Sunday, August 20, 2006
Putting a New Spin on that special "Oh, God!"
Over here we read about the evolving evangelical position on contraception, at least within marriage (the whole question of pre-marital, or perhaps non-marital, sex, is a post for another time). It seems that evangelicals are remembering that sex is a gift of a good God, and see contraception as part of the stewardship Christians are to practice. The writer, from the Wall Street Journal, notes the prevelance of "marital guides" in Christian bookstores.
It is nice that the mainstream media (can I lump the WSJ in that category, considering its editorial page?) is noticing that Christians are not cheerless, joyless, and sexless creatures, out to ruin our lives, removing from sex the role of pleasure as an aid to strengthening the marriage bond for the pure functional role of making more babies. It is also nice that even those who had previously been adamant in their opposition to contraception, even within marriage, are mellowing with age and experience. It is nice, finally, to have a recognition that there is more complexity in the real world than we would like to believe.
It is important to remember, along with theological objections, there are also good ideological reasons for being, well, uneasy, about the ideology of contraception. The godmother of the contraceptive movement, Margaret Sanger, was a racist, eugenicist, and saw the distribution of contraceptives to the working class and minorities not as a boon to them, but rather to the majority and middle- and upper-classes. By reducing the fertility of "undesirables", there would be no threat from them overwhelming those who, by "nature", were destined to rule (we see echoes of this same argument, sadly, in many arguments today; those who make these arguments are blissfully unaware of the deeply offensive nature of their position, an d react with vehemence when it is pointed out). This is not to argue against contraceptives. It is only to point out that, while a boon in many respects, the movement to control fertility was born within an ideology that should be anathema to us all.
I am glad that more evangelicals are embracing a healthy view of sex as an enjoyable bonus, marital recreation as it were (in all senses of that word). I am also glad that hearts are softening on the place of contraception within the marriage bed, opening up greater possibilities for married couples. Sex is one of the best gifts of God, and using it wisely is part of the calling of God to be stewards of the gifts of God. Let us all, then, go forth, and practice good stewardship, thanking God loudly in the process!
Thursday, August 17, 2006
If you go to my blog and click on the link, "Poplar Grove United Methodist Church", then click the link there that says "UMC Website", you will read a story about a United Methodist lay person, harassed by our government, seeking sanctuary inside a Chicago church (personal note: my wife is a pastor in the same UM Conference, and is a good friend of the Chicago Northwest District Superintendent). There is little mention in the article - from United Methodist News Service (UMNC) - of the woman's local pastor; I must admit, also, that I found the statement from our resident bishop, Hee-Soo Jung, tepid at best. Nevertheless, the woman is seeking sanctuary, an internationally recognized right; as long as her local pastor and its Board of Trustees (those whose responsibility it is to oversee the maintenance of the physical plant of the church as well as any legal issues involved as it pertains to the question of sanctuary) stand by her, the government cannot take her, and her child, a US citizen, can stay with his mother.
I would ask you to remember this woman, an active church person, a lay leader in fact, who loves her son, and only asks that she be allowed to stay and raise him here. I would ask you to remember the church, its pastor and members, its bishop and other clergy as they wrestle with this. I would ask that you all hope that the Church not surrender its centuries-old tradition of sanctuary, but rather would honor its mission to serve those in need, protect those who have no no protection, and challenge those who would use power to destroy a family. If that happens (a big "if", but wonders are still possible), perhaps the name "Christian" will be a bit less of an albatross.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Giving a Platform to a Lunatic
If you go here, you will find something that frustrates me more than Sen. Inhofe of Oklahoma or Sam Brownback of Kansas, that is, a news report that gives a larger, mainstream platform to Pat Robertson. Why? I think it safe to say that, outside the audience for his television program (in truth, I have no idea what that is, and I am quite sure it is impossible to guage with any accuracy; for the sake of argument, let us call it somewhere in the range of two to four million people) he has no credibility whatsoever. He has called for the assassination of foreign leaders; he has commanded, "in the name of God", hurricanes to steer away from Virginia Beach (to protect his facility, not because of the economic damage and potential loss of life); he wrote a book in which he saw the George H. W. Bush furthering the plans of Cecil Rhodes and the Illuminati; the day after the September 11 attacks, he and Jerry Falwell blamed lesbians, gays, feminists, and abortion for the attacks (in other words, the attacks were the vehicle of divine justice for our sinful ways). Why should anyone listen to him? Even criticizing him is irrelevant, because, as a lunatic, his alternate reality is impervious to criticism.
I know "Ignore him and he'll go away" doesn't work in politics, but we should ignore him anyway. Let him spout his nonsense, but as long as he keeps within the confines of his television program, he hurts no one but himself.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Finding a Quiet Place
As an antidote to the insanity of the world, may I recommend, for your listening pleasure, Rachmaninoff's "Vespers"? I am currently listening, and find them able to remove me, for a moment or two, from the chaos within which we currently find ourselves. There are many editions; mine is from the Musical Heritage Society, and is highly recommended.
You do not have to be a Christian, or even believe in God, to find respite within this music. It provides a wonderful canopy under which all can find rest - and it asks nothing of us but to listen; in that way it is very Christian in the best sense of the term. On this Sunday, find an hour to close your eyes, or read a book, or do the dishes, or whatever, and find a copy of the "Vespers". You will be transported; I guarantee it.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Catching a lie, but where is an alternative?
The folks over here repeat a report from the Center for American Progress on the workings of various groups of conservative Christians. They act like Capt. Renault in Casablanca, "shocked, shocked" that politicized Christian groups would lie to further certain political ends. They mourn the lack of integrity, what they call "sloppy research" (in fact, it was "research" only in the sense that the groups involved spent time ripping words out of context to further their own agendas), and other shenanigans. What they do not do is accept the fact that politicizing the Christian faith, whether for conservative or progressive purposes, leads to results such as this. The religious right has a quarter-century head start on the left, but give it time. That is not a cynical view, but simply an acceptance of the way things work in the world.
My main problem with the post is not the myopia or the earnest breast-beating at the sins of Focus on the Family, but rather the lack of any serious alternative to the tactics and policy position of conservative Christian groups. There are serious religious questions to be raised concerning a variety of developing bio-technologies; to echo secular liberal positions does nothing to give the budding progressive Christian movement a separate identity. It is all well and good to be progressive. It is just as important to pay attention to the fact that they are also Christian, and have a duty to be true to that as well. Standing around, pointing, shouting "Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire!" is no substitute for serious thought, for developing a policy alternative to the Christian right.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Listen Carefully
The letter was sent to my blog on a thread concerning an outrageous column by Alan Dershowitz that said, in essence, criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. I criticized Dershowitz' position, and the very idea that an American cannot criticize Israel's actions, unless such criticism is rooted in hatred of Jews. Such an idea is illogical, let alone not based in anything close to reality.
The letter was a copy of one sent to the UCC by the Wiesenthal Center critical of that denomination's comments, from the content of the letter at any rate, on the current Israeli war against Hezbollah and Lebanon. My comment's were not in any way directed at that conflict, and in fact were written before this particular conflict began. I suppose that, as a Christian critical of Israel, I fit into the catgegory of Jew-hating Christians in their eyes.
The sad part is, that, while the situation is complicated, and I feel that Israel is prosecuting this conflict in the wrong manner, I support Israel's attempt to protect its citizens from the rocket attacks, and while I do not see Hezbollah as simply a terrorist organization, its actions in kidnapping Israeli soldiers and firing rockets at civilian targets inside Israel constitute an act of war, as Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government. That is missed, of coursed, by those who want to scream "anit-Semite!" everytime someone says Israel isn't the perfect place to live.
If someone out there is saying I am anti-Semitic because I am critical of the state of Israel, let them come find me. My blog isn't secret. Since I can't prove a negative, it is up to those making the charge to prove their case based on evidence. I have offered none that I can even remotely suppose makes the case that I am anti-Semitic, unless like Dershowitz, one believes that criticism of Israel is ipso facto proof of anti-Semitism. If that is the case, then, there is nothing I can say to prove them wrong, is there?

Let the games begin. By the way, while we debate this whole thing, real people are dying, and an already instable area of the world is teetering on the edge of collapse. Let us try and keep our priorities straight, shall we?
Saturday, August 05, 2006
I get attention from the Simon Wiesenthal Center
If you go to my blog and scroll down to the thread entitled "I hate writing about Israel", and open the comment box, you will see the copy of a letter sent to the head of the UCC was posted there. Apparently, either ignorant or apathetic to what I wrote at the head of the thread concerning the equation of anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel, this letter writer wanted to call me names.
I find it interesting that an organization originally designed to hunt down Nazi war criminal would attack a semi-inactive blog. No criticism of Israel is allowed, apparently. Oh, well, I won't be silent, I shall continue to criticize Israel for what it is doing in southern Lebanon, and let these harridans carry on as they will.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Stupid Christian File
Dateline, Ogle County, Illinois. This rural northern Illinois county recently paid for and received a statue for county property. It decided to name the statue "Demeter". Immediately, local residents wre up in arms because . . . the county was promoting pagan Greek religion by naming the statue after Demeter!
After an uproar in the local papers, and several furious county board meetings, the name was dropped, as the threat of a constitutional lawsuit was raised. Apparently there are enough worshipers of Greek gods that the county board was afraid they might surface at trial.
The Christians crowed that they had scored another victory in the "War on Christianity" (that exists only in the minds of idiots like Bill O'Reilly). If I weren't so committed to the Christian faith, I would abandon it because of ridiculously stupid people like these and the ridiculously stupid things they do.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
When Nutters Attack Part 69
So just how ?

Apparently nutty enough to, once again, to further their weird claims that, like, the entire world hates Jews, except them (you know, the political games to get people to vote Republican based on lies, simply because the truth about the Republican platform pisses off America).


Finally, Some Damn Unity
(Updated Below)

Holy shit, I think Democrats .

After months of struggling to forge a unified stance on the Iraq war, top congressional Democrats joined voices yesterday to call on President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops by the end of the year and to "transition to a more limited mission" in the war-torn nation.

With the midterm elections three months away, and Democrats seeing public discontent over Iraq as their best chance for retaking the House or Senate, a dozen key lawmakers told Bush in a letter: "In the interests of American national security, our troops and our taxpayers, the open-ended commitment in Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained. . . . We need to take a new direction."

This is the perfect uniting statement, to me. Finally, Democrats are showing that they aren’t afraid to be representatives of America by demanding a change in this whole failed Iraq fiasco.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said yesterday's letter "underscores the critical choice facing the American people in November." At a time of "jihadist attacks on civilians in Baghdad, Mumbai and northern Israel," he added, "Democrat leaders propose to cut and run from the central front in the war on terror. Waving a white flag in Iraq may appeal to the Net roots, but it will embolden the enemy, encourage more terrorism and make America less secure."

It’s nice to see that Republicans are still trying to convince America that this Iraq invasion is somehow connected to the War on Terror.

UPDATE1 11:43 AM: have apparently sent a letter to Democrats, stating how fucked our military actually is.

The National Security Advisory Group, chaired by former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, alleged in a letter to top congressional Democrats that the US administration's underfunding of the army represents "a serious failure of civilian stewardship of the military."

"Two-thirds of the army's operating force, active and reserve, is now reporting in as unready," the group wrote in their letter to lawmakers.

"There is not a single non-deployed Army Brigade Combat Team in the United States that is ready to deploy.