May 31, 2005

Father Jake Stops the World

Perhaps this is what makes many of us nervous.

Best Memorial Day post

Caleb presents the historical context for Memorial Day. I include part here (emphasis mine):

Mode for Caleb: On Memorial Day: "As historian David Blight shows in Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, the earliest Memorial Days were concerned primarily with making sense of the unprecedented death and destruction that the Civil War had wrought. In those earliest celebrations, with memories of the war's wounds still fresh and open, Northerners and Southerners had different ways of making sense of their scarred battlefields, ruined cities, and over 600,000 deaths. For many Northerners, the death and destruction were made meaningful by the ideals that had been championed by the Union--loyalty, nationalism, and emancipation. Southerners had their own mythical ways of making meaning out of defeat, and former Confederates quickly assembled the major components of what would later be known as the Lost Cause ideology. In Southern Memorial Days, soldiers were portrayed as chivalrous defenders of their homes and families, and secession became coded as a valiant movement of resistance to Northern tyranny and aggression. In the immediate aftermath of the War, Memorial Day therefore served as a convenient index of how different memories of the war and its meanings could be. How Americans chose to make sense of the war, to themselves and to others, depended on how they viewed the war in the first place.

Blight also shows, however, that over time the rituals of Memorial Day became less sectional and divergent. In the 1870s, as resistance to radical Reconstruction became more organized and virulent in the South, and as commitment to Reconstruction became more disparate and lax in the North, Memorial Day increasingly became a ritual of reconciliation. Northerners and Southerners celebrated the day together, staging patriotic displays of national reunion. The Blue and the Gray were both praised for their valor and sacrifice, and both colors faded into red, white, and blue.

But that blurring of the lines between blue and gray went hand in hand with the retrenchment of color lines in the South, as state governments and paramilitary chapters of the KKK disfranchised black citizens and terrorized African American communities. From the perspective of the dwindling number of Radical Republicans in the North, the sentimental pathos of Memorial Day was dangerous because it covered the secessionism and racism of the South with a patina of respectability. Reconciliation became a code word for retreat from the promises of Reconstruction and racial egalitarianism."

May 30, 2005

Don't let this slip too far down the page

With all of my continual ranting, I didn't want my first guest post to slip too far down the page. SOF speaks and it is worth reading.

Monday misc.

Some good news from a church. Greg talks about a Memorial Day service that was Toby Keith free. Glad to hear that some churches out there recognize that the purpose of church is not to worship America.


The Indy 500 ran yesterday. As Cold In Laramie is well aware, I care very little for racing. Actually much less than that. But like many others, I was intrigued by Danica Patrick's rookie Indy. She came in 4th and, according to people who know, did very well. After the race, interviewers tried to make it about her gender, but she made it about the team and her ability. We got the sense that she wasn't doing it to make some feminist statement, but simply because she is good at racing cars. Isn't feminism interesting? While New Life Church in Colorado Springs continues to preach the submissive wife, and evangelicals everywhere bash feminism, women continue to make inroads into male-dominated areas. And why not? This 40 year old White male says, "hurrah!"


As you might notice (or not) on the right side of my blog, I have added a new feature. Thanks to LG, I have created a random quote java script. I only have a few quotes, and would like to add some more. So, this is a call for good quotes--religious and otherwise. So, send them on.

I think this is funny

I saw this link first at Bruce's blog and then at Jesus Politics. I think it is a pretty good presentation of some of the main problems with the GOP. My favorite quote is at the end in bold.

Why I'm Joining the GOP: "After a lifetime voting for and working for Democratic candidates and independents, I'm finally going to make the switch and become a Republican.

The reasons are many, not the least of which is age. I turned 55 recently and, having lived more than half my life, I can't afford to worry anymore about the other guy. It's time for me. As a Republican, I can now proudly -- indeed, defiantly -- pledge to never again vote for anyone who raises taxes for any reason. To hell with roads, bridges, schools, police and fire protection, Medicare, Social Security and regulation of the airwaves.

President Bush has promised to give me more tax cuts even though our federal government owes trillions of dollars to its creditors. But that's someone else's problem, not mine. Republicans are about the here and now, and I'm here now.

As a Republican, I can favor exploiting the environment for everything she's got. No need to worry about quaint notions like posterity and natural legacy. There are plenty of resources left for everyone, and if we don't use them, someone else will.


As a Republican, I can swagger and clamor for war -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, wherever -- even though I've never fought in one or even been in the military. I can claim that we're fighting for Democracy, ignoring reports of torture at Abu Ghraib, Bagram Air Base and Guantanamo Bay, and a spreading gulag of secret detention centers around the world.


As a Republican, I can insist on strict moral values when it comes to sex and ignore the growing moral chasms in business, politics, sports, journalism and the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.


As a Republican, I can favor strict punishment of criminals, except for those who happen to be my friends or neighbors. Isn't that the very definition of community -- looking out for friends and family?

I will be pro-death penalty and anti-abortion, pro-child but anti-child care, for education but against funding of public schools. As a Republican, I'll have a better chance of getting to spout my opinions in the media, which for some reason seems convinced that since Bush was re-elected with the smallest electoral margin of any sitting president in history, liberals are passe.

As a Republican, I'll say goodbye to 'old Jesus' and hello to 'new Jesus.' Sure Christ started out as a liberal Jew, and look where that got him. Compassion, love and diatribes against the rich only encourage the weak and punish the most successful among us. The Jesus that Republicans worship is a muscular, decisive, pro-war crusader hard at work cleansing the world of evildoers, not, God forbid, turning the other cheek.


I regarded taxes as dues we pay for better roads and schools, safe inspection of meat and dairy products, maintenance of parks and protection of wilderness areas. I see now that looking out for the common good resulted in shortchanging the most important element in this formula -- me. "

May 29, 2005

Streak's Blog: More on Ted Haggerty

Thinking about this post I ran across another post on the Colorado Springs evangelical, er, uh, whatever it is.

This blogger who visited one of those churches in Colorado Springs. Yeah, it is interesting. The pastor goes to India and then talks about all the things that are wrong with the Indians. Not enough Christian, not enough American democracy, and evidently not enough White Americans.

Guys, I have heard for sometime that evangelicals have renounced their racist past--though none of them seem to have taken note of their racist past and vowed to learn from it. But it is clear from Haggerty and this doofus, that the American church is filled with people who look at American wealth and assume that the wealth and power are a product of being white and Christian. Not because countries like America have benefited from developing country resources. Not because we have successfully exported poverty to other countries. Not because we consume well more than our fair share of world resources. Why is it that AmeriChristians are so blind to this? Why is it that they go to another country and bad mouth it?

Grownup Christians? I am waiting for you just as I wait for the Grownup Republicans. The GC's, as I will call them, need to step up and reassert a model of humilty. They also need to recall Jesus's business model. As I recall, it wasn't diversify and cut labor costs. It was about giving away wealth to take care of the poor and follow Christ. It wasn't, as Haggerty seems to think, to pursue the market wealth. And, it wasn't as this guy seems to think, that white Christians are destined by God to be wealthy.

The modern Conservative Evangelical movement seems to be wallowing in horrible theology and McChurches with Happy Sermons and Big Macs for all.

First Guest Blog here at Streak's--SOF

Streak's other Friend (SOF) is my guest blogger this Memorial Day weekend.

Streak and I’ve talked about this “love your enemy" topic quite a bit of late, so I thought I’d type up my thoughts especially as it relates to Tom DeLay.

A dear friend of mine shared a thought provoking statement regarding people whose lives take a destructive turn. She said that no child grows up choosing to be a murderer, abuser, or to destroy people. But through a series of small decisions, somehow they end up out on a limb. At some level I think Tom DeLay believes he's doing the right “Christian” thing, but at another level it seems his actions betray his real motives.

Mr. DeLay would see me as his enemy because my political philosophy and view of the practical application of our shared faith differ from his. From my view, his actions destroy (reputation, livelihood, etc.) any who stand in his way. His actions seem more like Peter’s zealousness in the Garden of Gethsemane when he chops off some guy’s ear. Jesus admonishes Peter very strongly, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the father has given me?”

My confession is that I see Mr. DeLay as my enemy for exactly the same reason as he me. So what IS the right Christian response? Streak’s blogged before about Jesus’ call for his followers to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:44). This is a HARD teaching and one that is very hard to stomach. I’d much prefer that my enemy be punished and “fall from grace”. I prefer they be judged harshly by the same measure that they judge others. I’d prefer they experience the same as they’ve dished out.

However, I know in the better part of my being that this is exactly why Jesus taught his followers to love and pray for their enemies. Praying for them keeps the vindictive and bitterness from holing up in my insides and from infecting the good that does exist within me.

Streak, Anglican, and I went to see Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith this weekend. The more I think about the movie, the more I think the Anakin / Darth Vader saga illustrates this.

Anakin wanted to do the right thing, i.e. live the Jedi way, but the fear of loosing what he held most dearly would drive him to a series of tragic decisions as Yoda’s sage wisdom foretold. Unresolved disappointments and unmet expectations left him exposed. Soon what seemed right appeared wrong, and what appeared wrong seemed right. The very definition of ambiguity, conflict and confusion.

Yet, Padmé tells Obi-Wan, "there is still good in him" speaking of Anakin. Hard to believe when you observe actions that set a horrible wake of destruction in motion. To continue to hope and believe that each person "still has some good in them" is a tall task. Yet, to me this is part of “love and pray for your enemies”.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor 13:5-7)

In my darkest moments when I’m seething and even grieving over the destructive nature of Tom DeLay’s actions on this country and in the Church, today I commit to saying a little prayer for him because I still hold out hope that “there is still good in him”… somewhere.


May 28, 2005

More on Ted Haggerty

Vaughn Thompson at Icthus has a great post on this jerk Haggerty [also check out Waving or Drowning?: Private Property]. Good god. If he isn't worshiping the market (which he directly and openly embraces, not only for wealth, but for the way to commodify spirituality) he is saying amazingly stupid and racist things about Catholic (code for brown people) populations.

If this is the future of the church, be sure to count me out. Good god. Its like Vegas, Branson and the worst of Hollywood read a bad book on the bible and vomited out this church. Note the quote below. 'Worthwhile projects' include soup kitchens, which Ted is tired of hearing about. Much more important to "prosper in the free market." You know, it is just like Jesus said: "feed the poor after you make your millions and if you have time. What is really important is that is that you be happy and rich." Right? Didn't he say that? Because all of the evangelical world SEEMS TO THINK HE DID!

ICTHUS: "In Pastor Ted's book Dog Training, Fly Fishing, & Sharing Christ in the 21st Century, he describes the church he thinks good Christians want. 'I want my finances in order, my kids trained, and my wife to love life. I want good friends who are a delight and who provide protection for my family and me should life become difficult someday... I don't want surprises, scandals, or secrets... I want stability and, at the same time, steady, forward movement. I want the church to help me live life well, not exhaust me with endless 'worthwhile' projects.' By 'worthwhile projects' Ted means building funds and soup kitchens alike. It's not that he opposes these; it's just that he is sick of hearing about them and believes that other Christians are, too. He knows that for Christianity to prosper in the free market, it needs more than 'moral values' -- it needs customer value."

Thanks for the quotes, Vaughn, but I feel like taking a long shower.

Other issues--rage and bother

First, the rage. One of the big problems with Bushy is that he has never, never, never held anyone accountable for one of his mistakes. Sure, people have been pushed out, but usually for daring to question a Custer Bush decision. Those who have masterminded our recent foreign policy cluster fuck have all been rewarded. One of them is now Secretary of State--another is being appointed ambassador to the UN. Now this story:
"Two Army analysts whose work has been cited as part of a key intelligence failure on Iraq -- the claim that aluminum tubes sought by the Baghdad government were most likely meant for a nuclear weapons program rather than for rockets -- have received job performance awards in each of the past three years, officials said."

That's right. Performance awards. Working for Bush, evidently, you could come forward with the analysis that the sun revolves around the earth and still get the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Good way to not, however, is to actually suggest that up is indeed up, or that Iraq was not a direct or immediate threat to the US. That would get you fired. And savaged in the press.

Item 2: This is in the bother category. House Republicans (of the knuckle-dragging category) [side note: isn't it interesting that we use evolutionary imagery to describe people who probably don't believe in evolution?] and obviously those who are the farthest right and most beholden to King Dobson tried to limit the roles of women in the military. After actual women veterans (one of them a Republican in the house) and the Pentagon weighed in, Knuckle was forced to retreat. What bothers me is the discussion of women in combat. I hate combat and hate all of those deaths. But why are congressional republicans more worried about women dying in battle than men?

Item 3: Star Wars. If you haven't seen the Revenge of the Sith, you probably should. I was a doubter--really hating the first two--but after hearing from people I trust, we went to see it yesterday. It is quite good and has some amazing references to today's struggles (as most movies do--purposefully or not). I won't say anything more, but am still quite impressed that they were actually able to get Karl Rove to play his evil role on camera!

Evangelicals and economics?

Fred at Slacktivist has a great post on Ted Haggerty's definition of evangelicalism: "They're pro-free markets, they're pro-private property. ... That's what evangelical stands for."

Really? Hmm. That certainly corresponds with what we are seeing in terms of evangelical political action. Sure there are votes here and there on abortion, but most of the actual actions coming from this administration have been to strengthen the rich and undermine the poor.

Fred says:

"Clearly, Christian thinking on wealth and property has 'evolved' over the last 1,500 years. It is rather rare, these days, to hear a Christian assert or even defend the idea that 'superfluity is theft' -- yet that was the consistent and universal teaching of the church during the first four centuries of Christianity. This evolution or sophistication of Christian teaching is, likely, a concession -- the gradual, frog-in-a-kettle process of accommodation to this world. Yet despite that, again, I'm willing to entertain the idea that this evolution is also in some ways reasonable and justifiable. But it is hypocrisy and nonsense when contemporary Christians who have sold off and abandoned every vestige of the traditional Christian understanding of wealth turn around and insist that the Christian understanding of sexuality is fixed, immutable and eternal. These people strain at the gnat of same-sex love while swallowing the camel of credit card usury. They are so obsessed with their mistaken belief that they live in the most promiscuous society of all time that they have failed to notice they live in the most affluent, the haughtiest, proudest and least concerned with the poor."

May 27, 2005

From the RLP

Read this one. Love the sinner, my ass.

Love thy enemy--but man they make it hard

I have been thinking a lot about the divide we find ourselves in. As one story I read recently noted, the word "hate" is not too strong of a word to describe for both sides.

During the election, I wrote a lot about the divide between Bush's actions and what I think his faith teaches. We are supposed to love our enemies, and I have seen no evidence that Bush has ever even tried to do that. Say nothing about Bin Laden, just try loving your political adversary.

and I think about that for myself. Today, I read this story where the Pentagon confirms that interrogators did abuse the Koran. Not perhaps to the extent suggested in the Newsweek piece, but abuse. The White House and Right Wing Echo Chamber's attacks now stand as self-righteous and hypocritical.

and I feel hatred.

Yesterday, I heard a story about Tom Delay's legal difficulties in Texas. The NPR story discussed how the judge had ruled against his PAC and now the possibilities for criminal trials and even a possible indictment of the Hammer himself. As I drove to my mando lesson, I chuckled and said aloud, "I would love to see that asshole in prison." Then I stopped.

Is that really a good thing to wish on another human being? Even one as horrible and unlikable as Delay? I understand where my hatred comes from. I am stunned and horrified that people of faith--people who believe (at least some of) the tenets of Christ would champion someone who makes George Bush look like a Choir Boy. A person who revels in punishing his enemies. A man who is so ruthless that he inspires fear in others. A person who is so arrogant and filled with his own sense of power, that he once compared his political troubles with those of Christ.

I try not to hate. I know it is bad for me. I also know that if we really believe the teachings of Christ, we should not hate our enemies. But I have no idea how to love someone like Delay. Or Bush. I have been around Christians who could use the language, but underneath, you hear that they are mouthing something that isn't quite real.

I want to be honest. I don't want to hate. But I don't love Delay. I will work on it. Just as I will work to forgive the Christian conservatives who, in my opinion, have not only hijacked my faith, but dirtied and sullied it in partisanship and bigotry. People who tell me that Bush and Delay are in anyway representative of the faith have lost any credibility about the faith itself. Yet, I need to forgive that. I don't know how.

I asked once on this blog about forgiveness and what it meant. Greg, I think, responded very well with this little example. If you trust someone with your money and they let you down, you can forgive them and not hold it against them, but you will not let them manage your money in the future. I am still in the process of not holding it against the people of faith for the Bush RepubliChristians, but I will be cautious to open myself to them on issues of the faith.

One step at a time, eh?

May 26, 2005

Another busy day

Again, despite my recent employment change, I find myself prepping for another talk. I have been busier this week than any in the last several months, which, I think, proves just how bad that job really was.

Yesterday went really well. It started bad, or weak, but really ended well. I spoke to a group of Thai grad students on how to use technology to teach in class and online. They all spoke english so well I was shamed by my own lack of language skills. They were all so damned polite and smart and thoughtful....

At the end I realized why I like to spend more time in a classroom. I learned more than I think they did.

A grownup speaks

I have always liked (though not always agreed with) Alan Simpson. His is the moderate voice that used to be more common in the Republican party. Unfortunately, his type are very limited and we are left with idiots like Coburn and Brownback. Anyway, listen to this interview. SOF suggested it, and says that Simpson sees the religious right in pretty negative terms. NPR : Alan Simpson on Defying GOP Leadership

Now, if we could only get a few more grownup conservatives to speak out.

Speaking of NPR, Frank Deford, who bugs me sometimes, had a surprisingly good discussion on Indian mascots. I kind of expected the usual trivialization of the subject, but he said that mascots keep Indians trapped in history, "perpetually on the 'warpath'" and cartoon figures instead of real people. I agree.

May 25, 2005

Light blogging

I hope to write some more later this week. One would think with my employment change that I would be writing more, but instead I am busier. Two freelance gigs this week and one of them is profitable. :)

But before I head off, let me thank Zalm and Leighton for their substantive comments on the challenges between religion and science. I understand some of the difficulties, but am short on solutions. During a recent party, a few scientists discussed the problem of evolution (they remained puzzled and annoyed, I think, by ID) and admitted that the scientific community had done a bad job of educating the public. After all, if the mantra of "if evolution works, then why are there still monkeys" persists, then many of the critics don't really understand the process they are attacking.

That sounds familiar to me, as SOF has often noted that the public really doesn't understand the historical method either and so are easily distracted by the David Barton's pseudo-history.

So, if any of you have good answers and solutions to the above problems, please pass them forward.

May 24, 2005

Sider: Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

Key sentence: "IN A THOUGHTFUL nod to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sider blames the problem on the evangelical 'cheap grace' that reduces salvation to an 'individual personal relationship with Jesus.'

The New 'Mainline' Church, Sojourners Magazine/June 2005: "Ten years ago, historian Mark Noll's important book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind began with a powerful indictment: 'The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.' From there, Noll attacked evangelical anti-intellectualism and issued challenges to remedy the problem.

Ronald Sider, senior statesman of progressive evangelicalism, modeled his new book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience on Noll's earlier work. However, unlike Noll, whose concern was evangelical intellectual life, Sider claims that contemporary American evangelicals must confront a wider, more devastating issue. Evangelical moral behavior resembles that of other Americans. To paraphrase Noll, the scandal of the evangelical conscience is that there is not much of an evangelical conscience.

The scandal of evangelical behavior, and its parallel lack of ethical conscience, provides a stinging critique of conservative American Protestantism. Even Noll, with his unblinking attack on the evangelical subculture, shied away from criticizing evangelical morality. After all, as a Christian renewal movement, evangelical religion was justly proud of its piety and could take much historical credit for what early evangelicals called 'the reform of manners.' But Sider gives no credit for past successes. Indeed, he goes right for the evangelical heart with his claim, 'Scandalous behavior is rapidly destroying American Christianity' and 'With their mouths they claim that Jesus is Lord, but with their actions they demonstrate allegiance to money, sex, and self-fulfillment.' In other words, evangelicals are hypocrites - revivalists who need to be revived.

To support his claim, Sider looks at a host of polling data (mostly from the Barna, Pew, and Gallup organizations) that reveals that evangelical practice about divorce, materialism, sexual promiscuity, racism, and domestic violence does not differ from the practice of the surrounding culture. In some of these regards, evangelical rates of activity actually rank higher than their neighbors. And it is not just individual evangelicals. Regions of the country with large evangelical populations (the Bible Belt, for example) have the highest rates of divorce, domestic violence, and racism. Thus, the evangelical scandal is not only a matter of individual piety. Rather, it manifests as a cultural problem that erodes the church, undercuts the social power of the gospel, and contributes to the decline of American society.

IN A THOUGHTFUL nod to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sider blames the problem on the evangelical 'cheap grace' that reduces salvation to an 'individual personal relationship with Jesus.' If the church embodied 'the whole gospel' of kingdom ethics, community, humanity, and sin, 'greater biblical fidelity would help end the scandal.' But Sider goes further than the theological solution. He also argues that the 'church must be the church.' Instead of conforming to culture, he urges that evangelical congregations re-vision themselves as radically countercultural communities of holiness, Christian practice, and church discipline. In a short section, he proposes some practical steps of congregational accountability and church membership to move evangelicals toward greater moral integrity. The book ends with some rays of hope - a few less-bleak statistics about evangelical behavior intended to inspire confidence that evangelicalism can reform itself and, once again, be a powerful force of spiritual and social change."

Strange bedfellows, indeed

I have been waiting for grownup republicans. My readers know that. I am sure that Bush and Frist would no more listen to me than they would a French national--such is their arrogance. I am just as American as Mr. Bush, yet he cares not in the least that I want to save our environment, not destroy it.

but that said, it is clear that the religious right is unswayable. They have the Lord's own support, after all, and so need not be chastised or questioned by mere mortals. They should have the right to appoint their judges and their Presidents and the rest of us should shut up and convert. Dobson's response to George told the story. "We are God's own and need not take guidance from you." Balls.

It is clear that the only ones who can save our democracy from the theocrats and save our faith from the arrogant bastards are Republicans and conservative Christians. They are the ones with the power. They are the ones who can make themselves heard. They can turn to Bush and say "stop using our faith for political gain. Oh, and btw, maybe you should ACT like a christian!" They can turn to Dobson and say "stop being an arrogant prick. If you are going to profit off our faith, then at least act with some humility."

Well, until that happens, I will take the steps where I can get them. Trent Lott bugs me. It isn't just his hair, it is, of course, his connections with right wing racists (the very same right wing racists that Tony Perkins (Dobson's right hand political hack) has, by the way). But it is clear that even Lott kind of gets just how arrogant this Bush cabal is. He has felt the sting of their disapproval. And now, he is speaking out against Dobson. - Activists on right and left agree: No deals: "'James Dobson: Who does he think he is, questioning my conservative credentials?' Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said in an interview. Dobson, head of the conservative group Focus on the Family, criticized Lott for his efforts to forge a compromise in the fight over the judges. Lott is still angry. 'Some of his language and conduct is quite un-Christian, and I don't appreciate it,' the senator said."

I really hate to include Lott in the category of grownup repubs. Can anyone send me the John Danforth letter? We need to collect every republican who dares to speak out against the Religious Right's agenda.

May 23, 2005

Somehow this seems familiar

I remember a little election in Florida where Republicans made a big deal about the Democrats being spoiled losers, even though a certain VP won the popular vote and graciously retired from the race rather than push the issue further. Now in Washington, this story.

All I would like is the party that lambastes me on moral values to show a little consistency.

May 20, 2005

I like this game

Ramblin' Educat: The Kind Of Tagging That Doesn't Involve Spray Paint: "The questions:If I could be a scientist...If I could be a farmer...If I could be a musician...If I could be a doctor...If I could be a painter...If I could be a gardener...If I could be a missionary...If I could be a chef...If I could be an architect...If I could be a linguist...If I could be a psychologist...If I could be a librarian...If I could be an athlete...If I could be a lawyer...If I could be an inn-keeper...If I could be a professor...If I could be a writer...If I could be a llama-rider...If I could be a bonnie pirate...If I could be an astronaut...If I could be a world famous blogger...If I could be a justice on any one court in the world...If I could be married to any current famous political figure..."

As I understand the rules, I will answer five questions and then tag three blog friends. (Or, you can do like I did and just take the challenge on my own):

Here goes:

If I could be a musician.... I would play guitar for Jeff Tweedy in Wilco and be very happy. Or I would be in the E-Street Band. Or I would play in a seedy bar with Alejandro Escovedo and watch closely for the bridge...

If I could be a painter... I would have an eye for the new. I would paint abstracts that would shock people--not scary or vulgar, just visceral works that taps into that inner soul--the kind where people end up walking away muttering...

If I could be a writer...I would write the pot boiler--the plane trash book that everyone read and no one could remember the author's name. Then I could afford to go to Starbucks every day and no one would ask me for my autograph...

If I could be an athlete, I would be the guy who occasionally made a good play but who never said that jesus was cheering harder for me than the opposition....

If I could be a llama rider...I would make everyone in my neighborhood jealous because of my cool llama. But I would give everyone rides until the llama bit the guy down the street I don't like. Then I would give him a peanut. And the llama too...

Now I am supposed to tag some people. I tag Jape, because it is about damn damn ass hell time he started a blog so I can leave anonymous comments on it. I don't know who else to tag. Tired.


I apologize, but I have had to hide the comment field on the Bible and Women post. A spammer was leaving pornographic comments. I deleted them, but they were persistent. We shall see if that helps. I contacted Blogger to see if they could help, but in the meantime......

I can be reached at the usual places. :)

May 19, 2005

The Bible and women

Thanks to Feministe for this link. SOF and I have talked about this a lot. Jesus seemed quite revolutionary toward women, but the church has been reactionary. Coming home from a mando lesson, I heard a preacher (I think his name is Chip Ingram) talking the gender role issue. It alwasy kind of tickles me, but also annoys when I hear these simplified approaches to gender. He is still pushing for wives to submit to their husbands even if the husbands fuck things up (paraphrase), because God's sovereignty will step in. Fine. But the examples are stupid. More like assinine. Idiotic. The wife shouldn't pay the bills? What? So, if your wife is a CPA or just has a natural (dare I say God given) head for numbers, you should still have the husband (with no such head for numbers) manage the finances? Right. It is right there in the Bible. Somewhere toward the back.

But of course, this is a trivial example. The fact is that the Bible has been used to justify the subjugation of women; the demonization of female sexuality, and the wholesale denigration of the female mind. It isn't the Bible's fault, but good God, we are living in the 21st century. Can't we get past this?

Anyway, Kristof reviews a new Spong book. Of course, conservatives will not take Spong seriously, but here he is addressing those "sins" of the bible that saw Christians using the ancient text to justify slavery, condone ethnic cleansing and genocide, and, of course, to keep women in their place. But, I think Kristof would ask, is this really what JWD?

Liberal Bible-Thumping - New York Times: "Bishop Spong, who has also taught at Harvard Divinity School, argues that while Christianity historically tried to block advances by women, Jesus himself treated women with unusual dignity and was probably married to Mary Magdalene. Christianity may have become unfriendly to women's rights partly because, in its early years, it absorbed an antipathy for sexuality from the Neoplatonists. That led to an emphasis on the perpetual virginity of Mary, with some early Christian thinkers even trying to preserve the Virgin Mary's honor by raising the possibility that Jesus had been born through her ear."

Evolution and history

Vast Majority of Scientists (VMS) are talking to Conservative Christians (CC).

VMS: Evolution is the best explanation for the development of natural life. It doesn't explain spirituality, just the development of the species.

CC: nope

VMS: nope? What do you mean, nope? We are the experts in this field, you know.

CC: nope. you guys are good at splitting atoms and mixing chemicals, but you are completely wrong on this.

VMS: We are wrong? What training do you have in cell biology or zoology?

CC: none.

VMS: what proof do you have that evolution doesn't occur across species?

CC: it just doesn't.

VMS: It just doesn't?

CC: yeah, it just doesn't. If it did, monkeys would be turning into people and dropping out of the trees.

VMS: sigh. Your turn, VMH (Vast Majority of Historians)

VMH: America is not a Christian nation.

CC: is too.

VMH: what is your proof?

CC: It says right so on our coins. And in the Declaration.

VMH: That is your proof?

CC: Yeah. And we like that conclusion. You and the VMS are really not that good. It doesn't take much to know history or science. Anyone can do it.

VMH: sigh.

May 18, 2005

Time for a little humor

The latest and last Star Wars film opens tonight after midnight. I am skeptical, but will probably see it eventually. But in the spirit of Star Wars, I present this link to the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's take on Star Wars' fans. It is funny.

MilkandCookies - Triumph vs Star Wars


Thanks to everyone who left a comment or dropped an email with the nice birthday wishes. I appreciate all of them. Very much.

Grownup Evangelist?

Thanks again to Carlos for this link. Intriguing take on Billy Graham. Kind of wonder how he sees his son's participation in this entire nationalism/religion stuff.

THE GREAT WHITE BEAR SPEAKS: REV. BILLY GRAHAM: "Seems he [Billy Graham] has some issues with the leadership of the Christian right, and they with him. So much so that he was snubbed by the Grand Ayatollah of the Christian right, James Dobson, and not asked to speak at his nationally broadcast JUSTICE SUNDAY event on April 24. This event, which featured virtually every religious-right leader of note, was organized to protest the Democrats plans to filibuster extremist judges. What the Dobsonians call a filibuster against people of faith."

May 17, 2005


Yep, today I am 40.

What a weird sensation. I am reminded that I used to view people who were this age as people of wisdom and authority. Little did I know that they were as clueless as me!

Well, not completely.

So, at 40, I feel pretty good.

More later.

May 16, 2005

Let's start with Republican inconsistency

Hey, if I am going to blog, might as well go right to my favorite rant, right?

Couple of things that caught my eye today. First was this story about Newsweek getting it wrong, evidently. They said that US interrogators defamed the Koran in Gitmo. This sparked protests that have killed ~20 people, and appear to be incredibly tragic. Newsweek should take this very seriously and do a better job of making sure their stories are right.

But the right wing echo chamber is off the hook on this one. Flipping through the news channels, you see conservative after conservative angry and ranting about the media and their lack of responsibility.

I agree, but wonder where that outrage was when that same media allowed Bush to mislead us into war? To say nothing of the fact that comments by Jerry "I am extremely fat" Falwell led to riots in India that left 5 people dead.

next item

I am really starting to wince when ever I hear about family values Republicans. Reminds me of the jokes about car dealers who call themselves "Honest Jack" when honest is the one thing they aren't. In Spokane, the family values mayor was trolling the internet for young boys. Jeesh. And then we have this Dr. David Hager (Thanks, Bad Catholic) who is well loved by Dobson and Beverley LaHaye's Concerned Women for America for his family values and stance on contraception, but who's ex-wife alleges that he raped her throughout their marriage--including unwanted anal sex.

Repeat item
Well, kind of. I am never surprised when I see a W sticker on a big gas guzzler. I always fill in this in my mind: "I voted for W, because he assures me that I getting everything I want is good for me and I deserve it." I saw a "We support the troops" sticker on a ginormous SUV on the drive back. I always see it this way: "We support the troops, because with our own oil consumption, we will need to invade more and more countries."

Oddball item

Cold In Laramie saw a bumper sticker in California that proclaimed "Jesus would slap the shit out of you."

I have seen them online, but never on a car. I am a little puzzled by the meaning. Seems like it could go either way. Anyone?

Ok, that is enough for this afternoon.


Back. Some of you didn't know I was gone, but I am back. Went to San Antonio for a few days--though really didn't get to have any food that the area is famous for. Oh well. Did play laser tag (which was quite fun) and spend some time with family. Also had a nice drive home through the hill country and enjoyed that more than I thought I would. Very nice region.

I will get back to blogging this week, I am sure.

May 12, 2005

Jesus & Bruce

Thanks to Carlos (once again!) for this link. I like the take on Springsteen's new album as well as yet another rejection of this persecuted minority crap.

The Nation | Blog | Capital Games | Jesus & Bruce | David Corn: "Many fundamentalist Christians claim victimhood--even though they are free to worship as they like in tax-exempt churches, to send their kids to religious schools, to display the Ten Commandments almost anywhere (such as in their homes, on their front doors, on their cars, on their T-shirts), to vote for politicians who share (if not exploit) their beliefs, and to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a film that graphically depicts the bloody sacrifice of their savior."

Speaking of this, I heard Dobson's radio show the other night (I know, I know). He had Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer on his show and the three of them made quite an echo chamber. He surprised me by playing a clip from Imus where the radio guy criticized Dobson for being so arrogant to George Stephanopolous. But then they just talked about the "liberal" media and how they didn't get it. Never addressed why Dobson was above reproach. Of course, they never discussed Perkins' links to white supremacy groups either. Thinking of Bootleg Blogger's suggestion that the labels are really misleading, I am more than willing to say that if Dobson/Falwell/Mohler/Frist/Delay are what Christianity is, I am going to call my self something else. Not a renunciation of my faith--far from it--a reclamation. But I am not one of those guys.

May 11, 2005

Christian persecution, my ass!

I think Greg blogged about this or, something similar, not long ago. I was watching Jon Stewart for a bit of sanity, and switched the channel to our local NBC affiliate. They were interviewing a local pastor on his interpretation of Revelations. Complete fundy interpretation. Revelations is about now, and any dumbass (my words) can interpret it. No counter voice suggesting that the book be read in a context of the early church, etc. No discussion about metaphors and how controversial the book was to many in Church history. Just a reinforcement of fundy theology. And they are the ones who are being persecuted, right?

Please don't tell me that Conservative Christians are somehow left out of the public square. This idiot jackass had unfettered access to the airwaves, and was interviewed by a dolt--2 cents worth or so. A dolt who couldn't even challenge this, because in OKC, the fundy interpretation is the only one. They would teach it in schools if they could.

Made me think of Holden Caufield (Catcher in the Rye) who, when observing something supposed to be religious (help me out here, it has been years) said, "Jesus would have puked."


High Fidelity game

This is going around the web, and I thought I would play along. Kind of a more involved version of the "soundtrack of my life" game. If you haven't seen High Fidelity, then you should.


Top Five Lyrics that Move Your Heart
1) Springsteen, Thunder Road
The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again
I just can't face myself alone again
Don't run back inside
darling you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking
That maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright
Oh and that's alright with me

2) U2, When Love Comes to Town
When I woke up I was sleeping on the street
I felt the world was dancing and I was dirt beneath their feet
When I looked up I saw the Devil looking down
But my Lord he played the guitar the day love came to town
I was there when they crucified my Lord
I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword
I threw the dice when the pierced his side
But I've seen love conquer the great divide

3) Patty Griffin, One True Love
Let's take a ride to the seaside
We can go out swimming in the high tide
Just wear your shorts and your long hair
Don't forget the lawn chair
Everybody's gone to the movies
Everybody's gone and its groovy
They went to the one about the big war
I didn't, I'd seen it before

4) Mindy Smith, Come to Jesus
Worry not my daughters,
Worry not my sons
Child, when life don't seem worth livin'
Come to Jesus and let Him hold you in His arms

5) Kasey Chambers, Like a River
You make me feel like a river
Like a water overflow
Wanna shout it out from the Mountain
Wanna sing it on the radio
I'll sell my soul like a sinner
If it means you'll never go

Top 5 Instrumentals
I don't really like that many instrumentals (or am having problems thinking of them) so will combine a few instrumentals with great licks or solos

1) Uncle Tupelo--Sandusky

2) Nickel Creek--Pastures New

3) Steve Earle--Mando intro to Copperhead Road (live album) I am trying to learn this one.

4) Pure Prairie League--intro lick to Amie

5) Whiskeytown--solo in Turn Around (Stranger's Almanac)

Top 5 Live Musical Experiences

1) Wilco. Of course, this is the most recent concert, but it clearly stands near the top of the list. Amazing show that incorporated dissonance and wonderful harmony.

2) Springsteen. Saw him once in Houston. Was really interesting to see someone who had honed his craft that well. His stage presence was great and he flat wore us out.

3) Steve Earle and Shawn Colvin. Not together, but both occurred at Austin City Limits Music Festival and so were only 1 hour sets. Earle put together a great set of his great music, mixing old and new and, like Springsteen, showed the way to put on a show. Colvin, who's albums are so-so, put on a heart grabbing show that included funny stories, amazing guitar work (just her, no band) and a duet with her niece. Cool.

4) Old 97s. Saw them at a bar in Austin and what a show! Not close to the depth of a performance that I saw in Wilco, but energy to spare. Rhett Miller is a joy to watch. The next day, btw, at the festival, Old 97s stepped into finish a tepid Johnny Cash tribute set, and set my hair on end with a great version of "Ring of Fire."

5) Alejandro Escovedo. Another guy that many have never heard, but this guy is an amazing artist who put on one of the most amazing shows I ever saw in a small OKC club. If you are interested, give his album Gravity a listen.

Top Five Artists You Think More People Should Listen To

1) Wilco. People who want creative music that challenges you should listen to this great band.

2) Scott Miller. Everytime I listen to his stuff, I am reminded how many people who listen to Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney and those two dopey guys--Montgomery Gentry--are missing really good music that is so much better than that crap.

3) Jack Ingram and Robert Earl Keen--ditto.

4) Ryan Adams--great artist with a wide variety of song styles

5) Kasey Chambers and Kathleen Edwards--country music for people who don't want crap.

Top Five Albums You Must Hear From Start to Finish

1)U2's Joshua Tree. Solid songs, but I think this one has to be heard as a single album and not broken up into a shuffle playlist.

2) Springsteen's Born to Run. Still one of the best all-time albums and needs to play all the way.

3) Emmylou Harris, The Ballad of Sally Rose. Probably a lot of Emmylou fans out there that missed this album, but it is one of my favorites. Telling a semi-autobiographical story about a young girl, the album has some great songs and homages to good country.

4) Both of the recent Wilco albums, (A Ghost is Borne, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) are great from beginning to end. Yankee is best played in a setting, I think.

5) Lyle Lovett's Step Inside this House. This one is kind of cheating because it is actually a dual disk of covers. Lovett covers everyone from Robert Earl Keen to Townes Van Zandt and Eric Taylor. But they all work together and it is a fantastic album.

Top Five Musical Heroes
1) Steve Earle. I have said this before, but he writes great songs and I like his politics.

2) Emmylou. I can't think of anyone who has the longevity of this woman. One of the best harmonizers in the business, her own work is solid and she has been putting out albums since the early 70s. She is also involved in the movement against landmines.

3) Neil Young. He has had some really bad albums, but his willingness to take musical challenges still amazes me. The same guy who toured with Crosby Stills and Nash also toured with Perl Jam.

4) Ryan Adams. This "hero" tag is an interesting one. I am not sure that Adams is that impressive as a human being, but his musical ability and, like Young, to a degree, willingness to experiement with different sounds is impressive. And one of the most amazing voices in the industry.

5) U2. I think they have turned out a pretty impressive body of work.

A final musical note.

This took me a lot longer than I thought, and I am sure I would answer many of these differently in another couple of months, but that is part of what makes it fun. I was reminded again just how integral to my sanity this music is. I would love to read other people's answers to these questions.

panta ta ethne: The inerrancy of Falwell and Bush...

Natalie has a great post on the language of fundamentalism:

panta ta ethne: The inerrancy of Falwell and Bush...: "Another excellent example of the author function in Falwell's context occurred when he claimed that he had asked then-President Jimmy Carter why he had homosexuals on staff at the White House. Audiotapes proved otherwise, so Falwell explained that he was speaking in allegorical form. This apocryphal story highlight the author function that Falwell has assumed, because his followers notice the discrepancies, yet continue to be loyal to him. Because Falwell is a man of God, ordained and blessed by God, the works that he contributes to the overall discourse do not have to be literally true."

For those who might have missed this great comment

Blogger: Post a Comment: "Streak, your problem is that you have failed to put your trust in Republican Jesus. Repent, commie pinko, and repeat after me:

'Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name and the name of Thy favorite person on Earth, President Bush. Thy kingdom come, but not yet, because we haven't finished plundering the Earth's resources and exploiting the poor. Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven -- and we know that Thy will is for us to offer up all things at the altar of capitalism, which isn't a false god like the ones You warned us against worshipping but is instead just another aspect of the freedom You gave us, so worshipping it is really worshipping You no matter who it hurts. Give us this day our daily bread and the bread of our neighbors, that our shareholders may be placated. And forgive us our trespasses, and we'll whine about those who trespass against us and then go on a Fox News show or talk radio and lambast them as atheist communists. And lead us not into temptation; leave that to us, because we pretty much know where it is now and are making healthy profits by both screaming about it and selling it. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are ours, forever and ever. Amen.' "

Nice to laugh. Thanks CG!

Morality and faith, indeed

After posting the story on the Bush Fish crapola, I listened to NPR while getting ready. They had a story this morning on the pressure that states are under to manage the growth of Medicaid. In Missouri, evidently, the debate is leading to people being removed from the rolls--nearly 90,000.

NPR : Debating Medicaid and Morality in Missouri: "The proposals have opened a moral schism, with some preachers expressing outrage, but the governor, a devout Christian, defends the cuts as morally correct. Gov. Matt Blunt says not cutting Medicaid would force him to raise taxes -- and in his eyes, raising taxes is wrong."

First of all, when did raising taxes become a sin? I am pretty sure that Jesus never said that. He did seem to speak pretty strongly about taking care of the poor. How is it more moral to not ask a sacrifice from the wealthy and middle class while turning your back on the poor?

Part of this really bothers me because the debate is, once again, centered around theoreticals that are really not useful. Conservatives like to say that the churches should be helping the poor, not the government. In theory, I understand, but helping the poor is more than giving someone down on their luck a few dollars to help them between jobs. It is also dealing with people who are trying to work and take care of their family at the same time. People, like the woman in this story who works at McDonalds. Under the new changes, she will not qualify for Medicaid until her weekly income falls to under 86 dollars week! Meanwhile, she takes care of three children. One illness, and she could be done. And with the changes in bankruptcy law, she could be in worse shape. Where is the Christian faith in that?

Well, Streak, she needs to be married and have her husband work, you might say. Ok, say that I buy that. (I don't, but say I do). But what about the disabled poor? Another woman in the story is 44, and has Cerebral palsy. The changes will force her to get rid of her only companions (dogs) and ration her food.

You tell me? Where is the Christ in this story? If Jesus were walking around, would he be patting the Governor on the back for making tough decisions? Or would he be out there with Irene Shivers helping her?

Taxes are not sins. They can be horrible, I understand. But they are not sins. What bothers me the most is the lack of compassion, and the lack of recognition--this could be any of us. We have coverage now, and we have our health. That can change. We could be on the street and wondering where our food and medicine is coming from. The local church might feed us, but will they manage that kind of unique care? Where will the wealthiest Americans be?

This isn't Christian and whoever created the version of our faith that allows this Governor to stand on "moral" ground deserves their own unique punishment.

I wish this were a joke

Again from Carlos: Supporting God and Country

From the website (yes, that is right, this shit is real) these quotes:

"Do you believe God belongs in government?
Do you believe President Bush is doing The Lord's Work?
If so, then show your love for God & the USA!"

Maybe instead of One nation under God (or UNUG), it should be One Nation under Bush. Maybe Half a Nation under Bush. Or maybe even more accurately, One Nation With a Small Radical Group of Thumpers Who Think that God Prefers Them. Or perhaps, One Nation Deeply Divided by Assholes Who Claim God Speaks to them.

Sigh. This one is annoying to read first thing in the morning. :)

May 9, 2005

Quite a day

I quit my job today.

Well, let me rephrase. I quit one of my jobs.

I had been working for our IT department. It once was a good job. But it hasn't been good for a while. Part of my grousing lately has been regarding that and wondering what I am going to do with my life.

McKormick left a comment that struck me as true, and blunt. You need to commit to your own measure of success and stick there. Decide what is a successful life to you and fuck the rest.


I think that much of this angst for me has to do with status and that anxiety that accompanies it. When I think about walking away from this job, my biggest fear lately has been how other people would take me walking away from a decent paying job to be adjunct--make less money, and have no real title--or office. All around me I see people gripped with that anxiety--some who take their job so seriously that it defines them, and others who have a fine life but see themselves as having no status in life.

That is a tough way to live, and one that I am battling. I don't want my life to be defined by the job title, or the amount of money I earned, or whatever. I would like it to be measured by making a difference in other's lives--of being a good friend and participant, of being thoughtful and considerate.

And you know what? My friends and family have been so good about this. My mother encouraged me to seek a job that fit me better. My friends have all been so helpful. Kind of suggests that I am on to something. Thanks to all of you. And thanks to all the bloggers who, though I may not recognize you on the street, I know are friends.

Anyway. If this doesn't work out, I will always have McKormick to blame. :)

Hey! A Grownup Republican speaks

It should be snowing in Norman in May for me to post a link to Townhall, but this George Will column is worth reading. He notes that it is indeed noteworthy that Bush had to actually say that those who may not choose to worship (I almost added "as he does" but he doesn' actually attend church) are still good Americans. Imagine that.

I was glad that Bush said that, but I can see Will's point. It is a damn shame that he had to. Anymore than anyone would have to say that evangelical Christians were good Americans. But he did have to say it, because with King Dobson and his friends, anyone who's faith is outside the conservative evangelical circle feels uneasy.

And, as Will points out, the conservative evangelical meme these days is victimization. Christians, the argument goes, are being persecuted left and right. Their faith is being "driven from the public square." Right. Here is a little suggestion: when you have the President of the United States speaking for you, you are not outside the public square! Not even close.

Will notes:
"Some Christians should practice the magnanimity of the strong rather than cultivate the grievances of the weak. But many Christians are joining today's scramble for the status of victims. There is much lamentation about various 'assaults' on 'people of faith.' Christians are indeed experiencing some petty insults and indignities concerning things such as restrictions on school Christmas observances. But their persecution complex is unbecoming because it is unrealistic."

I think this comes from the need to put themselves at the center of the story. I have heard many Christians note that Jesus said that they would be persecuted--and it certainly appears that American Christians are inserting themselves into that story. And when there are Christians and people of other faiths actually being persecuted around the world, usage of the word is offensive. No one is taking away your right to attend church, read the Bible, pray, etc. No one is putting you in jail for speaking for Jesus.

More Will:
In just 15 months, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" has become one of the 10 highest-grossing movies in history, and it almost certainly will become the most-seen movie in history. The television networks, which can read election returns and the sales figures of "The Da Vinci Code," are getting religion, of sorts. The Associated Press reports that NBC is developing a show called "The Book of Daniel" about a minister who abuses prescription drugs and is visited by a "cool, contemporary Jesus." Fox is working on a pilot about "a priest teaming with a neurologist to examine unexplained events."

This part is kind of funny to me. Everyone now is buzzing that the Gibson film has made Christianity a great topic for film. Well, be warned. Now you are a market and that means that you will get all sorts of crap sold to you. Even more crappy than Mel's Mad Vision.

Christian book sales are booming. "The Rising" by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, the 13th in the astonishing 10-year sequence of Christian novels in the "Left Behind" series, was published two months ago and rocketed to the top of's bestseller list. Three years ago LaHaye and Jenkins, whose first dozen volumes have sold a combined 62 million copies, joined Tom Clancy, John Grisham and J.K. Rowling as the only authors whose novels have first printings of 2 million, partly because they are being sold in huge volumes in stores such as Wal-Mart and Costco. Today LaHaye and Jenkins are leaving Clancy, Grisham, et al. in the dust.

Religion is today banished from the public square? John Kennedy finished his first report to the nation on the Soviet missiles in Cuba with these words: "Thank you and good night." It would be a rash president who today did not conclude a major address by saying, as President Ronald Reagan began the custom of doing, something very like "God bless America."

And this reminder that those who claim that the Founders were good evangelical Christians like themselves should remember this:

But Republicans should not seem to require, de facto, what the Constitution forbids, de jure: "No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust."

May 7, 2005

This is what you get

Note: I was working on this post when I noticed that my friend Anglican had this.

Warning to BB and others--this will depress the hell out of you. Found it over at Carlos's blog. According to this story a Waynesville Baptist church kicked out several members for voting against Bush.

Obviously this is an extreme example and should not be assumed to be a trend. But when you have people like Falwell, Dobson and Robertson weighing in on Politics with their own version of how God would vote, this kind of thing can happen. I say "can." When someone misses the point and may not be that smart to begin with (uncharitable, I know), this will happen. Here is where the grownups have a responsibility. Fallwell, et al., won't listen to me--just as Bush has shown that he doesn't care what half of the country thinks. But they will listen to the conservative Republican church goers. If you write them and say, "Pastor Jerry, you are annoyingly fat and stupid and need to shut the hell up before you make the rest of us look bad," he might listen. Feel free to use your own words. :)

This all reminds me of an email conversation from this week that continued the discussion of radio twit-boy. I said that one of the more offensive things was this guy claiming that God was telling him this garbage in an audible voice. The audible part isn't the part that bothers me, though I am not sure I understand it. It is the assertion that God is a right winger who likes strict gender roles. Those roles don't match with me prefering to cook over fixing the car. I am sure many men follow that model, but it is clearly not universal. The God he is hearing is more than likely his little god (self).

I think a good many people can make the distinction. My friend in Texas was not fooled by twit-boy's assertion that God was speaking to him, but a good many people have been trained to respond to that language. "Hey, this guy is hearing from God--listen up!" Again, I wish that the grownups would call those people to task and remind them how careful they should be when speaking for God. And it is often unnecessary to do the divine name-dropping, isn't it? If the stuff is really from God, it probably needs no such boost. Probably can stand on its own. It is the bad stuff that often needs propped up.

May 6, 2005

Bible thumping and selling cars

Hitchens annoys me just about as often as I agree with him. I think he nails this particular problem, however.

OpinionJournal - Extra: "I have never understood why conservative entrepreneurs are so all-fired pious and Bible-thumping, let alone why so many of them claim Jesus as their best friend and personal savior. The Old Testament is bad enough: The commandments forbid us even to envy or covet our neighbor's goods, and thus condemn the very spirit of emulation and ambition that makes enterprise possible. But the New Testament is worse: It tells us to forget thrift and saving, to take no thought for the morrow, and to throw away our hard-earned wealth on the shiftless and the losers."

May 5, 2005

Education, consumer style

Everything is for sale in a consumer's society. And that means that everything is really up to the consumer. They buy what they want (or what they are told to want) and avoid the stuff they don't like.

Makes sense when you are shopping for pants. I guess.

But it also applies to education. A prof of mine once remarked that education is the only place where the consumer wants less for their money. Less work. Less reading. Less learning. Just give me the goddamn grade and pass me.

I have been down this week, thinking about what I do and where I am going. Turning 40 does that to some of us. For me, I wonder what value I bring in a professional way? Do I add value to society? I think so, or at least do sometimes. I think that teaching kids to think differently; to understand their past as a complicated and often contradictory story is a good thing. I think that I can help people be good citizens; good critics of their culture; etc.

Today I am less sure. I read about creationists pushing their crap in Kansas. I read about David Barton's role as "historian" among the RepubliChristians. Both annoy and depress the shit out of me. In both cases, professionals like myself work their adult lives studying something. They read widely, do original research, and teach and write. But who gets heard?

Not the professionals. A hack writer from Oral Roberts University is given more credibility than a Ph.D. from a real university. Or drop the comparative merits of different schools. A person who has no training and doesn't practice any scholarship is listened to in lieu of professional historians.

The consumer has spoken. The conservative Christian looks at evolution and says, "that confuses me and might challenge my view of the world where God is completely in charge. I will simply reject that and wait for a better answer. Scientists who spend their entire lives studying evolutionary biology are just stupid. All they have to do is read Genesis."


"I have to have a Christian America. Because if it isn't a Christian America I don't feel special in this country. God has to have chosen MY country or else I am just one of the billions of losers on the planet. I don't even believe my own faith that God loves me individually. In fact, I believe that God will smite me if my country doesn't pass the flat tax as our Godly Founding Fathers once demanded. Any historian who doesn't agree with my uninformed opinion has wasted his life studying the past. All they had to do was read the Bible."

That is certainly how it feels today. Fuck history. Or science. We can read an ancient text with our conclusions already firmly in hand and be secure in our knowledge that we are at the center of the universe. No need to study. Only read stuff that you already agree with. Only study things that you already know.

Sure glad I spent all that time getting a Ph.D. Silly me. Should have just read the Bible a little more. Or gone to hack university with crazy person's name and been indoctrinated. Then I could tour the country and speak to throngs of RepublicChristians and assure them that they are superior to: other countries, liberals, academics, scholars..........

Light blogging

I haven't written much the last day or so. Giving a final and so that is taking some of my time. Also need to practice my mando, and have had numerous chores to do around the house. Also a bit on the down side this week, for all the reasons I wrote about the other day. The current job is just not working out and the prognosis is negative (sounds like a Seinfeld movie, eh?).

There have been a few nice moments. A student told me she learned more in my class (and worked harder) than her other two courses combined. That was nice to hear.

Things will get better. I need more music and less annoying stuff. Just bought the new Ryan Adams album and that has been a really nice addition. The guy can flat out sing.


What's On Jesus' iPod? Pt. II

I got a kick out of the original article, so was glad to see
this followup
. Clearly many people are not amused. I have to think that Jesus has a sense of humor.

May 3, 2005

Traps, demons, and such

I am not sure why I do this. Not the blog. It has been a good thing. But at times I engage with people that I really know I shouldn't. This isn't elitism, or snobbery. It is just the recognition that it is a trap to discuss with some people because while it seems we are using the same language, we aren't. We might as well be speaking Martian and Venutian for the good we do talking to each other.

Over at Jesus Politics I got into a discussion with a woman over the Lamott essay. She firmly believes that those of us who ask questions are bad. And so it goes. I tried. As God is my witness, I tried. I tried to approach with humility and grace. But when I try to engage, I run into her insistence that she has it straight from God. I am merely trying to think my way along. It isn't a fair discussion.

In a similar discussion, I got into it with a very conservative gentleman. We have moments of clarity as if we are on the same field, but then the ground shifts and it is clear we aren't talking about the same stuff at all. Here the subject is history, but the outcome is the same.

Today has been one of those days. I have written about those demons that come out when we are tired and weak and distraught. Mine come out when there are clouds and I am down. Today they reminded me that I am almost 40 and that my "career" is not what I had hoped. My brain struggles to fight them off--reminding those smug bastards that there is more to life than career, and that in that accounting, I am quite rich. More rich than I deserve. But those bastards keep taunting me; reminding me that my Ph.D., doesn't amount for shit.

I know they lie. I know they lie. But it hurts, and it drags me down today. Right now, though, as I write this, some evening sun has broken through. that is nice. I feel a surge of relief, like adrenalin, or like when you realize you have been holding your breath and start breathing again.

This is one of those down times, and those who read this blog recognize them. I am moody. I have to keep reminding myself of the truth of who I am, and not try to engage people on some other blog in a fake contest. It won't convince them, and it won't convince the demons.

But I don't have to take their shit either.

Anne Lamott speaks

I like her. I like her writing and remember fondly an essay where she encouraged all of us to go do good in what we felt was a lost cause of our election. I like her because she is unabashedly liberal and unashamedly Christian. If I am honest, that second part gets me quite often. I feel, not like renouncing my faith, but simply not calling myself one--lest I be confused with a Robertson or a Dobson or a Bush. But Lamott won't give up. Here she was asked "Don't you think the radical right has appropriated God, and if so, what is your response to that?"...

What the right has "appropriated" has nothing to do with God as most of us believers experience God. Their pronouncements about God are based on the great palace lie that this is a Christian country, that they were chosen by God to be his ethical consultants, and that therefore they alone know God's will for us. The opposite of faith is not doubt: It is certainty. It is madness. You can tell you have created God in your own image when it turns out that he or she hates all the same people you do. The first holy truth in God 101 is that men and women of true faith have always had to accept the mystery of God's identity and love and ways. I hate that, but it's the truth.

I just think Bush and his people have gotten it so wrong.

My response to the second question is that we who believe that a benevolent intelligence animates our lives need to live by Jesus' command: to try to stop killing other human beings, just for today, and to act upon a total commitment to the poor, to the old and to the Earth. Watch, God said, and I don't think he meant cable news. I could be wrong. But what I think he meant was, "Watch for the warning signs of God's presence so you can remember what he said to do -- bring food to those who hunger, bring water to those who thirst, and help through love and showing up to turn despair into hope, swords into plowshares."

Following are five warning signs, symptomatic feelings that indicate that God is present in our hearts (and our national priorities).

1) A passionate belief in freedom and equality, in God's inclusive love for all his or her children. Jesus does not say, "I lay down my life for my sheep." He says, "I lay down my life for the sheep," all the people who are feeling alone, frightened, lost and hopeless.

2) A belief in the importance of separation of church and state. Right there in the First Testament's greatest hits is his admonition that we render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and render unto God what is God's. (And speaking of the New Testament, I read it daily, and just cannot find the part where Jesus says that everyone should get out their guns, the part where he says that arming the angriest racists among us is an excellent idea, or the part where he discusses tax cuts.)

3) A core belief that all people are good, and precious to God, and that everyone deserves to be cared for. A majority of moderate American believers are doing the work that Jesus insisted we do -- the Jesus of, say, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. instead of the Jesus of -- I'm not going to name names -- those committed to helping "the deserving poor," as long as the poor agree to take their Bible classes. When my son was in second grade, he wrote, "Dr. King said all people count the same, and all people deserve good." Seven years old, and he got it.

4) The desire to sacrifice. My pastor Veronica threw up her hands the other day at the pulpit, and asked, What would happen if the very rich sacrificed a very little -- which is all it would take -- to bail out Social Security for the rest of this great nation? And I wonder, along those same lines, what would happen if those who believe that God made us stewards of this beautiful, fragile, exquisite Earth became people of sacrifice who gave up huge SUVs and trucks and bought much, much smaller SUVs and trucks? What if liberals became people of sacrifice?

5) Deep feelings of generosity. When we're dealing with the people in our family -- no matter how annoying or gross they may be, no matter how self-inflicted their suffering may appear, no matter how afflicted they are with ignorance, prejudice or nose hairs -- we give from the deepest parts of ourselves. We make sure, at the very least, that they are housed, clothed, fed and invited to the dinner table. You can tell you are following Jesus, instead of following people who are following Jesus, when you truly get -- or grok, as the late, great Robert Heinlein put it -- that we are one family, brothers and sisters. We stand up for the very least in our family: the Republican uncle with his shotgun, the grandparent with Alzheimer's, the stoner cousin, the aunt with no savings. Do we stand up for the stock and bond traders? Of course we do, but not by handing Wall Street the rest of the family's Social Security money.

There's an old joke about a man who is being shown around heaven for the first time, by St. Peter, who walks around pointing out the various glories where people of all colors and ethnic persuasions live -- grassy hills, green meadows, still waters, symphony halls, silent spaces, steep hillsides for people who want to hike to the mountaintops or the ponds, and so on. Then they come upon a great walled fortress.

"What on earth is that?" asks the man. "Oh," says St. Peter. "That's where the fundamentalists live. It's not heaven for them if they think anyone else got in."

More on Robertson

Bootleg Blogger suggested that I ruined a perfectly good day for him. I think Robertson took care of that! :) And in my defense, I included a very funny and thoughtful Daily Show clip to counter balance the insanity of Pat "Giant Head" Robertson.

Speaking of the melon head, I was thinking about his bizarre interview this morning. I was reminded of his contradictory approach to Muslims. He opposed having Muslims on the bench because, after all, " they have said in the Qu'ran there's a war against all the infidels. Do you want somebody like that sitting as a judge? I wouldn't."

But when asked about who is the biggest threat to America, that is you and me--liberals, feminists and of course Judges--all who are a bigger threat than Al Qaida. And why?

When asked if judges were a more serious threat than terrorists, Rev. Robertson responded: “It depends on how you look at culture. If they look over the course of 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings. And I think we have controlled Al Qaida. I think we'll get Osama bin Laden. We've won in Afghanistan. We won in Iraq. And we can contain that. But if there's an erosion at home, you know, Thomas Jefferson warned about a tyranny of oligarchy. If we surrender our democracy to the tyranny of oligarchy, we've made a terrible mistake.”

Why are Muslim judges a threat, then? This speaks to just how crazy Pat Robertson is. He has never been about anything other than pushing a hard-line dominionist agenda. He wants someone like himself to rule the country from an OT perspective. He wants to be able to ban feminism, and homosexuality, and liberalism. He thinks that God is whispering in his ear. That is arrogant. And dangerous.

May 2, 2005

Grownups need to speak

I have been saying this for sometime, but grownups need to step up and stop people like Pat Robertson from representing Christianity. Not only is he an anti-semetic kook, but he is a hatemonger. If you want to see his recent interview on This Week, go here.

I downloaded the film and am watching it. Couple of points. He asserts that all Muslims believe in a jihad against the infidels and therefore should not be allowed to be judges. Millions of people are praying for a change in the supreme court, all, I might add, because a nutjob like Robertson keeps telling them that the judges are tyrants and that people like Ruth Bader Ginsberg shouldn't be on the court because she used to work for the ACLU.

One side point: I think that of the mainstream media, George Stephanopolous may be one of the few who will actually challenge a conservative on air. He challenged him on several points, including asking him why God was so active in removing judges but not in protecting several hundred thousand people from a tsunami. Robertson's answer was lame, though of course, his entire theology is lame and self-serving.

Grownups? Looking for Grownups. The more you allow an idiot/ass like Robertson to speak for the faith, the more harm is done.

Justice Sunday: Jon Stewart style

I know that Justice Sunday is old news, but this is so damn funny.


History and revisionism

Historical revisionism is a hotbutton issue for many conservatives. From a historian's perspective, revisionism means that a major argument has been revised. That is what all good history tries to do. History is, and always has been a flawed discipline--more art in many ways than science. We don't think we are writing the "Truth" but hope to get it right in ways that matter. Our interpretation is always dependent on flawed sources, that we try to piece together in a recognizable and understandable way. Revisionism means that we have found a new way of explaining both the old and new source material that we have available.

But for the general public, revisionism means that you have rewritten history. It means taking the past and rewriting it for political purposes, or at least I think that is what it means. Part of this is the misunderstanding about how history is written, and most people do not understand the fluid and changing nature of our understanding of the past. Revision means changing our interpretation of slavery from "well-intentioned" to "racist and exploitative and violent." People believed the first for years based on slaveholder's views and sources. The second is the way we understand the institution after including slave voices and other source material. That kind of revisionism is positive, right?

What people mean by revisionism is to reach back in time and simply change something--and since most people see history as factual, it means removing or adding facts.

I was reminded of this today when I read this story about how Russia is now turning their fallen soldiers at Kursk into Christian soldiers:

Analysis: Christian revival at battlefield - (United Press International): "For half a century, Kursk was glorified as another heroic triumph of the Soviet Union, but in the 13 years and more since the collapse of communism, the narrative has changed, the past has been transformed through the shifting perspective of the present .It is seen through another, far more unexpected glass. For the hundreds of thousands who died defending their Motherland in the wheat fields of west-central Russia are now revered also as Christian martyrs."

This is exactly what critics mean by "revisionist" history.

and this story about Japan creating textbooks that gloss over Japanese atrocities against China during WW2.

I am curious if conservative evangelicals in this country see both those examples as problematic. Because from my perspective, this is exactly what David Barton is trying to do to our own past.

May 1, 2005

Quiz time.

From Feministe this latest tongue-in-cheek quiz. My score is not good on the GOP scale.

I am:
"You're a damn Commie!  Where's Tailgunner Joe when we need him?"

Are You A Republican?

Oh good god!

this from Class Warfare. Any wonder that we don't respect the South? Are you kidding me? Want to ban any books with gay people in them or written by gay people? Any wonder that America is in trouble when asstwits like this are the people holding our Presidential elections hostage?

KUTV: Alabama Bill Targets 'Gay' Books: "'I don't look at it as censorship,' says State Representative Gerald Allen. 'I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children.' Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker's novel 'The Color Purple' has lesbian characters. Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can't define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama's public and college libraries. "

Fundamentalism and higher education

Listening to Bruce Springsteen this morning and he has a great line in his new song, Devils and Dust:
"I got God on my side
I'm just trying to survive
what if what you do to survive
kills the things you love
fear's a powerful thing
it can turn your heart black
you can trust"

A powerful warning to all who want to claim ownership of God. I was thinking about this problem yesterday. We went to the city and had great calzones at Belle Isle Brewery (too early in the day for their good micro-beer, dammit). While we were waiting we picked up the Gazette to see if Greg had an article (he did--nice piece on the new Pope), but we were distracted by this story on OBU. We knew about some of it, of course. Micah and Kristen (both OBU grads) have been talking about it for some time here and here. But we had only picked up on parts of the story. I am sure that OBU supporters will hate this story, but there was much here to be frustrated with. One faculty member fired right before his final exams; the administration said they forgot he was teaching so gave all the students "A's." PR guy is fired for writing a letter as a private citizen to the local paper criticizing a local church for moving out of the community to the burbs. As the story notes: "Kincaid said he thought it wouldn't matter that OBU President Mark Brister and several high-level administrators were part of Immanuel's congregation." Other faculty members are afraid to talk to the Gazette because they fear they might be fired. Those who like to drink alcohol often drive to Norman to avoid being seen in a Shawnee liquor store. If they are seen, they fear being fired. For buying wine.

My Texas friend asked why I was so annoyed by my radio idiot who claimed to speak for God. But my annoyance goes deeper. The denomination I was raised in is turning into something I cannot even stomach. But this story reminded me that there are consequences for actions. When you make anti-academic and anti-intellectualism a part of your mantra, you needn't be surprised when a formerly respected institution like OBU goes down the tubes. When you attack evolution and demand a young earth--when you demand that your American history be Christian and laudatory--and when you demand patriotism as a part of your faith--you get a crippled "university" where people who think are just edged out. A journalism professor wrote an article asking whether the poor were getting what they needed after disasters like the May 3rd tornado, and he was called into the President's office and rebuked. Since when did Christians get in trouble for asking questions about poverty? When they became Republichristians?

But like I said, this is what you get. And OBU's enrollment is plummeting and they are in trouble. The rich Baptists are not giving enough, I guess. And think about it. If you are home-schooled and taught that evolution is bunk and the dinosaurs were on the ark, then you are going to have to go to a pretty fundamentalist college, right? Bob Jones or Liberty? If you have invested that much effort in keeping your kids from secularism, then even OBU starts to look like a threat.

And on the contrasting side, those moderate kids who are raised in Church, read their bible, but also engage with the broader world of community and ideas, and might have some interest in science or history--where are you going to go? You want to go to a real university where academic freedom is at least a well-worn cliche; where at least they make an effort at that. Where in science they do experiments and work in the labs--where the history programs teach you to get into the primary sources rather than to read American history from the Bible.

OBU quickly becomes a victim of our binary culture. They can't stay in the middle, because both sides will find them useless. They will have to choose--be a real university or a Bible college. I have no doubt that the far right will persist. One of the characteristics of fundamentalism is a very rigid and absolute approach to truth. They are always right, and there really is no room for negotiation. I am reminded of Bruce Prescott's excellent post on this zero sum game on abortion. That is one of the problems with being right, you can't negotiate with all the other well-intentioned people who disagree with you. The question is what will the more moderate voices in faith do?