Screwing for Virginity

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

R.S.V.P.: A Letter from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the American People

Message of H.E. Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
To the American People
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
O, Almighty God, bestow upon humanity the perfect human being promised to all by You, and make us among his followers.

Noble Americans,
Were we not faced with the activities of the US administration in this part of the world and the negative ramifications of those activities on the daily lives of our peoples, coupled with the many wars and calamities caused by the US administration as well as the tragic consequences of US interference in other countries; Were the American people not God-fearing, truth-loving, and justice-seeking, while the US administration actively conceals the truth and impedes any objective portrayal of current realities; And if we did not share a common responsibility to promote and protect freedom and human dignity and integrity; Then, there would have been little urgency to have a dialogue with you.
While Divine providence has placed Iran and the United States geographically far apart, we should be cognizant that human values and our common human spirit, which proclaim the dignity and exalted worth of all human beings, have brought our two great nations of Iran and the United States closer together. Both our nations are God-fearing, truth-loving and justice-seeking, and both seek dignity, respect and perfection.
Both greatly value and readily embrace the promotion of human ideals such as compassion, empathy, respect for the rights of human beings, securing justice and equity, and defending the innocent and the weak against oppressors and bullies.
We are all inclined towards the good, and towards extending a helping hand to one another, particularly to those in need. We all deplore injustice, the trampling of peoples’ rights and the intimidation and humiliation of human beings. We all detest darkness, deceit, lies and distortion, and seek and admire salvation, enlightenment, sincerity and honesty. The pure human essence of the two great nations of Iran and the United States testify to the veracity of these statements.
Noble Americans,
Our nation has always extended its hand of friendship to all other nations of the world. Hundreds of thousands of my Iranian compatriots are living amongst you in friendship and peace, and are contributing positively to your society. Our people have been in contact with you over the past many years and have maintained these contacts despite the unnecessary restrictions of US authorities. As mentioned, we have common concerns, face similar challenges, and are pained by the sufferings and afflictions in the world.
We, like you, are aggrieved by the ever-worsening pain and misery of the Palestinian people. Persistent aggressions by the Zionists are making life more and more difficult for the rightful owners of the land of Palestine. In broad daylight, in front of cameras and before the eyes of the world, they are bombarding innocent defenseless civilians, bulldozing houses, firing machine guns at students in the streets and alleys, and subjecting their families to endless grief. No day goes by without a new crime.
Palestinian mothers, just like Iranian and American mothers, love their children, and are painfully bereaved by the imprisonment, wounding and murder of their children. What mother wouldn’t?
For 60 years, the Zionist regime has driven millions of the inhabitants of Palestine out of their homes. Many of these refugees have died in the Diaspora and in refugee camps. Their children have spent their youth in these camps and are aging while still in the hope of returning to homeland.
You know well that the US administration has persistently provided blind and blanket support to the Zionist regime, has emboldened it to continue its crimes, and has prevented the UN Security Council from condemning it. Who can deny such broken promises and grave injustices towards humanity by the US administration?
Governments are there to serve their own people. No people wants to side with or support any oppressors. But regrettably, the US administration disregards even its own public opinion and remains in the forefront of supporting the trampling of the rights of the Palestinian people.
Let’s take a look at Iraq. Since the commencement of the US military presence in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, maimed or displaced. Terrorism in Iraq has grown exponentially. With the presence of the US military in Iraq, nothing has been done to rebuild the ruins, to restore the infrastructure or to alleviate poverty. The US Government used the pretext of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but later it became clear that that was just a lie and a deception.
Although Saddam was overthrown and people are happy about his departure, the pain and suffering of the Iraqi people has persisted and has even been aggravated.
In Iraq, about one hundred and fifty thousand American soldiers, separated from their families and loved ones, are operating under the command of the current US administration. A substantial number of them have been killed or wounded and their presence in Iraq has tarnished the image of the American people and government.
Their mothers and relatives have, on numerous occasions, displayed their discontent with the presence of their sons and daughters in a land thousands of miles away from US shores. American soldiers often wonder why they have been sent to Iraq.
I consider it extremely unlikely that you, the American people, consent to the billions of dollars of annual expenditure from your treasury for this military misadventure.
Noble Americans,
You have heard that the US administration is kidnapping its presumed opponents from across the globe and arbitrarily holding them without trial or any international supervision in horrendous prisons that it has established in various parts of the world. God knows who these detainees actually are, and what terrible fate awaits them.
You have certainly heard the sad stories of the Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib prisons. The US administration attempts to justify them through its proclaimed “war on terror.” But every one knows that such behavior, in fact, offends global public opinion, exacerbates resentment and thereby spreads terrorism, and tarnishes the US image and its credibility among nations.
The US administration’s illegal and immoral behavior is not even confined to outside its borders. You are witnessing daily that under the pretext of “the war on terror,” civil liberties in the United States are being increasingly curtailed. Even the privacy of individuals is fast losing its meaning. Judicial due process and fundamental rights are trampled upon. Private phones are tapped, suspects are arbitrarily arrested, sometimes beaten in the streets, or even shot to death. I have no doubt that the American people do not approve of this behavior and indeed deplore it.
The US administration does not accept accountability before any organization, institution or council. The US administration has undermined the credibility of international organizations, particularly the United Nations and its Security Council. But, I do not intend to address all the challenges and calamities in this message.
The legitimacy, power and influence of a government do not emanate from its arsenals of tanks, fighter aircrafts, missiles or nuclear weapons. Legitimacy and influence reside in sound logic, quest for justice and compassion and empathy for all humanity. The global position of the United States is in all probability weakened because the administration has continued to resort to force, to conceal the truth, and to mislead the American people about its policies and practices. Undoubtedly, the American people are not satisfied with this behavior and they showed their discontent in the recent elections. I hope that in the wake of the mid-term elections, the administration of President Bush will have heard and will heed the message of the American people.
My questions are the following:
Is there not a better approach to governance?
Is it not possible to put wealth and power in the service of peace, stability, prosperity and the happiness of all peoples through a commitment to justice and respect for the rights of all nations, instead of aggression and war?
We all condemn terrorism, because its victims are the innocent. But, can terrorism be contained and eradicated through war, destruction and the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocents?
If that were possible, then why has the problem not been resolved? The sad experience of invading Iraq is before us all.
What has blind support for the Zionists by the US administration brought for the American people? It is regrettable that for the US administration, the interests of these occupiers supersedes the interests of the American people and of the other nations of the world.
What have the Zionists done for the American people that the US administration considers itself obliged to blindly support these infamous aggressors? Is it not because they have imposed themselves on a substantial portion of the banking, financial, cultural and media sectors?
I recommend that in a demonstration of respect for the American people and for humanity, the right of Palestinians to live in their own homeland should be recognized so that millions of Palestinian refugees can return to their homes and the future of all of Palestine and its form of government be determined in a referendum. This will benefit everyone.
Now that Iraq has a Constitution and an independent Assembly and Government, would it not be more beneficial to bring the US officers and soldiers home, and to spend the astronomical US military expenditures in Iraq for the welfare and prosperity of the American people? As you know very well, many victims of Katrina continue to suffer, and countless Americans continue to live in poverty and homelessness.
I’d also like to say a word to the winners of the recent elections in the US: The United States has had many administrations; some who have left a positive legacy, and others that are neither remembered fondly by the American people nor by other nations.
Now that you control an important branch of the US Government, you will also be held to account by the people and by history
If the US Government meets the current domestic and external challenges with an approach based on truth and Justice, it can remedy some of the past afflictions and alleviate some of the global resentment and hatred of America. But if the approach remains the same, it would not be unexpected that the American people would similarly reject the new electoral winners, although the recent elections, rather than reflecting a victory, in reality point to the failure of the current administration’s policies. These issues had been extensively dealt with in my letter to President Bush earlier this year.
To sum up:
It is possible to govern based on an approach that is distinctly different from one of coercion, force and injustice.
It is possible to sincerely serve and promote common human values, and honesty and compassion.
It is possible to provide welfare and prosperity without tension, threats, imposition or war.
It is possible to lead the world towards the aspired perfection by adhering to unity, monotheism, morality and spirituality and drawing upon the teachings of the Divine Prophets.
Then, the American people, who are God-fearing and followers of Divine religions, will overcome every difficulty.
What I stated represents some of my anxieties and concerns.
I am confident that you, the American people, will play an instrumental role in the establishment of justice and spirituality throughout the world. The promises of the Almighty and His prophets will certainly be realized, Justice and Truth will prevail and all nations will live a true life in a climate replete with love, compassion and fraternity.
The US governing establishment, the authorities and the powerful should not choose irreversible paths. As all prophets have taught us, injustice and transgression will eventually bring about decline and demise. Today, the path of return to faith and spirituality is open and unimpeded.
We should all heed the Divine Word of the Holy Qur’an:
“But those who repent, have faith and do good may receive Salvation. Your Lord, alone, creates and chooses as He will, and others have no part in His choice; Glorified is God and Exalted above any partners they ascribe to Him.” (28:67-68)
I pray to the Almighty to bless the Iranian and American nations and indeed all nations of the world with dignity and success.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
29 November 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11: In Memoriam

Prior to the commencement of his presidency, George W. Bush’s campaign slogan was “Bringing America Together”. Apparently, according to the Republican Party in general, and Bush in particular, the grand old U.S. of A. was experiencing crises of national identity. Whether there was an internal conflict of Us/Them in the United States or not, Bush’s dreams were answered at the precise moment that two planes crashed into the national monument known as the World Trade Center, five years ago. The “crises of national identity found its provisional resolution by displacing the internal conflict of Us/Them on an external screen.” (Richard Kearney) The body politic known as the United States was (re)united on September 11, 2001, just like the separatist Puritans and the non-religious adventurers were united under the Mayflower Compact or like how frontiersmen put there differences aside while expanding America’s borders westward. This time, however, “we” were not arriving to the New World on the Mayflower or pushing the frontier further west in stagecoaches or covered wagons and uniting against the savage “Indians”, instead, “they” were the savages arriving on airplanes, crashing into buildings, nevertheless, again we united against “them”. Our crises of national identity, our differences were put behind us; America had been brought together against “them”; against savage terrorists. We were once again the United States of America.
However, it was indeed a “provisional resolution”. Between the attack upon the World Trade Center and today, five years later, we have seen the Bush administration declare preemptive war on Iraq, declare an endless “war on terrorism”, curtail civil rights, defy laws, resort to overwhelming force, and other actions, like these, that are “ready products of fear and hasty thought.” (Wendell Berry) Again we are experiencing crises of national identity; Americans are no longer united over the issues of war in Iraq (how is this connected to 9/11 again?), war in Afghanistan, or war on terrorism. Words like “freedom” are evoked to reunite the body politic, because who is against “freedom”? Terrorists. This administration is fighting for “freedom” against those who are against “freedom”, so if you are against this administrations actions, you are against “freedom” (you are no better than a terrorist) because this administration is fighting for “freedom”. This logic disintegrates public dialogue into ad hominem arguments, words like “freedom” disintegrate into rhetoric of self-righteousness and self-justification, and critical self-appraisal is thrown out with the bathwater. We are implored to remember the victims aboard the planes and in the towers who died on this fateful day, but these are just disguised calls to revenge and resentment, to increase military funding (recall Eisenhower’s warning against the military-industrial complex), to give our endless support to the thriving bureaucracy, in order to stamp out these “embittered few”, these “thousands of trained terrorists” so “innocents” who died on 9/11 and others will not have died in vain (The National Security Strategy). But will retaliating in immature and dangerous ways, will the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of “innocents” in Iraq and Afghanistan, will the deaths of thousands of American, Canadian, English, Iraq, and Afghan soldiers, will the severed head of Osama bin-Laden, save the victims deaths from banality? It doesn’t look like America’s typical unoriginal and uncreative response of war and violence will save or is saving the victims death from be(com)ing trivial. Perhaps it is now, five years out, to start thinking of different ways to handle the crises that 9/11 has placed in our laps. When should we start forgiving? When is it right to remember and when is it right to forget? How much should we remember and how much should we forget? Is this a time and place (like Northern Ireland, Bosnia, or Rwanda) where we should take note of Nietzsche’s call to “actively forget the past” in order to surmount revenge and resentment? To rework Adorno’s question about Auschwitz (which he later retracted), “Is poetry possible after 9/11?” Or is this a time and place (like Auschwitz) in which “it is essential to remember the past in order to honour our ‘debt to the dead’ and try to insure that it never happens again” (Kearney)? If we are to remember the past, if we are to narrate the events of half a decade ago, how do we do so without “losing the unique character of unspeakable horror” (Kearney)? Let’s not follow the easy path of many Christians, both conservative and liberal, and create or subscribe to some Master Narrative that attempts to explain it away. 9/11 did not happen because God called down destruction on America because of homosexuals, or gay marriage, or whatever. We must avoid “banalising” it “by reducing it to voyeuristic spectacle or kitsh” (Kearney) or a commodity of the culture industry (a real and present danger with the appearance of numerous emotive 9/11 films).
Either way, we must take seriously both the September 11th attack on the Twin Towers and the dissent of the populace concerning the subsequent actions taken by the Bush administration in order to make occasion for strenuous self-appraisal. First, what has the United States done to stimulate such an attack? Could it be that we are trespassers in the Islamic holy land, not just Mecca, but the whole Saudi Arabian peninsula? Could it be because of the untrammeled spread of the global market leaving the Islamic people maimed in its path? Second, why are citizens dissenting? Obviously, some people aren’t pleased with the way this administration is handling things. Instead of hijacking, raping, and using religious vocabulary to justify your actions and arrogantly proclaiming the superiority of your stance while ignoring the critique, why not actually engage the critique and confront the disagreement? How could there possibly be a quandary if your stance and actions are divinely sanctioned? Displacing internal conflict onto an external screen is only a temporary cover-up for crises of national identity, attention cannot be diverted ad infinitum from the internal conflicts (though an endless war on terror was a creative attempt), eventually these crises will have to be dealt with.
If America is to be brought together, let it be brought together not by identifying outside enemies like America did in the 20th century with communists, fascists, Cubans, Iraqis, Vietcong, or North Koreans nor by trivializing the deaths of victims by using their deaths as a method to continually fuel the military-industrial machine to satiate our perceived need for revenge. Perhaps, it is time to think of new ways to “bring America together”. But first it is time to think of new descriptions as to what is meant by “America”, both ideally and in actual performance, or whether or not America should be “brought together” at all.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Rex Rogers on Crime and Sin

This is a post I made on the CU Discussion Board which produced almost no response. I thought I'd adjust it a bit and put it on the blog to get some discussion going. There are a host of sticky issues under the surface here (i.e., natural law theories and the debates that surround them), but I'll just post my initial thoughts and see where things go.

At a chapel earlier this semester, Rex Rogers addressed two tensions which, in his view, characterize Christian life in modern America. I'm interested to hear what people think about his ideas. I'll briefly summarize his main points for those who weren't able to make it.

The first tension he addressed, drawing from John 17, is found in the Christian's call to be "in" but not "of" the world. This is well-trodded ground, so I'm grateful he spent more time on the second, more interesting tension. The substance of his second tension can be captured in a question: what does it mean to be a Christian in a pluralistic society? In other words, how are we to be Christians in a society which is not (and, by the way, never was) Christian? In light of this, what does a faithful engagement with the political sphere look like? Toward the end of chapel, he suggested it might be fruitful to begin by distinguishing between sin and crime. He spent a regrettably short amount of time fleshing out this distinction, but I'll try to explain what he meant. Sins include those things expressly forbidden in Scripture. His examples were adultery and obscene language. Crimes, I believe, include those things which, regardless of their status as sins, are outlawed by the government. Examples include anything that is illegal from murder to public nudity. He said we must recognize that not all sinful things are (or should be) crimes and vice versa. So simply because the Bible says something is wrong does not necessarily mean it should therefore be legislated against. He used adultery as an example.

So I'd like to know what people think of this. Here are a few questions to initiate discussion. Feel free to address these or add any other thoughts you might have.

1) Is it useful, as he suggests, to distinguish between crime and sin? If not all crimes are sinful (i.e., wrong according to the Bible), by what standard are they judged wrong?
2) How does the Crime/Sin paradigm help us address especially thorny issues like homosexuality? If homosexuality is a sin, should it also be a crime? What about adultery (which he said should not be outlawed)?

3) If you disagree with the Crime/Sin paradigm, what framework have you found helpful for thinking about the legislation of morality?

Though Rex recently fired our beloved Mike Rohwer, this should not affect your evaluation of his ideas...just his character. Oops...where'd that come from?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Join Me in Telling Congress: Compassion, not Criminalization in Immigration Reform!

Over the years, the energy, hope, and cultural diversity of
immigrants have shaped the nation we are proud to call home
today. Yet recent months have seen the amplification of voices
increasingly hostile to America's vital immigrant population.
Congress is currently engaged in a high-stakes debate over how
to reform our broken immigration system. Today I wrote an e-mail
asking my senators to support justice and compassion - not
criminalization - in pending immigration reform legislation.

"The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen
among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were
aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus

Last December, the House of Representatives passed the Border
Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act
of 2005 (H.R. 4437). Many of the provisions of this punitive and
enforcement-focused bill are patently hostile to the alien among
us. On March 27, however, the Senate Judiciary Committee
approved an improved bill. The measure, passed 12-6, contains
many provisions supported by the faith community and other
advocates: It provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented
immigrants currently in the country; establishes a guest worker
program that can lead to citizenship; and establishes a new
temporary work program for undocumented agricultural workers. In
addition, the committee's bill differs from H.R. 4437 in that it
would not establish penalties for humanitarian and church groups
helping undocumented immigrants or criminalize undocumented
immigrants for being in the U.S. The Judiciary Committee bill is
a step forward in the debate.

As discussion of immigration reform moves to the full Senate, we
urge lawmakers to oppose punitive , enforcement-only measures
like those in H.R. 4437. Such measures not only run contrary to
the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger among us; they are
chillingly anti-work, anti-family, and anti-community, and they
will only exacerbate the problems of our fractured immigration
system. The Senate Judiciary Committee's bill has a better
approach than H.R. 4437.

Let's help, not hurt, our neighbors who are pursuing the
American dream of security, freedom, and opportunity. Send an
e-mail urging your senators to promote just and compassionate
immigration reform.

"I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matthew 25:35).

When Jesus was asked, "Who is my neighbor?" his answer was clear
and compelling in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke
10:29-37). As his followers, we are called to tend to the
suffering stranger in our midst, our Jericho road. Let's help,
not hurt, our neighbors pursuing the American dream of security,
freedom, and opportunity.

Click here to take action today

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Songs about Jesus you'll probably never sing in church

Ryan's recent Mind over Media project got me thinking about media criticism from a Christian perspective. Check out the discussions over there.

In the meantime, I'd like us to discuss these two songs about Jesus. My COR 100 class discussed these freshman year, and I'd like to see how our ideas differ. Listen to both songs if you can. I've linked to a free download of the first, but I could only find a 30-second sample of the second.

"American Jesus"
by Bad Religion
Download MP3

I don't need to be a global citizen,
'Cuz I'm blessed by nationality.
I'm a member of a growing populace,
We enforce our popularity.
There are things that seem to pull us under and,
There are things that drag us down.
But there's a power and a vital presence,
It's lurking all around.

We've got the American Jesus,
See him on the interstate.
We've got the American Jesus,
He helped build the President's estate.

I feel sorry for the Earth's population,
'Cuz so few live in the U.S.A.
At least the foreigners can copy our morality,
They can visit but they cannot stay.
Only precious few can garner our prosperity,
It makes us walk with renewed confidence.
We got a place to go when we die,
And the architect resides right here.

We've got the American Jesus,
Bolstering national faith.
We've got the American Jesus,
Overwhelming millions every day.

He's the farmer's barren fields, (In God)
The force the army wields, (We trust)
Expressions on the faces of the starving millions, (Because He's one of us)
The power of the man, (Break down)
He's the fuel that drives the Klan, (Cave in)
He's the motive and the conscience of the murderer, (We can redeem your sins)
He's the preacher on T.V., (Strong heart)
The false sincerity, (Clear mind)
The form letter that's written by the big computers, (And infinitely kind)
The nuclear bombs, (You lose)
The kids with no moms, (We win)
And I'm fearful that he's inside me... (He is our champion)

We've got the American Jesus
See him on the interstate
We've got the American Jesus
Exercising his authority
We've got the American Jesus
Bolstering national faith
We've got the American Jesus
Overwhelming millions every day

One nation, under God...

"Under Bridges"
by Brave Saint Saturn
30-second sample

Yesterday while walking,
Beneath an overpass,
I saw the figure of Jesus,
Standing barefoot on broken glass.
His beard was graying,
The smell of urine filled the air,
Asking if I had some change,
Anything that I could spare.

His shaking fists balled up,
Influenza and pneumonia,
Begging God to take his cup.
So different from his pictures,
Breathing air through yellowed tubes,
Jesus Christ, dying of AIDS,
Can look right through you.

And all have hated,
Crucified and walked away,
The Savior of the prostitutes,
Drunkards, rapists, and the gays.

Under bridges,
With hands raised,
From the ghettos they praise his name.
Broke and crippled in the dark of night,
Raise your voices to Jesus Christ,

I'll ask some conversation starter questions if I need to. For now feel free to take the conversation in whatever direction you wish.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Roots (Disc 1 &2)

I'm very interested in the shaping and forming of the current theologies that bounce around this blogsite. How are conclusions reached? On what basis do we cling to what we cling to? Obviously none of us claim to have it figured out, but we all would rely on fundamental beliefs to form opinions that shape our actions. The journey in getting there is what I'd like to focus on for a bit, not the theologies themselves at all.

I believe that a lot of the theologies here have roots in some sort of bad experience, and grow from a reaction to never become like something bad that has been seen/heard. Jeff (Nutshell) touched on it in his last few posts, but I don't believe that he is unique in this. The way I see it is this: We see beliefs as not 1 to 1 correlation with action, but pretty closely linked. So therefore, if the action (end result) is not what is desired, the problem can be traced to the belief system that their actions are based upon. If we can change the belief system to being one that would bring about the desired actions, then it is a more successful theology. is this correct, everybody?

I'm wondering if theology is supposed to have this goal in mind when choosing to believe it or not. If action is an outpouring of what is inside, then wouldn't truth be the standard of whether or not the theology is successful? Or is truth such a mystery to us that we should focus more on the result of our actions, and tweak our theologies to line up w/ that? If what someone believes is true, than the outpouring of that truth in their life should prove the theology successful, right?

Do we believe what we believe because we are afraid of where a different path may lead us? Please help me understand thought patterns when it comes to this issue.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tell the truth about torture, Mr. President

Loyal SfV readers,

I am writing today to ask you to take one simple action to stop torture. Please join me in signing the "Tell the truth about torture, Mr. President" petition.

Numerous allegations of torture committed by agents of the United States government have been reported since President Bush declared the "war on terror" in 2001. It's time for the torture to end.

Please join me in demanding the truth about torture and accountability for past acts, so that torture in our names never happens again.

Follow This Link to visit the website.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Howard Zinn lecture at UCSB

On December 19, 2005, playwright and historian Howard Zinn delivered the lecture "Embracing Humanity: Truth in a Time of War" to a sold-out audience at University of California, Santa Barbara. In this lecture, Zinn explores the myth of "just war" and also speaks to America's claim to have God on its side.

If you have access to UCTV, the lecture is replaying the following times (you'll have to convert to your time zones yourselves:

1/24/2006, 1:00 PM pacific time zone
1/25/2006, 5:00 PM pacific time zone
1/25/2006, 8:00 PM pacific time zone
1/26/2006, 6:00 AM pacific time zone
1/27/2006, 3:00 AM pacific time zone
1/28/2006, 12:00 AM pacific time zone
1/29/2006, 12:00 AM pacific time zone

You can also watch the lecture with RealPlayer at the UCTV website.

I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Obedience and Morality

In my last post, I said that obedience precedes morality, so Old Testament soldiers were above reproach, because they were acting in obedience to God (Gabe has offered another theory, which I find interesting, but am not yet willing to accept). By this, I am getting at what Kierkegaard (or was it Dick Van Paten) says in Fear and Trembling, under the pseudonym Johannes de Silentio.

Morality is a human construct. I agree with Ryan that it comes from God, in that we interact with his commands to develop a working morality. I realize that seems revaltive, and it is, but I don't mean to say anything goes. Today most Christians consider polygamy to be immoral, but in King David's time, that was not so, and God never seems to condemn it. Also consider what Jesus said about divorce in Matthew 5.31: ""It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery." Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 24.1, and then says that though this was once the morality by which God's people lived (so much so that it was canonized), now that is not the case.

So while we as Christians must live by a morality that is always subject to God's Word, as people of faith, we must be open to God's direct command to do something that violates that morality. Kierkegaard's example is of Abram's experience when God tells him to sacrifice his son. This violates morality and even seems to go against God's promises to Abram, but because God commands, Abram obeys and is upheld as a model of faith in Hebrews 11. Other examples occur in the lives of Jephthah, Enoch, and Peter.

To apply this to what I've said about life and death in previous posts, nothing in the New Testament supports a morality that allows for war or the death penalty. When Christians accept them, as American Christians freely do, they are appealing to a standard of morality outside of the Bible. While valid sources of authority exist outside of Scripture, the text is our standard, and in this case, war and other sorts of violence violate a morality based on the teachings of the Prince of Peace.

God is not limited to our morality. If he commands something that violates our morality, then we must obey. How to determine whether he has is a tricky subject and for another post (or multi-volume set of books).

I'm a little rusty on my Kierkegaard so if someone else can explain it better, please do so. Also, as a caveat, I am not as individualistic as Kierkegaard, which should be apparent from previous posts, so please don't build any existential strawmen. Thanks.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Mea Culpa

Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!

I thought enabling comment moderation meant that I could delete spam and ignorance (such as Dave's comments under Double Standard) from Blogger Dashboard, not that I had to approve comments. Thanks to whomever called me on it. I hate that.

The problem has been resolved and the comments posted. Now lurkers are without excuse.

I thought the comment activity had declined...

Raising a double standard

American Christians have a disturbing double standard regarding sex and violence. When issues of homosexuality and promiscuity arise, the religious right comes out in opposition, and yet a man who was governor of a state that led the nation in execution and who calls himself "a war president" is considered a godly leader.

This double standard is not limited to the political realm either; it extends to entertainment. Read some of the discussion boards over at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Under movies that are marketed as violent, graphic action films, you'll find parents asking about the sexual content to determine whether taking their children would be appropriate.

Whence comes this double standard? Is it biblical, or is it culturally constructed? Let's compare the two and find out.

The settling of America is generally credited to the Puritans who came over from England seeking religious freedom. Puritans were Calvinists who opposed the king of England's appointment of Armenian clergy. As strict Calvinists, they believed that salvation was purely a matter of predestination, and therefore, no one could know if they were in the kingdom or not, but obviously those who were saved would live a certain way, and the Puritans developed lists of model behavior that could determine who was in and who was out. The effects of these lists is still felt in the more legalistic Protestant traditions.

America's political identity was forged in a much more violent way. The war that granted independence from England was violent, but as it resulted in freedom (for land-owning white men, but that's another post), it is hailed as the source of the freedoms we enjoy today, which is why pacifists are often met with the preposterous "argument," "If you think violence is wrong, why don't you leave and go to Afghanistan" (as if the Taliban ruled in a peaceful way).

This double heritage seems to be the root of America's double standard rather than the Bible, which, if anything, seems to have a reversed standard. Consider David, a man after God's own heart. The battles that men such as David and Joshua fought are often the basis for Christian just-war theory (when Christians are at all concerned with justice). But look what happens when David wants to build the temple.

1 Chronicles 22.7-10
David said to Solomon: "My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God. But this word of the LORD came to me: 'You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.'

David was not allowed to build the temple because he was a man of war. The task fell to Solomon, and if David were the George W. Of his day, Solomon was the Wilt Chamberlain. He had 1000 wives and concubines, which, to a king, were usually nothing more than sexual conquests offered by nations seeking favor. Somehow, violence disqualified a king from building the house of God, yet sexual activity did not.

The American double standard is not universal to God's people; it is the result of America's strange heritage of violence and Puritanism. It is a cultural construct, which is not necessarily a problem, unless it leads to anti-Christian behavior, which in this case, I believe it does.

As Christians, we are to put others above ourselves to look out for their wellbeing above our own, even to the point of dying for those who are still our enemies. The American attitude, sadly shared by many nominal Christians, is the exact opposite; we look out for ourselves and kill our enemies. We condone behavior that results in tremendous loss of life, often of innocents, women, and children, yet we become outraged over sins that do not affect us.

I recently heard that a Christian man I greatly respect claimed that God hates homosexuals because they had so aligned themselves with sin, which God hates, that they are indistinguishable from it in God's eyes. This attitude is exactly that of the Pharisees who identified tax-collectors and prostitutes as sinners. This was not Jesus' attitude. He befriended them, and he loved them. God loves sinners, even homosexuals. But nowhere does Christ use violence against another, even when his life and the life of his loved ones was at stake. The Pharisees, meanwhile, had sold-out to Rome, one of the most violent empires in history.

The American double standard that so many Christians uphold is not only culturally formed, it is anti-biblical and is more similar to Christ's enemies than his followers.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Reason for the Season

I'm sure you've all heard the phrase, "Jesus is the reason for the season," and most of us probably give lip service in support of the sentiment if not the pithy phrasing, but this year, I've begun to wonder if that is true.

I watched several Christmas specials this month on the origins of various traditions surrounding Christmas, and I realized that most of them have little if anything to do with the birth of Christ and more to do with the pagan rituals that were already being celebrated at the end of the year, for example, the Roman Saturnalia, the northern European Yule, and the pagan Winter Solstice. The Saturnalia, the festival to honor the god Saturn, the father of Jupiter, was celebrated from December 17 to the 23rd. Since Saturn was the god of farming, evergreen trees were cut down and displayed in his honor, and families exchanged gifts. Yule is a sabbat that was celebrated by Germanic pagans to commemorate the winter solstice, and the celebration included eating ham, hanging boughs of holly and misteltoe, and of course the burning of the Yule log.

Obviously most of us are not paying homage to Saturn or any pagan deity when we engage in such activities. They've become traditions associated with the season, and as they bring people together and cause joy, I say God bless them. But they have nothing to do with Jesus. Neither does Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Garfield, Scrooge, or the Grinch, and it just wouldn't be Christmas without them.

What do we as Christians do with them then? Do they get in the way of the true meaning of the season? Or, as I'm beginning to think, should we just admit that Jesus is not entirely the reason for the season and get on with the party?

I'm not advocating taking Christ out of Christmas or ignoring an opportunity to celebrate his birth. In fact, Christine and I are resolving this next year to follow the Church calendar and commemorate Advent as it has traditionally been observed and to celebrate Christmas Day as the beginning of the festivities, not the end. But within that, we will probably eat ham, decorate a Christmas tree, and maybe do some kissing under the mistletoe, and while doing so, probably think about Baby Jesus very little.

I guess what I really want to say is that for those of us in the Kingdom of God, Jesus is the reason we can enjoy anything, so let's recognize that and not feel guilty for indulging in excess and enjoying the giving and receiving of gifts. Let's enjoy the liturgy as well as the revelry and not feel as if one is more important than the other.

So now, as Herb says, "Let's Wassail!"

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Thought Police Strike Again

Evan 24/7, nee Evan Is Handsome, is no more, the victim of Evangelical anti-intellectualism. Check out Evan's new blog, The Developing Diversity.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Gays Are Gross?

Sometimes I think that I have become too tolerant and that I should take more of a hardline stance against sin, but then I read something like this and I'm reminded why I choose to err on the side of tolerance.

My mom reads a blog called Thinklings, and when they are discussing a topic she knows I'd find interesting, she sends me a link. I have since added the link to my favorites, and I check in every once in a while. When I've posted, however, I've been disappointed by the responses. But when I followed a link to this post about the upcoming movie Brokeback Mountain, I had to speak up.

The author predicts that the film will be a box-office failure because of what he calls "the yuck factor." He writes, "For all of our modern cultural 'enlightenment,' and despite the pervasiveness of gay characters and stories all over American media, and regardless of the success of shows like 'Will & Grace' and 'Queer Eye,' by and large Americans -- blue state, red state, Christian and non -- innately find homosexuality repulsive."

This is an insightful and probably accurate insight into modern American sensibilities. But not content to describe the cultural attitudes he observes, the author claims that they are objective universal feelings. "It's part of our makeup. It's biological, it's conscience-born, it's part of the imago dei. It's part of a "moral aesthetic" most everyone bears latent. To be blunt, we know anal sex is gross, and we especially know anal sex between men is repulsive."

I wanted to comment, but the author had disabled comments because he was receiving many personal attacks, so I commented on the blog. This is how the conversation progressed (or degressed, as you will see).

Me: It’s part of the imago dei to find sinners gross?

Response: No. It’s a reflection of the imago dei to find someone shoving something up your butt gross. Comprendes?

Me: These words of Jesus seem especially appropriate here.
“What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’”
Jesus seems much more repulsed by those who judge others with a holier-than-thou mentality than by the homosexuality that was rampant in Rome in the first century.

At this point a homosexual man shared his story, and another blogger told him that his problem was with God.

Me: When God’s representatives on earth act like their sin doesn’t stink, I think it’s safe to say that they are part of the problem. But nice try attempting to deflect the problem onto God.

Response: Buddy, no one here’s done that. If you actually read the Cinema Veritas thread, you’d see that I call myself a “lying, thieving, lustful moron.” I cop to my own sins and say that I expect to find people with same-sex attraction in heaven because if God can let someone like me in, he’s gotta let a whole lot of others in too.
In fact, if you bothered to read that thread, you’d see that out of all of the people talking there, the only who admitted their sin is ME.
You can make this about judgment if you want, about condemnation if you want. That’s so ho-hum.
You’ve registered your perturbation. If you’ve got nothing else, move along.
Btw, in response to that post, I’ve received dozens of insulting comments, deleted lots of profane condemnation of me and accusations against my manhood/sexuality/parents, and now that they’re following me over into my other blogs, I’m having to stay on top of vulgar troll-droppings on Mysterium Tremendum and Shizuka Blog. In one of the blogs from which these folks are coming, they’re discussing in a comment thread how best to flood my e-mail inbox with gay p()rn.
So if you’re looking to talk to people about controlling their anger and judgment and lashing out, I suggest you’re looking in the wrong direction.

Me: I did actually read your post, but I did not muddle through the hundred+ replies, as I’m sure many did not. In the actual post, all you do is point the finger.
I’m not flooding your mailbox with porn or questioning your own sexual orientation or parentage. I’m saying that your post seems to take the culturally formed opinions of you and yours and not only claim they are universals, but to arrogantly equate them with the imago dei while the tone of your post runs completely counter to the attitude of the true embodiment of the imago dei, Jesus Christ, who never accused sinners of being gross. But you seem to think you’re above reproach, so I will, as you said, move along.
And if anything is ho-hum, it’s Christian gay bashing.

I didn't really move along, and since his reply is addressed to me, I apparently wasn't expected to.

Response: Yes, Buddy, as we all know, Jesus never preached against sin.
Every time you comment here it’s on stuff that irks you, about stuff you think you need to correct us on. Sort of a pot/kettle, plank/speck situation, if you ask me. I’ve already acknowledged my own failings and do so often in this space and in my others. I never said I’m speaking from a place of personal perfection. Of the two of us, only one is acting like he’s the one who’s above reproach, and it’s not me.
In any event, thanks for moving on.

I know I can be offensive when addressing smug Christians who think they have everything figured out, and I don't apologize for that. I see it as part of following Christ, who was incredibly offensive when addressing the Pharisees. But I thought I was restrained here, and I don't understand the backlash.

But what I even more don't understand is how someone could, in the name of embodying the imago dei, act in a way that is so un-Christlike and respond so defensively when called on it. I never denied that Jesus preached against sinners, and I never defended homosexuality. But Christ never called homosexuals disgusting or degenerate, and I see no basis for Christians to do so.

So so if I'm a kettle, call me black, and if I have a plank in my eye, point it out, I have always invited it, but don't expect me to be silent when people who claim to be following Christ behave like those he preached against.

Monday, November 14, 2005

White House plans to veto bill that would ban torture of US prisoners

Saturday, November 05, 2005

"Evil and the Crucified God"

Let's continue our discussion of N.T. Wright's lecture series, "Evil and the Justice of God," with "Lecture 3: Evil and the Crucified God." Review the archives for discussion of the previous lectures.

Discussion Questions:

How does Wright articulate the problem of evil in a different way from the modern logical problem of evil? What does Wright do with those questions? If we accept what Wright is saying, what do we do with the modern logic problems?

Did Jesus have to die? Did he come to earth in order to die?

Is the church currently living out Christ's victory in the cross, or is it contributing to the problem?

What would a truly Christian political structure look like?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Abolish the Death Penalty

From Amnesty International

The Death Penalty Costs More
"Elimination of the death penalty would result in a net savings to the state of at least several tens of millions of dollars annually, and a net savings to local governments in the millions to tens of millions of dollars on a statewide basis."
-- Joint Legislative Budget Committee of the California Legislature, Sept. 9, 1999

Recent Cost Studies

A 2003 legislative audit in Kansas found that the estimated cost of a death penalty case was 70% more than the cost of a comparable non-death penalty case. Death penalty case costs were counted through to execution (median cost $1.26 million). Non-death penalty case costs were counted through to the end of incarceration (median cost $740,000).
(December 2003 Survey by the Kansas Legislative Post Audit)

The estimated costs for the death penalty in New York since 1995 (when it was reinstated): $160 million, or approximately $23 million for each person sentenced to death. To date, no executions have been carried out.
(The Times Union, Sept. 22, 2003)

In Tennessee, death penalty trials cost an average of 48% more than the average cost of trials in which prosecutors seek life imprisonment.
(2004 Report from Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Office of Research)

The greatest costs associated with the death penalty occur prior to and during trial, not in post-conviction proceedings. Even if all post-conviction proceedings (appeals) were abolished, the death penalty would still be more expensive than alternative sentences.

Trials in which the prosecutor is seeking a death sentence have two separate and distinct phases: conviction (guilt/innocence) and sentencing. Special motions and extra time for jury selection typically precede such trials.

More investigative costs are generally incurred in capital cases, particularly by the prosecution.
When death penalty trials result in a verdict less than death or are reversed, taxpayers first incur all the extra costs of capital pretrial and trial proceedings and must then also pay either for the cost of incarcerating the prisoner for life or the costs of a retrial (which often leads to a life sentence).

The death penalty diverts resources from genuine crime control measures. Spending money on the death penalty system means:

Reducing the resources available for crime prevention, mental health treatment, education and rehabilitation, meaningful victims’ services, and drug treatment programs.

Taking it away from existing components of the criminal justice system, such as prosecutions of drug crimes, domestic violence, and child abuse.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

"Overturning the Gospels"

Katrina has reminded us that Christian morality should be about responding to the wretched and loving the unlovable—not about other people’s sex lives.

By Melinda Henneberger

Updated: 6:40 p.m. ET Sept. 14, 2005

Sept. 14, 2005 - There was a great piece in Harper's last month, "The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong'' by Bill McKibben, about how three out of four Americans believe the Bible teaches this: "God helps those who help themselves.'' The Gospel according to Mark? Luke? Actually, it was Ben Franklin who came up with these words to live by.

"The thing is,'' McKibben writes, "not only is Franklin's wisdom not biblical; it's counterbiblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans—most American Christians—are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up.''

Now, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we have seen—and been unable to look away from— the direct result of this self-deception.

And if such tell-me-I'm-dreaming scenes as rats feeding on corpses in the streets—American streets—isn't enough to make us rethink the public-policy implications of turning the Gospel on its head in this way, then truly, God help us.

We as a nation—a proudly, increasingly loudly Christian nation—have somehow convinced ourselves that the selfish choice is usually the moral one, too. (What a deal!) You know how this works: It's wrong to help poor people because "handouts'' reward dependency and thus hurt more than they help. So, do the right thing—that is, walk right on by—and by all means hang on to your hard-earned cash.

Thus do we deny the working poor a living wage, resent welfare recipients expected to live on a few hundred dollars a month, object to the whopping .16 percent of our GNP that goes to foreign aid—and still manage to feel virtuous about all of the above.

Which is how "Christian'' morality got to be all about other people's sex lives—and incredibly easy lifting compared to what Jesus actually asks of us. Defending traditional marriage? A breeze. Living in one? Less so. Telling gay people what they can't do? Piece o' cake. But responding to the wretched? Loving the unlovable? Forgiving the ever-so-occasionally annoying people you actually know? Hard work, as our president would say, and rather more of a stretch.

A lot of us are angry at our public officials just now, and rightly so. But we are complicit, too; top to bottom, we picked this government, which has certainly met our low expectations.

The Bush administration made deep and then still deeper cuts in antipoverty programs, and we liked that. (The genius of the whole Republican program, in fact, is that it not only offers tax cuts and morality, but tax cuts as morality. Americans do, I think, want to feel they are doing the right thing, and when I hear an opponent of abortion rights say, "I'm voting for the most vulnerable, the unborn,'' I have to respect that. Of course, we also like tax breaks and cheap gas and cranking the thermostat up and down—so when Republicans play to both our better angels and our less altruistic ones, it's not that tough a sell.)

But have Democrats loudly decried the inhumanity—or even the hidden, deferred costs of the Bush cuts in services to the most vulnerable among the already born? Heavens, no, with a handful of exceptions, such as former vice-presidential nominee John Edwards, who spoke every single day of his campaign—and ever since—about our responsibilities toward those struggling just to get by in the "other America.''Most party leaders are still busy emulating Bill Clinton, who felt their pain and cut their benefits—and made his fellow Dems ashamed to show any hint of a "bleeding heart.'' Clinton's imitators haven't his skills, though, so his bloodless, Republican Lite legacy has been a political as well as moral disaster.

That's not, of course, because voters give a hoot about poverty, but because along with the defining moral strength of its commitment to the underclass went most of the party's self-confidence, and all of its fervor.

Incredibly, they even ceded the discussion of compassion to President Bush, a man who has always struck me as empathy-free—to an odd extent, really, as we saw again last week when he cracked jokes about his carousing days on his first trip to the Gulf Coast.

Immediately after the disaster, Bush quickly intervened—to make it possible for refiners to produce dirtier gasoline. He has since zapped working people on the Gulf Coast all over again by suspending the 1931 law that requires employers to pay the prevailing wage to workers on all federally financed projects.

Others in his party have expressed concern about all the freebies evacuees will be enjoying: "How do you separate the needy from those who just want a $2,000 handout?'' Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski asked—by way of explaining why debit cards for Katrina victims were a bad idea.

So far, though, I'd love to be wrong, I see no reason to think the president's sinking poll numbers will persuade him that there's more to (pro-)life than opposing abortion.

I still dare to hope Democrats may yet remember why they are Democrats, though. And that would be a real come-to-Jesus moment.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Another parody

Rewriting familiar songs to criticize current events is a great tradition. Here is Mark Twain's "The Battle Hymn of the Republic: Updated," written "in 1901 by Mark Twain, as a parody of American imperialism, in the wake of the Philippine-American War. It is written in the same tune and cadence as the original Battle Hymn of the Republic." Over a century later, some of the lyrics are just as poignant as when they were written. I particularly enjoyed the fourth line of the fifth stanza. Now I'll have something I agree with to sing at July 4th services.

Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger's wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
His lust is marching on.

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps--
His night is marching on.

I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
Lo, Greed is marching on!"

We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;*
Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat;
O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
Our god is marching on!

In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
With a longing in his bosom--and for others' goods an itch.
As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich--
Our god is marching on.

* NOTE: In Manila the Government has placed a certain industry under the protection of our flag.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Let's play a game

Who's up for a round of Modern philosophy of religion?

Resolve these seemingly incompossible propositions:

1. God exists and is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good.
2. Evil exists.


a. A perfectly good being would always eliminate evil so far as it could.
b. An omniscient being would know about all evils.
c. There are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do.

Possible strategies:

The Best of All Possible Worlds Defense
Free Will Defense
Soul-Making Theodicy
Abandonment of Proposition 1

Play begins to the dealers left.