Tuesday, July 31, 2007

our next president

had damned well better be able to say "nuclear".

Try opening about 5 iterations of this page at once. And brace your ears.


Today I got spammed with an invitation to preorder Joel Osteen's new book, "Becoming a Better You"

It said:

Learn seven keys to improving your life everyday including:

  • Keep pressing forward.
  • Be positive towards yourself.
  • Develop better relationships.
  • Form better habits.
  • Embrace the place where you are.
  • Develop your inner life.
  • Stay passionate about life

(Excuse me while I just gag)

I guess my major problem with Joel Osteen is that he believes, and teaches, that the only way to get to heaven is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, thus completely writing off the nearly 5 billion people in the world who don't, and never will, have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I suppose it's fairly safe to assume that he thinks those 5 billion are going to hell. Bummer for them. For a lot of them, hell probably can't be a lot worse than this was.

There is the other little problem that he doesn't seem to embrace the dark side reality, inside or outside of christendom. Where's the take up your cross, deny yourself, sweat blood and die, dragons hanging around in delivery rooms to eat up newborn gods side of things? One hell of a long way outside the former houston astrodome, you can bet on that.


If the United States sells US$63 Billion+ worth of deadly weapons to Middle Eastern nations over the next ten years, and those weapons are used to kills 10's of thousands of civilians, and injure and maim tens of thousands more, what difference does it make to an average citizen of the U.S., such as myself? Does karma, fate, providence, or justice require that I ultimately bear any of the pain, horror, and darkness which the proliferation of these weapons shall doubtless cause?

I mean after all, what consequences has the average U.S. citizen faced for the nearly 300,000 civilians we killed when we dropped the only 2 atomic weapons ever used in warfare by any nation?

God bless (only) America. Here's to democracy, peace, and freedom, and lots and lots of money for the CEO's of ... Honeywell, for instance.

Is this man more evil than I am? Somehow, I seriously doubt it.

War Crimes and the White House

A great article from this past Thursday in the Washington Post about war crimes and the white house. H/T to Compassion in Politics. An excerpt:

Last Friday, the White House issued an executive order attempting to "interpret" Common Article 3 with respect to a controversial CIA interrogation program. The order declares that the CIA program "fully complies with the obligations of the United States under Common Article 3," provided that its interrogation techniques do not violate existing federal statutes (prohibiting such things as torture, mutilation or maiming) and do not constitute "willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual in a manner so serious that any reasonable person, considering the circumstances, would deem the acts to be beyond the bounds of human decency."

In other words, as long as the intent of the abuse is to gather intelligence or to prevent future attacks, and the abuse is not "done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual" -- even if that is an inevitable consequence -- the president has given the CIA carte blanche to engage in "willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse."

Monday, July 30, 2007

a strange new organic juxtaposition

Today while mowing my front lawn, I found in my ditch, which is next to the street, a piece of litter. When I bent to pick it up, I saw that it was the empty wrapper for some relatively expensive looking organic nutrition bar. It sure didn't look recyclable either. In any case, it's *definitely* not biodegradable. I thought to myself "Self, why would one buy organic and then litter?" My self had no reply

Should abortion be illegal?

And if so, what should the legal consequences be?

These are provocative questions to which I used to have very firm, unthought out answers, much like the people in this video. What do you think? (H/T Anna Quindlin)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Christians beat two Muslims to death in Indonesia

I guess radical muslims don't have the corner on terror

But then we knew that anyway, didn't we?

Annie Dillard

I was poking through Amazon's bestsellers in books page (and I'll give you one guess at to what is #1 there) and I found this new one from annie dillard at #17.

And I thought to myself "Self, I wonder if there's any hope that it's nearly as profound and moving as 'Holy the Firm'?" And myself replied "Probably not. Don't let yourself hope such things. How often do you find something like 'Holy the Firm'?" To which I replied "Rarely, self. Quite rarely."

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Why the bible is confusing and offputting

Samuel said to Saul, "God sent me to anoint you king over his people, Israel. Now, listen again to what God says. This is the God-of-the-Angel-Armies speaking: "I'm about to get even with Amalek for ambushing Israel when Israel came up out of Egypt. Here's what you are to do: Go to war against Amalek. Put everything connected with Amalek under a holy ban. And no exceptions! This is to be total destruction—men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys—the works." (From 1 Samuel 15)

"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. "You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. (From Matthew 5)

More proof

That our president is an evil man who cannot think in the long term: White House to push Mideast Arms Sales. The Bush The Bush administration will ask Congress to expand multibillion-dollar aid and weapons sales packages to friendly nations in the Middle East ...

Hmmmm. Now where have we seen this before ....

U.S. arms sales to Iraq

Go Obama!

spacegoing under the influence

If I were going to fly in the space shuttle, I'd wanna drink beforehand too. I mean after all, you have a 1.7% chance of dying.

Friday, July 27, 2007

barry bonds

Ran across this highly sensible take on Barry Bonds and steroids today.

I honestly find it amazingly pathetic that people get all bent out of shape because they suspect that Bonds used steroids, and that somehow mars his upcoming breaking of the homerun record. I mean in light of various facts, such as:

  • 30,000 children will die today from lack of clean water and enough calories.
  • Major League baseball is a US$5 Billion industry
  • 300,000 forcibly drafted child soldiers are currently fighting for the Lord's Resistance Army in Northern Uganda.
  • 800,000 people will be trafficked across international borders this year
  • There are Twenty Million refugees in the world (this does not include internally displaced persons).
  • Bonds is getting paid US$15.8 million to play baseball this year.
  • 2 Billion people in the world are living in poverty on US$2/day or less

... who gives a shit? Or to quote my dear departed grandfather, Benjamin Wheeler Ady Jr., who gives a flying rat's ass? Does it matter if Bonds used steroids, oxycodone, marijuana, or any other legal or illegal substance? What difference does in make in the world? How important could it possibly be?

Friday Video 2

and this one, from Helen. Too perfect!

friday video

this made me smile. H/T Shemaiah

brand identity

From David H. here:

"Oddly, Talk of the Nation, on NPR, had a piece about a Pentagon commissioned $400,000 study about how marketing techniques could be used to train US personnel (i.e. soldiers) and help change the perception of people about who we are and what we are doing in their “theater of operation” (i.e. war zone). A conclusion of the study: indiscriminate shooting and bombing are bad for US brand identity."

No shit?!? Hmmmmm...

and a story this reminded me of:

with regards to U.S. brand identity: here’s a funny story. Earlier this year, my daughters aged 3 and 5 were visiting their grandparents in Australia with my wife, and their grandparents took them to macdonalds for some food. When asked by their grandparents about their macdonalds experiences in the U.S., my daughters replied “Oh, I don’t think we have this restaraunt in America”

Yeehaw! That sort of made my day.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

more reasons to be grateful

that I've escaped the christian right:

Dr. Dobson speaks out against Harry Potter (for the wrong reasons!)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Poor me

So my lovely wife has been gone for some 24 hours now--off visiting lovely friends and family on the east coast of the U.S., and due back next Tuesday, and I seem to be having a rather adverse reaction. Keep finding myself crying. Seems a bit extreme, actually. I'm thinking this latest is just the exacerbation of a bunch of other stuff. that's been going on for a little while now. Even though I'm not a Christian anymore, I still found a tiny bit of comfort in Mr. Spurgeon's "The Minister's Fainting Fits". My thanks to my brilliant father in law David, who introduced this to me. An excerpt:

As to mental maladies, is any man altogether sane? Are we not all a little off the balance? Some minds appear to have a gloomy tinge essential to their very individuality; of them it may be said, "Melancholy marked them for her own;" fine minds withal, and ruled by noblest principles, but yet most prone to forget the silver lining, and to remember only the cloud. Such men may sing with the old poet (Thomas Washbourne.)

"Our hearts are broke, our harps unstringed be,
Our only music's sighs and groans,
Our songs are to the tune of lachrymœ,
We're fretted all to skin and bones."

These infirmities may be no detriment to a man's career of special usefulness; they may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualifications for his peculiar course of service. Some plants owe their medicinal qualities to the marsh in which they grow; others to the shades in which alone they flourish. There are precious fruits put forth by the moon as well as by the sun. Boats need ballast
as well as sail; a drag on the carriage-wheel is no hindrance when the road runs
downhill. Pain has, probably, in some cases developed genius; hunting out the soul which otherwise might have slept like a lion in its den. Had it not been for the broken wing, some might have lost themselves in the clouds, some even of those choice doves who now bear the olive-branch in their mouths and show the way to the ark. But where in body and mind there are predisposing causes to lowness of spirit, it is no marvel if in dark moments the heart succumbs to them;

Also helpful in the past have been Ecclesiastes including

So I congratulated the dead who are already dead instead of the living who are still alive. But luckier than the dead or the living is the person who has never even been, who has never seen the bad business that takes place on this earth
and George Macdonald (From Diary of an Old Soul, February 25):

There is a misty twilight of the soul,
A sickly eclipse, low brooding o'er a man,
When the poor brain is as an empty bowl,
And the thought-spirit, weariful and wan,
Turning from that which yet it loves the best,
Sinks moveless, with life-poverty opprest:--
Watch then, O Lord, thy feebly glimmering coal.

Do have any literature you turn to when you feel this way?

Is this for real?

Okay, I'm conducting a poll. Here's the rules. Read this well written article by Frank Pastore. Then, don't do any further research on Frank, nor read any further on his site, or anything, until after you've voted in the poll.

The question: Is he totally sincere? Or is he totally being tongue in cheek/sarcastic? (I honestly can't tell, which just proves that he's a brilliant writer IMHO.)

*AFTER* you've voted, this article may help you figure out which it is.

An apology

So I've recently been challenged by Chad with the fact that my words on this blog were hurtful and offensive (see this one and this one). And having given it some thought, I can see where he's coming from. It was completely inappropriate for me to use the term "masochistic" at all. Moreover, I should have been gentler in general. One thing I've tried to implement in my life in general is to complain rather than criticize--that is to lean toward talking about my bad feelings/experience rather than about somebody else's bad actions (what in spanish they call "no fault construction"). I failed to do that in this case.

I was wrong and I'm sorry.

The Goon Bible does Job

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What I mean by "sectarian"

So here's wikipedia on "sect":

A sect is a small religious group that has branched off of a larger established religion. Sects have many beliefs and practices in common with the religion that they have broken off from, but are differentiated by a number of doctrinal differences. In contrast, a denomination is a large, well established religious group.

The church I grew up in was self described as "independent baptist". Among other things, I imbibed growing up in this church the idea that we were right, and everybody else--even all the other christian churches out there, were wrong. They were wrong in thinking it was okay to ever drink alcohol, they were wrong in sending their children to those evil public schools, they were wrong in using any translation of the scripture into English other than the King James Authorized Translation (translated in 1611). They were wrong to not condemn homosexuality. They were wrong to not teach that parents should spank their children. They were wrong to allow women be pastors. They were wrong to use and allow the use of contraceptives. They were wrong to promote the evil UN, the evil of civil rights legislation, the evil of public education. Other "Protestants" (saying "other protestants" doesn't really work, since some among us believed we had apostolic succession outside the catholic or protestant lines) were mostly wrong, and Catholics were dangerously wrong and probably not even Christians. Seminaries in general were sneeringly referred to as "Cemeteries". I imbibed the idea that the only safe place in the world was inside our little religious group, since we had the answers. People who left the group, unless they had the full approval of the leadership of the group to leave (which was rare), were thought of as being 'on the outside', and one could only hope they would come back to god/the right way of doing things someday (that is, back to us), so that their lives wouldn't be utterly destroyed by the dangerous and wrong world outside our group.

I mean obviously I couldn't see all these things with the same perspective with which I am now able to see them. They were not all definitely overt, although many of them were proclaimed from the pulpit.

So I spent a good year gradually convincing the senior pastor and founder, Tom, and the associate pastor, Mike, that it would be an okay idea for me to go off with the (to them fairly radical) missions organization Operation Mobilisation (OM) (this is interesting because in a bigger picture sense OM itself is a fairly conservative evangelical organization). The chief complaint which they had with OM was that OM's policy on church planting is that when an OM team plants a church, they encourage that church to affiliate denominationally with whatever denomination is the most locally/structurally available to them for support. That is, for instance, if an OM team plants a church in a rural area where, for instance, the nearest other churches are, for instance, Assemblies of God, then they will encourage that church to become assemblies of God. Sensible, right? Tom and Mike saw this as a huge problem because then of course the church would by association end up with all the terrifying and deadly doctrinal error of Assemblies of God.

Anyway, Tom and Mike finally acquiesced. Here's to importunity.

During my two years with OM, one of the things I learned about which I'd not previously heard of is the practice of pastors and church leaders from a city or town all getting together to pray, talk, envision together for their city or town. OM actually promoted this sort of thing.

When I got back to little old Monroe Washington (population 13000) in early 2001, one of the first things I said to Tom was, "So is there a monthly pastors meeting here in Monroe where the pastors get together and pray and talk and envision together for Monroe? The reason I ask is I'm wondering if I can come with you to the meeting? I'd keep my mouth shut. I just want to listen and watch and learn and get excited." Tom responded
"Yes, there is such a meeting, but I don't go. There are two Catholic priests
and one woman pastor who attend that meeting. If I were to show up, I would be
implicitly giving my approval for them being there."

That is exactly what he said. And that's what I'm talking about when I say the church I grew up in was sectarian.

Losing Moses on the Freeway

I was so impressed, and disturbed, by this article by Chris Hedges that I ordered his Losing Moses on the Freeway, which I rather suspect I am going to immensely enjoy and rather be moved by. Thought I share an excerpt from the opening chapter with you. The chapter is entitled:

Decalogue I "Mystery"

I stand across from the Mission Main and Mission Extension Housing Project in Roxbury on a muggy July night. Scattered streetlights cast out dim yellow arcs on Parker Street. The remaining slate-gray metal poles, with their lamps shattered by rocks, leave the strip of asphalt gap-toothed, with lonely outposts of pale spotlights and long stretches of darkness. The unlit stretches are uncharted oceans of fear. They are filled with dangers imagined and real. At night, in the ghetto, I cling to light.

Parker Street is rutted and potholed. It rises and falls with the scars of old frost heaves. Newspapers, broken beer bottles, pieces of cardboard and plastic bags line the gutters. The triple-decker houses, cut into overcrowded apartments, are inhabited mostly with families from the Dominican Republic. The noise of people crushed together in small spaces, the shouts, the crying of children, the smell of fried food spill out into the street. Music with a Caribbean beat plays through several of the open windows.

The pale specter of television sets, the great Leviathan of modernity, the tool that teaches us to speak and think and cuts us off from our neighbors, sends out flickering images that reflect in the window panes. At night, striding up Mission Hill, it is often all I see, window after window, as if we are infected with a plague.

This has been my world for over two years. It will be my world no more. I am leaving, leaving not only Roxbury but seminary, leaving the church. I am turning on all that has formed me. I have buckled under its weight. No more will I preach the Sunday sermons, sitting up late Saturday night as I write my words on yellow legal sheets. No more will I help carry in the coffins of those I buried, lifting the thin strip of paper from the faces of the dead when I open the box for viewing. No more will I ride the subway to Cambridge to sit through seminars on theology or the psalms or the Bible. No more will I divide up passages in the Hebrew Bible with colored flares into the various sources identified by scholars, the academic evisceration of the word. All this is over.

I heave an empty bottle against the wooden doors of the Gloucester Memorial Presbyterian Church in Roxbury. The bottle splinters. I have watched children break bottle after bottle against walls and pavement. Destruction is the way these children affirm themselves, fight back against the forces above them. These are weak, symbolic protests born of rage and pain. They destroy. I sweep up. This is the pattern.

The long slow drip of oppression and abuse, which strips human beings of dignity, was unknown to me until I moved to the ghetto. I sympathize on this night with the rock throwers. I sympathize although I spend hours every week removing the signs of their pathetic protests. I know most will lose. I know the ghetto will win. I know most of those born poor stay poor. And I know I will protect myself if they turn on me. I can easily cross the barrier that hems them in like sheep. I can turn to the instruments of control and oppression—the police, the courts, the probation officers—for protection when I am afraid. I am not one of them. I will never be one of them. I am the enemy.

I look at the shards of broken glass. I look at the hulking, dimly lit red brick church. I look at the desolate holes of darkness in the street, which always fill me with dread. All my dreams of being an inner-city minister, all my illusions about myself, the one who comes to save and care for others, the one who will be blessed and loved and honored for goodness, lie in little pieces on the ground. I have seen, through their eyes, the image of myself. It is not an attractive sight. It is not who I thought I was. It is not who I want to be.

"Now," I say softly, "I am on your side."

It is an act of apostasy. It is meant to mark my switch from the side of those who attend my church to those whom my tiny, dysfunctional congregation, although mostly African-American, look at with open disdain, those whom they dismiss as "the animals." It is meant to mark my break from institutions that overtly or subtly mete out oppression, including the various religious institutions that formed me. The breaking of the bottle is meant to be an ending, a final conclusion to a life spent in the powerful and claustrophobic embrace of the church. It is meant to be a break from God. But you trade one god for another. This is how life works. We all have gods.

If I could write like this, I'd quite my day job and take up as an author. "Wow" is all I can say.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Chad's response

So I wanted to repost Chad's recent response to my tale of excommunication. Just as some background, Chad is the elder son of the pastor of the church I grew up in. He is almost the same age as I am, and we were close friends during my 10 years in that church, attending the same tiny christian school, and then participating in the same tiny homeschooling co-op.

Chad--thanks for engaging in this conversation. Megs and I would love to have you and Julie and little 'un(s?) over for dinner sometime. She's in Boston this week--but when she comes back! Hope you don't mind me reposting your comments, but I thought perhaps they might inspire some interesting discussion.


Chad said

Oh Benjamin. I can't tell you how my heart aches to read your pain and bitterness.

The pain I understand. You were mistreated and mal used. But to react with bitterness and intolerance to those who truly love you and invested in your life? Very unfair.

To call your home church masochistic, among other nasty things, is ironic given your apparent crusade of tolerance for every other belief system in existence. And how does that work, my dear friend? You can be tolerant of any belief system except orthodox Christianity? And since when did orthodoxy become odd or weird?

What pains me is to see that after years you have not healed from your experiences. Despite what you may perceive, and despite your disagreement with one or two people here at church, the body here loves you and always has. Even when we were mistreated by you, castigated and spat upon by you...we still love you and wish you the best in life. If you only knew the tears that have been shed on your behalf you would weep yourself. Know that, and may it bring some balm to your bitterness.

Truly, my friend, I am happy that you have such a wonderful family. Kids are a joy. Megs is such a talented and wonderful compliment to you.

The one fly in the ointment can be wounds that never heal because the heart can't forgive. Many of us have been hurt by those we trust and respect. Your story is not unique. It's how we respond that makes the difference.

I love you man. I really do.

My prayer for you is thus; that you will realize that the noise and trappings of religion do not hold the Answer. Purify your heart, free yourself from bitterness, forgive those who have hurt you, and listen for His voice. It's not in the shouting and controling voices of earthly authority. It's not in the earthquakes of life or even the fire of suffering. His voice is a calming whisper to our heart. But only if we are quiet enough to listen will we hear.

Still your good friend and never a masochist (well, except for that one time in Manila...but that's another story)...


1 Kings 19:12

thought this was fun

Saturday, July 21, 2007

some notes

Girlikin #1, angry at being told in no uncertain terms to lie down and go to sleep tonite, said to me "I'm ignoring you for the rest of my life!" (She's 5 years old). So I said to her "I'm going to put you on my blog." To which she replied "A video??". "No, just words--what you said just now". Afterwards we laughed rather uproariously as it become rather evident that she couldn't ignore me for even 2 minutes. Is this how god reacts to my (puny) anger--she wants to laugh with me, but I won't laugh, so she just laughs at me? I *can* ignore her for the rest of my life. If she even exists. (See how I'm *not* mentioning her in this blog post?)

My sincere apologies to those of you who find it offensive to refer to god using the female pronoun. I really am doing that on purpose. But thinking of god as female is scriptural. And anyway, doesn't "they" really work better, from the trinitarian perspective?

I used to have the idea in the back of my head that Rudy Gulliani wouldn't be all that bad as a president. But I recently read his 12 committments, and decided that actually, he would be rather bad. Worst was the first one: "I will keep America on offense in the Terrorists' War on us" As if we haven't already offended to a gargantuan enough extent? anyway, he half contradicts himself almost immidiately with #12 "I will expand America's involvement in the global economy and strengthen our reputation around the world. " so does he mean strengthen our reputation for being offensive? I think not. So what's up with that?

Second worst is #2 "I will end illegal immigration, secure our borders, and identify every non-citizen in our nation." Megan asked "What does that mean--identify me? Does that mean I'm some sort of threat or something?"

So much for Gilliani. Creepus.

who are you?

Shemaiah inspired this:

So I know there are a least a couple of readers out there. Leave a comment: who are you? How do we know each other? Where do you live? =)


this is me standing on a corner in winslow arizona. So it was dark out, and late, and I took it with my cell phone. =)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Checkers solved!

News out today that Chinook has solved checkers, and perfect play leads to a draw. How cool is that? Next up, Othello. and eventually ... chess.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Who are the terrorists, again?

Another couple quotes from the other war

In Iraq, Specialist Middleton said, "a lot of guys really supported that whole concept that, you know, if they don't speak English and they have darker skin, they're not as human as us, so we can do what we want."


Those few veterans who said they did try to reach out to Iraqis encountered fierce hostility from those in their units.

Probes into roadblock killings were mere formalities, a few veterans said. "Even after a thorough investigation, there's not much that could be done," said Specialist Reppenhagen. "It's just the nature of the situation you're in. That's what's wrong. It's not individual atrocity. It's the fact that the entire war is an atrocity."


"Just the carnage, all the blown-up civilians, blown-up bodies that I saw," Specialist Englehart said. "I just--I started thinking, like, Why? What was this for?"

"It just gets frustrating," Specialist Reppenhagen said. "Instead of blaming your own command for putting you there in that situation, you start blaming the Iraqi people.... So it's a constant psychological battle to try to, you know, keep--to stay humane."

"I felt like there was this enormous reduction in my compassion for people," said Sergeant Flanders. "The only thing that wound up mattering is myself and the guys that I was with. And everybody else be damned."

further note to self

... must remember that I am unique, with a unique and somewhat specialized perspective, and that chances are fairly high that other people will not see as obvious at all that which strikes me as bloody obvious (and without any doubt vice versa).

And now, a quote from the other war

Many of these veterans returned home deeply disturbed by the disparity between the reality of the [Iraq] war and the way it is portrayed by the US government and American media. The war the vets described is a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations, from the French occupation of Algeria to the American war in Vietnam and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

note to self...

Must subscribe to the nation. and for this one too

Two reasons Hawaii surely rocks

Thursday, July 12, 2007

what you can buy these days for $442 Billion

Here's what $442 Billion buys

"Some progress, and some encouraging signs" ... (not to mention 731,000 dead bodies)

Oh well. Bummer

quotes from this week

David Barton, with (appropriately) Wallbuilders, with reference to the U.S. Senate being opened this morning, for the first time ever, by a Hindu prayer:

Barton says given the fact that Hindus are a tiny constituency of the American public, he questions the motivation of Senate leaders. “This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world,” he observes. “You look at India, you look at Nepal — there’s persecution going in both of those countries that is gendered by the religious belief that is present there, and Hindu dominates in both of those countries.”
And while Barton acknowledges there is not constitutional problem with a Hindu prayer in the Senate, he wonders about the political side of it. “One definitely wonders about the pragmatic side of it,” he says. “What is the message, and why is the message needed? And will it actually communicate anything other than engender with folks like me a lot of questions?”

The (current) Pope
Christ ‘established here on earth’ only one church,” the document said. The other communities “cannot be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense” because they do not have apostolic succession — the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ’s original apostles.


The document said Orthodox churches were indeed “churches” because they have apostolic succession and that they enjoyed “many elements of sanctification and of truth.” But it said they lack something because they do not recognize the primacy of the pope — a defect, or a “wound” that harmed them, it said.

Despite the harsh tone of the document, it stresses that Benedict remains committed to ecumenical dialogue.

“However, if such dialogue is to be truly constructive, it must involve not just the mutual openness of the participants but also fidelity to the identity of the Catholic faith,” the commentary said.

"I am meek and lowly of heart, and you shall find rest for your souls"

Hat tips to Hemant and Siamang and Eliza

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I used to be ...

Among other things, a member of the Christian right. In fact, I used to think David Barton was about as awesome as ... say ... dulce de leche ice cream on a sunny afternoon on the beach in Miramar, Argentina. Sigh ....

So glad I got away from that. I could totally still be there, like .... like riding the "It's a small world after all" ride at disneyworld time after time after time after time after time ad infinutum and ad nauseum.

These comments engendered by this story

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

the futility of incarceration?

Seattle Weekly has a really thoughtful article this week on the issue of clemency and pardons, which is provocative in light of all the uproar over the Libby commutation this last week. As it turns out, people really do end up going to jail having been found guilty, or having pleaded guilty to, a crime they didn't commit. Surprise surprise. Furthermore, even when they *did* commit the crime--people actually change, and become (gasp!) different people as time goes by--sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the much much better. (Now that sounds astoundingly familiar to me for some reason.)

And as it turns out, the system for getting people out or letting them off is a mite (did I say "mite"?)--er, that is--is rather enormously sticky, and could do with a rather liberal coating of grease, IMNSHO.

I guess I'd rather see bad 'uns go free than see good 'uns locked up. It seems in this country, that's mostly just me. Oh well.

I guess it's mostly outta fear that we do it the way we do it, isn't it? Like the same fear that makes hundreds of people who are driving alone in multi passenger vehicles with hundreds of horsepower under their hoods pass up a hitchhiker. Enormously self centered fear. It's all American.

Seems like Jesus had some things to say along these lines. Like ... yer gonna be judged with the same judgment ya meet out. And God shall refuse to forgive ya 'less you forgive the ones who fucked things up for you. And stuff like that. So much for being a "Christian nation". But then we already knew that anyway, didn't we?

I've found another reason Clinton is my favorite recent president:

Total number of pardons, clemencies, and fine remissions per president:

  • George Bush: 117
  • Bill Clinton: 456
  • GHW Bush: 77
  • Ron Reagan: 406
  • Jimmy Carter: 566
  • Gerald Ford: 409
  • Richard Nixon: 926
  • Lyndon Johnson: 1187 (wow)
  • JFK: 575

I wonder what steps we could take to see these numbers ... say.... quadrupled?

According to Wikipedia, more people are behind bars in the United States than in any other country: a grand total of 7 million, or 2.3% Yukesola. We have 5% of the world population, and 25% of the world's incarcerated population.

7% of U.S. prisoners in one poll claimed they had been raped in their current facility.

Or check out this wee graphic

Monday, July 09, 2007


My brilliant father in law, David, sent this George Bush action figure as a gift home with my wife when she returned from Australia ealier this year. Our two daughters each have a specified time out spot in our home, and George's proper place has become Girl #2's time out spot, where she must move him aside when she has to have a time out. Our daughters can be heard telling him "George Dubya Bush--you've been a very naughty boy--stay in time out!" My poor mother recently informed my wife with some chagrin that Girl #1 had informed her that George Bush was Satan. You must understand that my parents have a greeting card on their wall with a picture of George and Barbara on the front and inside it says "Ben and Sue, thankyou for being charter members of the Washington State re-elect George Bush 2004 campaign! Signed, George Bush". I'm not joking.
We don't really use "George Bush is Satan" language around here--we don't tend to talk about Satan. So we were a bit curious where that came from. Later, in the car, Girl #1 spontaneously said "Satan whispered and told me to do it" in reference to unbuckling her seat belt while we were driving and being told off about it. We asked her "Who is Satan"? "Oh, he's our enemy--the bad enemy--Nana taught me about him" This led us to the conlusion that Nana must have been teaching the girls about Satan, and who he theoretically is, and Girl #1, upon learning the word/concept, automatically associated it with Goerge Bush. So in a sense, it's nana's own ... fault that Girl #1 told her "George Bush is Satan". Girl #1, like her mum and dad and sister, is very very very clever and perceptive!

2 questions

Today Rachel posted this quote on JaC

“There is a theological ’silent majority’ in our land who wrap their Bible
in the American flag, who believe that conservative politics is the necessary
by-product of orthodox Christianity, who equate patriotism with the belief in
national self-righteousness, and who regard political dissent as a mark of
infidelity to the faith.”
- Senator Mark Hatfield, Conflict and Conscience,

It reminded me of two questions I recently addressed to my delightful Aunt Kathy, which she has not yet addressed. Perhaps someone here could help me out--someone who claims to be a christian and who also supports the iraq war (I know you're out there)

Here's what Jesus had to say about how to react to our enemies
It's been said "love your friends, and hate your enemies". But I say: Love your enemies! Bless those who curse you! Do good to those who hate you!
Question #1.How is an American Christian who claims to be trying to obey Jesus best to carry out these commands in the case of radical muslim extremists who are clearly their enemy, who clearly curse them, who clearly hate them? In this particular case, is the American Christian to just ignore this command from Jesus?

Paul reiterates it:
Repay *noone* evil for evil. Do no avenge yourselves.
Question #2. For an American Christian who believes one is to obey Paul's words as Scripture, how are they to apply this command in the case of radical muslim extremists?

Ah hell--one more question, I guess:

Question #3. How is a Christian who is an armed member of the armed forces of this or any nation supposed to apply these commands from Jesus and Paul in the context of their *job*, which involves, among other things, killing their enemies?

(maybe I'm a little confused, or missed something, or something. Hmmmm)

Friday, July 06, 2007

the gay conversation

Want to direct your attention to the ongoing conversation over at Eugene Cho's blog re: gays, the church, reality, the importance of dialogue, etc.

Eugene Cho has joined the group of people who make Chrisianity more palatable to me. Way to go, Eugene.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


It seems Mr. Bush also saw drew comparisons between the current Iraq disaster and the Revolutionary War in his 4th of July speech yesterday. Among other things, he said:

"We were a small band of freedom-loving patriots taking on the most powerful
empire in the world"
Did I miss something? Or did he actually manage to imply that contrary to the popular media and dubya's own take on things, the so called "insurgents" in Iraq are actually freedom fighters?
If only I could somehow believe that this man is intelligent enough to slip this line into his speech as a way of subtly making fun of both himself and all his warmongering cronies.

Bush again both stated and implied the false connection between Iraq and 9/11.

People believe this stuff. Another quote:

the best way to do our duty, which is to protect the American people, is to
go on the offense and stay on the offense. And that's exactly what we've been

Yeah--offense is about the right word

Why do I do this to myself--reading this stuff? I guess it's like Agent Smith said
Human beings define their reality through misery and suffering
Xukes I miss Bill Clinton.
Xukes I can't wait for Barack Obama

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July

Today we celebrate the 231st anniversary of the Declaration of the Independence of the United States. I've made the habit over the last 7 years of reading this document out loud on this day (You can read it by clicking on the link above). It's an educational thing. There's some fascinating language in there. For instance

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
which, if it were to reflect current reality, would read something like
Governments long established should not be changed unless the United States decides they should, for whatever causes the United states deems necessary, or chooses to make up or believe in.

There is a long list of the crimes of King George III of England, including the following:

  • For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
  • For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
  • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
  • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

Now what nation and head of state has, over the last 4 years, been carrying out amazingly *similar* actions in the world? Hmmmmmm ....

People are almost always surprised, when I read this aloud at July 4th events I find myself at, over the "merciless Indian savages" language. And this is intriguing, because of course we now know that the signing of this document 231 years ago spelled DOOM to the native Americans--the beginning of the almost total destruction of their population and culture. Moreover, this "known rule of warfare: an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions" has become in many cases our own rule of warfare.

So today I'm not doing any celebrating of this document. It seems to have led to more bad than good, if for nothing more than it created the only nation which has ever dropped nuclear weapons against their enemies.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bush got it right!

So yesterday President Bush fixed things up for his pal Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who lied under oath and was about to have to report to jail for a 30 month stay. Now he doesn't have to go to jail. Some people think that's really unfair, since lots of normal people who commit jail worthy crimes and don't have powerful rich friends just have to do the jail time, bummerola for them.

And those people are right--it is unfair. But getting upset that Mr. Libby doesn't have to go to jail is the wrong response. It mega rocks that he doesn't have to go to jail. Jail sucks. Period. I bet he just feels this unbelievalbe sense of relief. That's awesome for him.

The right response, in my opinion, is to rejoice with Mr. Libby, and work toward more pardons, more commutations, more mercy, and fewer people in jail. Jail is pretty much a stupid ass idea most of the time, IMNSHO. Let's work toward getting more people out of there, and sending fewer people in. In fact, let's cut the military budget in half, and take the money we save and spend it on programs to reduce crime from the front end. There's an idea.

My enormous congratulations to Mr. Libby. Hell, he got exactly what I'd want if I were in his position. He got out of the punishment. I sincerely and honestly hope that I manage to get out of facing all the consequences for all the shitty, stupid, horrible things I've done. Good on ya, Mr. President. Today, you rock!

Monday, July 02, 2007

zombie apocalypse


Hat tip to Carmen

why obama is going to beat out clinton for the democratic nomination

  • Obama's name is way kewler.
  • Obama's hair style is way kewler.
  • Obama is young and naive enough to actually take on big issues and make positive change happen. Clinton *failed* to make national health care happen.
  • Obama has lived in a foreign country.
  • Obama is raising more money from more donors.
  • Hilary voted *for* the Iraq war.
  • Would you rather have a president who is 6 feet 1.5 inches tall, or a president who is 5 feet 8 inches tall (bet I get in trouble for that one =) (By the way, no U.S. president has been shorter than 5 feet 9 inches tall since William McKinly was elected in 1900--back before television!)
  • Most importantly, it seems that Clinton can't sing! Who wants a president who can't sing?