Sunday, December 26, 2010

emergents bravely running away

Admittedly, however we think our biggest test of modeling the community practice of reading Scripture and interpreting together requires that we step headlong into the controversial... Texts that engage challenging and controversial issues potentially pose the greatest threat to a community hermeneutic, for if anything, it is here that a definitive and authoritative voice seems necessary.

Yet, we wholeheartedly believe that Christian communities are in dire need of having controvesial conversations...

...So, with some honest trepidation, we decided to address the intersection of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community with the church.
Conder and Rhodes, Free For All, p 132,133

Oh, those brave brave Emergents, tackling such a controversial topic! Such a pity no one else doth ever comment on such a thing! Oh, what people of great great courage!

So, over the next few pages, they give an account of their discussions of Romans 1. I'll not go over much into it, because it's quite long. Let it be enough that the waffling starts early, and it continues through the whole thing, including the putting forth of the position that Paul in Romans 1:18-20 is simply being the typical grumpy old man going on about how bad the world of his time was, p 146-147.

All of it, though, for this conclusion.

As you have noticed, perhaps to palpable frustration, we did not produce either a definitive reading of Romans 1 or a community dictum on the issue of homosexuality.
p 149

And they gallantly chickened out.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

imagination gone wild

When we got to the front of the autograph line, we claimed our own place in the pastoral guild and commented that we believed the kind of serious wonder Price advocates is a skill that all Bible readers should hone.
Conder and Rhodes, Free For All, p 233

The co-authors were at a book store, attending a reading. The author doing the reading was Reynolds Price, who seems to be a quite proficient author. The book of his that he was reading from was "A Serious Way of Wondering". Here is a bit of what the "Free For All" co-authors wrote about Price's book.

At the center of the book are several brief stories Price imaginatively crafts, focusing on Jesus' response to three profoundly contemporary ethical dilemmas: meeting a gay man, encountering Judas Iscariot in the act of suicide, and a conversation with a woman caught in a sexual liaison with a man who is not her estranged husband. A scandalous trilogy to say the least.
pp 232-233

So, it got me curious about what Price was writing. But how? Sorry, but I don't like spending hard-earned funds on books I'm sure will not be worth the funds involved. Getting them from used book stores is another thing, but frankly, I regret paying full price for emergent nonsense like McLaren's "A New Kind of Christianity". I have better things to waste my money on.

Enter the library. No, really, go right on in.

Anyway, I found out that a library in a nearby city had a copy of that book, so I made a brief trip to that city, for that and other reasons, found it, and read through those three stories.

I find it odd that Conder and Rhodes mention Judas only in regards to one of the stories, because he is the focus of two of them. In the first story, Judas is a young man not yet twenty years old, and he's a gay man whose main desire was to have a sexual relationship with Jesus. The resurrected Christ visits Judas first, as he's hiding in a cave working up to hanging himself. This Judas betrayed Jesus because he loved Him, and Jesus seemed quite fine with his love and desires, even saying to Judas that he'll not go to hell for what he's done.

In the second story, one independent of the first, Judas is preparing to hang himself. Jesus comes along, makes a bit of an effort to try to talk him out of it, but in the end helps him tie the rope and climb the tree so he can hang himself.

The third is based on the account of the woman caught in adultery, who is spared by Jesus and told to not do it again. Price gives this woman, unnamed in the Bible, the name of Rahab. He puts her in a bad, abusive marriage, and seems to hint that adultery may not have been all that wrong.

So, is this one thing Conder and Rhodes mean by "the kind of serious a skill all Bible readers should hone"? Make some kind of bizarre story, only marginally related to the biblical account, and then use it to say that good is evil and evil good?

One fo the remarkable aspects of the evening, however, was simply the author's repeated acknowledgement that his imaginative musings were forbidden by the church and established Christianity.
p 233

Really? Wow, I wonder why.

I don't know what else he's written in his "imaginative musings", but if these short musings are a example of what he's doing, then I'm not at all surprised that they have been forbidden, and good for the churches that have done so. And it's rather pathetic that he has to try to play the "poor poor presecuted me" act because of his "imaginative musings".

Your story is imagined.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I'm not saying this. maybe.

There is this to be said about reading books written by emergents--they are good ways to build character. One must learn to control the impulse to hurl them with vigor and force against an available wall, then put on steel-towed boots and jump up-and-down on them with all the enthusiasm one can muster.

Take, for example, this little excerpt.

In response to the ideology that we simply listen to what the Scripture says about an issue, Dale Martin, a professor of New Testament at Yale, comments:

The text cannot interpret iteself. I sometimes illustrate my point when asekd to speak aobut "what the Bible says about homosexuality." I put the Bible in the middle of the room or on the speaker's podium, step back, and say "Okay, let's see what it says. Listen!" After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence and some snickers, I say, "Apparently, the Bible can't talk." This is not the frivolous gimmick it may initially seem. Our language about "what text say" tends to make us forget the expression is a metaphor. Texts don't "say" anything: they must be read. And even in the reading process, interpretation has already begun. And if we want to move on from reading the text out loud, say, to paraphrasing it or commenting upon what it "means," we have simply moved further into human interpretation.

Martin affirms the point that reading the Bible as the Word of God is never as simple or as straightforward as looking at words on a page. Instead of viewing Scripture as a flat collection of words that provide a secure foundation from which to build our theologies and worldviews, we have to understand that we must interpret those words. And we believe that this interpretation happens best when the body of Christ, the church, discerns the word of God together.
Conder and Rhodes, Free For All, p 50

For all that this guy Martin that they quote says he isn't doing some 'frivolous gimmick', in reality that's all he's doing.

It is a common practice for us to use to word "say" when refering to what is written. When we play sports and games, we ask what the rules "say", and usually refer to a written version of those rules. When, for example, we may be driving and looking for directions, we may ask what the road signs "say". It is a word even used in art, where one may talk of what a painting or a photography "says".

Martin's little word game, then, becomes nothing more than the "frivolous gimmick" he says it isn't. It is perfectly legitimate, by the common usage of the word, to use the word "say" when refering to what is written in the Bible. The Bible does say things. Martin should be ashamed of his amateurish, asinine argument.

It's always amazing the kinds of arguments emergents use to try to justify their twisting of Scripture. Scripture isn't a "flat collection of words"? I suppose one could wonder what is meant by that phrase, if it isn't a bit of distracting nonsense--the pomos seems to be good at making those kinds of nonsense statements, unlike most of the rest of us.

And Scripture isn't "a secure foundation from which to build our theologies and worldviews"? I suppose they have better suggestions? Maybe the Discworld novels? Tea leaves? Flipping coins? How about we settle questions of theology with some games of 3-on-3 basketball, and worldview with a bit of flag football?

Nah, someone would complain that it wasn't futbol. I mean, soccer.

No, I guess they want us to settle those questions via emergent group-think.

Please tell me you understand

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

the church is too safe?

Convinced that the world is a threat to our lives and existence, Christians have become overwhelmed by our own culture of fear. Who could forget the tragic events that took place at New Life Church in Colorado Springs on December 9, 2007, when a young gunman opened fire on church members after Sunday morning worship? We both (the authors) remember watchin the news coverage after the event and feeling compassion for the families that lost loves ones as well as the traumatized church community. It was a truly terrifying and horrible event.

But what also struck us as odd and problematic was the tremendous amount of praise showered upon the security officer who supposedly fired upon and killed the young gunman. (It was later discovered that this young man had actually killed himself, a possibility not even mentioned in the fanfare.) We must admit that it left us with a bitterly confused taste in our mouths, wondering what message it sent for Christians to employ security guards at our churches and for us to so publicly laud the killing of a threat to our people. We were left wondering whether we have not let on infatuation with security take control of us, having turned us into a people of fear. Protect our schools, protect our families, protect our churches , protect our investments and our national interests. But in this search for security where has our mission gone? With all this emphasis on protection what exactly are we giving? Is it any wonder that the world finds our message to be so selfish, so hateful, so ugly?
Condor and Rhodes, Free For All, p 215

Hello. My name is Phyll Douglas Anthony McBrian, and as a self-appointed spokesperson for the emergent church, or whatever we are calling ourselves nowadays (as if it mattered), I have decided that I simply must address this heinous thing in the church that my fellow emergents Condor and Rhodes have touched upon.

The church is too safe.

I remember, years ago, I was attending a particular church. I wanderd by the nursery area, and do you know what I found there? I found toys that were considered appropriate for children of that age, rubber duckies and blocks, not a single choking hazard at all. To my dismay, I learned that there would be "adult supervision", intended to keep the children safe. And to my horror, I learned that they were going to give them a snack. It's not that a few cookies were so bad, but that they were going to make the kids wash their hands before eating. With soap!!

And this church was filled with other horrible examples of their mad addiction to security. They had stairs, and those stairs had handrails, so people could more safely go up and down them. I even saw an elevator for those with wheelchairs or other handicaps that would make make it unsafe for them to use the stairs. And on the outside there was a wheelchair ramp! With rails!!

And I saw horrible impliments of safety, like fire alarms and fire extinguishers, and emergency exits. There was even a first-aid kit or two about.

And, finally, I bet that if I had accessed their computers, I would have found security software on it--anti-virus, anti-malware, all kinds of anti-hacker things.

I bet they even had insurance. The pastor and others probably had health assurance. Their cars probably had car insurance.

Could you believe it? What a bunch of selfish, hateful, and ugly people!! How dare they try to protect themselves, the old people visiting, the children in their nursery! What kind of message is that sending? How dare they fear that their children might choke on a toy not appropriate for their age! How dare they fear fire so badly that they have alarms and extinguishers! How dare they fear hackers to such an extend that they put protective software on their computers!

I never returned to the church of those safety-idolators.

Ur fail make us sad.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

getting the Right wrong, as usual

Now ask yourself, what does the Religious Right look like? Do they support a political vision that would expect the best of us, a vision that would inspire us to make economic sacrifices for the common good, for health care and the relief of poverty? Or do they support a political vision that underestimates the generosity of Americans and appeals to our greed by promising to reduce out taxes? Are they mad with their love of the poor and oppressed, or are they just plain mad because somebody is asking them to reach into their pockets?
John Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct, p 96

These are, as you can imagine, loaded questions. Let me do a couple of things here. First, let me rephrase them so that they can be similarly applied to the Left, religious or otherwise.

Does the Left, religious or otherwise, have a political vision that would expect the best of us? A vision that would expect us to make the sacrifice of accepting responsibility for our own actions? Or do they underestimate the intelligence of Americans, and appeal to their greed in the form of government redistribution of wealth? Are they really mad with love for the poor and oppressed, or are they just plain mad because the American people, the Constitution, and the laws of the land are against their agenda?

Now, let me rephrase Caputo's questions, so that they more fairly relate to reality.

Do the Right, religious or otherwise, support a political vision that expects the best of us? I think that is a "yes", with of course reasonable reservations. Those reservations would be things like law enforcement, because they are needed. But, yes, the Right does expect people to act well--to obey the laws, the work so as to provide for themselves and their families and their own wants and needs and, if they choose, to give to those in need, through charities and otherwise, as they themselves deem fit.

Does the Right inspire us to economic sacrifices? Wow, that's a very loaded statement by Caputo. We would have to know what he means by 'economic sacrifices', and he tells us--high taxes. Amazing how generous people like Caputo are with other people's money.

Let me attempt a rephrasing here--does the Right inspire and expect us to help others? I think that is another "yes". But the difference is that the Right is quite willing to give a hand up, by that I mean help people get education and training, find work they can do, and help those who are for whatever reason unable to help themselves. We are somewhat less inclined to help those who while able-bodied demand that they be provided for without working for it, or those who continue in desolute lifestyles like drunkeness or drug addiction. For those who want out of those addiction, let all reasonable or even more-than-reasonable help be given, but not a cent to allow them to continue in it. If they insist on wasting their own lives, do not let them also waste the lives and substance of others.

Does the Right believe in the generosity of Americans? Time and again, we have seen that generosity, so how could we not? It is, rather, ones like Caputo who do not believe in it, but rather feel that they must force the American people to be generous by taking from them what they have earned through taxes, often even before they get their paychecks.

Does the Right appeal to greed by promising to lower taxes? Wow, let's see, "We promise to let you keep more of the money you worked for and earned." Yeah, that's an appeal to greed. Note the sarcasm.

I would say, rather, that the Left appeals to greed through their class warfare rhetoric. What is class warfare but the greed of those who have not for what those who have have? Greed is a common human vice, no doubt present among those on the Right, but no less so than among those on the Left. It is a human sin, not the sin of any particular economic system. No doubt there are greedy capitalists, but there are also greedy socialists and communists.

Is the Right mad with love for the poor and oppressed? Caputo wrote this a few years ago, he spends no small amount of the book attacking the Bush adminstation, but this could still be applicable today, in an economy that is simply bad (mostly Obama's fault, but I do remember that it started with Bush and the first stimulous or bailout or whatever it was called). Now, what I find important is that, contrary to what seems to be conventional wisdom (sadly, one time when conventional wisdom is far more conventional than wise), the Right is far more generous than the Left.

Does the Right want to help the poor? Yes. But not by making them dependent on a government dole, but rather by helping them get out of their poverty through education and work. We have seen how making them dependent on the government hurts the poor, not helps them. The government simply does charitable work very poorly, often causing more harm than good.

Perhaps a more pertinent way to phrase this question would be as such--Does the Right want to help the poor, or do they want to make the poor dependent? Does the Right believe tax cuts are good for many reasons, one being that they allow businesses to keep more of their profits and thus hire more people?

And so, Mr. Caputo, here is the birdict.


i already gave, i was taxed

Indeed, I could imagine that if the New Testament is our literal guide, then the standad tax rate for Christians should be set at 100%
John Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct, p 93

That is an interesting claim. His support for it?

The early Christians lived in common and distributed to one another according to their needs; in fact, one of the first disputes to break out in the church was whether this distribution was truly equal (Acts 6:1).

And Acts 6:1 says...

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

An interesting claim. I would certainly like to see how that equates into Christians needing to be subjected to a 100% tax rate.

I've heard that claim about the early church before, or something similar. For my part, I have to question if what the early church practices were so much like the communism people like Caputo seem to want.

For example, here are Acts 2: 46-47

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

And also Acts 4:32-35

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked, for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things they sold, and laid them at the apostle's' feet, and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

Again, fascinating. At the risk of being contrary, I think it would be safe to say that this must mean that not all homeowners sold the homes they were living in--it hardly seems to be smart to help others by making ones so destitute that one must then become a part of the supported. Though the idea that it may have been an extra home or excess land is interesting.

But one things is pretty clear--this is something the people were doing themselves, of their own accord. It was not coerced by the church, as the account of Peter's confronting Ananias and Sapphire shows. It was their own money, they could have done with it as they wished, their sin was not in keeping back a part of it, but in lying about it.

Nor was it normative. People may make much of Jesus telling a rich young ruler to sell all he had, but so far as I can remember, that was the only person to whom Jesus said that. He seemed quite pleased enough that the tax collector Zacheaus gave half (I can well image a Caputo smirking that it was 'only' half), and seems to have not held it against Lazarus and his sisters that they had their own house, but rather accepted their hospitality in allowing Him and his disciples to sometimes stay there (which likely meant it was a pretty large house, since it could hold so many guests).

This is telling, for Caputo writes things like this...

I may be forgiven (I depend a lot on the Christian virtue) if I have concluded that the private-charity argument is a cynical cover for greed, which has a way of working thigns out so that I get to keep as much money as I can for myself and let the poorest of the poor go to the devil.
p 93

What is telling is that, after saying that, he looks to the early church for support for his positions. But the early church was practicing private charity, not tax and redistribute. They certainly weren't being funded by the government of Rome or of Israel, and not by the Jewish religious authorities (unless those were themselves private individuals giving to the church, which ones like Nicodemus may well have done). It was members, be they individuals or families or maybe some small group or two of them, who of their own accord (with the leading of the Spirit, perhaps) sold their own things and gave the proceeds to the church (not sold their own things and then waited for the various governments to tax them) so that those the church set in place to provide those in need may do so, not let far-off government bureaucrats decide issues of welfare.

Friday, December 3, 2010

another dippy sojo comment

Maybe I should make this a regular thing. I doubt I will, though, mostly because I don't have the time for it. Many more things I'd rather do, or must do.

But some jewels of stunning nonsense should be shared.

The Story of One Unemployed Man

The main article itself would be of interest--Sojo supports policies that endanger jobs, frequently castigating the US for many of various sins real and imagined, and simply seem to want us to do away with economic policies that have been proven to work for those that have time and again proven to be failures. And when the failures happen, like with this anonymous person she's talking about, well, it's up to the government to take from those who have to give to those who have not.

What I found hilarious, though, was this comment.

Extending the bush tax rates for the wealthy will not help build a business. Taxing them at 90% would effectively force them to build their business by giving them the incentive to invest instead of paying the tax. You have it backwords.

Oh, really? Taxing those labelled "wealthy" 90% is an incentive to grow business?

Wow, that's surprising.

Oh, I could see it being an incentive of sorts. An incentive to continue moving jobs from the US to other countries. An incentive to find places where they can build their businesses without them being place for government charities to syphon off funds. Perhaps even an incentive to decide that it's just not worth it, that it'd be better to simply not try to build when almost the entirety of what you build is taken away by law.

An incentive to keep fighting so that an overbloated government can continue to take away a vast majority of what one as worked for? Hardly.

Even this bunny  Knows you failed

Monday, November 29, 2010

no hypocracy at all

It is hypocritical to oppose abortion while simultaneously opposing the vast support system such a ban would require. That would include full and free prenatal care of poor and uninsured pregnant women, of unemployed and unwed mothers, so that they might care for their uninsured children. It would further include a comprehensive system of government-supported adoption agencies in order to place newborn children in welcoming families when the birth mothers are unable or unwilling to cae for their children. It would include a comprehensive system of day care that would support working unwed mothers who wish to keep their children and a dramatic increase in suport for the public schools in the poorest neighborhoods that these children will attend, instead of letting these children fall off the radar as soon as they are born. All that would require funding, which means taxes, which conflicts with the greed of the Right, religious and secular. Beyond that, the working families into which children are born need to be protected by fair labor laws, living wages, medical and vacation benefits, and good pension funds. The latter in turn need to be protected from corporate criminals who run companies into the ground while giving themselves extravagant salaries and severance packages and letting the hardworking employees wo lose their jobs and their pensions end up paying for the criminal's misdeeds.
John Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct, p 114

Well, I guess that's pretty clear--in Caputo's view, unless you're a big-government let-the-government-control-everything kind of person, a cradle-to-grave-government-support sort, then, well, you've no business opposing abortion.

Funny, isn't it, though, that it's exactly those kinds of people that want to keep abortion safe, legal, and common.

Well, there goes personal responsibility. If a woman decides to not have her unborn child murdered, well, it's up to everyone else to make sure her life is cushy. Fund her and her child, fund the family, make sure the public dole is open to her. More than just a mere hand up, we're talking hand outs, in fact hands to carry so that said mother and child should not have to do much of anything. In fact, his rhetoric seems to hint that he not only wants those things for mothers with children they chose not to abort, but for all families.

One wonders how families survived before the modern big-government state. Such a heinous, difficult life, it must have been. Couples needed to actually be married to each other, and single parenthood was frowned upon. Fathers actually needed to work to provide for the woman they've married and any children they were to have, and not have to rely on the government dole to give the mother money so he can live a care-free life and have children by other women without societal consequence. Mother's actually had to take care of the children themselves, without having to rely on government-provided child care or government-funded public schools to schlop them off on so they can sit around all day and watch soaps. Children had parents they could actually respect, and even fear when need be, parents who could show them things like dignity and self-respect, and not have societal leaches who can't even escape a hurricane even when given a few day's warning, who have not done a thing in their lives, and who live only for the arrival of the next monthly government check.

I remember reading "The Tragedy of American Compassion", and seeing how they did things way back when, when private organizations provided care for the needy and not the government. Most of them were firm in making sure that the people they were to help were people worth helping, or were willing to behave themselves, which at time meant they weren't drunkards, weren't criminals, and weren't sexually active outside of marriage, but who were in their dire situations through no fault of their own. Even if one wants to say that it was a far from perfect arrangement, it does seem to have bene a better one than what we have now.

Because what we have now is what Caputo prescribes, to a large degree, and the results are ugly. Welfare mothers, who have more and more kids so they can get more and more money from the government; deadbeat fathers, who see no reason to take back the responsibility the government has taken off their shoulders; children for whom the command to honor father and mother must be an especially difficult command, because those two people (assuming they even know who father may be) are simply not people worthy of honor, and who are simply not taught how to live and provide for themselves.

Caputo tries to make one of his patented cheap shots at the Right, and as may be expected, it is a lie. The Right is not greedy for wanting lower taxes, or for expecting people, even pregnant women, to be responsible beings. We know there are people who truly need help, or are willing to do better, and we are very willing to help them. We are rather less inclined to help those who insist on messing up their own lives, continue to act in those ways, and want only that others should provide for them while they make their lives more and more a living example of self-destruction.

There is no hypocracy in saying abortion should be made illegal while not supporting the government nanny state.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

state your control

There is concept, loosely defined, that is prevalent among emergents and their ideological kin--empire. Not necessarily in the Star Wars sense; indeed, I think they would consider the government in place before Palpatine declares a "Galactic Empire" to be as much an 'empire' in their sense, and I've no doubt that they would think much the same of the various incarnations of it that come about in the post-RotJ books.

Over against it, they set up their ideas of the Kingdom of God. One can see a bit of that in this theOoze article.

In some countries, the Christian faith is under the control of the State. These governments control the spread and expression of Christianity by regulating churches, and keeping pastors on the payroll. Those Christians who dare to speak out against Government policy or who criticize military operations or otherwise go against the grain are threatened with seizure of property or loss of certain rights.

Not to make a big deal about it, but it would have helped if the writer had maybe pointed a specific country or two where such a thing happens. Now, I've heard of some such goings-on with the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church, and maybe other parts of it could be like China and it's Three-Selfs churches (though how 'christian' those are is up for debate). That statement of theOoze writer may be perfectly true, but it suffers from vagueness

Many of you know exactly what I'm talking about because you live in America. Here, the Government requires that all Christian churches register with the State. These State Churches must have a 501(C)3 to operate legally. Without one they cannot open a bank account, claim tax exempt status on their property, or for donations received, or for pastoral salaries.

Oh, so, well, somehow the churches in the US are like those described in the first paragraph? Well, let's see...

I don't see how one can claim that the US Government "control(s) the spread and expression of Christianity" in much of any way, given the many churches and the many varieties of churches in this country that are either Christian or claim it, even when their beliefs are the exact opposite of other churches who also call themselves Christian. And while there are many instances, such as the banning of public prayers in schools, that can be considered sorts of restrictions, by and large those are more annoyances than the kinds of restrictions one would find in, say, almost all Middle Eastern countries, or China.

I can't think of many pastors in the US about who it could be said that they are on the government's payroll. Perhap military chaplains, or other forms of government chaplains, but outside of that, it seems a rather iffy statement on this writer's part.

Now, there could be some point to his last contention in that paragraph. I know that it is a rather recurrent argument, especially when election times come along (this article was written back in March of this year), about how politics comes into the pulpit and there is the occasions threat about a church losing its tax exempt status because of things the pastor says. Not much has come of it, so far as I know, but I do acknowledge that the threat is there.

Ok, so, does the fact that a church has to register with the state make it a State Church, like this Oozey writer claims? I frankly find the claim amusing. I suppose the fact that I have driver's license makes me a State driver? Or the fact that businesses need various registrations and licenses and permits and such makes them State businesses? I, as a 'State drive', can only drive where the government explicitly says I can?

No, I sense a scare tactic on this writer's part--saying churches are State Churches is him saying that churches are only supporting the Government. A rather lame argument, given how varied the politics in the US are and how varied the churches are.

Several times in American History the Government has threatened to revoke the tax exempt status of several of these registered State Churches whenever they speak out in ways that are not approved of. For example, on issues of abortion, or civil rights, or other political issues.

This is not to suggest that the Government is in favor of Politics without Religion, or Religion without Politics. On the contrary, the Government in America is very much in favor of how the State Church supports military efforts abroad. To that end, the Church has been one of the most vocally supportive segments of American Society when it comes to war overseas, the torture of enemy soldiers, and the loss of human life (other than American lives).

In recent years, the State Church in America has also been largely instrumental in helping to elect her Presidents and push political agendas for both the Left and the Right.

I hope it is understandable that I see this person's politics creeping in in these paragraphs.

The church has been supportive of overseas wars? Well, perhaps. Why is that wrong? Would it have been better to have allowed, say, Nazi Germany to possibly take over all Europe and Russia? Surely he's not saying we should not have gotten involved then? If anything, I suppose I would say that we should have gotten involved before we did, though I'll give the benefit of the doubt to those who had to make the decisions at that time.

Now, concerning the torture of enemy soldiers. I suppose some things must be questioned here. If, for example, he is writing about those who were sent to Guantanamo Bay, then I would question how they could be called 'soldiers'. Were they a part of a formal national army? Were they in uniform? Most, if not all, were simply terrorists, or accused terrorists. They may have been a part of an organization, but not an army, and one could call them 'soldiers' in only the loosest of senses.

Next, there is the question of what acts are considered torture. Is something like sleep deprivation the same as having fingers broken? Even if we should say that some of the things that happened at Abu Ghraib crossed the line, would that be enough to condemn other ways of trying to gain information?

It's a little interesting that a television program, 24, may have given us a glimpse of how such things may be. If, like Jack Bauer in that show, we needed to get information from a prisoner in order to stop a certain event that would like kill many people, what would we do in order to make that prisoner talk? And one simply cannot dismiss 24 as merely a TV show, especially as Pomo's like Rollins and Taylor make so much of movies and music and even other TV shows. To put it simply, 24 raised many interesting questions about this issue, and many people seem to have come to the conclusion that it's not a simple issue.

Or, if one watches the movie Taken, and sees the father hurting his daughter's kidnapper in order to learn what has happened to her, then we may come to the conclusion that the father was acting in a way that is understandable and even honorable, the well-being of the daughter being more important than the well-being of the man who kidnapped her. It's an arguable point, I admit, but one that I think as some merit.

So, has the church been supportive of "the torture of enemy soldiers"? Speaking as a religious and political conservative, I can't recall hearing of anyone who favors or supports the torture of anyone. They may get angry when, for example, news comes of US soldiers being kidnapped and later their bodies found, or reporters are beheaded on camera, or when soldiers and civilians are hurt or killed by IEDs or car bombs or suicide bombers, or when hearing tales of women being brutalized and murdered when they don't toe the strictest of Muslim laws that oppress them. Such anger is understandable and even justified, I think.

There is much to be wary of in that anger, I will admit. And a reasoned discussion could be had on what is good or not for us to do, what measured we should take to gain information that could maybe save people's lives. But the need for examination is not only on the right, but also on the left, among those who equate even spanking a child who behaves badly with child abuse. Such over-the-top rhetoric is not very helpful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

sojo's patriots

My father was in the military. My brother was in the reserves. I've known other people who have been in those and other branches of service. I've known ministers and others who have served their country in that way and others, and not necessarily just those in the US. As someone who was at one time in missions, I've known people from other countries who were in their home country's military.

That isn't even mentioning those like ministers and missionaries who have been concerned for the spiritual state of a country, their own or a foreign one.

So, when a writer for Sojo writes this...

You, my countrymen and women, are true patriots.

...who do you think she considers to be "true patriots"?

This morning I learned about a website and a letter signed by more than 3 dozen millionaires (folks who have earned over $1 million in a year either now or in the past) asking the President to allow tax cuts for people making over $1 million to expire at the end of the year. They don’t need it, they don’t want it, they know that they won’t create jobs with it, and they know it will blow a whole in the deficit a mile wide. They are asking the President to let them pay their fair share.

Yep, the real patriots in the mind of this Sojo writer is the rich guy or gal who, instead of taking responsibility for the money they earned to make sure it is used wisely and as they see fit, wants the government to tax it from them.

Actually, I may be all for this, with one stipulations--that only those who sign this letter (which, strangely, is not linked to by the writer, though she does say it's on the internet) are the only ones subjected to the taxation. Why should the person willing to take responsibility be penalized because a bunch of others want to let the almighty gubment do it?

And what will happen now that I am bringing this up? I will be accused of class warfare.

Umm...if you're engaging in class warfare, then why should you be surprised when you're accused of it?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

taking more, in the name of religion

Laws may or may not be just in fact, and they may very well start out just and become unjust when the circumstances change but the laws do not. Thes there might once have been circumstances in which the personal right to bear arms was justified, although one would expect a Christian to have a very delicate conscience about such things; but to support such laws today, when the dangers to life and limb from the proliferation of such weapons is as plain as the nose on your face, defied comprehension, especially for Christians.
John Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct, pp 63-64

Could you imagine, for example, a similar argument concerning any other of rights or freedoms of the United States? Let's say that, for example, one thinks that the "proliferation" of free speech--all those books of so many and varied opinions, liberal tv editorial shows and conservative talk radio, not the mention the chaotic riot of the internet--is simply too dangerous, and that it is the Christian duty of all good Christians to stop supporting the laws of free speech, and that it defies comprehension that any Christian should not be in support of some form of restriction of free speech.

You can pick any other right or freedom, and plug it in--freedom of the press, freedom of religion, right to life. It really doesn't matter, but in doing so, one can see two very real facts.

One--Such restrictions are not only ridiculous, but dangerous. And this idea of Caputo's, that Christians should not supports the right of regular people to keep and bear arms, is similar. Such a stand would not make us safer, but would simply put us more in jeopardy--from criminals who will not obey such laws, from those who have the 'privilege' to handle such weapons, mostly from the rulers who can restrict such freedoms as they will.

Second--Such things are already taking place, or have been attempted, or the ideas put forth. Consider, for example, the right to life. One does not need to dig far into history to see how there have been people who have found all kinds of reasons to try to deny that right to certain kinds of people--the sick, those with mental or physical defects, those of other races. Nazism comes readily to mind, but so does eugenics, not to mention abortion.

Or consider the freedom of speech, then look at this quote from an essay called Repressive Tolerance by one Herbert Marcuse...

Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left...

The whole post-fascist period is one of clear and present danger. Consequently, true pacification requires the withdrawal of tolerance before the deed, at the stage of communication in word, print, and picture. Such extreme suspension of the right of free speech and free assembly is indeed justified only if the whole of society is in extreme danger. I maintain that our society is in such an emergency situation, and that it has become the normal state of affairs.

Given this situation, I suggested in 'Repressive Tolerance' the practice of discriminating tolerance in an inverse direction, as a means of shifting the balance between Right and Left by restraining the liberty of the Right, thus counteracting the pervasive inequality of freedom (unequal opportunity of access to the means of democratic persuasion) and strengthening the oppressed against the oppressed.

...and now, bear in mind some of the things that have been done in the past and are even now being tried, to try to silence some people--things like the Fairness Act, or hate speech laws, or political correctness.

These examples are a few of many, concerning those and other rights and freedoms.

Almost all of these attempts to restrict freedoms comes from the left, or those how only pretend to be on the right but are really a part of the political left. Is it any wonder, then, that Caputo, who is on the political and religious left, should say that a further restriction, the disarming of the populace, should to him be considered not only a good thing, but something that he thinks is a Christian's responsibility to support.

Well, Mr. Caputo, should you ever descend from on high to read this, I will only say that I do not agree with you. While I have very rarely used a firearm myself, I support the rights of those who have them and use them--to hunt, to practice, to defend themselves, their loved ones, their property. You say that the 'proliferation' of such weapons makes them too dangerous, and likely you mean things like gun violence in the mean streets of the big cities, most of that likely coming from criminals who would not be much effected by such restrictions anyway. What are laws to the lawless but mere obstacles to be worked around?

Friday, November 12, 2010

dippy quote from sojo

It Takes a Movement: The Next Steps

This quote is actually from the comments.

I believe there is also no contradiction in allowing abortion to remain legal and supporting the poor, minimizing unwanted pregnancies, and supporting pregnant women and their families.

In a non-homogeneous society such as ours, I think this is the best option

If you could imagine someone in the 1930s or 1940s, trying to argue that there is no contradiction in supporting the Nazi's attempts to round of Jewish people, take away their property and put them in concentration camps, and eventually kill millions of them, while also supporting ways to help get those same Jewish people out of harm's way through underground means, then you can see how ridiculous this person's statement is.

all still means all, right?

First Move: Reduce Jew and Gentile to the same level of need (Rom. 1:18-3:20). After his introduction, Paul describes Greco-Roman culture in graphic detail going from moral catastrophe to moral catastrophe. He invited disgust as he details the horrible way pagan sinners suppress God's revelation in creation. They obsess over idols, indulge in sexual orgies, and display a shocking range of depraved behavior--including envy, strife, malice, deceit, covetousness, lack of compassion, and gossip...
Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity, p 147

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be know about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped tand served created things rather than the Cretor--who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these things but also approve of those who practice them
Romans 1:18-2

In one sense, McLaren's statement is correct. Paul was giving a description of the society in which he was most familar, that of the Roman Empire, with it's various cultures and subcultures--Roman, Greek, Corinthian, Hebrew, North African, et al.

But his statement is, I think, incorrect. If I may add one little word, McLaren is essentially saying that Paul "describes (only) Greco-Roman culture in graphic detail going from moral catastrophe to moral catastrophe".

But what are the words of Paul, translated in English? "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness". I would contend that "all" means, well, all, which while including the people in the Greek and Roman cultures, is not in any way limited to them.

This is important, because things Greco-Roman seems to be the big bogey-man for McLaren in this book (though maybe he has nothing against Greco-Roman wrestling, unless wrestling is too violent for him).

And let us leave aside the fiction that the only world known to people in the Roman Empire at that time was that of the Roman Empire. Alexander the Great had taken his own empire to parts of India, and trade was going on with China. I remember in listening to an audio book of Will Durant's works on history, in which he says that Buddhist monks had come to Egypt long before. And, of course, those things come up when people want to say that, for example, Jesus was influenced by Buddhism, or Jesus had travelled to places like India and Tibet, or what have you.

And Paul seems to have been a well-educated person. When he uses the word "all", I'm reasonably certain that he knew he was including much more than just those in the Roman Empire.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

the book never written

My first foray into the works of Chris Hedges came a bit of time ago, when I found his book Losing Moses on the Freeway at a nearby library. I was especially interested when one part of the book dealt with chess and some chess players. It was in reading this part, though, that I came on a rather interesting passage, this one here

The chess craze, ushered in by Bobby Fischer in the 1970s, hit the United States. Rossolimo, who made it into Fischer's book on the 100 greatest games he ever played, never capitalized on it, but Frohlinde did. He made money, big money, selling chess sets of of his shop.
Chris Hedges, Losing Moses on the Freeway, p 149

What gave me pause was his mention of a book by Fischer "on the 100 greatest games he ever played".

When I was pretty intensely into local tournament chess, I became rather familiar with the literature of the game. It was, of course, an ever expanding body of literature, and I haven't kept up with the latest things, but as I was playing in tournaments in the 1990's, it would have been well past the time when Fischer would have written anything, at least up until his return.

Fischer himself did not have a great deal of that literature to his name--much has been written about him and his games by other people, but I've found only three books that Fischer himself as the author.

One is rather poorly-made instructional book called Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess. I had a copy of it at one time, and it was a bit disappointing.

Fischer's most famous work, and one rightly considered a classic, is My 60 Memorable Games, published in 1969. In the preface to this book, Fischer himself makes mention of an earlier book, Bobby Fischer's Games of Chess, published in 1959. This book, Fischer says, has 34 of his games in it.

Now, My 60 Memorable Games does have a game that Fischer played against Rossolimo. It is game #52 in that book, and the game was played in the 1965-66 US Championship, well after Fischer's first book was published.

All of this rambling to say that, I have no knowledge of Fischer publishing a collection of his 100 greatest games, like Hedges says. The closest I can find to such a thing is Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games, which has 60 games in it instead of 100, and even the use of 'memorable' instead of greatest is telling. In Fischer's own words from the preface, "All of the 60 here offered contain, for me, something memorable and exciting--even the 3 losses". It would be doubtful that Fischer would put losses into a collection of his greatest games--at the least ,it would be an unusual practice.

In other words, although Hedges seems to be trying to reference a real work of chess literature, the information he gives about it is wrong, both in a concrete sense (60 games instead of 100) and a more abstract sense (memorable games instead of greatest).

It would be too easy to make too much hay over this error. It may have been a simple error, a bit of carelessness maybe. But the fact is, the error was made, and it was one that could easily have been avoided.

For one thing, the mention of the book is made in what is essentially a throw-away comment. It adds a bit of information, but nothing crucial to the point. One could understand that Rossolimo "did not capitalize one...(t)he chess craze" without having to know that Fischer included a game against Rossolimo in his book.

For another, it would have been easy to have verified the name and nature of the book. Hedges wrote this book fairly recently, it was published in 2006, and sites like Amazon were around. A quick search of some kind would have easily sufficed for him to get the correct information about the book.

But he doesn't seem to have done enough to verify, and so he wrote about a book with 100 games in it that doesn't exist.

And being wrong about a simple, easily verifiable thing like that, leads one to think, what else is he writing that may be wrong? Maybe nothing else, maybe all else he writes is correct, and this was just a singular slip. But it does cause the eyebrows to go up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

a view from overhead

The Gilead Baptist Church outside Detroit is on a four-lane highway called South Telegraph Road. The drive down South Telegraph Road to the church, a warehouse-like structure surrounded by black asphalt parking lots, is a depressing gauntlet of boxy, cut-rate motels with names like Melody Lane and Best Value Inn. The highway is flanked by a flat-roofed Walgreens, Blockbuster, discount liquor stores, Taco Bell, McDonald's, Bob's Big Boy, Sunoco and Citgo gas stations, a Ford dealership, Nails USA, the Dollar Palace, Pro Quick Luve and U-Haul. The tawdry display of cheap consumer goods, emblazoned with neon, lines both sides of the road, a dirty brown strip in the middle. It is a sad reminder that something has gone terribly wrong withe America, with its inhuman disregard for beauty and balance, it obsession with speed and utilitarianism, its crass commercialism and it oversized SUVs and trucks and greasy junk food. This disdain for nature, balance and harmony is part of the deadly, numbing assault against community.
Chris Hedges, American Fascists, pp 182-183

I read this passage, and could only shake my head. Typical liberal arrogance.

Oh, yes, how shameful that those who are not so well-off have to stay in such tawdry, cut-rate places like Best Value. Such a pity all hotels and inns aren't Marriots or some other where a night's rest would likely cost a week's wages instead of a day's.

And, of course, how unimaginative that stores are in buildings with flat rooves (or is that roofs, I admit I'm not certain). Perhaps Hedges would find them more acceptable if they had...oh, I don't know...domed roofs? Or maybe inverted V-shaped roofs? Steeples? Or like that famous opera house in Australia?

And, oh, that evil junk food. Never mind that the supposed all-natural health food costs a lot, problem doesn't taste all that good, and in likely not even all that much better. It only gives the health-food snobs a source for their feelings of superiority over those who enjoy Big Macs.

So much could be picked out from this excerpt. Wal-Mart, of course, gets mentioned. As do SUVs, those bastions of evil in the liberal mind.

Now, I have a different take on it. You see, I've been to a former Communist country, Russia.

There is a movie, a classic among the Russian people, I think, from the Soviet era. It's a holiday movie, though probably more concerning New Year's than Christmas, that being the Soviet Union and all. It's a comedy movie. The main premise of it is that, after an evening of carousing with his friends, a man unwittingly takes a plane from Moscow to Leningrad (once and now again St. Petersburg). Because buildings in both cities looked essentially the same, he didn't realize he was in a different city, and he even gets to an apartment or flat that is in the same address as his place in Moscow, and his key works and his gets in. The movie is essentially a romantic comedy, so you can guess where things go from there.

Another aspect of the movie is the animation that precedes it. A man, an architect, designs a building of flats. It's a rather basic but a bit ornate design, with balconies and some other bits of decoration. But in order to build it, he must make his way through the Soviet bureaucracy, and in doing so, a bit is taken here and there, and the final building design is about has basic and plain as one could imagine. At the end of the animation, we see lines and lines of these plain buildings, with legs, marching about, even into other, non-Russian places, I suppose to show how that form of housing will eventually be everywhere.

And in Soviet Russia, it pretty much was. I remember seeing city streets lined with these rows and rows of flat buildings. They may have varied a good bit in height or width, but overall there was a dulling sameness to them all, something even the Russian people knew.

So, one must pardon me if I'm not too taken withe Hedges sentiments and logic, if it does not do injustice to the word logic to apply to whatever thinking Hedges was doing. I simply cannot agree with his conclusions, and frankly think that his words display an arrogance and condescension that is rather ugly and unbecoming.

conservative ecumenism

So, for once, theOoze actually has an article of some interest.

Co-Existing with the New Black-Robed Regiment

It's about some things that happened at the Glenn Beck Restoring Honor rally, a bit about what was called 'the black-robed regiment'. It's a bit of a link with the past, when pastors at the time of the American Revolution opposed the British. In this new version of it at the Beck rally, though, it wasn't just Christian leaders in the mix, but also rabbis of the Jewish faith and Muslim imams.

Let's summarize what he have so far: The black-robed regiment is back again today to turn the heart of the nation back to God, God is the answer. But this effort isn't Christian, it isn't political, and it isn't sectarian. It includes Catholic priests, rabbis, Muslim imams, all working toward spiritual renewal and the rebuilding of a civil society one person; one family; one church, mosque, synagogue, temple and one community at a time because there is no right God or wrong God.

The aims of the new black-robed regiment appear to work quite nicely with these objectives:

- To promote, encourage and support engagement between Jews, Christians and Muslims both individually and through their respective communities through dialogue, education and research.
- To promote and facilitate the education of the public in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths and belief and in particular to advance the knowledge and understanding of: the teachings, traditions and practices of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths; the shared history of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths; both the common ground shared by the faiths and the theological, philosophical, cultural, political, and economic bases of and differences between the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths and communities.
- To promote for the benefit of the public, religious harmony between Jews, Christians and Muslims by encouraging among them a greater understanding and appreciation of and Muslims by encouraging among them a greater understanding and appreciation of each other’s distinctive faith, beliefs, and practices and their common ground. And to this end also to promote friendship, goodwill and mutual trust among them.

I must admit, this fairly recent development as been largely surprising to me. I've thought of ecumenism as mostly a liberal, progressive thing--it doesn't matter what you believe so long as you're a social justice type, all religions are viable ways to god, and all that.

On the other hand, I've known that politicals has in the past made for strange alliances. Evangelicals and Catholics are both largely pro-life, so that issue has made tem do some things together. A few years ago, Mormons were among the ones leading against the move in California to legalize homosexual marriage, which put them on the same side as Evangelicals.

And now, we seem to have the developing of another form a ecumenism, a politically conservative kind.

Most weekdays, I get a chance to listen to a bit of Beck's radio show. Maybe only a half-hour, roughly, but I still enjoy it, and find it informative. Although I don't listen to him as much as I did a few years ago, I like Hannity, and agree with him on many things, even though he is Catholic, and there are things in Catholicism that I have problems with.

It's an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, I'm an American, and I think our freedom of religion is a good thing. Were I, for example, a part of a pro-life organization, I think I would work with people of other flavors of Christianity, or other religions, or even those who claim no religion, in the goal of helping to save the lives of those who are unborn. I would definitely vote for, say, a Mormon or even a Muslim who would be politically conservative instead of a Protestant whose positions are liberal.

On the other hand, support for a person based on political or social positions should not be confused with thinking that person is a fellow believer or Christian. Confusion on this point may be easily possible, but it is important that it not be allowed to happen.

Although I like Beck and enjoy his show, and although I find much in his opinions that I agree with, I simply cannot accept that he, as a Mormon, is a fellow believer. Mormon doctrine is simply too deviant from biblical teachings. It does make me sad to write that, and I can only hope that a day comes when he will discard the unbibical elements in is beliefs and trust in the true God revealed only in the Bible, but that day is not now.

Nor can I agree with his attempt at a conservative form of ecumenism. If he were to keep it in the realm of political and social issues, I may not have as much of a problem with it (I must also acknowledge that my source here, theOoze, and whatever there sources are, may not be the best). It's when he goes over into saying that a largely undefinied 'god' is the answer that I get very squirrelly.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Adams (Dr. James Luther Adams), finally, told us to watch closely what the Christian Right did to homosexuals. The Nazis had used "values" to launch state repression of opponents. Hitler, days after he took power in 1933, imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations. He ordered raids on places were homosexuals gathered, culminating in the ransacking of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin and the permenant exile of its director, Magnus Hirschfield...Adams said that homosexuals would also be the first "sociel deviants" singled out and disempowered by the Christian Right. We would be the next.
Chris Hedges, American Fascists, p 201

By way of contrast, here's an excerpt from another book, put out a bit after Hedges' own work.

Nazi attitudes toward homosexuality are also a source of confusion. While it is true that some homosexuals were sent to concentration camps, it is also the case that the early Nazi Party and the constellation of Pan-German organizations in its orbit were rife with homosexuals. It well-known, for example, that Ernst Rohm, the head of the SA, and his coterie were homosexuals, and openly so. When jealous members of the SA tried to use this fact against im in 1931, Hitler had to remonstrate that Rohm's homosexuality was "purely in the private sphere". Some try to suggest that Rohm was murdered on the Night of the Long Knives because he was gay. But the Rohm faction posed the greatest threat to Hitler's consolidation of power because they were, in important respects, the most ardent and "revolutionary" Nazis. Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams write in The Pink Swastika that "the National Socialist revolution and the Nazi Party were animated and dominated by militaristic homosexuals, pederasts, pornographers, and sadomasochists." this is surely an overstatement. But it us nonetheless true that the artisitc and literary movements that provided oxygen for Nazism before 1933 were chockablock with homosexual liberationist tracks, clubs, and journals
Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism, pp 378-379

Goldberg seems to hardly be one who is trying to single out "social deviants" here--a couple of pages later, he writes that he thinks that some form of gay marriage is probably inevitable, and he isn't so sure that would be a bad thing. Which half-echoes my own take (it may be inevitable, but let's not pretend that flouting God's laws won't have consequences).

One telling thing, I think, about these two excerpts is this. Hedges' claims are not back up with any footnotes or other support, though he does have many footnotes in the book. Goldberg, on the other hand, has a footnote and even references one of his sources in the paragraph, the book The Pink Swastika.

Friday, November 5, 2010

good for me, not for thee

Dobson's attacks on gays are relentless and brutal. He likens the proponents of gay marriage to the Nazis.
Chris Hedges, American Fascists, p 103

Irony, thy name is hypocracy.

Adams finally, told us to watch closely what the Christian Right did to homosexuals. The Nazis had used "values" to launch state repression of opponents.
p 201

He (Adams) saw in the Christian Right, long before we did, disturbing similarities with the German Christian Church and the Nazi Party, similarities, he said that would, in teh event of prolonged social instability, catastrophe or national crisis, see American fascists, under the guise of Christianity, rise to dismantle the open society.
p 195

So, apparently it's ok of Adams (and, by extension, Hedges) to compare the Christian Right to Nazis. That's acceptable. But alleging that James Dobson compares those who want gay marriage to Nazis is, well, an example of how "relentless and brutal" Dobson's attacks are.

But one of the good things about many of Dr. Dobson's books is that they can be easy to find, particularly in libraries. A library close to me has a copy of the book Hedges' claims to find this example of a "relentless and brutal" attack. The book is called Marriage Under Fire, and Hedges' reference points to page 41. After a reading of that page, here is the only thing I can find that he may be refering to.

It was this regrettable decision that has created the present turmoil throughout the nation. It has emboldened rogue commissioners, mayors, and legislators to begin overriding laws prohibiting homosexual marriage. They have been passing out marriage licenses like candy. These minor bureaucrats now have things going their way, and they are going to strike while the iron is ot. This is why we are in the state of peril that faces our nation today. Like Adolf Hitler, who overran his European neighbors, those who favor homosexual marriage are determined to make it legal, regardless of the democratic processes that stand in their way.

Well. Ok, the name 'Adolf Hitler' is present in that paragraph. And there is a bit of "this is like that" there.

Hardly much, though, once you've seen it.

And let's look at the context, particularly "this regrettable decision". It's about the case Lawrence v Texas. To quote Dobson again from the same page...

By ruling that sodomy is a constitutionally protected "right", the highest court in the land declared, in effect, that considerations of morality and decency were irrelevant.

A reasoned take on Dobson's claims in the context may be interesting, but Hedges doesn't do that. He seems to simply latch onto the name Hitler, and so tries to spin Dobson's words to mean something they really don't seem to mean.

While, of course, going on himself about how Nazi-like he thinks the Christian Right is.

Yeah, double standard much?

sojos ups the hate rhetoric

Xenophobia 101

Yes, folks, it's come to this...xenophobia.

Unfortunately, one of the core elements shaping Americans’ views on immigration is xenophobia. Not all opposition to immigration is driven by xenophobia, but it is certainly a contributing factor. Scholars describe xenophobia — also known as nativism — as “an intense opposition to an internal minority on the grounds of its foreign (’un-American’) connections.”

Oh, boy, you know this'll be...interesting.

To some extent, the psychological element of our attitudes to immigrants is hardwired in all of us. The targets change based on the prejudices of the day, but the fear is constant. That’s why in 1855, xenophobia exploded as an anti-German riot in Louisville, Kentucky that killed at least 22; in 1871, as an anti-Chinese riot that killed at least 20 immigrants in Los Angeles; and today, as the restrictive legislation symbolized by Arizona’s SB 1070 that is directed primarily toward Mexican immigrants.

Another interesting take on xenophobia describes it as “discriminatory potential” activated and escalated by a sense of threat. Researchers note that negative views of immigrants come from “fears of diminished economic resources, rapid demographic changes, and diminished political influence.” Another researcher states that “immigrants can offer an emotional outlet for fear when both the internal and external affairs of a country are unstable.”

Sound familiar?

Yeah, and it's just an accident, I suppose, that this article comes out a few days after the last election? Sojo isn't, you know, insinuating that the Republican and Tea Party victories this past week were, well, inspired in part by what they're calling xenophobia?

But in a democracy, public opinion is vital to policy-making. It’s clear that right now the American public is more enthusiastic about border enforcement than earned legalization. In turn, border enforcement is popular among policymakers because a majority of Americans support it. While polling is often contradictory — for example, it also reveals support for some sort of legalization program — the data on immigration show a clear public preference for border enforcement.

Politicians rarely put the blame on the public. As Sen. John McCain’s adviser, Mark Salter, recently stated, “Not too many voters like to be told there’s something wrong with them.” But the nation’s attitude toward immigrants will need to shift before major reform happens.

Oh, I see--the desire to enforce the borders is xenophobic.

Yeah, sure, whatever.

The constant attempts by Sojo and their ilk to paint us who want things enforced is sad. Worse than that, it's dishonest.

I've been to several other countries. When I've done so, I've abode by their policies, whether it's for short visits or for studies or even for long-term living and missions work in Russia. I had nothing against the need to acquire a visa, and should I ever chose to actually immigrate somewhere else, I would not see any reason to try to circumvent their laws.

The desire, even demand, that our border laws be enforced is not xenophobia. I doubt any other country is more welcoming to people of other races and nationalities than the US. That people should come through proper channels, and not try to sneak in, is not unreasonable.

don't attack me as i attack you

It's sometimes funny to read some people's take on things. Take a look at this.

Those arrayed against American democracy are waiting for a moment to strike, a national crisis that will allow them to shred the Constitution in the name of national security and strength.
Chris Hedges, American Fascists, pp 201-202

If I stopped right there, those of you who are conservative like me would think, sure, we all know that. One can find the echo of Rahm Emanuel saying that a crisis should not be wasted.

But...that not Hedges' claim. Oh, no, Hedges fears American Fascists among...the Christian Right.

Debate with the Christian Right is useless. We cannot reach this movement. It does not want to dialogue. It is a movement based on emotion and cares nothing for rational thought and discussion. It is not mollified because John Kerry prays or Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday school.
p 202

The radical Christian Right calls for exclusion, cruelty and intolerance in the name of God. Its members do not commit evil for evil's sake. They commit evil to make a better world...The worst suffering in human history has been carried out by those who preach such grand, utopian visions, those who seek to implant by force their narrow, particular version of goodness. This is true of all doctrines of personal salvation, from Christianity to ethnic nationalism to communism to fascism.
p 205

The attacks by this movement (Christian Right, radical Christian Right, Christian radicals, pick your name for them) on the rights and beliefs of Muslims, Jews, immigrants, gays, lesbians, women, scholars, scientists, those they dismiss as "nominal Christians", and those they brand with the curse of "secular humanists" are an attack on all of us, on our values, our freedoms and ultimately our democracy. Tolerance is a virtue, but tolerance coupled with passivity is a vice.
p 207

That last part, which is what he ends the book on (not counted notes and index), is hilarious. Oh, no, the Christian Right can't say a thing about all those other people, but he, Hedges, and we may assume people like him, can attack people like Tim Lahaye and Creationists as much as he wants in his book, and apparently those attacks aren't "an attack on all of us, on our values, our freedoms and ultimately our democracy".

It rather boggles the mind. But then, I've found it a truism that, when the left accuses conservatives of doing something or being a certain way, it actually means that the left is doing those things and is that way. So, when Hedges, who is obviously on the left, says that to the Christian Right it doesn't matter what religious activities John Kerry and Jimmy Carter are involves in, it actually means that to him it doesn't matter what religious activities George Bush and Tim Lahaye are involved in. When he says that debate with the Christian Right is useless, it simply affirms my own personal observation that debate with left is about as useless as trying to hammer a nail into a brick wall with my forehead. And probably more painful.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

oh, happy day!

Proud to be a Kentucky hillbilly!!

Go, Rand Paul!!

And, oh, such sweet words I heard this morning...former (yes, former, hahaha) Majority Leader Pelosi.

A short tenure, yet far too long.

Granted, election day wasn't all I would have hoped. People like Reid and Frank, for whatever bad reasons, still have elected positions. But as shameful as that is, there is also great reason to be happy!

Things take time, people. The damage took years to do, and it's not going to be fixed overnight, or with one election. But this could be a good step forward.

So, be happy and rejoice. This battle was a win. But don't think the war is over.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

sojo's gloves come off

Stanley Hauerwas on Glenn Beck and More

What do Cornel West, Rita Nakashima Brock, Carol Rose, and Onleilove Alston have in common? They are all our recent guests on Iconocast, a podcast “exploring the anti-imperial implications of Jesus’ teachings within our modern imperial context.” Our latest guest Stanley Hauerwas covered topics like September 11, the Muslim community center at ground zero, his critiques of Mennonites, the problem with many intentional communities, racism, sexism, the national anthem being played at Goshen, Marxism, and pacifism.

Wow, shallow as depth, I see.

Stanley Hauerwas:

“[Glenn] Beck-like Christianity is idolatrous … and God will punish them. That sounds terribly harsh but, that they can claim to represent, or come close to representing Christianity, it seems to me to be a terrible judgment on the development of Christianity in America.”

“Christian language has been stolen by this kind of generalized civil religion that Beck and these people represent should be condemned.”

So, apparently, only if you've bought into the Sojo-type of Christianity (which apparently means that being in the US means you're somehow imperialistic or whatever, which given the trendy re: the current administration, may not be such a stretch), you're not Christian.

Wow, thanks, Sojo. You couldn't give me anything more than this. I've always suspected your all-inclusive holistic type of language was only a front and a farce, and now I know.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

an odd argument from sojo

Why I’m Not Tired of Reading About the Tea Party

Are you tired of reading about the Tea Party? The group represents 11 percent of our population, yet it has been on the front cover of every national newspaper for months now.

I found it odd that a Sojourners' writer should feel the need to try to disparage the Tea Party based on a statistic (I don't know from where) that it "represents 11 percent of our population". To maybe play a little game Wallis himself played last year in regards to the Congressman who dared to say that the President was lying, I think I can hear this phrase as being more like it "represents (only) 11 precent of our population".

But what I find odd is that, by and large, Sojo claims to be for those they consider the least, the lowest, the minorities, the outsiders, and all that. One would think that the fact that the Tea Pary (only) represents 11 percent of our population would mean that they would qualify as one of those least and lowly who most deserve to be heard.

But then, the Tea Party is the opposition. Silly me, their minority status must be a sign that they are wrong, not that Sojo is wrong.

Friday, October 15, 2010

sojo's permissiveness

Toward the House of Levi

So I confessed instead that in our work with homeless families, Mile High Ministries has unmarried couples living in our facility. I knew this wouldn’t be particularly good news for many in this particular evangelical congregation, but I was just warming up. We also serve undocumented immigrants, knowing full well that they are in the country illegally. Not only that, but I’ve been politically active in supporting changes in America’s immigration laws, including speaking at a rally denouncing a new anti-immigrant law in Arizona. The room was now very quiet, so I encouraged everyone to exhale.

After my final story, about how much I enjoyed a birthday party for a loved one at a lesbian bar, I was confident that people would have some words for me after church was over. Sure enough, some thanked me, because they too have a relationship with an undocumented person or a loved one who is gay. Others were chagrined that I could be so wrong on the critical issues of our day, or even that I had such poor judgment as to speak of such things in an audience where children were present.

One man promised to try to get our transitional housing facility shut down, and another told me that I was preaching from the wrong version of the Bible. A careful reading of the “authorized” text, he said, would clarify that Jesus had gone to Levi’s home precisely in order to preach repentance. I wonder why Pharisees would find that so offensive?

The text this person was using was Mark 2:13-17, which tells of Jesus' meeting the tax collector Matthew and going to his house to meet others that the text calls 'publicans and sinners'. Here is Mark 2 in an interlinear version. I choose this version, because it shows that the man mention in the last paragraph was at least on the right path. I don't know if Jesus was there to preach, the passage says he only ate with them, but Jesus does say that he had come to call sinners to repentence.

That message is a far cry from what the Sojo writer seems to be saying. His and his ministry seem to have no problems with allowing unmarried couple to live together in their facility, and we may assume they continue their immoral sexual activities. They also have no compunction in helping those who are breaking the law, and that it is a political statement of theirs, and that in helping them they are actively helping those people continue their illegal activities. Instead of offering help while also telling them that they need to obey the lawas of the land, they are helping them continue their illegal activities and occupation.

One can know, for example, that Jesus kept a group from stoning an adulterous woman, but in doing so He did not condone adultery. He did not condemn, but nor did He condone, and while Sojo is big in not condemning, they are not so solid in not condoning.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

wallis accuses Beck of inspiring violence

MLK and the “Progressive Hunter”

I read an alarming report last night on a recent interview with Byron Williams, who was arrested after a July 18 shootout with the police. He had a car full of guns and planned to kill people at the Tides Foundation and ACLU in San Francisco. Williams said in this interview that he sees Glenn Beck as his “teacher,” and that he was agitated by the virulent things his teacher had to say about the people at Tides. While it is unfair to blame Beck for everything his audience might do, it isn’t unfair to ask Beck to make the connection that King did between the violence of the tongue and that of the fist, and to take responsibility for how he speaks about those with whom he disagrees.

On a personal level, I was reminded of that connection in a conversation with my 12-year-old son, Luke. Last summer, I shared the story of how a far-right radio station and some local churches in Wisconsin tried to get me disinvited from speaking at a Christian youth festival there. All of their attack lines were right off of Glenn Beck’s blackboard — that I was a “communist” and that listening to me would put high school students attending the festival in “spiritual peril.” Despite their confrontation and intimidation, the festival hosts stood firm with my invitation, and I traveled to Wisconsin. The evening went very well as I talked about Jesus and our commitment to the poor, the response of the kids was very positive, and many parents (even very conservative ones) thanked the festival leaders for standing up against the intense political pressure from the Far Right.

Remember an incident from a few weeks ago, where a man entered the headquarters for a cable channel, and demanded that they air more programs that were aligned with his own view of things involving the environment and population growth?

Or how about the more recent ads from an environmental group which features people who dare to disagree with them blowing up?

Or the journalist from the infamous JournoList who wrote of hoping to see conservative radio host Limbaugh die of a heart ache, and laugh at him while he died?

I usually get to listen to a few minutes of Beck's show during the day, and I've heard him several times tell his listeners to refrain from violence. And if anything, an overwhelming degree of violent and hateful rhetoric comes not from the right but from the left.

For Wallis to try to say that Beck is somehow even indirectly to blame for the actions of one man is a stretch, especially since I haven't seen him or Sojo take even indirect blame for the environmentalists who want those who disagree to die explosively. It's simply more posturing on Wallis' part, nothing more and nothing less.

And the Sojophants eat it up, call him gracious and christlike, and that he's such a nice guy. It's enough to make one ill.

God as facebook

In modernity we created one theological connection point for the entire world: "You are a sinner who will die in your sins unless you repent. You must be born again." This sounds theologically correct, but is it really the case that this is the only connection with God through the Jesus story? I think not, though I think it is a connection to Christianity and has been the dominant mode of connection in the church post-Reformation. But is not the sole means. And in postmodernity, such exclusion has little chance of connecting with the seekers and practitioners of the new religious economy. Multiplicity, a network of connections, is necessary, making room for both the sinners and the sinned against, the broken and the whole. Speaking more of the writer Gadda, Calvino says, "Whatever the starting point, the matter in hand spreads out and out, encompassing ever vaster horizons, and if it were permitted to go on further and further in every direction, it would end by embracing the entire universe."
Barry Taylor, Entertainment Theology, p 198

Is the statement he claims was created in modernity really created in modernity?

If one has read the Bible and has even a basic understanding of it, how can one say that that is a rather accurate summation? Does the Bible not say that we are all sinners, and come short of the glory of God? Does it not say that the wages of sin is death? Was not the message of Jesus and the Apostles that people needed to repent and believe the Gospel? Did not Jesus Himself say the we must be born again?

Upon what basis, then, can Taylor say that is not the sole means? How can he say that repentence and believing the Gospel is not the universal place where all must begin, the door through which all much enter? He may have a point that not all like that way, or like the door, but what does that mean? Does the fact that one doesn't like the door mean that one can try to climb in through the window? Does he give one scriptural source for his position? I've given the place where this paragraph may be found in his book, you may look for it and see for yourself--there is no scripture given in the context.

And when he starts writing about 'multiplicity' (wasn't that the name of an old Michael Keaton comedy movie, something about clones?) and 'a network of connections', does that strike you as him making God seem like Facebook, or some other social networking internet site? Have you made God your 'Facebook friend'? Have you left any comments lately on his wall?

Whatever Calvino or Gadda may have meant by that last bit Taylor quotes, I don't think there's any doubt what Taylor means by it--universalism. That only acceptable religious idea is one that would "end by embracing the entire universe". The most correct religious teachings are the one that embrace the most--the most people, the most other ideas, the most other beliefs--that that is embraced by the most--the most people, the most of the correct kinds of people, the most followers of other religions (so long as they are of the right beliefs, too), the most seekers and practitioners of what is considered the new religous economy.

If, in Taylor's view, God seems a lot like Facebook, Christianity becomes like Bill Clinton--everything must be polled and tested, to see what people want, and only then is a decision made about what to do and what to believe and what to teach. God, then, ceases to be the authority, and the power passes to the people--the correct kinds of people, of course.

Friday, October 8, 2010

waterworld as philosophy???

'Waterworld' is essentially a modern tale. The central dream is to get back to dry land, which, when finally discovered by Mariner and his newly fashioned and reconfigured family, is reminiscent of Eden. It is the return to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' rather than the discovery of new frontiers. The film represents the modernist's desire to return to the old order, achievable only in the cinematic imaginery, but still a compelling image to many. A key message in the movie is that real life and living as humans are possible only on dry land, the utopian tendency of modernity's universalizing binary oppositions. Mariner stands as a testament to the fact that life in other permutations is quite possible, somthing that is daily being explored in postsecular situations.
Barry Taylor, Entertainment Theology, p 91

First, I hope you will join me in a few chuckles, at the idea of using 'Waterworld' as a deeply philosophical metaphor. Sadly, Taylor doesn't seem to have gotten too far into the canon of works made famous (or infamous) by Mystery Science Theater 3000, so we will not get further philosophical breakdowns of such great works like how mythology meets science "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", or maybe the conflict between ancient religions and modern technology in "The Robot versus The Aztec Mummy", or the misadventures of modern people in their quest through the desert of the real and the perils of looking for a helping hand in the classic "Manos: The Hands of Fate".

No, we shall just have to accept that Taylor had to use what even he called a "box-office dud", p 89, to try to convince us that we live in a water-world of postmodernism.

"A key message in the movie is that real life and living as humans are possible only on dry land". Umm, yeah, we humans are just so made for life on the water. Don't we like to swim around in water, eat fish, and all that? So, come on, dive in, leave the dry land behind!!

One could get the impression that Taylor and those like him are trying to outdo even Jesus. Jesus, after all, only compared a man building a house on sand to one building it on the rock. These are going even further, saying that not only should be build our houses on water, but that it is a much better think than to build it on the rock.

Oops, don't stay under water too long. You may drown.

Wait, Costner's character had gills!!! You can...well...well.

Oh, that's right. It's Costner. And, it's a movie. The normal person doesn't have gills.

Oh, and there's the food, too. Yeah, we can eat fish, clams, and such things, for a while. But what about the vegans? Are they going to have to subsist simply on seaweed? And don't us normal omnivores need veggies every now and again, too?

"Mariner stands as a testament to the fact that life in other permutations is quite possible". Umm...Costner's character is fictional!!!! You know, made up, not real, likely not even possible. I know, one can find some science fiction that could be considered predictive, but I doubt that Waterworld falls in that category, especially when it comes to Costner's character and his sudden development of gills.

Monday, October 4, 2010

emergents despising Christ's return?

Ever turn on religious television? Most of Christian TV is filled with people excited at the prospect of Jesus' return and the end of the world. How can a religion be so turned around that its adherents would wish, even pray, for the end of the world? And yet this seems to be some religions' focus today--driving the world ever closer to some kind of apocalypse, be it Christian, Muslim, or some other version.
Burke and Tayler, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, p 125

Yeah, you silly Christians, you should be happy with this world only, then with the good things to come. And never mind such passages as "Looking for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ".

In fact, if taken in context, this "blessed hope" has a far different result than the fear-mongering speculations of Burke and Taylor.

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" Titus 2:11-14

So, if waiting and longing for Christ's return is "driving the world ever closer to some kind of apocalypse", it's not because waiting and longing for Christ's return is wrong, but because the world is wrong.

"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." II Timothy 4:6-8

Apparently, Jesus will even reward those who "have longed for his appearing" on that day of judgment. Far cry, indeed, from the this-world-only focus of Burke and Taylor.

So, don't let the emergent's rob you of the legitimate hope we can have of Christ's return. It is perfectly legitimate and reasonable to, along with the Spirit, pray "Come". "The Spirit and the bride say 'Come!' And let him who hears say 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." Revelation 22:17

emergents' selective salvation

Archbishop William's book, Writing in the Dust, closes with a thought about this story and the dust Jesus wrote in: "He does not draw a line, fix an interpretation, tell the woman who she is and what her fate should be. He allows a moment, a longish moment, in which people are given time to see themselves differently precisely because he refuses to make the sense they want. When he lifts his head there is both judgment and release." The judgment is against those who want to make God, first and foremost, a judge and condemner of humanity. The release is for those bruised by life, by their own foolishness, yet who receive mercy and grace from God

This story represents a shift in God's character--or, if it makes you more comfortable, a change in our perception of God's character. Either way, if God or the perception of God had changed, the Jews could not remain unchanged. The problem was that they wanted to remain the same. This was the dilemma Jesus created among them. "We know youare a teacher who has come from God," Nicodemus says in the book of John. But the unspoken issue was that by acknowledging that Jesus came from God, the Jews either had to make him conform to and affirm their ways or had to shift their own thinking to embrace his new theology. They preferred the former, which, of course, didn't work because Jesus didn't come to conform to conventional standards of God's kingdom.
Burke and Taylor, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, pp 161-162

Is any of that true?

For example, was Jesus' condemnation directed at "those who want to make God, first and foremost, a judge and condemer of humanity"? Was his release directed at "those bruised by life, by their own foolishness"?

Since they seem to engage in some speculations, perhaps it gives me a bit of license to do so, too. What if, for example, the husband of the woman was among those in the crowd? Could he not be considered among those "bruised by life and (his) own foolishness", the foolishness of marrying a woman who was not faithful? If mercy was directly only at the woman, what about him?

And who did Jesus condemn in this story? Is there any condemnation at all? Can Jesus' words that the one without sin may cast the first stone be seen as him condemning them? Maybe, but it seems far from plain.

Yet if we want to look at the Gospels as a whole, then the idea of condemnation cannot be escaped. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil." John 3:16-19

This is, I think, a telling passage. God did not send Christ to condemn, but to save, but the further truth is that those who did not believe in Christ were already condemned. The judgment had been rendered--the deeds of the members of mankind, men and women, are evil, so they love the darkness.

Hardly a bright, cheery view of humanity. But there is hope--"Whoever believes in him is not condemned". Those who believe in Christ, believe in the Christ of the Scriptures and not a christ made up by men, are not condemned.

How simple, how so very simple. How very far from the physical-only salvation through works the emergents want us to buy into.

All are condemned, no matter their socio-economic status, the size of their pocket book, or whatever sad-sack story they can tell about their life. But all can believe and be saved, no matter their soci-economic status, the size of their pocket book, or whatever sad-sack story they can tell about their life. God sent Christ to save us, we who are sinners, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us".