Archive for September, 2010

30
Sep
10

When explanations make sense…

Ok. I’m a nerd. But, I found this to be awesome. It is simple. It is visual. It is straightforward. How can anyone misunderstand this? How can you spin it to be negative?I can’t wait to see how the GOP does it. Frank Luntz will find some amazing buzz phrase, I’m sure. Still, look at the dots people! Just follow the dots. Maybe the dots need to come off the board and bounce along with a jingle… “Everyone gets tax cuts up to 250k. Even the rich guys get some. It’s a pretty fair way. But the cost of the red dots is dumb.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

08
Sep
10

The Savage Power of Google and Bible Burning

Two unrelated comments:

1) Is there anyone getting together a protest of the crazy idiot in Florida that plans to burn Korans on Saturday? Is there a Bible burning in response?

2) There is nothing scarier to me that Rick Santorum running for president. (Well, Palin winning would be scary, but it would be funny as hell to see her run.) If it scares you too, then click on the sight www.spreadingsantorum.com a few times. One of the problems his strategist are having is that when you google Santorum, this site is within the top three. The site was created years ago by Dan Savage in response to Santorum’s offensive comments about homosexuality, comparing it to pedophilia and bestiality. The site is a product of a contest for the best slang terms to “memorialize the scandal”. Santorum is the neologism for “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.” The idea of Dan Savage. The power of google. The right of the people to vote by clicking!

06
Sep
10

The long scope of history

Reverend Jeffress, pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church.  What a piece of work.  Anyone with so many people’s ear should be more circumspect.  Even if he has these moronic opinions you’d think he’d have enough sense to keep them to himself.

In case you are getting here late, the good reverend stated, from the pulpit, that Islam is an evil religion, full of pedophiles.  Oh, and that the Crusades weren’t all that bad.  He went into more detail but you get the gist.  He incited the congregation and got an ovation for his efforts.  Clearly he was not the only small mind in attendance that day.

If the 2 previous paragraphs didn’t clue you in, I’m about to give my opinion:

The top five religions of the world all share the same thoughts on how to treat people and the best way to travel through this world:  Kindness.  You don’t have to read the Koran to know this.  Google it.  Better yet, find a Koran online and just read the prophet’s last prayer.  His final word on the subject of life, the universe and everything is kindness to one another.  The bible says the same thing, doesn’t it?  I mean, as an overall theme?

I will grant that Islam places God (or rather, Allah) before the state but don’t most Christians?

So what’s the real problem here?  I mean, how did this weird worldview come to be?  Once again, I have an opinion:  The ‘good reverend’, while seeing things from the wholly self-righteous view point of ‘conservative Christian’, is unable to see the reach of history.

Let’s start at the start:  When was the Bronze Age?  In Europe is was from 3000 to 600 b.c.  In Korea it was 800 to 400 b.c.  My point is, the Bronze Age isn’t a fixed point in planetary history because not all cultures are at the same level of development at the same time.  This is due, I imagine, to the supply of food, the resources available and the space that a population has to expand into, etc.

In the ‘60’s we pretended that the American Indian didn’t really do any bad things…well, unless provoked by those nasty white folk.  Closer examination proves they did.  So are the aforementioned white folk better people?  Hell no.  They were (most of them) just a little further up the ladder at that time.  We committed our atrocities before we left Europe (ok, mostly).

Which brings us to today.  The west is a (more or less) civilized world.  The near east largely isn’t.  They are hundreds of years behind us, culturally.  In some ways, thousands of years.  So is most of Africa and a hundred other spots on  the globe.  Let me be very clear on this point:  I am NOT claiming superiority here.  I am saying that much of the world is acting and reacting as we did several hundred years ago because they do not, or did not, have the advantages or resources that we have.  From a Christian viewpoint it would seem that we’d be a little more understanding – given our ‘blessings’ and all.  “We” committed heinous crimes then.  “They” do it now.  In the scope of history, it’s a small gap. The fact that the middle east is so tribal doesn’t help either.  What the disparity does mean is that the technology of the modern world is available to the primitive world.  The more “primitive” cultures can now kill a lot more people than we ever could, back in the day.

People who know me know that I give short shrift to religion in general.  Even so, I think it’s clear that religious sects aren’t things.  They are groups of people and sometimes people do stupid things.  Even evil things.  I’m not saying that some fundamentalist Islamists don’t.  I am saying that some fundamentalist Christians do too.  Evil and stupidity are universal and it’s ignorant and harmful to look down on others who are where we once were.

Finally, please note that I do not mean “all people” do anything or that evil only takes place “then” or “there”.  There are always exceptions.  Baptists today are civilized human beings.  Mostly.

05
Sep
10

Ah, the inquisition wasn’t that bad.

Prolix, our all too infrequent blogger, called me this morning incensed about a story in the opinion section of the Dallas Morning News by Steve Blow.  I look forward to his insights on this page soon. http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/localnews/columnists/sblow/stories/090510dnmetblow.19e1646.html The link to the story also contains a link to the video of Rev. Robert Jeffress of Dallas’s First Baptist Church.

As the columnist says – where do you begin with so much nonsense?

Let me start where I always do – me. My boy wanted to go to church with his friends today. And I had to think about it. Do I really want him exposed to that? I truly want him to decide on his own what he believes. Yet, I worry. My tortured relationship with religion has made me gun shy. I let him go and fully expect that it will lead to a conversation later on this evening. For the record, the church he attended today was Catholic.

With that as the frame work, now take Rev. Jeffress. To hear him state that, sure, the inquisition and the crusades were bad, but that it had all been blown out of proportion was disturbing. He states that more people were killed on 9/11/2001 than during the entire inquisition. Being no expert on the subject I had to resort to a search. Really, the numbers simply cannot be verified and no one agrees on the human toll of the inquisition. The figure of 2,000 is given in some places and is based on the records in Spanish archives of 48,000 trials during that time period. So, if you only count those with specific records of execution, then the figure he gives is accurate. Other accounts estimate the count as 125,000 people, however. Looking beyond just the numbers, there really are no similarities here. The inquisition spanned centuries, it was a product of powerful governments and inflicted terror on uneducated masses. By contrast, 9/11/2001 was one incident, in a series of events, where by a small band of extremist perpetrated a crime on innocent people. It is as heinous and horrible as can be. Still, Al Qaeda is not a powerful nation. It is not even a nation. The Taliban even while in power were rulers of Afghanistan, one of the poorest and underdeveloped nations on the globe. They are not mighty. They are not reigning down fear on people that are illiterate – except in their own small portion of the world. While both the past atrocities of Christians in collusion with state power and current atrocities of a radical few in the name of Islam are terrible perversions of religion, the scale is simply not comparable. The term for what Rev. Jeffress was doing is white-washing.

But, he was not done. He says, rightly, that nowhere in the New Testament does it say you should kill in the name of Christ. Basically, our holy book is better than theirs. He states that there are 35 passages in the Qur’an that are used to justify violence. Ok. I cannot claim a knowledge of the Qur’an either. I did go to church 3 times a week growing up, though. While the New Testament is “turn the other cheek”, the Old Testament is “slaughter everyone in that city because I said you could have it”. It is highly disingenuous to claim the Bible has no call to violence. No one in Christendom has disowned the Old Testament as part of the religious text. It is all “the Word of God”. Most modern Christians pick and choose what they use and believe of the Bible, whether they even know it or not. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t eat shellfish for example, because it is listed as one of the “don’ts” in Deuteronomy or Leviticus – those two crazy books that are like your crazy uncles that you never want to talk about.

He also claims that Islam oppresses women. He is correct it does. So does Christianity. Women are to be subject to their husbands, according to the Bible. Paul, in all of his wisdom, proclaims that “women should be quiet in the churches”. What is that line from the Holy Book? Do not pluck the splinter out of your neighbor’s eye until you have removed the plank from your own?

Still, he was not done. The most incendiary portion of the clip is where he explains that Islam is a promoter of pedophilia. He says that Mohammed had sex with a nine-year-old and thus today Muslim men have sex with four-year-olds, taking them as their wife. If it was ok for the prophet, it is ok for them. This claim is based on the story of A’isha, daughter of Abu Bakr, who the prophet took as a wife when she was nine. There is debate in Islam over whether he consummated the marriage with A’isha at that age. Still, it is truth that there are horrendous things done to women in the name of Islam, including child brides. But, as referenced above, while not on the same scale, Christianity is not blameless here either. While Morman’s are the stepchildren to most Christians, they still believe in Christ and as has been in the news, sects are periodically prosecuted in court for marrying underage girls to older men. While Rev. Jeffress is a Baptist, and if it is anything like it was when I was young, Baptists don’t think of Catholics as true Christians. Nevertheless, he blast Islam for their atrocities while the atrocities of the Catholic church harboring pedophiles all across the globe is plastered across the world media. See again the reference to removing splinter from your neighbor’s eye.

He ends his little speech by saying it is time for Christians to take off the gloves. Sounds like he is spoiling for a holy war to me. The church audiences stands and cheers.

I wish I had never said it was ok for my boy to go to church. It is a dangerous place to be.