Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama chooses Rick Warren to lead inaugural invocation

That would be Rick Warren, founder of Saddleback Church, backer of California's Propostion 8 and comparer of committed, adult same-sex relationships to child abuse.

"Can you imagine if [Obama] had a man of God* doing the invocation who had deliberately said that Jews are not going to be saved and therefore should be excluded from what’s going on in America? People would be up in arms." -- Rick Jacobs, Courage Campaign

Just to be clear, I defend Warren's right to believe that Jews, queers, Muslims and various sorts of Christians are not going to be saved. What I object to is the conclusion that any of these individuals should be denied the right to legal protections that are permitted to "saved" American citizens. And I believe that anyone who promotes the use of religion-based litmus tests in determining the civil rights of individuals should not be invited to the government pulpit nee lectern.

(Whether religious invocations are appropriate at state ceremonies is a question for another day, but you can probably guess my answer.)

*I was tempted to insert a [sic] after "man of God," but refrained.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Evangelical politics

Christianity Today posted an article yesterday about the effect on the Christian green movement of Richard Cizik's forced resignation from the National Association of Evangelicals.

For those who do not follow all the politicking of the NAE, Cizik -- former vice president of governmental affairs for the NAE -- was not forced to resign because he is gay. That was Ted Haggard, the former NAE president.*

Cizik, who appears to be heterosexual, was forced out because, as an intelligent person, he understands the difference between civil and religious law. He told Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air, "I would willingly say that I believe in civil unions. I don't officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don't think."

Okay, so the "I don't think" at the end is a little waffley, but maybe he's just trying to leave room to redefine marriage from certain traditional definitions -- like the ones that include having sex with your daughters (Noah), rapists purchasing their victims and making them their "wives" (the Law), and profligate polygyny (David and just about every other man mentioned by name in the first half of the Good Book). I would think any lock-step evangelical would be proud to redefine traditional marriage as between two, and only two, consenting adults, but apparently this is controversial.

Lock-step evangelicals don't want to heed Paul's advice to let government be government and church be church. Cizik, who apparently reads the Bible more carefully than those who purport to be the face of orthodox Christianity, understands the difference.

Cizik also figured that, if the Bible is true, then the Creator gave us brains to use and a responsibility to use them. This belief led Cizik to take a stand on global warming. But the large knee-jerk faction of the NAE did not like this. "If pagans are in favor of the earth, we have to be against it," seems to be their logic.

Reading the Christianity Today article reminded me why I stopped subscribing to that magazine. The writing is usually good, but it gives way too much ink to poorly thought-out, reactionary opinions that just don't require that many words to explain. I mean, do you really need two pages to say, "And then a bunch of reactionaries who'd like to bury their heads in the sand accused Cizik of being an unrepentant heathen"?

*Ted Haggard now claims to be "transformed" from his homosexual inclinations.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

UPS Bike Drivers

I was going to leave all mention of UPS deliveries by bike to my "Things I've read lately" column, but then I saw this blog entry in Gas 2.0. It's pretty cool. Dude, with the benefits that UPS offers, it may be time to move to Portland.

Question is, do they give the bicycle delivery drivers a food allowance? It would only be right -- UPS pays for the fuel the truck drivers use in their trucks -- but doing so might chip away at the money UPS is saving with this move.


On Friday I went to my friends' annual Pee-wee Herman Christmas Special party. This is the official beginning of holiday cheer in my book -- or perhaps the whole sum of it, since I'm not a big practitioner of cheer of any sort.

Among the party-goers were two Jambas, neither of which was able to sever his own head in order to provide bounce-along guidance to the dreidl song. (Fast-forward to 4:00 on the video if that sounds cruel and inhumane to you, and you will understand that it is just happy fun.)

No one came as Charo, perhaps because it was freezing outside. Fortunately, this did not prevent Charo from appearing again to sing "Feliz Navidad," which is always my favorite part. Look at those fingers move!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

So you want a nativity on display at your government building?

Olympia, Washington, is learning about the unintended consequences of allowing religious displays on government property. It allowed a realtor to erect a nativity scene at the state capitol. That was soon joined by a sign from the Freedom from Religion Foundation stating the there is no God.

Okay, no big deal, the Olympians are probably thinking, some may find it offensive, but the sign isn't impudent in phrasing the beliefs of a significant minority.

But now the Westboro (Kansas) Baptist Church is petitioning to add a sign that reads:
Santa Claus Will Take You to Hell

You'd better watch out, get ready to cry,
You'd better go hide, I'm telling you why
'cuz Santa Claus will take you to hell.

He is your favorite idol, you worship at his feet,
but when you stand before your God
He won't help you take the heat.

So get this fact straight: you're feeling God's hate,
Santa's to blame for the economy's fate,
Santa Claus will take you to hell.

Don't leave your kids with this red fright
Just like the priests he'll rape 'em at night
Oh Santa Clause will take you to hell.

You tell the children he is real,
You know that's just a lie,
To justify your own vile sins
That's the only reason why.

So get this fact straight, you're feelin' God's hate
Santa's to blame for the dead soldier's fate
Santa Claus will take you to hell.

Hmmm ... So maybe allowing religious displays isn't such a good idea after all. Or, in the words of a spokesperson for Washington's Department of General Administration: "Holy cow."

It's hard to see how Olympia would be able to justify a rejection of the sign. It can't argue that it doesn't accept displays from groups based out of state -- the Freedom From Religion Foundation is headquartered in Wisconsin. It could argue that the group needs to have members in Washington (the Freedom From Religion Foundation does), but I'm sure Westboro could scrounge up some local supporters. And it would be hard to argue that the Westboro sign is too offensive to display, since I'm certain the current displays have both offended their fair share of folks.

I am just giggling with delight.

Victory for the folks who brought you the weekend

The Chicago factory sit-in has ended. The workers' demands have been met. All thanks to the labor movement -- the folks who brought you the weekend.

Dying culture, dying tongue

I read an article this morning about the Kawesqar, a Patagonian tribe whose members are dying off. It discussed the ingenious way that Kawesqar would rub themselves in fat before diving for mussels, presumably to keep warm. But beware of romanticism. One of the members, estimated age 66, remarked, "I am not sad. Life is easier now." Also, beware of the annoying use of the phrase "pure-blooded" throughout the article. I found it irritating. It's a phrase that ought to be applied to dogs, not people.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Okay. I guess I'm a religious nut.

I wrote this letter to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty today and, reading over it, realized that I am, indeed, a religious nut and Constitutional whacko:

Dear brothers and sisters at the Becket Fund and co-signers of the No Mob Veto public letter,

The inflammatory No Mob Veto letter drowned valid points about religious freedom in fiery and destructive rhetoric against detractors of the LDS Church. Some of these folks are bigots, but most of the ones I have heard simply have theological and doctrinal disagreements with the church and have differing interpretations of the role that religion ought to play in the drafting and passage of laws. This is America, and I would hope that people could engage in lively debates on religion without being tarred as "anti-religious bigots."

The tone of your letter causes me to think that it was not provoked by violence. In fact, it fails to mention a single incident of violence. I couldn't find any records of violence on the Web site, either. (Intimidation, which you cursorily mention, is not inherently violence, and you fail to substantiate that it meets the violence threshold here; many people felt intimidated by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, but I don't recall Him ever condoning or committing an act of violence. Neither is disrupting a church service violence; it's not even inherently sinful. Christ caused plenty of disruptions at religious services and locations, and thank God He did so.)

Apparently, your real goal is as you state it at the end of the letter: "We commit ourselves to exposing and publicly shaming anyone who resorts to the rhetoric of anti-religious bigotry." Apparently the Christians among you have forgotten Paul's advice to bring a brother's or sister's faults to their attention personally and attempting to resolve disputes this way before bringing them to the public eye. I think Paul would be fine with public debate -- he did it in his letters -- but shaming is clearly against the spirit of what he writes

I also condemn anti-religious bigotry, but Americans are free to engage in it so long as they do not violate the law. Similarly, religious leaders are free to engage or choose not to engage in anti-homosexual bigotry as long as they do not violate the law. Why, it's the constitutional right of every American to be a bigot of whatever stripe he or she chooses, as long as no laws are violated. Of course, I don't think Jesus would advise any of us to be bigots, but my fellow believers are free to disagree.

My heart will be filled with joy when I can sign a letter with you all that condemns bigotry and violence in all forms, while defending the Constitutional right of every American to be a bigot. Naturally, this letter will also need to refrain from pronouncements in favor of public shaming. Please let me know when you want me to work with you to help draft it.

Reason for my silence

I've had a sinus infection for two weeks.