Archive for the ‘Religion’ category

“God Hates Jerry Falwell”

May 16, 2007

Really:

Nothing I can add to that. But here’s a list of his life’s work if you’re wondering what led to Falwell’s condemnation.

Oh, and if you want a different perspective, here’s Tinky Winky’s Falwell eulogy.

UPDATE: Jesus’ General links here with “The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways.” And so to does the blogosphere. Act in mysterious ways, that is, as this post – one absent any commentary or insight (and needing none; the insanity speaking for itself) – had already become my all time most visited, even without all the guests referred by the General.

My Favorite Hymn

April 6, 2007

It’s by a protestant, but I couldn’t help but think of it while taking part in the Stations of the Cross at St. Paul’s this Good Friday:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God,
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down,
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

“See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down.” What’s to say about it, really? There’s no commentaty to add. The picture is perfect.

I guess that’s why I’ve always loved this song. Long before I was a Catholic contemplating the Stations of the Cross, this song brought my mind to Calvary. It draws you into the subject so that you really experience the passion. It tells you to look and see for yourself. In doing so, it inspires more devotion than a thousand Easter sermons ever could. It’s one thing to be told that Jesus died for the sins of all people; it’s another to see it happen, even if the sight is by the mind’s eye.

The use of imagery, I think, also means the song’s power does not depend on theological interpretations of the crucifixion. How, exactly, did Jesus’ death reconcile humanity to God? The song does not say, leaving us to experience the sacrifice through whatever explanation we’ve been taught. However Jesus’ death may have atoned for sin, the point is that it atoned for sin.

I’ll even say that the song is powerful if you think Jesus’ death did nothing but end his life. That is, if you think everything the Christians celebrate this weekend is a myth – that in reality Jesus was nuts, or the whole thing never happened – it’s a myth of the highest order and well worth spending a few moments pondering. The whole thing may be an ancient story, but who wouldn’t benefit from such an example of self-sacrifice, patience, faith, and love?

Religion And Booze

March 30, 2007

Here’s my earlier post about Baptists, beer and crawfish. Now some related jokes I have recently heard.

1. The difference between a baptist and a methodist is that the methodist will speak to you in the line at the liquor store.

2. Why do you take 2 baptists fishing with you instead of one? Because if you only take one he’ll drink all your beer.

3. A presbyterian is a methodist with a drinking problem that can’t afford to be an episcopalian.

4. Do you know how many Episcopalians it takes to change a light bulb? Three. One to mix the drinks, one to call the electrician, and one to talk about how much better the old one was.

5. The Catholic dictionary:

AMEN: The only part of a prayer that everyone knows.
BULLETIN: Your receipt for attending Mass.
CHOIR: A group of people whose singing allows the rest of the Parish to lip-sync.
HOLY WATER: A liquid whose chemical formula is H2OLY
HYMN: A song of praise usually sung in a key three octaves higher than that of the congregation’s range.
RECESSIONAL HYMN: The last song at Mass often sung a little more quietly, since most of the people have already left.
INCENSE: Holy Smoke!
JESUITS: An order of priests known for their
ability to find colleges with good basketball teams.
JONAH: The original “Jaws” story.
JUSTICE: When kids have kids of their own.
KYRIE ELEISON: The only Greek words that most Catholics can recognize besides gyros and baklava.
MAGI: The most famous trio to attend a baby shower.
MANGER: Where Mary gave birth to Jesus because Joseph wasn’t covered by an HMO (The Bible’s way of showing us that holiday travel has always been rough.)
PEW: A medieval torture device still found in Catholic churches.
PROCESSION: The ceremonial formation at the beginning of Mass consisting of altar servers, the celebrant, and late parishioners looking for seats.
RECESSIONAL: The ceremonial procession at the conclusion of Mass led by parishioners trying to beat the crowd to the parking lot.
RELICS: People who have been going to Mass for so long, they actually know when to sit, kneel and stand.
TEN COMMANDMENTS: The most important Top Ten list not given by David Letterman.
USHERS: The only people in the parish who don’t know the seating capacity of a pew.

These all popped over the last couple of days on a listserv I regularly read. Which brings me to the funniest one of all:

Please remember the intent of the listserv is to share ideas relating to the practice of law. We want this forum to be open, but we ask all members to be thoughtful of others before making a post.

Some listserv members have found the religious references made today highly offensive.

The listserv is a powerful tool for good but it can be abused. Please stop the religious jokes.

Doesn’t want to offend anyone. Must be a Unitarian.  

“we have to be resolutely fearless about the facts”

February 16, 2007

That’s Tim Ritchie, Christian and also President and CEO of McWane Science Center in downtown Birmingham, quoted in the third instalmentof WBHM’s “God Darwin & Dixie” series.

Of course, the debate is over what the “facts” are. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve taken the time to personally investigate the science of evolution. What I know, I know via the authority of scientists.  So the question is whether those authorities are trustworthy. Given the lack of any reason for them to fabricate the idea of evolution, the unanimity on the basics of the theory, and its survival over the last century or so of testing and criticism, I’m going to take the experts at their word.

Especially when the opposition consists of people like this:

Chris Buttars and Gerald Allen, you’ve got another new competitor for the title of America’s Loopiest Legislator, Georgia State Rep. Ben Bridges. Bridges wrote a ridiculous little memo on evolution that is now, for some strange reason, being circulated in the Texas legislature. This man truly knows how to bring the crazy:

Mr. Bridges’ memo claims that teaching evolution amounts to indoctrinating students in an ancient Jewish sect’s beliefs.”Indisputable evidence – long hidden but now available to everyone – demonstrates conclusively that so-called ‘secular evolution science’ is the Big Bang, 15-billion-year, alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion,” writes Mr. Bridges, a Republican from Cleveland, Ga. He has argued against teaching of evolution in Georgia schools for several years.

He then refers to a Web site, http://www.fixedearth.com, that contains a model bill for state Legislatures to pass to attack instruction on evolution as an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Fixedearth.com is the website of Gerardus Bouw, the goofy Calvinist astrophysicist who not only rejects evolution but claims that the earth is the center of the universe and that it does not rotate, but the universe rotates around it. Yes, a real live geocentrist.

This made me a heretic as a Baptist, but I’d much prefer to interpret the Bible in light of reality than to deny the obvious in order to preserve a pre-existing view of the Bible.

A scientific theory that ignored facts would be no theory at all. When a lawyer makes a closing argument, his theme of the case must account for all the facts – good and bad. IMHO, theology is no different. Whatever I believe about God, it better account for all the facts.

God, Or Some Of His Followers Anyway, V. Evolution

February 13, 2007

NPR has had some interesting stories about the latest battles.

First this one:

The first public display of a nearly complete human skeleton — expected later this year — will pit scientists against Kenya’s evangelical movement. The evolution/creationism battle has arrived in a country known as the cradle of mankind.

Then “God, Darwin & Dixie” a three part series by our local station, WBHM. Here’s part one, here’s part two. Part three will be tomorrow.

The local story involves our state’s anti-evolution stickers, which helped earn us an “F” on the Fordham Foundation’s State of State Science Standards report:

Similar and more serious faults are to be found in the life science standards. Most distressing, however, is the long statement provided in the preface to this entire document:

The theory of evolution by natural selection, a theory included in this document, states that natural selection provides the basis for the modern scientific explanation for the diversity of living things. Since natural selection has been observed to play a role in influencing small changes in a population, it is assumed, based on the study of artifacts, that it produces large changes, even though this has not been directly observed. Because of its importance and implications, students should understand the nature of evolutionary theories. They should learn to make distinctions among the multiple meanings of evolution, to distinguish between observations and assumptions used to draw conclusions, and to wrestle with the unanswered questions and unresolved problems still faced by evolutionary theory.

Although this is focused on evolution, and it paraphrases the “critiques” of evolutionary biology currently advanced by “intelligent design” creationism, it quite effectively derogates every branch of science. (There are, for example, many basic, “unanswered questions” about the fundamental forces of nature. Do we, for this reason, warn students to be suspicious of, or to “wrestle with,” the “unresolved problems” of physics?) The Alabama preface sows confusion and offers a distorted view of what science is and how it is pursued. The quoted paragraph is preceded by mention of Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein, all physicists or astronomers; it then launches into an attack by misdirection on (evolutionary) biology. The statement is obviously of political, rather than scientific inspiration, and it reinforces the grade of “F.”

Both stories are well worth a listen.

Personally, I have no problems with someone who objects to evolution. I don’t think a faith that ignores reality is much of a faith, but hey, that’s just me. Where I draw the line is attempts by the anti-evolution crowd to insert their religious beliefs into science classes.

Religion, Politics, Virgil Goode, and DBT

December 22, 2006

Yesterday, I wanted to comment on the latest development in the Keith Ellison story, but because all I would have said was something like “Virgil Goode is a dumba** racist f**king P.O.S.” I decided to wait and comment on it today.

You know the background, Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress and plans on taking his oath with his hand on a Quran. That has some folks extremely mad. Dennis Prager started it with his demand that Ellison swear on a Bible or not at all. Roy Moore upped the theocratic ante by saying Congress ought to ban Ellison from even serving in Congress. I’ve got links to all these stories, and refutations of Prager and Moore, here.

Then yesterday, this story broke nationally:

In a letter sent to hundreds of voters this month, Representative Virgil H. Goode Jr., Republican of Virginia, warned that the recent election of the first Muslim to Congress posed a serious threat to the nation’s traditional values.

Mr. Goode was referring to Keith Ellison, the Minnesota Democrat and criminal defense lawyer who converted to Islam as a college student and was elected to the House in November. Mr. Ellison’s plan to use the Koran during his private swearing-in ceremony in January had outraged some Virginia voters, prompting Mr. Goode to issue a written response to them, a spokesman for Mr. Goode said.

Here’s Goode’s written response:

Dear Mr. Cruickshank:

   Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.” Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

Sincerely yours,
Virgil H. Goode, Jr.
70 East Court Street
Suite 215
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151

Well, I waited a day to comment, and still all I want to do is agree with the Charlottesville Weekly, the paper that first broke the story, doing so with the headline “Goode makes complete ass of self.”

Really, where do you start? The ridiculous non-sequitur of using as a reason for restricting immigration the election to Congress of a person born and raised in the United States? The incredible hubris and ignorance displayed when Goode proudly declares that, though he represents an entire district of people, he has no concern for the religious beliefs of anyone except his fellow Christians? The clap-trap about traditional values?

And of course, Goode completely embraces the stupidity of Moore and Prager. An oath only matters if the swearer respects the thing on which he swears. So of course a Muslim ought to swear on a Quran and a Christian on a Bible. This is a non-issue. Besides, Congress is totally powerless to require one book or another, or that its members be one religion or another. The Constitution is clear: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

But this letter got to me even more than the idiocy of Prager and Moore. I’ve spent the last day thinking about it, and I’m not sure why. But here’s my best guess.

Goode’s letter was in response to letters and e-mails he received from his constituents. I understand their concern. Like it or not, fair or not, reasonable or not, for plenty of people Muslim is a proxy for theocratic insanity. Based on the behavior of some Muslims as reported in the news, I do not think that is an entirely unreasonable presumption. Nor would I think it unreasonable for someone to presume Christians are violent, ignorant bigots. Or that Mormons are fools.

I think what makes me mad about Virgil Goode is that he heard this concern and inflamed it. Instead of trying to explain how oaths work, and that our Constitution gives people of all religions – or none – equal treatment, and that the people of Minnessota chose Mr. Ellison as their representative just like the people of Virginia chose him, rather than any of that, Goode encouraged his constituents’ prejudices.

A real leader would have explained that in America, we judge people as individuals. Sure, some Muslims are insane. So are some Christians. And no, I would never, ever vote for a Muslim who thought the Quran was the Supreme Law of the Land, any more than I would vote for a Christian who thinks the Bible is the Supreme Law of the Land. But I would not draw from those particular examples of lunacy the conclusion that no Muslims or Christians can serve in public office. There are far too many rational believers to make such a rule.

As for Keith Ellision the individual, unless the people who elected him are truly foolish, I think we can assume he is not one of the wackos. And he certainly sounds like a reasonable person:

Mr. Ellison dismissed Mr. Goode’s comments, saying they seemed ill informed about his personal origins as well as about Constitutional protections of religious freedom. “I’m not an immigrant,” added Mr. Ellison, who traces his American ancestors back to 1742. “I’m an African-American.”

Since the November election, Mr. Ellison said, he has received hostile phone calls and e-mail messages along with some death threats. But in an interview on Wednesday, he emphasized that members of Congress and ordinary citizens had been overwhelmingly supportive and said he was focusing on setting up his Congressional office, getting phone lines hooked up and staff members hired, not on negative comments.

“I’m not a religious scholar, I’m a politician, and I do what politicians do, which is hopefully pass legislation to help the nation,” said Mr. Ellison, who said he planned to focus on secular issues like increasing the federal minimum wage and getting health insurance for the uninsured.

“I’m looking forward to making friends with Representative Goode, or at least getting to know him,” Mr. Ellison said, speaking by telephone from Minneapolis. “I want to let him know that there’s nothing to fear. The fact that there are many different faiths, many different colors and many different cultures in America is a great strength.”

So there is nothing to fear about Mr. Ellison’s election.

That’s what Goode ought to have said. But he did not. Instead of educating people, he reinforced their prejudices, assuring them he does not like Muslims either.

I do not know if he actually believes the ignorant garbage in that letter, or if he just used it to pander. Ultimately it does not matter. As DBT says about George Wallace:

Now, he said he was the best friend a black man from Alabama ever had,

And I have to admit, compared to Fob James, George Wallace don’t seem that bad

And if it’s true that he wasn’t a racist and he just did all them things for the votes

I guess Hell’s just the place for “kiss ass politicians” who pander to assholes.

Oh well, at least Goode isn’t from Alabama.

Alabama Baptists Anathematize Stuf-Mart

November 17, 2006

They had their annual meeting this week at Six Flags Over Jesus Hunter Street Baptist Church in B’Ham. You can find all their resolutions here. I’ll highlight two.

First, Wal-Mart is evil because it does business with the homersexshuls:

WHEREAS, Alabama Baptists have long supported and believed in the biblical teachings concerning the homosexual lifestyle and the sanctity of marriage being between one man and one woman, and have supported the constitutional ban on homosexual marriage; and

WHEREAS, more than 81% of Alabamians recently voted in favor of The Sanctity of Marriage Amendment to the Alabama Constitution; and

WHEREAS, many Alabama Baptists regularly patronize Wal-Mart because of its appeal to the average consumer and its convenient locations; and

WHEREAS, according to the American Family Association, Wal-Mart in August of 2006 asked and received permission to join the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, pledging to give them $25,000.00 and fund two conferences scheduled by the NGLCC.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, we the messengers to the Alabama Baptist State Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, November 14-15, 2006, call upon our denominational leadership, pastors, and church members to inform Wal-Mart at the local and national levels of our biblical beliefs concerning the homosexual lifestyle and our support of the constitutional ban on homosexual marriage; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we encourage Wal-Mart to reconsider its actions which are contrary to the biblical beliefs of many of its customers; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that we encourage the 3,249 Alabama Baptist churches and their members to pray that corporate leaders at Wal-Mart as well as other companies will conduct their business in accordance with biblical principles.

Now, if the problem is that Wal-Mart is not conducting its business “in accordance with biblical principles,” then why no resolution about sex discrimination? Or making people work overtime, but not paying them for it? Or selling clothes made from two kinds of cloth, for that matter? Why does this one particular violation get them in such a tizzy? 

Two, and this is my favorite, if you drink, you are going to end up as a junky living on the streets:

WHEREAS, Resolution No. 5 was overwhelmingly adopted at the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2006, concerning the support of organizations that educate people on the destructive effects of alcohol and that promote abstinence; and

WHEREAS, the Bible warns of the dangers associated with alcohol use (e.g., Proverbs 23:29-35); and

WHEREAS, alcohol use has led to countless injuries and deaths on Alabama’s highways; and

WHEREAS, the breakup of families and homes can be directly and indirectly attributed to alcohol use by one or more members of a family; and

WHEREAS, the use of alcohol as a recreational beverage has been shown to lead individuals down a path toward the use and abuse of other kinds of drugs, both legal and illegal; and

WHEREAS, alcohol use is a problem that directly or indirectly impacts many Alabama Baptist churches.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, we the messengers to the Alabama Baptist State Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, November 14-15, 2006, express our total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing and consuming of alcoholic beverages; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Alabama Baptists take an active role in supporting local legislation that is intended to curb alcohol use in our communities and nation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge Alabama Baptists to be actively involved in educating students and adults concerning the destructive nature of alcoholic beverages; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that we commend organizations and ministries that treat alcohol-related problems from a biblical perspective, and organizations, such as the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP), that promote abstinence and encourage legislation designed to limit the sale and use of alcoholic beverages.

I commented on the National Convention’s version of this resolution here. Contrary to the resolution, the Bible does NOT warn “of the dangers associated with alcohol use.” And it most certainly does not support teetotalism. Here’s the passage quoted by the resolution:

29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
       Who has strife? Who has complaints?
       Who has needless bruises? Who has    bloodshot eyes?

 30 Those who linger over wine,
       who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.

 31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
       when it sparkles in the cup,
       when it goes down smoothly!

 32 In the end it bites like a snake
       and poisons like a viper.

 33 Your eyes will see strange sights
       and your mind imagine confusing things.

 34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
       lying on top of the rigging.

 35 “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!
       They beat me, but I don’t feel it!
       When will I wake up
       so I can find another drink?”

Wonderful writing, but by no means support for a total ban on alcohol. Who has the problem, according to the passage? “Those who linger over wine.” Alcohol is no different than anything else in the world: Good in moderation, but subject to abuse.

Like I said in the earlier post, if the Baptists think alcohol is inherently bad, then they need to condemn Jesus too:

Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into very good wine. He was called a wine bibber.  And don’t forget Psalm 104, where we learn God

causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;

And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.

Don’t misread me, I used to be a Baptist, and plenty of my family members still are. But this kind of stuff is just dumb. The old joke was that the sum of Baptist ethics was “don’t drink smoke cuss or chew, or hang around with girls who do.” I’ve always thought the Bible had a much more robust message than that, and I think most Baptists do, too. These resolutions, though, simply reinforce the stereotype of Baptists as people who don’t belive in fun and who do believe in cherry picking parts of the Bible to support their own prejudices.

Now I know the true faithful will answer that Christians should only be concerned with what God thinks about them, and not with what other people might think. I have no quibble with that principle other than to point out that what people think about God may be affected by what the faithful say and do.  

Then again, I suppose having a beer after work tonight could lead to rolling doobies tomorrow, and we all know what that eventually leads to: