That's "Campana-stan" or ''Land of Campana." It reflects the Weltanschauung of Michael E. Campana, President-for-Life of the Republic of Campanastan. Welcome to Campanastan - no passports or visas required!
Texas Agriculture Law Blog Don't let the name fool you - there are lots of water issues in agriculture and Tiffany Dowell of Texas A&M University does a fabulous job with this important Internet resource. Give it a read - I do every day!
The Way of Water Oregon State University Geography PhD Student, Jennifer Veilleux, records her fieldwork, research, and thoughts about transboundary water resources development in the Nile River and Mekong River basins. Particular attention is given to Ethiopia's Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Laos' Xayaburi Dam projects.
Thirsty in Suburbia Gayle Leonard documents things from the world of water that make us smile: particularly funny, amusing and weird items on bottled water, water towers, water marketing, recycling, the art-water nexus and working.
This Day in Water History Michael J. 'Mike' McGuire, engineer extraordinaire, NAE member, and author of 'The Chlorine Revolution', blogs about historical happenings in the fields of drinking water and wastewater keyed to calendar dates.
WaSH Resources New publications, web sites and multi-media on water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH).
Water 50/50 From Jay Famiglietti at UC-Irvine. Fifty lectures in fifty weeks: The 2012 Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lectureship. A global lecture tour delivering the message about our changing water cycle, groundwater depletion, and the future of freshwater availability.
Water For The Ages Abby, another PNWer, writes about global water issues with passion and concern.
Watering the Desert Aptly-titled blog by CJ Brooks, a lawyer-hydrologist-geologist from Tucson, AZ.
Watershed Moments: Thoughts from the Hydrosphere From Sarah Boon - rediscovering her writing and editing roots after 13 years, primarily as an environmental scientist. Her writing centres around creative non-fiction, specifically memoir and nature writing. The landscapes of western Canada are her main inspiration.
WaterWired All things fresh water: news, comment, and analysis from hydrogeologist Michael E. Campana, Professor at Oregon State University.
Watery Foundation Tom Swihart, formerly of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, tells all about water management in the Sunshine State.
Western Water Blog The 'mystery blog' about Western USA water issues. What more can I say?
Wisdom in Water, Please... Kate Wilkins-Wells , who manages the Northwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 4, provides her wisdom on water issues.
xAnalytical Doug Walker's xAnalytical blog:Turning Data and Information into Knowledge
Reid Wilson offers a quick synopsis in his Washington Postblog post:
Yankeedom: Founded by Puritans, residents in Northeastern states and the industrial Midwest tend to be more comfortable with government regulation. They value education and the common good more than other regions.
New Netherland: The Netherlands was the most sophisticated society in the Western world when New York was founded, Woodard writes, so it’s no wonder that the region has been a hub of global commerce. It’s also the region most accepting of historically persecuted populations.
The Midlands: Stretching from Quaker territory west through Iowa and into more populated areas of the Midwest, the Midlands are “pluralistic and organized around the middle class.” Government intrusion is unwelcome, and ethnic and ideological purity isn’t a priority.
Tidewater: The coastal regions in the English colonies of Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and Delaware tend to respect authority and value tradition. Once the most powerful American nation, it began to decline during Westward expansion.
Greater Appalachia: Extending from West Virginia through the Great Smoky Mountains and into Northwest Texas, the descendants of Irish, English and Scottish settlers value individual liberty. Residents are “intensely suspicious of lowland aristocrats and Yankee social engineers.”
Deep South: Dixie still traces its roots to the caste system established by masters who tried to duplicate West Indies-style slave society, Woodard writes. The Old South values states’ rights and local control and fights the expansion of federal powers.
El Norte: Southwest Texas and the border region is the oldest, and most linguistically different, nation in the Americas. Hard work and self-sufficiency are prized values.
The Left Coast: A hybrid, Woodard says, of Appalachian independence and Yankee utopianism loosely defined by the Pacific Ocean on one side and coastal mountain ranges like the Cascades and the Sierra Nevadas on the other. The independence and innovation required of early explorers continues to manifest in places like Silicon Valley and the tech companies around Seattle.
The Far West:The Great Plains and the Mountain West were built by industry, made necessary by harsh, sometimes inhospitable climates. Far Westerners are intensely libertarian and deeply distrustful of big institutions, whether they are railroads and monopolies or the federal government.
New France: Former French colonies in and around New Orleans and Quebec tend toward consensus and egalitarian, “among the most liberal on the continent, with unusually tolerant attitudes toward gays and people of all races and a ready acceptance of government involvement in the economy,” Woodard writes.
First Nation:The few First Nation peoples left — Native Americans who never gave up their land to white settlers — are mainly in the harshly Arctic north of Canada and Alaska. They have sovereignty over their lands, but their population is only around 300,000.
"With such sharp regional differences, the idea that the United States would ever reach consensus on any issue having to do with violence seems far-fetched. The cultural gulf between Appalachia and Yankeedom, Deep South and New Netherland is simply too large. But it’s conceivable that some new alliance could form to tip the balance." - Colin Woodard
"What's all the fuss about? That God prefers kindness over hate? I would think that's a given. Isn't that the meaning of one of the most often quoted parables: the Good Samaritan? As far as Jesus' crowd was concerned Samaritans were atheists. What was Jesus meaning? Did the Samaritan convert to the 'right beliefs.' Not according to the story. As a matter of fact, it was the teachers of law, those with 'right beliefs' who didn't get it; who 'passed by.' " - Rev.Tom Tate
Margaret Talbot has a great commentary, 'Higher Authority',in this week's (11 March2013) issue of The New Yorker. She deals with the current troubles of the Catholic Church, especially those dealing with sexual abuse of minors and related issues.
She relates the story of Cardinal Roger Mahony, recently deposed archbishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Seems that despite his woes, Mahony is in Rome and will serve as an elector of the new pope. Good for you, Roger!
What struck me was this passage in Talbot's article [italics mine]:
What is distinctive about child abuse in the Catholic Church is not its existence, or even its coverup; in recent months alone, we’ve seen evidence of similar cowardice at Penn State and the BBC. What is distinctive is that Catholic officials can find a higher purpose—protecting the sanctity of the priesthood—in shielding abusers, and a spiritually rewarding humility in enduring criticism of their conduct. Mahony has been blogging about the public disparagement he has received, and he compares it to what Christ withstood, urging the faithful to join him in exploring what it is to “take up our cross daily and to follow Jesus—in rejection, in humiliation, and in personal attack.” But, unlike the criminal prosecution of perpetrators—or real Church reform—that doesn’t do much to help victims or to prevent abuse.
Pretty neat - the Church and one of its elite using incidents of sexual abuse to achieve a 'higher purpose' and comparing it to what Jesus Christ underwent.
Next, here's her passage about women in the priesthood [again, italics are mine]:
Last fall, the Vatican dismissed an American priest who had participated in an ordination ceremony for a woman. The Church is doctrinally immune from majority rule, so perhaps it doesn’t matter that, according to a 2010 Times poll, sixty-seven per cent of American Catholics think priests should be allowed to marry and fifty-nine per cent think women should be allowed to be priests. Yet surely a Church that expels a priest for advocating women’s ordination faster than it does men who have been credibly accused of raping children is in some kind of trouble.
Couldn't agree more with her last sentence.
Can't wait to see which European Roger and his buddies elect. But be careful what you wish for. If you think a developing-world pope would be 'more liberal', recall that the most conservative - homophobic, anti-women - bishops in the Episcopalian/Anglican Church are from Africa.
“Theology being the work of males, original sin was traced to the female.” -Barbara W. Tuchman
“Is anyone saying same-sex couples can’t love each other? I love my children. I love my friends, my brother. Heck, I even love my mother-in-law. Should we call these relationships marriage, too?” - Rick Santorum, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 2008
We've all had a good time (see photo below) pillorying Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) for his ill-advised use of the adjective 'legitimate' to describe abortion. I personally found his views on abortion abhorrent but unsurprising because he's a conservative, evangelical Christian Republican.
But, as a scientist, what I really found pathetic and frightening was his understanding of how the female reproductive system works - his belief that the system could shut down to prevent contraception:
"It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
I wonder which doctors Akin has been consulting. Maybe Romneycare will fix that.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologistssaidthat a woman who is raped
"...has no control over ovulation, fertilization or implantation of a fertilized egg. ... To suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths."
What frightens me is Akin's apparent lack of scientific understanding. Wonder if he believes in evolution? How about plate tectonics? And the age of Earth is....? How AIDS is transmitted? I shudder to think what Akin's opinions on climate change and global warming are.
I suspect his knowledge of basic science, math, and technology is pitiful.
Fact is, Akin is no different from a lot of Americans, and to boot, he's in a position of power - a member of the House of Representatives. I can imagine that he shines among many of his colleagues.
And you know, I didn't hear many of critics decrying his poor knowledge of biology. Either they didn't know Akin was wrong, or else they didn't want to appear 'too smart'.
"The modern mind is in complete disarray. Knowledge has stretched itself to the point where neither the world nor our intelligence can find any foot-hold. It is a fact that we are suffering from nihilism." - Albert Camus
Catch this graphic sign displayed at a recent University of Oklahoma rally against a 'personhood' bill being considered by the Oklahoma State Senate. That's State Senator Judy McIntyre (D) holding the sign, which she got from a protester.
Are there any unintended consequences of these 'personhood' bills? Read this.
Rick Santorum likes to warn us about how the government is undermining our freedom. So what would he like to do? Get a God-fearing government that knows the right thing to do when it comes to legislating morality! Freedom from sin!
“If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.” -- Rick Santorum, 2003
You can see the original photo here and also read why a female witness was not asked to testify.
Two women actually did testify, both from conservative Christian colleges - Calvin College and Oklahoma Christian University. Read morehere.
Seems to me that President Obama's original proposal enhanced religious freedom, as it would have forbidden Catholic Church-run institutions - hospitals, schools, etc. - from denying its employees, many of whom are not Catholic, access to contraception coverage in their health insurance plans. It said nothing about requiring the Catholic Church to rescind its (neanderthal) policy forbidding birth control (except for the 'rhythm method' and abstinence) for Church members.
Obama's policy might cut down on the number of abortions, too. Duhhh....
Make no mistake about it: this fuss over contraception - and abortion, too - is about power over, and control of, women - pure and simple.
I thought we had a come a long way; sometimes I think I am back in 1960, where the Republican presidential candidates are.
But what do I know? I'm not a Republican male.
"If men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." - Title of a book by Helen Forelle and Janet Leih (1991)
A rapper reputed to be Chill E.B. proves that at least one rapper is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Here's the source of this story, which includes the lyrics to this masterpiece. Aw, what the heck - I will post them below.
Against impossible odds. And deceptive facade. One group outshines, man - just look at the signs. See we winning all over the place. Giving solutions to the world and the whole human race We ain't never gonna back down, leave town, play the clown. Phychiatry and SPs you know we take 'em down. See the purpose ingrained. It's burning in our blood. They the passing storm. We the unstoppable flood. See, cuz we the IAS. And we're dauntless and defiant. We confront even the giants, yo. Handle anyone barring freedom for all. Cuz you know when we win then nobody falls. So bring it harder y'all. Let's make it stronger now. Unite as one, answer the call. Come on, and we'll forever be the winners!
Chorus: IAS. Dauntless and defiant. So resolute. There's nothing we can't do.
Scientology ads and the PSA's. Let's play them 24/7, watch them clear the haze. We're lighting the path that Man has sought so long. And now the search is over, the truth is out, the mystery's gone, see. That's why I say there is no letting up 'til all the people are free. You know it's up to us. With Narconon and Criminon, Applied Scholastics. New AOs in the conts. Yo, it's truly fantastic. Cuz there ain't no limit to what we can do. So I wanna see you up your status. Yeah - you and you and you! And you too.
Chorus: IAS. Dauntless and defiant. So resolute. There's nothing we can't do.
From the VMs down in Haiti. Who saved so many lives. To the Cavalcades spreading the help so wide. You see we unite for human rights and restore for Man all that belongs to his life. The Way to Happiness. Brings the calm and the peace. Helping all reduce crime - even the police. Psychotropic drugs - we'll make a thing of the past. Expose the fraud of the psychs. And watch them dwindle real fast. We got islands of sanity 'round Ideal Orgs. Let's make the islands the sea by creating even more. The dwindling spiral. We'll turn it around. We got the greatest campaigns this world has ever had. So keep the force going. You know we'll never rest. Cuz as a matter of course. We be the very best. So stand proud, shout it loud. That we the IAS!
Chorus: IAS. Dauntless and defiant. So resolute. There's nothing we can't do.
"How about that? You hold on to the tin cans and then this guy asks you a bunch of questions, and if you pay enough money you get to join the master race. How's that for a religion?" -- Frank Zappa, to a concert audience at the Rockpile, Toronto, May 1969
"Some of the income differences probably stem from culture. Some faiths place great importance on formal education. But the differences are also self-reinforcing. People who make more money can send their children to better schools, exacerbating the many advantages they have over poorer children. Round and round, the cycle goes. It won’t solve itself." -- David Leonhardt (from the article)
So why do I support the Church's right to engage in 'hurtful' (a misnomer if ever there was one) speech? Because it is their First Amendment Right, and I think the First Amendment with its protection of religion, assembly, press, petition, and speech (RAPPS) is one of the most remarkable statements humankind has ever produced.
I've had experience with the First Amendment. When my younger siuster Ann was murdered by five Saudi Arabian hatemongers on 9/11, little did I realize that I would soon be drawn into a First Amendment controversy.
Ann was on the plane that was crashed into the Pentagon. One of my faculty colleagues at the University of New Mexico, whom I did not personally know, commented to his class,"Anyone who bombs the Pentagon has my vote." As expected, there was an outcry for his firing, censure, or suspension. I actually came out in support of his right to say what he did, and wrote a letter to the Albuquerque Journal to that effect. Columnist Jim Belshaw then wrote an article about what I had done, and how difficult it must have been for me to support the professor's right to say what he did. It was.
Belshaw later told me that he received a lot of comments about me his column, many of them quite negative. It was obvious that people could not distinguish between my support for someone's right to say something and support for what he actually said. I don't have to like what you say to support your right to say it. I spoke out because I had a vested interest in the situation:
Belief in and support of free speech are always easy when the speech is something with which you agree. But when you encounter something that is so repugnant, so heinous, and so contrary to everything you hold sacred, well, that is when supporting free speech is tough to do. But to me, that's when it really counts. How hard is it to accept something that corresponds to what you think is right? That's a no-brainer. It's the opposite that's difficult.
The First Amendment was really designed for fringe groups like the Westboro folks. If their speech is not protected, what might happen next? The Founding Fathers knew exactly what they were doing when they wote those 45 amazing words:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
I supported free speech on 9/11 and would do so all over again.
And if you picket or protest against the Westboro Baptist Church, I'll support your right to do so peaceably.
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," -- Evelyn Beatrice Hall
“Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “Fags Doom Nations.” -- some of the signs displayed at military funerals by the Westboro Baptist Church
Campanastan's Philosopher-in-Residence Eric Fitch sent me a link to a story from the Toronto Star about a U.S. Congressman,Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL). The Congressman, an evangelical Christian, is convinced that God will save us from climate change and global warming so we need not do anything about these problems.
Here is Cathal Kelly's story:
U.S. Representative John Shimkus, possible future chairman of the Congressional committee that deals with energy and its attendant environmental concerns, believes that climate change should not concern us since God has already promised not to destroy the Earth.
Shimkus already serves on the committee. During a hearing in 2009, he dismissed the dangers of climate change and the warnings of the scientific community by quoting the Bible.
“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though all inclinations of his heart are evil from childhood and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.
“As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.”
Forgive me - I'm not a Biblical scholar, but I see nothing in that passage that says that God has promised to protect us from climate change/global warming. We can still have Earth, albeit one a lot hotter than it is now. But Earth will still be there, along with humans, night, day, summer, winter, plants, animals, etc. Maybe Rep. Shimkus has a direct line to the Almighty.
But Shimkus' statement gets to a more troubling issue: that of using Biblical quotes, passages from the Koran, etc., to set national policy, especially science and environmental policy.
My Biblical knowledge is sparse but I remember some lessons from Brother Doyle's sophomore Biblical studies class many years ago: by judiciously selecting quotes and taking them out of context, you can justify Biblical support for practices most of us consider morally repugnant. He then proceeded to list a bunch of things the Bible 'supported': slavery, abuse of women, segregation, and a host of other unpleasant things.
Ooops - I forgot that Shimkus used another quote. From the story:
“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds from one end of the heavens to the other.”
“The Earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a Flood,” Shimkus asserted. “I do believe that God’s word is infallible, unchanging, perfect.”
The story ends with this:
On Tuesday, Shimkus sent a letter to his colleagues burnishing his credentials by saying he is “uniquely qualified among a group of talented contenders to lead the Energy and Commerce Committee.”
May God save us from the likes of Rep. John Shimkus.
"Nature abhors a moron." -- Campanastan 15:1 "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." --Philippians 4:13
I've been out of 24/7 news cycle for a couple of weeks so I'm catching up with the controversy surrounding Dr. Terry Jones, pastor of the aptly-named Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL, who has declared this coming Saturday 'Burn a Koran Day' and announced his plan to burn thousands of copies of the Koran on the ninth anniversary of 9/11.
I support Jones' right to burn the Koran because the First Amendment guarantees him the right to do so and I will defend that right despite the fact that Jones strikes me as a frightened, intolerant bigot whose stunt has the potential to cause great harm. I despise what he's doing but support his right, just as I once took up the cudgels for a despicable man who mocked the 9/11 event that murdered my younger sister:
The First Amendment gurantees more than speech but it's best known for speech. Unfortunately, it applies to ignorant, intolerant people as well, and fails to mention responsibilities as well as rights and Jones is behaving irresponsibly. So Jones is free to express his distaste for those he believes are intolerant and hateful by expressing his own hate and intolerance. See any inconsistency there, Dr. Jones?
Note added on 9 September 2010: Dr. Jones has canceled his plans.
Congress Shall Make No Law Respecting an Establishment of Religion, or Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof; or Abridging the Freedom of Speech, or of the Press; or the Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble, and To Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances. -- First Amendment
Dr. George A. Rekers, anti-gay minister and one of the co-founders (with James Dobson and Armand Nicholi, Jr.) of the Family Research Council, recently returned from a ten-day vacation with a male prostitute in tow.
Rekers said he needed the young man ('Lucien') to help him handle his bags because of recent surgery. What he forgot to say is that he secured the young man's services through www.rentboy.com, which is definitely a cut above the well-known Larry Craigslist.
The FRC has removed the details about Rekers' role as a founder board member from its web site.
Good friend Bob Jarrett sent me this email he received from the Sojourners.
This time, he’s crossed the line.
Last week,Fox News commentator Glenn Beckurged Christians to leave churches that use the words “social justice.”
Then today, on his morning show, Beck said social justice was a “perversion of the gospel” and complained that social justice and economic justice were code words for Communism and Nazism.
Considering that the Catholic Church, the black churches, the mainline Protestant churches, and more and more evangelical and Pentecostal churches all consider social justice central to biblical faith, what’s he really advocating? A complete disregard of the gospel and millennia of Church teaching?
Of course, Christians may disagree about what social justice means in our current political context. And that’s an important debate. But the Bible is clear: From Moses to the Hebrew prophets to Jesus, social justice has been an integral part of God’s plan for humanity.
Beck said that, if his church were about “social justice,” he would report his church to the church authorities. What authorities? Church bodies as diverse in their theology as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals have explicitly endorsed social justice as a biblical imperative.
Because Sojourners’ mission is “to articulate the biblical call to social justice,” our founder and CEO Jim Wallis was the first to “turn himself in.” Since yesterday, we’ve had more than a thousand other Christians join him.
What about you? We invite you to “turn yourself in”to Glenn Beck as a Christian who believes in social justice. And while you’re at it, invite some friends. Let’s send him thousands of names.
Satan wrote a letter to Pat Robertson after the televangelist claimed that the Haitians had made a pact with the Devilto gain their independence from France.
Dear Pat Robertson,
I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action.
But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished.
Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll.
You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract. Best, Satan
LILY COYLE, MINNEAPOLIS
Maybe Andy Borowitz is right: Robertson thought it was Hades, not Haiti.
"(T)he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." –Pat Robertson
So what's up with the Mormons these days? Sister Leticia Farr getting a rise out of her muffins wearing outfits that would raise the dead? Joseph Smith would not tolerate this (though he might take her as a bride).
But at least Sister Farr is in the kitchen like a good Mormon girl, if in fact she really is.
How I love the holiday season! Despite the garish display of conspicuous consumption here in the USA, there are invariably numerous examples of people reaching out to help those less fortunate than themselves. Revives my faith in humanity.
So it was with great joy that I read a story in this morning's The Oregonian. Seems that Uganda is considering a very harsh anti-gay ordinance, one that would go beyond merely declaring homosexuality a crime, which it already is.
Even more interesting is the morsel that a former Oregonian, Scott Lively, had a hand in this legislative debacle. Lively addressed the Uganda parliament last March:
And remember that homosexuality is literally illegal in this country [Uganda]. Imagine how bad things would be if the criminal law were abandoned. By the way, the false accusation against me, now circulating in the US, is that I called on the Ugandan government to force homosexuals into therapy. What I actually said is that the law against homosexuality should be liberalized to give arrestees the choice of therapy instead of imprisonment, similar to the therapy option I chose after being arrested for drunk driving in 1985 (during which time I accepted the Lord and was healed and transformed into a Christian activist).
Sure love those Christians!
Here are the bill's major provisions:
Anyone convicted of a homosexual act faces life imprisonment
Active homosexual living with HIV and same-sex rapists would be executed
Anyone who "aids, abets, counsels, or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality" faces seven years in prison if convicted.
Landlords who rent rooms or homes to homosexuals face seven years in prison
Anyone with 'religious, political, economic or social authority" who fails to report anyone violating the act faces three years.
This late-breaking news from Minster of Humor Marty Ennis:
There will be no Nativity Scene in Washington this year. The Supreme Court has ruled there cannot be a Nativity Scene in the US Capital this Christmas season. This isn't for any religious reason; they simply have been unable to find Three Wise Men in the Nation's Capital. The search for a Virgin continues. There was no problem finding enough asses, cows, and pigs to fill the stable.
The culture wars continue!
"When the year started, 'teabagging' was a phrase that referred to dangling one's testicles in someone else's face. And they managed to turn it into something gross and ridiculous." -- Bill Maher
Colleague Robert Adamski sent me this. I thought it a great way to end 2008.
As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God by Matthew Parris
Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset
Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland.
Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.
It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.
At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.
We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.
Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.
This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.
It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.
There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.
I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.
Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.
How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it's there,” he said.
To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.
Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.
Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.
And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.
"When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land." -- Desmond Tutu
The title of this post is from an actual headline in today's The Oregonian. The Pope was making a plea to protect abused children, street children, and child soldiers, and rescue them from the clutches of evil.
The irony of his message really struck home, so I decided to rewrite the piece, cognizant of the subtext.
Pope Greets Christmas with Appeal for Children
by Pat McGroin
In his traditional Midnight Mass Christmas homily, Pope Benedict XVI departed from theusual entreaty for world peace, an end to hunger, and the institution of a college football playoff system, by issuing an urgent appeal to the faithful for more children,”the male gender, northern European types”.
The Pope continued: “The Church today is in dire straits, and I am not referring to the pale English neo-pop band. It is in desperate need of its very lifeblood, young boys, those who would innocently serve as receptacles of all that is good that gushes forth from the priesthood.” The Pope repeated his desire for “northern European-looking types”, stating that “We have a surfeit of dark, swarthy ones.”
He then alluded to the Church's enlightened birth-control policy, which has resulted in “many little dark ones who wish to serve the Church, but are not in demand as acolytes by the priesthood.”
The Holy Father pleaded with parents to offer their male offspring to the Church, so that they "may be blessed in ways not fully understood by the laity." He added that parents should "rest assured that their boys will indeed be in good hands."
He noted that female children were not desired at this time, for "They have a special place in the Church hierarchy, which is to accept their role as subservient to all mankind."
Now here is a paragraph from the real story:
The Pope did not specifically mention the issue of lawsuits and other complaints brought in the United States and elsewhere by Catholics who allege they were sexually abused by priests when they were youngsters.
You go, Benedict!
"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." -- Abraham Lincoln
Just so we don't lull ourselves into thinking that doing water work in emerging regions is not without danger, here is a piece from the Boston Globe about the release of missionary Steven Godbold, 49, who was working with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) based in Wheaton, IL.
Godbold has served in Chad since 1991. He was captured on 10 October 2007 in Zoumri in the Tibesti region of northern Chad by the rebel group Movement for Democracy and Justice in Tchad (MDJT). Godbold was assisitng a Chadian NGO transport water well-drilling equipment into the Tibesti region to provide potable water to the residents. The project was being funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.
TEAM issued a statementon 24 July 2008. No ransom was paid, nor were any concessions made to secure his unconditional release.
Godbold, the married father of four, said:
"But I was never physically mistreated. Nobody ever said a threatening word to me. I was treated almost as a guest of honor. We ate together, we drank tea together, we played cards together and we chatted together."
Thanks to Kevin McCray, Executive Director of NGWA, who sent me this information.
"For a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries." -- 1 Corinthians 16:9 (New American Standard Bible)
Salman Rushdie, British novelist who endured a decade-long fatwa issued by the late Ayatollah Khomeinibecause he supposedly trashed Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses, made some perceptive comments on Fareed Zakaria's 8 June 2008 GPS show on CNN (excellent show by the way - Henry Kissinger interview, a great Middle East panel discussion).
Rushdie was on briefly - a promo for an longer visit in a few weeks - commenting on the recent suicide bombing at the Danish embassy in Pakistan, yet another reprisal for the infamous cartoons published in a Danish newspaper a few years ago.
He noted that the bombing and associated protests over the cartoons were "tragic" in that "minor cultural issues" were fomenting violence. But he wondered: where is Muslim outrage over Muslim-on-Muslim violence in Darfur? To protest cartoons violently while such greater issues seemingly go unnoticed is "appalling" and "unintelligent".
Good point, Salman. Still have that safe house? Probably another fatwa on tap for you.
Reminds me of the gaffe the pope made a few years ago, when, quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor, he implied that Islam was a violent religion. So what happens? Muslims go on a rampage. Duhhh....Hey, Pope Benedict, can you say, "I rest my case?"
"The problem is that no one in Washington ever really pays for their transgressions. The Iran-Contra Class of '86 is still running around DC collecting paychecks. Until someone does pay for their crimes, the behavior will not change." -- Andy, commenter on Bill Moyers' Journal
After getting my fill of Rev. Jeremiah Wright for the past week or so and witnessing Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) furious backpedaling, I could not resist the following cartoon by Brian Barling from the Christian Science Monitor.
Last week I kept waiting for Bill Moyers to take off the kid gloves and ask Rev. Wright if he really thought the US government spread AIDS in the black community. Bill, you there?
Of course, few have made as big an issue of Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) endorsement from conservative evangelist Rev. John Hagee, who has referred to the Catholic Church as "the great whore", suggested that Hurricane Katrina was visited upon New Orleans because of its sinful ways, and aligned himself with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's statement that 9/11 was similar punishment for the USA.
And when McCain sought the support of Falwell, whom he once called an "agent of intolerance", no one suggested that McCain felt the same way about 9/11 as did Falwell. McCain got a pass, something not granted Obama. In fairness, neither Falwell nor Hagee served 20 years as McCain's pastor.
"Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions." -- Rev. Jerry Falwell
Interesting that I am blogging about religion and USA presidential politics on Christmas Eve, one of the great Christian holy days. Forgive me, Sister Theresa!
Mitt Romney's "Kennedy-esque" speech about his religion a few weeks was sad - I should say the fact that he had to do it was sad. The rise of Mike Huckabee, who wears his Christianity on his sleeve (and every other exposed surface), but whom I believe is sincere about it), prompted Mitt to attempt to assuage the fears of the Christian evangelicals in Iowa and elsewhere.
I don't care for Romney as President, but it's because of his politics, not his Mormonism. I don't fear that if he were elected, ol' Mitt would decide he needed six more wives or install a hotline to the OWG (Old White Guy) in SLC who runs the LDS (I always want to write "LSD") Church.
I did find some interesting tidbits in his speech:
"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."
The first sentence I find especially baffling. So "religion requires freedom", eh? Let's look at places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, both of which "have religion", Islam to be specific. Are those places "free"? I think not. Yet they have religion. And to be free, you have to have religion. Why? I don't think Mitt put a great deal of thought into this premise, but is merely telling the listeners what they want to hear.
Huckabee is running ads in Iowa now that tout him as a "Christian leader". Romney is trying to convince us that Mormonism is not the first cousin of Scientology. Daniel Schorr of NPR said it correctly the other day: "It's as if they are running for church deacon."
On his show a few weeks ago Bill Moyers devoted time to a discussion of religion in presidential politics. His guests were Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the Annenberg School for Communication (ASC)at the University of Pennsylvania, arguably the most astute media observer around today, and Melissa Rogers of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University.
Moyers asked them, "What's missing from all this talk about religion and politics?"
Jamieson: "Relevance to government."
Rogers: "Robust defense of religious liberty."
To both, I say "Amen!"
"The five words Arkansas politicians fear most are 'Will the defendant please rise.' " -- Mike Huckabee
Okay, I'm tempting the fatwa folks by even posting this, but as one who enjoys satire and irreverence, I could not resist. I should be okay, because I'm not mocking the Prophet, just those who kill innocent people in his name.
The other day I learned of Jihad: The Musical, billed as a "madcap Jihadi romp" that tells the story of a hapless Afghan peasant, Sayid al-Boom, who gets duped into becoming an Islamic terrorist. The play, written by Zoe Samuel and Ben Scheuer, opens tonight in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Needless to say, the musical has generated many protesters. Samuel argues that the production is in the British tradition of laughing in the face of adversity, "to laugh at those who seek to intimidate."
Two of the tunes are "I Only See Your Eyes" and "I Wanna Be Like Osama". The latter is currently on YouTube, and, according to Samuel, has received more visits than the protesters have gathered signatures.
You can read more about Jihad: The Musical in Vanessa Thorpe's Guardian Unlimitedarticle.
"A little bit of irreverence is a good thing; a lot is better." -- Ann Campana Judge, murdered aboard AA Flight #77 on 9/11/2001 by five Saudi Arabian Islamicterrorists
As for my own tribute, I decided that my meager words cannot honor the man - no, icon - that was Jerry Falwell. I will simply supplant my words with his sagacious quotes that will do him justice unlike anything I can say. What better way to honor someone of his stature?
"Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them."
"He is purple - the gay-pride color, and his antenna is shaped like a triangle - the gay-pride symbol." [Warning that Tinky Winky, one of the 'Teletubbies', may be gay.]
"Facilities [for blacks and whites] should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line." (1958)
"AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals...AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals." (2001)
"[LBJ's Civil Rights Act] should be considered civil wrongs rather than civil rights." (1964)
"Billy Graham is the chief servant of Satan in America."
"I believe that global warming is a myth. And so, therefore, I have no conscience problems at all and I'm going to buy a Suburban next time."
"The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country." (1976)
"If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being."
"The ACLU is to Christians what the American Nazi Party is to Jews."
"I hope to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we don't have public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them." (1979)
"Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions."
"I am such a strong admirer and supporter of George W. Bush that if he suggested eliminating the income tax or doubling it, I would vote yes on first blush."
And speaking of President Bush:HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
Thanks to the July 2007 issue of theFunny Timesfor the quotes.
I'll close with my favorite Jerry Falwell quote:
"I really believe that the pagans, and abortionists, and the feminists...all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say 'You helped this [9/11] happen'." -- Rev. Jerry Falwell (2001)
Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later, given our tendency to do things electronically and take the easy way out. We can now confess online, admit our transgressions, and request forgiveness.
Time was that to cleanse oneself of guilt caused by the commission (or omission) of some deed you'd exile yourself to the desert, a mountaintop, or a lifetime of helping those less fortunate. If society wanted to "cleanse" you, then the sanctions might be considerably harsher. Or maybe you would just confront the person you wronged and sought forgiveness.
If you were a Catholic (as I was raised) you could go to confession if you committed a sin, endure a scolding (or worse) from Father Doyle, say a couple of prayers, and presto! Back in God's good graces - for a while at least. If you practiced another religion I suppose you could confess to your minister, rabbi, priest, imam, or avoid the middleman and confess directly to your Supreme Being.
where you can post your screw-ups anonymously (after you go through the "legalese" to enter the site). The FRC has four physical campuses, so I'm guessing it's a "megachurch".
A quick perusal of the posted confessions indicated such sins as swearing, cheating on a test, wishing bad things on people, to bigger-ticket items such as fornication, stealing, drug abuse, violence, etc. Ages ranged from pre-teen to over 60.
I wondered how many confessions were actually real.
The pastor at Flamingo Road Church is one Troy Gramling and he was interviewed last week on Anderson Cooper's CNN show (I missed that).
Of course, after you have confessed, you should probably visit www.imscrewed.com to see what your punishment is. There is such a site, but it has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
'Fess up, now! Hey, whatever gets you through the night...
"Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions." -- Jerry Falwell
Gene Nichol, the president of my alma mater, the College of William and Mary (www.wm.edu) in Williamsburg, VA, has come under fire for his recent decision to ban an 18-inch brass cross from permanent display on the altar in the College's Wren Chapel. Alumni have threatened to withhold gifts, including one who is revoking a $10M pledge.
The Wren Chapel is in the Wren Building, supposedly the oldest classroom building in continuous use in the USA. It is named for Sir Christopher Wren, arguably the greatest English architect of his time (1632-1723). The College is the second-oldest (1693) in the USA; only Harvard is older (1636).
Nichol based his decision on the fact that the cross may be offensive to non-Christians and its permanent display may be discomforting to non-Christians using the chapel. The cross can be returned to display for Christian groups using the chapel. It should be noted that the College is a state institution, so there are church-state separation issues at play.
Let's support reason, clear thinking, and concern for the feelings of all people, not just Christians.
Addendum. Right after I posted this, I learned that a compromise had been reached. President Nichol announced that the cross will be returned to the Wren Chapel, but not to the altar. It will be displayed permanently in a glass case with a plaque explaining its significance.
"Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." -- Albert Einstein
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