to stop executing people. We both say that life is important. We both wanted to keep the evil husband from killing poor Terry Schiavo. I loved her life and the press time that we got from it. Sniff."

Other reporter: "Mr. President, if we can change topics, can you address the social security crisis and your plan for it?"

President Jesus: "It is a crisis and I don't have a plan for it. I simply want the country to know that the government cannot be trusted to pay what it promised. The US government is terrible with money and does not operate with any kind of, what I would call, "integritivity." Do not trust your government."

Same reporter: "Mr. President? Aren't you the government? Aren't we all the government?"

President Jesus: "Heh heh. Where did you get that idea? You probably went to an Ivy league school. No, the government is a bunch of greedy and inefficient bureacrats whose sole purpose in life is to rob you of your hard earned money and waste it. Hell, they actually burn your money. Did you know that? Why would you trust those evil bastards with your hard earned tax money? What have they ever done for you? "

Same reporter now sighing and considering relocating to Canada: "Mr. President, the government has given tax breaks and government contracts to people like your family. The government has built roads, schools, clinics and hospitals. The government has financed cheaper gas and helped people start businesses. The government has subsidized research into disease prevention and cures. The government has assisted the poor and disabled and helped the country's farmers. Social Security has been one of the most popular government programs since its inception in the 30s because it has created a shared American identity."

President Jesus: "What now? Whosit? I think we know where communism went after it left my friend Pooty Poot in Russia."

Reporter now considering suicide in press room: "Mr. President, what do you say to those Americans who have concerns about your "proposed" social security changes?"

President Jesus: "I would say to my fellow Americans: better start saving because the government gravy train is being rerouted to Westchester county! Heh heh. (shoulders shaking at his own humor) If you voted for me, I say you are smart, and will obviously save enough money to keep from eating dog food. If you voted against me, I couldn't care less about you."

Reporter tightening noose around own neck: "Don't you actually represent all Americans--not just those who voted for you?

President Jesus: "No. I do not. If Dick Cheney had his way (and it is under consideration) we would just ship all democrats to Gitmo so that we would have more, what I like to call "unificatorium" and less "Anti-Americanitis. Now, why did that guy just hang himself in the press room?"

Friday advice: Stop listening to David Barton

Thanks to Bruce and Carlos for this
. I have written about Mr. Barton in the past and I wince everytime I see him on TV or hear about him spreading his "history." As this points out, those who decry "revisionist" history (though revisionist is also good history) should be mad at Barton too. He is the one who is simply picking and choosing what he wants to emphasize. He is the one who lacks any historical professionalism or scholarly integrity. Be mad at him.

"I first became acquainted with Mr. Barton in the early 1970's when I was a staff member of the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  For the past 30 years, Barton has been evangelizing his extremist beliefs that the separation of church and state is a myth and that the United States was founded as and should be governed as a Christian nation; this is bad history and dangerous theology.  By having Mr. Barton as a host of a religious heritage tour, you send a volatile message to all Americans that Washington has once again overstepped its bounds and is endorsing revisionist history along with advancing a right-wing agenda. Given the present mood of the country and the questionable role that religion has played in Washington recently, these are treacherous waters to be treading."

April 6, 2005

Republican leadership--Columbian style

Thanks to LG for the link. Like I have said multiple times, I am waiting for the grownup Republicans to appear and retake their party. Instead, I am watching as thugs and posers masquerade as conservatives. The grownup Republicans--you know, the ones who actually believe in conservative ideas--appear to be missing in action--as missing in action as their leader was in Vietnam, and as missing in action as his putative Christian beliefs.

But hey! What's a little domestic terrorism among friends. Once Cornyn and Delay have cleared the way for idiots and zealots to take violently what they can't legally, that will be it, right? No other thugs and liars will seize on the opportunity, right? We won't find ourselves ruled by mob law and emotional bullshit, will we? After all, the courts should really just act like the majority rule. Maybe the comparision isn't Columbia, but more the Muslim world where religious extremists rule and judges either come from their bigoted schools or cower in fear.

Anyway, read this and think about writing your representatives and perhaps the President. We can argue all day about the founding, but we sure as hell didn't come from people like Cornyn and Delay. Just imagine that the President is still Clinton and the words will come magically to you: "Rule of Law." This time, it's not just about oral sex. It's about our democracy.

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: The Judges Made Them Do It: "Listeners could only cringe at the events behind Mr. Cornyn's fulminating: an Atlanta judge was murdered in his courtroom by a career criminal who wanted only to shoot his way out of a trial, and a Chicago judge's mother and husband were executed by a deranged man who was furious that she had dismissed a wild lawsuit. It was sickening that an elected official would publicly offer these sociopaths as examples of any democratic value, let alone as holders of legitimate concerns about the judiciary.

The need to shield judges from outside threats - including those from elected officials like Senator Cornyn - is a priceless principle of our democracy. Senator Cornyn offered a smarmy proclamation of 'great distress' at courthouse thuggery. Then he rationalized it with broadside accusations that judges 'make raw political or ideological decisions.' He thumbed his nose at the separation of powers, suggesting that the Supreme Court be 'an enforcer of political decisions made by elected representatives of the people.' Avoiding that nightmare is precisely why the founders made federal judgeships lifetime jobs and created a nomination process that requires presidents to seek bipartisan support.

Echoes of the political hijacking of the Terri Schiavo case hung in the air as Mr. Cornyn spoke, just days after the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, vengefully vowed that 'the time will come' to make the judges who resisted the Congressional Republicans' gruesome deathbed intrusion 'answer for their behavior.' Trying to intimidate judges used to be a crime, not a bombastic cudgel for cynical politicians."

April 5, 2005

Red Lake, public memory, and our scripted lives

Indian Country Today (Thanks to Cold in Laramie for the link) is talking about the media coverage of the Red Lake tragedy. As we have discussed here, America has responded in different ways to this particular school shooting. Columbine was a "massacre" but Red Lake is a "shooting." Why?

Some say that we are inured to the tragedy because it is certainly not the first school shooting. But clearly had this happened in suburban Dallas, the coverage would have been different. Some speculate that the closed reservation and lack of 24 hour news mindless looping of events led to that. I can certainly understand that, but the initial reaction was even different and muted. Our great compassionate conservative Christian President couldn't be bothered to tear himself away from Terry Shiavo to even comment on the tragedy. I think race has something to do with the reaction.

I have been thinking about how I react to certain things. I fear that at times I still look for cues as to how to respond--what does a good liberal say in times like this? I don't like that response, but suspect that I am not alone there.

I was thinking about that and thought that we all probably (to greater and lesser degrees depending on the person) have a script--a world view that explains how we see that experience outside our lives. When an event happens--Terry Shiavo, the Pope, Iraq, Tom Delay--we read the event through that script. It plugs in pretty naturally in a way that most of us don't even consider.

I think for white America, Red Lake was outside the script. Native Americans have existed on the fringes of our experience. They exist as images and icons--mascots and movie screens. White America looks at the Native American mascot controversy and thinks, "how trivial is that?" Many NA's look at that same controversy and think, "here we are again--existing only as plastic beads and feathers, not real people." Indians remember that in California, for example, the native population dropped from 150,000 to 30,000 in 12 years! In a little over a decade, 120,000 California Indians were either mass murdered, died of disease or abuse--hunted down, starved. California miners hunted Indians for fucking bounty! The miners had to return with body parts to redeem for their pay. Small children were either enslaved or murdered.

Those stories are often not part of our script for American history. How do we fit that into our great progressive or divine history? How do we plug that into an upward movement for freedom and equality? How do we put that into the great past where Americans prayed and worshiped God en masse?

We don't. We just look past them. Leave them out of the script so we don't have to reconcile them with our broader ideological beliefs. So, all across Indian country, people are thinking that Red Lake is no difference. For White America, it doesn't compute. 10 dead on a reservation just doesn't fit in the script. It doesn't fit well into a anti-gun control or pro-gun control rant; nor (though some have tried) into a vapid "taking prayer out of schools has caused all our problems" script. It is as if our sense of Indians as "West of Everything" is still very much a part of our understanding.

Maybe it would behoove all of us to get off the script a little more and see the world through fresh eyes--understanding that our simplistic framing doesn't always work.

Conservative red meat

This story is making the rounds in the blog world. Evidently, Texas Senator Cornyn speculated that the recent courthouse shootings or violence against judges was a populist anger at activist judges. As many are noting, this is tantamount to justifying domestic terrorism.

Unfortunately, the right wing, and especially the conservative Christian crowd seems very vulnerable to certain conservative mantras. One is the myth of the liberal media--which allows people like Rush Limbaugh and James Dobson adopt the underdog role while they are actually more closely linked to the centers of power than their liberal advesaries. Conservative talk radio and think tanks have effectively controlled the dialogue on so many things (like taxes), but still they play the "minority under attack" role. That is annoying.

The other dominant mantra is the "activist judges" one that you hear on every talk show. Judges are somehow intruding on the democratic process and ruining our society, or at least that is what I hear. That is the only thing that can explain something as stupid and fucking irresponsible as what Cornyn said. Think about it. This is what happens in Columbia. People who don't like the judiciary shoot the judges. That isn't America, or at least it shouldn't be.

This speaks to the mindless approach so many people bring to the discussion of democracy. As if America was supposed to be some kind of pure democracy where majority rules, period. Is that really what you want, Red America? Judges are there to protect ourselves from our impulses for democratic tyranny. Remember that democratic (he who has the most votes wins) gave us slavery, segregation, anti-miscegenation laws, separate water fountains, anti-Chinese immigration. And while the courts have often been slow to correct those abominations, they have at times spoken against the mob. Those who side with the mob should at least consider that they are in a mob.

So, the next time you get a fund raising letter saying that activist judges killed Terry Shiavo, think about it. Think about whether you want Tom Delay using your personal tragedy to further his political career. Think about how emotional some responses are. Think about what democracy means when you are in the minority. Think.

April 4, 2005

Death penalty and the Bible

As reported many places, (and thanks to Vaughn for the link) the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that this jury incorrectly turned to the Bible for their justification of sentencing this guy to death.

CNN.com - Death sentence by jury that discussed Bible thrown out - Mar 29, 2005: "Harlan was sentenced to death in 1995, but defense lawyers learned that five jurors had looked up such Bible verses as 'eye for eye, tooth for tooth,' copied them and discussed them while deliberating behind closed doors."

What really bugs me about this is something I have argued in the past--that people are selectively drawing on the OT when they want an angry God who likes to smite. But they ignore the NT stance on forgiveness and tolerance. As Salaam noted in my comments one time, in the NT, Jesus spoke out for women who had committed adultery--a crime that merited the death penalty under OT law. So, a jury reaching into the bible with no other context is simply looking for a justification to kill this man. Bad theology. Bad law. Good decision by the court.

Really nice blog entry

Marisa over at Sensory Overload is a great writer who often really engages my attention. This one is fabulous about her new job and explaining it to her Dad in what she calls a "twangy-Spanglish-cluttered way of talking." Anyway, if you don't read her stuff, give it a look.