Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Mind Your Own Business

I tweeted this yesterday:

Quaker County Clerk Tweet 09-02-15The answer is No.  When you have a job that is based on serving the public, you serve the public regardless of your personal beliefs.  So you either do the job or you find something else to do.

This should not be a question that causes headlines.  People face these choices every day without getting face time on cable TV.  People make accommodations in their sincerely-held religious beliefs without incurring the wrath of their particular object of adoration, and people who have no particular religious following are required to adapt to the greater good and do things that they may find personally repellent.  They are mature enough in their understanding of how things work in a society made up of many different beliefs or peccadilloes that they don’t get to impose their own on anyone else to the point that it disrupts the lives of the people they were elected to serve.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Holier Than Thou

There’s a long tradition in organized religion where one version of a faith turns on another.  Sunni vs. Shiite, Orthodox vs. Reform Judaism, even Quaker vs. Quaker.  So it’s no surprise that fundamentalist Christians would turn their wrath over losing out on the marriage equality battle on those Christians who support it.

The first hints of a growing front against liberal Christians came in May, when a coalition of conservative churches in Fountain Hills, Arizona publicly ganged up on a local progressive Methodist community. Unhappy with the church’s teachings, eight congregations launched a campaign entitled “Progressive Christianity: Fact or Fiction?,” a coordinated teaching and preaching series that included op-eds, a half-page advertisement in a local newspaper, and a massive banner with “progressive” written in jagged red letters and hemmed in quotation marks.

“The progressives are at it again, and for a small fee you can join the primary proponent of this apostate religious movement to get answers,” Tony Pierce, a pastor of First Baptist Church of Fountain Hills and one of the participants in the effort, wrote in a letter to the editor. “The good thing about the progressive movement is it gives people a clear choice. The ironic thing about progressive Christianity is that it is neither!”

The source of their outrage? Rev. David Felten, the left-leaning pastor of Fountains United Methodist Church. He reportedly stoked ire by preaching a variety of progressive concepts to his parishioners, such as theological support for interfaith dialogue, scientific discovery, and, of course, LGBT equality.

Felten, like many progressive Christians, was used to criticism for his views — he has even published a book about progressive Christianity. But the intensity of the local attack — which included churches from denominations that are generally more liberal than his own United Methodist Church — caught him off guard.

“When you have an effort collaborated by multiple churches in one community to try to discredit one other way of thinking, that’s when it becomes alarming,” Felten told the local Fox affiliate.

It would all be very entertaining on the level of Star Trek vs. Star Wars or Camaro vs. Mustang, but history is full of examples of carnage, genocide, and war in the name of the what they see as the One True Faith, so let us pray that they remember the words of one long-gone peacenik who said “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

HT to ntodd.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Reading

The Act of Forgiveness — Matt Schiavenza in The Atlantic on how an act of grace leads to healing.

“I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you,” a daughter of one victim said. “We have no room for hating, so we have to forgive,” said the sister of another. “I pray God on your soul.”

Given the heinous nature of the crime, the willingness of Charleston’s survivors to forgive was remarkable—and earned particular praise from President Obama. But the act of forgiving is more than just an expression of grace toward a wrongdoer. It’s also an effective tool in helping individuals and communities touched by tragedy accelerate the healing process.

In March, the Atlantic’s Olga Khazan profiled Everett Worthington, a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University whose mother was brutally murdered in a 1995 burglary. As it happened, Worthington’s own research examined the effects of forgiveness. So in the days after his mother’s death, he decided to employ a five-step process he had previously devised:

First, you “recall” the incident, including all the hurt. “Empathize” with the person who wronged you. Then, you give them the “altruistic gift” of forgiveness, maybe by recalling how good it felt to be forgiven by someone you yourself have wronged. Next, “commit” yourself to forgive publicly by telling a friend or the person you’re forgiving. Finally, “hold” onto forgiveness. Even when feelings of anger surface, remind yourself that you’ve already forgiven.

Worthington found that his approach worked—and that other examples confirmed his intuition. Studies have shown that forgiveness aids mental and physical health, while the opposite reaction—holding a grudge and harboring resentment—has the opposite effect. This can also be applied to entire communities touched by mass tragedy. In 2006, 32-year-old Charles Roberts stormed into a one-room schoolhouse in an Amish community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania and shot ten girls, killing five before turning the gun on himself. Despite enormous shock and grief, several of the victims’ family members appeared at the killer’s funeral just days later. When Roberts’ aggrieved mother then announced plans to leave the community, relatives of the dead persuaded her to stay. Seven years later, CBS News reported that the elder Roberts had become the primary caregiver for a girl her son had wounded in the attack.

“Is there anything in this life that we should not forgive?” said Roberts.

An individual or community’s gift of forgiveness, however, does not obviate a society’s demand for justice. In a 2014 case described by the Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen, a Colorado prosecutor seeking the death penalty for a prison inmate charged with murdering a corrections officer engaged in a contentious dispute with the victim’s parents, who opposed capital punishment. After months of back and forth, the prosecutor finally agreed to forgo the death penalty. The defendant, whose attorneys believed him to suffer from mental illness, ultimately pled guilty and is now serving a life sentence.

In the wake of the Charleston murder, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley said that the state would “absolutely want” the death penalty for Dylann Roof. Even Roof’s own uncle said he would support his nephew’s execution, telling reporters that he’d volunteer to “be the one to push the button.”

Several months—at the very least—will pass before a judge determines Roof’s fate. But the decision of the victims’ relatives to forgive may ease some measure of their pain.

It’s Not About Mental Illness — Arthur Chu in Salon on copping out on the real problem behind mass killings by white men.

Dylann Roof is a fanboy of the South African and Rhodesian governments. As horrific as Roof’s crime was, the crimes that occurred over decades of apartheid rule were far, far worse, and committed by thousands of statesmen, bureaucrats and law enforcement officials. Were all of them also “mentally ill”? At the risk of Godwinning myself, John Nash wasn’t the only person to think the Jews were a global demonic conspiracy out to get him–at one point in history a large portion of the Western world bought into that and killed six million people because of it. Were they all “mentally ill”?

Even when violence stems purely from delusion in the mind of someone who’s genuinely totally detached from reality–which is extremely rare–that violence seems to have a way of finding its way to culturally approved targets. Yeah, most white supremacists aren’t “crazy” enough to go on a shooting spree, most misogynists aren’t “crazy” enough to murder women who turn them down, most anti-government zealots aren’t “crazy” enough to shoot up or blow up government buildings.

But the “crazy” ones always seem to have a respectable counterpart who makes a respectable living pumping out the rhetoric that ends up in the “crazy” one’s manifesto–drawing crosshairs on liberals and calling abortion doctors mass murderers–who, once an atrocity happens, then immediately throws the “crazy” person under the bus for taking their words too seriously, too literally.

And the big splashy headliner atrocities tend to distract us from the ones that don’t make headline news. People are willing to call one white man emptying five magazines and murdering nine black people in a church and openly saying it was because of race a hate crime, even if they have to then cover it up with the fig leaf of individual “mental illness”–but a white man wearing a uniform who fires two magazines at two people in a car in a “bad neighborhood” in Cleveland? That just ends up a statistic in a DoJ report on systemic bias.

And hundreds of years of history in which an entire country’s economy was set up around chaining up millions of black people, forcing them to work and shooting them if they get out of line? That’s just history.

The reason a certain kind of person loves talking about “mental illness” is to draw attention to the big bold scary exceptional crimes and treat them as exceptions. It’s to distract from the fact that the worst crimes in history were committed by people just doing their jobs–cops enforcing the law, soldiers following orders, bureaucrats signing paperwork. That if we define “sanity” as going along to get along with what’s “normal” in the society around you, then for most of history the sane thing has been to aid and abet monstrous evil.

We love to talk about individuals’ mental illness so we can avoid talking about the biggest, scariest problem of all–societal illness. That the danger isn’t any one person’s madness, but that the world we live in is mad.

After all, there’s no pill for that.

Nice Work — Christine Porath in The New York Times on how civility — and the lack of it — is damaging the American workplace.

Why is respect — or lack of it — so potent? Charles Horton Cooley’s 1902 notion of the “looking glass self” explains that we use others’ expressions (smiles), behaviors (acknowledging us) and reactions (listening to us or insulting us) to define ourselves. How we believe others see us shapes who we are. We ride a wave of pride or get swallowed in a sea of embarrassment based on brief interactions that signal respect or disrespect. Individuals feel valued and powerful when respected. Civility lifts people. Incivility holds people down. It makes people feel small.

Even though a growing number of people are disturbed by incivility, I’ve found that it has continued to climb over the last two decades. A quarter of those I surveyed in 1998 reported that they were treated rudely at work at least once a week. That figure rose to nearly half in 2005, then to just over half in 2011.

Incivility often grows out of ignorance, not malice. A surgeon told me that until he received some harsh feedback, he was clueless that so many people thought he was a jerk. He was simply treating residents the way he had been trained.

[…]

Civility elicits perceptions of warmth and competence. Susan T. Fiske, a professor at Princeton, and Amy J. C. Cuddy, a professor at Harvard, with their colleagues have conducted research that suggests that these two traits drive our impressions of others, accounting for more than 90 percent of the variation in the positive or negative impressions we form of those around us. These impressions dictate whether people will trust you, build relationships with you, follow you and support you.

The catch: There can be a perceived inverse relationship between warmth and competence. A strength in one can suggest a weakness of the other. Some people are seen as competent but cold — he’s very smart, but people will hate working for him. Or they’re seen as warm but incompetent — she’s really friendly, but probably not very smart.

Leaders can use simple rules to win the hearts and minds of their people — with huge returns. Making small adjustments such as listening, smiling, sharing and thanking others more often can have a huge impact. In one unpublished experiment I conducted, a smile and simple thanks (as compared with not doing this) resulted in people being viewed as 27 percent warmer, 13 percent more competent and 22 percent more civil.

[…]

Civility pays dividends. J. Gary Hastings, a retired judge in Los Angeles, told me that when he informally polled juries about what determined their favor, he found that respect — and how attorneys behaved — was crucial. Juries were swayed based on thin slices of civil or arrogant behavior.

Across many decisions — whom to hire, who will be most effective in teams, who will be able to be influential — civility affects judgments and may shift the balance toward those who are respectful.

Given the enormous cost of incivility, it should not be ignored. We all need to reconsider our behavior. You are always in front of some jury. In every interaction, you have a choice: Do you want to lift people up or hold them down?

Doonesbury — She’s not a scientist.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Praying For Discrimination

ThinkProgress has an inside look at the Southern Baptist Convention’s plans to immunize themselves against claims of discrimination for firing women, minorities, or those suspected of LGBT tendencies or sympathies.

Based on a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that ministerial employees are exempt from discrimination laws, the solution is simple: anyone who works for a religious organization is encouraged to exercise ministerial duties and therefore is exempt from civil rights laws… and protections.

According to the manual, “[e]mployees with some duties usually performed by (or associated with) clergy are more likely to be viewed as ‘minister-like’ by the courts. Consequently, courts are more likely to apply the ministerial exception to employment law claims based on alleged discrimination” against these employees. In essence, the manual advises that an employer can take a janitor, require them to lead the staff in prayer every so often, and POOF! the janitor is now a “minister” and the employer is free to fire that janitor because they are black, because they are gay, or because they are a woman.

If the Court rules in favor of marriage equality, then you will see a bumper crop of Southern Baptist preachers doing everything from sweeping the floor to answering the phone, bringing their ministry — and their civil rights — to the fore and to the floor.

No one expects the Religious Reich to go quietly if the Court rules in favor.  History has shown us that they have been the last bastions of bigotry, fighting school desegregation with every loophole and perverted interpretation of the bible that they can winnow out.  Fifty years from now there will still be ways that they will be trying to repress the rights of others, and there will still be those who are coming up with ways to do it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015

Papal Bull

When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, a number of people were concerned that since he was a Roman Catholic, he would be taking orders on policy from the Vatican.

Fifty-five years later, we have Rick Santorum, a Roman Catholic, running for the presidency, and now it seems like the Vatican should start worrying about taking orders on church policy from the White House if he wins.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

First They Came For The Mainstream

Per Marco Rubio, the hunters will be the hunted.

“We are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech,” Rubio said in an interview with CBN News published on Tuesday. “Because today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage you are labeled a homophobe and a hater.”

Rubio added that eventually the teachings of the Catholic Church will be under attack.

“After they are done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church is hate speech and there’s a real and present danger,” Rubio continued.

Aside from the fact that throughout history the Roman Catholic Church systematized the persecution and conversion — willingly or not — of millions of people in hundreds of countries and pretty much invented the idea of “enhanced interrogation,” the current leader of the faith seems less concerned about the acceptance of gays and lesbians than Mr. Rubio.  Granted, he’s not wild about it, but he isn’t making it sound like it’s the end of the world.

It also seems rather chauvinistic to think that the Catholic Church is the sole representative of mainstream Christianity.  There are plenty of denominations who qualify under that rubric who not only accept marriage equality but ordain gay clergy and perform same-sex weddings.

The only real and present danger is letting Mr. Rubio convince voters that he’s the one who should be speaking for mainstream Christianity.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Losing Their Religion

This doesn’t surprise me.

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

There are a lot of reasons for this trend, but based solely on observing the way the loudest Christians are behaving, it’s because they’re turning religion into an overt political movement here in America, some even going so far to express a desire for a theocratic state.  The irony is that they’re calling for that to fight the threat they are seeing from a for-real theocratic state.

Religion has been political since before the Romans carried out the execution of a Jewish dissident in Jerusalem a while back, and countless people have died fighting because they were trying to force their superstitions on other people.  Here at home we’ve used faith as a political litmus test since the founding; why else would the writers of the Constitution insisted on the First Amendment?  But it’s gotten worse in the last few decades thanks to politicians who knew a good wedge issue when they saw it, and that’s how you win elections: pit one group of people against another in the name of a god and watch what happens.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Reading

Holy Crap — Jeffrey Tayler in Salon defends Bill Maher’s mocking of religion.

Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s “Real Time,” is a shining beacon of the New American Enlightenment, radiant with goodness and hope.

But first, a bit of background.

No matter what anyone says, religion is a deeply, if darkly, hilarious topic, and the sundry tomes of the sacred canon read more like joke books than anything else, albeit sick joke books.  How can we, in the 21st century, having mapped (and even edited) the human genome, engineered pluripotent stem cells, and discovered the Higgs Boson, be expected to revere the dusty old Bible, for example, with its quarreling goatherds and idolatrous tribesmen, and its golden calves and talking snakes, to say nothing of its revenge-porn (against unbelievers) finale?  How can we not laugh aloud when Genesis declares that Almighty God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, yet had to pilfer a rib from Adam to produce Eve?  What are we to make of Numbers 22:28-30, wherein the Lord intervenes, not to part the sea or still the sun, but to set Balaam’s donkey a-jabbering?  How are we supposed to accept Jesus as an up-to-snuff savior when, in Matthew 21:19 and Mark 11:13-14, he loses his temper and cusses out a fig tree, condemning it to death, for not bearing fruit out of season?  Any second-grade science-class student would have known better, and possibly even exercised more self-control.

“Properly read,” declared the science-fiction author and biochemistry professor Isaac Asimov, “the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”  He was right.  The same may be said of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, which the late, dearly missed Christopher Hitchens called “not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require.”

The proper response to religion, riddled as it is with absurdities, is, thus, laughter, either of the belly-slapping, table-pounding kind or the pitying, head-shaking sort.  Laughter, but also outrage.  After all, those who take such absurdities as manifestations of the Godhead have, especially since the Reagan years, hogged the moral high ground and commandeered American politics, polluting public discourse with their reactionary cant and halting progress in reproductive rights, science (think the Bush-era ban on stem cell research) and education (to wit: stubborn attempts to have oxymoronic “Intelligent Design” rubbish taught in schools).  Look abroad, and the panorama of savagery religion must answer for curdles the blood.  No rationalist could contemplate all this entirely unnecessary faith-driven regress and backsliding with anything but anger, tempered with despair.  If we want to do true and lasting good in this world, we are morally obligated to fight faith in the open, and root it out from every nook and cranny in which it hides.

Facing such a task, a desire for comic relief is only natural.  Bill Maher is where anger, outrage and religion meet – in humor.  (This essay will address only his stance on religion.)  There is nothing un-American about his faith-bashing – far from it.  Thomas Jefferson, who denied the divinity of Jesus, wrote that, “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions” – and what is religion but a jumble of unintelligible propositions about our cosmos and its origins?  Yet Maher has incited no small amount of ire among both the faith-addled masses (fully two-thirds of Americans believe Jesus actually rose from the dead, and almost half expect him to return in the coming decades) and their muddleheaded sympathizers for his brutal broadsides against religion, and Islam in particular.  Bigot!Racist!Islamophobe! they cry, at times bemoaning the “offense” they purport to have suffered from his words, and illustrating how far the cognitive capacities of so many of us have deteriorated since Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority began meddling in politics.  (This can be no coincidence.)  Their real message to Maher: Shut up!

Name-calling is the last resort of losers — in this case, losers waging an unwinnable war against the spread of godlessness.  And “shut up!” is the last command of which the Greats of the Enlightenment and their heirs would have approved.  The 19th-century British philosopher John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty, put it best, referring to suppressed speech: “If the opinion is right, [the shutter-uppers] are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”  If Maher is really so wrong, why not let him hoist himself by his own petard?

Fashionable Bashing — Joe Conason on Jonathan Chait’s attempt to dissect the Clintons.

Jonathan Chait of New York magazine has done no small damage to his own reputation as a liberal intellectual over the past year or so, but apparently feels he can rehabilitate himself by attacking the reputation of the Clintons — always a fashionable media pastime, especially during an election cycle.

So today, Chait describes the Clinton post-presidency as “disastrous.”

Certainly the work of the former president hasn’t been “disastrous” for the millions of people across the world aided by the work of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, including vast numbers whose lives have been saved over the past dozen years or so thanks to the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative (which Chait doesn’t deem worth mentioning). Nor has the Clinton post-presidency proved disastrous for President Barack Obama, a former adversary whom the Clintons have served very well indeed.

Nevertheless, parroting a series of recent accusations against the Clintons, Chait condemns the couple as “disorganized and greedy.” Much of what he repeats in his column is so easily debunked, however, that what he reveals is not their lack of character but his own weak journalism.

The New York Times has a report about the State Department’s decision to approve the sale of uranium mines to a Russian company that donated $2.35 million to the Clinton Global Initiative,” intones Chait. But that is such an inaccurate, misleading way to characterize what happened as to indicate that the columnist may need remedial reading instruction.

Tendentious and biased as it was, even the Times report noted that the decision to approve the Russian uranium sale was made not by the State Department alone, but by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) — a powerful interagency committee chaired by the Treasury Department that includes the Pentagon, the National Security Council, the Energy Department, and a host of other cabinet-level government agencies.

Nowhere did the Times prove or even suggest that the State Department drove the Russian uranium decision, because that isn’t how CFIUS works. And nowhere did the Times report show that Hillary Clinton personally influenced the decision. Indeed, the record indicates that she played no role whatsoever. Knowledgeable observers of CFIUS believe that its operations are dominated by Treasury and Defense, not State.

To learn what really happened, though, Chait would have needed to read carefully, then maybe ask an intelligent question or two — but he couldn’t be bothered.

Accounts Receivable — Susanna Wolff bills her dog.

Dear Valued Pet,

You have an outstanding balance on your account. An itemized list of billable goods and services is as follows:

25-lb. bag of organic, grain-free, mega-expensive dog food

25-lb. bag of different food because you decided you didn’t like the fancy other food even though you’ve always gobbled it down like a monster in the past

1 of the best, most humane, pressure-point-free harnesses on the market

1 new, regular harness because I got sick of explaining to smug busybodies in the park that the humane harness just looked inhumane because you insisted on strangling yourself with it anyway

¼-lb. of Taleggio you ate off the coffee table during a dinner party

1 salami on which you tentatively placed your tongue before party guests arrived and that I served anyway

4-16 dog hairs in every single cup of coffee I’ve had since you came into my home

1 accidental “like” of a former classmate/current stranger’s Birthright-trip Instagram when I tried to brush one of your hairs off my phone

62 weeks, that’s how deep into that Instagram feed I was, just F.Y.I.

1 discovery that your hair wasn’t just on my phone screen, but actually embedded under the glass

3 pairs of headphones eaten in their entirety

1 pair of headphones merely shredded beyond repair, which allowed me to figure out what happened to the other 3 pairs

1 lifetime’s worth of feces picked up with only a flimsy Citarella produce bag protecting my hand

8 attempts at subtly studying said feces in public for any sign of those headphones

2 trips to the vet

45 minutes trying to get you to pee into a little plastic dish thing only to have the whole mess tip over onto my shoe

624 dollars to find out that you’re fine

Another ¼-lb. of Taleggio, somehow

Total amount due: $6,346

Payment due: 4/24/2015

If payment is not received by 4/24/2015, I will have no choice but to keep providing for you and loving you anyway because you are my dog.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you.

Sincerely,

Your Indentured Owner

Doonesbury — Dead end.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

National Brotherhood Week

Teaching tolerance and understanding in Cincinnati goes terribly wrong when wingnuts get a whiff of it.

What started out as a cultural awareness effort by Mason High School Muslim students this week morphed into a fierce 48-hour debate about prejudice, freedom and religion in public schools.

By the end, Mason High School canceled the “Covered Girl Challenge,” and principal Mindy McCarty-Stewart sent an apology to district families. The challenge was student-sponsored and voluntary, meant to combat stereotypes students may face when wearing head coverings, McCarty-Stewart wrote.

“As word spread beyond our school community … we received many strong messages that made me reconsider the event’s ability to meet its objectives,” she wrote. “I now realize that as adults we should have given our students better guidance.”

Even afterward, though, the episode and arguments illustrate the fault lines in Greater Cincinnati – and the U.S. – over where cultural awareness ends and promoting a religion begins. And where avoiding controversy ends and turns into bigotry.

“This is ridiculous!!” read one email sent to Mason that the Enquirer obtained under a public records request. “You’re spending our money to support Sharia and Islam…”

“There is absolutely no reason to do this,” read another. “Stop trying to down play the horrible thing (SIC) that have occurred in this nation at the hands of Muslims.”

But for Shakila Ahmad, her first reaction when she heard about the response to the hijab challenge was disappointment.

“You know what? I really thought we were a better community than this,” said Ahmad, a Mason resident and president and board chair for the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. “To let ourselves be bullied and intimidated, to cancel something whose whole objective was to build understanding is extremely disappointing.”

Well, come on; everyone knows that “religious liberty” only applies to Christians.

HT to FC.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gander Sauce

Steve M asks a good question: If Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his inflammatory rhetoric was fair game when Barack Obama ran for president, shouldn’t Marco Rubio be held accountable for his favorite church’s claim that homosexuality is an addiction and evolution is Satanic?

The difference is that Mr. Rubio probably agrees with them.

By the way, the megachurch that Mr. Rubio attends is about a mile from my house.  And although I try to be a good neighbor and a good Quaker, every time I drive by the place I flip them off.  After all, if they’re going to incite intolerance and put meaningless symbols in the air, I might as well return the favor.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Huck Off

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee knows how to scare up a crowd.

He’s almost right.  Gay-rights activists won’t be satisfied until there are no more churches or Christians in America who treat the LGBT community as pariahs or who exploit their fear and loathing of them for money and political power.  As it is, there are plenty of churches and Christians who welcome the LGBT community.

Actually, most gay-rights activists don’t give a shit what the churches or Christians do as long as they leave the rest of us in peace.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Good Disciples

Not all people who call themselves Christians are sniveling bigots.

As Gov. Mike Pence prepares Thursday to sign controversial religious freedom legislation into law, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is raising concerns that the measure could hurt the city’s lucrative convention business and tarnish the state’s image as a welcoming place.

Ballard, a Republican, said the measure sends the “wrong signal” about the city and state. Opponents fear it could allow business owners to refuse services to same-sex couples.

“Indianapolis strives to be a welcoming place that attracts businesses, conventions, visitors and residents,” Ballard said Wednesday in a statement. “We are a diverse city, and I want everyone who visits and lives in Indy to feel comfortable here.”

[…]

In Indianapolis, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) sent a letter to Pence on Wednesday threatening to cancel its 2017 convention in Indy if he signs the measure into law.

“Our perspective is that hate and bigotry wrapped in religious freedom is still hate and bigotry,” Todd Adams, the associate general minister and vice president of the Indianapolis-based denomination, told The Indianapolis Star.

Adams said the Disciples of Christ would instead seek a host city that is “hospitable and welcome to all of our attendees.”

The Disciples of Christ has held its annual convention in Indianapolis three times since 1989. Adams expected about 8,000 to attend in 2017. VisitIndy estimated the economic impact at $5.9 million.

In fact, I would say that the majority of people who call themselves Christians are as open-minded and as welcoming as this example.  It’s the bigots with the big mouths and a roving eye for money and a gullible crowd that have hijacked the label, much the same way the Taliban and ISIS have poisoned Islam.

I am not a fan of boycotts; they rarely work and harm innocent people who depend on the boycotted industry or place. However, it would be very un-Quakerly to embarrass the good religious people of Indiana by giving them my gay business or my gay money, so I will not put them in the awkward position of having to accept it as long as this legalized gay-bashing is in place. I’m sure they will understand that I’m doing them a big favor.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Presbyterians Approve Marriage Equality

Via the New York Times:

After three decades of debate over its stance on homosexuality, members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Tuesday to change the definition of marriage in the church’s constitution to include same-sex marriage.

The final approval by a majority of the church’s 171 regional bodies, known as presbyteries, enshrines a change recommended last year by the church’s General Assembly. The vote amends the church’s constitution to broaden marriage from being between “a man and a woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

The Presbytery of the Palisades, meeting in Fair Lawn, N.J., put the ratification count over the top on Tuesday on a voice vote. With many presbyteries still left to vote, the tally late Tuesday stood at 87 presbyteries in favor, 41 against and one tied.

Congratulations.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Profession of Faith

Ana Marie Cox, the columnist for the Daily Beast and known for her liberal punditry, has come out as a Christian.

Not that it’s any of my business — or anyone else’s, for that matter — to render judgment on her personal beliefs, but I think it says something about our discourse today that people feel they either have to hide their faith or their lack of it for fear of being held up to someone else’s standard of just how holy they are.

My hesitancy to flaunt my faith has nothing to do with fear of judgment by non-believers. My mother was an angry, agnostic ex-Baptist; my father is a casual atheist. (I asked him once why he didn’t believe in God, and he replied easily, “Because He doesn’t exist.”)

I am not smart enough to argue with those that cling to disbelief. Centuries of philosophers have made better arguments than I could, and I am comfortable with just pointing in their direction if an acquaintance insists, “If there is a God, then why [insert atrocity]?” For me, belief didn’t come after I had the answer to that question. Belief came when I stopped needing the answer.

No, I’m nervous to come out as a Christian because I worry I’m not good enough of one. I’m not scared that non-believers will make me feel an outcast. I’m scared that Christians will.

That’s because a large segment of our political world has decided that being “Christian” is different than being a Christian.  Barack Obama says he’s a Christian, but he’s not “Christian” enough for those who need another reason to hate him because of, oh, some other reason.  Those are the professional “Christians” who have trouble with those Christians who accept marriage equality in their churches or meeting houses, who believe women have the right to control their bodies, who welcome strangers to a strange land, and who believe that taking care of the planet is part of the life we have going here.

I have a feeling Ms. Cox will be welcomed in liberal circles a lot more than she will in the ones that demand she prove she’s really a “Christian.”

Peace out.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cross Purposes

Via TPM:

The poll by the Democratic-leaning firm found that 57 percent of Republicans “support establishing Christianity as the national religion” while 30 percent are opposed. Another 13 percent said they were not sure.

It almost goes without saying that the Establishment Clause of the Constitution prohibits establishing of a national religion.

The poll was conducted among 316 Republicans from Feb. 20-22. The margin of error was plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that somehow the GOP is able to wiggle around the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and get Christianity designated as the “national religion.”  What exactly would it mean?  Would Christians be favored over people of other faiths to run for office, say for president?  Well, so far we’ve already had forty-four presidents and they have all been, in some fashion, Christians.  So that’s covered.  Would Christians get special dispensation from paying taxes on their religious sites and places of worship?  Seems we’ve got that covered already; churches don’t pay taxes.  But then again, neither do mosques, synagogues, or Quaker meeting houses, so maybe the Christians want those other faiths to cough up.  Would Christians get their holidays designated as federal holidays?  Okay, but try getting a passport or buying a stamp at the Post Office on December 25.  Easter, which is a Christian holiday, is always on a Sunday, but a lot of states and municipalities still have blue laws that prohibit doing business on the Christian Sabbath, holiday or not.  Friday and Saturday, which are the Muslim and Jewish days of rest respectively, don’t get that special treatment.  So it looks like the Christians already have their faith in place as the national religion, official or otherwise.

There’s an even more fundamental question, so to speak: which version of Christianity would get the designation as the “national religion”?  There’s an endless number of varieties within the faith, and varieties within the varieties: Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Coptic, Episcopal, Anglican, Baptist, Southern Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Quaker, Unitarian, Brethren, and so on and so forth.  Each claims to be the true Christian church.  What would set one as the official one?  Or would they all be?  Who would decide?  Would there be a Department of Christianity that would oversee the functions of the national religion?  Would it oversee the implementation of laws that meet Christian standards much in the way that other theocracies like Iran or ISIS have a ministry that oversees sharia law?  Now there’s a good example to follow.

Or would the designation of Christianity as the national religion be something done just to go through the motions, a resolution passed by Congress with as much intent and enforcement as the designation of National Pickle Week?  That would be a slap to the faith; Christians expect something more from their government than just a scroll and a shout-out from the well of Congress.

It’s an interesting experiment to think what this country would be like if Christianity was the national religion, but in many ways it already is.  What’s a bit more ridiculous is that people who belong to the party that claims to be for freedom and smaller government think that it would be a good idea if we were to impose upon the country the one thing that has proved over time to be the very antithesis of both freedom and democracy: the Christian faith.  They really don’t seem to think these things through.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cue The Meteor

If we have gotten to the stage in this country where people are actually being paid to write articles telling us that it’s President Obama’s fault that people question his religion, then we might as well bring on the meteor to wipe us out like the dinosaurs because there’s no hope left.

This is the dumbest shit ever. The idea that the President Obama is partly to blame for the confusion over his religious faith is ridiculous. While Andrew Jackson was our first Trinitarian president, and he only converted after leaving the White House, we have never had any president who professed to believe in any religion other than Christianity or its unitarian offshoots. If we elected a Buddhist or a Jew or a Hindu or a Muslim or a Mormon, everyone would know about it.

By the way, we’ve had two Quaker presidents — Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon — so chew on that while you wait for the firestorm.