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America’s Newest Export: Jesus

No, it’s not true that America has to import everything and that we have nothing to contribute to the rest of the world. We do too.

Even as we speak, boatloads of Bible-totin fire-and-bri mstone-spewi ng Christians are being shipped out to ports all up and down Europe and Britain. They’re cheaper by the gross.

Ah heck, maybe this will do ‘em some good. Europeans are too bland; too much ennui and sophisticati on. Maybe a little holy rollin’ and hootin’ and hollerin’ will inject some life into them.

Answers in Genesis is an American organization — based in Kentucky — that’s trying to spread Creationism throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. Battles over Creationism vs. Evolution have actually been spreading to Britain, Germany, Poland and Italy.

Creationism is still pretty much marginalized in Europe, but it’s increasing. Evangelical worship is spreading all over the Continent. Don’t they have enough problems already?

And now some homegrown organization s are following in the footsteps of Answers in Genesis. A British group called Truth in Science has been sending DVDs to every high school in Britain, trying to argue for “intellige nt design.” And if that’s not bad enough, an organization called AH Trust wants to build a Christian theme park in northwestern England.

The president of Britain’s National Secular Society (founded in 1866) is concerned about the increasing spread of Evangelicals  : “Creationi sm is creeping into the schools. There is a constant pressure to get these ideas into the schools.”

Simon Barrow is the co-director of Ekklesia, a British-base d, Christian-or iented research group. He says that until recently, there were lots of people who held Evangelical views but also endorsed mainstream science. He says the militancy and the “either-or” battles have been imported from the United States in the last few years. “There is a lot of American influence, and there are a lot of moral and political and financial resources flowing from the United States to here. Now you have more extreme religious groups trying to get a foothold.”

The Council of Europe is a human rights watchdog group consisting of 47 countries. They’re worried about the quality of education in Europe being jeopardized if their schools are flooded with Creationism and other religious dogma. They’re right to be worried. All they have to do is look across the Atlantic. Note the extreme mass gullibility and lack of critical thinking skills in that country. Be very afraid.


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Florida Catholic Conference donates large chunks of money for anti-gay ballot measure

It hasn’t received much attention, but a last minute petition campaign for a “Marriage Protection Amendment” managed to secure a spot on Florida’s November ballot, sneaking in by the skin of its teeth on Friday. Given that Florida has already enacted a state-wide “Defense of Marriage Act,” one has to wonder why another push is being made by anti-gay organization s and institutions to keep this issue in the minds of voters.

Oh, wait. I know. It’s because conservative religious voters need a reason to go to the polls this November, seeing as how they are pretty unhappy with their choice of potential GOP nominees. So, sure enough, Florida4marr iage.org has secured a ballot initiative to ban gay marriage yet again.

Does anyone else feel like they’re reading the back of a shampoo bottle? Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Over and over again, every election cycle.

The specific language of the ballot measure says, “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”   Sixty percent of Floridians need to vote yes on the amendment in order for it to become law.

Not surprisingly  , the Republican Party of Florida was the largest bank roll for the campaign to get this measure on the ballot. They spent a whopping $300,000 collecting more than 600,000 signatures. But the number two donor? No, not Domino’s Pizza. No, not the Christian Coalition. But the Florida Catholic Conference, which gave nearly $50,000 for the effort. Yes, the same Florida Catholic Conference whose vision statement says they are guided by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of his Church.

Of course, I’m sure if Jesus had $50,000 to burn, he wouldn’t have spent it going after gays and lesbians. You know, not when 15% of children under 18 live under the poverty level in the state. Darn that pesky Jesus and his message of economic populism.

Whether this amendment will bring out conservative voters in the Fall remains to be seen, but the gauntlet has once again been thrown. Ironically, Florida’s GOP Governor, Charlie Crist, has asked the Republican Party to stop spending money on this campaign, saying there are more important issues that warrant the money. Maybe somebody should convey that message to the Florida Catholic Conference, since the teachings of Jesus don’t seem to be doing the trick.

Thankfully, the ballot measure has already drawn organized opposition, in the form of the bipartisan “Florida Red and Blue Committee.” They call this ballot measure “dangerous and disingenuous  ,” and are organizing a drive to educate voters on why the amendment is not only unnecessary, but another example of the government bursting into the doors of citizens’ private lives. Check the Florida Red and Blue Committee out. Friend them on Facebook. Do whatever you can, so that come November 2008, organization s like the Florida Catholic Conference can be sent a message that they should feed the poor, clothe the naked, bless the peacemakers, and be good stewards of the Earth, rather than try to control who loves who. Darn that pesky Bible.


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Removing The Thin Veil Of Evangelical Eisegesis

Before I begin, let me be clear…I have great sympathy for the immense pain and loss the family of Matthew Murray must be enduring. I don’t for a moment question their sincerity and I’m certain they love Matthew, and I wish them well. We will likely never fully understand the dynamics that led to this tragic ordeal. However, it is important to explore all of the mechanisms which may have contributed to this terrible tragedy so that others might be spared the life-shatter ing agony. Additionally  , with measured and objective reflection, perhaps we can uncover the means to save the lives of people like Matthew and his innocent victims. I offer the following with this in mind.

As I read an account of the funeral of Matthew Murray, it crystallized the certainty of my long held concern. There’s no better way to state it…Christi anity has been hijacked by those who will spare no effort in their goal of coalescing each and every individual within the confines of their beguiling brand of fundamental and fraudulent evangelicali sm.

This broad movement, populated by dangerous demagogues, is tireless in its efforts to define God’s intentions via literal, though laconic, interpretati ons of Biblical passages. They set out to instill this canard via a cunning sleight of hand…one that endeavors to package biblical eisegesis as biblical exegesis in an effort to engender irrefutable status and unyielding support.

The end game seeks to insure that every human act can be filtered through this masterfully manipulated prism…rega rdless of reasonabilit y. Sadly, the efforts to view Matthew’s life and death through this narrow purview have already commenced.

Since the tragic events unfolded in Colorado, I’ve watched as a number of conscripts have sought to sell the theory that the “normality ” of Matthew’s younger brother precluded the casting of doubt or the shining of a suspicious light upon the environment in which Matthew was raised. This crock block has been expressed as follows:

He (Matthew), in my opinion had the best, most supporting family. The whole family is so nice and giving. 
IF his condition was caused by an event in his life, it would have to be something outside the family because his brother is a happy, friendly and a talented piano player. If it were his mum or dad wouldn’t his brother also be at least somewhat affected???

On the surface, one might be inclined to accept this argument…o r at least consider its plausibility . Needless to say, even the underlying premise of this statement misses the mark. Clearly the relevant problem exceeds his “mum and dad” and the fact that his brother may have embraced the religious teachings of the higher authority brought into the home via his parents doesn’t mean the environment was healthy or connected to rationality.

A siblings acceptance of the prescribed ideology doesn’t affirm its validity nor does it necessarily absolve the parents of any potential responsibili ty. One can just as easily argue that the brother has, in fact, been affected…n ot only as a result of parental oversight; but also as a product of intense ideological indoctrinati on. Should there be any doubt as to this likelihood, let the words of Christopher Murray persuade you otherwise:

Even though Satan attacked my brother, I truly feel God is going to save a whole generation of people through this.”

I suspect Matthew felt attacked by something other than Satan. I also suspect he would have been overjoyed to simply find the means to save himself…but even Matthew realized that wasn’t in keeping with the “master plan” of his “handlers”.

Anyone who has read Matthews voluminous writings will immediately know how to draw the necessary connections to, and conclusions from, this telling statement of Matthew’s brother.

While one might expect Matthew’s tragic death to lead his family to question their fundamental beliefs…as well as the rigid script they pushed upon Matthew suggesting his eventual role as a prophet (even to the extent that it foretold he would first turn away from his faith), it appears that his death has simply been incorporated into an ongoing story line.

The fact that the family would continue to brandish this biblically based biography (adaptations included as needed) with unflinching adherence may surprise or shock the objective observer…b ut it shouldn’t…es pecially if one remembers the constructs upon which this movement is premised. Nothing, not event the death of a loved one, can force them to deviate from their doctrinal diatribe. If the outside observer can discern that rigidity, is it any wonder Matthew would be tormented by it?

I contend such an environment essentially relegates a child like Matthew to irrelevance… a virtual character in a play whereby the doubts and discomforts of the real person (Matthew) are inconsequent ial. The ideology, the church, and mom and dad have but one objective… to direct the production of the preordained outcome. As such, understandin g Matthew was unnecessary. Instead, they set out to make him understand his role regardless of his protestation s. When he failed to comply, they simply wrote his behavior into their script…all the while preserving the integrity of the ending.

I would compare the situation to a father who dabbled in golf as a child, but for whatever reason never succeeded in the sport, who then becomes determined to turn his child into the next Tiger Woods regardless of the child’s total lack of athletic ability and an unbridled interest in classical piano.

As this process unfolds, the child will undoubtedly feel inadequate. If the pressure persists or advances, the child’s identity will suffer untold damage. In extreme situations, some children will strike out in an effort to be seen as more than an object being utilized to augment the insecurities of the parent(s).

Returning to Matthew’s writings, in one of his many entries he states:

As far as dealing with parents….I don’t think the woman known as my mother really is my mother. She doesn’t act like it. My “mother” is just a brainswashed  (sp) church agent cun,t. The only reason she had me was because she wanted a body/soul she could train into being the next Billy Graham, Bill Gothard, or Peter Wagner. […] She had a “special plan from the Lord” for me. No easy way out for me. Almost every f***ing day and at every church service the pastors and our parents would tell me and the other youth that “God has a very special plan for this generation…. .don’t break any rules or you’ll miss out!!! Honor and OBEY your parents and the pastors (”god’s anointed”) or your life will be cursed and you’ll open a doorway for demons!”

Clearly little interpretati onal analysis is needed…Mat thew, in his own words, vividly supports the argument I’ve made. One needn’t take license to realize that Matthew felt invisible.

We may never know what Matthew sought to impart in his final actions…bu t I’m willing to surmise that the words his brother spoke at his funeral would serve as one further reminder to Matthew of his inability to be seen outside the constructs of the dogmatic design of those he knew.

Nonetheless, those who contend that looking at Matthew’s brother should absolve the family or his faith from any accountabili ty is akin to suggesting that Nazi war criminals were not influenced by the rampant rhetoric and reprehensibl e rationale of Adolf Hitler’s “final solution”. Let me be clear, the acts of those who carried out the Holocaust can never be justified and neither can Matthew’s. While this is an extreme comparison, even in the resolution of far more innocuous liability cases, the attribution of responsibili ty is rarely applied solely to one party.

Those who manipulate others in order to execute misguided agendas are sullied by the acts of their minions…ev en if those injustices are perpetrated by the willful behavior of adults…and those in positions of authority mustn’t be allowed to reconstruct reality in order to absolve accountabili ty.

Matthew, unlike these Nazi criminals, was systematical ly submitted to indoctrinati on his entire life. If grown men in Germany were susceptible to the suspension of reasonable and long-establi shed mores, what chance did a vulnerable child have to avoid the madness that ensued from his efforts to reject hypocrisy and see life outside of the prison he was forced to endure? If our condemnation of Hitler and his ideology is justified, so too is our questioning of parental propriety.

It should come as no surprise that the world Matthew chose when rejecting his faith was filled with the constructs of his overlords… a world immersed in images of evil and inhumane idols…a world cast by the iron fisted adults in his life as the only alternative available to those who would fall from grace. In limiting Matthew’s contact with the outside world…as well as vilifying it…they precluded him from witnessing moderation and escaping the confines of the black and white extremities they promoted.

Now, more than ever, it is time to break the back of religious extremism lest we regress into the throes of a dark ages mentality… a time where the pursuit of objective knowledge is subjugated to the asserted infallibilit y of religious ideology.

When the following statement can be accepted as a reasonable reaction to Matthew’s horrendous final actions, have we not commenced the suspension of our humanity in favor of a contrived denial construct?

just thought I’d let u guys know…i go to new life…and i love it there..God forgives and so do i…i forgave matthew the minute it happened…w e are all sinners and capable of making huge mistakes. God loves everyone…i pray for his family…and that somehow through this tradegdy (sp) that God WILL be exhaulted (sp)  […]

The nature of man tells us death is first met by grief and anger and sometime in the future forgiveness will hopefully emerge. When those of faith leap to make statements that deny as much, have we not injected the very ideations that led Matthew to reject the sincerity of religion? Any faith that believes we can or should abandon our basic human traits is suspect.

If I can read the English language…a nd I believe I can…then aren’t those who are leaping to accept and embrace Matthew in death, the same who ignored and rejected him in life? If that is a demonstratio n of Christianity  , then Jesus Christ was a fraud.

On the contrary, I contend those who portray their Christianity through trite statements and symbols, as if it were the equivalent of a badge that can be slapped upon one’s lapel, are simply engaged in a never-ending spiral of hypocrisy and self-decepti on.

While I applaud the sincerity and compassion being exhibited by many people of faith, those easily identified interlopers who wear their faith like a badge, and who seek to usurp Christianity  , must be exposed and forced to travel far deeper than the pretty proclamation s they’ve begun to toss upon this terrible tragedy.

Unless and until this happens, we’re never going to save the Matthew’s of the world…or prevent the needless carnage they inflict.

behindtheveil.jpg

Cross-posted at Thought Theater


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Matthew Murray, nghtmrchld26: The Confrontation At New Life Church In 2004

There appears to have been a connection between Matthew Murray and New Life Church in 2004…one that resulted in a confrontatio n. Perhaps this explains why Matthew chose New Life as a target. Even more significant, the staff at New Life allegedly warned Murray’s mother that Matthew might be “planning violence”.

The gist of the situation seems to suggest that two staff members told Matthew’s mother that he “wasn’t walking with the lord and could be planning violence”. From that situation, Matthew’s mother found his stash of “evil” items (music, books, video games) and confiscated them. It appears he may have blamed this on the folks at New Life.

Forum Thread Number One:

First Entry:

On 09/04/06 - Chrstnghtmr wrote:

Thread: Growing up in the nightmare of Bill Gothard and Charismatic Christianity  (short version) (Healing)  (Posted on: 04 Sep : 13:04)

I am 22 years old and I was raised in Bill Gothard’s homeschool program all the way through high school. I went to both the Basic and Advanced Seminars. My Mother was fully into both Bill Gothard’s programs AND the Charismatic movement. She followed Peter Wagner, Mike Bickle, Joyce Meyer, Ted Haggard of New Life Church, Cindy Jacobs, Dutch Sheets and any other person who was popular in the Charismatic movement at the time.

In addition to all of Bill Gothard’s insanity my mother was into all the charismatic/ ”fanatical evangelical” insanity. Her and her church believed that Satan and demons were everywhere in everything. The rules were VERY strict all the time. We couldn’t have ANY christian or non-christia n music at all except for a few charismatic worship CDs. There was physical abuse in my home. My mother although used psychotropic drugs because she somehow thought it would make it easier to control me(I’ve never been diagnosed with any mental illness either). Pastors would always come and interrogate me over video games or TV watching or other things. There were NO FRIENDS outside the church and family and even then only family members who were in the church. You could not trust anyone at all because anyone might be a spy.

At age 17, I decided to “go all out for Jesus” and do my best to practice christianity and live it out. I went to the bible to read for myself how one gets “saved.” I found several different versions of getting saved from the gospels. In John it was mainly “have faith” but in Mt, Mk, and Lk, it was as found in Mt 25, that you would have eternal life by doing good works(which of course is considered heresy). So I went to the books from the man that “had all the answers,” Bill gothard’s Basic and Advanced seminar textbooks.

What I found were all these other rules Irealized I could never live up to, yet, the man seemed to have a biblical basis for everything. In Februrary 2001 at age 17 I plunged into a dark suicidal depression all because I thought I had lost my “salvation” and somehow couldn’t live up to the rules. Every single hour of every single day, up until October 2001 I thought about ways of suicide and hating myself for not being worthy enough and failing God. I felt like there was no reason to live because I had lost my salvation and could never live up to the rules. In May of 2001, I told my parents I was depressed and they put me on 2 anti-depress ants(in addition to the other crap pills they had me on to try to brainwash me).

None of that touched this depression at all. Everyone prayed, they laid hands on me, spoke in tongues over me, I sought out every kind of christian spiritual help I knew of in charismatic christianity . I through away video games, a few movies, anything that could possibly be “bringing demons” that would cause me to lose God’s favour and make me depressed. I never told my parents I was suicidal however, that would have gotten me in big trouble, I just told them I was depressed.

In Oct 2001 I decided it had to end somehow, so I decided to simply reject the idea that Bill Gothard was infallible. The depression mostly cleared right up. I was still a little depressed because I saw other youth in another group doing so well and happy with life. That group was called King’s Kids.
King’s Kids is a youth ministry of YWAM.
I got involved with King’s Kids and went on missions trips with them.

At age 18, in 2002, I went to Youth With A Mission to do their “DTS” program which lasts a total of 5 months, the last two months you go on outreach. On the YWAM base several of the other young men smoked pot, looked at porn, listened to heavy metal, AND were involved in homosexual activities. 6 of the guys made a homosexual porn videotape together on the YWAM Denver campus but only one got kicked out because his face was on the video. 1 week before I was to head out on outreach, I was told by the YWAM Denver staff that I couldn’t go because I “wasn’t popular and talkative enough for missions work.” They admitted that I hadn’t done anything wrong, just that they had prayed and felt I wasn’t popular/”con nected” and talkative enough. I had already raised the $2600 for the 3 month course AND payed the $2200 for the missions trip(I did get a refund).

When I got back home it was back to the good old restriction and that is when I started having serious doubts about christianity . I got on staff with another group that is a program of YWAM called King’s Kids. I was on staff with them until mid 2005.

In early 2004, I was still living at home at age 20. I went to a charismatic conference at New Life church with my mother and her church. At the conference I got into a debate with two prayer team staff members. These two staff members watched me throughout the conference to find out who I was with. They found my mother and told her this story that went something along the lines of I “wasn’t walking with the lord and could be planning violence.” Two weeks later my mother brought over one of the pastors to search my room for “anything evil”(which included my Xbox video game and DVD collection). I tried moving all the video games, DVDs, and a few non-christia n books over to a friends house, but that woman was a church member. My mother and the church leadership called that woman, got into her house and basically destroyed at *least* $900 worth of property. I wasn’t involved in anything like drugs or anything like that. I just had video games, some books about other religions, DVDs and such.

After that incident my mother searched my room for the next 3 months EVERY SINGLE DAY. After that I decided it was over, that I had had it with christianity . Seeing how there are all these different churches and interpretati ons of the bible and what Jesus said, many different views on what a sin actually is and isn’t, different views on what God approves of, and all kinds of different views on:On how to get “saved” and how to stay “saved,” I realized that Christianity was mostly a big lie. Everyone has different ways of getting and staying saved and staying in God’s favor yet somehow there’s “only one God, one way to God and only one Word of God.”

I had already told my mother to lay off or she’d regret it. After that incident in 2004 I immediately went into all of Marilyn Manson’s thinking, ideas and music, believe it or not.

I found a LOT in common with Marilyn Manson and what he had to say, especially on his “Antichrist Superstar” album. I got involved in several other things too.

I never bothered to tell my King’s Kids leaders and friends that I had changed beliefs. I just stayed on KK Staff because I enjoyed going on outreaches and helping people. In 2005, I had written some poems about my experiences and sent them to some of my friends, 2 of which were on King’s Kids staff. One them got upset about it and forwarded it to the local King’s Kids director. He called me up and said he needed to have a meeting right away about “these e-mails you sent.” At the meeting I told him that they weren’t meant for him or anyone not on the list and that I didn’t see how any sin had been done. He admitted that I hadn’t done anything wrong by writing poetry, but he was still upset about it because it was talking bad about christians. He told me not to go to anymore meetings and that he would call me every other week to talk. He only called me the next week and has never called again. I had faithfully served them for a totall of 4 years, 3 of them on King’s Kids staff. I found out with them just who my friends really are.

After the 2005 King’s Kids I have not had any other affiliation with christian groups. however I’d say I left christianity in 2004.

Since leaving christianity I have gone on to the following:
Freemasonry- Scottish Rite, York Rite, Shriners
Everything Alesiter Crowley and Thelemic Magick, Marilyn Manson, Ceremonial Magick, Hermeticism, the Golden Dawn, Kabbalistic magick and studies.
Alice A. Bailey and her books, Lucis Trust, H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophy.

This story is kind of a shortened form. A LOT went on up until age 18, and then a lot happened at age 19(2003) to now.

____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____
Every man and every woman is a star

Editor’s Notes:

The following postings provide some poignant and troubling insights into Matthew and his thoughts. If one believes what Matthew has written, he asserts that he is bisexual…and has participated in “every sort of sexual perversion”… a statement which likely reflects some of the very religious judgments he sought to escape.

The last entry in this posting is perhaps the most significant… and perhaps one of the most troubling. I’ll offer a note of caution, in that Matthew uses some harsh and crass language in recounting an alleged conversation he had with his mother.

What is clear is his growing resentments and his determinatio n to effect a change. I contend his rejection of his religious ideology unfortunatel y didn’t include the ability to separate his newly chosen activities (drinking, sex, etc) from the construct of sin which had been ingrained in his psyche. While choosing to rebel, it is obvious he still loathes his actions though sees them as equal or superior to the hypocrisy and abuse he believes he experienced while attempting to live his faith.

Sadly, in the end, I suspect he couldn’t find a comfortable and comforting choice…hence his decision to end his life. It’s unfortunate that he apparently concluded he had no reasonable alternatives to the path he ultimately chose. I find it difficult to fathom being in that state of mind…but then that’s the primary reason for this exercise.

Let’s hope that our society will decide to be more proactive in the future.

Read more…


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Matthew Murray: nghtmrchld26…In His Own Words (Updated)

As most of you know, it has been determined that Matthew Murray was the shooter in two incidents at religious organization s in Colorado which left five people dead…includi ng Murray.

The following entries are Matthew Murrays postings on an internet site where ex-pentecost als share their thoughts and experiences. Aside from the first entry, I’ve attempted to organize them in date order so the reader is able to follow the progression of his thoughts and his obviously spiraling hopelessness and depression. Let me be clear…I don’t offer this observation as a defense for Murray’s actions…they cannot be justified. Rather, it is an opportunity for us to learn more about the dynamics which lead these individuals to such heinous acts.

The first entry includes a music video which I think is fundamental to understandin g the mechanics involved in these individuals attempts to dissociate themselves from their religious upbringings. I contend that the imagery in this song…though seen by Matthew and others as a means to rebel against or reject their religious ideology…is in fact still attached to the constructs and notions that were found in their faith.

Further, the imagery in both (their prior faith and their newfound anti-faith) is a manifestatio n of extremes…ext remes that often preclude these individuals from achieving some semblance of balance in their lives. In essence, in order to achieve the freedom they seek and to break the ties of the belief system they’ve been raised to follow, they move towards the very images and ideations which they were presented as representati ve of the “other side”…images and ideations which are no more real than the ones they seek to reject.

Unfortunatel y, they often lack the means to visualize their rejection of faith in ways which would bring balance and a far more healthy world view. In the end, the place they arrive is little more than a rejection construct populated by the same extreme concepts they seek to escape…ever steeped in the vividly defined notions of darkness which they have been instructed to resist.

I intend to offer additional observations and analysis of these writings but I wanted to first get them published so readers have an opportunity to ruminate on Murray’s state of mind as well as the circumstance s which contributed to his tragic decision.

NOTE: I’ve included more of my own thoughts at the end of the posting.

Subject: From the Cradle to Enslave - Music Video
Posted By: nghtmrchld26 Friend
Posted At: 10/29/07 8:52 pm
Reply

I saw this band in concert recently, They kicked a**.
Some people say this is “just entertainmen t,” but for me, and some of my friends, the songs bands like this sing are VERY REAL, it’s kind of something we can “see” and can feel and in a spiritual sense and we’re able to “connect” “into” the music. Very powerful song…..

Editor’s Warning: This video contains adult content, violence, & is rather disturbing.

Read more…


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Ann Coulter…Perfected!? - I Don’t Think So!

Ann Coulter is back in the news…duh! The following video clip is from the CNBC show, The Big Idea, hosted by Donny Deutsch. As Deutsch gave Ann Coulter the opportunity to describe her ideal America, she made the statement that her preferred image of America (and heaven) would be like the Republican National Convention in New York…”happy, joyful Republicans in the greatest city in the world”.

Pressed to explain her idyllic world, she suggests that all Americans should be Christians…a nd that Jews simply need to be “perfected”. Sensing Deutsch’s surprise at what he obviously hears as a narrow and judgmental view, she argues that her visits to Christian megachurches leads her to conclude that they are in fact very accepting and diverse. I suspect Coulter was actually being candid and offering a glimpse of her true feelings rather than attempting to launch into a provocative screed.


I also accept her sincerity regarding her experiences at megachurches . Clearly one would expect the kinship of their Christianity to supersede their differences. It is the essence of their beliefs and it is what has defined them and made them a formidable political force. Frankly, their Christian beliefs serve to overshadow all other aspects of their lives..which helps explain their presumed need to convert all others to Christianity …a purpose I contend is an attempt to remove the dissonance which exists from the knowledge that others do not share their beliefs.

With this understandin g, it isn’t difficult to conclude that Coulter’s remarks were the expression of an earnest, though ill-informed view…one that fails to see the arrogance that accompanies a statement that all Americans should be Christians. I have no doubt it simply reflects her core beliefs and demonstrates the danger of the angst which results from this pervasive need for uniformity. In other words, acceptance stops at the waters edge (Christianit y) which compels Christians to pursue the conversion of others.

While those efforts are undertaken with sincerity, they also communicate an air of righteous disregard. I believe this explains Coulter’s apparent surprise at Deutsch’s recoiling. I think one can see that she quickly perceives her own blind spot…which leads her to attempt to pull back and explain her statement following the commercial break.

As she tries to elaborate, she suggests that Jews, per the constructs of Christian beliefs, need to be “perfected”. She continues by telling Deutsch that the notion of “perfecting” isn’t offered pejoratively …it is simply the means to explain the process and the journey by which any individual would arrive at Christianity . As she describes it, Christians have not only joined Jews in embracing the Old Testament; they simply have taken the additional step of accepting the New Testament…me aning they believe that Christ was the son of God sent to die for all of our sins.

Strange as this may seem, I found the interview to be one of the rare moments where we see the real Ann Coulter exposed. While I find her comments abrasive and insensitive, it isn’t because I believe her to be anti-Semitic . She is simply the product of Christian ideology which would arguably treat all non-Christia ns similarly. I don’t condone the mind set, but I think Coulter simply stated the obvious…that being that Christians, not unlike those who embrace Catholic doctrine, believe their faith is the only path to salvation and see nothing wrong with stating as much. In my opinion, that is why religion is so dangerous.

While many may see Coulter’s remarks as the hoped for opportunity to bring her down, the significance of her remarks is beyond her as an individual. Bizarre as this may sound, I thank Coulter for speaking her truth…becaus e it exposes a much more disquieting truth. In fact, it provides a brief glimpse of the core problem facing this country and the world…a growing degree of theological intransigenc e which has become the justificatio n for an escalating clash of religions…re ligions which have conversion and compliance as their fundamental objectives.

Coulter’s rhetoric and her rogue identity are ultimately little more than the epitome of a blind allegiance to a narrow ideology. Coulter invoked a Seinfeld episode to support her argument, so I think it only fair to close with one of my own. Ann Coulter and many others, who have forfeited their autonomy to a rigid set of religious precepts, are, in the end, no longer “masters of their own domain”.

I created the graphic below to demonstrate the propensity of individuals to overlay humanity with any number of religious constructs in the belief that one is superior to the other. I cant imagine an all knowing god condoning our efforts to assert that one sect has eminence over all of the others. I see man’s efforts to do so as an extreme depiction of our ever expanding arrogance. I struggle to see what would be so wrong with simply honoring the sanctity of humanity.

anncoulter.jpg

Cross-posted at Thought Theater


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The religious right’s threat of a third-party candidacy

Here’s a poll: How many of you think all the major GOP presidential candidates are sweating buckets right now that leaders of the religious right suggested they may back a third-party Presidential candidate in 2008, due to less than enthusiastic support for the current crop of candidates?

Giuliani’s camp fought back by pumping the media with stories about how the GOP has “to have a candidate that can run in all 50 states,” and arguing that he’s the only Republican contender who can do so.

McCain’s camp arranged for him to give an interview to Beliefnet, where he slandered Islam and suggested that he’d only be comfortable with a Christian president.

Thompson’s been trying to thwart attention from his religion to his tax proposal, in hopes of convincing the religious right to vote with their pocketbooks instead of their bibles.

Huckabee issued a statement saying that a third-party backed candidate would hand Hillary Clinton the election.

And this past weekend, the Boston Globe reported that Romney is doubling his efforts to lure the support of the religious right, by asking Rev. James Dobson of Focus on the Family (the media’s anointed leader of the religious right) to take a second look at his candidacy.

At that’s just the news from the past few days. My god, I don’t even know if the children of Elm Street were this afraid when they went to sleep!

The truth is that Huckabee is probably right. A third-party candidate would handicap the race for Democrats, splintering the coalition of the willing comprised of social conservative s and fiscal conservative s. All of the leading GOP candidates know this, and my guess is that all of them have the head of James Dobson on a dartboard in their war rooms. Imagine having to kiss Dobson’s ass just so he doesn’t pull behind a rogue candidacy?

It’s kind of like the last season of The West Wing playing out in real time. Remember how Alan Alda’s character had to placate the religious right?

Though Tuesday’s Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan is meant to focus on economic issues, I’ll be curious how the candidates work in some religious right talking points to kabash the growing story line that the moral majority is magnificentl y dissatisfied with this bunch. Stay tuned.

(Note: For those who may be interested, I hold a soft spot in my heart for Dearborn, MI. It’s where I tried out for Jeopardy back in 2005. I didn’t make it, but I can hardly hold that against Dearborn. I blame it on Jeopardy’s penchant for asking too many damn opera questions.)


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Queens, Christ, & Constitutions: An Existential Elegy

Not long ago Miss South Carolina botched her answer to a question in the Miss Teen USA pageant…a move that sent millions of viewers racing to watch her tortured response on YouTube and made her the unfortunate butt of numerous jokes offered by countless comedians. The question referred to the fact that some 20 percent of Americans cannot find the United States on a map…a rather staggering statistic.

A new survey points to another area of deficiency in the knowledge base of the American public; this one with regard to our understandin g of the Constitution . Some may contend it is simply a reflection of differing interpretati ons…a seemingly valid, though problematic possibility which I will endeavor to address.

The survey results lead one to ask if a trend is emerging and if we can identify the factors precipitatin g this apparent lapse in acuity. Before exploring the possibilitie s, or lack thereof, take a look at the following excerpts from the survey.

From The First Amendment Center:

WASHINGTON — Sixty-five percent of Americans believe that the nation’s founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the “State of the First Amendment 2007” national survey released today by the First Amendment Center.

Just 56% believe that the freedom to worship as one chooses extends to all religious groups, regardless of how extreme — down 16 points from 72% in 2000.

58% of Americans would prevent protests during a funeral procession, even on public streets and sidewalks; and 74% would prevent public school students from wearing a T-shirt with a slogan that might offend others.

25% said “the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees,” well below the 49% recorded in the 2002 survey that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, but up from 18% in 2006.

“Americans clearly have mixed views of what First Amendment freedoms are and to whom they should fully apply,” said Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center. “To me the results of this year’s survey endorse the idea of more and better education for young people — our nation’s future leaders — about our basic freedoms.”

The right to practice one’s own religion was deemed “essential ” or “important ” by nearly all Americans (97%); as was the right to “speak freely about whatever you want” (98%) and to “assemble, march, protest or petition the government (94%),” Policinski said. “Still, Americans are hard pressed to name the five freedoms included in the First Amendment,” he said. Speech is the only one named by a majority of respondents  (64%), followed by religion (19%), press and assembly (each 16%) and petition (3%).

First Amendment Center Senior Scholar Charles Haynes: “While the survey shows Americans highly value religious freedom, a significant number support privileging the religion of the majority, especially in public schools. Four decades after the Supreme Court declared state-sponso red religious practices unconstituti onal in public schools, 58% of respondents support teacher-led prayers and 43% favor school holiday programs that are entirely Christian. Moreover, 50% would allow schools to teach the Bible as a factual text in a history class.

“The strong support for official recognition of the majority faith appears to be grounded in a belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, in spite of the fact that the Constitution nowhere mentions God or Christianity . Of course, people define “Christian nation” in various ways — ranging from a nation that reflects Christian values to a nation where the government favors the Christian faith. But almost one-third of respondents appear to believe that the religious views of the majority should rule: 28% would deny freedom to worship to any group that the majority considers ‘extreme or on the fringe.’”

A third think the press has too much freedom and 60-plus percent believe the press is biased in its reporting or, worse, falsifies or makes up stories.

The data tend to mirror the recent rise in the rhetoric and the rancor surrounding religion in the political sphere and the expanded focus upon social issues…a focus which has frequently been derived from religious doctrine (primarily the Bible).

Unfortunatel y, this has led to an erroneous belief that legislation ought to be predicated upon that premise. The fact the Karl Rove and the GOP have sought to exploit this gaffe has only exacerbated the misconceptio n and the divisive vitriol it promotes.

Let me be clear…people have the right to support the legislation they favor…which is as it should be. However, said legislation mustn’t impinge upon constitution ally granted rights; otherwise our judicial system exists and is intended to intervene to prevent such overreach (a function which has all too often been falsely defined as judicial activism). Beyond this fundamental legislative construct, voters can also attempt to alter the constitution .

Sadly, the political premise of laissez-fair e has been circumvented by those who would seek to impose one set of theological beliefs above all others…an action undoubtedly in conflict with the intent of the Constitution . Clearly, the document seeks to remain neutral in this regard so as to allow for the desired freedoms our forefathers sought…inclu ding the freedom to hold one’s chosen religious beliefs without interference or imposition from the state. That delicately nuanced balance appears to be in jeopardy…and the survey seems to affirm an expanding threat.

At first blush, one might be inclined to scratch one’s head at the inaccuracies found in the respondent opinions; however, when one considers that a fifth of Americans can’t even identify their nation on a map, the lack of constitution al proficiency seems a logical extension of an unsettling trend.

As America seeks to install democratic values in the Middle East, the erosion taking place on the home front seems a stark contradictio n, as well as a tacit endorsement of similar actions on the part of those we view to be adversaries. The fact that others embrace a theological bent we may justifiably find to be fully unacceptable points out the precarious nature of our dilemma.

Understandin g the degree to which we should act to address the unsavory aspects of these conflicting ideologies is a complex predicament. We would be well advised to avoid the wholesale negation of other non-threaten ing beliefs which reside under the same basic theological umbrella of our antagonists… beliefs we may not affirm but cannot in good conscience…a nd in keeping with our constitution al values…seek to extinguish. It is difficult to imagine we can succeed in discerning this fine line of distinction if we can’t do as well with regards to our own actions here at home.

When one imagines a large number of constitution ally illiterate Americans attentively watching a beauty pageant finalist failing to speak coherently about basic issues of geography and education in a country where 20 percent of us can’t identify our nation on a map, the concept of engaging in an effort to export our democratic values seems an epic existential exercise. Consequently  , I have my suspicions that the current ideological conflicts we face at home and abroad may represent mankind’s sempiternal challenge.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater


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“Pegging” Bigotry One “Sodomite” At A Time

I’m generally a patient and tolerant person, but every once in a while I’ll come across a situation that ticks me off. This morning I ran across one of those instances while reading comments on a site I frequent.

The following comment was in response to a posting which made reference to Senator Larry Craig and his anti-gay voting history.

Homosexualit y/sodomy are disgusting, filthy acts against God. HE says in HIS word that homosexuals will not enter Heaven. I don’t want some pervert in politics. Politicians are bad enough as it is without queers around.

Despising homosexualit y/sodomy is not racist/hatef ul/fearful. It is common decency and common sense.

Aside from the wholesale bigotry voiced in this comment, it also demonstrates a butt load of ignorance…an d I’m going to do my best to expose it in this posting. While I don’t want to jump head first into Biblical interpretati on, a little background is required.

Most of us are familiar with the Biblical citations used to condemn homosexualit y. They are few but those who utilize them do so with fervor. Essentially, the primary reference involves an admonition against lying with men in the same manner as lying with women…hence the condemnation of same sex relations. This is usually bolstered by a further reference to Sodom and Gomorrah and their destruction by fire…all predicated upon the story of Lot and the purported desire of a number of citizens to “get to know” (defined as homosexual rape) his male guests (angels disguised as humans sent to rescue Lot from the destruction of the evil city…as the story goes).

The definition of the word Sodomy has evolved over time to include what some might say are acts that go beyond those described in the Bible. Nonetheless, the dictionary currently defines it as follows.

From Merriam-Webs ter:

Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French sodomie, from Late Latin Sodoma Sodom; from the homosexual proclivities of the men of the city in Genesis 19:1-11
: anal or oral copulation with a member of the same or opposite sex; also : copulation with an animal

It is possible to connect the expanded definition with other Biblical references and interpretati ons such as those which contend that the “spilling of seed”…in any way that isn’t intended to procreate…is sinful. In other words, those who adhere to strict Biblical interpretati on may well contend that sexual intercourse between a man and a woman with the intent of “being fruitful and multiplying” is the only acceptable sexual act.

Before we proceed, an important caveat is needed. There are countless iterations of ideology which result from Biblical interpretati on…some of which wouldn’t agree with the above expanded definition of sodomy. I point to the above distinctions in order to demonstrate the pitfalls of literal interpretati ons…meaning that the Bible has clearly been subjected to cultural and societal influences.

Therefore, it is important to note that there are Biblical citations available to support a number of conclusions… all of which require contextual understandin gs beyond the words. Further, the Bible is an amalgam of individual writings compiled over some 2,000 years which undoubtedly means that cultural influences impacted what was written and what was read and then rewritten over time. There is no way to conclude that what is in the Bible today is in fact an accurate translation of the purported exchange from god to any of the many authors…nor that the author correctly grasped god’s words when they were allegedly spoken.

Enough background; let’s return to the comment. I believe it is safe to conclude that since the author cites and condemns both homosexualit y and sodomy, the author is accepting at least some of the current and expanded definition of the word (which may well be a function of his/her own Biblical interpretati ons). Notwithstand ing, I’m going to modify the intent for the sake of this argument such that the use of sodomy wasn’t intended to include any of the expanded acts contained in the current definition. Clearly, doing so has little rational basis since it makes little sense to use both words if the author sees them as one and the same (homosexual sex). Regardless, I’ll proceed with that assumption and my reasons will become evident.

The above commenter and many of those opposed to homosexualit y draw clear lines in their condemnation s…lines which become blurred if one takes the time to explore the sexual practices of humans. In fact, the absence of clear lines forms the core of my argument…an argument which undermines the certainty of the commenter and those who hold similar beliefs. First, let’s look at some relevant information.

Kinsey data collected between 1938-1963 found that 9 percent of non-married males and 28 percent of non-married females had engaged in anal sex at least once.
Among married subjects, the numbers were much lower–around 11 percent for both men and women.

In 1974, Playboy magazine published a huge survey of over 2000 people. Depending on the age of the respondent, between 14 and 25 percent of people said they had tried anal sex at least once.

A more recent study, conducted in 1990 at the Kinsey Institute, found that 27 percent of male and 24 percent of female college students had anal sex at least once.

One researcher, who surveyed one group of people in the 1970s then another in the late 1980s, offers a good point of comparison. In the first survey, 25 percent of women had anal sex and 8 percent reported engaging in it regularly. In the second, 72 percent had anal sex, and 23 percent reported engaging in it regularly.

A 1991 survey of 3200 men (in a nationally representati ve sample) found that 20 percent of men age 20 to 39 had engaged in anal sex at least once. Fifty percent of the men who had tried it had only tried it once. Interestingl y, in this more contemporary study, more older men reported having had anal sex than younger men (27 percent of men age 35 to 39 versus 13 percent of men age 20 to 24).

The most recent U.S. data from a national representati ve sample comes from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), which was conducted on over 12,000 men and women aged 15 to 44. Results show that 34 percent of men and 30 percent of women reported engaging in anal sex at least once.

In a 1996 survey of Swedish women aged 18 to 74, about 20 percent of women overall reported having engaged in anal sex–specific ally, 28 percent of 25 to 34 year-olds and 2 percent of 66 to 74 year-olds.

Sources:

Billy, J.O., Grady, W.R., Klepinger, D.H. “The Sexual Behavior of Men in the United States” Family Planning Perspectives Vol. 25. Issue 2 (1993): 52 -60.

Bolling, D.R. “Prevalenc e, Goals and Complication s of Heterosexual Anal Intercourse in a Gynecologic Population. Journal of Reproductive Medicine Volume 19 (1977): 120-124.

Bolling, D. “Heterosex ual Anal Intercourse: A Common Entity, Perceived Rarity, Neglected Patients and Ostrich Syndrome.” Paper presented at the 1987 Kinsey Institute Conference, AIDS and sex: An integrated biomedical and biobehaviora l approach, Bloomington, IN, December 5-8, 1987.

Fugl-Meyer, K.S., Oberg, K., Lundberg,P.O ., et al. “On Orgasm, Sexual Techniques, and Erotic Perceptions in 18- to 74-Year-Old Swedish Women” Journal of Sexual Medicine Volume 3, No. 1, (2006):56-68 .

Gebhard, P.H. & Johnson, A.B. The Kinsey Data: Marginal Tabulations of the1938-1963 Interviews Conducted by the Institute for Sex Research Philadelphia  : W. B. Saunders,197 9.

Hunt, M. Sexual Behavior in the 1970s. Chicago: Playboy Press, 1974.

Mosher,W.D., Chandra, A. & Jones J. “Sexual Behavior and Selected Health Measures: Men and Women 15–44 Years of Age, United States, 2002.” Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics; no 362. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics (2005):

Voeller, B. “AIDS and Heterosexual Anal Intercourse. ” Archives of Sexual Behavior Volume 20. Issue 3 (1991): 233-276.

One can pick and choose from the above data, but I think it is safe to conclude that more heterosexual s engage in sodomy than do homosexuals… a conclusion we can make if one compares the fact that gays are believed to be no more than 10 percent of the population (the high end of the estimates) and the above studies clearly indicate that at least 20 percent of heterosexual men and women have engaged in anal sex. Even if we assume that the study included a representati ve number of homosexuals… meaning they need to be removed from the study numbers to discern the number of heterosexual s…the number of heterosexual s engaging in anal sex would still be larger than that of homosexuals.

Now the commenter and many of those who oppose homosexualit y might be inclined to argue that those instances of such acts among heterosexual couples is acceptable. Regardless, making that assertion would still violate the current definition of sodomy…and it would clearly violate the stricter Biblical interpretati on against acts of sex which aren’t intended to procreate.

However, I conceded above that I would assume that the commenter only intended homosexual sex in using the term sodomy…and I’m going to keep my word…even though I believe I’ve already debunked the focus upon homosexuals as sodomites deserving of wholesale condemnation . With that said, I’m only going to focus on those heterosexual males who have engaged in anal sex…a number, I’ll remind you, which still exceeds that of all homosexuals… male and female included. Stay with me…I promise to tie this all together.

Back in 2001, Dan Savage conducted a contest to name the act of anal sex whereby a woman wears a strap-on device to penetrate her male partner. The winner was the word “peg” which has subsequently been expanded to be known as pegging.

Returning to the above studies, it isn’t apparent how many of the men who engaged in anal sex did so with a woman (defining them as heterosexual s)…but given the numbers and the percentage of the population presumed to be gay, they would still have to be the largest share. On the surface, that doesn’t appear to further my argument and it may seem to play into the contention that such male with female anal sex (heterosexua l) doesn’t meet the narrow definition of sodomy…that being male with male anal sex (homosexual) . Further, as I mentioned above, many of those opposed to homosexualit y might argue that anal sex between a man and a woman is actually an acceptable practice.

Were it not for the Bible, my argument may have failed…but every now and again…the universe provides for those in need in strangely ironic ways. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about this male with female anal sex (recall that were only looking at pegging…wher eby the female penetrates the male).

Time and again, gays have inquired with Biblical scholars as to their proximity to sin and their potential for salvation if they continued with their gay relationship s but didn’t actually engage in gay sex. In other words, they sought to know if they would still be guilty of the sin if they didn’t engage in the act. The following excerpts are from a response to such an inquiry.

Since you acknowledge the prohibition against sodomy, I will forgo exegesis to establish it. I will also simply state my complete agreement that God loves the person while hating the sin, regardless of who the person is, or what the sin is. However, there is an apparent assumption in your question which must be addressed. I cannot find support in the Word of God for the idea of “homosexua l persons” apart from those who practice sodomy in heart or deed. Beyond the fact that the Bible does not use a clinical term (homosexual) for those who engage in the sin of sodomy, it is obvious that there are two types of persons, unsaved sinners and saved sinners, and each type can come in one of two genders, male or female. This excludes the idea of sodomites being a different kind of person. It is not a third gender, or a different species of human being, and I cannot consider it a special class of person any more than I can consider liars a special class of person.

Accordingly, I must define a “homosexua l person” as one who either practices sodomy, or entertains it in his/her thought life. Either is the equivalent of the other, except in the manner in which it involves and affects someone else. So, someone whose thoughts entertain sodomy is guilty of the sin, even without actually committing the deed. This is the principle expressed in these texts, among others:

Matthew 5:27-28 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Proverbs 23:6-7 “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: 7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”

These definitions force me to the conclusion that relationship s between “homosexua l persons,” even without the sexual acts, are sinful because of the thought life.

But there is more to consider in your question. I think defining “homosexua l person” as one who has in time past committed the sin of sodomy, either in thought or deed, but have truly repented of the sin, and eliminated it from his/her life, and not just someone who has eliminated the practice of the sin, is an error. One is a sodomite if one commits the act in thought or deed. If one does not, one is not.

Alas, the basis of my argument is exposed. If one embraces Biblical scripture, then the act of sodomy cannot be justified under any circumstance s and it certainly cannot be separated from the condemnation . If, in fact, thoughts of sodomy are the same as sodomy, then those men who engage in pegging are well beyond the minimal definition of sinning in committing such an act…even if it is with a woman. To argue otherwise would provide a justificatio n for anal sex which would be suitable for use by homosexuals.

I say as much because I can’t imagine the thoughts which would motivate and justify a heterosexual male to desire anal penetration. If those opposed to homosexualit y truly associate it with sodomy (narrowly defined as male with male anal sex), then the act of being pegged would have to somehow be divorced from the notion of a woman inserting a virtual depiction of a penis into her male partners rectum. If that can be achieved, well perhaps I’ve witnessed my first miracle.

In addition, to argue that a representati on of a penis isn’t the equivalent of a penis isn’t possible if one accepts the above Biblical scripture. If said scripture can be circumvented  , then all scripture is open to negation and/or reinterpreta tion.

Taking it a step further, should someone provide a rationale which allows sodomy in a heterosexual relationship  , then that same construct would have to apply to homosexuals because homosexuals could contend they engage in it for the very same scripturally sanctioned reasons.

In the end, those who use the Bible as the means to condemn have to be subject to the very same document. To do otherwise would not only constitute a rejection of the Bible, it would be an invalidation of the beliefs one ascribes to it.

I would suggest that my argument not only points out the inconsistenc y and the hypocrisy that exists in many of those who rail against homosexuals… it affirms my belief that the premise of opposition to homosexualit y is far removed from any strict Biblical interpretati on. In fact, I’ll be so bold as to peg those who do so as little more than unbridled bigots.

Finally, to the individual who inspired this posting with the above comment, may I sardonically suggest that you reconsider your attempts at shoving your proverbial square peg down the justifiably defiant throats of gays? Your temerity is abominable.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater


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