May 22, 2013

Prayer and Tornados

I am sure all of you know of the massive storm that hit Moore, Oklahoma from Monday.  I watched on TV as that monster formed and knew it was going to be bad.  I didn't realize it was going to be this bad.  I still haven't been up to see the damage as the last thing I want to do is get in the way.  There will be time for that.

Meanwhile we have already had some craziness.  First, it was our own Oklahoma Senator Coburn suggesting that aid will come to Oklahoma only after it has been offset by other budget cuts.  As I told someone else, this is the equivalent of offering to save a drowning man, but only after he signs off on payments to you.

Then, we got the ubiquitous crazy right wing fundamentalist in the form of Pat Robtertson suggest that the victims could have avoided the storm had they prayed harder.  I know.  The man is a complete loon and nutjob.  But here he has more in common with saner Christians than they would like.  Robertson says that if enough people prayed, God would have intervened.  That is essentially how many Christians already talk about prayer.  This is the logical conclusion.  If more people praying is better than less, then God somehow needs prodding, and he is prodded in a democratic fashion.  And if a bad thing like this happens, then it is a result of not enough people praying.  All of this is reminiscent of Smitty's great comments on equally bad theology coming from a ND legislator who blamed gun violence on abortion.

A friend recently panicked when her mother had a severe health issue, and asked that people "pray hard."  One of her friends commented, "I just prayed."  What does any of that mean?  Is God only swayed when people pray "hard" or does he take note of those comments?  I feel like I am stuck in Bill Moyer's story about LBJ asking him to pray in a cabinet meeting.  Moyers started and heard LBJ shout from the other end of the table, "speak up, Bill.  I can't hear you."  To which, Moyers responded, "I wasn't talking to you."  I doubt very much that any of this is aimed at God.

Robertson sees all of this as literal.  I suspect that for many people, "I will pray for you" or "can you pray for me" is simply an expression of concern or a cry for help.  I have no problem with that.  I have no problem with praying for people in crisis that they might be able to find peace or comfort.  But I have a big problem with prayers that turn God into an ogre.

May 10, 2013

The age of Christian persecution

We are in an age of Christian persecution.  Just ask any conservative Christian, and they will suggest that their values are under attack, that they are unwelcome for their views, and they are on the verge of actual persecution.  Facebook will light up with stories of supposed persecution--"did you hear about the one where the house church was closed down?"  Or the more recent one:  "Obama has the military prosecuting Christians for proselytizing."  Never mind that isn't true, it fits a narrative that my Christian conservative friends prefer.

I remember that narrative from my youth.  Our churches often talked about the passage where Jesus said that we would be hated.  And that is usually quoted when Christians are criticized for a stance; such as their opposition to same-sex marriage.  Or when former NBA player Chris Broussard said that recently outed player Jason Collins wasn't a "real Christian" as an openly gay man, and received his share of criticism for that statement.  For my Christian conservative friends, that is proof that Christians can be called names just for their beliefs.  Or, as Louis Gohmert said last weekend, we are in an age where the liberals are the most intolerant of all, and where the only acceptable intolerance is toward Christians.

This persecution complex is hard to take seriously, I must say.  But some of this is because historically Christianity enjoyed a special place in our public square.  That wasn't really correct or constitutional to do so, but it occurred.  Schools led sectarian prayers, and Christians dominated political discourse for most of America's history.  When you drill into that, btw, you will find a lot of conflict that most today don't remember--for example, that Protestants were early proponents of public education because of their opposition to Catholic parochial schools.

But however you slice it, Christianity is no longer the only game in town.  It no longer gets to dominate that public square.  But that isn't persecution.  I don't care if a school has a "Spring celebration" rather than Easter or if a local vendor says "Happy Holidays "  That isn't persecution.  That also means that when you call homosexuality an abomination or antithetical to Christianity, you are going to get criticized.  That isn't because you are closer to Jesus.  It is because a good many people, including a lot of Christians, find that attitude bigoted toward our gay friends.  And no, saying you have a gay friend doesn't erase the bigotry.  Haraldsson has a pretty good take on that here.

But hidden in it is this gem:
Blake also cites the examples of Edward Johnson, a communication professor at Campbell University in North Carolina, “[who] says we are now living in a ‘postmodern’ era where everything is relative and there is no universally accepted truth. It’s an environment in which anyone who says ‘this is right’ and ‘that is wrong’ is labeled intolerant, he says.
Look beyond the persecution complex to the idea that truth is relative.  Don't you find it funny that the people who are claiming universal truth and calling things "right" and "wrong" are the same ones who respond to evolution with "were you there?"  Or talk about evolution and climate change as issues of faith rather than science.  Issues, of course, where they believe they can decide that facts are not facts and they don't believe them to be facts?


May 8, 2013

The NRA is crazy, and doesn't even seem to hide it

I know these clips are filtered through a liberal comedian, but I am not sure any honest person can look at the NRA's convention--their speakers--and not say that this is an unhinged right wing insanity.

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May 6, 2013

"Save it for the blog"

So it has been a pretty wild couple of months here.  SOF lost her mother back in February, and then her father last week.  Needless to say, that has been difficult and continues to be so.

In the middle of that, we attended my niece's graduation, which was very cool and inspiring.  So proud of her and her sister for becoming such amazing and interesting people.  We had such a nice time with friends and family.  It was all more than worth the mad scamper there and back.

The one "but" in the weekend came in the graduation speaker.  Turns out the President of this University is friends with Representative Louis Gohmert.  Do I really have to note that he is a Republican?  I think not.  Friday night, while waiting for a table, I saw a man walk into our restaurant with a confederate flag patch on his shirt.


So back to Gohmert.  For a rundown of his greatest hits, go here.  The man is one of those accusing Hilary Clinton of hiring a Muslim extremist, has suggested that the Muslim Brotherhood has influence in the Obama administration, which is why he continually says that "everyone knows the threat of Islamic terrorism except this administration."  Like so many of the far right, he is convinced that gay marriage will lead directly to bestiality, and that any gun control will lead to a complete confiscation and all guns being illegal.

My niece M warned me about the speaker, and told me to bring my Ipod.  When I said anything before the ceremony, she cut me off with "save it for the blog."  :)  And she was right.  After I realized just how dumb the speaker was going to be, I approached it as an anthropological exercise--where I could observe a right wing Tea Partier speak to many in their choir.  (I say many, in that I heard some applause, but know there were several who had to find him as annoying as we did).

His speech was actually better than I expected.  Better in that he didn't accuse Obama of being a Muslim from Kenya.  And he actually opened up with a couple of relatively funny jokes.  Not Jon Stewart funny, but still, not bad.

But then he started in on us liberals.  He was there to speak the truth (just ask him) and the truth could be summed up in the following propositions:

  1. Liberals are more intolerant than any conservative, and in fact, the only people you can be intolerant of are Christians.  
  2. Political correctness allowed the Boston bombing because, of course, Obama doesn't regard Islamic terrorism as a threat.  Or something.  
  3. Christians are under attack and are persecuted.  
Throughout the talk, he repeated right wing talk about Boston, or about how the Pentagon is making Christianity illegal, or that, in fact, 50% of America got more from the Federal government than they paid in taxes.  That last part was in the portion where he said that we were in danger of losing America--not that it was bad that so many people were poor.

I seriously was glad that he didn't go birther on us, but the basic talk was a series of outright lies preceded by a claim that he was there to speak the truth.  That was very disheartening.  And disingenuous   In one part he spoke about the past when we could disagree with each other, but "fight to the death for your right to disagree."  That had been replaced with, he said, attacks on Christians for their beliefs.  Not enough to disagree with persecuted Christians, they had to be persecuted as well.

All with absolutely no sense that conservatives had defended Japanese internment, Red Scare witchhunts for communists real and imagined, or that they had defended attacks on liberal patriotism for those who might disagree with the Iraq war or Patriot act.  (Has anyone forgotten that Saxby Chambliss accused a triple amputee--Max Cleland--of siding with Saddam for his opposition to Bush's Homeland Security bill?).

No, in Gohmert's world, Christian conservatives are only the victims of persecution.  This complete lack of perspective or honesty--all shrouded in his belief that he was speaking the truth--made him the perfect Christian conservative Tea Partier.  After all, when facts are inconvenient, you just ignore them.

NRA demonstrates how sane they are by having the most insane person give keynote address

Glenn Beck at NRA Rally: 'Freedom of All Mankind Is at Stake' - ABC News

Still going to say that the NRA political wing is sane?  Going to even try?

May 1, 2013

The conservative epistemic closure continues

Actually, it seems to be picking up steam.  All you have to do is open your web browser and read about the Republican party and you will find it.  Today, Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania (he of the Club for Growth fame, btw, so hardly some wimpy liberal) noted that the background check bill failed because "There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it..."  You catch that?  They didn't want to pass the bill, not because of deeply felt philosophical issues (though some certainly had those too), but just because Obama was for it.  That is how sick and twisted this party has become.

Think I am making this up?  This is more than just on guns, and more than just elected officials.  The conservative movement is defined actually, not by principled belief and philosophy, but by opposition to "liberals."  If we are upset by torture, then it can't be that bad, and I am not making that up.  When some suggested that the new Pope had connections to right wing death squads, conservative Erick Erickson tweeted this:  "That lefties are accusing the new pope of handing over lefties to the right wing junta for execution makes me adore the new pope."

Then yesterday, I read this polling data that demonstrated that conservatives were less likely to buy energy saving light bulbs if the package said that might help the environment.  Get that?  If the issue is just cost, or long term usage, they might buy them. But if the package says anything about the environment or climate, conservatives will look for a more polluting option.

That is sick and twisted and dumb and dumb and dumber.  All of these demonstrate that the modern Republican party and conservative movement is hollow to the core.  There is, as the saying goes, no "there, there."  When your only political position is to see where liberals stand and then do the opposite, you should really switch games.  You are better suited to follow professional wrestling where you can boo the villain and not look like a complete dolt.