May 16, 2010


It has been a wild and wooly week here in OK. The newsworthy tornados on Monday started the week in motion and then we ended with graduation. I attended the big graduation ceremony because two close friends were there. One, my good friend L, who has house-sat for us numerous times and just been great to us, finished her masters in zoology. The other, now Dr. M, completed his PhD in chemistry.

It was fun to go to the ceremony and very enjoyable to see those friends finish and get their just congratulations. But it was also rather weird. I had a few flashbacks to my own PhD graduation and my buddy's after. Seeing my old dissertation advisor down there didn't exactly bring back great memories.

But that is ok. I am where I am and rather happy with that me (is that a Grosse Point Blank line?). Just has been a weird time. The spring funk continues and will probably continue through my birthday on Monday. I am also worried about my uncle who is not doing well in a hospital in Arizona. I have been thinking of him a lot these last weeks. Family continues to be a rather complicated issue here in the Streak family.


Meanwhile, I note a few news items that caught my eye. One is this from Dana Milbank which is a succinct summary of the GOP's recent craziness. Another great example is the fact that two Iraq war veterans are running for Congress. I am sure there are more, but these two are relevant because of their role in actions the military even didn't like. One shot two unarmed Iraqis and then posted a Marine sign over their bodies, and the other fired a pistol next to the head of a detainee to get him to talk. The first was nearly tried for murder and the latter was forced to retire from the Army. Their significance? Both brag about their acions and both are being cheered by the Republican base. See, committing war crimes makes you more attractive to the Republican right, not less.

Reminds me of some of my more frustrating communications on Facebook. One friend, complete with Master's degree from a seminary, still defends torture as "wrong" but defensible because a) "the government has to do what it has to do to keep us safe" and b) "the terrorists brought it on themselves because if their willingness to do things like behead people." What the hell do they teach in those seminaries now?

Then on Thursday, I received a friend request from a person I barely remember. Her profile lists her politics as "conservative" and her religion as "Baptist" and her groups include the one that jokes about Obama's death. You have probably seen or heard of this one: "Farrah Fawcett was my favorite actress, blah blah, Obama is my favorite President." I sent her an email and pointed out the tasteless quality of that "joke." In her defense she said that she had heard worse about Bush, and it was "just a joke."


I was thinking last night that one of the basic Christian values we are taught in church as youth is the Golden Rule's call to treat people as you would be treated. Not, as it is very clear, treat others as they treat you, but treat them as you yourself would be treated. And of course there are the commandments to love our enemies and turn the other cheek. I admit to being particularly bad at that first one, and often a failure at the second. But it almost seems that in the conservative church, those values have simply been repealed. It as if they have decided that God surely didn't mean it when dealing with terrorists, or when dealing with liberals like Obama (if he actually is a liberal, mind you).


Ok, back to grading. But one last thing. I received my copy of this book and want to recommend it to anyone looking for some summer history reading. We Were All Like Migrants Here.

The author is a friend of mine. And despite his questionable taste in friends, he is a top-notch historian and great writer.


Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Smitty said...

Remind me what your PhD is in. I forget.

I would love to see a paper or study on a perception that I (and others on some other blogs) have that seems to show a decline in "moderate" church attendence and an increase in the big-box style megachurch evangelical church attendence.

My mother in Law (whom I love; I am in one of those happy marriages whereby each of us gets along with the in-laws AND the in-laws all get along as well) had a Joel Osteen book. I took a look at this "self-help" book and was dismayed at what this Christian preacher's urgings to do things like hoard wealth and reward yourself with lots of stuff. Huh??

Streak said...

Smitty, my PhD is in American history. My area of specialty is the American west between 1880 and 1920 and I focus on environmental and resource history. That, as I noted to Anglican last night, and 2.50 will get me a Happy Hour beer at our local tavern. :)

I think your perception has been backed by the literature, though I don't have a link handy. The traditional denominations have seen a pretty steady decline over the last several years and we do see an increase in those "non-denoms" that have popped up on every corner (at least here in Ok).

I also think that your observation on Osteen is right on point. My brief forays into Christian Bookstores suggests that the more popular readings among many christians are the self-help and prosperity gospel. And Osteen is, btw, in many ways, one of the more innocuous of the bunch.