Civility Irony Revealed

[Originally posted January 7, 2006.]

In his January 6 post, George Will’s business advice, GK quotes from the article Chief among the silliness by George Will (surprisingly, an article with some merit):

Civilization depends on, and civility often requires, the willingness to say, “What you are doing is none of my business” and “What I am doing is none of your business.”

A good lesson for us all as we fight the War on Culture. Sadly, for some people, this civility only applies when “what you are doing” is in line with “my belief system.”

Iran Seeks Answers

“I am not making this up.” Here’s some cheery news from Iran: Iran Invites Blair to Holocaust Denial Conference. Yes, you read that right. Iran is holding a conference to “scientifically” determine the facts about the Holocaust. Praise Allah that we have Iran around to help us get to the bottom of the really difficult and mysterious aspects of the last century. At last, we’ll finally hear the truth about one of the most well-known and well-documented mass murders in human history.

The Republican Womb Patrol

I saw a post today, Say good bye to your wombs, gals, you no longer control them. The Republican party does, on the liberal blog The Daou Report, referring of course to the imminent confirmation of Judge Alito and the suspected future overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Now, I hate to speak too much ill against liberals (I’m married to one), and, being a man, I’m hesitant to get anywhere near the topic of abortion, but that title is not entirely accurate. There is this thing called birth control, you know, and it is just as much the woman’s responsibility as the man’s. Now I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, well Catholics aren’t allowed to use birth control. Well stop being Catholic, it’s silly anyway. :)

Anyway, to be clear, lest I be seen to have abandoned all reason, I am NOT agreeing with right-to-lifers. I am definitely in the pro-choice camp (although I also think it is an issue that men should generally stay out of). My point is to say let’s not get all hyperbolic with our blog titles. It’s not like there’s suddenly going to be a Republican Womb Patrol knocking down doors or anything.

[As I post this, Judge Alito has been officially confirmed.]

[Update: You may notice that I have created a high-quality cartoon image to enhance the reader’s experience of this blog entry. You may also notice that I can’t draw cartoons in Photoshop for crap, so I will explain it: On the left, standing on the sidewalk, is a Republican in an expensive business suit, with an elephant for a head (the elephant has a furry trunk and pig ears). On the right, standing at the doorway of her magically floating house, is a typical middle American housewife, who for some bizzare reason looks somewhat like a 1950s cheerleader with no face and only one breast.]

Latest News From The Front

Here’s my wisdom for today: People are really touchy about their religion, especially on the Internet. Provocative comments or questions about someone’s religious tenants are almost always viewed as a direct assault on the individual.

As I’ve said, I’ve been peripherally involved in a “religious debate” on the Blog of Daniel recently, which thus far has the typical liberal Christian vs. conservative Christian dynamic to it. (In this case, however, it is a handful of far-right conservatives quite vocally protesting the conclusions of a predominantly liberal discussion.. I will refer to them as far-righters from now on, though they would probably be offended by that characterization, seeing as how they seem to think that a Christian is a Christian is a Christian and there should be no diversity of opinion.)

As you may or may not know, one of the bitter pills that far-righters have to swallow with The Book of Daniel is the depiction of the gay son of an Episcopal priest. The typical far-righter views this as, well, not just impossible but blasphemous, heretical, insulting, immoral, part of the homosexual agenda, etc., etc. Mostly, they vehemently deny that a gay man can possibly be Christian, citing the same handful of Bible verses we’ve all heard a million times before. They use the most inflammatory language possible to make their point (usually, the very words of the Bible). Most of the posters–the vast majority I would say–disagree, sometimes with spectacular and entertaining results.

However, the true fireworks began over the weekend when Jack Kenny himself, creator of The Book of Daniel, popped in to politely suggest that a blog sponsored by an Episcopal church (“the Episcopal church welcomes you”), populated with predominately liberal thinkers, might not be the best place to espouse far-right conservative doctrine. He also (quite rightly, and also very politely) expressed his displeasure that his creative work had been called “trash” and worse, and then he did the unthinkable: He suggested that the kind of doctrine that far-righters believe could lead directly to a Matthew Shephard incident.

Well, that was like blood to a shark.. the far-right good ol’ boys jumped all over him, rebuked and insulted him and his show, and effectively drove him off the blog by casting verbal stones. It was quite a disgustingly un-Christian display. I and some others got a few retaliatory shots in before the moderator came along to (correctly) put everyone in timeout. But sadly, I was unable to post this little gem to a narcissistic fellow named Tom Watkins who took great delight in attacking me and everyone else personally:

“Can you respond to my points without sarcasm? If not you will only prove me right.”

What exactly IS your point? I couldn’t find it among all that slithery verbiage. The undeniable pomposity of it does not give me much incentive to look very hard, either. Your words are irrelevant anyway… your intent is what matters, and it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that you are trying hard to drive Mr. Kenny off this blog for the simple pleasure of it, so that fans of The Book of Daniel are denied the opportunity to hear his insights into the show, while simultaneously trying to embarrass the Episcopal Church in the process.

Ah, the old “if you don’t respond, you prove me right” trick. (Makes me think of Stephen Colbert’s “if you don’t invite me on your show, you’re a coward” bit.) As it turns out, I didn’t respond before he slunk off in a victorious huff. Another poster responded and generally echoed my sentiments anyway.

So today, after a restless night of angry mental conservative-bashing, I’m pondering this recent nugget of wisdom by a prominent far-right poster, who always feels compelled to post the last word (and the first and middle words, too):

As for homosexuality — sigh, again — Paul himself calls it “perversion”. You cannot just dismiss Paul; He was an apostle of Christ, and therefore carried the authority of Christ. Jesus Himself said that those He called to be apostles would preach and teach in his name with his authority.

I’m not a biblical scholar by any means, in fact I freely admit that I have never read the work completely, but perusing through Wikipedia’s biblical resources gives me ample reason to wonder about Paul. Wikipedia gives the impression that Paul was not named as one of the original twelve disciples, but was declared an apostle in Acts, a work apparently credited to Paul’s friend Luke (who was also not one of the twelve).

My questions are: Assuming Wikipedia is correct (and I’d have to think there’d be quite an uproar if they were too far off-base about the Bible), where is the objective scriptural evidence to suggest that Paul really spoke for Jesus? It looks to me like Paul basically wrote the evidence himself, through his friend Luke, and then went on to establish Christianity as we know it. Again, I’m not a scholar, but that seems to cast some small glimmer of doubt on Paul’s authority in these matters. I think it’s also worth noting that Jesus himself speaks no words about homosexuality. Thus we are left to extrapolate from his example, which I think is fair to say was very inclusive of the minority groups of his day.

But in the spirit of global harmony, and to respect the wishes of the blog’s moderator, I’m not going to post this thought-provoking commentary for any of the far-righters to feast upon. It’s quite clear that they would just pounce into action and start repeating their inerrant talking points of God again, without any more substantive defense than, “because that’s what God wants.”

But it does make one think, doesn’t it? (Well, it makes some of us think, anyway.) What exactly is this Christianity thing all about, anyway?

Great News For Liberals

Whoa, I had almost forgotten about the Crowhill Weblog. GK’s been flying under the radar lately, just posting links to articles (half of which were sent in by other people). But now it’s time to put on my “Crowhill media watchdog” hat again, for it is my sworn duty.

Check out The “men and religion” thing may be simpler than I’ve suspected. I’ll wait. La-la-la. I’m not worried about you coming back, because that particular post is quite a crazy rambling mess.

I’m not even sure where to start. I suppose the beginning is as good a place as any:

Regular readers know that I often ponder why men go to church more than women

Actually, I was pretty surprised by this declaration. I thought he had said religion was a female pursuit. To be precise, he said: “In Catholicism, religious devotion is predominantly woman’s business.” (See GK’s equally disturbing post, The #1 problem in the Catholic Church today.)

He goes on to write that conservative religions tend to “have” more men, whereas liberal religions tend to have more women. He doesn’t name his sources, but I suppose he is talking about statistical attendance figures, presumably in the U.S.

And why do liberal religions have more women? Hold on to your hats. GK posits that our culture tends to glorify the “bad boy” image, and liberal women are more likely to be attracted to the bad boys, and bad boys don’t go to church. Really. That’s what he said. Go read his post.

So then, why are conservative men more likely to go to church? Because conservative cultures tend to take more pride in their personal righteousness.

Ain’t that the truth…

But take heart. In saying that, overall, men don’t go to church as much anymore, GK is also implying that liberal churches are taking over the world, or at least America. I sure hope he’s right, because it’s really tiresome to deal with righteous conservative church-goers (see my previous post).

A Skirmish In The War On Culture

Fighting in the Culture War is pretty draining. I’ve been having a “debate,” if you can call it that, with a person on the Blog of Daniel comment boards. I’ll call her Baptist X, since her viewpoints seem to be fairly representative of the typical conservative Southern Baptist Christian. In truth, I have no idea what her religious affiliation is.

Baptist X expressed some concern that another poster had compared the AFA’s campaign to cancel The Book of Daniel to The Crusades.

The Crusades? Are we a bit extreme? Please provide examples of how the Christian right is FORCEFULLY bringing about change?

I made a small joke about that bit, but the truly shocking part of her post was yet to come.

On the other hand, liberals have committed genocide slaughtering 47 million babies since 1973. Which is scarier?

That last part just leaped out at me. “Liberals.” “Genocide.” “Slaughtering.” “47 million babies.” So many generalizations, so little time. I responded:

Erm.. it’s actually pretty scary to think a presumably educated American voter can make a blanket statement like that.

Baptist X responded with some vehemence. You might think she would have produced some facts or references to back up those generalizations, but you would be wrong. She took the opportunity to post her resume:

Presumably educated? I have 6 degrees including 3 graduate degrees, and will be attending seminary in the Fall.

47 million babies aborted…That’s not genocide? Pfft!

Good Lord. Six degrees and still no common sense? What is this world coming to? (Maybe it’s already there.) I declined to comment on her incorrect definition of the word genocide, but I still thought I might be able to make Baptist X see the error of her earlier statement:

With 6 degrees you can’t see anything disturbing about repeating a sound-bite-sized talking point about a monstrously complex topic that could easily fill a dozen books?

There was a pause while Baptist X gave us her review of the webcasted episode of The Book of Daniel. Can you guess what she thought of it? Here’s some of it:

Actually, in my opinion, the writing was rather atrocious. … Portraying Jesus as a wimpy 60s throwback didn’t help either. Knowing that he was a reflection of Daniel’s view of Jesus doesn’t make me shrug my shoulders, rather, it scares the heck out of me. THAT is how an Episcopalian priest views Jesus?

I did not say, perhaps you would have been happier if Jesus had been portrayed as a dark-skinned man of Middle Eastern descent. Instead, I thought I would again be helpful and point out the obvious to her.

How else would an Episcopal priest (or even non-priest) view Jesus? That particular image (visually, that is) of Jesus has been drilled into Anglicans since time out of mind. And I think the “hippie” Jesus personality is typical of modern fictional representations. Which makes sense, since he was pretty anti-establishment in his day.

Meanwhile, Baptist X had also replied to another poster:

I have no idea what you are talking about, and insulting me is not permitted by Christ simply because you don’t seem to like me. “This is my command: Love each other.”

I figured I could take this opportunity to give Baptist X some tips on Bible quotations as well:

I’m hopeful that seminaries teach people not to pick random Bible quotes to defend themselves. “Love each other,” taken out of context by itself like that, could mean just about anything. It doesn’t necessarily mean, “don’t insult each other” and certainly doesn’t mean “don’t disagree with each other.” Suppose two brothers are playing in the backyard, and one says to the other, “eww, you stink.” Is he going against Jesus’s command?

Nice parable, huh? I briefly considered adding something like, if a woman calls a writer’s work atrocious, is she going against Jesus’s command? I restrained myself because the irony probably would have been lost on her, and it would have been too easy for her to brush it off.

Anyway, my offhand scripture interpretation must have really rankled Baptist X, because she wrote:

Look up the context. It’s not my responsibility to do it for you. You should already know thay [sic] this is what he is commanding — and expecting from — his disciples. Since we are His disciples, He expects us to love one another. I’m pretty sure that means treating one another with respect.

Abortion doesn’t need a dozen books, nor have I chosen any soundbites since I do not watch television, except on rare occasions.

It’s not complicated, especially in America, where Thomas Jefferson saw fit to write, “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

It seems Jefferson didn’t need to fill 12 books to see the basic right to life, which is endowed by our Creator.

At this point I realized with regret that this was a hopeless case. This one was already gone. Baptist X was like a walking, talking tape recorder set on a repeating loop of talking points. How do you enlighten someone like that? How do you have a reasonable discourse? I find religious debate somewhat stimulating, but it’s hard to get a lot of enjoyment from a conversation with a person who a) doesn’t see beyond her own point of view, and b) has no intention of even looking beyond her own point of view, and c) plucks out her own eyeballs so she can’t see another point of view. For every reasonable point you make, she will respond with something completely irrational or, if all else fails, change the subject.

I could have dissected her words all day. Pulling out the Declaration of Independance to justify a right-to-life stance is just plain silly. Thomas Jefferson is the authority on abortion? Seriously? The guy with the slaves? The guy who didn’t even give women the right to vote? Life, liberty, etc. indeed. All you have to do is look up the definition of the word “liberty” to find that he must have meant for people to have the freedom to choose. If you want to get literal about it, his words would only apply to “all men” anyway.

But I learned my lesson. Resistance is futile. Maybe that’s the conservative Christian plan: They will be so irrationally obstinate that eventually everyone will just get sick of talking to them, and they’ll win by default. I finally wrote:

I’m not going to presume to know Thomas Jefferson’s views on abortion. I’m kind of sorry I said anything about it now; it’s not relevant to TBoD. I do think it’s important to challenge absolute, black and white thinking every now and then, though. (Even if it feels like beating one’s head against a brick wall.)

I wanted to add, remember, only a Sith thinks in absolutes, but I figured that would have opened a whole new can of worms. Maybe I should have paraphrased the AFA’s response to my email: “I respect your opinion and it’s okay that you’re closed-minded.” It’s actually pretty effective, now that I write it out.

So anyway, the moral of this story is: Don’t bother arguing with a zealot. Unless you want some writing material for your blog.

Sorry, Ranting About Daniel Again

I would like to take this opportunity to rebuke entertainment journalists worldwide. I am referring, of course, to the somewhat dated news that NBC has cancelled The Book of Daniel. Another slew of articles appeared in my news reader on the subject today, and each was predictable down to the letter, being nearly word-for-word copies of the original news story from earlier this week.

Today, however, most of the articles were unapologetically of the ultra-conservative “thank-ya JEAY-zus-uh that sinful blaspheming filth is off the air” variety, which really freakin’ annoys me.

Why? I’m not really sure, to be honest. I liked the show, but it wasn’t the greatest show on earth or anything. It had potential, though, and the characters were interesting, which is more than I can say for 99% of the other shows on television.

Unfortunately, the AFA had it in for Daniel before it was even aired. And that’s what ticks me off I guess. They denied me the right to pick what I wanted to watch.

Now if you confront the AFA (and I did), they will smile politely and deny that they unabashedly bullied the network into pulling the show. It was simply a poor show with poor ratings, they’ll say… just an economic decision. It could have happened to any show. However, if you subscribe to their mailing list (and pay your dues on time), they will clap and cheer and crow to the stars about how much power the average (due-paying) Joe has to fight smut on television, and solicit donations to continue the good fight. (One has to wonder, at this point, what kind of salary AFA Chairman Donald E. Wildmon pulls down.)

Anyway, back to the journalists. If you’ve read anything about the show, you have undoubtedly heard the phrase “pill-popping priest” more times than you can bear. Likewise, you’ve heard “drug-dealing daughter” a thousand times. And, of course, you may have heard such phrases as “wise-cracking Jesus” or “laid-back Jesus” or “hip Jesus.” (Apparently there aren’t any clever three-word alliterative phrases for Jesus.)

Now, anyone who has actually watched the show will know those sound bite phrases are gross over-simplifications of the characters in question. But we certainly can’t expect journalists to take the time to research their subjects. They’re too busy copying down “pill-popping priest” in their little notebooks, thinking to themselves, “damn, that’s good.. I’ve gotta use that one! Three P-words in a row! Wow!”

To be fair, some journalists had the wherewithal to mix up the words they stole a little. Those creative geniuses might have said “a priest who pops pills,” for example.

Here’s an article from today that is typical of the incessant mis-characterization of the show, and really makes me pretty ashamed to be Episcopalian to boot: Episcopal Priest Pleased Book of Daniel Yanked from the Tube. At least they didn’t say “NBC closes The Book of Daniel” or “NBC shelves The Book of Daniel” in the story title. I guess journalists have some standards after all.

NBC Webcasts Book of Daniel

NBC will be webcasting an unaired episode of The Book of Daniel tonight at 8PM. Please join me in sending kudos to NBC for continuing to make this novel program about faith and family available to both audiences who value creative story-telling in an otherwise dreary television landscape, and to Americans who enjoy the freedom to choose their viewing habits without interference from strong-armed lobbyist organizations.

The War On Culture

[Originally posted January 6, 2006.]

Wow, GK really took Mark Steyn’s silly Demography article pretty seriously. On January 5, in The culture war, he proposed a movement for conservatives to “have lots of kids and homeschool them.” (I assume he means male kids.)

I hope it goes without saying that I think his proposition is silly. What really interested me about his post, though, was the phrase “win the culture war.” Mainly because I wasn’t even aware that we were at war. Apparently, not only am I fighting a war on terror, but I’m also fighting a war on culture–all while I’m sitting here typing at my computer. (Can I multitask or what?)

Since I was unfamiliar with this so-called culture war, I went to Wikipedia to look for information on the subject. Sure enough, there was an entire page devoted to the “culture war.” (Surprisingly, most of it was spelled correctly.)

I find it disturbing that people are out there trying to “win” a war that I didn’t even know I was in. (I also find it disturbing that people are bothering to fight over ideals, but that’s another story.) I find it disturbing that the main ammunition in this war is spin, persuasion, and propaganda. I find it extremely disturbing that there are enough gullible people in the world to make it worthwhile for the warring sides to fire all of this ammunition, over and over again, in endless streams of op-ed pieces. Some people are even gullible enough to pay for subscriptions to the ammunition that is killing them. More proof that war is good for the economy, I guess.

Most of all, I find it disturbing that the combatants are treating me and my brain like territory to be conquered. Nobody asked me if I thought we should go to war; I don’t remember any vote on the subject. Honestly, I don’t particularly want to devote any of my time to it. So there.

Excuse me, I have to get back to the terror war.