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Sunday, October 17, 2010

When Burqas Attack

From the Daily Mail:

(Jeanne) Ruby, who is accused of aggravated violence, is said to have ‘lost control’ when she saw Ms al-Suwaidi choosing furniture in a department store.

‘I knew I would crack one day,’ said Ruby. ‘This whole saga of the burka was really getting to me.’

Speaking in English to her victim, the retired teacher, who taught in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, said: ‘I told her to take off the veil she had on her face. I grabbed and pulled it.

‘To me wearing a full veil is an attack on being a woman. As a woman, I felt attacked.’

I would suggest that Ruby is a little confused on the subject of the definition of “attacked.” She might have, dumbly, felt attacked, but she sure as hell wasn’t the one who was attacked.

I’m no fan of the burqa. What it symbolizes is repulsive and the treatment of women in some Islamic nations is horrendous. That doesn’t make it in any way okay to attack a woman for wearing the thing--physically assaulting a woman isn’t such a great corrective to what many consider to be a symbol of women’s subjegation and abuse. In fact, it left the victim feeling terrified, humiliated, and abused.

After allegedly slapping Ms al-Suwaidi, Ruby bit her hand before successfully removing the veil, shouting: ‘Now I can see your face.’

Security guards had to separate the women, with one describing the fight as being motivated by ‘pure burka rage’.

Ms al-Suwaidi suffered cuts and bruises and had to take two days off work. She was so upset that she has now left France and returned to the Emirates, and will not attend today’s court case.

Lovely work, that.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

That’s Not Right

I was going to lead this story with something like this: “I found myself wondering if they had been inspired by So You Think You Can Dance.” Then I realized that it doesn’t really fit my mood right now; not that there isn’t room for humor, but that it isn’t how I want to see this story today. So, instead, this:

I continue to insist that I not only can judge other cultures, but I must judge them so that we maintain a clear-eyed understanding of what distinguishes us from them. We’re told we aren’t supposed to judge and we aren’t supposed to think in terms of us and them--I know this because, like the rest of you, it has been hammered into me from the time I was a child.

It just isn’t done. The problem is that what we were taught is wrong. It is vital for us to be honest and open about other cultures in the world--not in deifying or demonizing those cultures, but in being earnestly critical in the same way that I hope we consider our own culture and politics. With that said, imagine what I think about the culture that gives us a news story like this:

A group of young Muslim men have been publicly flogged in Sudan after they were convicted of wearing women’s clothes and make-up.

The court said the 19 men had broken Sudan’s strict public morality codes.

Police arrested them at a party where they were found dancing “in a womanly fashion”, the judge said.

We need to judge because we need to constantly remind ourselves of what it is that we value as a society and what it took to create something as grand and diverse as the United States of America.

Read the rest.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Easter Thoughts

Not my thoughts--which, being religious in nature, I tend to keep quietly to myself--but Jay’s thoughts and insights.

One of the things that I have most enjoyed about blogging is the cultural cross-pollination that has happened in my world. Another thing that I enjoy is that someone like Jay, one of my oldest and sharpest blogging friends, can still find something to surprise and interest me. 

Friday, March 05, 2010

Imagination Time: The Catholic School v/ Lesbians Edition

Okay, let’s play Imagination Time for a moment.

Imagine that you are a lesbian living in the Denver area (imagining liking girls is pretty easy for me; imagining the change in plumbing is a little tougher). Imagine that you are also a parent of a pre-school age child and are looking for a good school for your kid. Now, tell me what that school would look like?

Would it be a Baptist school? Why or why not?

Would it be one of the Denver Waldorf schools or a Montessori school? Again, why or why note?

Lastly, would it be a Catholic school? Why or why not?

Whether I like them or not, the religious schools very well could have policies against accepting or keeping students who are living in families that don’t adhere to their standards of conduct. Not only is it legal, it’s entirely understandable. Yes, I also understand why the parents might have wanted their kid in a religious school, but that doesn’t really change the other side of the equation.

The story of a lesbian couple whose kid is not being allowed back into a private Catholic school is raising a bit of noise around the area, though. Even school staff is voicing (anonymously) disappointment in the Denver Archdiocese decision.

According to the Archdiocese, parents who enroll their kids at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School are expected to follow the Catholic Church’s beliefs.

“No person shall be admitted as a student in any Catholic school unless that person and his/her parent(s) subscribe to the school’s philosophy and agree to abide by the educational policies and regulations of the school and Archdiocese,” the statement said.

Because this student’s parents are homosexual, the Archdiocese says they were in clear violation of the school’s policy.

School staff members, who asked to remain anonymous, say they are disgusted by the Archdiocese’s decision.

For those staff members who disagree so strenuously, I suggest that you tender your resignations. For parents who disagree, I suggest you withdraw your children. Register your disagreement in the best way you know.

Still, the “disgust,” especially on the part of the staff, is either incredibly naive or merely over-dramatic. What did they really think would happen? They do happen to work in a Catholic school. For that matter, for the parents, I feel fairly sure that they must have been actively subverting any code of conduct and policies that they had to agree to before placing their child in the school.

I say again: what did they really think would happen?

Last year when I was looking for a new job, I came across one that I was reasonably well-qualified for at a local Christian college. I started the application process and came to the code of conduct that I was expected to agree to and live up to as a requirement of employment.

Now, I really wanted a job and the idea of working on a Christian college campus appealed to me to. I know that this will be shocking to some folks out there, but I truly do take my religion seriously; I mean it when I call myself a Christian. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to find me to be a perfect fit for the teaching of any one church, and I have a hard time reconciling the areas of disagreement with my desire to be involved in a church.

When I came to that code of conduct, though, I knew that I would not be able to sign it in good conscience. It might not be readily apparent to anyone at the school and I might well be able to talk my way into the position, but it would be starting my employment based on a lie. I could not sign that code of conduct because it would have been a lie.

I have enough respect for myself to stand up for those things in which I believe. I have enough respect for others to not lie to them about the same.

Read the rest.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sick Bastard

Shooting up a Unitarian church in the name of demented Christian fundamentalism?

An unemployed truck driver seething over liberalism told police he opened fire in a church last year because it harbored gays and multiracial families and he hoped others would follow his example.

Prosecutors opened their case file Thursday on Jim David Adkisson, 58, who pleaded guilty a month ago to killing two people and wounding six others at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. The file includes interviews with investigators and a suicide note Adkisson left in his car.
[...]
“They just glory (in) these weirdos and sickos and homos,” he said in an interview recorded by investigators.

He also railed against the Unitarian Church: “That ain’t a church, that’s a damned cult,” Adkisson said.

The Knoxville church said in a statement Thursday that the congregation was still healing and that many hoped Adkisson would also “be healed of whatever motivated his actions.”

Adkisson walked into the church, pulled a sawed-off shotgun from a guitar case and fired into a congregation of about 230 people watching a children’s musical performance.

I suppose that’s Godly behavior if you’re an adherent of the Fred Phelps Church of the Inbred, Homophobic, Asshole, but for the rest of us it more resembles the real face of evil in the world.

Phelps, his followers, and bastards like Adkisson are going to have a lot to answer if God really does exist.

Read the story.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Take That, Carter!

It’s a good night. I just came back from Borders, it’s snowing outside enough that I have an excuse to practice a little sloth tomorrow morning, I’m watching Magnolia, and I just read Shawn Macomber deliver an eloquent pummeling to my former least favorite former president.

Once again proving why he’s one of my favorite writers, Macomber gives us a great examination of how Carter’s religious faith isn’t, perhaps, what you might have thought it was.

Carter places the miracles of government bureaucracy ahead of those of his own church, yet still wonders why the largest single contingent of Baptists in the country is skeptical of his New Covenant. “I treat theological arguments gingerly but am bolder when it comes to connecting my religious beliefs with life and current events in the world, even when the issues are controversial,” Carter writes in Living Faith. In other words, the details of scripture are uninteresting until they offer a rationale for Carter’s left-wing predilections or somehow justify the four years of tribulation known as his presidency.

Recently, another writer who I admire said something about a sentence that I had written ("Wish I’d had that line for Will in PC.") and it was the kind of compliment that made me feel about as good as you might imagine. I can’t deliver the same kind of compliment--I don’t have the same kind of professional standing as the gentleman who said those words to me--but let me say that I wish I had written that paragraph, and very specifically that last sentence, myself. It pulls together so much of my impression of Carter into one tiny package that I can’t imagine how I would improve upon it.

Go read the rest. Great stuff.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Not Sure I Get The Point

A post by Mark Steyn on National Review’s Corner links to a post on Dhimmiwatch and I’m not sure I get the point. The posts are about an email sent from Rotterdam district councillor Bouchra Ismaili to one of her constituents. You can find more of the back story here and you can more commentary linked by Dhimmiwatch here. This is the first part of that email:

Listen well, dirty madman, WE’LL STAY HERE, hahahahahahhahah, DROP DEAD. I am a dutch moslem, and I shall stay one until my death. I feel pity with your kind, you must live with hatred, really sad. My father and mother have worked hard to help building this country, and I have nothing to do with what others think or say. You are a miserable devil worshipper!!!

It goes on largely in the same manner for quite a ways. It is, indeed, poorly written, oddly stated, and occasionally a tad offensive ("devil worshipper” isn’t particularly nice, now, is it?). In fact, some of it is inappropriate for a politician at any level. But…

But the entire story doesn’t have anything like context for me to understand why this email was sent. Was it in response to death threats or something even worse? I’m guessing it wasn’t just sent randomly to someone in her district, so it seems likely that there was some provocation. What was that provocation?

While the email is far over the top in some of its personal insults and switches between nearly kind and obviously offensive without stopping for so much as an apostrophe, it also has some interesting things to say about devotion to liberal ideals.

But fortunately, you are few only, and most dutchmen are developped and tolerant.
[...]
But I hear your cry of emergency. I hear your cry for attention. I shall also have time for you, despite of the fact that I’m fully busy to make Holland a more beautiful, clean and safe country, where people can develop and live in freedom and democracy, no matter what colour, origin or faith.

While much of what she says is very obviously anti-something (Freemasons? Christians? I’m not sure.), she also shows a devotion to tolerance (an external acceptance that isn’t marked by agreement) in the political process. In comparison to the email or statement she was responding to, I have to wonder if she didn’t manage to come out looking better.

Again, without context, how am I to know?

I’m not going to say that this is a woman I’d want to share a drink with, but, then, I really don’t want to share space with some of the other commentators from the Google groups. Here’s a charmer:

And thanks a lot jews, who made it possible that their oriental brethren from the arselifter faction have spread in our countries.

And even more thanks to the leftist traitors who have helped them at our expense doing so. And on top of it, we are allowed to be mocked by this subhuman scum.

And is this a threat or just a prediction?

The backlash to this manipulation will be horrendous.  Hitler will look like a boy scout compared to what is in store for Muslims.  Then of course when that happens the Jews will be targeted again because of their interference with our laws.

I’m one of those folks who does happen to believe that a seismic demographic shift in some European countries probably will result in some unpleasant cultural changes. I’m also one of those folks who believes that bad immigration laws and practices make these kinds of racial tensions more likely. But damned if I’m going to get in bed with fascists and racists to condemn the excesses of the people who are compromising the liberal values of Western nations.

This email definitely shows a rep who was wrong: she should never have sent that email and some of her thoughts are repugnant. She also shows a willingness to share space--physical and political space--with people who don’t believe the same things that she does. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to bolster the scary view of Islamic hordes reshaping Western European societies; the contrary opinions, though, make a stronger case for being leery of the racists and potentially violent nativists in the anti-immigration movement.

Just sayin’.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

For the Record, 20 June 2007

For the record, I would like to note that I still find it amazing that OJ “If I Did It” Simpson would ever even consider publishing a “fictional” confession to the murder of his former wife and that other guy. Let’s go to make believe land and pretend that Simpson isn’t the murderer that we all know him to be. In that case, publishing the book is a ghoulish way to play on the deaths. What kind of sickness would make you write a fictional account of your ex-wife’s murder? A fictional account that you insist was just a way to help ensure your kids’ futures (which does make some sense since, after this, I’m pretty sure those kids are going to need ongoing--and very expensive therapy--to get them through life).

Now, let’s come back to the real world, where we’re pretty convinced that OJ killed Nicole and Ron Goldman and then made a slow-motion run for the border complete with fake mustache, passport, and a bit of a bankroll. In this case, the publication of a pseudo confession is idiotic. It shows a continued and callous hatred of the families of the victims, a complete disregard for what this must look like to Simpson’s own kids, and a kind of arrogance that seems to confirm most peoples’ beliefs that there are really two justice systems in America: one that exists for us poor folk and one that gives the wealthy and the famous like Simpson (and Blake and the occasional Kennedy) a free pass when they go around killing folks.

Now, that said, is anyone surprised that the book finally leaked? I don’t think so. Because as ghoulish as OJ is, the public matches him. When it comes to eating up the stories of the bloody famous, the stories--fictional or not--always come out because someone is willing to pay for it.

And, for the record, while it might have been a particularly effective way of killing the guy, supplying the spark to a guy who has just covered himself in petrol isn’t going to win any PR awards and doesn’t help the image of a certain “less than lethal” weapon. I feel for the family, although the poor, dead bastard who died brought on his own death.

Speaking of records: anyone who uses a Celine Dion song as his or her presidential campaign song automatically loses my vote. For the record, Madrugada’s “You Better Leave” might be a better choice for the opposition party.

Just sayin’.

We should all be paying attention here: the record paints a convincing portrait of the importance of religious tolerance in any society.

For the record, good things happen, too.

I’ve been on record for some time as believing that one of the best solutions to the southern front of our immigration problem is a vibrant Mexican economy and better governance. Something closer to parity in opportunities would ease immigration worries tremendously. That parity seems pretty unlikely, though, doesn’t it?

For the record: Adam “Pacman” Jones + friends w/ guns + strip clubs = bad things. You might imagine that he would have learned that lesson by now. You would be wrong. Seriously, not joking even a little bit: Pacman is a troubled young man who needs to learn not only how to handle himself in the public eye, but also how to distance himself from his current group of friends. Unless he changes his ways, his “entourage” is going to ruin his football career--and that’s the best case scenario. Worst case leaves him dead or in jail for a very long time.

And you can quote me on that. Not that it’s very quotable or anything, but I was pretty sure I needed a strong statement to end the post. Which I’ve totally ruined with my explanation.

Damnit.

Monday, June 18, 2007

An Invitation to Athiests

A Christian writer extends a very respectful invitation to atheists and agnostics to engage in conversation at his site. Given that a few atheists travel this site on a semi-regular basis, I thought I would point them toward that conversation.

If you go, please do play nice.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A Quick Response to a Post That Probably Deserves Something More Thoughtful

Tom Gilson, at Thinking Christian, has posted a list of 10 misconceptions that Christians have about their own faith. It’s an interesting post to me partially because, with so many flavors of Christianity and so many different beliefs about what we, as Christians, are commanded to do in the name of our faith, it seems like it would be hard to find consensus on some of these points. In particular, his points 3 and 5 would probably rouse a good deal of disagreement in some churches.

But I’m not linking to argue over those points. What I want to address is his point 9:

9. The health and wealth gospel.
“God wants you to be prosperous! God wants you to be successful! God wants you to be healthy!” There are pockets where this is prominent. Only in America, as they say. It would never have sold in Soviet Russia, and it wouldn’t be believed today in China, Cuba, Sudan, or any of the other parts of the world where the Church is growing in spite of persecution. It’s a huge distortion of God’s intention. Yes, ultimately God has good in store for all his people, but part of that good is to know his power in our lives when we are most desperately in need of it. It’s to build our character through testing. It’s to let us share in the pain--and to share comfort as well--in a fallen world, in which we are genuine co-sufferers.

I certainly don’t disagree with him in reference to those who teach that God wants to shower believers with wealth and tons of stuff. That’s why I wrote, some time ago, Give to God! Act Now And Get These Ginsu Knives 100% Free!.

What I don’t like is the idea that this is some unique American malfunction. Prosperity gospel did originate in the US, but, sadly, it has begun to spread.

Prosperity gospel is beginning to spread through Africa and it abounds mostly in the poorer churches in the US for the same reason that it does sell in some poor nations. It appeals to poorer folks because it gives them something to hope for and makes Christianity something that will reward them here and now. It makes the rewards of sacrifice--the money given, the habits given up--something immediate.

It appeals to the leaders of some churches because it’s a way to grease money out of the masses--if you give now, God will make sure that your giving comes back to you ten fold. Translation to the uncritical mind: give a buck, get ten in return. Give a hundred bucks and get a thousand in return. It’s religion as a ponzi scheme--the type of thing that appeals not to the wealthy (and rarely to the merely comfortable), but to the poor sucker at the wrong end of the economic spectrum who can’t see another path to prosperity.

Mr. Gilson has written a thought provoking list, and it’s a great place to start conversations. Unfortunately, though, his take on prosperity gospel as a uniquely American doctrine is terribly wrong; prosperity gospel is proving a steady hand at converting folks in poor nations who suffer from disease, poverty, and corrupt governments. The psychology--the desire for wealth that leads transactional theology to grip so tightly on the poor--isn’t American, it’s universal. The shame is that the hucksters who sell the stuff seem to be doing a damned good job of spreading the faith.

Now, ask me why I liken prosperity gospel to the almost religious belief in some communities that pro sports offer a realistic path out of poverty even to the extent that sports take precedence over academic achievement…

A Little More Reading:
The Prosperity Gospel in Nigeria: A Re-Examination of the Concept, Its Impact, and an Evaluation
The Prosperity Gospel (A post at Vehement Adventure)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Give to God! Act Now And Get These Ginsu Knives 100% Free!

A while back, I wrote about my experience with Bishop and Con Man Dennis Leonard (and I would feel comfortable throwing “race baiter” in that mix, too, but it just didn’t flow). The Denver Post has a few articles on Leonard’s mega-church, The Heritage Christian Center, that spills a little light on the ministry of a man who encourages his flock to tithe in return for God’s blessings. That’s right, give 10% of your income and get that new car you’ve been drooling over.

Bishop Dennis Leonard calls it a step of faith. Standing on stage under the bright lights, the pastor tells Heritage Christian Center members that if they give 10 percent of their income to the church, God will bless their families for generations to come.

Show some patience, Leonard explains, and expect a turnaround in about 90 days.

A new house, a new business, tuition for college ... God will help deliver them, he says.

Gifts can be made with cash, credit card or checks written out to “HCC,” he instructs. An ATM sits in the lobby, near the neon cross that reads, “Jesus Saves.”

This is a reading from the prosperity gospel, the belief that God will reward faithful givers in this life with material wealth, a teaching that has ebbed and flowed for nearly a century but is finding prominence again among present-day televangelists.

I can’t imagine a more objectionable reading of Christian theology than this--the idea that tithing is actually an investment that will bring later material fortune is really missing the point, isn’t it?

First, if a Christian is looking for a good investment, try one of the broad-based market funds. The return is unlikely to be Hillary-playing-the-futures-market spectacular, but there is a reasonable expectation of steady long term return. Second, if a Christian is looking to honor God, then the money given isn’t for ultimately selfish reasons.

That is, the giving is a way of helping the church continue good works in the community and helping the needy. In fact, that is why I’ve always considered giving both of time and money to charities as being another way to honor God--it is giving with no expectation of return only in the hopes of spreading the blessings that I have recieved.

True giving is something that is done with no expectation of a quid pro quo.

Giving to the Heritage Christian Center is something that is done when one’s brain has turned to the off position, though.

While many pastors reluctantly preach about giving, Leonard devotes five to 10 minutes weekly to the biblical mandate to tithe, or give 10 percent of one’s income.

“You may be in the valley today, you may be in an impossible thing today,” Leonard preached at a service in late 2005. “But remember, after the valley comes the mountaintop, and after the test comes the testimony. You can’t have the ‘mony’ without the ‘test.’ You can’t have the money without passing the tithes and offerings test.”
[...]
The church began a benevolence program to help struggling tithe- paying members with rent and utilities but stopped after a year because the demand drained church resources, said Joel Moreno, a former Hispanic ministries pastor.

“I was confronted with families who said they had prayed and tithed because that’s what Leonard asked them to do,” he said. “Then their electricity was being cut off and they felt the church had turned their back on them.”

The church--any church--does not exist to exault its pastor, feed egos, or make its leadership rich. It exists to spread the word of God, give believers a place of fellowship and learning with like minds, and to help the needy in the community. What Bishop Leonard preaches is a complete twisting of the teachings of Jesus (who hardly promised wealth or an easy road to his followers) into some spiritual Ponzi scheme.

Just be sure to get in on the bottom floor so that you, too, can get the best loot available, and know that you can’t win if you don’t ante up.

I would never encourage a Christian to not give, but giving should be done with both the heart and the head. With that in mind, here are my own personal rules for giving (whether it is to a church or to a charity.

  1. Giving is what you do to help others, it is not what you do to help yourself.
  2. Give quietly; this isn’t about the individual ego or bragging rights.
  3. Only give to organizations that will use the money well--otherwise you are helping fewer people than you could. Some of the big churches and charities are so heavy with overhead and bureaucracy that little of the money given actually goes to the people who need it most. Investigate and understand where your money is going.
  4. It is often much harder for most of us, leading our busy lives, to give our time. But giving of youself by volunteering with a local charity or organization is often far more useful than putting twenty bucks in the offering plate every week.
  5. For Christians, God isn’t asking just for cash donations, He is asking us to give in service to others. And He isn’t promising us anything in return other than His pleasure and the hope that we can walk a little closer to that perfect person He wishes us to be.

I can’t imagine that I would ever find a moment where I gave money to Heritage Christian Center; I simply don’t trust a huckster like Leonard (who mindlessly insults me and then pushes for 10% of my income) to actually use the money for a good cause. For that matter, I realize that most of the money that is given probably goes to the upkeep on the Biggie-Sized church and the electric bill for the oversized neon “Sinners Welcome” sign.

We all ultimately do what our conscience dictates and mine has loudly encouraged me to find other outlets for my charitable giving.

(More links about Heritage Christian Center can be found in the extended entry.)

Read the Rest...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

My Easter Wish

To all my Christian friends, I would extend wishes for a wonderful Easter. For myself, I hope for a day of reflection on the promise of renewal found in the resurrection; for the personal hope that comes from my faith. For all of us, I would offer a prayer for guidance and wisdom, that our actions would help to make the world a better, more just, more loving place where my friends’ children can grow up safe and happy.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

In Case You Were Wondering… (III)

1. Andy, (possibly) Matt, and I will be deciding the location of the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash tomorrow night. So be looking for the announcement of the venue (along with directions and stuff) Thursday morning.

There is still time to let us know that you’ll be coming (especially if you plan to buy me shots--and I know you do).

2. “Carry Home.” If I ever write a screenplay, I want this song to be on the soundtrack of the multi-gazillion dollar mega hit that I’m sure to have penned. It’s a cover of the Gun Club song, although it takes on an entirely new feel in Mark Lanegan’s version. The rest of the CD, I’ll Take Care of You, is just as good and well worth the purchase.

I thought it would be nice to share.

3. I have fond memories of the ol’ blog-city version of ResurrectionSong. Which is only one of the reasons I’m going to point y’all to Combs Spouts Off--the other of which is that he engages in telling me how wrong I was about some of my Best of Heinlein picks and comes up with some good answers of his own.

4. So the Mayor Ito of Nagasaki thinks that nuclear deterrence as a strategy for keeping the peace is a bad thing. Man, I’m feeling a serious 80’s vibe on this one; it’s almost worth ignoring.

But he asks and I feel obligated to answer for myself (your mileage may vary).

“We understand your anger and anxiety over the memories of the horror of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Yet, is your security actually enhanced by your government’s policies of maintaining 10,000 nuclear weapons, of carrying out repeated subcritical nuclear tests, and of pursuing the development of new mini nuclear weapons?” Ito asked.

The answer, of course, is yes. Yes, I do feel safer knowing that my country has the power to project its will incrementally from diplomatic pressure in the UN to a single SEAL team involved in the most surgical of missions to the punishing air strikes that kept Libya quiet for so many years to the kind of military expedition that can topple the majority of the world’s governments in just a matter of weeks to the threat of nuclear devastation that ensures that people take our words seriously.

Honestly, there isn’t another country in the world that I would trust with that much power and I hope that Americans realize that it is always in our best interest to keep our government on the shortest possible leash. Using the right tool to support our international interests is vital; but the knowledge that we have an impressively stocked tool chest most certainly is a comfort.

For that matter, I think that it could be argued that the only thing that kept the Cold War from becoming hot enough to destroy Europe in another World War was the nuclear deterrent. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Because a Zealot is a Zealot is a Zealot

And in other news, some Christians work hard to make the rest of us look like jerks.

A sign in front of a Baptist church on one of the most traveled highways in the county stirred controversy over religious tolerance and first-amendment rights this weekend.

A sign in front of Danieltown Baptist Church, located at 2361 U.S. 221 south reads “The Koran needs to be flushed,” and the Rev. Creighton Lovelace, pastor of the church, is not apologizing for the display.

Actually, he has much to apologize for: being intentionally mean-spirited is at the top of the list. While rioting and murdering over the alleged vandalism of a book--even a book of holy writing accepted as being, in essence, the worldly projection of the voice and will of God--is ultimately foolish, it is just as idiotic to show that level of callous disregard for the beliefs of Muslims.

Yet another where I could never, in good conscience, be a member.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Follow-Up

Catallarchy linked my post from last week about homosexuality and the church. The conversation that grew up on their site is well worth the time to read through.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Answering the Question

I love women. My most vivid memories tend to be intimate moments with the women who have come and gone through my life--not necessarily sexual, but intimate.

I can remember the feel of Cindy’s cold nose as she kissed my cheek. It was a snowy Colorado day--the day after a blizzard--and we were walking through snow up to our knees. She had beautiful eyes and a smile that, in memory, still touches my heart. When she stretched up to kiss my cheek, her soft skin brushed against me and I remember feeling a contented happiness.

I can remember my first date with Chris. When we got back to her condo, she asked if I wanted to come in for a bit. We talked for hours, looked through her photo album, and, finally, when it was time to leave I gave her a hug. She leaned into me; a fragile body holding me tight and smelling like oranges (she used soap from Mary Kay that always left just the slightest taste and smell of spices and orange on her skin). She kissed me on the neck--a surprising, sweet gesture that left me grinning and feeling that same little bit of contentment.

I have other little moments locked away in my head like that, some with my current girlfriend, some with Cindy or Chris or Joy. Little tiny things that define the greatest joys of my life. Most I could share in public, some I most certainly couldn’t; love and intimacy are never confined to purely sexual expressions.

And while some of my Christian brothers and sisters labor under the belief that homosexuality is a broken, sad, searching thing, I know the reality: it’s a very different expression of love only in that the genders aren’t mixed. Aside from that, the gay men and lesbian women I know want, and if they are lucky, have experienced those same moments of all-encompassing contentment that I did when I my marriage was good.

Read the Rest...

Question of the Day

If you could tell the church one thing about homosexuality, what would it be?

That’s the question that our friend, Randy Thomas, is asking on his site. Later today or early this evening, you’ll have my answer, and, hopefully, it won’t alienate all of my friends. But, for anyone who feels that they can say something productive or useful, who has an opinion that they can express without going out of their way to be offensive and rude, and who has more than just a knee-jerk reaction to any gay-related topics, I would encourage you to give Randy your answer.

While he’s asking for comments in the comment thread, I’ll be posting something a little bit longer. The fact that he asked me shows that he is interested in views that are distinctly different from his own--if you respond, please respect that openness and inquisitiveness.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

They Were Hoping for a Pope Who Wasn’t Really Catholic

There is a noisy group of folks who seem to have believed that the Pope shouldn’t actually be Catholic. They wanted a Pope who would toss out two millennia of tradition, teaching, and belief in favor or precisely what? The first Unitarian Pope?

We all know by now that Andrew Sullivan was hoping for the first gay Pope (even if he won’t say it in quite that way). Similarly, Mark Morford was hoping for Pope Morford I.

See, most spiritually progressive peoples the world over were sort of hoping for a new pope who would recognize this as a historic opportunity, an unprecedented moment for the church to finally get with the times, modernize, shake off the dust and roll some bones and pry open some of those old dungeon doors and bring in some goddamn light. 

You know what we wanted? More sex. Love. Good TV. Gender freedom. Better wine. Less sneering doctrine and homophobia and sexism and more fun with condoms and music and spiritual joy. But, instead, we got you.

What bugs me most about this is that there is no honesty in this kind of an attack. The first, and most dishonest, bit is that Morford doesn’t bother admitting that he isn’t Catholic. In fact, he makes a good part of his career on bashing Christians and Christianity. His statement about “most spiritually progressive peoples” is as biased as it is unwieldy (Peoples? Was this just a typo or was he truly trying to make a plural more plural?). He wants us to use his definition of what a progressive Christian should look like, never mind that he doesn’t actually claim Christianity for himself.

Isn’t that something like a Baptist trying to tell Anton LeVay how to be a better Satanist?

The truth is that I don’t agree with the Catholic Church’s teachings on some things that I consider very important. And while I’ll happily, and vocally, disagree, I wouldn’t be caught telling members of the Church that they hired the wrong guy to represent their beliefs--all I would really be saying is that they hired the wrong guy to represent my beliefs. I don’t think Mark Morford can see the difference because I don’t think the man is capable of civil disagreement; there is one path to righteousness, and he leads the way.

Morford offers up 14 ideas, meant, I’m sure, to be wildly entertaining. Instead, most of it is just juvenile and irritating--a list as meaningless as his approval of the Pope (or the Church, or of Christianity in general). Maybe we should pool together and come up with “14 Ways for Mark Morford to be Less of an Ass.” I’m sure it would have just as much of a lasting impact on him as his little harangue will have on the Catholic Church.

Read Morford’s article.

Update: Sparkle has linked us up with some thoughts on the subject.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI

Frankly, I was hoping that the white smoke/black smoke thing would go on for a few more days. But the white smoke has gone up, the bells have rung, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been selected as the new Bishop of Rome.

Here’s my prayer that Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, will prove to be a wise, compassionate, and good pontiff.

PS-- Right Wing Sparkle sounds downright giddy. And Michelle Malkin has links to all sorts of informative links. Andrew Sullivan seems, ahem, a bit less happy than others.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Black Smoke

Am I the only one who finds the whole black smoke/white smoke thing intriguing?

Chemicals are added to colour the smoke - black smoke signals failure to agree on a candidate, while white smoke means a new pope has been chosen.

The last time a new Pope was chosen, I was far too young to notice these things, and, as far as I can remember, my parents weren’t terribly interested. Now that I’m older, I’m far more interested in the traditions and rituals that are part of Catholicism. There are even times that I’m a bit jealous of those ceremonies, even while realizing that the Catholic church would probably be a poor fit for me. Then again, the Baptist church doesn’t seem to fit as well as it once did, either.

Seeing the photos of Pope John Paul II lying in state, reading about the black smoke and the white smoke, and even delving a bit into the history of the Catholic church has been wonderful. The sense of something ancient and solemn does something to add to the religious observance.

Read the story.

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