Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Common Core

Okay, students, here’s a pop quiz: which prominent political alliance is violently opposed to the teaching of evolution and promotes religious theories in the science curriculum?

  • ISIS
  • The Texas Republican Party

Trick question: they both do.

ISIS:

In Mosul, ISIS issued a statement nearly two weeks ago, declaring “good news of the establishment of the Islamic State Education Diwan by the caliph who seeks to eliminate ignorance, to spread religious sciences and to fight the decayed curriculum.”

The AP report added that Islamic State explicitly prohibits lessons on “Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

As it turns out, Iraqi schools weren’t teaching evolution anyway, but in the name of “eliminating ignorance,” ISIS wants to be absolutely certain that modern biology is banned from science classes. The violent extremists prefer “religious sciences.”

Texas GOP Platform:

The document also rails against teaching evolution in schools, demands that schools restrict access to “community organizers” [...], and encouraging schools to embrace “subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems.”

So the real question is do we fight them over there or over here?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Original Sin

Most people — including myself — thought that the rise of the Religious Right and their takeover of the Republican Party started in 1973 when the Supreme Court handed down their ruling on Roe v. Wade.  After all, the evangelicals take a back seat to no one when it comes to telling us that life begins at conception and that every sperm is sacred.

However, according to a piece in Politico by Dartmouth Professor Randall Balmer, it wasn’t the right to life that got them riled up.  In fact, a number of fundamentalist and evangelical churches agreed with the ruling, one leader going so far as to say “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”

Although a few evangelical voices, including Christianity Today magazine, mildly criticized the ruling, the overwhelming response was silence, even approval. Baptists, in particular, applauded the decision as an appropriate articulation of the division between church and state, between personal morality and state regulation of individual behavior.

So what was it that fired up the Christian soldiers to take over the party and inject it with their own dogmatic view of morality and purity if it wasn’t abortion?

It was another court ruling and it nothing to do with the right to life.

In May 1969, a group of African-American parents in Holmes County, Mississippi, sued the Treasury Department to prevent three new whites-only K-12 private academies from securing full tax-exempt status, arguing that their discriminatory policies prevented them from being considered “charitable” institutions. The schools had been founded in the mid-1960s in response to the desegregation of public schools set in motion by the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. In 1969, the first year of desegregation, the number of white students enrolled in public schools in Holmes County dropped from 771 to 28; the following year, that number fell to zero.

In Green v. Kennedy (David Kennedy was secretary of the treasury at the time), decided in January 1970, the plaintiffs won a preliminary injunction, which denied the “segregation academies” tax-exempt status until further review. In the meantime, the government was solidifying its position on such schools. Later that year, President Richard Nixon ordered the Internal Revenue Service to enact a new policy denying tax exemptions to all segregated schools in the United States. Under the provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which forbade racial segregation and discrimination, discriminatory schools were not—by definition—“charitable” educational organizations, and therefore they had no claims to tax-exempt status; similarly, donations to such organizations would no longer qualify as tax-deductible contributions.

On June 30, 1971, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued its ruling in the case, now Green v. Connally (John Connally had replaced David Kennedy as secretary of the Treasury). The decision upheld the new IRS policy: “Under the Internal Revenue Code, properly construed, racially discriminatory private schools are not entitled to the Federal tax exemption provided for charitable, educational institutions, and persons making gifts to such schools are not entitled to the deductions provided in case of gifts to charitable, educational institutions.”

Paul Weyrich, the late religious conservative political activist and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, saw his opening.

[...]

“The new political philosophy must be defined by us [conservatives] in moral terms, packaged in non-religious language, and propagated throughout the country by our new coalition,” Weyrich wrote in the mid-1970s. “When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation.”

In other words, if the government could deny tax-exempt status to schools and universities that practiced racial segregation, then what is the world coming to?

And thus was born the Religious Right, cloaking their racism in morality and picking up the right to choose as a convenient hostage.  We’re seeing it borne out today with their obsession with voter ID laws, strict immigration reform, the dismantling of the welfare safety net, and providing a subtext for everything they do in opposition to whatever it is that Barack Obama comes up with even if they thought of it themselves.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Here There Be Dragons

Remember that family of hard-core Christians who tried to sail away from all the evils of life in America and got stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?  They’re at it again.

Back in August, the Gastonguay family cited “abortion, homosexuality [and] the state-controlled church” as reasons for leaving the US to the island nation of Kiribati. However, the voyage did not go as planned as damage to their boat left them “adrift for weeks.” “They were eventually picked up by a Venezuelan fishing vessel, transferred to a Japanese cargo ship and taken to Chile,” the Associated Press reported.

Sean Gastonguay appeared on TruNews with Rick Wiles yesterday to discuss his plans to leave with his wife and children once again to escape what he perceives as anti-Christian persecution.

Maybe this time they’ll just sail off the edge of the Earth.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Have To Believe It Was Magic

Religion vs. Christian 07-07-12Far be it from me to knock someone else’s religion as long as it doesn’t interfere with someone else’s faith and freedom.  As John Lennon said, “whatever gets you through the night.”  In other words, feel free to do whatever you like as long as it doesn’t harm innocent bystanders or force itself on them.  If you want to make a deity out of a ’57 Chevy, go for it.  But skate over the edge into running other people’s lives, and we have a problem.

That’s what bothers me about the fundamentalist Christians.  Not content to wallow in their own particular brand of worship, they feel compelled to share it with the rest of us.  And by “share” I mean force it on the rest of the world by shame, lung power, and legislation.

People who do stuff like that have some sort of inferiority complex; they have to prove themselves better than the schlemiel who doesn’t think of Jesus as their personal savior, and they can’t sleep at night because of their obsession about the gay couple down the street doing unspeakable things in their bedroom.  (If my experience is any guide, the most unspeakable thing that goes on in a gay couple’s bedroom is one of them hogging the blanket on a cold night.)

This leads to the paranoia that the world is out to get them, and the fact that only 80% of Americans identify as nominally Christian in some form or another is just not good enough.  If someone tells them that no, you really can’t force a biology class to include the pleasant poetry of Genesis or that it is a misdemeanor to block access to a medical clinic,  they are being denied their religious freedom.  It never occurs to them that banning marriage equality might violate the religious freedom of those Christians who believe that God blesses all unions regardless of genitalia.  No, the world is out to get them, and the only way to free themselves from this horrible oppression is to do unto others before they do unto you.

That has led to some pretty wild conspiracy theories on behalf of the Religious Reich.  Amanda Marcotte at Salon has compiled a list of the Top Ten, ranging from same-sex marriage being a plot by lesbians to entrap men (which kind of flies in the face of a basic understanding of lesbianism) to the efficacy of birth control pills.  My favorite, though, is the hatred of Harry Potter.

JK Rowling is trying to lure your children into Satanism with her Harry Potter books. Hardline Christian conservatives have always been afraid pop culture is a conspiracy of Satan’s to attract impressionable young people, so it’s unsurprising that Rowling’s Harry Potter series, with its portrayal of fantasy magic, made the top of the list of products to be feared. The hysteria hit a peak in 2001, with fundamentalist activists accusing the books of trying to “desensitize readers and introduce them to the occult” and “trafficking in evil spirits.” Things were made worse when the Onion published a satirical article Christian conservatives didn’t realize was satire, causing them to literally believe young kids told the Onion things like, “But the Harry Potter books showed me that magic is real, something I can learn and use right now, and that the Bible is nothing but boring lies.” The furor has died down somewhat, but plenty of evangelical leaders still routinely claim demons can possess your body if you read Harry Potter.

That’s ironic on several levels, the first being that people who base their faith and practice on the literal interpretation of a book filled with magic and talking snakes are carrying on about a book filled with magic and talking snakes.

It sounds to me as if they have a problem with envy: J.K. Rowling became a multimillionaire, and the Harry Potter books are a much better read, at least for the kids.

Right-wing Christians want to spread joy and good news throughout the world, but they really can’t be happy doing it unless they make the rest of us miserable.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Make Room for Bigots

The Religious Right is not happy with the GOP rebranding effort.

RIO RANCHO RIO GRANDE RON GARCIASome leaders of the religious right are openly worried this week after a sprawling 98-page report released by the Republican National Committee on how the party can rebuild after its 2012 implosion made no mention of the GOP’s historic alliance with grassroots Christian “value voters.”

Specifically, the word “Christian” does not appear once in the party’s 50,000-word blueprint for renewed electoral success. Nor does the word “church.” Abortion and marriage, the two issues that most animate social conservatives, are nowhere to be found. There is nothing about the need to protect religious liberty, or promote Judeo-Christian values in society. And the few fleeting suggestions that the party coordinate with “faith-based communities” — mostly in the context of minority outreach — receive roughly as much space as the need to become more “inclusive” of gays.

To many religious conservatives, the report was interpreted as a slight against their agenda and the hard work they have done for the party.

“The report didn’t mention religion much, if at all,” said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association. “You cannot grow your party by distancing yourself from your base, and this report doesn’t reinforce the values that attracted me and many other people into the Republican Party in the first place. It just talks about reaching out to other groups.”

Is there no place left in America where these people can be secure in their reactionary anti-science, anti-woman bigotry?  How intolerant can the GOP be?

Not to worry, all you latter-day Torquemadas; the Republican Party knows that there are fat pigeons to be plucked with scary visions of gay weddings being held at the abortion clinics and jack-booted thugs confiscating guns at the FEMA camps.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Vatican Fashion

Here’s what the newest pope emeritus will be wearing this spring:

Gone will be the red “Prada” loafers, replaced by brown shoes made in Leon, Mexico.

A pair was given to the Pope on a recent trip there. After Thursday, the Pope’s “fisherman’s ring” will also be destroyed.

You know how hard it is to coordinate your accessories.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hot Tip

This photo is going viral:

PastorTip

And here’s the background:

The pastor was part of a party of 20 who ate at this server’s restaurant. Like many American restaurants, this particular one has a policy of adding an automatic 18% tip for large parties. It’s something the computer does automatically, not something the server has any control over. According to the server, the pastor and his party tried to get around the automatic 18% tip by asking for separate checks, even though the same man was paying for the whole table. The server says that everyone was happy with the service; they just didn’t like the idea of a compulsory tip. The result? The pastor scribbled out the tip, leaving none at all, and adding the note, “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?”

Having worked as a waiter, I’ve had that happen to me, too.  Once someone left me a bible tract, saying that it was much more precious than money.  I asked them how many of those would add up to my rent payments.  The owner of the restaurant saw what happened.  She stormed out of the kitchen and told the pastor and his family to get their sorry asses out and not to come back ever.

I wonder what makes these people think they’re doing a good job of selling their faith to others if they act like cheap poltroons.

HT to JMG.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Doggone It

The White House holiday card is out.

It was selected in a contest, and here’s the backstory on it.

You know what’s coming next, don’t you?  Sure you do.

The inside of the card reportedly reads, ”This season, may your home be filled with family, friends, and the joy of the holidays.” The card is signed by the entire First Family — along with Bo’s paw print.

Vanity Fair deemed this year’s Obama ‘Holiday’ card his best-ever in a posting titled, “Bo Obama: the True Meaning of Christmas.”

The 2012 card made no mention of any specific holiday nor did it include a Bible verse noting the birth of Christ.

There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, while 80% of the people in this country may self-identify as some version of Christian, not everyone does, and the president and the White House is for everyone, not just them.  Second, there are other holidays this time of year besides Christmas.

Besides, didn’t some other right-wing bitter prune already give the Obamas grief about over-doing the Christmas stuff inside the White House?

Good dog.

PS: Frank Bruni notes just how powerful the Christian influence is in America.

HT to Melissa.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Remote Control

Via JMG, we learn today that One Million Moms, the right-wing guardians of all that is pure and holy, is hawking a device called TVGuardian.

Have you ever been watching what you thought was a good, clean, family movie…only to be ambushed by crude, offensive language? Ever heard God’s name used in vain or Jesus’ name as a cuss word on TV? The leading cable and satellite providers in America KNOW that families and people of faith don’t want obscene language on TV…yet they continue to do NOTHING about it. Now there’s a way YOU can take control over the language in your home: TVGuardian, the only foul language filter available for TV today. TVGuardian is a small box you connect to your TV and it automatically filters out foul language…crude language…sexual language…racial slurs…even God’s name in vain and Jesus’ name used as a cussword!

They want $129 for one of these little devices.

I have one on my TV and doesn’t cost a cent.  It’s called a Mute button.  There’s also something called the Off button.

I wonder what it was like at the TVGuardian factory when they were coming up with the list of “foul language” to include in the blocking software.  That must have been fun: “Hey, what about ‘sanctimonious busybodies’ — should that be on the list?  What about ‘closet case Speedo sniffer’?”

Isn’t it nice that a bunch of right-wing Jesus-shouting control freaks can dictate what you and your family should be watching on TV?  It’s so much better than you having to think for yourself or do your job as a parent.

Back On Earth

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) does some creative backtracking.

After dabbling in creationism earlier this month, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., clarified that he does believe that scientists know the Earth is “at least 4.5 billion years old.”

“There is no scientific debate on the age of the earth. I mean, it’s established pretty definitively, it’s at least 4.5 billion years old,” Rubio told Mike Allen of Politico. ”I was referring to a theological debate, which is a pretty healthy debate.

“The theological debate is, how do you reconcile with what science has definitively established with what you may think your faith teaches,” Rubio continued. “Now for me, actually, when it comes to the age of the earth, there is no conflict.”

Speaking of creative, that’s some mighty good misremembering of what he actually said when the topic was brought up the last time: “I’m not a scientist, man.”  And tossing it back to the “theological debate” category is a weasely way out of it because in reality, there is no healthy debate among theologians about their creation mythology unless you’re building a theme park in Kentucky.

Our little boy is learning quickly that you can’t talk like a crackpot and expect to be elected anything more than the Tea Party flavor of the month.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Charity Case

This is the time of year when you start seeing those folks standing outside stores and shopping malls with the Salvation Army kettles, ringing their little bells, asking you to put in some money.  It’s a tradition going back decades, and they do it to help those less fortunate.  The Salvation Army also has collected and distributed a lot of funds and help during the recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, and they do provide help for the less fortunate.  That’s very noble of them, and I am sure that there are a lot of people who are grateful for their assistance.

But remember one thing: the Salvation Army is not a charity.  It is an evangelical church, and despite protests to the contrary, they are anti-gay and promote discrimination in their hiring practices against LGBT people.  No, they do not discriminate against people who avail themselves of their services or receive help from them, but if you want to work for them, you can’t be gay.

Far be it from me to tell you who to give your money to in terms of charitable giving; that is strictly between you and your purse.  If you want to support the Salvation Army in what they do, please do.  But remember that it comes with a little bit of a price.

As for me, when I see those people standing outside the mall or a store, I smile and walk right on by.  I do not wish to embarrass them by giving them any money that might be tainted by being earned by someone who would chew away at their theological fabric.  That would be very uncharitable.

(For more on the Salvation Army’s history on LGBT people, check out Americablog.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

God-Smacked

Pat Robertson explains how he blew the call from God that Mitt Romney would win the election.

“You have to practice the presence of God, practice to voice of God, practice hearing from God and then check to see if indeed you are hearing from Him. And so many of us miss God. I’ll tell you, I won’t get into great detail about elections, but I sure did miss it and I thought I had heard from God, I thought I had heard clearly from God. What happened? What intervenes? Why? You ask God, ‘How did I miss it?’ Well, we all do and I’ve had a lot of practice.

Nah, I think he was just messing with you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Church Is Out

One result of the election that goes beyond just counting the votes:

Christian conservatives, for more than two decades a pivotal force in American politics, are grappling with Election Day results that repudiated their influence and suggested that the cultural tide — especially on gay issues — has shifted against them.

[...]

“Millions of American evangelicals are absolutely shocked by not just the presidential election, but by the entire avalanche of results that came in,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., said in an interview. “It’s not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn’t get out. It did get out.

“It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed,” he said. “An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.”

Yes, and it’s about time, too.

I don’t have a problem with religion and religious folk having a point of view about morals.  I don’t even object to them having lobbyists in Washington or state capitals to make their points to people in power.  What I do not like is having religion turned into political power and biblical tenets written into law, especially when they’re used to oppress one particular group of citizens.

So if America is rejecting the “moral landscape” as it has been constructed by those that would break down the barrier between church and state, turn back the clock on women, and deny the basic rights of citizenship to the gay community, that’s a good thing.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

With Him Or Against Him

The backlash against Indiana senate candidate Richard Mourdock and his comments about God and rape continues.  Some notable Republicans (John McCain and Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire) are distancing themselves while others (Mitch McConnell) are supporting him.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, who cut a commercial endorsing Mr. Mourdock, is still with him.  Via TPM:

[Wednesday] night the Romney campaign put out a statement disagreeing with Mourdock’s comment but not denouncing him. And the campaign did not respond to questions about whether he was withdrawing his endorsement.

The key though is the ad. Democrats are pushing hard for him to ask Mourdock to take it down. And if the Mourdock story grows, I suspect he’ll have to ask him to take it down, which would be devastating for Mourdock — not so much because of the ad not showing but because of the merciless press it could spawn so close to election day.

The fate of the ad is what I’d watch to see where this story is going over the course of the day.

Late Update: The Romney campaign has now said they have not asked Mourdock to take down the ad.

Later Update: Freshman GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte cancels trip to campaign with Mourdock.

Even Later Update: Romney reaffirms support for Mourdock candidacy.

One reason might be is that Paul Ryan’s view on abortion is basically the same as Mr. Mourdock’s.

When Missouri senate candidate Todd Akin brought up the subject of “legitimate rape” back in August, the GOP couldn’t run away fast enough.  Now Mr. Mourdock has said something equally outrageous, and yet he’s still got support from big names in the party.  Why?

It may have something to do with the fact that Mr. Mourdock invoked God in his statement, whereas Mr. Akin only went with pseudo-science.  It’s far easier to distance yourself from someone who only offers what he thinks are scientific facts as proof rather than incur the wrath of the Almighty by seeming to contradict His Will.  Scientific facts are debatable; God is not.

PS: According to The Onion, God is not pleased with these recent developments.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

One For the Books

David Barton is an evangelical historian who has made a very nice career out of selling books that re-tell history from a Christian perspective.

Among the many whackadoodle claims that Barton tells trembling-with-joy audiences at his 400 annual speech-making appearances, is that the bible plainly states opposition to the minimum wage, to corporate bailouts, to socialized medicine, and just about anything else that a non-teabagger might endorse. Most infamously, he claims that virtually all of the Founding Fathers were in fact devout evangelical Christians who expressly created the United States to be a nation of, by, and exclusively for Jeebus people.

His latest book, The Jefferson Lies, tells us that contrary to all the known history about Thomas Jefferson, he, along with John Adams and Ben Franklin, was really a devout Christian and was inspired to write the Declaration of Independence by the Baby Jesus leaning over his shoulder in that sweltering summer of 1776.

Real historians took issue with the book, and now the publisher has yanked it.

The company began to evaluate the criticisms, Harrell said, and “in the course of our review learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported. Because of these deficiencies we decided that it was in the best interest of our readers to stop the publication and distribution.”

I find it both amusing and infuriating that some Christians feel the need to legitimize their mythology by distorting history, as if they need some kind of secular affirmation. It means they don’t have a whole lot of faith in their own faith, or they’re trying to force the rest of us into believing that by rewriting the past, fiction becomes fact.

Doesn’t that destroy the entire idea of religion? If all you have is fact, where’s the room for belief in things unseen and unknown? And, ironically, why would evangelicals be interested in supporting their faith with godless facts after they’ve spent centuries demonizing everyone from Galileo to Stephen Hawking?

One For the Books

David Barton is an evangelical historian who has made a very nice career out of selling books that re-tell history from a Christian perspective.

Among the many whackadoodle claims that Barton tells trembling-with-joy audiences at his 400 annual speech-making appearances, is that the bible plainly states opposition to the minimum wage, to corporate bailouts, to socialized medicine, and just about anything else that a non-teabagger might endorse. Most infamously, he claims that virtually all of the Founding Fathers were in fact devout evangelical Christians who expressly created the United States to be a nation of, by, and exclusively for Jeebus people.

His latest book, The Jefferson Lies, tells us that contrary to all the known history about Thomas Jefferson, he, along with John Adams and Ben Franklin, was really a devout Christian and was inspired to write the Declaration of Independence by the Baby Jesus leaning over his shoulder in that sweltering summer of 1776.

Real historians took issue with the book, and now the publisher has yanked it.

The company began to evaluate the criticisms, Harrell said, and “in the course of our review learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported. Because of these deficiencies we decided that it was in the best interest of our readers to stop the publication and distribution.”

I find it both amusing and infuriating that some Christians feel the need to legitimize their mythology by distorting history, as if they need some kind of secular affirmation. It means they don’t have a whole lot of faith in their own faith, or they’re trying to force the rest of us into believing that by rewriting the past, fiction becomes fact.

Doesn’t that destroy the entire idea of religion? If all you have is fact, where’s the room for belief in things unseen and unknown? And, ironically, why would evangelicals be interested in supporting their faith with godless facts after they’ve spent centuries demonizing everyone from Galileo to Stephen Hawking?