February 27, 2012

Religious liberty--what a radical idea

Always nice when history shows up in a thoughtful way. No, not Santorum--or hell, any of the GOP talking about religion and history. But this nice piece on a new Roger Williams and his radical idea of religious liberty. Reminds me of the good old days, when people talked about ideas and history.

This was actually nice for me, and I am not being sarcastic. I remember well learning from other Baptists about the connection to people like Roger Williams. That came from another time, of course, when separation of church and state was not considered some "liberal" lie, but was something of which to be proud.

I also like the debunking of the Puritans seeking "religious freedom," and that is a point I try to make to students when the issue arises. Puritans believed that freedom meant having the right to follow God--as they defined it, and that certainly sounds like Rick Santorum, as well as much of the GOP base.

Where my pleasant memory fades, however, is when I recall the brutal conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. While I didn't know much about it when I lived in Colorado, my time in Houston included time in both a fundy church and one of the last remaining moderate congregations in the area. We watched as conservatives led by Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler gutted the SBC of thinkers and moderates. Anyone who questioned inerrancy had to go.

Sullivan reminded me of that with this brief post on the same process in the GOP. When I was young, like the SBC, a moderate Republican was not rare. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. I have to say that both the SBC and the GOP are worse for all of that. The emphasis on purity and dogma has robbed the country of one of the rich denominations that traced back to people like Roger Williams, and has turned the "party of Lincoln" into a freak show.

February 23, 2012

Open letter to Franklin Graham

Dear Mr. Graham,

You need to fire your staff, and need to do so immediately.  If your staff didn't immediately confront you when you left the Morning Joe set--you remember, after you again suggested that Obama was Muslim--and tell you, "sir, with all due respect, that was both stupid and immoral," then you need to fire them.  All.

I say that knowing that no single staffer is in danger after your words.  Because you have done this before.  And you need to stop.  But I am as sure that you won't.  You are not what your father was.  No, you are a political hack, and a stupid one at that.

Make no mistake.  I never thought your father was an intellectual.  I found his theology simplistic and superficial.  But he understood a few things that he clearly didn't pass on to you.  He understood that politically, it was unwise to divide his target audience into political camps--not if he wanted to be able to speak to both.  And at a moral level, I think he understood that whatever Christianity represents, it is supposed to be a welcoming faith.  Your father learned those lessons the hard way after he revealed a conversation with President Truman, though he didn't actually learn his lesson until he learned of Watergate and Nixon's true character.

You could know this, of course.  Not only are you your father's chosen successor, but his biography is well known.  In fact, your father said last year that he wished he had stayed out of politics.  Perhaps you don't read.  I don't know.  Perhaps you are just unintelligent.  That seems more likely.

I do know that while your father is hardly an intellectual giant, next to you he looks smarter every day.  I am sorry.  I don't mean to insult, but you revealed your stupidity when you dabbled with the "birther" controversy.  Only idiots think the President wasn't born in Hawaii.  You embarassed every person of faith that day, and have done little to remedy the situation.  Because you aren't just dumb, you are also a bigoted political hack.  When you said that you were more confident of Santorum's Christianity because of his "values," you revealed that your Conservative leanings are much stronger than anything approaching Christianity.  

You really need to shut up.  Seriously.  Read that damn Bible from which you claim to preach.  Check what it says about lying about others.  See what it says about how to treat your adversaries.

Read some books.  Hell, read some books about your father.  But shut the hell up.  For your own good.  Please.

Thank you,


February 20, 2012

Legal or not, abortion rates similar

Interesting study on abortion laws. Suggests that globally the rate is relatively constant regardless of if it is legal or not. But they also suggest that when it is illegal, the danger for women goes up.

Which is why I hate the pro-life tactic of attacking the women, but not trying to address the other issues. Access to good healthcare, contraceptives and reducing poverty will do more for everyone involved. Certainly more than these "personhood" bills.

Christians and fake oppression--birth control edition

Fred Clark is on a roll, and my blog is in danger of becoming a "hey, look what Slactivist wrote again this week" type of place.

Anyway, in this edition, he points to the ridiculous example of Rick Warren vowing to go to jail rather than provide health coverage for women. Or something like that. Except, as Fred and others note, no one is asking him to either go to jail or provide those nasty contraceptives to women. Churches get an out. Oh, and California has had the same law for the last 13 years.

Oh, Evangelical Mind? Where the hell are you?

Jon Stewart's clip on the contraceptive wars had a lot of the same posturing bullshit, including the embarrassing Richard Land, who compared this ruling on contraceptives to the beginning of Hitler's reign. You know, "when they came for the Commies, I did nothing, because I was not a godless Commie?" Because requiring people of faith to take care of women's health is exactly what Hitler did.

Richard Land makes me embarrassed that I ever called myself a Baptist, and all of these men embarrass me for not recognizing a few key issues here: A) that the contraceptive rule has been on the books since 2001 (when whatsisname was declaring war on Christianity) and B) that their prophetic role (however they understand that) is not to be political shills.

But these people are all conservatives first and foremost, and Christians, eh, third or fourth. Have to throw "male" in there somewhere, and "jackass" somewhere. As Natalie Burris tweeted, "in actual fact they are the heirs--precisely--of the white clergymen who were standing in the way of human rights."

Let's see if we can count this up. Conservative Christians don't mind torture (that is understandable--after all, remember the fear we felt on 9-11), don't mind cuts for the disabled poor (we sadly just can't afford to help everyone), but are opposed to extending contraceptive and screening help to women. Oh, they will mandate that same woman take her rapists baby to term, but they won't have their tax money pay for her pre-natal exams, nor the baby's nutrition or shots. "Just let me know when that little bastard needs a prison term. I will pay taxes for that--well, not actually pay taxes, all taxes are evil--but I won't complain when my government builds them or privatizes them at more cost to the state."

They openly cheered Bush's invasion of Iraq and are now cheering for the next war. They sit silently or passively while white racism is on the rise, and have really nothing to say about inequality--well, in the oddest damn little Marxist way--when they say that God isn't concerned (really) with their physical deprivation, only that their "relationship" with God is sound.


February 19, 2012

Evangelicals and "life begins at conception." Yeah, not so much.

slacktivist: The ‘biblical view’ that’s younger than the Happy Meal

This is a must read, and yet another example of what Mark Noll called the Scandal of the Evangelical mind. This is what happens when you don't value the mind, or value a historical understanding of your own intellectual process. In this case, you miss that just 30 years ago, Evangelicals openly rejected the idea that life began at conception.

February 18, 2012

Abortion wars, continued

This week the Oklahoma Senate passed one of those "Personhood" bills. It passed with overwhelming support even though it has no out for rape or incest, (nor ectopic pregnancy) and was opposed by medical professionals. And, as Sarah Morice-Brubaker reports, the bill writers don't even intend to enforce the law in those troubling areas, but wanted to pass a universally pro-life bill as a "symbol." The bill has created quite a response among the liberal community, and among women who are not normally political--at least in my circle. Many are concerned that this bill will ban certain contraceptives, as well as in vitro fertilization.

I have been thinking about Leighton's comment on my most recent abortion post where he countered my "reluctant pro-choice" in typical elegant and thoughtful prose. My reluctance on the matter has always been out of some respect for the people around me who feel so strongly that abortion is taking a life. But those concerns have usually been couched in some kind of complex worldview where contraceptives were rational and we talked about things like viability or consciousness.

But this personhood nonsense and the previous attack on contraceptives has made me far less reluctant. One of my facebook friends was so reflexively defensive of this clearly idiotic measure--well, it just pushed me over the edge. As I noted on FB, if you oppose contraceptive services, good sex ed, healthcare for women and nutrition and vaccination services for infants? You aren't pro-life. You are anti-sex, perhaps, or certainly are dismissive toward women. The same Facebook friend who defended this personhood bill as a defense of God's infallible decisions, defended cuts for disabled children over tax cuts for the rich. There is nothing pro-life about this stance.

Leighton wonders "if the conservative stance on abortion is partly (mis)informed by its inability to comprehend the effect of collective systemic actions through its lens of everything reducing to personal, individual responsibility." I think that is certainly part of it. I am struck by so many conservatives (certainly not all) who seem incapable of walking out the consequences of an action or law. I see this in the death penalty where people who would never openly approve of executing someone who was innocent--but who have essentially stopped processing the morality of capital punishment after some theoretical "eye for an eye," and have never added racial or class bias to the mix, nor the DNA evidence that shows the flaws in the system. Likewise, they look at supply side economics, and just assume it should work. Forget evidence that it doesn't. The decision has already been made.

My facebook friend stopped after assuming that this personhood bill was "pro-life." That is good enough for him, even if it causes great harm to women, and even if the same people passing this bill will cut programs that help pregnant moms, infants, and children. There is no follow through. And despite the assurance that this bill was aimed to "save lives," it will kill people. Real people. People who have kids, or siblings, and who are absolutely and clearly conscious and among us. As Leighton also posted, everyone should read this story of a woman who nearly died because doctors wouldn't perform an abortion.

February 11, 2012

Kathleen Edwards

Last year's music scene was incredible.  I had about 18 top albums that were (and are) solid musical efforts.  Enough that I look at this year with a bit of skepticism.  Not sure who else I like can release new music.

But my first new album of the year is rock solid.  Kathleen Edwards has been one of my favorites since her first album (Failer) and her new one (Voyageur) shows her maturing into a first-rate songwriter.  There are several amazing songs on this album, but here are a couple of great live versions.  First, she joins with Sarah Harmer (another great voice) in House full of Empty Rooms

And this may be my favorite song--Soft Place to Land.  Just gorgeous.

February 7, 2012

Ugh, abortion wars

I have said here many times that I am one of the most uncomfortable pro-choice people out there. But I will say that the Republican and evangelical attacks on women are making me more pro-choice, not less.

Let's start with the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood fiasco, where a right wing Tea Party Republican led the effort to cut funding to PP. Not only was this blatantly an attempt to make everything political and charged, but it was, from my perspective, throwing women's health under the bus for a political attack on Planned Parenthood. All I heard out of that was "I don't really care if women get access to healthcare, contraceptives, screenings, etc--I just want to stop abortions."

Which would be one thing, but at the same time, Republicans are cutting programs that help poor kids and infants, and are attacking the very safety net that has helped parents with young children. Pro-life? Not sure about that.

Then I read this morning that Oklahoma Christian Republicans are pushing for a "personhood" amendment, and Kansas is pushing for extreme legislation that would require that women be told (falsely) that abortion can cause breast cancer; allow doctors to lie to patients, and other draconian measures.

Again, while cutting funding for poor people. And making it harder to get contraceptives. At a certain point, this isn't anti-abortion, or pro-life, it is against women having sex outside planned procreation.

Add that to attempts by conservative evangelicals to allow students to bully gay kids as long as it comes from their religious belief, and the very continued reality that every Republican will be voting for a torture defender this coming fall--and I am having a harder and harder time respecting anything conservative.

February 6, 2012

Obama and race--the Jan Brewer edition

This is old news now, but Jan Brewer's finger wag still bugs me. As does Newt Gingrich's "food stamp President" line. In fact, I think Republicans have returned to racism to attempt to win this year. Good god, they have a horrible record on this going back to Nixon, but it is still sad to see. I don't know if Gingrich is actually a racist, but his willingness to use racial code words makes him, in many ways, worse.

As for Brewer, she reminds me of the aphorism that we have no racists in America any longer. I have friends like her. Their racism is there, but they don't even know, or acknowledge it. After all, no one wants to call themselves a racist, so it is easier to convince yourself that your stereotypical view of people of color has nothing to do with race. And if you know little of history, perhaps you really don't know that the "angry black" man or woman is deeply encoded in our history, or that the "lazy black" person goes back to Reconstruction and the South's open rejection of black equality.

I would find this sad, but the consequences are so severe. Republicans seem hell bent on making racism acceptable again--all to win elections.

February 2, 2012

What Obama means for race

I started to rant about this, but think the picture tells it all.  This little boy, btw, wanted to know if the President's hair "felt like his."  


February 1, 2012

Obama X

I don't know if any of you have seen the Bill Maher "New Rules" bit from last week, but it actually relates to our conversation about moral authority, and the late Internet Monk's comments about conservatives listening more to Limbaugh and Fox than thinking about their faith.  You can watch Maher below (f bomb warning), as long as it plays in my template and that HBO has not yanked it.  (If that happens, you can read some of the transcript here).

In this case, Maher is talking about Newt Gingrich's common tactic of invoking Saul Alinsky to somehow disparage Obama and liberals.  Alinsky, as it turns out, was a community organizer who tried to get African Americans and poor people to actually push for political change.  But in Gingrich's world, there is something nefarious about "community organizing" (and I wish I had some money for each time a conservative has thrown that at me online).

But Maher's bigger point was that conservatives have created a bogey man in Obama that is constructed out of nearly whole cloth.  As Steve noted in one of the recent comments, there are things to be concerned about with Obama on rendition and detention, but conservatives don't complain about those.  They like them, in fact, but they don't give Obama credit for that.  Instead, he is soft on defense, anti-business, wants to take your guns away, and doesn't actually like America.  Or, as Maher notes, he is supposedly anti-work, while Republicans love it.

That hit home after several of my recent talks with conservatives.  Almost word for word, they said that Obama was soft on defense, anti-gun rights, and anti-American.  He has raised our taxes (not true) and wants a huge government (government employment is down, which is part of our economic crisis), and wants to read terrorists their rights.  Yeah, whatever.

The bubble is pretty striking.  And disheartening that people who claim to read the Bible, pray, and attend church regularly have such little regard for the truth.  I shouldn't be surprised, I understand.  But I still am.

(NPR also did a story on Alinsky, and even noted that Gingrich used an Alinsky tactic in his debate the other day.  Irony.)